The Romans reading from this past week had a gap in it - an understandable one because who really wants to be talking about circumcision on a Sunday morning. (Never mind that a reading from Matthew a few weeks ago included murder, adultery, and amputations...). But by skipping this section of Romans, we missed a bit of the teeth in Paul's argument about the righteousness of faith:
6So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness irrespective of works:
7 ‘Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.’
9 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.’ 10How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.
The outward sign of circumcision is among the most central tenets of the Law, and a key marker of who was in and who was out of God's family. And so Paul's willingness to overlook even circumcision is a marker of how radically seriously Paul takes faith. It is not just "faith some of the time but you better still honor these really important rules." Paul is arguing that our righteousness depends not on us but on the One in whom we believe.
This is basically Luther's argument in the Heidelberg Disputation: He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.
It turns out that it is not about us, but about Jesus.