The History of God in His Union With Man, by Witness Lee


When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, God came in to reconfirm His covenant, which became a covenant of circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14). In God’s third appearing with His seventh speaking to Abraham, He is the God of all-sufficiency in being the God of circumcision to cut off His chosen people’s natural man in the flesh that they may become God’s new creation, signified by Isaac who was born by God’s grace, not as Ishmael who was born by Abraham’s flesh (Gen. 17:1-21; Gal. 4:22-31).

Circumcision is the cutting off of the flesh, signifying that the flesh of our fallen man, our natural man, has to be cut off, ended, terminated. The apostle Paul said that the physical circumcision in the Old Testament was a full type of the crucifixion of Christ in dealing with the flesh of our body (Col. 2:11). Christ’s death on the cross, His crucifixion, is our real circumcision which cuts off our flesh with its passions and its lusts (Gal. 5:24).

Even after God had made the covenant of circumcision with Abraham, he still did not want to give up Ishmael (Gen. 17:18). He asked God to let Ishmael remain, but God told him that He would establish His covenant only with Isaac (v. 19). God would recognize only Abraham’s seed which was brought forth by Sarah. According to Galatians 4, Isaac was a type of one born of grace, and grace is typified by Sarah (vv. 22-31). Only one that is born of God’s grace will be counted by God as a legal seed, a legal heir, to inherit what God has promised to Abraham and what God has covenanted with Abraham.

Circumcision indicates that God wants our natural man to be cut off. Then God wants us to be reborn by His grace in resurrection, typified by Isaac. Thus, Genesis 17 reveals Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The crucifixion is to cut off the old man; the resurrection is to bring forth, or to beget, the new man, and the new man is signified by Isaac.

The birth of Isaac is a sign of Christ’s resurrection. God would recognize only the people brought forth by Christ’s resurrection as the legal seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:29). In Genesis 17 Christ’s crucifixion is signified by circumcision, and Christ’s resurrection is signified by Sarah begetting Isaac. First Peter 1:3 says that we all have been regenerated by the resurrection of Christ. Christ’s crucifixion is a termination, and His resurrection is a germination. Christ’s death terminated our old man, and Christ’s resurrection germinated our new man to make us the new creation.

Isaac was born of the free woman, born of grace. He was a pattern of the New Testament believers. We, the New Testament believers, are all born of the free woman, the grace of God. Thus, Isaac as Abraham’s seed typifies both Christ (Gal. 3:16) and all of the New Testament believers (v. 29). Christ is the Head and the believers are His Body. Isaac was not born by the flesh of the old man but by God’s grace in resurrection.

In Genesis 17:1 God appeared to Abraham and declared to him that He is the God of all-sufficiency. Most of the versions translate this as "the Almighty God," but the Hebrew word here indicates all-sufficiency. Genesis 17 actually covers the new covenant, the new testament. God’s economy in the New Testament is all-sufficient. In the New Testament we have everything. We have the death of Christ to cut off our old man, and we have the new birth through Christ’s resurrection. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we have everything in the New Testament. Philippians 1:19 indicates that the Spirit of Jesus Christ has a bountiful supply that is all-sufficient.

(The History of God in His Union With Man, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)