Presentation on theme: "Presentation 08. Introduction The passage before us describes the way in which Joseph and Mary ensured that the Mosaic Law in all its requirements was."— Presentation transcript:
Introduction The passage before us describes the way in which Joseph and Mary ensured that the Mosaic Law in all its requirements was fulfilled in connection with Jesus. It speaks of the circumcision of Jesus, then of the sacrifices offered on behalf of the mother Mary and associated with her purification after birth and of the child’s consecration and presentation to God in the temple. Mary and Joseph executed these rites, in line with the law of God. Circumcision and consecration have been replaced and superseded by baptism in the Christian church.
Presentation 08 Introduction If circumcision has been superseded doesn’t mean that there is little value in studying this passage? No! In the first place it seems clear that circumcision and baptism have a similar spiritual significance. cf. Col.2v11-12. Circumcision, the seal of the Old Covenant that God first made with Abraham, helps us to understand baptism which is the seal of the New Covenant that was established by Christ. Secondly, the circumcision of Jesus sheds light upon the utter uniqueness of his life and ministry.
Presentation 08 The Significance Of Circumcision In order to understand the significance of circumcision we need to go back to the time when God called Abraham to leave his hometown of Ur, in present day Iraq, and to go to a land which God would show him. Gen. 17 provides us with one of the lists the blessings which God intended to give him: He was to become a new man with new powers, he was to be the father of a nation, he and his people were to stand in a special relationship to God and were given a land in which to stay.
Presentation 08 The Significance Of Circumcision These blessings were given to Abraham not because he deserved or earned them. They were unmerited, a gift of God's grace. All of the blessings were given in the form of a set of promises or a Covenant. And with the promises was given a sign, circumcision. The sign reminded Abraham and his family that they were heirs to God's promises. The sign reminded them that these promises were not theirs by right but theirs by grace.
Presentation 08 The Significance Of Circumcision The sign pointed in two directions. First it pointed to the grace of God. Secondly, it pointed out Israel's need, a need of God's grace. Only through the door of grace could God's blessing come. Israel had been separated to God, NOT because they deserved it or, were better than other people, but because God CHOSE to be gracious to them. Circumcision was therefore the badge that the people of God wore to say, "I am separated to God, a God who is gracious and a God who has purposes of blessing for me".
Presentation 08 The Significance Of Circumcision Failure, on the part of the Jew, to wear this badge was treated very seriously by God as Gen 17.10 ff. indicates, "This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep. Every male among you shall be circumcised... Any uncircumcised male who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people, he has broken my covenant." God does not say sin or failure results in the breaking of the covenant but a failure to wear the badge of circumcision! For behind the refusal lay an attitude of heart which turned its back on God and was dismissive of his grace - this spoke ultimately of the rejection of God himself. It was to say, ‘I and my family can prosper without God, our sin can be dealt with without God's mercy and grace.’
Presentation 08 The Significance Of Circumcision Baptism too speaks of God's promises. The promises of the New Covenant include the forgiveness of our sin and acceptance into God’s family. When parents present their children for baptism they are saying to God; ‘You are gracious. You have made promises to us and to our children. In bringing our children to you we are acknowledging that we belong to a family which is separated to you. We are looking forward to the day when the promises of the covenant will be realised in our children’. Parents need to be regularly reminded of both their duty and their privilege to introduce their children to God. A duty that does not end with their children's baptism.
Presentation 08 The Significance Of Circumcision Sir Thomas Browne's father used to kneel beside his child's cradle and pray that the heart of his child might always be the temple of the Holy Spirit. In Israel those who became members of the covenant were expected to show it outwardly by obedience to God's law cf. Gen.17.1 “Walk before me and be blameless.” And so circumcision includes the idea of consecration to God. It calls for a response to the grace of God. God draws near and says, “I have chosen you to be my covenant people, I have brought you into a quite unique relationship with myself, now by your behaviour show that you belong to me”. This is stated more precisely in Lev 12.44, "I am the Lord your God, consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy."
Presentation 08 The Significance Of Circumcision The response to God's covenant grace is a life of holiness and obedience. But what if obedience was not forthcoming. What of the person who wore the badge of circumcision but gave no thought to a life of obedience to God? Quite simply, disobedience rendered the sign void of any significance. It is for this reason in Jer. 4v4 that the prophet calls upon Israel to "circumcise their hearts". Israel was taking refuge behind the fact that they wore the badge that identified them as God's people. They thought it didn't matter how they lived as long as they had the badge God was committed to bless them. Jeremiah disabused them of that notion.
Presentation 08 The Significance Of Circumcision The external sign is of no value if there is no corresponding internal work in our hearts. Cf. Paul in Rom.2v25ff... Here he takes to task those who are taking refuge behind the badge of the covenant but whose lives do not show that they are separated to God for a life of obedience. The badge in those circumstances isn’t only meaningless it brings condemnation. Just as with the Old Covenant so to in the New Covenant, the genuineness of a real covenant relationship with God is shown not by the possession of the outward sign but by the condition of the heart.
Presentation 08 The Significance Of Circumcision Jesus did not say that his people would be recognised by the fact that they had been baptised, or by the verbal professions that they made, but by the quality of their life, "by their fruits you will know them“ Matt.7v16. Sadly a great many people cling to the fact that they have been baptised or have joined the church, these rites are external signs, they have no saving value. Possession of the external sign is no guarantee that a person is a Christian. It does not guarantee their eternal destiny. The sign can be abused. It can produce a false sense of security. Those who are baptised need to ask; "Do I by my life show that I belong to God?"
Presentation 08 Jesus’ Circumcision This leads us to consider the significance of Jesus' circumcision. Many commentators are quick to point out that Jesus had no need of circumcision or indeed of what it symbolised. He did not need God's promise of grace. Nor did he need consecrated to God, for this particular consecration was one which spoke of redemption cf. Ex. 34.19... Clearly, Jesus was without sin. He was not separated from God and in need of reconciliation. Why then was he allowed to submit to these rites?
Presentation 08 Jesus’ Circumcision In Gal. 4v4 we read that Jesus was "born under the law in order that he might redeem them who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons". Jesus explained his ministry in these terms saying that he came, "not to destroy the law but to fulfil it." When God's Son came into the world, he came in such a way that he would willingly embrace both the duties and the penalties of God's law. Think for a moment of Jesus as our representative. A representative is someone who does something on your behalf. Often something you are unable to do yourself.
Presentation 08 Jesus’ Circumcision Let me illustrate, you are expected to go somewhere or do something and you reply, "I'm sorry I'm not in a position to do that myself, I’ll send a representative." You are offering to send a stand in. Now in relation to the law of God, Jesus came in order to be our stand in. It’s impossible for any of us to offer God's law the perfect obedience God requires. But Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience on behalf of the people he came to represent. Jesus’ circumcision obligated him to fulfil the law's requirements this he did however as a representative man. Cf. Rom. 5v17-19 As the representative of his people Jesus not only kept the law he bore its penalty. He paid the price of his people's law-breaking.
Presentation 08 Jesus’ Circumcision Another incident in the later life of Jesus sheds light on this matter. When Jesus presented himself for baptism, John the Baptist initially refused. He said, "Its you Jesus who should be baptising me". For John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. It was a baptism for sinners but Jesus was sinless. How then did Jesus reply? He said that it was necessary for him to be baptised in order "to fulfil all righteousness“ Matt.3v15. What did he mean? He was there in the waters of baptism as the representative of his people. He was there to identify with his sinful people and to reaffirm his determination to live an obedient life on their behalf and bear the penalty of their disobedience.
Presentation 08 Jesus’ Circumcision By his baptism Jesus was serving notice of his twofold intent! This is picked up in the lines of Toplady’s hymn: A debtor to mercy alone, Of covenant mercy I sing, Nor fear with his righteousness on, My person and offering to bring, The terrors of law and of God, With me can have nothing to do, My Saviours obedience and blood, Hide all my transgressions from view. This echoes Paul’s teaching in Gal. 4v4. about Jesus being made under the law in order to redeem those who were under the law. The Westminster Confession states that, “Christ offered perfect satisfaction to the justice of the Father for our sins, so by perfect law- keeping he obtained eternal inheritance for us”.
Presentation 08 Jesus’ Circumcision If Jesus has kept the law perfectly on the behalf of his people and borne its penalty does that mean that we are free to live as we please? No not at all! But it does mean that our relationship to the law has been transformed. What did we read earlier? "He was born under the law in order that he might redeem them who were under the law, that we might receive THE ADOPTION OF SONS". The relationship towards the law is transformed from one of bondage to that of sonship. The law is therefore no longer a threatening thing which we try to obey in order to gain God's approval. That approval and acceptance has been won for us by Christ our Redeemer. Law keeping should now be seen as a way of expressing our love and gratitude to God for the redemption that is ours in Christ.
Presentation 08 Conclusion Baptism is the sign of the new covenant. Like the sign of the Old Covenant it reminds us of our need of God's grace and of our separation to him. The New Covenant is superior to the Old because Jesus has met with our obligations to the law in a way that we never could. Jesus gave God a life of perfect obedience and bore the law’s penalty on our behalf. He gifts us his righteousness and takes our unrighteousness. The New Covenant which Jesus inaugurated ought to change our attitude to the law. For if we have made Christ our own by faith then the law is written on our hearts.
Presentation 08 Conclusion In other words we begin to discover that we have both the power and the incentive to keep God's law. As sons and daughters of God we will want to express our love to him. Jesus submitted to the demands of the law perfectly and bore the penalties of the law on behalf of his people completely. Our response to him and love for him is reflected in our attitude to God’s law. May we like the Psalmist learn to delight in it. May the badge of our baptism reflect an inward spiritual reality in our lives
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