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Circumcision Made Without Hands
Written by David Banks
Kind of a sensitive subject for some I know, but the fact is that circumcision has a major emphasis in the Bible, beginning with Abraham and receiving symbolic fulfillment in Christ. God had made a covenant with Abraham that He would make of his descendants a great nation (Genesis 12:1-4). As a sign of this covenant God commanded Abraham saying, “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations…” (Genesis 17:10-12). Circumcision in the Old Testament was a physical act with symbolic application. The removal of the foreskin was a symbolic way for God to separate His people from all other people. The children of Israel (Abraham’s descendants) kept this sign of the covenant throughout their generations.
In addition to the promise that He would make of Abraham a great nation, God also promised that through Abraham’s Seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:4; 22:18; Galatians 3:16). In fulfilling this, God promised Abraham in his old age a son that was to come through his wife Sarah even though she was past childbearing age. Even so Abraham, “believed in the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). But suppose Abraham had reasoned that since he believed in the Lord and God reckoned his faith to him as righteousness and since circumcision was really only a symbolic gesture, and since he was an old man and didn’t want to go through the ordeal and therefore he didn’t feel it was right to force his descendants to go through the ordeal, that he decided that he wouldn’t keep or enforce circumcision as the sign of the covenant. What do you suppose would have happened? God said, “But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people he has broken My covenant” (Genesis 17:14).
As you might expect circumcision is also mentioned in the New Testament. In the days of Christ the Jews were still keeping the sign of the covenant even though they had already broken the covenant itself. With the coming of the Christ, God introduced a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The New Covenant is in many ways similar to the Old Covenant but it is in every way superior (read Hebrew 8-10). Many of the commands, ordinances, and institutions of the Old Testament were brought to spiritual fulfillment in the New Testament, for example, the tabernacle, the High priesthood of Aaron, the Levitical priesthood, the Passover, and so on. And not to be excluded from this list is the law of circumcision.
The apostle Paul, writing to primarily Gentile Christians in the city of Colosse, wrote that baptism is a circumcision made without hands. He wrote, “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Colossians 2:11-13). By baptism God forgives our transgressions and sets us apart from the world. Like circumcision, baptism is a physical act with spiritual symbolic significance. One cannot refuse with the physical act and still expect to reap the spiritual rewards that come with it. To do so would result in that one who refuses acknowledge the significance of the physical act (baptism) being cut off from God’s spiritual people – the church.
To make inquiry please contact:
Rena Road Church of Christ
100 Rena Road – Van Buren, AR 72956