Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Did God Require Abraham to be Circumcised?

(As promised in this mornings message.... here is an expanded explanation of the topic).

In Genesis 17, God required Abraham to be circumcised.  This included all males in Abraham’s household, his male servants, and all his male descendants.  It was Abraham’s part of the covenant; a sign made in the flesh.

From that day forward, the Jew is circumcised.

Clearly, this is a strange command.  God ordered the removal of the foreskin of the male sexual organ – literally carving into human flesh a sign of His ownership.  This was the distinctive mark of the Jewish people in ancient times, intended by God to mark them as His special possession.  It also marked God’s people as being distinctly (and physically) separate from the people of other nations. 

It was the mark of their sanctification.

The foreskin, that lose portion of skin that covers the tip of the male organ, symbolizes the flesh of our fallen nature.  The apostle Paul explains it this way, “In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature (Colossians 2:11).

By removing the foreskin,  the Jews symbolized the putting away of the flesh;  i.e, the sinful nature that was our inheritance from the Fall of Man.  Although Abraham did not fully understand the symbolic nature of circumcision, the rite looked forward in time to the crucifixion of the Messiah, when He removed our sin from us, taking it upon Himself, and would sanctify us through circumcision of the heart.

This visible symbol of God’s ownership was made in the most private and personal part of a man’s body; and it was no small matter to the Jews.  It was the Jewish mark of identity.  The Jews called themselves circumcised, and they called the Gentile world around them the uncircumcised.

One of the hallmarks of pagan society in those days was open, flagrant, sexual degeneracy.    Even the religion was sexually oriented and corrupt.  The temples of Rome, Greece, and other Gentile nations were filled with all sorts of sexual activity and debauchery.  So the idea of dividing the righteous from the unrighteous on the basis of an identifying mark in the male sexual organ makes a good deal of rational sense from God’s perspective.  It identified His people as sanctified, particularly in the area of morality and sexual activity.

Furthermore, it had sanctifying effect upon God’s people.  To the Jews, those who were circumcised were morally virtuous and religiously enlightened; while the uncircumcised were those who were sexually corrupt and religiously ignorant.

Circumcision was originally intended as a sign of humility and a seal of God’s sanctification upon His people.  Over the centuries, however, this mark in the flesh became perverted by some into a source of pride.  There arose various sects within the Jewish community, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees, who viewed circumcision as a mark of superiority and God’s favoritism.  Some of the circumcised began to look upon the uncircumcised as Gentile dogs.

Although the true meaning of circumcision was distorted by some, its significance has been etched into the pages of Scripture for all time.  Moreover, what was a literal and physical sign to Abraham has deep spiritual significance to us as NT believers.  In the NT, we are no longer commanded to be circumcised in the flesh.  Instead, we are commanded to be circumcised in the heart.

See Romans 2:28-29; Colossians 2:10-11; Philippians 3:3.

Just as Jewish males had to surrender the most personal part of their body to God's ownership, we today have to do the same by surrendering the most personal part of ourselves to God - our heart.  The Jew would have to undercover himself to be cut in the flesh.  But we undercover our heart so that it may be put to the edge of the knife; the sharp, two-edged sword of God's Word (Hebrews 4:12).

The reason for this is apparent.  The heart is the symbol of the soul, the seat of the mind, emotions, and will; the very foundation of our entire personality.  Every believer in Christ – male or female – is to bare themselves before God – expose themselves, if you will – as a sign of His ownership over us.  This is how the Word of God and the Spirit of God performs spiritual surgery on us - beginning with the heart - and placing us in the Body of Christ.

That’s what it means to be circumcised in the heart.  Everything we think, everything we plan, everything we do belongs totally to Christ.  Everything we are is His to us as He wills.  As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Jesus Christ, and who put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).

As heart-circumcised believers, we do not rely upon ourselves but depend totally upon God.  Every thought, every plan, every intention is brought into captivity to Christ.  That is the circumcised life.

Today, God calls us to an exclusive relationship with Himself.  He tells us, as He once said to Abraham, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.”  If we walk before Him with circumcised hearts, He will confirm His covenant with us – the New Covenant.  He will lead us into a life of fruitfulness and blessing, a life that is well-pleasing to Him.  This life is available to all who place their trust in El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient God.

1 comment:

thomas burch said...

wow,that explains it