Saturday, August 29, 2020

Christian Circumcision

"In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the flesh, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ" (Colossians 2:11)

When God called out Abram to be a priest to the nations, He gave him the sign of circumcision as a mark of the special status of Israel, the nation he would conceive. Both Abram and his children were circumcised. Paul wrote to the Colossians that they were all circumcised in Christ, Jew and Gentile alike, thus striking down the distinction God had temporarily imposed on the human race until the time of the new covenant.

Circumcision in the old covenant had both a positive and a negative aspect. It represented both blessing and curse. When a person entered the covenant, he was coming into the bountiful blessings of God’s kingdom. The danger is that he was also coming under the possibility of judgment; for those who break God’s covenant receive His curse.

The foreskin was designated the “flesh,” and it is this flesh that is cut off in a symbolic castration. The implied curse was, thus, full castration. Those who are thus cursed will have no seed and no future in the kingdom. Those who are merely circumcised will have a future, and this future is symbolized by the fact that their children are also circumcised. Baptism, which implies drowning as a curse, has the same meaning in the new covenant.

The cutting off of the flesh symbolized separation from sin and judgment, and separation to a life of service as God’s priests. Because Israel was a nation of representative priests (representing the other nations) only males were circumcised. In the new covenant, all people, Jew and Gentile, male and female, are baptized as priests, while those who represent and lead in worship, and who are ordained, must be males.

How were the Gentiles circumcised? Ritually, by being baptized (Colossians 2:12). Paul, however, points to the way in which ultimate circumcision has taken place: in Christ. Circumcision, since it was a bloody rite and cut the person into two parts, was a symbolic sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, therefore, was the fulfillment of ritual circumcision. Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate circumcision, and we participate in His death. It was more than symbolic.

Your baptism signifies many of the same things as circumcision. Do you see yourself as a priest to the nations? How are you fulfilling that function since you have been set apart by baptism? Write out a definition of a priest and begin to strive to model that definition.