Faith & CircumcisionVolume 2, Number 6
Created Date: April 2, 2005
Posted Date: April 2, 2005
Vol 2 - No 6, April 2, 2005
Faith and Circumcision, Part 2 of 2:
Three (3) questions were posed in our previous study: 1) what happened that caused the Lord to seek to kill because a boy was not circumcised? 2) What was the significance of circumcision that made this so serious to God? 3) What does circumcision mean to members of the Body of Christ today? The answers to the first two questions were addressed leaving the third for this study.
The sign of circumcision given to Abraham and his progeny was an act of the flesh demonstrating faith in God's Word but it also teaches a spiritual truth: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." -. In order to understand the purpose or meaning of circumcision we must examine what led up to its implementation and the context in which it was introduced. Specifically, the offering of animal sacrifices preceded and led up to the implementation of circumcision and it was introduced in the context of justification by faith.
Animal sacrifices are either alluded to or described five (5) times in the Bible before circumcision was introduced. 1) After Adam and Eve disobeyed God's Word by eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil,informs that God made them "coats of skins." This of course infers animals were killed in order to provide the skins to cover their shame (sin.). 2) God told Cain and Abel to offer animal sacrifices. Cain had no faith in God's word and brought instead an offering of the produce he had grown while Abel obeyed by faith. - & Faith Studies Vol 1 - No 3. 3) After the flood when Noah disembarked the ark he built an alter upon which he sacrificed one of every clean beast and fowl as burnt offerings. - . 4) To seal His covenant promise to Abraham, God caused a smoking furnace and burning lamp to pass between the carcasses of three (3) animals and two (2) foul offered by Abraham. - . 5) When Abraham was about to offer his son Isaac in obedience to God a ram was provided and sacrificed instead. - . (There is not enough space here to examine these sacrifices in detail but suffice it to note that they were types, that is, they signified and pointed to God's work in dealing with sin with the goal of the regeneration of creation and redemption of man.)
The offering of an animal in sacrifice could not, in and of itself, take away the sin of the person making the offering,, but it was a witness to faith in God's Word on the part of the person making the offering. Also, each sacrifice was an object lesson, both to the person offering the sacrifice at the time and for us today, demonstrating the fact that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." - . In other words, animal sacrifices taught that our Holy God cannot condone sin and there is no "cure" for sin except it be killed and gone with. All the animals sacrificed in obedience to God's Word in the Old Testament were types of, that is they pointed to and anticipated the one perfect sacrifice offered by God Himself in the person of His son Jesus Christ. "Wherefore when he (Jesus Christ) cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." - .
After the lesson of sacrifice for sin, circumcision was introduced in the context of justification by faith. There is nothing man can do on his own to earn God's righteousness except to have faith in His Word. "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." -. It was then, after Abraham demonstrated faith in God's Word that ".. he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised." .
The covenant God made with Abraham required his progeny the Children of Israel be circumcised but we must keep in mind the fact already discussed in detail, Vol 2, Numbers 4 & 5, that God dealt with the Children of Israel as one, that is as one corporate body He called His son,, and any disobedience on the part of one individual affected or infected the whole. And even though an individual appeared to others as being in conformance, God looks into each man's heart and knows if true faith abides therein. - Corinthians 10:7. Jesus made this clear when he took the Scribes and Pharisees to task during His ministry. They had been circumcised, had offered sacrifices and were the leaders of Israel but Jesus identified them as hypocrites and compared them to white washed sepulchers filled with dead bones. That is, they presented the appearance of a believing Israelite to other men but were corruptly dead inside. - . And so God's son of the Old Testament, the Nation of Israel, failed to uphold God's standard and were set aside when they rejected their Messiah. (The reader is reminded what was stated in study Vol 2 - No 4 that in Romans 9 - 11 the Apostle Paul explains how Israel was, and still is, set aside as God's chosen nation only for a season but all the promises He made to that Nation will someday be fulfilled literally and completely. The yet future accomplishment of Israel's restoration is prophesied a number of places in he Old Testament and by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation.)
Even though the Nation Israel failed because of unbelief they were a type of and pointed to God's only begotten son Jesus Christ who fulfilled by his life and in His body what Israel had not been able to do and this brings us to the point of what circumcision means to members of the Body of Christ as revealed by the Apostle Paul. For whereas the physical act of circumcision was a token or sign of the righteousness of the faith of Abraham it was also an object lesson pointing to the separated spiritual life those of us who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ live today.
By the Holy Spirit's inspiration Paul writes: "And ye (believers today) are complete in him, which is the head of all principality: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened (made alive) together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;" -. What God's son in the Old Testament (Israel) could not do because of the impossible weakness of the flesh believers today gladly and thankfully claim in the perfect life, sacrificial death and resurrection of God's only begotten son, our Lord Jesus Christ who is the head of the Body of Christ of which believers today are members - , I Corinthians 12:12 & 27, .