Friday, June 8, 2007

Circumcision of the Heart

It has been said that the Holy Bible can be compared to the structure of a tree; the Scriptures of the Old Testament are seen as the root of the tree and the Scriptures of the New Testament are the trunk and the branches. This being true then all that makes up the New Testament springs forth from the Old. To get the fuller meaning of the Scriptures of the New Testament it is best to study the Old Testament along with the study of the New. The study of one without the other leads to misunderstandings and often, false doctrines. After all, how can one understand the ending of a book without knowing how it all began?

In the Scriptures of the Old Testament we find that our heavenly Father preached the gospel found in the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament through creation, through the events in the lives of the saints of ancient times, by the mouths of His prophets and through His law {Hebrews 1:1; Romans 1:20}. Many of these prophetic events, words and laws are types and shadows of things fulfilled and recorded in the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament. In this study we will look at the ordinance of water baptism under the new covenant to show how it corresponds to the Law of Circumcision given to Abraham and to his seed after him under the old covenant.

“Now the LORD said to Abram {Abraham}, "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran {Genesis 12:1-4 NAS}.”

Because of God’s love of mankind he had mercy and by grace called Abram to be the father of the household of faith. Abram heard God; he then left his father’s house according to God’s instructions. Abram hearing, believing and obeying God indicates that he welcomed and received the gift of faith. According to the Scriptures Abram’s father and his household, including Abram, was worshipers of idols (Joshua 24:2). Thus Abram leaving his fathers house of sin would indicate that he believed God and turned his back on sin, thus establishing repentance. Because Abram received the gift of faith through believing and repenting it was “reckoned” to him by God as righteousness, thus Abram was justified by God {Genesis 6:15 NAS}. After faith, repentance and justification, came the covenant, then circumcision as the sign of the covenant {Romans 4:10-12 NAS}. The very nature of circumcision indicates a cleansing process where-by the unclean flesh of man is removed. Abraham and his household were not circumcised into the covenant but rather they received the sign of circumcision because of the covenant they had with God before circumcision {Romans 4:13 NAS}.

So, what is it that we see that God has given to Abram? By grace he called him thus giving him faith. Then God granted him repentance by accepting his leaving his father’s house as a move of faith. Next, He reckoned these things to Abram as righteousness there-by granting to him justification, which is to say, not counting his sins against him; then came sanctification, the setting apart from the world for the work of holiness.

The ordinance of baptism for those under the new covenant parallels, or is comparable, and corresponds to that of the circumcision of those who were under the covenant of the Law of Circumcision. Circumcision refers to a cutting away of sin and a change of heart {Deuteronomy 10:16; Ezekiel 44:7,9}. Similarly, baptism also portrays a removal of sin {Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5-6} and a spiritual renewal {Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:9-12}. It is helpful to understand the Law of Circumcision, but we cannot and must not confuse or mix the rites of circumcision and those of baptism together, doing so results in false doctrines. The Christian is not under the same covenant therefore the rites are different.

“This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant {Genesis 17:10-14 NAS}.”

To understand how the Law of Circumcision under the old covenant corresponds to that of baptism under the new covenant we must see Abraham as a type of Christ and Sarah as a type of the church. The covenant was made with Abraham who was the head of his household. The new covenant is made between God the Father and His Son Jesus who is the head of His household {Hebrews 3:6 NAS}. The sign of circumcision is given to Abraham and his seed after him.

Our Lord’s cross was a circumcision of the unclean flesh of mankind. He took on our sins on the cross, put them to death in His body and soul, was buried and then raised up cleansed of the sins of man. This is referred to as a baptism into death and a resurrection unto life.

This brings us to Sarah and how she is a type of the church. Sarah, being a woman, could not be circumcised in the same manner as her husband. Because of her love and faith toward her husband she had left her former life behind and became submissive and obedient to her husband, which is seen as a circumcision of the heart {1st Peter 3:5-6 NAS}. Thus she was one with her husband {Genesis 2:24} and therefore, his circumcision became her circumcision, and therefore she was included in the covenant.

The bride of Christ is the church. Like Sarah, the church loves her Husband and she leaves her former life behind and is submissive and obedient to her Lord. She is one with Christ therefore His circumcision becomes her circumcision; His death, burial and resurrection becomes the believer’s death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:4-6).

Under the Law of Circumcision any one refusing to be circumcised broke God’s covenant therefore they were excluded from the covenant {Genesis 17:4; Exodus 22:48}. Our Lord Jesus was circumcised at birth according to the Law of Circumcision because He was born under the covenant of the law of circumcision {Luke 2:21 NAS}. At about age thirty He was baptized according to the law of the priesthood to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:13-15). In His ministry He established baptism as the sign of the new covenant in His blood (Matthew 28:19). The new covenant is God's pledge to grant eternal life to all those who are called and believe in His Son Jesus {John 3:15-16}.

It was father Abraham who circumcised the child born into his household. Likewise it is Christ who circumcises those who are “born of the Spirit” into His household, but His is a circumcision of the heart.

“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross {Colossians 2:9-14 NAS}.”

We baptize the seed of Christ, the born again believer, as a sign of the covenant with God through the faith he had in Christ before he was baptized. We are not baptized into the covenant of faith but we are baptized because of the covenant of faith.

Faith and repentance leads to forgiveness of sins and salvation in Jesus Christ. Obedience to the ordinance of baptism is a sign of the faith a person has before they are baptized. Conviction, repentance, faith, baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the entire package {Acts 2:37-38}; one follows the other and each one is incomplete without the other.

The cleansing of ones soul of all sinfulness, is the circumcision of the heart, the removal of the unclean flesh---the body of sin. This is the inward baptism in Christ Jesus that is expressed outwardly in the water baptism {Gal. 3:26-27; 1st Peter 3:17-22}. Apart form the circumcision of the heart, baptism becomes a legalistic ritual and a mere dip in water.

Permit me if you will to alter Scripture just a bit to make a valid point. First the Scripture as it is written. “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God {Romans 2:28-29 NAS}.” Now the alteration---For he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, neither is baptism that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Christian who is one inwardly and baptism is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Baptism is not a means by which salvation is brought about, but is a sign of the new covenant {Romans 4:10-13}. Baptism serves the same purpose for new covenant believers that circumcision did for old covenant believers. For the Jews, circumcision was the external and visible sign that they were within the covenant that God had established with Abraham. Converts to Judaism (or proselytes) also had to undergo this rite. But now under the new covenant, baptism instead of circumcision is required.

A person who claims to have been convicted of sin, says he has repented and refuses to be baptized rejects the sign of the new covenant, thus he disobeys the commandments of God---his conviction is incomplete, his repentance is also incomplete, there is something wrong with his relationship with God and therefore his faith is lacking---he is in danger of being excluded from the new covenant.

“Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision {baptism}; for we are the true circumcision {baptism}, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh {Philippians 3:2-3 NAS}.”

By faith we believe that if we have died with Christ we also are buried with Him thus putting to death and burying the unclean flesh, the old man of sin. We also by faith believe that if we are buried with Christ we are also resurrected with Him to live unto God. This is all symbolized by the water baptism; a sign that God has made a covenant of faith and love between He and the believer through His Son Jesus {John 3:16}.

James C Sanford

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