This is the third sermon in ERC’s Lenten series, CO▽EN△NT, on God’s relationship with Abraham.
The covenant relationship is founded on an agreement or commitment, filled with promises, and marked by a sign. God has committed to being Abram’s God, and God has promised to bless Abram and multiply him into multitudes. Now God gives Abram signs to confirm the covenant promises: a new name, and a physical mark.
God change’s Abram’s name to Abraham, from “great father” to “father of many peoples.” Whereas “Abram” must have rung as a cruel joke, “Abraham” resounds with gracious, incredible hope.
And the physical mark of circumcision is a second sign of the relationship that God is creating with Abraham and Abraham’s family, as “a people for His own possession” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV, cf. Exodus 19:5).
Circumcision is a physical mark of the spiritual reality which God is initiating for Abraham and his family: a life of integrity, cutting away sin; and a life of belonging to God as His adopted sons and daughters. Circumcision was a proto-sacrament, fulfilled in the Christian sacrament of baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection:
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.Colossians 2:9-15, NIV
For those of us who have been marked by baptism, we have a sure sign of God’s covenant promises for us, to anchor and confirm our faith. This is how God deals with us of little faith, proving Himself visibly for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Take note this week of all the ways God proves Himself trustworthy, supporting and strengthening your faith in Him.