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Paid in Full


Why the feasts are binding but circumcision is not.

 

Circumcision was tied to the sacrificial system.  It was part of the system that looked forward by faith to the shed blood of Yahushua on the cross.  And, as such, it is no longer a binding requirement after the cross.

 

Bible open to LeviticusNearly two millennia of error, superstition and tradition have buried many truths under a layer of rubble.  Truths understood by the apostolic Christians are only now, in these last days, being rediscovered and restored to their rightful place.  The process of restoring long-forgotten truths, however, can be confusing.  Lacking the in-grained understanding that comes with full possession of truth, many wonder which, if any, of the Levitical requirements are still to be observed and, conversely, which are no longer binding.

The rite of circumcision is one area that has sometimes caused confusion to those most committed to complete obedience.  Careful Bible study in recent years has revealed some “Old Testament” requirements  are still binding, which in the past have been shrugged off as applicable only to the Jews.  To list a few of these: abstinence from unclean meats; observance of the seventh-day Sabbath; and, celebration of the annual feasts.  (For more on the annual feasts, see "Celebrating the Spring Anniversaries" and "The Fall Feasts.")  The question then naturally arises: but what of circumcision?  The New Testament makes clear that circumcision was not required of the Gentile converts.  This fact has led many to use it as a reason to reject keeping the feasts as well.  This is unfortunate because the early Christians continued to keep the feasts for hundreds of years.  In Scotland alone, Christians commemorated Passover for over 1,000 years.  In order to understand why the feasts are still binding but circumcision is not, then, it is necessary to have a clear comprehension of the law governing circumcision.

Circumcision was part of the sacrificial system.Different laws were categorized differently.  There were civil statutes, criminal statutes and religious statutes.  Even within the religious statutes, the laws applying to religious observances (e.g., Sabbaths, New Moons, annual feasts) are in a different category than those applying to the sacrificial system.  Circumcision was part of the sacrificial system.

Circumcision as a medical procedure is not a sin. Various cultures, especially those located in hot climates, have practiced circumcision for thousands of years for purposes of cleanliness. While urinary tract infections are extremely rare among men, all reported cases of male urinary tract infections are in men who are uncircumcised. Circumcision has also been used to prevent phimosis, paraphimosis and inflammation of the glans and foreskin. Some studies have linked a lower incidence of cervical cancer among women whose partners are circumcised. Other studies have linked a higher transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among men who are uncircumcised. It should be noted that the circumcision practiced by the Hebrews was not the radical procedure done in modern times that leaves the entire head of the glans exposed. The circumcision of ancient practice merely trimmed the foreskin level with the tip of the penis. It did not retract it further. If circumcision is necessary or desirable for medical reasons, there is no reason not to proceed. However, it should be clearly understood that circumcision as a religious rite required by Yahuwah is no longer binding.

Although the sacrificial system was instituted at the fall, circumcision as a religious rite was not established until the time of Abraham.  Sin beclouds the intellect.  Therefore, not everything can be taught at once.  Yahuwah bears long with the frailty of His children.  He patiently works with the individual where he is in his understanding.  Even Yahushua, the night before His death, told His disciples: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”  (John 16:12, NKJV)  For this reason, truth is progressive.  Circumcision became a religious rite when a covenant was established between Yahuwah and Abram.

Genesis 15 tells the story of when they entered into this covenant relationship.  Yahuwah told Abram, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”  (Genesis 15:1, KJV) 

Some time before, Yahuwah had already promised Abram that the land of Canaan would be given to his descendants.  Now, Abram suggested that the promise be fulfilled through his steward, Eliezer, since Abram had no children of his own.  But Yahuwah corrected him, affirming that Abram would yet have a biological child that would be his heir.  He even added that Abram’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the heavens.  (See Genesis 15:2-5.)  The very next verse is a powerful, beautiful and revealing statement: “And he believed in Yahuwah; and He counted it to him for righteousness.”  (Genesis 15:7)

Abram believed Yahuwah’s promise.  He was old; his wife was old; but he believed the word of Yahuwah which said: “I am Yahuwah that brought you out of Ur of the Chadees, to give you this land to inherit it.”  (Genesis 15:6) 

Abraham preparing the Covenant SacrificesThen, Scripture records Abram as making what, at first glance, appears to be a surprising request: “Adonai Elohim, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”  (Verse 8.)  This was not an expression of doubt.  Scripture already stated that Abram did believe the promise.  Rather, this was asking, in as respectful a manner possible, if the Almighty would enter into a covenant with him.

The very next verse records Yahuwah’s acceptance of Abram’s request:

And he said unto him, Take me a heifer of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. 

 

And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.  (Genesis 15:9, 10, KJV)

This may seem peculiar to modern eyes, but Abram understood: Yahuwah had accepted his request for a covenant agreement!  A covenant, by its very definition, is a legally binding contract.  “A covenant is an agreement between two or more persons, entered into in writing and under seal, whereby either party . . . promises to perform or give something to the other.”1  By definition, a covenant requires at least two parties or individuals.  Today, the parties involved sign a legal document.  Different countries have some slight variances, but regardless of minor differences, it is still legally binding.  Sometimes, a clerk of the court witnesses the parties’ signatures and the document is filed with the local court.

In Abram’s day, covenants were ratified differently.  Animals were sacrificed, their bodies divided and the individuals entering into the covenant agreement would pass between the divided bodies of the animals.  It was a way of saying, “Thus let it be done unto me and more also, should I break this covenant agreement.”  This is precisely what Scripture records Yahuwah as doing: “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.  In the same day Yahuwah made a covenant with Abram.”  (Genesis 15:17 and 18.)

The English word “covenant” is translated from the Hebrew word berîyth.  It means, literally, “cutting . . .; a compact (because made by passing between pieces of flesh.)”2  What loving condescension on the part of the Almighty to put His unbreakable promise in human terms that Abram understood!

It was after this that Abram sought, in his own power, to help Yahuwah fulfill His part of the bargain: Abram begat Ishmael by Hagar.  This was not part of Yahuwah’s plan!  How patiently He bears with our human weaknesses and failings.  Another thirteen years passed; Yahuwah returned to Abram.  It was at this time that the covenant was ratified with the rite of circumcision.

Ratify: to confirm by expressing formal consent or approval.

Yahuwah’s covenant with Abram encompassed far more than Abram, at that time, could comprehend.  Not only did Yahuwah promise him a son by Sarai, but it was through Abram’s lineage that the long-promised Messiah was to come!Yahuwah’s covenant with Abram encompassed far more than Abram, at that time, could comprehend.  Not only did Yahuwah promise him a son by Sarai, but it was through Abram’s lineage that the long-promised Messiah was to come!  Yahuwah’s only begotten Son was to die for the redemption of sinners.  This was the full provision Yahuwah was pledging in His covenant with Abraham.  Hebrews 9:22 explains: “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” 

This was a blood covenant into which Abram and Yahuwah entered.  As a blood covenant, it required blood to be shed on both sides in order to be ratified.  Yahuwah did not require the death of Ishmael or the death of Isaac in exchange for the death of His own Son.  But, in order to be a legally binding contract, blood was required of Abram.  This blood was shed in the rite of circumcision.  All who looked forward to the promised Messiah, and who wanted to be heirs of the promise, showed their faith in the covenant by engaging in this rite as well.

To encourage faith in this part of the promise, Yahuwah changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and Sarai’s name to Sarah.  In order to ratify his acceptance of the covenant agreement, Abraham, and his seed after him, were to be circumcised.

Abraham: Father of many nations.
Sarah: Princess, mother of many nations.

I am the Almighty Elohim; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

 

And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

 

Thou shalt keep My covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

 

This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

 

And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt Me and you.  (Genesis 17:1, 2, 10 and 11.)

Open Bible in front of blue sky with cloudsAlmost two millennia later, Paul used the experience of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac as an allegory of righteousness by faith as contrasted with righteousness by works:

Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

 

But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

 

Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.  (Galatians 4:22-24)

By bearing a child by Hagar, Abraham sought in his own strength, by his own works, to beget the child of promise.  Thus, Ishmael became a symbol of righteousness by works.  Isaac, who was conceived after Sarah had gone through menopause, was the true child of promise.  His very conception was a result of the faith of Sarah in the promise of Yah: “Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.”  (Hebrews 11:11, KJV)  Isaac thus symbolized righteousness by faith.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians was written specifically to address the issue of circumcision.  The Galatians were Gentile converts.  Paul had spent some time among them explaining the way of salvation.  Later, after he left, Jewish Christians from Palestine came to Galatia and told the new converts that they could not be considered true Christians until they submitted to the rite of circumcision.  Naïvely, but sincerely, the Galatians agreed to be circumcised.

When Paul received word of the influence these “Judaizers” were having upon the Galatian Christians, he wrote a strong rebuke.  “O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Yahushua the Annointed was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?”  (Galatians 3:1)

Paul grasped the significance of this act, of which the young Christians from Galatia were ignorant.  Salvation is by faith in the grace of Yah alone.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of El: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8, 9)  He demanded of the Galatians: “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”  (Galatians 3:2)  Knowing precisely what he had taught them, Paul knew the answer and pointed out their inconsistent course.  “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”  (Galatians 3:3)

Paul then drives his point home by referring them back to Abraham:

Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— just as Abraham “believed El, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that El would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”  So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.  (Galatians 3:5-9)

The Jerusalem Council:

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. . . . And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that Yahuwah had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago Yahuwah made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And Yahuwah, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye Yahuwah, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Master Yahushua The Anointed we shall be saved, even as they. . . . And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: . . . [and know] Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to Yahuwah: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. (See Acts 15:1, 2; 4-11; 13, 19 and 20.)

The apostles had a pure faith.  Were circumcision still a binding requirement, they would not, at the Jerusalem council, have decreed that it was not to be required of the Gentile converts.  However, this should not be used by any as an excuse to no longer observe the feasts, which are in a different category altogether.  As circumcision was a ratification of the covenant which gave the promise of a coming Saviour, it was part of the sacrificial system that was fulfilled at the cross.  It was for this reason, Paul was so indignant that the Judaizers were continuing to teach that circumcision was necessary for salvation. 

Paul reminded the Galatian converts that before their eyes, their understanding, Yahushua “was clearly portrayed among you as crucified.”  (Galatians 3:1)  In other words, Yahuwah had fulfilled His part of the covenant.  He had surrendered His Son to be killed to redeem man.  To continue to practice circumcision as a religious rite was to do despite to Yahushua’s death on the cross.  The insult to Yahuwah was every bit as much as continuing to offer animal sacrifices.  It was, in essence, saying that Yahushua’s sacrifice was not good enough.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul expanded this point still further, stating that circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of the righteousness he had obtained through faith before he was circumcised and that Abraham’s circumcision covered those who, not being circumcised, still exercised faith in Yahuwah’s promise: “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.”  (Romans 4:11, NKJV)

For Abraham’s circumcision to cover those who were not circumcised, but still obtained the righteousness of Yahuwah through faith in the merits of His Son, indicates a knowledge that, at some point future to Abraham, circumcision would cease to be a religious requirement.  Once Yahushua died, a perfect sacrifice, the system of sacrificial offerings, with the ratification by the rite of circumcision, was no longer necessary.  The contract had been fulfilled.  The price of redemption had been paid in full.

[Yahushua], because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to [El] through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

 

For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.  (Hebrews 7:24-27)

The fact that circumcision of the flesh had a deeper, spiritual significance was understood by the ancient Israelites.  As far back as the time of Moses, Scripture records: “[Yahuwah] delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.  Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.”  (Deuteronomy 10:15 and 16.)  Anytime the Israelites were in apostasy and rebellion, they were admonished to circumcise their hearts:

For thus says Yahuwah to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.  Circumcise yourselves to Yahuwah, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”  (Jeremiah 4:3, 4)

Circumcision was part of the sacrificial system and is no longer binding.Circumcision was part of the sacrificial system.  It was part of the system that looked forward by faith to the shed blood of Yahushua on the cross.  And, as such, it was no longer a binding requirement after the cross.  

Daniel’s beautiful prophecy of the Messiah clearly sets forth the principle that the blood covenant, having been fulfilled, would no longer require the continuation of the sacrificial system of which circumcision was a part.  "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease."  (Daniel 9:27)  

Heaven’s entreaty to ancient Israel is still extended to modern Israel, those who are children of Abraham by faith.  Now, in these closing days of earth’s history, all are to circumcise their hearts.  Lay aside human reasoning and excuses.  Seek Yahuwah’s face.  Worship Him in spirit and in truth, bringing your will into oneness with the divine will.  By faith, you, too, can be a child of Abraham, an heir of the divine promise.
 

Romans 4:12, 13 & 16

1 http://www.lectlaw.com/def/c323.htm

2 Berîyth, #1285, The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words.