“Why was Jesus circumcised at eight days old in accordance with Jewish law (Luke 2:21)?
Christians don’t need to be circumcised: ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love’ (Galatians 5:6).“
Ed: In the Old Testament, before the birth of Christ, there are strict rules about how God’s people were to come to Him. Men needed to be circumcised (Genesis 17:10), and Israel needed to keep the Law of Moses (which is described in detail in the books of Exodus through to Deuteronomy).
“This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised.” (Ge 17:10 ASV)
Christians don’t need to be circumcised, or to keep the Law of Moses. This is largely what the letter to the Galatians is about. There were some in the Galatian churches who were trying to suggest that Christians need to be circumcised and keep the Law, and Paul is strenuously demonstrating that they don’t.
Chapter 3 is the culmination of the argument. Paul presents the logic in v. 13:
‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’.
The Law contains a clause that says someone who is hanged on a tree is cursed (Deuteronomy 21:22–23).
“22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; 23 his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged is accursed of God; that thou defile not thy land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” (De 21:22-23 ASV)
This was probably one reason why Jesus’ enemies wanted him crucified — so they could say that he was cursed. But Jesus was sinless, and the Law cursed an innocent man. It’s as though this clause had been deliberately written into the Law, so that at the appropriate time the Law could be removed.
During his life Jesus kept the Law of Moses impeccably — although not always in the way that his enemies thought was proper. For example the Gospels record many occasions on which he healed people on the Sabbath. The religious rulers objected on the grounds that he was working, which was forbidden. But he pointed out to them that he was actually fulfilling the principle of the Sabbath law:
‘for the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath’ (Matthew 12:8).
Jesus was a Law-abiding Jew and therefore it was necessary that he was circumcised. But at his death the Law became obsolete, and the call of the Gospel was opened to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. As Paul continues,
‘so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith’ (Galatians 3:14).
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