Sunday: God’s Sign Identifying His People

In Old Testament times there were two outward signs as identifiers of God’s true people. One of them was circumcision. To whom was this sign first given? Gen. 17:9-11.

God commanded Abraham and his descendants to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant of salvation.

God's Identifying Sign

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Males were to be circumcised on the eighth day (Lev. 12:3) . However, this ritual had a deeper significance. It was meant to symbolize the need for “circumcision” or renewal of the heart (see Deut. 30:6) . That is why Paul writes: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Rom. 2:28-29, NKJV) .

Texts such as 1 Corinthians 7:19Galatians 5:6, and Galatians 6:15 show that in the New Testament circumcision is replaced by baptism, which symbolizes conversion, a “new creation”, a dying to sin and rising to a new life (see Rom. 6:3-4) . That is why Paul says circumcision is no longer important and that it is “faith working through love” and “keeping the commandments of God” that really matter.

What was the second outward sign that God gave to identify His people, and why was it given? (Exod. 31:13Exod. 31:17; Ezek. 20:12, Ezek. 20:20).

Notice that the Sabbath as a sign goes all the way back to Creation (see also Gen. 2:2-3) , whereas circumcision began only with Abraham. Thus Jesus said, in referring to Genesis, “the sabbath was made for humankind” (Mark 2:27, NRSV) . It shows that we belong to God, by creation because He made us and by redemption because He justifies and sanctifies us. Thus, though Paul says that circumcision is no longer important, he argues that keeping God’s commandments (which includes the Sabbath) still is important (see Heb. 4:9).

How do your thoughts and intentions reveal whether or not you have truly been circumcised in the heart?

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons