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"Branded for Christ"
By Harold Stoddard

"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:"
Abram was 75 years old when God made this four-fold promise to him... to make of him a great nation, to bless him, to make his name great and to make him a blessing.

The story of Abram's life and family and his travels certainly reveals that, even though he was not always faithful, yet God was with him all along the way.

In chapter 15 of Genesis, God makes a covenant with Abram to give to his seed a vast area of land -- from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River. When Abram was 99 years old, God repeated this covenant, this time calling it the Land of Canaan -- the same area as before -- as an everlasting possession and renewed His promise that he, Abram, would be the father of many nations. See Genesis 17:4 and Acts 7:8. Then God changed his name to Abraham and by this name he is known from that time forth until today.

At this time, God gave Abraham a mark -- circumcision, to identify Abraham and his seed as a special nation designed to carry forth the message of the Kingdom of God throughout the world. (Genesis 17:10,11).
The mark of circumcision would qualify the Jews to enter the Promised Land as descendants of Abraham, through Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve sons of Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel.
It must be noted that the strangers who dwelt among the Jews would also carry this mark, and be qualified to enter the covenant, for while the Jews even today are God's special people and the apple of His eye (Zachariah 2:8), God never leaves out anyone. His Grace and His Mercy reaches out to all who will believe on His Name. There is no respect of persons with God.

Jacob and his twelve sons continued to develop as a nation. Sent to Egypt, they became great in number; and were led out into the wilderness of Sinai by Moses, across the Red Sea by a great miracle -- where, because of their unbelief, they remained for 40 years until all those who would not believe had died. When they finally came over into the Promised Land all the men who had been born in the wilderness were required to be circumcised (Joshua 5:2-7) -- thus identifying them as descendants of Abraham, to be that great nation, specially blessed by God, to carry forth His message to the world.

However, as the generations came and went, the religious leaders began to revise God's Word according to their desires for more power over the people, more money in their religious coffers, and to appeal more to the old Adamic nature that man was, and is, born with. Making the commands of God of none effect by their revisions of His Word, they tried to appeal more to the times in which they lived, until finally, when --in due time-- the Messiah came according to God's Word, they rebelled against Him -- as Jesus said in Matthew 15:8,9, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Please read Matthew 15:1-9 as well as Mark 7:9-13. The unbelief of the nation broke forth again and they crucified their King, Jesus. This resulted in the nation being set aside again as in the wilderness, and this time the blessings came to the Gentiles.

However, in the ages to come, Israel will become the nation God wants them to be -- they will claim the Promised Land, and 144 thousand Jewish evangelists will go forth from Jerusalem to carry the message of the Kingdom of God to the whole world. (Revelation 7:4).

God's promises are sure, whether to Abraham so many years ago, or to us, or to the sinners who will call upon the Name of the Lord -- they will surely be saved. Romans 10:13 -- "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

CIRCUMCISION OF THE SPIRIT

"And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:" (Colossians 2:11).
The Messiah -- Jesus Christ, had been rejected by Israel--the Circumcision, and had been crucified;--dead, buried and raised from the grave (I Corinthians 15:3,4). Still there were those Jews who clung to the covenant as essential to please God and insisted that anyone who did not have the mark of circumcision could not be saved. "And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." (Acts 15:1).
These folks Paul called "the concision" in Phillipians 3:2, and he continues on speaking of the circumcision of the Spirit in the next verse. (Phillipians 3:3).
By this Spiritual Circumcision, the Spirit of God cuts the soul loose from its bondage to the Old Nature of Adam, with which we ALL are born, and then that person, being no longer a bondslave to the Old Nature, is set free from that bondage and is free to serve the living and true God. (John 8:32). That person is then "marked" -- or "branded" for Christ -- born again into the family of God and transformed by the Spiritual Circumcision, to live a new life in Christ.

As the old religious leaders revised the Word of God to serve their own selfish purpose, so today men are revising the Word of God (the Bible) to gain fame and fortune. Satan continues even today with his origional attack as in the day when he changed (revised) the Word to deceive Adam and Eve -- changing the Word just a little at a time to deceive and to conquer.
In Genesis 2:17, God said, "...thou shalt surely die" and Satan said to Eve in Genesis 3:4 "...ye shall NOT surely die". The changing of the Word was so effective that when the Messiah came, the people were led to shout, "Crucify Him!...we have no King but Caesar" (John 19:15).
So goes the downward trend of man's religion today as fiction takes the place of fact and error replaces truth. It is man's tradition rather than the "Thus saith the Lord" of the Bible. However, such is the faithfulness and Grace of Almighty God that there are still those in every nation who receive the Truth and turn to Jesus Christ in childlike faith to serve the living and true God, born of the Spirit and cut loose by that Spirit from the bondage that has controlled them for so long, eternally "marked" for Jesus Christ by the circumcision of the Spirit.

There will be no mistakes when Jesus comes, for all who are His are truly branded with His mark and will hear when He calls as in Revelation 4:1 "...Come up hither..."

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

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