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FAQ #54 What was the purpose of circumcision?

What was the purpose of circumcision?

Genesis 17:6,7

“And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.”

Here is an interesting tidbit. It used to bother me how you could determine when the word seed was referring to the children in generations, or when it was referring to the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15, which we know is Christ. It has been hard to determine. The word seed in the Hebrew is the word “zera.” It is like our word sheep. Now our word sheep, whether it is singular or plural, is still sheep. It is the same with this Hebrew word “zera.” The only way you can determine if it is singular or plural is by how it sets in the text. It is the same with our word sheep. If you were reading a sentence which talked about a flock of sheep covering the mountainside, you would immediately know the word is not singular, but plural. On the other hand, if you were shown a picture of someone shearing a sheep, by context what do you know? – that we are talking about `one.’ Whenever the context refers to a vast number of people who are Abraham’s seed, we are not talking about Christ, but about the generations of Israel. Turn with me to Chapter 21 where we will see the singular use of the word.

Genesis 21:12

“And God said unto Abraham, `Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac (one person) shall thy seed (singular) be called.'”

Turn to Galatians, Chapter 3. I want you to be mindful of Genesis 3:15 (without having you turn there), where as soon as Adam and Eve had fallen, God made the prophetic promise that the seed of the woman would be the Redeemer and the One who would make the way back to God possible. Now in Galatians, Paul writes:

Galatians 3:16

“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds (plural), as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed (singular), which is Christ.”

Is it falling into place? In the Old Testament whenever we have the singular approach to the seed of the woman, it speaks of Christ; but when the plural is used with the generations following Abraham, then that is what it’s referring to. Back to Genesis 17:

Genesis 17:8

“And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed (plural) after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

They can say what they want about God being through with the Nation of Israel, and about God transferring the promises made to Israel to the Church. But that flies in the face of what the Scripture says. The Bible plainly teaches that no matter what the Israelite or Jew may do, God is still going to maintain the Covenant He made with Abraham clear back in 2000 BC If you are watching the Middle Eastern situation with an open mind, you realize the present day Jew is still the offspring of Abraham. Although we are not yet into the Jewish aspect of the Tribulation, etc., it is all coming. Everything in the Middle East is setting the stage for when the curtain will rise, and God will again pick up where He left off with His Nation of Israel back in the Book of Acts.

Genesis 17:9,10

“And God said unto Abraham, `Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations (again we are talking about the line of people). This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.'”

Remember this is years after that original Covenant. This is even some time after that Deed we saw in Chapter 15. But now God is going to, you might say, cement this whole thing with a blood Covenant. I think that is the best way we can look at it. Have you ever watched movies of the ancients where they made a covenant with one another? They would take a knife blade and put a little slit in each hand. They would then shake hands and literally mix their blood; it was a blood covenant. I think this is the whole aspect of the institution of circumcision. God now has a blood Covenant with the Nation of Israel, or the children of Abraham. So Abraham was given all the instructions of how circumcision was to be instituted even though he, himself, was ninety-nine. From then on, every child of Abraham was to be circumcised at the age of eight days.

I believe medical science will back me up that an infant’s blood coagulation reaches its peak at the age of eight days. In this present day we get our young mothers in and out of the hospital so quickly, that circumcision is accomplished before the child reaches eight days. When my mother gave birth to my little sister, the hospital stay for delivery was fourteen days. That gave the doctors ample time to circumcise the boy babies at eight days of age. This is all Scriptural.

The Uncircumcision. That was the Jewish term for a non-Jew. He was the Uncircumcised. And a lot of times they would add the word, “dogs.” “Uncircumcised Dogs” is what they thought of Gentiles. Now, I’m going to give you one more. Come back a few more pages to Galatians chapter 2 and verse 7.

Galatians 2:7

“But contrariwise, when they (the leadership of the Jerusalem Jewish assembly) saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;”

Now how many classes of people do you have? Two! Paul and Barnabas were the apostles of the uncircumcision or the Gentiles. Peter, on the other hand, and James and John and the other of the disciples, were the apostles of the circumcision, or Israel. I could stand here for another hour on that alone. Why do you suppose Jesus chose the twelve inside of Israel? Because they were to be the apostles of Israel. That’s why He told them not to go to the Gentiles in Matthew 10:5. Why do you supposed He chose the apostle Paul outside of Israel? Because he was to be the apostle to the Gentiles. And so all of this just fits together. But what I’m trying to show you here is the terminology, the uncircumcision, is the non-Jewish world of which you and I are a part. The circumcision was the Jewish world. Now, let’s go back to Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 11. I’m almost sure I’m not going to finish these two verses in this half hour.

Ephesians 2:11b

“….who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made hands.” In other words, the Jew would refer to the Gentiles as uncircumcised. Now let’s go to verse 12.

Ephesians 2:12

“That at that time (while God was dealing with the circumcision, Israel) ye (uncircumcision, Gentiles) were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”

That was the lot of the Gentile world. Because God was dealing with Israel. But the day came when Israel rejected everything and God turned to the Gentile world through this apostle. Now, come back to Colossians chapter 2 and I’m going to try and take this slow enough that I don’t leave everybody totally confused. But now let’s look at Colossians chapter 2 and verse 13.

Colossians 2:13a

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh,….”

Now you tie the two together. Why were they dead in their sins? Because they were outside the covenants of Israel, outside the citizenship, they were Gentiles. And so this is what Paul is saying – This was our past. We were dead spiritually, mostly because we were Gentiles and were outside the covenant promises. And so as the uncircumcised physically, we were dead spiritually but what has God done? He’s quickened us. He’s made us alive. What has happened? Come up to verse 11 and I’ll leave this half hour in total confusion, I’m afraid.

Colossians 2:11a

“In whom (Christ) also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands,….”

What is he talking about? A spiritual circumcision with which the flesh had nothing to do with. Now, I guess the Lord must have instituted circumcision in the flesh knowing that the day would come when it would be the perfect example of spiritual circumcision. And this is what we’re going to see in these two verses. I’m not going to finish it in this half hour, I know I can’t. So now then, we who in the flesh, uncircumcised, in the spirit we are circumcised, not the fleshly circumcision, but a spiritual one. I hope I can put it on the board in the next half hour and clarify it. And that simply means that God has done something spiritually that was a good example of that which practiced in Israel physically. And that was cutting off that which is superfluous or no longer needful. That’s the whole concept.

Now for you and I as believers, what did God cut off that was now superfluous? The old Adam! The old Adam has been cut off. It’s been crucified with Christ and we’ll pick it up in our next half hour so hang by a string if you can. But anyway this is the whole idea of these two verses – that yes, in the flesh we’re uncircumcised, we’re Gentiles. But spiritually we’ve been circumcised by virtue of the old Adam being crucified with Christ, cut off, and is no longer something that we have to deal with as far as eternity is concerned because it has been done by God Himself.

Now back to where we left off in Colossians chapter 2. You know I didn’t finish my thoughts in the two verses 11 and 13 dealing with circumcision and our being dead in sins, but now we are circumcised Spiritually and we’ve been made alive Spiritually. So come back with me to verse 11 and 13 and let’s read verse 13 again first.

Colossians 2:13

“And you being dead in your sins (a Spiritual death) and the uncircumcision of your flesh, (that’s where we were genetically. We’re not in the family of Abraham, but rather we were Gentiles) hath he (God) quickened (or made us alive) together with him, (which of course ties us to His death, burial, and resurrection. And the moment we beloved that Gospel of Salvation, God forgave us.) having forgiven you all trespasses:” Now we’ll come back to forgiveness a little later, but for now let’s also look at verse 11.

Colossians 2:11

“In whom (Christ Who is the fullness of the Godhead of verse 9) also ye are circumcised (now we are circumcised, not in the flesh, but Spiritually) with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh (remember circumcision depicts a cutting off of that which was superfluous. So for the believer now we have had something cut off which is no longer necessary and it is the old Adam.) by the circumcision of (or by) Christ:”