Why did God command the Jews to have circumcision?

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Circumcision in the Old Testament

Circumcision, in the Old Testament, signified the admission of an infant to the covenant relationship with God. Its significance is shown by the positive command to be done (Leviticus 12:3) even on the sacred hours of the Sabbath day (John 7:22, 23). Circumcision signed the Jewish babies as members of the chosen people of God. The Lord chose Abraham and his descendants as His special race to spread His truth to all the world. And descent from Abraham was regarded as automatically making the circumcised person a member of God’s family.

But the Abrahamic descent did not guarantee salvation and this is clear in the Scriptures (Luke 3:8; John 8:33–39; Romans 2:25–29; 9:4–8; Galations 3:7, 9, 16, 29). Yet no Jew could enter the covenant relationship without obedience to this law, which God had commanded Israel. Among the Hebrews, it was the custom to administer the ceremony of circumcision on the eighth day; when an infant was seven days old (Genesis 17:10–14; 21:4; ch. 17:10, 11).

Baptism in the New Testament

As circumcision was for the physical Israelite the sign of his covenant relationship with God, baptism became that sign for the Christian in the New Testament to their relationship with God. “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11–12).

The Christian became the “spiritual” descendant of Abraham. “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham …” (Galatians 3:7, 9, 27–29). Thus, God’s chosen people do not become inheritors of the promise on the grounds of a physical ancestry, but on the grounds of personal relationship with Christ who offered Himself as a sacrifice to save them from the penalty of sin (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:36, 37).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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