THE COVENANT CONFIRMED WITH CIRCUMCISION
In order for us to have God added into us and to be broadened we need to be circumcised. The covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 15 was confirmed in Genesis 17 with circumcision. There was no need for God to confirm it again, for He had confirmed it once already, but it had to be confirmed from Abraham’s side. While God was faithful to His covenant, Abraham was not because he had used his natural strength to produce Ishmael. Since Abraham’s use of his natural energy with Hagar to produce Ishmael was the cause of the trouble, God confirmed His covenant by having Abraham circumcised (17:9-11, 13).
In the New Testament we can find out the significance of circumcision. The spiritual meaning of circumcision is to put off the flesh, to put off the self and the old man. Colossians 2:11-12 says, “In whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, buried together with Him in baptism, in whom also you were raised together through the faith of the operation of God, who raised Him from among the dead.” Circumcision is a matter of putting off the flesh, the old man; it is not a matter of dealing with sin. In a strict sense, circumcision has nothing to do with the dealing with sin; it is a matter of being crucified and buried with Christ. Circumcision means to terminate your self, to terminate your flesh. Abraham exercised his flesh in Genesis 16, but here, in Genesis 17, God wanted his flesh to be cut off. In Genesis 16 he had energized his natural strength, but in Genesis 17 his strength had to be terminated. This is circumcision.
The problem is the same today. As long as our natural strength remains, it is difficult for God to come in to be our everything for the fulfillment of His purpose. God wants to come into us to be everything to us, but our flesh, our natural being and strength, our old man and our old self, are a frustration to God’s being everything to us. This self, this old man, must be terminated. It must be circumcised, that is, crucified. I want to tell you the good news that our old man has been crucified already (Rom. 6:6). With Abraham, it was to be crucified, but with us, it has been crucified already. We all must see this, reckon on it, and take it by faith. By faith we can declare that our flesh, our natural man with its strength, has been crucified. “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). We all need to live with the realization that the old man, the self, has been crucified. If we declare this and live according to it, then the God of resurrection immediately has the way to come into us and to be everything to us for the carrying out of His economy.
Circumcision is a sign, a seal, of justification by faith (Rom. 4:11). However, many Christians neglect this sign. Although they may realize and declare that they have been justified by faith, after having been justified by faith they do not have the sign of the termination of the self. How can you show people that you have been justified by God? You must live a life of the termination of the self. You must show that you are no longer living by yourself but that you are living by Christ. Then your living becomes a sign of your having been justified. To live a crucified life in the resurrection of Christ is a sign of our being justified. Suppose I, a saved person who has been justified by God, still live, act, and work by myself, doing everything by myself. If such is the case, it will be difficult for anyone to recognize that I am a justified person. People may even doubt that I am saved. But if I live a crucified life, putting myself aside and taking Christ as my life, no one could doubt that I have been justified by faith. Everyone would have to say, “Praise the Lord! There is no doubt that here is a brother who has been justified by God.” The life of the termination of the self is a sign and a seal of our justification.
The confirmation of the covenant by circumcision concerned the seed and the land for the fulfillment of God’s purpose (17:2-8). In order to fulfill God’s eternal purpose that man express and represent Him, we need to have Christ as our seed and as our land. In order to have Christ as the seed and the land for the fulfillment of God’s purpose, we need to be circumcised and to live a crucified life. Circumcision is for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. When the flesh, the self, and the old man have been terminated, the door is open for God to come in and bring forth Isaac.
Among the Jews, circumcision was always practiced on the eighth day (17:12). The eighth day was the first day of a new week and denoted a new start, a new beginning in resurrection. Whenever we live a crucified life, we have a new beginning in resurrection. When we reject and deny our self and live a crucified life, we immediately have a new beginning in resurrection. Although you might have been married for many years, if today you begin to live a crucified life, you will have a new beginning in resurrection in your marriage, and your marriage will be renewed. Whenever there is circumcision there is the eighth day. In other words, whenever we live a crucified life, we are in resurrection.
All of the uncircumcised people were cut off from this covenant. In 17:14 God said to Abraham, “And the uncircumcised man-child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” This is true today. If we do not live a crucified life, we are cut off from Christ, from the church life, and from the supply of the divine udder. Whenever we are unwilling to be circumcised, we are finished with the fulfilling of God’s eternal purpose. Today our enjoying God, our living by Christ, and our practicing the church life all depend upon one thing—upon circumcision, upon living a crucified life.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)