Circumcision (Genesis 17)

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Service Notes

  • Order of Service: Divine Service 1
  • Hymns: LSB #563, 437, 549, 629, 625, 922

Theme Verse

When He had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. (Genesis 17:22-23)

Sermon Text

Circumcision is a very private, very personal covenant. You can't get any more personal and private than cutting the flesh of a man's reproductive member. But it is the primary, basic covenant God gives to His people. Circumcision is the entrance rite into God's eighth-day covenant blessings.

Circumcision sets believers apart from unbelievers. It set Abraham and his family apart from the peoples around him. But circumcision did not make believers. Circumcision only shows the pleading of righteous blood. In Romans 4, Paul writes: “Faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.”

Circumcision wasn't a new thing with Abraham, but it was not typically done in Canaan. Jacob circumcised the men of Shechem after Shechem raped Jacob's daughter Dinah. It was the marriage covenant between the two families. Circumcision separates believers from heathen. Baptism is the circumcision of Christ, the “circumcision made without hands.”

Circumcision is a mandatory covenant between God and man. One cannot receive the covenant blessings without receiving circumcision. “Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” Without circumcision, you cannot be part of God's covenant.

God only prevented one person from becoming part of the covenant. Only one person born of man was denied ever entering God's covenant. David's illegitimate son with Bathsheba. We read in 2 Samuel 12: “David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the LORD.' And Nathan said to David, 'The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.' … On the seventh day the child died.”

He died on the seventh day. Circumcision was scheduled for the next day. He would never see God's eighth-day covenant promises. He was cast out because of David and Bathsheba's sin.

Before you start quoting from Ezekiel again, this illegitimate son is a type of Christ. Jesus was cast out because of your sin. Jesus cast Himself out of Heaven and suffered the pains of Hell so you might be blessed. He became your uncircumcision so He might circumcise your heart. We read in Romans 2: “For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.”

But Jesus rose victorious over sin, death and Hell. He returned to Heaven where He hands out His eighth-day covenant blessings.

Jesus' eighth-day blessings are what every human being has desired since Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden. To fulfill God's demand for Abram in the circumcision covenant: “Walk before Me, and be blameless.”

Being circumcised in your heart, you have been allowed, like Abram, to sojourn in God's tent and dwell on His holy hill. Only by walking blamelessly, doing what is right and speaking truth in your heart do you have these things. In this blameless walking, “We are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Jesus' circumcision makes you a new creation. No longer striving after the flesh but longing for God's Spirit.


Being circumcised in your heart, you are called to not be stiff-necked. In Baptism, God has circumcised “your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

Jesus' eighth-day blessings are yours. In His circumcision, Jesus began His active obedience. In His resurrection, Jesus proclaims these blessings. Death is not the end. Sin you despise does not keep you out of God's covenant. Hell is not waiting for your circumcised heart. You will sojourn in God's heavenly tent. Dwelling on God's holy hill. Your sin has been forgiven. “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.” Jesus holds the keys of Death and Hades.

In Jesus' righteous shed blood, foreshadowed in circumcision's shedding of blood, “Bold shall I stand in that great Day, for who aught to my charge shall lay? Fully thro' these absolved I am from sin ad fear, from guilt and shame.” He has ransomed you from the Fall. He has made you His forever in His love's bloody, baptismal river. You wil never be cut off from His covenant. He has become your heavenly Father through Jesus' mediation. The covenant of circumcision, through the washing of Baptism, has been established as an everlasting covenant. The sign of the water, mingled with Christ's shed blood, is just as sure and certain as the rainbow in Noah's covenant. It is the seal of God's righteousness for you. Amen.