By Rev. Peter J. Haugen
St. Paul Evangelical
In Genesis 17, God established circumcision as a sign for the people of God, for the Old Testament Church. Every male was to be circumcised. Circumcision brought individuals into the people of God, brought them under the covenant that God had made with Abraham and with his descendants. Any male who was not circumcised was cut off from his people, was cut off from God, was to be regarded as a Gentile and a pagan.
St. Paul further clarifies what is happening here when he reminds us that “every man who receives circumcision… is under obligation to keep the whole Law” (Galatians 5:3). Even as the lack of circumcision cuts one off from the Old Testament people of God, so too does receiving circumcision as a prerequisite for salvation place one under the full obligation of the Law, to keep it perfectly.
On the eighth day after His birth, our Lord Jesus, who was Himself “born under the Law” (Galatians 4:4), received this circumcision in His flesh, thereby placing Himself under the full obligation of the Law, to keep it perfectly. In this ritual act, our Lord began shedding His holy blood for us, for our salvation. And for the first time, there was a child circumcised who could and who would in fact keep that Law, and keep it perfectly.
There is much we could say here, but there is one truth in particular that I want to highlight: Paul reminds us in his Epistle to the Galatians that “all of [us] who were baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Consider for a moment the significance of this: We Christians are clothed with Christ. This means that we are brought with Christ into the people of God. This means that we are made partakers with Christ of the salvation covenant of God. This means that we are given our Lord’s own perfect fulfillment of the obligation of the Law as our own. This means that we ourselves are joined to the death of our Lord, to His blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins. This means that we receive His righteousness as our own, His life as our own, His Father as our own, His salvation as our own.
And so it is that “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” for we are all the circumcised of the Lord as we have been joined to the circumcised Christ. “There is neither slave nor free man,” for we are all granted the freedom of Christ and the bondage of Christ. “There is neither male nor female,” as there was under the sign of circumcision, for we are all – male and female – clothed with Christ, and so are gathered into the people of God, able to stand before the face of God in the righteousness of that Christ. We “are all one in Christ Jesus,” one in the One with whom we have been clothed. (Galatians 3:28)
He is indeed Jesus, the LORD who saves us. Amen.
By Rev. Peter J. Haugen