This article on Luke 2:21 looks at the relation of law and gospel, circumcision and baptism, and the name Jesus.

Source: Clarion, 1990. 2 pages.

Luke 2:21 – From Law to Gospel

And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:21

ten commandments

In the formulation of the description concerning the naming of Jesus. His circumcision appears as an incidental event. All emphasis falls on the name that was given to Him and on the divine origin of this name. And the circumcision is described as an attending circumstance surrounding the name-giving.

All this does not mean to state that the circumcision of the Lord Jesus is not important for us. Circumcision was an important sign for every Israelite son, and here the Lord Jesus is Included in the number of the sons of Israel. It served as a sign that He was enrolled among the elect people of God, and that He was set apart for service in the kingdom of God. As baptism is today, circumcision was a sign of being ingrafted into the Church, the family of God.

The shedding of blood in the sign also had a special significance. It showed that the sins of the child were paid for, and that he so enjoyed the forgiveness of sins and the entrance into eternal fellowship with God. For the child it served as a kind of receipt It said to him: it is now as if you have paid in full, and you are now qualified for service in God's kingdom. In the shedding of blood the Israelites were to attach the same significance as they were called to attach to the sacrifices. It pointed to a greater sacrifice that was coming, through which atonement would be given to God for the sins of all His children.

Yet this latter significance could not apply to the Lord Jesus and His circumcision. For He was without sin! Although born out of Adam, He did not share Adam's guilt and corruption. So the sacrament of circumcision has a different significance for the Lord Jesus. He willingly submits to being circumcised. But this does not show His sins are forgiven; rather, it shows that He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us, 2 Corinthians 5, 21. In submitting to circumcision, the Lord Jesus, who remained without sin, fully takes on the likeness of sinful flesh in order to condemn sin in the flesh, Romans 8, 3. For others circumcision was a receipt; for Him it was an account. God says to Him: you must pay this bill in full. The shedding of blood in this case demanded His own blood!

This special significance of Christ's circumcision is brought out in His name-giving, and this is why the name-giving has all the emphasis in this passage. Literally the text says: "When the days were fulfilled for circumcising Him, then He was called Jesus…" This means that with the fulfillment of the law, the gospel comes to light! For the name Jesus means Saviour. And this was a name not given Him by man, but by God Himself, Matthew 1:21.

The accent on the name-giving also makes clear the character of the Son's obedience. The more He submits to the law, the more He is exalted in the word of prophecy. Therefore, the name-giving is also a prophetic and proleptic exaltation. He may now have no honour in human eyes; but God honours Him from heaven! The LORD shows from heaven that the self-offering of the Son is accepted at God's throne!

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For the name Jesus proclaims to us the deliverance from the just requirements of the law. Where we could not pay, God provides a way! He becomes the victim and sin offering which makes full payment for our sins. And He becomes the faithful High Priest who imparts the blessing of His sacrifice to us!

Still today the name Jesus appears as nothing in the eyes of the world and our natural hearts. But we know the results of His circumcision! We know that He fully completed His task and calling on earth, and He was exalted to heaven where He still serves as our Saviour and Highpriest today. We do not yet see His full glory on earth. We do not yet see all things subjected to Him.

But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.Hebrews 2:9

From law to grace! When the law is fulfilled the gospel is ushered in. Just as the just demands of the law are met, our Saviour is revealed! As the law comes to completion, the gospel comes to light! Here the law is the lesser, and the gospel is the greater. There is only one way for us to meet the just requirements of God's law: to cling in faith to Jesus! We are to hold fast to Him as the only true offering for sin, and as the only faithful Highpriest in God's house. And this will also bring forth from us a thank offering of obedience that permeates our whole existence. For all the riches of God come to us in Him. He was circumcised; therefore, we may be baptized. He was circumcised; therefore we may share His body and blood at the Lord's Supper. He was circumcised, and placed under the full bondage of the law, in order that we might be set free from the law and live all our days in joyful thanksgiving to our Creator.

Let our lives be thank offerings in praise of Him!

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