From the time of man [adam]'s1 fall, the inherent evil of man's heart and his determination to live apart from God has been manifest. Paul warned, "But evil men and imposters shall wax worse and worse. . ." (2 Timothy 3:13a). This will continue until Jesus returns to earth.
Here we focus on one of the ways in which God dealt with the flesh of man. Even though he was created in a physical flesh-and-blood body, it was man's eternal soul that mattered to God. In this chapter we will begin to see how this life is merely a pattern after that which is spiritual--the real life.
The bible says, "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect." The LORD went on to tell Abram of a covenant He would make with him, and how He would make him the "father of a multitude of nations." (Genesis 17:1-4). How could Abram not humble himself and fall on his face at the thundering voice of I AM,2 the Almighty God? How could he not respond to the desire of God's heart and walk before Him in pure, complete trust?
Genesis 17:5 tells how the LORD changed Abram's name to Abraham, which means "father of a multitude." God required Abraham to keep his part of the covenant by circumcising all males of his household, including himself. At the age of ninety-nine, Abraham was circumcised. As Genesis 17:11 & 13b reads, "And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token or sign of the covenant (the promise or pledge) between Me and you. . . .and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." (Amplified). If any male were to break the covenant by failing to be circumcised, he would be cut off from his people.3 There would be no reminder of the covenant, and nothing to turn his thoughts toward God.
A matter of the heart
Later, we learn the spiritual aspect of circumcision: "So circumcise the foreskin of your [minds and] hearts; be no longer stubborn and hardened."4 God's people Israel were failing in their love for the fatherless, the widows, and the strangers who sojourned with them. That is why God told them to cut the flesh from the foreskin of their hearts, and to not be stubborn and hardened. He told them to love the stranger, for they had once been strangers in Egypt. He commanded them to fear Him, serve Him, and "cling to Him, and by His name and presence you shall swear."5 It has always been about relationship between God and man. They were to show their love for God by caring for others.
Circumcision became a part of the Old Testament Law. Later, in the New Testament, the term "circumcision" was used in reference to God's people Israel, while "uncircumcision" referred to the Gentiles. The Old Testament contained the Old Covenant made with Abraham. The New Testament is the New Covenant in Jesus' blood, provided through His death, burial, and resurrection. The New Testament tells of the fulfilling of the Law and all that the prophets foretold regarding Jesus. It is the story of God's Son, and the freedom (from Law and flesh) He came to bring.
God used the Apostle Paul to write much of the New Testament, in which he clearly explained how the NEW Covenant replaced the OLD. In Romans 4:11-12, Paul recounted how Abraham had received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness of the faith he had before his circumcision. As a result, Abraham could be the father of all who believe, whether Jews (circumcised) or Gentiles (uncircumcised). Circumcision did not make Abraham righteous--he was righteous because of his faith in God. His descendants were also counted as righteous. The evidence of the cutting off of flesh was the sign, or "that which signified," that they were righteous.
In Romans 3:30b, Paul explained the difference between Abraham's (and the Jews') righteousness and the righteousness of the New Testament (as for the Gentiles): ". . . he [God] shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith." The Greek meaning of "by" is "according to," while "through" means "by way of." So Abraham was counted as righteous in God's sight, according to his faith in God, while the Gentiles are justified by way of faith. And the word faith, when used as "saving faith," shows that man is justified "through reliance upon Christ for salvation," as the word “faith” is defined in the Greek dictionary.6
Eventually the Jews desired to have even the Gentiles circumcised. To their way of thinking, it was necessary for a person to be circumcised for him to be saved, as we see here: "Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved." (Acts 15:1b.). They believed the deed of becoming circumcised would earn them entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Through diligent adherence to Moses' Law they had lost sight of the truth that their father Abraham's faith in God was the reason for circumcision.
Therefore, remember that at one time you were Gentiles (heathens) in the flesh, called Uncircumcision by those who called themselves Circumcision, [itself a mark] in the flesh made by human hands. (Ephesians 2:11 Amplified).
Circumcision was a procedure done to the flesh by human hands. But Paul told the Colossians they were circumcised through Christ in His putting off the body of flesh--not with a circumcision "made by hands."7 Paul was speaking of the circumcision of the heart by the presence of Christ. When a person is born again [from above], Jesus, our Righteousness, provides the circumcision made without hands. We are righteous by way of FAITH. Righteousness is not imputed to us because of our act of belief, as it was with Abraham: it is through rest in the finished work of the Cross. The presence of His Spirit circumcises [cuts off] the flesh of our heart. ". . . Not by works done in righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus 3:5).
According to the Greek, the word "renewing" means "renovation."8 The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, and He renovates His new temple. It is a life-long process, as long as we surrender moment by moment to His working to form Christ in us.
Modern day "circumcision"
The term "circumcision" could be used to describe the method employed by legalistic people to make other people appear righteous. Their aim is to change the outward appearance, through outward deeds, and to make them stop sinning. Paul had something to say about it in Galatians 6:12: "Those who want to make a good impression and a fine show in the flesh would try to compel you to receive circumcision, simply so that they may escape being persecuted for allegiance to the cross of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)." (Amplified).
Rather than suffer persecution, some would revert to the life and ways of the flesh. They would deny the Christ of the cross in order to save their own skin. "For not even they who receive circumcision do themselves keep the law; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory [Greek: boast]9 in your flesh. . . . For neither is circumcision any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." (Galatians 6:13, 15). It is not about doing or not doing--it is about being a new creature in Christ Jesus.
There was a woman whose daughter had suffered much at the hands of religious people. As a young girl, the daughter's faith in God was very real. She was a sensitive child, knowing the voice of the Lord at a very early age. Because of the help of people who love to circumcise, she rebelled and was deceived by other spiritual experiences. Her vulnerability made her a target of Satan the accuser. She made many mistakes in her life, including unwise choices in relationships. Her mother's heart was heavy. She desired to see her daughter return to the faith she once had as a young child. One evening at a prayer service, the mother requested prayer for her daughter. The minister said, "Is she still living with her boyfriend?" The mother replied "yes," and he hastened to say that he would pray for this request. His prayer started out with "Oh God, show them what they are doing." Was there a genuine concern for the daughter's need to return to her relationship of trust in Jesus? Is it possible the minister desired only to see her "circumcised?" Did he simply want to change the outward appearance to please man, but not necessarily care whether God circumcised the flesh of her heart?
The good news is that the young lady returned to her faith in the Lord. She and her boyfriend got married and had a family, and God is continuing a work in her, purifying her for Himself. God will never perform His work to the stipulations of religious people. He does not expect people who are separated from Him to stop sinning so they can come to Him. Jesus longs for sinners to come to Him just as they are so that He can make them new creatures in Himself.
Paul was emphatic when he said, "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Philippians 3:2-3).
Concision10 is mutilation, or one could say, "forceful circumcision." Are there those today who could be called the "concision" because of demands on others to adhere to religious rules and precepts in the name of Christianity? How many souls have been driven away from a relationship with Jesus because of flesh-conscious, circumcising, religious people?
Man cannot be changed from the outside--he must receive a new heredity. He must be born from above and become a new creature in Christ Jesus. The wellspring of the new heredity is the knowledge of the Truth through the indwelling Spirit of Christ. 1 John 5:18 (Amplified) tells us that those born of God no longer practice sin, but "the One Who was begotten of God" keeps the evil one from touching us. What wonderful good news! It is Jesus in the new creature Who keeps the evil one from "touching" him. Though born from above, we still live in a mortal body and will slip up. But because Jesus is in us, our heart is toward God, and we will no longer practice sin as one who still has the old heredity.
1. Hebrew #120
2. Exodus 3:14
3. Genesis 17:14
4. Deuteronomy 10:16 Amplified
5. Deuteronomy 10:19-20 Amplified
6. Greek #4102
7. Colossians 2:11
8. Greek #342
9. Greek #2744
10. Greek #2699