God said to Abraham, “As for you, you will keep my covenant, you and your seed after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your seed after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin. It will be a token of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old will be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he who is born in the house, or bought with money from any foreigner who is not of your seed. He who is born in your house, and he who is bought with your money, must be circumcised. My covenant will be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. The uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant.”
This is a part of the Bible where paying attention to detail is very helpful, so let’s look at it carefully. It tells us here that if any male is not circumcised, they are not included in the covenant. If this rule was broken the uncircumcised one was exclude from the group. That’s usually pretty clear, but there’s something that is easy to miss here to. The rule isn’t enforced by the one who is circumcised. It’s enforced by a parent or a slave master. In other words, an individual was a part of the promise by the choice of someone else.
As a parent, you were required to circumcise a male child when they were an infant of only eight days old. It is impossible to make a personal choice at that age. The parent made the choice to include the child in the promise. This is an interesting thing to consider later when we read about Moses, who somehow failed to remember to circumcise his own son. God almost killed him right there. See Exodus 4:24-26. Obviously, this issue is important to God. That explains why it became such a divisive issue when Gentile Christians were allowed into the Jewish church of God.
At first, many Jewish Christians thought that these instructions meant that Gentiles should be circumcised. It turned into a very sharp dispute between believers. It was ultimately decided that, because the Holy Spirit was given to uncircumcised Gentiles, that God must have included them without circumcision somehow. (See Acts 15) Now, Jewish Christians know that real circumcision is done by God in the heart (see Romans 2:29). That is the real change revealed by Jesus. The physical sign is now recognized as only an external one, not that the external is not also important, it’s just that what God really wanted was a change of heart and He was going to make sure that this was possible through Abraham’s Seed. As a Gentile believer, I know that the land was not given to me directly but because I am now joined together with the Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, I am included by His circumcision. Jewish Christians, however, are still circumcised. The promise of land to Abraham is still directly applicable to them, even today.