The Berean Expositor
Volume 24 - Page 59 of 211
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Studies in Colossians.
#23.  BEWARE.
The circumcision made without hands (2: 11).
pp. 15 - 20
The apostle has just written, "Ye are complete in Him", and now proposes a severe
test. To the Jew, and also to the Christian Jew, circumcision was essential, as was
baptism, its equivalent, to the Christian of the Acts period.
The rite of circumcision is introduced in the Scriptures in connection with Abraham
and the birth of Ishmael. The birth of Ishmael was the result of the intrusion of the flesh
into the purposes of grace and promise.  The following sequence in the history of
Abraham will enable the reader to see where and why circumcision was instituted.
(1) God promises to Abraham a seed (Gen. 15:); Abraham believes God, and
it is accounted unto him for righteousness.  Justification by faith is here
experienced and foreshadowed. There is, however, something more than this.
While justification is a necessary beginning, it is not by any means the end.
(2) Time passes, and the promised seed does not come. Faith is sorely tried,
and at length a scheme is propounded whereby God shall, as it were, be helped
out with His purposes. Hagar, the bondwoman, becomes the mother of Ishmael
(Gen. 16:).
(3) While this departure from the path of faith cannot alter justification, it does
indicate that Abraham had much further to go before he could be pronounced
"perfect". And so in Gen. 17: we find: "Walk before Me and be thou perfect"
(Compare Col. 1: 28: "that we may present every man perfect"). Ishmael is
repudiated as the seed and the true seed again promised; and it is here, in this
connection of parenthood, that circumcision is introduced. To Abraham, only too
conscious of the part that the flesh had played in the birth of Ishmael, this strange
rite would speak eloquently of its repudiation. While Abraham could be justified
without circumcision, he could not be perfected without it. In Phil. 3:, before
the apostle speaks of "perfection" he speaks of circumcision:  "We are the
circumcision which . . . . . have no confidence in the flesh" (verse 3).
The analysis of Gen. 15:-17:, so far as it bears upon our subject, is as follows:--
A1 | Promise of a seed. JUSTIFICATION.
B1 | The flesh intervenes and spoils.
A2 | Promise of a seed repeated. PERFECTION.
B2 | The flesh cut off and set aside.