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Circumcision

by

Ron

In this article the old-fashioned words of the KJV have been modernised, and in some instances, the man-made punctuation has been altered for greater understanding.  Some of the comments are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly. 

All the ideas expressed in this article, right or wrong, are my own.   


Genesis 17:9-11.

“And God said to Abraham, ‘You shall keep My covenant therefore, you, and your seed after you in their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your seed after you; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.  And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt Me and you”.    

Just what place does this bizarre ritual have in the plan of redemption, and why was it instituted at this time?

Let’s look at the second part of the query first and enquire as to why the Son of God introduced this ritual into the lives of His followers about 2,000 years after the plan of redemption had first been put into action.  The burnt sacrifice of a lamb had been deemed sufficient right from the Garden of Eden, so why was this added?

The first mention of a burnt offering is when Cain and Abel came to dedicate their lives as they moved into a new situation in their lives.  “And in process of time [when they became priests in their own right, Genesis 2:24] it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to the LORD.  And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.  And the LORD had respect to Abel and to his offering: but to Cain and to his offering He had not respect”. Genesis 4:3-4.  We are not told whether they offered at the same time or at different dates, but we are told of the result. What was different in Abel’s offering that was missing in Cain’s?  The blood and the flesh of an animal, the picture of death, the result of sin, the representation of the LORD’s sacrifice, for He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”.  Revelation 13:8. 

How do I know that the offering was a “burnt” offering?  When Adam and Eve made their sacrifices the skins of the animals were set aside for a reason.  “To Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them”.  Genesis 3:21.  In that first ceremony our great High Priest officiated, and it is written of that position, “And the priest that offers any man's burnt offering, even the priest shall have to himself the skin of the burnt offering which he has offered”.  Leviticus 7:8.  The Son of God used the skins to replace the humans’ own efforts at righteousness, the fig leaves, and to take their place as a picture of His spotless righteousness which He had just given them. 

They then taught their children what to do and it was passed on down through the generations.  The change of spiritual attire is testified to by one of the early patriarchs who said, “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem [crown]”.  Job 29:14.

Then later, by the gospel prophet:  “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the LORD GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations”.  Isaiah 61:10-11.

It was reiterated after the return from the Babylonian exile.  “And He [the Spirit] showed me Joshua the high priest [representing all the people] standing before the Angel of the LORD [the Son of God], and Satan standing at his right hand to resist [accuse] him.  And the LORD [the Son of God] said to Satan, ‘The LORD [God the Father] rebuke you, O Satan; even the LORD that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire [saved from destruction]?’  Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments [representing the character of his old life], and stood before the Angel.  And He answered and spoke to those that stood before Him [the angel spectators], saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him’.  And to him He said, ‘Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with change of raiment [the robe of righteousness]’.  And I [Zechariah] said, ‘Let them set a fair mitre [a crown] upon his head’. [Exodus 28:36-37.]  So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with [spotless] garments.  And the Angel of the LORD stood by”.  Zechariah 3:1-5.

When the fuller system of ceremonies was given to the Hebrews at Mt. Sinai, the rest of the burnt offering, carcase and intestines, was consumed on the brass altar in the courtyard as a symbol of the dedication of the offerer as well as a picture of the Son of God in His dedication.  (Some of the blood, not being required, was sprinkled on the brass altar and the rest was poured out on the ground.  Leviticus 8:18-19.)  

This is why it was a completely voluntary act and not a requirement of the sanctuary organization – that was taken care of by the continual offering made on behalf of the whole church.  (Exodus 29:38-39; 42.)

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Leviticus 1:

1 And the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, 2 speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, If any man of you bring an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and [or] of the flock.

3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd [it could be a lamb if he couldn’t afford a bull (verse 10), or even a pigeon if he was destitute (verse 14)], let him offer a male without blemish [a bullock was first choice]: he shall offer it of HIS OWN VOLUNTARY WILL at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD. 4 And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering [in figure transferring his life to it]; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him [there was no confession of any particular sin made over it, for it represented his whole life up to that point].

5 And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and [then] the priests, Aaron's sons [mainly the one who was assisting him], shall bring the blood, and sprinkle [some of] the blood round about upon the [brass] altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation [and the rest on the ground]6 And he [the offerer] shall flay the burnt offering [to drain all the blood out of it], and cut it into his pieces. 7 And [then] the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: 8 and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar [that’s the priest’s job]: 9 but [first] his [the animal’s] inwards and his legs shall he [the offerer] wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour to the LORD. [It was completely consumed in the fire which is why it was called a “burnt” offering – there can be no partial dedication, for “all [was put] on the altar” to join the Lamb which was already there.]

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Note:

A “sin” offering was a separate and distinctly different sacrifice, “a kid of the goats, a female without blemish”!  Leviticus 4:28.  (It was female to represent the offerer as the “wife” of Christ.)  And the confession needed to be very particular. “Speak to the children of Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the LORD, and that person be guilty; then they shall confess their sin which they have done . . .”  Numbers 5:5-7.  There was to be no general statement, “LORD I am a sinner”, for the sin action needed to be spelled out to show that the confessor knew what he or she had done. (Yes, contrary to established custom which developed over the years due to the hardness of the Jewish males’ hearts, the LORD expected women to come to the sanctuary and make offerings!)  The women, however, often found that they were too busy with the practical things of life to go “play acting” like their men, so they did it all “by faith”!  

Thus for the first two thousand years through the simple burnt offering the LORD set out before His people what He expected of them – their lives mingled with His, although this was not spelled out clearly until Paul wrote about it.  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me”.  Galatians 2:20.

Paul was the first to reveal it so clearly because over the years the reality had been replaced by the symbol in the people’s minds.  They had come to believe that God really wanted animal sacrifices!  It’s no wonder that even today many think of Him as a bloodthirsty punishing God who wants “payment” before He will forgive sinners, and then they add insult to injury in claiming that He required the death of His Son as the “payment”!

However, the burnt offering way of approaching God lasted unchanged for about 2,000 years, and during that period the enemy of souls was able to bring in many imitation altars and counterfeit offerings in order to confuse the children of men.  It did survive the Flood, albeit in a slightly modified way. “And Noah built an altar to the LORD; and took [the seventh] of every clean beast, and of every [seventh] clean fowl [Genesis 7:2-3], and offered burnt offerings on the altar”.  Genesis 8:20.  By this action of sacrificing multiple animals the individual dedication of the offerers became mixed with his or her general thanks, and this weakened the picture in men’s minds.  (It also introduced “birds” into the mix but that is outside the scope of this article.)

Then, just a few centuries after the Flood, “The LORD appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your seed will I give this land’ [the land of Canaan]: and [in response] there built he an altar to the LORD, who appeared to him.  And he removed from there to a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he built an altar to the LORD, and called upon the name [character] of the LORD”.  Genesis 12:7-8.  

Thus it was that in the days of Abram and Sarai they followed the pattern – a burnt offering on an earthen altar.  Exodus 20:24.   

As we all know, they were very pleased when the LORD promised them a son through whom He could work, but as time went by they became impatient and tried to fulfil His word in their own way.  (Genesis 16.)  It was after this action that the ritual of circumcision was given, and they understood its implications immediately, for many of the counterfeit religions around them were based on a sexual relationship with the counterfeit temple priests and priestesses, as a picture of the origin of life and crops, and they had unwittingly strayed into that symbolism by connecting with a woman of Pagan ancestry. 

Thus this new addition to the law was added because of their transgression – because of a need in sinful man.

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Genesis 17:

1 And when Abram was ninety-nine years old [13 years later], the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be you perfect.  2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly”.

3 And Abram fell on his face [in acceptance]: and God talked with him, saying, 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall your name any more be called ‘Abram’, but your name shall be ‘Abraham’; for a father of many nations have I made you. 6 And I will make you exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come out of you.

[The change of name indicated that he was changed in spirit, had become a “new” man,

for salvation came to the patriarchs during their lifetimes, not at some later date.]

7 “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant [the everlasting gospel], to be a God to you, and to your seed after you. 8 And I will give to you, and to your seed after you, the land wherein you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan [as a symbol of the new world, Romans 4:13], for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God”.

9 And God said to Abraham, “You shall keep My covenant therefore, you, and your seed after you in their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your seed after you; every man child among you shall be circumcised.

11 “And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token [a sign or a symbol] of the covenant betwixt Me and you. [It was a token that the old life was gone, never to resurface, and a new life had begun.]

12 “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger [foreigner], which is not of your seed. 13 He that is born in your house, and he that is bought [redeemed] with your money, must needs be circumcised [for they are part of your family, not slaves]: and [the sign of] My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. [It will be visible proof that you are “cut off” TO Me.]

14 “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off FROM his people [and Me]; he has broken My covenant”.   

15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name ‘Sarai’, but ‘Sarah’ [“Princess”] shall her name be. 16 And I will bless her, and give you a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her” . . .

24 And Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.    

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This sign, which appears to be so intimate and private to us today, was actually based on what the Pagans did in their public systems, and was not considered to be at all out of the way.  Plus it would clearly distinguish between those who should have been following the living God and those who were not, for Pagans were often naked in their religious ceremonies.

Lateral thought:

When God likens apostasy from Him as adultery, He is highlighting the fact that all false religions produce slave “children”, both physical and spiritual.  “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.  But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh [by a man’s action]; but he of the freewoman was by promise [from God]. Which things are an allegory [a parable]: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which genders [leads] to bondage, which is Hagar.  For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.  But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, ‘Rejoice, you barren that bears not; break forth and cry, you that travails not: for the desolate has many more children than she which has a husband’ [Isaiah 54:1].  Now we, brothers [and sisters], as Isaac was, are the children of promise”.   Galatians 4:22-28.

But what did the symbol signify?

Moses told the people:

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Deuteronomy 10:

12  And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 to keep the commandments of the LORD, and His statutes, which I command you this day for your good? 

14 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S your God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15 Only the LORD had a delight in your fathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.

16 Circumcise therefore THE FORESKIN OF YOUR HEART [have a change of heart – cut off the old life], and be no more stiffnecked [arrogant]. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and LORD of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regards not persons, nor takes reward: 18 He does execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loves the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. [See John 5:45.]

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But we cannot change ourselves, for it is written: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?  Then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil”.  Jeremiah 13:23.  But it is also written; “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you [one of the rituals, Numbers 8:6-7], and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit [character] will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them”.  Ezekiel 36:25-27.

We also need the next scripture.

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Deuteronomy 30:

5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will do you good, and multiply you above your fathers. 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.

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That is why it was to be done to the Hebrew child at eight days – to show that it needed to be done by Another.  Not only did it distinguish the Hebrews physically from all the other nations, but it also set apart the person as someone whom the LORD could protect more fully, for they were then counted as part of His family.  This is shown by an incident in the life of Moses when he was returning to Egypt with his wife and children.  He had not circumcised his youngest son because of the fuss which his foreign-born wife had made at the circumcision of their eldest – she had considered that it caused unnecessary suffering.  Though not an Israelite, Zipporah was a worshipper of the true God as her father Jethro was, but she was of a timid, retiring disposition, gentle and affectionate, and greatly distressed at the sight of pain.  (It was for this reason that Moses later decided to return her to Midian while he was in Egypt.  Exodus 18:2.)

Now, however, Moses was on his way to a very important mission and the LORD needed to impress on him that any departure from the Hebrew system could result in a death.  It was to this end that He appeared in a vision and apparently threatened the life of Moses.

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Exodus 4:

24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, “Surely a bloody husband [a husband of blood] are you to me”.  26 So He let him go: then she said, “A bloody husband you are”, because of the circumcision.

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The Son of God appeared to him in a threatening manner, as if He would immediately destroy him.  No explanation was given; but Moses was reminded by the Spirit that he had disregarded one of God's requirements.  He had failed to comply with the condition by which his child could be entitled to the blessings of God's covenant with Israel; and such a neglect on the part of their chosen leader would lessen the force of the divine precepts upon the people whom he was to lead out of Egypt.  Zipporah, fearing that her husband would be killed and also impressed by the Spirit with her own guilt in the matter, performed the rite herself, and Moses was then permitted to pursue his journey.  In his mission to Pharaoh, Moses was to be placed in a position of great peril; his life could be preserved only through the protection of holy angels, but while living in neglect of a known duty, he would not be secure, for he could not be shielded by them because he had chosen to go his own way.  Once he learnt the lesson, he took his family back to his in-laws in Midian and left them there while he continued his task.

Lateral thought:

In the time of trouble just before the coming of Christ, the righteous will be preserved through the ministration of heavenly angels; but there will be no security for the transgressor of the Ten Commandments.  Angels will not then be able to protect those who are disregarding one of the divine precepts.

In practice, most of the records of circumcision in the Bible are of adults being circumcised!

Here is a very significant account of one:

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Joshua 5:

1 And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of [the river] Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the [Mediterranean] sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit [courage] in them any more, because of the children of Israel.    

2 At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make you sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time [the first had been on the night of the exodus from Egypt forty years before for it had often been neglected during the slavery]. 3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins [called Gilgal, vv9-10].

4 And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise:

All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. 

5 Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. 6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: to whom the LORD swore that He would not show them the land, which the LORD swore to their fathers that He would give us, a land that flows with milk and honey.

7 And their children, whom He raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way.   

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The suspension of the rite of circumcision since the rebellion at Kadesh (Numbers 10) had been a constant witness to Israel that their covenant with God, of which it was the appointed symbol, had been broken.  And the discontinuance of the Passover, the memorial of their deliverance from Egypt, had been an evidence of the LORD's displeasure at their desire to return to the land of bondage.  Now, however, the years of rejection were ended for the rebels had all perished in the wanderings.  Once more God acknowledged Israel as His people, and the sign of the covenant was restored.  The rite of circumcision was performed upon all the people who had been born in the wilderness so that they could keep the Passover in the new land.  And the LORD declared to Joshua, “This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you,” and in allusion to this the place of their encampment was called Gilgal, “a rolling away,” or “rolling off”.  Joshua 5:9.

After the initial circumcision and Passover in Egypt (Exodus 12:48; 6-7) there had been but one Passover kept on the anniversary of the first (Numbers 9:1-5), but after that both ceremonies had been suspended because of the transgressions of the people.  They were only symbols, but were of no value if the heart was not right.  Now that they were in the land of Canaan it had become necessary for the symbols to be seen by the Pagans again, so all the males from forty to newborn had to be circumcised.

Again, it was a picture of what the heart should be:

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Jeremiah 4:

1 If you will return, O Israel, says the LORD, return to Me: and if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then shall you not remove [from My protection]2 And you shall swear, “The LORD lives”, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness [you shall know it for yourselves]; and the nations [the Pagans] shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him shall they glory. 3 For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.

4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

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However, in the New Testament times some of the Jews who had become professed Christians did not discern the true meaning of the symbol and the other ceremonies [see endnote 1], and thought that the distinctiveness of the Jewish religion should be retained.  However, the apostle Paul had been taught by God concerning the truth of the matter and with his spiritual “eyesight” he saw that it must all be done away with in the light of the new picture – Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.  

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Acts 15:

1 And certain [professed Christian] men which came down from Judaea [about 20 years after the crucifixion] taught the brothers [and sisters], and said, “Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved”.

[In this idea they had a Bible-based point because the ritual was God-given

and had been part of their religion for one thousand five hundred years! 

But now the everlasting gospel was being restored,

for Paul had found his “new” doctrine in the Bible.]

2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them [it was a large and prolonged debate], they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church [with its blessing], they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy to all the brothers [and sisters]. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed [the law-keeping Christians], saying, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses [the rest of the system, feasts, offerings, etc.]. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.   

7 And when there had been much disputing [they couldn’t agree either], Peter rose up, and said to them, “Men and brothers [and sisters], you know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. [Acts 10.] 8 And God, which knows the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did to us; 9 and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt you God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they”. 12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

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This is what had happened when Peter had met with the Gentiles: 

“While Peter yet spoke these words [describing Christ’s work], the Holy Ghost fell on all them [including the Romans] which heard the word.  And they of the circumcision [the Jewish Christians] which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.  Then answered Peter, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the LORD”.  Acts 10:44-48.

When writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul reminded the “old path” Jews among them that the symbols had been superseded.

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Romans 2:

23 You that make your boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonour you God?  24 For the name [character] of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. [See 2 Samuel 12:14.] 25 For circumcision verily profits, if you keep the law: but if you be a breaker of the law, your circumcision is made uncircumcision [it’s a spiritual thing]

26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?  27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge you, who by the letter and circumcision do transgress the law? 

28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God . . .

Romans 3:

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded.  By what law?  of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.   

29 Is He the God of the Jews only?  Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: 30 seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

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Then he produced his crowning argument:  

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Romans 4:

3 For what says the scripture?  Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. [Genesis 15:6]  4  Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt [wages].  5  But to him that works not, but believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.  6  Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works,  7 saying, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD will not impute sin”.  [Psalm 32:1-2.]     

9 Comes this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?  For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned?  When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?

Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.   

11 And [afterwards] 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 to them also: 

12 And [he is] 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. 13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 15 because the law works wrath [guilt]: for where no law is, there is no [knowledge of] transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”, [Genesis 17:5]) before Him whom he believed, even God, who quickens the dead, and calls those things which be not as though they were.

18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, “So shall your Seed be”. 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: 20 he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.

22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.   

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our LORD from the dead; 25 who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.   

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So he wrote in his letters:

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1 Corinthians 7:

17 But as God has distributed to every man, as the LORD has called every one, so let him walk.  And so ordain I in all churches.  18 Is any man called being circumcised?  Let him not become uncircumcised.  Is any called in uncircumcision?  Let him not be circumcised.

19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God [is everything]. 20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.   

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Galatians 5:

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say to you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.   

4 Christ is become of no effect to you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of [the completion of] righteousness, by faith. 6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love.

7 You did run well [at the beginning]; who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?  8 This persuasion comes not of Him that calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in you through the LORD, that you will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubles you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.   

11 And I, brothers [and sisters], if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?  Then is the offence [the freedom] of the cross ceased.

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Colossians 3:

9 Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the “old man” with his deeds [your past life]; 10 and have put on the “new man”, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him: 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

[ “. . . there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.  Galatians 3:28.]

12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels [hearts] of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you. 14 And above all these things put on charity [unselfish love], which is the bond of perfectness.

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Many years later Luke recorded how Paul went up to Jerusalem on another visit because he wanted to keep the Passover there (Acts 18:21).  (Yes, some thirty to forty years after the crucifixion he and many other leading Jewish Christians were still engrossed in the Jewish ceremonies!)  He had had premonitions regarding the visit but had allowed his old spirit of paying for his crimes to override them.  On the way, while talking with some elders from the church at Ephesus he said, “And now, behold, I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesses in every city [in a general way], saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the LORD Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

[Then there was a flash of Inspiration.]  “And now, behold, I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more”.  Acts 20:22-25.

Luke wrote:

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Acts 21:

16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge [for he owned a house there]. 17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brothers [and sisters] received us gladly.

18 And the day following Paul went in with us to James [who appeared to be the leader of the church]; and all the elders were present. 19  And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the LORD, and said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe [in Christ]; and they are all zealous of [keeping] the law [of ceremonies]: 21 and they are informed of you, that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not [need not] to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs [which was correct].

22 “What is it therefore?  The multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that you are come. 23 Do therefore this that we say to you: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24 them take, and purify yourself with them, and be at charges with them [pay for them], that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning you, are nothing [which was NOT correct]; but that you yourself also walk orderly, and keep the law [which was half correct, for he should not have been, as he had told Peter.  Galatians 2:11-21].

25 “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication”.

[By this statement they had made a division in the church!]

26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering [of a dead animal] should be offered for every one of them.

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Not just Paul, but the whole church had been affected by the teaching of the pharisaical Christians (some of whom were James, Peter and John) about keeping the feasts of the law and other apparently innocuous rituals (there are still some among us today who would revive some of these things), and therefore the influence of the Holy Spirit was steadily waning.  (See vv29-30.)  Paul, at that time, was so far removed from the truth of the gospel that on the way to Jerusalem he had needed a prophet to come to him and warn him not to carry on! 

We are told, “And as we tarried there [in Caesarea] many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.  And when he was come to us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owns this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’ [for he is seeking protection by the law]

“And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What mean you to weep and to break my heart?  For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the LORD Jesus’.  And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, ‘The will of the LORD be done’ [but it was NOT His will, and Paul ended up in jail]”.   Acts 21:10-14.

So why had the ceremonies been given in the first place?

When they got to Mount Sinai, “[God said] And let [allow] them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.  According to all that I show you, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall you make it”.  Exodus 25:8-9.  Thus we see that they wanted a place of worship like the temples which they had admired in Egypt, and the LORD agreed with their desire, but told them that it must be patterned after His one in heaven.

Some centuries later it was written;

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Jeremiah 7:

21 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings [of dedication] to [or with] your sacrifices [for sins], and eat [the] flesh [yourselves]!

[This would have been an abomination to them

for it pictured them eating their own sins!]

22 For I spoke not to your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices [I never asked for them]: 23 but this thing commanded I them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people: and walk you in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well to you’. 24  But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.

25 Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt to this day I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them [trying to teach you the truth of the sacrifices]: 26 yet they hearkened not to Me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers”. [God had to wait another 490 years for them to learn.] 

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“What advantage then has the Jew? [What was the point of the Jewish dispensation?]     Or what profit is there of circumcision [and the other rituals]?  Much every way: chiefly [but not only], because that to them were committed [the care of] the oracles [words] of God [the Old Testament].  For what if some did not believe?  Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?  God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar [or hypocrite, in the physical church]; as it is written, ‘That You might be justified in Your sayings, and might overcome [be justified] when You are judged’.”  Romans 3:1-4.  Circumcision was just the first, or base ritual, of the ceremonies, but all were only symbols.

A thought from my library:

If the people of God had kept the law as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision.  And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a sign, they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt; they would have kept God's law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai or engraved upon the tables of stone.  And had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses.

Conclusion:

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature”.  Galatians 6:15.

“And you are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power.  

In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands [the spiritual one], in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism [the spiritual one], wherein also you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised Him from the dead.  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has He quickened [made alive] together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances [the rituals which Moses wrote in a book, Deuteronomy 31:9] that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it”.  Colossians 2:10-12.

Lateral thought:

What do we need to discard as we move from the Christian dispensation into the “Dispensation of the Fullness of Times” under the general oversight of the “Dispensation of Grace”?  Ephesians 1:10; 3:2.

 oooOooo

 

 

Endnote 1:

{AA 191.2 - 192.2} 

Intimately connected with the question of circumcision were several others demanding careful study.  One was the problem as to what attitude should be taken toward the use of meats offered to idols.  Many of the Gentile converts were living among ignorant and superstitious people who made frequent sacrifices and offerings to idols.  The priests of this heathen worship carried on an extensive merchandise with the offerings brought to them, and the Jews feared that the Gentile converts would bring Christianity into disrepute by purchasing that which had been offered to idols, thereby sanctioning, in some measure, idolatrous customs. 

Again, the Gentiles were accustomed to eat the flesh of animals that has been strangled, while the Jews had been divinely instructed that when beasts were killed for food, particular care was to be taken that the blood should flow from the body; otherwise the meat would not be regarded as wholesome.  God had given these injunctions to the Jews for the purpose of preserving their health.  The Jews regarded it as sinful to use blood as an article of diet.  They held that the blood was the life, and that the shedding of blood was in consequence of sin. 

The Gentiles, on the contrary, practiced catching the blood that flowed from the sacrificial victim and using it in the preparation of food.  The Jews could not believe that they ought to change the customs they had adopted under the special direction of God.  Therefore, as things then stood, if Jew and Gentile should attempt to eat at the same table, the former would be shocked and outraged by the latter. 

The Gentiles, and especially the Greeks, were extremely licentious, and there was danger that some, unconverted in heart, would make a profession of faith without renouncing their evil practices.  The Jewish Christians could not tolerate the immorality that was not even regarded as criminal by the heathen.  The Jews therefore held it as highly proper that circumcision and the observance of the ceremonial law should be enjoined on the Gentile converts as a test of their sincerity and devotion.  This, they believed, would prevent the addition to the church of those who, adopting the faith without true conversion of heart, might afterward bring reproach upon the cause by immorality and excess.   BACK