Someone asked me about whether we are required to circumcise our children today since God’s covenant with Abraham still applies to us today. The following is my response.
All the Old Testament covenants still apply to us in Christ. The key to understanding how they apply to us is the phrase, “IN CHRIST”. The coming of Christ has eliminated the ceremonial parts of the covenants while leaving the spiritual points in force. For instance, the principle that we need a substitutionary sacrifice to save us from our sin still applies today, but now we don’t have to do animal sacrifices since Christ provided himself as the supreme sacrifice to take sin away forever.
In the Abrahamic covenant, the principle that the covenant sign of justification by faith is to be given to the believer and his or her children still applies to us today. See Acts 2:38-39 where the gospel promises are said to for you AND your children which is reflected in the household baptisms in Acts. But Christ changed the ceremonial sign from circumcision to baptism. Christ revealed this through the Apostle Paul in Acts 15 and Galatians 5 where he insists that Christians do not have to be circumcised.
Therefore, the ceremony of circumcision is not required of Christians or their children, but we believe that the giving of the sign of the covenant to believers and their children is still in force. That sign is now baptism. (See Colossians 2:8-9 where Paul equates circumcision and baptism.) Of course, Christian parents may choose to have their sons circumcised for medical or cultural reasons, but this is completely a matter of Christian liberty.
My good reformed baptist brothers say that the above principle (sign of faith given to children of believers) also passed away with the coming of Christ and thus does not apply to us today. But why did God not make this clear like he did when he did away with the animal sacrifices (Hebrews) circumcision (Galatians) the food laws (Acts) ? If God wanted to do away with this principle, he would have said so. Since he didn’t, we should continue to follow the example of Abraham who gave the sign of faith to his chiildren, since he is put forward to us as the supreme example of how to be saved (Rom 4).
One should note that the OT sign of justification by faith (circumcision) was given to Gentiles who converted to the biblical faith just like baptism is in the NT. There were conversions of the nations to the church in the OT. When they believed and were saved, they received the sign–same as today.The worldwide mission of the church that was only foreshadowed in the OT through those conversions, has now become the glory of the NT church. Now the flood gate of salvation has been open wide to the nations. But the principle about the application of the sign of the covenant is the same in the OT and the NT. Any one outside the community of faith who believes must receive the sign and so should their children.