Abraham and The Covenant Of Circumcision
This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you.
Genesis 17:10-11 (NLT)
Abraham’s part in the covenant was to obey God and mark each male in his house with the sign of the covenant. Circumcision was not a new rite, for other nations practiced it in Abraham’s time; but God now gave it new importance and special meaning. For the descendants of Abraham, circumcision was not an option; it was an obligation.
Think about this…
Why did God choose circumcision as the sign of the covenant? Was it because it was a private thing between that man and his God?
Certainly circumcision was not intended to be flaunted.
Then why did people ever begin to brag about their circumcisions?
They were totally missing the true intent of this covenant relationship. The Lord intended that this be a personal reminder that the people were not their own, but they were bought with a price.
Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. You have been purchased at a great price, so use your body to bring glory to God!
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (VOICE)
The act of circumcision was required as a sign of the covenant previously established with Abraham. This was not a new covenant but an external sign that Abraham and his descendants were to execute to show that they were God’s covenant people. The fact that this was performed upon the male reproductive organ had at least a twofold significance:
- The cutting away of the foreskin spoke of the cutting away of fleshly dependence,
- Their hope for the future posterity and prosperity was not to rest upon their own ability.
Circumcision was a statement that confidence was being placed in the promise of God and His faithfulness rather than in their own flesh.
From this point onward, throughout coming generations, each male child born to you should be circumcised when he is eight days old. You must circumcise all male members of your household, even the slaves born within your household or the servants purchased from foreigners who aren’t your flesh and blood; anyone and everyone within your household must carry this sign. This external mark on his body will be a sign of My everlasting covenant. Any male who is not separated from his foreskin will be cut off from his people and excluded from these covenant promises because he has broken My covenant.
Genesis 17:12-14 (VOICE)
It is important to note that circumcision was not a “sacrament.” The performing of it did not convey spiritual blessing to the recipient. An eight-day-old baby boy (Lev. 12:3) would not even understand what was going on; and when he got older, the ritual would have to be explained to him. It was the obedience of the parents that was important, for if they did not obey God in this matter; their son would be cut off from his people (Gen. 17:14). The covenant people must bear the mark of the covenant.
Since God’s covenant involved Abraham’s “seed,” it was fitting that the mark of the covenant is on the male organ of generation. Since all people are conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5), this special mark would remind them that God accepted them because of His gracious covenant. It was God who chose the Jews, not the Jews who chose God (Deut. 7:1-11); and He chose them to be a holy people. Immorality was rampant among the Canaanite peoples, and was even a part of their religion; but the people of Israel were “marked” to be separate from the evil around them.
Unfortunately, the Jewish people eventually made this ritual a means of salvation. Circumcision was a guarantee that God accepted you. They did not realize that circumcision stood for something much deeper: the person’s relationship to God. God wants us to “circumcise our hearts” and be totally devoted to Him in love and obedience (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; Rom. 2:28-29).
Romans 4:9-12 makes it clear that the physical operation had nothing to do with Abraham’s eternal salvation. Abraham had believed God and received God’s righteousness before he ever was circumcised (Gen. 15:6). Circumcision was not the means of his salvation but the mark of his separation as a man in covenant relationship with God. The legalistic element in the early church tried to make circumcision and obedience to the Law a requirement for salvation for the Gentiles, but this heresy was refuted (Acts 15:1-35). In his Galatian Epistle, Paul argues convincingly for salvation by grace alone.
What does this entire mean to Christian believers today?
The seal of our salvation is not an external rite but the presence of an internal witness in the person of the Holy Spirit of God (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; Rom. 8:9, 16). We have experienced a “spiritual circumcision” (Col. 2:9-12) that makes us part of the “true circumcision” (Phil. 3:1-3). When we trusted Christ to save us, the Spirit of God performed “spiritual surgery” that enables us to have victory over the desires of the old nature and the old life. Circumcision removes only a part of the body, but the true “spiritual circumcision” puts off “the body of the sins of the flesh” (Col. 2:11) and deals radically with the sin nature.
This “spiritual circumcision” is accomplished at conversion when the sinner believes in Christ and is baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). This baptism identifies the believer with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, and also in His circumcision (Col. 2:11-12; Luke 2:21). It is not “the circumcision of Moses” but “the circumcision of Christ” that is important to the Christian believer.
Abraham immediately obeyed God and gave every male in his household the mark of the covenant. No doubt when he told them his new name, he also explained what this ritual meant.
Thus, Christians today are not under the command to be circumcised (Gal. 5:6).
What is FGM?
Female Genital Mutilation (often referred to as FGM) is a destructive operation, during which the female genitals are partly or entirely removed or injured with the goals of inhibiting a woman’s sexual feelings. Most often the mutilation is performed before puberty, often on girls between the age of four and eight, but recently it is increasingly performed on nurslings who are only a couple of days, weeks or months old.
Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.