THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CIRCUMCISION
TO PUT OFF OUR FLESH • What is the significance of circumcision? Firstly, it is to put off our flesh (Col. 2:11, 13a; Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4a; Acts 7:51). Many Christians today talk about the overcoming of sin, but that is not the basic dealing. The basic dealing is to put off the flesh. The flesh does include the sinful flesh. However, in the Bible, the flesh includes much more than this, for it also includes our natural strength, ability, power, and talents. Moreover, the flesh includes our natural man, the ego, the “I.” Hence, to put off the flesh means to put off the very “I”; it means to terminate the self.
Many years ago I was seeking for the overcoming of sin, but I was only partially successful until I saw that my need was not to overcome sin but to terminate myself. I began to see that once I was terminated everything would be all right. This is why Paul said that he who has died is free from sin (Rom. 6:7). The more we try to overcome sin, the more we are involved with and troubled by it. The best way to overcome sin is to be dead and buried. Then sin will have nothing to do with us. Thus, the basic dealing in the Bible is not to overcome sin but to terminate ourselves.
Although the book of Genesis contains nearly all the seeds of the biblical truths, it does not contain the seed of the overcoming of sin. The real dealing with sin is not to overcome it but to get rid of ourselves, to circumcise ourselves. Once we have been circumcised and have ourselves terminated, we shall have no problem with sin. If you are still trying to overcome sin, it means that you are still living. If you terminate yourself, you will be through with sin. Therefore, it is not a matter of dealing with sin or of trying to overcome it; it is a matter of terminating ourselves. This is the negative significance of circumcision.
TO BRING US INTO RESURRECTION • The positive significance of circumcision is to bring us into resurrection (Col. 2:12). Circumcision was always performed on the eighth day (17:12). In figure, the number eight signifies resurrection. This means that we cannot have circumcision without resurrection. Circumcision must be in resurrection, and it will always usher us into resurrection, just as death ushers people into resurrection. On the one hand, we have been crucified with Christ and have been buried with Him. On the other hand, this crucifixion and burial will usher us into His resurrection. When we have been terminated and ushered into resurrection, we become a new person. We are still we, but we are now another person because we have another life, nature, and constitution. We are people in resurrection. Only by being in resurrection are we able to fulfill God’s eternal purpose. In our natural strength, we can do nothing to please God or to fulfill His purpose. Our self and our natural strength must be cut off in circumcision. Then in resurrection we shall become another person.
EQUAL TO BAPTISM • Circumcision in the Old Testament is the equivalent of baptism in the New Testament (Col. 2:11-12). Both baptism and circumcision have the same purpose—to terminate our natural being and bring us into resurrection. Why are we baptized after believing in the Lord Jesus? Because we realize that our old man has been crucified with Him and that we must be buried so that we may be one with Him in His resurrection. Hence, Abraham’s circumcision has the same significance as our baptism. In both circumcision and baptism the principle is the same. Although Abraham was justified in Genesis 15, he was circumcised in Genesis 17. As circumcision was the sign of Abraham’s being justified, so baptism is the mark of our being saved. How can we prove that we have been saved? By living a life of baptism, a life of one who has been crucified, buried, and resurrected. If we live such a life, everyone will be able to see upon us the mark of our salvation.
CORRESPONDING TO THE CHANGING OF HUMAN NAMES • Circumcision corresponds to the changing of human names (17:5-6, 15-16). As we have seen, to change the name is to change the person. When Abraham’s name was changed, his person was changed also. This was especially true of Jacob. When Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, his person was changed (32:27-28). This change of name can only be accomplished through circumcision, through having ourselves terminated and ushered into resurrection. Then we are no longer a natural person but a resurrected person. Being terminated and ushered into resurrection is the real changing of a person. Hence, circumcision corresponds to the changing of names. Now we can understand why the changing of names and circumcision are both revealed in the same chapter. These two things are actually one. The changing of names and circumcision both mean to terminate our old being and to bring us into resurrection so that we may be another person.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)