« PreviousContinue »
This mark in the Aesh in remembrance of God's covenant with Abraham has been continued from the day that it was instituted to the present time, and God required that every man child which was not circumcised should be cut off from his people, for said the Lord, “ He hath broken my covenant.” The continual observance of this ordinance from the very day that it was instituted — not only among the children of Israel, but also among many other tribes and peoples, is a standing refutation of the errors of those who doubt the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures, and is one of the evidences that the Scriptures are what they profess to be, a revelation from God of his will and purposes concerning man and all things of which they treat.
The Meaning of Circumcision God said to Abraham, “It shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you " (Gen. 17:11). But what further meaning was contained therein ? We learn from God's own interpreters of the institution that what God himself calls a token, Paul, his minister, calls a sign. It was therefore a sign of God's holy covenant made with Abraham his friend, and was to be perpetuated to future generations, and remembered thereby, and resembles in that respect the Lord's Supper. Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me. ... For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." And so also as often as the act of circumcision is performed, it calls to mind the covenant that God made with Abraham and the blessings which God promised thereby to all the heirs of promise.
Circumcision as a Seal When a king or a government gives a title to lands or properties and seals it with the king's seal, or stamps it with the government stamp, this is a token to all of the genuineness of the document or conveyance which bears such impress. So Paul informs us that this mark in Abraham's flesh was God's stamp or seal of the righteousness of Abraham's faith; so that the faith of Abraham, which he had before he was circumcised, has God's endorsement by this mark in the flesh.
Circumcision of the Heart There is another meaning also from what has already been stated contained in this ordinance; all persons who are not circumcised in heart will be cut off, even though they may have been circumcised in flesh, for the cutting off and casting away of the foreskin betokens and indicates the cutting off of the body of the sins of the flesh in the obedience of faith, and therefore Paul says to the Colossians, who had obeyed the gospel and been baptized into Christ for the remission of sins, “Ye are complete in him which is the head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ " (Col. 2: 10-11).
Thus the true purport of circumcision is shown when Abraham believed the promises and word of God; his faith in these things was of that hearty, true, and intelligent character that it was accounted to him for righteousness, that is for forgiveness of sins; and circumcision is God's seal which he
stamped so to speak upon Abraham's faith to mark the genuine kind which must needs characterize all the true children of Abraham who are to be blessed with him at the resurrection of the just. Christ Jesus was circumcised in the flesh on the eighth day, as God commanded Abraham, and as was also required by the law, although circumcision was of the fathers; he was also circumcised in heart, he believed the word and promises of God, as it was written of him and for him in the one hundred and sixteenth Psalm (verse 10), "I believed, therefore have I spoken." And Paul adds, "We also believe and therefore speak," having the same spirit of faith (II Cor. 4:13).
In Christ all the promises of God are yea and amen, saith Paul (II Cor. 1:20). Therefore when a man believes the word and promises of God and is baptized into Christ, he is then circumcised with the circumcision of Christ, and his faith is then accounted to him for righteousness, and his sins and iniquities are remembered against him no more. These are the terms and conditions of the covenant made with Abraham, brought into force by the death of Christ, and so called the new covenant, in which God says, "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." And it is of such that he says, "And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest; for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Heb. 8: 10-12).
A MOTHER OF NATIONS
While through faith Abraham has attained such a good report, of Sarai also, his faithful wife, honorable mention is made in the Holy Scriptures. For as Abraham's name was changed, and a new name given him expressive of his faith and hope, so the Lord said to him, "As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be, and I will bless her and give thee a son also of her; yea I will bless her and she shall be a mother of nations, kings of people shall be of her" (Gen. 17: 15-16).
Now as Sarah was to be a mother of nations and kings, this is what her name also signifies; and as Abraham was a prophet, so was she also a prophetess, for her words were prophetic. For when Isaac, the child of her old age, was born to her as the Lord had said, and when she had weaned him and celebrated the event with a great feast, and saw Ishmael, the son of Hagar, mocking, she said to Abraham, "Cast out this bond-woman and her son, for the son of this bond-woman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac," and although this was very grievous in Abraham's sight, yet the Lord commanded him saying, "In all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice, for in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Gen. 21: 8-12). The meaning of this Paul shows, where he says (Rom. 9: 7-8), "Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children, but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is (says the apostle), They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed."
So then these words of Sarah the princess were not the promptings of
the flesh, but the promptings of the spirit; they were prophetic words, and it is testified of her by the apostle also saying, "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" (Heb. 11:11). And so while it was said of Abraham, "I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee," so also at the same time did the Lord say of Sarah. Their names are therefore associated together as a father and mother of nations and kings, and so the Lord said by the hand of Isaiah (51: 1-2), "Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord; look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him."
And we may say that women who walk in the footsteps of the wise women of old and take hold of the precious truths of revelation, and who inform themselves touching God's covenants, and all the wonderful things contained therein so as to be able to talk intelligently about such matters, and to teach the great things of God's law to their children and to others, are greatly to be commended; for what is more deplorable than to see a beautiful woman who is accomplished as a woman of the world, amiable and possessed of soft and gentle manners, yet whose mind you find a blank when you undertake to speak to her of the great and priceless truths of revelation; she has no questions to ask about God's mighty works of old, and the meaning of these works; his holy covenants she has scarcely heard of, the mysteries of the kingdom of God she hardly knows to exist, much less has she sought them out; and she has never learned this important lesson, that "favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord she shall be praised" (Prov. 31: 30).
We come now to consider some of the most important features and developments of the covenants, for these covenants, the first, and the second, constitute the foundations of two kingdoms, which brings us to consider
THE KINGDOM OF GOD UNDER THE OLD COVENANT
The two kingdoms, the kingdom of God under the old covenant, and the kingdom of God under the new, are just as distinct from each other as are the two covenants themselves. They are founded upon different principles, and are diametrically opposed the one to the other; and although the things of the first covenant are patterns of the things of the second, yet the children of the first are the children of the flesh, while the children of the other are the children of God. The first are the children of the bondwoman, the second are the children of the free, and it is written, "The son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman (Gal. 4:30); for as Ishmael that was born after the flesh persecuted Isaac that was born after the spirit, so, says Paul, it is now.
Not properly understanding these important distinctions so as to correctly apply them in dividing the word, has led some into grave errors and serious
perversions of the Scriptures; for there are those who, while they hold and teach that the people of Israel entered into the covenant that God gave
them at Mount Sinai, and were thereby constituted a kingdom, yet ignorantly deny that those who enter into the new covenant thereby become a kingdom also. As this error is fraught with serious consequences, we will first proceed to set these things in order before we undertake to interpret the things of the kingdom of God.
THE BODY OF CHRIST A KINGDOM
Whether the body of Christ under the new covenant constitutes a kingdom or not, we will now show.
First, when the people of Israel entered into God's covenant at Mount Sinai and so became the kingdom of God under that covenant, the Lord said to them by the hand of Moses, "Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine” (Exod. 19:5). “And ye shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” These words have a twofold signification; they apply first to the people under the first covenant, and second to the people under the second covenant. Moses makes the first application of these words to the people of Israel under the first covenant, and Peter makes the second application of it to Jew and Gentile who had entered into the new covenant as follows, saying (1 Pet. 2:9), “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people." Now a person who is so blind as to deny that the people under the new covenant were a royal priesthood, or a kingdom of priests, and that they were a nation and a people, might with equal propriety deny that the people under the first covenant were a people, a nation, or a kingdom, for in this case these titles are applied as freely to the one people as they are to the other.
Again the people of Israel were baptized into Moses in the cloud, and in the sea, as Paul says to the Corinthians (I Cor. 10: 1-2), which constituted them the body of Moses,” about whom the contention between Michael the Archangel, and the Devil arose, spoken of by Jude. Again, those who have believed the gospel, and have been baptized into. Christ constitute the "Body of Christ," as Paul says, “For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jew or Gentile, whether we be bond or free" (I Cor. 12:13). And in verse 27 he says, Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular.” Thus the people under the first covenant are called “the body of Moses," and the people under the second covenant are called “the body of Christ.” Again, both of these people are called " Houses of God.” The Lord said
" to Aaron and Miriam, who spake against Moses, saying, “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house" (Num. 12:7). Commenting on this, Paul says to the Hebrews, Moses verily was faithful in his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after, but Christ as a son over his own house, whose house are we” (Heb. 3:5-6). Therefore the people of God are just as much a house of God under the one covenant, as they are under the other, for Paul said also to Timothy certain
things, that he might know how to behave himself in the "house of God,
Again, both of these people are called churches, as above. The house of God is called the church of the living God, and Stephen in his last speech says of Moses, “ This is he that was in the church in the wilderness.” They were both churches, but under different covenants.
Therefore as the body of Christ is called the kingdom of God, Paul says to the Colossians that “God hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son.” It is not said here by the apostle that he would do so in the future, but that he had done so already, which would be when he had raised them up from the dead, in a moral sense, to sit with Christ in heavenly places. Again John says in the Revelation, to the churches, “I John, who also am your brother in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ " (Rev. 1:9). Now a man may just as well deny that John was actually a brother and companion in tribulation, as to deny that he was with them in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and it must be evident to any sensible person that if a man denies so plain a doctrine as this touching the kingdom of God it must be because such an one has some peculiar and incorrect view of the kingdom of God, and therefore seeks to bend the oracles of God and construe them in such a way as to favor their own errors, but we cannot submit for a moment to such forced constructions of the Scriptures.
TWO MANIFESTATIONS UNDER THE SECOND COVENANT There is a mystery about the kingdom of God which, when understood, removes the difficulty; there is a great difference between the kingdom of God under the first covenant, and the kingdom of God under the second. The people under the first, by and through it, and according to the terms and conditions thereof, never could have but one manifestation so far as their nature and physical condition was concerned. Sins could not be forgiven through the law, and therefore all under it had to die, and none under the law could by the law rise to a higher plane of existence than the present; that is, they could not rise to angelic equality either by translation or resurrection through the law. But not so with those who compose the kingdom of God under the new covenant: their sins are covered; they are the subjects of two manifestations, first as they appear now freed from sin in Christ, and second as they will appear in the resurrection. They appear now in weakness and will be sown in weakness, but they will appear then in power, having been raised in power as their master and representative has already been manifested, “ as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also
, bear the image of the heavenly ” (1 Cor. 15:49). Christ, says Paul," was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God” (II Cor. 13:4). There are other Scriptures therefore which speak of the kingdom of God as it now is in weakness, and other Scriptures which speak of it as it will be when it comes in power.
Jesus said to his apostles, “Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen