Do not lose sight of the fact that you were born “Gentiles,” known by those whose bodies were circumcised as “the uncircumcised.” You were without Christ, you were utter strangers to God’s chosen community, the Jews, and you had no knowledge of, or right to, the promised agreements. You had nothing to look forward to and no God to whom you could turn. But now, through the blood of Christ, you who were once outside the pale are with us inside the circle of God’s love and purpose (Ephesians 2:11-13)
In this passage, Paul is dealing with the difference between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Gentiles being the ones who are called “uncircumcised” by those who are circumcised. Circumcision was the distinguishing mark of the Jews. It illustrated the fact that they were a special people, belonging to Yahweh in a unique way. So when Paul said the Jews were circumcised, he was emphasizing the advantages the Jew had over the Gentiles. I will show you what those are in a moment. But he was also making it very clear that the Gentiles, the pagans, did not have these advantages.
As you probably already know, circumcision is mentioned a great deal in the Scriptures. It began, you remember, with Abraham, who circumcised his son Isaac as the initial sign of Yahweh’s Covenants. These covenants, these promises, were never available to the Gentile world. It is also important to understand that all symbols in Scripture indicate a very significant relationship. With that in mind, of all of the things He could have used, why did the Lord choose circumcision to point out that this nation of people was privileged beyond all others?
Well, before we discuss circumcision, we need to turn to the seventeenth chapter of Genesis. In the preceding chapter, the Lord told Abram he would receive some land that would belong to him and his descendants forever. And my intentions is to help you understand something that is so often missed: there is a difference between Israel being given the land, and Israel living in the land.
The Bible term we usually find referring to Israel living in the land is possess. Possess doesn’t mean quite the same thing we usually think of; possess means more to occupy. It does not indicate ownership. Let me give you an analogy. You buy a car. The local bank finances it. Until you fully pay for it, they own the car. Right? It is not legally your car; you are just using it. If you doubt this, quit making the payments. What happens? The bank re-posses the car! They have always owned it, but they now take it from your possession and take possession of it for themselves. That is why it is called re-possess. Notice, that in each case, they have owned the car — although, for awhile, you had possession, and now they do!
From the moment God made the covenant with Abraham, the land has belonged to the Hebrews but the time for them to possess the land had not yet arrived. Even during the 400 years that Israel spent in Egypt, they already owned the land of Canaan — they just didn’t possess it — they didn’t occupy it.
People tend to confuse things and say that Israel lost ownership of the land when the Lord removed them to Babylon because of their sins. And yet again, when the Romans gained control and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Not so! The ownership has always remained with Israel. Yahweh merely refused to allow Israel to occupy the land — to possess it — for an extended time.
I am not splitting hairs or messing with terminology; I am only trying to help you understand the difference between possessing and owning. And, it is rather pertinent to those who say that Israel lost possession of the land for 1900 years, so they no longer have a right to it anymore. Wrong! They are the only ones who have right to it because despite not possessing it at times, they have never stopped owning it. I hope you see this rather critical difference.
Now how does this apply to our lives? Well, let me give you an example. The Scripture is quite clear that from the crucifixion of our Redeemer, sickness was removed. Health and healing belonged to us. However, if you look around, there are many Christians still suffering from various ailments and diseases. However, this does not negate that healing was bought and paid for — it belongs to you, now! — you must merely possess your healing. The same applies to financial distress; employment; peace of mind; whatever needs you have — Our Father has already provided the remedy, you simply need to possess it.
Again, I turn to Watchman Nee:
[T]he secret is not in walking but in sitting; not in doing but in resting in something that is done. “We died to sin.” We “were baptized . . . in his death.” “We were buried with him.” “God . . . quickened us together with Christ.” (Romans 6:2-4; Ephesians 2:5, KJV).
All these statements are in the past tense. Why is this? Because the Lord Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago, and I was crucified with him. This is the great historic fact. By it his experience has now become my spiritual history, and God can speak of me as already having everything “with him.” All that I have I have “with Christ.” In the Scriptures we never find those things spoken of as in the future, nor even to be desired in the present. They are historic facts of Christ, into which all we who have believed have entered . . .
If I put a dollar bill between the pages of a magazine, then burn the magazine, where is the dollar bill? It has gone the same way as the magazine — to ashes. Where the one goes the other goes too. Their history has become one.
But, just as effectively, God has put us in Christ. What happened to him happened also to us. All the experiences he met, we too have met in him. “Our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin” (Romans 6:6).
This is not an exhortation to struggle. That is history: our history, written in Christ before we were born. Do you believe that? It is true! Our crucifixion with Christ is a glorious historic fact. Our deliverance from sin is based, not on what we can do no even on what God is going to do for us, but on what he has already done for us in Christ. When that fact dawn upon us and we rest back upon it (Romans 6:11), then we have found the secret of holy life. [And, I might add, we have found the secret of every aspect of our Salvation!]