Jan 052017
 

The Circumcision of Jesus

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)

The circumcision of Jesus is considered a “feast” (or celebration) day in many eastern and western Christian Church traditions. For example, the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches all celebrate the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day following his nativity.

Why do so many churches single out Jesus’ circumcision – a rite which was given to virtually all Jewish boys – as worthy of celebration? Is there something particularly special about Jesus’ circumcision that might cause us to pause in remembrance and worship? The answer is “yes there is.” Let’s take a closer look.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5)

Jesus’ earthly ministry to redeem us began with His incarnation and ran all the way through His resurrection. Most Christians have a good understanding of Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins: “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Pet 1:18-19) Jesus is our spotless lamb because He was born without sin and kept the Law perfectly. So, in this respect Jesus’ circumcision was certainly part of His spotless life and obedience to the Law.

But we cannot limit Jesus’ ministry of redemption to His vicarious satisfaction for our sins. To illustrate why, take for example a common thief who is caught, convicted, served his sentence and is released from prison. We could say the thief “paid his debt” to society, but his reputation has been ruined, he will have a criminal record and he will always be an ex-convict viewed with suspicion. In other words, paying his debt to society does not justify (just as if he never sinned) the thief.

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:17)

Jesus does more for us than pay our debt to God, though we should never minimize that aspect of our redemption. The other aspect of our redemption which the cross of Christ also offers us is “the free gift of righteousness.” The Gospel proclaims and proffers both the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ. Christ takes your sins and in exchange gives you His righteousness. We can apprehend these gifts by faith alone.

To illustrate the free gift of righteousness, let us recall briefly the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When the father ran out to meet the younger son, the first thing the father did was he “embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) The first thing the father said was: “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24) That is a great biblical portrayal of the free gift of righteousness. The robe, the ring and the shoes all symbolize the father’s righteousness (e.g., his reputation) that he gave the younger son out of pure grace and mercy. The father not only blotted out the younger son’s prior shame and transgressions, but restored him to sonship in a type of resurrection. The parable gives us but a glimpse of righteousness that Christ offers all of us in the Gospel. Are we able to believe in a love like this?

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)

Jesus was “born under the law” (Gal 4:4) and was circumcised according to the Law, so He could both take our sins upon himself and clothe us with the gift of His righteousness. This righteousness consists of Jesus’ perfect obedience under the Law, including the rite of circumcision. Therefore, we celebrate Jesus’ circumcision because He underwent this rite for us and for our salvation. He was circumcised for the same reason that He submitted to John’s baptism: “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt 3:15) Amen.

Afterword

Notice that Jesus gained no personal benefit from the rite of circumcision, because He was born without sin (Heb 4:15). Circumcision was the sacred sign (or sacrament) of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his offspring which promised Christ (Rom 4:11; Gal 3:16). Jesus’ birth both fulfilled and ended circumcision as the sign and seal of faith in God’s promises to Abraham. The sacrament of circumcision prefigured (and is replaced by) the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacred sign of the new covenant that Christ offers to all nations in the Gospel (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16). Baptism proclaims and proffers the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation (Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21). The benefits of baptism are apprehended by faith alone in God’s Word which promises His grace in the sacrament of baptism.

“In [Christ] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Col 2:11-13) Amen.

  45 Responses to “Jean’s Gospel: The Circumcision of Jesus”

  1. Let me just be the first to say “OUCH”

  2. MLD, LOL.

    Michael, thank you for pairing the article with a very pretty picture.

  3. The Col 2 passage is such a hands down clear statement about the efficacy of baptism. It is clear (1) it replaces circumcision in the covenant and (2) it is the manner that Jesus saves people – how God has made us alive.

    Major back peddling needs to be done to deny this.

    A word about Jesus’ circumcision – as a foreshadow to the crucifixion we can see the shedding of innocent blood at work.

  4. MLD,

    “A word about Jesus’ circumcision – as a foreshadow to the crucifixion we can see the shedding of innocent blood at work.”

    That’s a good addition.

  5. i will submit that i can’t agree with MLD’s view of the efficacy of the act of baptism…

    like the act of circumcision it is an outward sign of submission, of belief, of Faith… i suspect that, within the Israel of O.T. stories there were many circumcised faithless Jews… did their circumcised member override their disobedience? dunno

  6. like the act of circumcision it is an outward sign of submission<<<

    This is an interesting point because an 8-day old baby getting circumcised is not submitting to anything. It is being done unto him by faithful parents and by God Himself.

    Just like baptism.

    Now it is true that an ancient Israelite could walk away from his circumcision and either become an atheist (not too common back then) or join some Baal-worshiping sect and in that case, lose the benefit of his circumcision, just as today a baptized believer can walk away from the faith and deny Christ and lose the benefit of his baptism.

  7. Xenia,
    Very well said. Merry upcoming Christmas!

  8. Em,
    “i will submit that i can’t agree with MLD’s view of the efficacy of the act of baptism…”

    Well it is not my view – it is the Apostle Paul telling the Colossians what Jesus did for us in our baptism.

    Like I said above ” Major back peddling needs to be done to deny this. ” – the only way your statement makes sense is to deny the very words of scripture.

  9. Thanks, Jean. I spent the morning baking Christmas cookies!

  10. another good study Jean. thanks

  11. Merry Christmas Xenia

  12. “Jesus’ birth both fulfilled and ended circumcision as the sign and seal of faith in God’s promises to Abraham.”

    so they don’t need to be circumcised anymore? yet we still do it?

  13. sorry I keep asking kindergarten questions

  14. Dusty,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Regarding circumcision, Jews and Gentiles alike are free to get circumcised as a matter of hygiene or for aesthetics. But it has not religious significance anymore.

    When Christ came, he fulfilled God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. That covenant was the promise of Christ. When Christ came, the promise was fulfilled. Thus, there is nothing more to that covenant, since it was fulfilled.

    Paul teaches: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2 Cor 1:20

    Thus, the sign of circumcision as a ordinance of God is finished.

    But, with the new covenant, God established Baptism to be the sacred sign.

    Does that help?

  15. got it! thanks!

    If one is baptized as an infant do they need to be re-baptized once they are older?

  16. Dusty,

    They’re not kindergarten questions. They are very good questions.

  17. Dusty,

    Paul addresses your question at #15:

    “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4:4-6)

    So, Christians should only be baptized once, provided it was done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as Jesus instructed in Matthew 28.

  18. Dusty,

    Paul addresses your question at #15:

    “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4:4-6)

    So, Christians should only be baptized once, provided it was done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as Jesus instructed.

  19. Thanks Jean! I appreciate it.

  20. I appreciate you

  21. Dusty, you bring a lot of grace to this bog.

  22. Thank you, Dusty! Merry Christmas to you as well.

  23. i thought about answering the comments on my comment… there are answers…
    if anyone really cares, they’ll find those answers or they already have clarity…
    no need for a rabbit trail debate
    “He [Jesus] was circumcised for the same reason that He submitted* to John’s baptism: “to fulfill all righteousness.” yep
    (*however, regarding “submit”… the parents do the submitting if you’re circumcising or baptizing your wee one)

  24. “i thought about answering the comments on my comment… there are answers…”

    There are and I found them.

    “Baptism Saves” and “Is means Is”

  25. Does justification in the NT mean to exchange one’s sin for Jesus’ righteousness? 😕

  26. Oh sorry, that is atonement. They sort of go hand in hand.

  27. Hi JD,

    Let me know if the following addresses your question:

    Christ “died for our sins in accordance with he scriptures.” Christ “takes our sins” in the sense of willingly taking our place before God as the ultimate sinner and suffering God’s wrath against sin on our behalf. Peter describes this in tangible terms: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

    But in addition, Christ was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Christ fulfilled the Law for all mankind. So, Paul could write: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Therefore, if you are in Christ, you are reckoned righteous by faith, without deeds of the law. Christ fulfilled the law for you and his active obedience is imputed to you by faith.

    This exchange is all encompassed in the judicial term “justification.” It has been called the blessed exchange. One verse in particular that exemplifies this blessed exchange is:

    “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

    I hope this is helpful.

  28. Jean,

    I’m pretty much with you regarding infant baptism but I have a question about how an infant is supposed to know for sure that they were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit when they get older? Also I mentioned on another thread that I witnessed numerous teenagers getting baptized at a CC in the “Jesus Only” method. Unless one has a camcorder to video tape the proceedings, how could one know for sure years down the road?

  29. I get messed up when I hear “just as if I’d never sinned” used to describe justified, being “declared righteous”, as well as when I hear that atonement means “at-one-ment”.
    Being declared righteous while yet a sinner to me sounds to me more like what Christ accomplished for us as a Substitutionary Sacrifice, rather than “just as if I’d never sinned”, which gives me the impression that God chooses not to know the obvious fact that we sin, or that He becomes stupid concerning us.

  30. JD,
    I hear you. The English language and anthropomorphism come up against their limits when it comes to God.

    However, he comes to us with passages like this:

    “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

    God gives us these promises so that we will take consolation in His grace, to cleanse our guilty consciences. God’s grace is so radically different than the way mankind operates, that we can’t of our own strength even believe it. Thus He comes to us in the Gospel, to bring us peace, comfort and confidence that we are forgiven, loved and adopted as children.

  31. I know that in some Catholic and Greek Orthodox places they baptize babies.

    It logically seems unnecessary since like Jesus who “submitted” they are not yet able to “submit” conscientiously.

    They have not reached what is called “the age of accountability.”

    Baptism proclaims and proffers the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation (Acts 2:38-39 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ; Titus 3:5 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ; 1 Pet 3:21 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ).

    The benefits of baptism are apprehended by faith alone in God’s Word which promises His grace in the sacrament of baptism.

    Babies are not yet able to apply faith in God’s Word until the “age of accountability.”

    Some believe the age of accountability could have been around 20 years old because this was the age when young men in Israel became accountable to serve in the army of Israel.

    Others believe the age of accountability to be around 12 or 13 due to this being the age when Jesus went up to Jerusalem with his parents and was found in the temple discussing the Law and asking questions.

    This was also the normal age for being received into Judaism as a “son of the law,” which would make him a full member of the religious community.
    First, people are accountable for their response to the witness of God in creation (Rom. 1:18f) and to the witness of God in the Bible and in the person of Christ (Acts 17:31).

    But second, since that response is based on one’s ability to comprehend and respond to the message, a person becomes personally accountable when he or she reaches a point where they have the spiritual and mental facility to grasp the issues.

    This does not mean they are not sinful, but only that they have not reached a place where they can understand.

    But when does this accountability begin? Again, since the primary issue seems to be response to the revelation God has given, personal accountability would vary and depend on one’s ability to understand the most fundamental issues.

    In some, this might be very young, while in others it might be much older.

    However, since Christ died for the world and paid the penalty for sin (1 John 2:2) and since the issue is one of responding to the revelation of God in creation (God consciousness) and in Christ, the issue seems to boil down to that point in time when one can understand and respond to the convicting work of the Spirit as described in John 16.

    As always a great Bible study Jean.

  32. Hi Steve,

    Can you tell me what the “Jesus only” method of prayer is? I’ve never heard of that before.

    Regarding how do you know if your baptism done when you were an infant was in the name of the Triune God, the only way would be by trust in the denominational doctrine of the denomination in which you wee baptized or through witnesses. But, if you are in doubt about that, I would recommend talking to your pastor to determine if you should be baptized now. I don’t say “re-baptized” because that implies there was a first baptism. If it wasn’t done in accordance with the words of institution given by Christ, then it wasn’t a Christian baptism in the fist place.

  33. Steve,
    I meant Jesus only method of baptism. Could you explain that? Thanks.

  34. HI Jean,

    Yes, when I heard the pastor baptize the teenagers, he said, “I baptize you. In Jesus’s name. Amen.” It sounded so short from what I am used to hearing. There was another pastor that was also baptizing others and he used the Trinitarian formula. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. They were both CC pastors alternating turns baptizing people. There were two lines of folks getting baptized. One did it the first way, and the second guy did it the trinitarian way.

    I actually have been baptized twice as an adult and an infant so my concern is not for myself although I sometimes regret getting baptized a second time.

  35. Hi Steve,

    I’m very sorry to hear about your experience described at #35. I can’t even imagine being in a church setting where two groups of people are getting baptized concurrently but with different words of administration used for the two groups (as though either it doesn’t matter). Is nothing sacred anymore? I cannot understand how pastors can play fast and loose with the Word of God in matters such as these, but unfortunately, it’s not the first we’ve heard of this type of thing happening. It’s openly mocking Christ by taking His Word so lightly. Hearing that probably made you feel uncomfortable to say the least.

    If a person who was not baptized according to the Trinitarian formula asked me what to do, I would advise them to speak to a pastor who understands what baptism is.

    In the LCMS, we recognize and accept the validity of baptisms properly administered (i.e., using water in any quantity and/or mode, together with the Trinitarian invocation instituted by Christ, Matt. 28:19) in all Christian churches.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  36. Thanks Jean! Its confusing because the CCA pastor that oversees this is I believe is the one that encouraged this in the first place. And from what I read here, he’s the guy pushing for the denominational control over CC. He seems to think folks are just getting hung up on the “dunking formula”. Its ironic cause they are so adamant that the person needs to be of age and they have to be immersed, not sprinkled or poured over but when it comes to the particular words said, not so much….Not to mention what I mentioned on the last thread about their statement of faith on their website regarding the trinity can easily be interpreted as “modal-ism” I’m not sure why there is not more concern or outrage coming from other CCs over this apparent aberration in doctrine. I’m not a big BB fan but I’m glad he broke away from CCA if not just for this reason alone although not sure this is a big concern for BB because possibly BB would give each church in their affiliation the freedom to express their views on the trinity any way they want. I dunno.

  37. I know that in some Catholic and Greek Orthodox places they baptize babies.<<<<

    In ALL Catholic and Eastern Orthodox CHURCHES they baptize babies.

  38. in light of John 13:8-10 … why are heads sprinkled instead of feet?
    no agenda – just wondering…

  39. Interesting question. I assume the entire person is represented by the head but not sure. I know when we baptize at our church, they usually pour or sprinkle the water on the head but inevitably some ends up on their feet. Kind of like taking a shower. Water hits your head first than the rest of the body.

  40. There is a whole disputation, do we immerse or do we sprinkle?”

    Some Baptist insist that we call John the Baptist John the Immerser.

    I got dunked, in the Pacific Ocean.

    It was amazingly awesome coming up out of the water.

    I was greeted by the manifested presence of the Holy Spirit.

    This seemed to be the testimony of others who experienced it like I did.

    But personally I think all methods work, even spraying I would imagine.

    Really good thread.

  41. Thanks Surfer. Have a great weekend!

  42. Surfer – I don’t get it, but I do not deny your experience.
    “I was greeted by the manifested presence of the Holy Spirit.
    This seemed to be the testimony of others who experienced it like I did.”

    It sounds to me as if your baptism was actually efficaisious to your salvation as the holy spirit did intervene in the process. I would mark that in your testimony as the day you were saved, when you say the “manifested presence of the Holy Spirit” in your life.

    But this is totally opposed to the CC doctrine of Baptism — so you win!! 🙂

  43. “Babies are not yet able to apply faith in God’s Word until the “age of accountability.”

    yet at the time of Noah, even all the babies were carried off to judgment.

  44. #44 – re: babies – what judgment? mortal or eternal? in time or for eternity? do you know? i don’t

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