1 January 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:11-22)
The Circumcision of Christ
ALMIGHTY God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today, in accordance with the western calendar, we observe the beginning of a New Year. This is not the beginning of the year as mandated in Holy Scripture, for it begins at the season of Spring the first day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (Ex 12:1-2) (see also Deut 16:1 for Abib which is now Nisan). This month of Nisan was the month of the Passover (14th). It was the ecclesiastical New Year in the Bible. It has been suggested as the month of Christ’s birth and, therefore we celebrate Christmas some nine months later.
We have been recently reading from the Gospel of John and his Epistles about what John calls “in the beginning.” This beginning relates to the Space-Time-Matter continuum that defines our understanding of the created universe. Any day of our lives, however, is a new beginning. If we arbitrarily choose January 1st to be our reference point for a New Year, so be it. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives on earth not unlike every beginning day.
Christ was in the beginning of the Creation of God, but He was also the Creation itself. Today we observe in the Gospel text the Circumcision of Christ. This will formalize His legal reception into the Household of Israel, and the putting off of sin. Just as our Lord needed not to be baptized into newness of life (for He had eternal life in Him), He neither needs the circumcision in the flesh for He was without sin; but Christ will acknowledge and endure every stipulation of the law as an example and enlightenment to us. His Creation of the world (John 1:1-3) was a new beginning. His circumcision represents a new beginning, and His baptism also reflects a new beginning. In reality, His baptism replaces the circumcision for us. Our true life in eternity began at our baptism at which we publicly proclaim, or have it proclaimed for us, our newness of life in Christ.
We now turn to today’s Epistle from Ephesians to get an understanding of what the new circumcision means in our own lives and in Christ. In this epistle to the people of faith of Ephesus, Paul refers to them as ‘saints.’ This is consistent with the fact that none of us can merit our salvation through our good works, but only by the unmerited grace of God. After coming to Christ, we are washed clean of our sins and are considered, on the merits of Christ, to be saints – not in the sense that we are to be venerated as in the case of Rome – but considered righteous in the eyes of God based on the Redemption made available in Christ.
How are we identified today as the people of God? We were once considered people of the Uncircumcision – the unwashed, the unbaptized, and the unholy. We were strangers to God because He was unknown to us. How has that status changed in Christ? “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” We were Gentiles in the past years because we were aliens to the commonwealth of Israel. We were strangers to God and not entitled to the covenants and promises made available to the people of God (Israel). Being forlorn and without hope, our lives were impoverished by ignorance, darkness, violence, and shame. Being without God in the world is tantamount to being without God in eternity. How sad was our state!
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Thank God for this ‘BUT!’ The ‘buts’ in scripture signify a reversal. “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.” (2 Kings 5:1) Naaman was a fairly nice, well-to-do gentleman BUT he had a problem. He had a deadly, odorous, humilitating disease. Notice the contrary side of the coin in Christ. We were a destitute, diseased and dying people. We had the deadly, odorous and humiliating disease of sin, BUT Christ has made us whole! We are no longer aliens and foreigners to the commonwealth of Israel, but are now brought nigh by the blood of Christ! We have become naturalized citizens of the Household of God through the process of adoption of sons and daughters. Those adopted into God’s family enjoy every privilege of the natural children and, in most cases, far greater, for He has called us the true children of Isaac by way of God’s promise. Those who were considered the Household of Israel by accident of birth and genealogy, and who rejected the Lord, are no longer the children of promise. They yet have the privilege of returning to God by the reception of His only Begotten Son as their Lord and Savior. This promise in Isaac is open alike to all peoples.
“For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” In the Temple was a stone wall that separated the court of the Gentiles from the Holy Place. It was certain death to cross that wall. The real wall that separated us from God was the wall of sin. Sin separates us from God and from those, even, that we love. Christ is not our peacemaker, but peace itself to us. He has not become our means of observance of the Passover, but the Passover itself to us. He has not become our means of Rest (Sabbath) but our Sabbath itself (for in Him we have rest from our labors if it is He who works in us). For now there is no dividing line between Jew or Gentile, male or female, bond or free – for all are One in Christ Jesus.
“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” Christ has not annulled any Commandments of God but those ordinances in the commandments of men that enforced a division between the worldly Israel and the worldly Gentiles, making them One in Christ if they be His in Spirit and in Truth. Christ fulfilled the Laws of God and made them even more binding in love. The spiritual pride that would divide across stone walls has been demolished by Christ to those who receive Him. The stone tablets upon which the commandments of God were written have been abolished – but not the Commandments themselves. They are, rather, now written on the soft sinews of our hearts. The popular notion that the Commandments of God were” nailed to the cross” is a seditious lie! It is still a grievous sin to commit murder, adultery, bear false witness, to covet, to steal, or to have other gods before God. How ridiculous to have it preached that these Commandments are no longer binding. How can the believing Jews and Gentiles be ONE new man? It is because all believers are One in Christ Jesus. It was the ordinances of the commandments that were nailed to the cross.
“And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” There is no chosen people apart from those whom God has chosen and who have chosen God in Christ! No matter the depravity and sins of a people, God would have us carry the Gospel message to all alike. We may consider, as did Jonah, a people to be too far from God for hope of redemption, but we are quenching the efficacious influence of the Holy Ghost to draw His people from every condition of life. We would surely have judged the old Paul (Saul) to be without hope of salvation until his experience of the Damascus Road. We plant the seed and allow the Holy Ghost to work its miracles under the dark soil of the earth. God’s Word is a life-bearing seed that can break through stone.
“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” The Holy Trinity is not divided against Itself, but is One in purpose, will and action. If we are in Christ (the Son), we have access to the throne of Grace of the Father by one Holy Ghost. …and all three are ONE! And so are we One with God the father and God the Holy Ghost if we are One with Christ!
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” We have an increasing number of illegal aliens in our midst in America today. These are not citizens because they have come to our shores through ways other than the right way. We have many in our churches today who are illegal residents in Israel. They have come for the wrong reasons and by the wrong means. The only access to the kingdom is through Christ. He is our sponsor and our means of adoption. If we have come in any way other than through Christ, we shall not enjoy the privileges of the promise!
“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” The prophets of the Old Testament, and the Apostles of the New, are the foundation of our faith. We are an apostolic church in that we adhere to the doctrinal apostolic succession of the Church. That is our foundation, and the chief corner stone, like that represented above the Great Pyramid at Giza on our one-dollar bill, from which all authority descends and is maintained together in unity, is Jesus Christ!
“In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” The Temple is Christ – the same Temple which He told the Jews that if they destroyed, He would rebuild in three days (which He did at His resurrection). He is both the Temple and the Chief Corner Stone of the Temple. If we are in Christ, each of us is a stone in that Temple. All of His precious stones added together constitute the Temple of His Body. Some of us are quite irregular in shape, and some are round, square, or jagged; but God has a precise place in the Temple for our peculiar shapes and forms. All joined together, we constitute the One Temple with Christ as our Head. Constructed together in Christ, we shall be a fitting abode for God to abide with us through His Spirit.
There is a beautiful old Gospel song written by Wm. O. Cushing and George Root, and sung most commonly by Burl Ives, entitled ‘Jewels:’
When He cometh, When He commeth,
to take up His jewels
All His jewels, precious jewels…
His loved and His own
Like the stars of the morning
His bright crown adorning
They will shine in their beauty
Bright gems for His crown
He will gather, He will gather,
the gems for His kingdom
All the pure ones, all the bright ones
His loved and His own
Little children who love,
their Redeemer and Savior,
All the jewels, precious jewels
His loved and His own…
Bright gems for his crown
This song seems to be based, for its inspiration on the following verses: “And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Mal 3:17)
“And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt 24:31)
“And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land.” (Zech 9:16)
How comforting it is to know that even stones are precious to God and such blessed stones as we are!