Circumcision — A topic you rarely hear explained

Andrew Fountain
Sun, 2022-01-30
  • Circumcision: Meaning, Significance and Practical Insights
  • When we see how neatly the Old and New Testaments connect together on this issue, it brings such clarity, not only to understanding the Bible, but also our own identity.
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Sermon Slides - Circumcision — A topic you rarely hear explained


To demystify circumcision,
and show meaning, significance and practical insights.

Circumcision: Meaning, Significance and Practical Insights

  1. First given to: Abraham, descendants & nation of Israel
  2. What does the Symbol mean?
  3. What does it mean for us?

1. First given to: Abraham, descendants & nation of Israel


  • What an odd thing for God to demand?
  • Why choose something only males could participate in
  • What does it symbolize?
  • Is there still some value in it for Christians today?

Key Scriptures

  • Genesis 17 —First mention. A command to Abraham & descendents
  • Exodus & Leviticus —Very strong laws for Israel to be circumcised
  • Deuteronomy & Jeremiah —Passages which speak of “circumcision of the heart”
  • Paul’s letters —Many clearly teach on this

Genesis 15 & 17 —Covenant with Abraham & Sarah

  1. No conditions. Abraham believed God and that was considered as making him righteous.
  2. Covenant reestablished. New names:
    Abram ==> Abraham
    Sarai ==> Sarah
  • Circumcision commanded as a sign of the covenant

Romans 4

  1. …“faith was counted to Abraham as his righteousness.”
  2. How then was it credited to him? Was he circumcised at the time, or not?
    No, he was not circumcised but uncircumcised!
  3. And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised,
    so that he would become the father of all those who believe but have never been circumcised,
    that they too could have righteousness credited to them.

Genesis 17

  1. No longer will your name be Abram. Instead, your name will be Abraham because I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.
  2. This is my requirement that you and your descendants after you must keep: Every male among you must be circumcised.
  3. You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskins. This will be a reminder of the covenant between me and you.
  4. Any uncircumcised male who has not been circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin will be cut off from his people — he has failed to carry out my requirement.”
  5. Then God said to Abraham, “As for your wife, you must no longer call her Sarai; Sarah will be her name.
  6. I will bless her and will give you a son through her. I will bless her and she will become a mother of nations.
    Kings of countries will come from her!”

Cultural meaning of Circumcision

  • Very good evidence of the practice in Egypt, e.g. The Meaning of Circumcision in Israel by J. D. Meade
  • God is free to re-purpose symbols from the culture
  • Egypt: only required for those dedicated to serving the pharaoh, in his palace
    • Especially the royal priests
  • Not from birth, but much later in life

Meaning for Israel

  • Israel were to be a nation of royal priests from birth
  • Symbolized:
  • Dedication & devotion (similar to holiness)
  • A sign of believing the promise to Abraham & Sarah that they would become a nation that blessed the world
  • Not about hygiene or anything sexual
  • Plus something more…
  • What about women?
  • One of the earliest stories about circumcision was about Moses’ wife Zipporah in Exodus 4
  • Moses had failed to circumcise his own baby and nearly died as a result
  • Zipporah, the mother, performed it, and was very angry at Moses for his failure
  • I think a major reason this story is there is to empower women in this key decision
  • The mother’s choice in getting her babies circumcised was shown to be critical

What about women?

The command was to parents, female and male.
Babies had no choice in the matter!
The critical decision of whether to follow the command belonged to the parents, and
the will of the mother played a critical role.
Males simply carried the results of their parents’ obedience.

2. What does the Symbol mean?

Meaning: New Creation

  • Done on the 8th day, beginning of a new week
  • Jesus rose on the 8th day! Sunday
  • Came with new names given to Sarah & Abraham
  • Marks the part of the body connected to bringing new life
  • An uncircumcised heart is dead to God
  • A circumcised heart is a new heart, alive to the voice of God

Deuteronomy 30

  1. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart…
    so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
    that you may live.
  • Jeremiah has Circumcision of the heart as a theme

Jeremiah 6

  1. To whom shall I speak and give warning,
      that they may hear?
    Behold, their ears are uncircumcised,
      they cannot listen;
    behold, the word of the LORD
      is to them an object of scorn;
      they take no pleasure in it.

Promise of the New Covenant: Jer 9

  1. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD,
    when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh—
  2. …all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”
  3. But then later in Jer 31
  4. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD,
    when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
  5. not like the covenant that I made with their fathers…
  6. …I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • If you still doubt my argument that it means New Creation, let me invite Paul:

Galatians 6

  1. For circumcision does not count for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

3. What does it mean for us?

  • Paul’s letters bring a rich picture
  • First, should we practice it today?

1 Corinthians 7

  1. Was anyone called [saved] after he had been circumcised? He should not try to undo his circumcision.
    Was anyone called who is uncircumcised? He should not get circumcised.
  2. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.
    Instead, keeping God’s commandments is what counts.
  3. Let each one remain in that situation in life in which he was called.

A picture of the old life dying and receiving a new life— Col 2

  1. In him you also were circumcised — not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands…
  2. Having been buried with him in baptism,
    you also have been raised with him…
  3. And even though you were dead in your sins
    and in the uncircumcision of your flesh,
    he nevertheless made you alive with him,
    having forgiven all your sins.

Romans 2

  1. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly,
    nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh,
  2. but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly,
    and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit
    and not by the written code.
    This person’s praise is not from people but from God.

Signs & seals of the Covenants

  • with Noah? —rainbow
  • with Abraham —circumcision
  • with Moses —Sabbath (Ex. 31:13, 16, 17)
  • the New Covenant? —not baptism
  • 2 Cor 1:22 “who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit.”
  • Eph 1:13 “in whom also having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise
  • What does this mean?
    • We carry the seal around with us as a reminder, as did Abraham,
    • but ours is far better.
  • Christ is living in us through the Spirit in a real and new way.
  • Are you aware of the power?
  • Can you feel a life in you that wasn’t there when you were unsaved?
  • You may still fall into sin,
    • but isn’t there something in you that longs to be free from sin and be like Christ?
    • It is the Seal, the Spirit
  • Encourage the new life, let it grow.
    • We have a new daffodil growing in our living room
    • It has a light above it to encourage it to grow
  • You see someone who needs help and an idea pops into your mind that it would be Christ-like for you to help them.
    • Don’t just crush it, encourage the new nature.
  • You are at work and having a disagreement with someone. Something at the back of your mind says “is this what Christ would be saying?”
  • Colossians likens the old nature to dirty old clothes which we pull off.
    • All the time we must be actively pulling them off.
    • An idea pops up: That’s old clothing, throw it away, What would Christ say? What would he do.
  • You actually can’t do this in your own strength
    • But it is possible in the Spirit.
  • After all, Eph 1 argues that we have the same power that Christ used to defeat sin, and to rise up a new being.

Romans 8

  1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  2. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.
  • Let us be circumcised and renewed in our hearts, in all our thoughts and actions.
  • Recognize that even though you still fall into sin, there is a power within you now that can give you victory

Updated on 2022-01-30 by Andrew Fountain