Part 4: Changes - Circumcision
It can be plainly understood from the time of Abraham on, that men could not enter into covenant with God, without undergoing circumcision of the flesh:
Genesis 17:10-14 10 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. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
Exodus 12:48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
John 7:22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
Clearly, from the time of Abraham’s covenant, prior to the New Covenant being instituted, no man could enter into covenant with God without undergoing circumcision of the flesh; again the penalty for disobedience was death (Gen. 17:14). And so imperative was this commandment that an exception was made to the Decalogue (in the Law of Moses) in observance of the Sabbath in order to comply with this command for circumcision:
John 7:23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
Circumcision was not “optional” but a requirement to enter into covenant with God. Yet now to enter into the New Covenant, circumcision is no longer required. The “Law” has been changed. Clearly, this can be understood, from the controversy in Acts 15 that arose from teachers arriving in Antioch from Judea and demanding that circumcision was necessary for all believers, which included the Gentiles:
Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
The controversy was augmented by the Pharisees (who had been saved) that were present in the church at Jerusalem:
Acts 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
These Pharisaical believers added to the controversy presented by the Judean brethren in Antioch by demanding that it was not only circumcision that was required but keeping the Law of Moses as well. As a result of this controversy, we understand through the teachings of the apostles, that neither circumcision nor the keeping of the Law of Moses, is any longer required of God for men to enter into covenant with Him:
Acts 15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
There can be no mistaking what the doctrine of the apostles was here. The apostles clearly stated that the teaching of the necessity of circumcision and the keeping of the Law of Moses being required under this New Covenant would be a “subverting” of men’s souls. And that they as the highest authority in the church (1 Corinthians 12:27-28) declared that they had given “no such commandment”. So, let’s see what the other scriptures teach regarding circumcision in the New Covenant.
Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
Romans 2:25-29 25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
According to verses 28- 29 circumcision of the heart is the circumcision that is necessary not circumcision of the flesh. In discussions with HRM teachers, they reference the fact that in the Old Testament, God asked the children of Israel to “circumcise their hearts”:
Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.
But clearly, it’s not possible for a person to circumcise the foreskin of his heart. It was stated to the end that men would realize that it was not in their own ability to do this. Only Christ is able to perform the circumcision made without hands:
Colossians 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
It is only when a person is born again that they undergo the circumcision of Christ:
Colossians 3:10-11 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Paul taught that righteousness was not accomplished through circumcision of the flesh:
Romans 4:9-12 9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: 12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
As a result Paul admonished anyone who came to Christ uncircumcised, “not” to get circumcised:
1 Corinthians 7:18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
Paul goes further in stating:
Galatians 5:2-3 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
But we have before shown that we are not “under the Law” but “under grace” (Romans 6:14-15). Therefore, why should we desire to be under the law again, a debtor to do the whole law which includes circumcision of the flesh? Does not this change from circumcision of the flesh (made with men’s hands) to circumcision of the heart (made without hands) qualify as “one jot or one tittle”? Let’s look at one more change.