When one considers our glorious Savior, thoughts of something as inglorious as circumcision almost seem inappropriate. We can understand why some would not be knowledgeablle of these truths or perhaps not want to think upon them. Yet, with every person in need of “the circumcison of Christ” (Col. 2:11), we must learn of the One who became a circumcison for us so that we, in turn, could become a child of God.
While teaching a class recently in a different context than my regular courses at RPTS, at one point I referenced Abraham. Though somewhat tangential to the lesson at hand, I explained briefly the reason for circumcison being the sign of the Old Testament covenant. I was about to return to the main idea when a middle-aged student suddenly exclaimed, “That’s the reason God used circumcision? I never knew that before!”
This incident reminded me of other times I have had that reaction. Indeed, in Bible studies with college students, I have discovered they did not even know what circumcision was! (Are parents and teachers too embarassed or modest to tell them?) With this seal of the covenant having major theological importance, the first council of the church dealing directly with its practice, and the fact one runs across this concept over a hundred times in both the Old and New Testament, I thought a primer on circumcision could be helpful.
So let me offer this biological yet also Biblical definition below. Then consider three chief reasons why God Himself chose this crass act to represent beautiful truths of the gospel.
God commanded Abraham and his descendants to practice circumcision, that bloody, painful removal of the foreskin of the male reproductive organ, in order to signify and seal the promise of salvation to the nations of the earth that would come through his seed.
By God calling Abraham (Gem 12:1-3), promising that in him the nations of the earth would be blessed and number as the stars in heaven (Gen.15:1-6), and then sealing this promise with circumcison(Gen. 17:1-11), we should readily see the following.