CIRCUMCISION IS THAT OF THE HEART
By John C. Carpenter
 
While in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote to Jewish (Rom 2:17) and Gentile (Rom 1:13) Christians in Rome (Rom 1:7). Specifically addressing the Jewish believers in Christ, Paul wrote, Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest [relies] in [keeping] the law [to attain righteousness and salvation], and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the [keeping the Jewish] law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth [only], if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly [physically, in the flesh]; neither is that [spiritual, Godly] circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter [written law]; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Rom 2:17-29). In verse 29, the word "circumcision" is the Greek word "peritome," which means "circumcision involving the rite, the condition, or the people." Peritome is from the Greek word "peritemno," which means "to cut around." Physical circumcision is the cutting away of the foreskin, or flesh, of the male organ. In the Old Covenant, God the Father chose physical circumcision as a sign of those who had entered into a covenant relationship with Him. In the New Covenant, God the Father chose a radically different form of circumcision to reflect those who have entered into a covenant relationship with Him.
 
EVERY MAN CHILD AMONG YOU SHALL BE CIRCUMCISED
 
Scripturally, circumcision was first mentioned in reference to the covenant of multiplication God made with Abram. God told Abram [whose name God later changed to Abraham], I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply [increase] thee exceedingly (Gen 17:1-2). God added, This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token [mark, sign] of the covenant betwixt me and you (Gen 17:10-11). Paul, writing in the New Covenant, likewise described physical circumcision as a sign or seal [signet, stamp of genuineness] of the righteousness of the faith [in God] (Rom 4:11). In the Old Covenant, physical circumcision in itself was not a means to sanctification, holiness, or eternal life, but simply a physical token, or indication, of the special covenant relationship between God and Israel [the Jews].
 
THE WRATH OF GOD IS REVEALED FROM HEAVEN
 
Early in his letter, Paul apparently addressed Christians who were sinning. The apostle sternly warned them about the dangers of sin. He wrote, for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold [have, possess] the truth [that Jesus Christ is the Son of God] in [while committing] unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things (Rom 1:18-23). Paul not only knew that these believers were sinning, but that their sin would have consequences. Addressing God's judgment of sin, Paul added,Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds" (Rom 2:1-6). In explaining that God's judgment of sin would occur equally with Jew and Gentile, Paul wrote, "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God (Rom 2:7-11).
 
CIRCUMCISION VERILY PROFITETH IF THOU KEEP THE LAW
 
The "Jew" was synonymous with the individual who had a covenant relationship with God. Circumcision became the symbolic sign and seal of that relationship, and of the sanctification and righteousness resulting from this covenant relationship with God. Paul was angry with Jewish believers in Rome because, while they were emphasizing physical circumcision as reflecting their sanctification to God, they were also sinning. They were not only judging others regarding their sins, but were themselves committing the same sins (Rom 2:1). In attempting to contrast the claimed "circumcision" of the Jewish believers with their sins, Paul explained that the Jew had not only relied upon keeping the Jewish law for salvation (Rom 2:17), but boasted of his relationship with God the Father (Rom 2:17). Because they were instructed in the law, the Jews claimed to know God's will, as well as believed they knew what was best for themselves, and others (Rom 2:18). Paul further explained that the Jews mistakenly believed they were a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, who appeared on the surface to have a knowledge of the law and the truths contained therein, but who in reality did not (Rom 2:19-20). Paul further explained how those who consider circumcision symbolic of sanctification and righteousness dishonor and blaspheme God when they sin. Paul wrote, Thou that makest thy boast of [keeping] the [Jewish] law, through breaking the law [sinning] dishonourest [bring shame to] thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed [spoken evil of] among the Gentiles through[because of] you [and your sin], as it is written. For circumcision [as symbolic of sanctification and righteousness] verily profiteth [is useful, beneficial; i.e., meaningful], if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law [by sinning], thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? (Rom 2:23-27).
 
HE IS A JEW, WHICH IS ONE INWARDLY
 
The apostle Paul radically changed forever the definition of the "Jew," or the individual in covenant relationship with God. He identified several characteristics of the New Covenant "Jew." Paul explained, For he is not a Jew [one in covenant relationship with God], which is one outwardly [to be seen and praised by men for keeping the law]; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the [physical] flesh: But he is a Jew [a true believer who is in a true covenant relationship with God the Father], which is one inwardly; and circumcision [true sanctification] is thatof the heart, in [by and in response to the workings of] the [Holy] spirit, and not in [keeping] the letter [the written law]; whosepraise is not of men, but of God (Rom 2:28-29). Circumcision in the New Covenant believer is internal in nature, is not performed to be seen by men, as physical circumcision (Rom 2:28), nor does it involve physical alteration of any outward body parts (Rom 2:28). As Scriptures explain, the believer in Christ is circumcised "inwardly," and "of the heart" (Rom 2:29), and this circumcision is spiritual rather than physical. God looketh on the heart (1 Sam 16:7), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb 4:12). Referring to the heart of unbelievers, Christ said, For this people's heart is waxed gross [callous, unfeeling], and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and shouldunderstand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal [restore] them [to a relationship with my Father] (Mat 13:15). Referring to the seed of the gospel, Christ elsewhere explained, When any one heareth the word [gospel word about Jesus Christ] of[resulting in] the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. (Mat 13:19). Christ referred to circumcision of the heart when he said, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me (Mat 15:8). Regarding the adornment of wives, the apostle Peter taught, But let it be [in] the hidden [inner] man of [involving] the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (1 Pet 3:4). As taught by the apostle Paul, inward circumcision of the heart has three characteristics: it is accomplished by following the leading of the Holy Spirit, it does not involve keeping the Jewish law to attain righteousness, and it results in the praises of God, rather than men.
 
First, New Covenant circumcision is evidenced in those who are responsive to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul explained, There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons [and daughters] of God" (Rom 8:1-14). Paul explained this same concept to those in Galatia by writing, "...Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law (Gal 5:16-18). While speaking of the forthcoming ministry of the prophet John the Baptist, Luke referred to one aspect of heart circumcision. Luke wrote, And he [John the Baptist] shall go before him [Christ] in the [with the same Holy] spirit and [explosive] power of Elias [that Elias had], to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:17). Paul again referred to New Covenant heart circumcision when he wrote, Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts (2 Cor 1:21-22).
 
Second, New Covenant heart circumcision is not accomplished by keeping the Jewish law. We are clearly taught, Therefore by the deeds of [works of attempting to keep] the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20). Paul added, But now the righteousness of God without[not requiring the works of] the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even [specifically] the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference [between Jew and Gentile]: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God (Rom 3:21-25). Paul also wrote, Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of [having to keep] the letter [of the written law in the pursuit of righteousness]" (Rom 7:1-6). Paul later made it pointedly clear that, "For [faith in] Christ is [brings] the end of [having to keep] the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom 10:4).
 
Third, inward, spiritual heart circumcision brings the praise of God. Paul clearly explained that God the Father is pleased with our having a circumcised heart of faith in Christ. Paul summarized the results of God being pleased with us when he wrote, ...we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:28-39). When God is pleased with us, He makes it clear to us that we were foreknown by Him, predestined to be like His Son, called to be saints, justified by the death of Christ, shall be glorified as joint-heirs with Christ, and that nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
 
THE CIRCUMCISION MADE WITHOUT HANDS
 
Scriptures give us a clear picture of the New Covenant circumcised Jew [believer] who is truly in covenant relationship with God the Father. Paul wrote to the believers of Colossae, ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised withthe circumcision made without [human] hands, in putting off [divesting fully] the body [the whole; i.e., all] of the sins of the flesh by[because of] the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col 2:10-13). As with physical circumcision, spiritual, heart, circumcision likewise involves crucifixion [cutting off] of the flesh. Paul understood New Covenant circumcision when he wrote those in Galatia,Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are [circumcised as] Christ's have crucified [subdue passion or selfishness involving] the flesh [carnality] with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:19-25). Paul explained the requirements of heart circumcision when he wrote, What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Rom 6:1-2). He later added, What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed [responded to] from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Rom 6:15-18). In the Old Covenant, God referred to heart circumcision when He said, A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them (Ezek 36:26-27). God referred to heart circumcision in the New Covenant when He said, Forasmuch as ye [Corinthian believers in Christ] are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written [accomplished] not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart (2 Cor 3:3). The circumcision that God praises is a circumcision not seen by men, is internal rather than external, and is of the spiritual heart rather than in the physical flesh. It is accomplished not by keeping the Jewish law, but by the leading of the Holy Spirit, is evidenced by those who have crucified the sins of the flesh, and always results in the praises of God, rather than men. Paul wrote those in Philippi, For we [Christians] are the circumcision [those in a covenant relationship with God], which [who] worship God in the [through the leading of the Holy] spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3). This is the circumcision that is "of the heart" and that is "made without hands."  AMEN.
 
 
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
 
"Verily I say
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