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Bible verses about Circumcision, Symbolism Behind
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 17:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The ordinance of circumcision was an outward physical sign of one's willingness to obey God and be one of His chosen people.

Under the New Covenant, God is calling a spiritual nation composed of individuals converted and regenerated by His Holy Spirit. God's people now are all to be "circumcised" spiritually. Physical circumcision is no longer necessary for religious purposes. It was a forerunner or type of what God really wanted—circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4). Paul told the congregation in Rome that physical circumcision is of no spiritual benefit (Romans 2:25-29). Spiritual circumcision, though, is a process of conversion. That Christ circumcises us spiritually is made plain in Colossians 2:10-11.

This is why the assembled apostles and elders of the New Testament church declared circumcision to be one of the physical requirements of the Old Covenant that is not necessary for Christians (Acts 15:24, 28). It is for entirely non-religious reasons that one may decide to be circumcised or have his son circumcised. There is some evidence that circumcision promotes cleanliness and health, depending on the male's overall cleanliness, morality, and health.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Genesis 49:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The patriarch Jacob had twelve sons, and God had to choose from which tribe His Son would descend. He proclaims His choice through Jacob's prophecy in Genesis 49:10: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people." Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, as many scriptures record (Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:33; Hebrews 7:14, etc.).

This fact also has spiritual implications for us. Jesus says to the woman at the well, "For salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Paul explains what this means:

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman


 

Deuteronomy 10:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Two parties are necessary to circumcise the foreskin of our heart. In Deuteronomy 10:16, God tells us to "circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer." Here, He commands us to do the circumcising. Compare this to Deuteronomy 30:6, where God says He will perform the circumcision: "And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart." These two passages do not contradict. God cannot create perfect, righteous character—that is the character of the new man—unilaterally. We build that character as we labor with God, cooperatively working with him over, generally, an extended period of time. That is what the Latinate word collaborate means, to "labor with."

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Deuteronomy 10:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a command, an exhortation, and an admonition. It puts the responsibility for yielding on us. We are the ones that have to to submit. Circumcision, in this context, is something we must do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Jeremiah 6:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's Word offended them and caused them to stumble. It did not please them at all. They were not eager to use it as a guide for life. Because of this, they had "uncircumcised ears." That is an unusual metaphor. Could we have uncircumcised ears? No one has ever cut a bit of skin out of our ears, but God says that ears can be uncircumcised.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Acts 15:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Acts 10:44-48, God did not require circumcision of the Gentile converts, and so a dispute arose in the church regarding circumcision and all it represented.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

Romans 2:26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse begins to clarify what makes a person circumcised or uncircumcised.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Romans 4:11-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Circumcision represents any work or any body of works that an individual might attempt to use as payment—they are unacceptable for this use, any and all of them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Galatians 5:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Remember, the overall subject here is justification by faith. Circumcison is certainly permissible, as Acts 16 says that Paul circumcised Timothy, so he is not talking about the actual cutting away of the foreskin. Here, though, circumcision stands for keeping the ceremonial additions to the law for the purpose of receiving justification. Circumcision is a symbol that stands for the whole law. We know this because he writes, "He is a debtor to the whole law." It is obvious that the whole law is not physically binding upon us, as the ceremonies—the various washings, sacrifices, and offerings—do not have to be kept.

However, there is no shortcut to discerning which laws are binding and which are not. We would like things to be tied up in neat little boxes, but God has not chosen to do it that way. We must study—comparing scripture with scripture—especially the words and examples of Christ and His apostles. We must also meditate, seeking God's will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 18)


 

Galatians 6:12-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some had taught the Galatian Christians that "Gentile" Christians should become physically circumcised. Paul disagrees. He makes it plain that the real motive of those teaching this doctrine is to "make a good showing of the flesh . . . that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ" (Galatians 6:12; 5:11; I Corinthians 7:19; Romans 2:28-29). In verse 15, he asserts that "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but the new creation." Paul reiterates what he says in Galatians 5:6: What is important is a walk of "faith working through love." Upon those who so walk, the apostle concludes, will be "peace and mercy" (verse 16).

Physical descent - whether one is a Gentile or an Israelite - matters nothing. What matters is whether a person is nurturing the new man, once established by God, through a renewal process which involves walking in His law.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Galatians 6:12-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Galatians 6:12-16; Ephesians 2:10-18; and Colossians 3:9-11, Paul broaches the subject of circumcision. He often connects the new man with circumcision because he understands the symbolism behind circumcision, and so should we.

When practiced according to God's law, the ritual of circumcision pertains to men, that is, males, taking place on the eighth day after parturition. Eight is the number of "new beginnings," the idea being that seven is the number of perfection, and seven plus one - eight - restarts the cycle. Thus, the eighth day of the week is Sunday, in reality the beginning of the new week. The Last Great Day, which occurs eight days after the Feast of Tabernacles begins, looks forward to the day when God will make all things new. This is the important symbolic message behind physical circumcision: The boy - the man - circumcised on the eighth day is a "new man."

However, the new man of whom Paul speaks is not new because of physical circumcision. He is new because he has obeyed God's command to "circumcise the foreskin of [his] heart, and be stiff-necked no longer" (Deuteronomy 10:16, see Jeremiah 4:4). Paul, understanding this, claims that "circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit." "Heart," of course, refers to mind. The new man is new because he is "renewed in the spirit of [his] mind" (Ephesians 4:23). By definition, the new man is spiritually circumcised - circumcised in his mind.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Galatians 6:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any great importance in terms of conversion, the way of God. What is important is that there is a new creation. This verse, then, is really neither for nor against circumcision. It is only saying that what matters is whether a person has been divinely transformed into a morally new and different person. In that, there is great spiritual benefit, a new creation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Galatians 6:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The ritual itself does not change a person's heart, as it has no power to do so. However, what really avails, what is really important, is "a new creature," that is, a new creation: a person who is then born of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 28)


 

Colossians 2:11-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verses 11-13, Paul explains what Christ did for us and how those who have believed in Him are now spiritually circumcised. The subject under discussion is the means of our justification. Paul is saying that, when we repented and were baptized, the "old man" of sin was buried in a watery grave, and our sins were completely forgiven through our faith in the sacrifice of Christ. After being raised out of the water, we were "made alive" with Him and imputed to be righteous in God's sight. Paul refers to this process as "circumcision made without hands," that is, spiritual circumcision.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was God's Law Nailed to the Cross?


 

Colossians 2:11-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul shows that circumcision typifies putting off the old man of sin that is buried in a watery grave at baptism. After being raised from the water in newness of life (Romans 6:4), the repentant sinner stands before God perfect, holy, and sinless. The process of spiritual circumcision is complete, and the symbol of physical circumcision is fulfilled.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

Hebrews 11:8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Abraham was drawn by faith to a land that he would afterward receive as an inheritance, the Promised Land, a type of the Kingdom of God. What if he had refused to step out?

What God has recorded of Abraham's life reveals that how he responded illustrates a path, a way of trust that will lead us to our inheritance. It is the "narrow way," the difficult way that leads to life. That way would have existed even if God had not revealed it to him, but Abraham's following that way in faith proved that his heart was one with God's. God expects us to follow the same trustful attitude that motivated Abraham's actions.

Abraham's obedient response suggests that no proud, stiff-necked rebel will be in the Kingdom of God. No one wrapped up in himself will survive this difficult path, only those who by faith are humbly submissive to God's will. In short, God's calling begins severing us from a number of important negative worldly and carnal factors. At the same time, it also attaches our loyalties, our responsibilities, and our purposes in life to God and His Kingdom.

In biblical terminology, we are transferred from death to life; from fleshly minded to spiritually minded; from Israelite or Gentile to Abraham's seed; from uncircumcised to circumcised in heart; and from the world to the Kingdom of God. It is essential that our severing from the old way be as complete and continuous as possible because, despite what happens to our heart in our attachment to God and His way, the world and carnality remain as constant threats, almost like magnets drawing us back toward them.

From this arises our need for faith to wage the Christian fight so that we do not backslide to where and what we were before. We see this in a small way from Abraham's life; his breaking away was not as smooth as it appears on the surface. Genesis 12:1 contains God's original charge: "Now the LORD had said to Abram: 'Get you out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.'"

God was severing Abraham from his country, his kindred, and his father's house. Our severing rarely involves a physical separation from the nations of our birth, but it almost always involves a spiritual division from our natural families. Frequently, this severing causes strained family relations. It appears that it caused Abraham problems as well.

In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus admonishes all who desire baptism to consider well what He says:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

As our calling begins, problems do not generally arise because the uncalled family members hate us outright. Instead, they love us in their carnal fashion, but our desire to obey God upsets their sense of family unity, loyalty, and responsibility. A related factor irritates them: They understand that we are rejecting many, if not virtually all, of the spiritual values they taught us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)


 

 




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