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).
God wrote the Ten Commandments on tables of stone (Deuteronomy 4:13), and Moses law in a book (Deuteronomy 31:24, 26). The Lord wanted that these laws should also be written on the hearts of the people. But the people simply wanted these law to be an external law and their observance to it a superficial obedience. God did not desire that His laws should be kept that way. He wanted His children to have new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26), but they only wanted an external compliance.
Baptism in the New Testament
In the New Testament, believers get circumcised in the heart not the flesh when they accept the gospel truth by faith and submit their lives to Christ. The Lord promised to write His law in the hearts of the people (Hebrews 8:10;10:16). Believers live in holiness, not by their own power, but because the Holy Spirit lives in their hearts and God’s principles are sealed in the mind (Galatians 2:20). They are converted by the Spirit and produce the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). The transformation can be done only by God’s power with man’s agreement and cooperation (Revelation 22:17).
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).
From the ceremony of circumcision Paul gives a spiritual lesson for the believer. Jesus offered His life before He was laid in Joseph’s tomb. Therefore, before the believer can be buried with the Savior, he must yield his life to the Lord. All the aspiration of his mind and the desires of flesh must be surrendered to the Savior. Thus, his old nature must die. Baptism is the ceremony of this self-surrender, of the death of the old self and its burial in the waters of baptism.
Through baptism, the Christian becomes the “spiritual” descendant of Abraham (Galatians 3:7, 9, 27–29). 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). Thus, Circumcision, which was a ritual of the temporary Mosaic ceremonial law of the Old Testament, was abolished at the cross (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14-17).
In His service,