Circumcision was clearly one of the requirements of the Old Covenant law:
Leviticus 12:3But the command to be circumcised long preceded the Old Covenant. It began as the sign of a covenant that God made with Abraham:
And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
Genesis 17:13-14The "everlasting covenant" mentioned here is not the Old Covenant, but the Abrahamic Covenant - perhaps the name "Old Covenant" has caused some confusion on this point. The Abrahamic covenant, from which circumcision originates, was about 1500 years or so prior to the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was made with the 12 tribes of Israel which were later descended from Abraham.
He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.
|The Abrahamic, Old, and New Covenants each began about 1500 years apart. Circumcision began at the covenant with Abraham!|
The Abrahamic covenant is actually a foundational component of both the Old and New Covenants. This is reiterated throughout the Old Covenant as God reminds Israel that He is the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," and brings them into "the land which I swore to your fathers." Most people today understand that much, but fail to acknowledge the impact of the Abrahamic covenant on the New Covenant. The New Covenant writers were keenly aware of the relationship between the Church and Abraham:
Galatians 3:7-8Paul writes that the faithful are "sons of Abraham," and this can only have significance if there is some relationship between Abraham's descendants and the New Covenant! Just as Israel was physically descended from Abraham, the Church is descended spiritually from Abraham in the sense that we live by faith in God just as Abraham did. But why does it matter? Paul goes on to testify to the fact that the promise of the New Covenant is the same as the promise to Abraham:
Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”
Galatians 3:13-18Having this understanding, it is clear that circumcision, being the sign of the covenant with Abraham, was not merely part of the Old Covenant law. It was the sign of the covenant with Abraham, and this covenant was the basis for the promises to Israel under the Old Covenant as well as the promises to Christians under the New Covenant.
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law... that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith... Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made... And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Next time, I'll begin explaining why Christians don't need to be physically circumcised and how we can become a part of the covenant with Abraham without that physical sign of the covenant.