by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 October 4, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(164)Thesis:Circumcision was God's covenant with Abraham, not Abraham's covenant with God.
Introduction:Last week we considered the issue that Paul raised in Romans 4:9: does the fact that justification is by faith apart from works mean that the blessedness of being justified before God is a matter that can be proclaimed to mankind regardless of whether they are within the boundaries of God's covenant of circumcision? Can a person who is outside of that covenant be justified by God? We answered that God's covenant of circumcision was not about "justification", but about His Plan to give ownership of the land of Canaan to certain of the circumcised offspring of Abraham. The downline development of that Plan reveals that the covenant was not about giving the land to circumcised people -- so that a person could become an heir of the land promise by submitting to circumcision -- but it was about giving the land to a select part of the physical offspring of Abraham who would come into being through the son of promise, Isaac. Those in that select line who not only exercised the faith of Abraham unto justification, but also exercised the faith of Abraham unto circumcision, would become heirs of the land of Canaan. The end result of that covenant is this: no one who is not a part of the Isaac and Jacob line of Abraham's progeny can be an heir of the land, nor can anyone who is a part of that lineage, but rejects the faith of Abraham unto circumcision, be a long-term heir of the land.
This evening we are going to attempt to make this a bit more clear.
I. Paul's Argument Regarding the Blessing in Respect to the Timing of Circumcision.
A. The "blessing" is justification.
B. The timing of circumcision was post-justification.
1. As a post-justification issue, it had neither an objective nor a subjective role to play in justification.
a. The "objective" aspect of "justification" was the divine provision for the satisfaction of the "justice" issue that is raised by "forgiveness".
1) You cannot simply "forgive" sin because that generates injustice.
2) Forgiveness has to have a legitimate "justice" foundation.
b. The "subjective" aspect of "justification" is the alteration of the human attitude from antagonistic unbelief to harmonistic faith.
1) Even if an objective foundation is accomplished, reconciliation cannot occur apart from an attitude shift.
2) "Faith" is the biblically defined attitude shift that ushers in "reconciliation".
c. Anything that occurs post-justification cannot have anything to do with the establishment of reconciliation.
2. As a post-justification issue, it had to have some other "point".
a. Genesis 17 clearly tells us both positively and negatively what "circumcision" was about.
1) On the positive side, the "circumcised" were going to inherit the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession (17:8).
2) On the negative side, the "uncircumcised" was to be "cut off from his people" (17:14).
b. Genesis 17:11 clearly tells us that "circumcision" was a "token" of this covenant.
c. In general, "circumcision", as a "token", was an illustration of the "circumcised heart" which functions in the world of works like physical circumcision functions in the physical world -- i.e., it addresses the "quality" of the things attempted and produced.
1) Since the male is the one responsible before God for the "productions" in this world, circumcision addressed the male.
2) Since circumcision was transferred outof the realm of a "faith-work" by the imposition of it upon eight-day-old male children, it's "service" within the plan of God became "didactic" rather than anything directly "effective".
a) Its "teaching" was pretty "up front": inheritance in God's kingdom is tied to the "productions" of a circumcised heart.
b) Its "warning" was pretty "up front" also: refusal to operate out of a circumcised heart was going to inevitably lead to rejection from the land.
c) Neither the teaching, nor the warning, could bring a circumcised heart into existence, but they both could be useful in generating a sense of need that could turn a person to God Who could circumcise the heart.
C. Circumcision has everything to do with the divine Plan regarding the nation of Israel and nothing directly to do with justification.