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About Doctrines

Circumcision of the Heart



Samuel the prophet was directed to find a king to replace Saul as ruler of the nation of Israel. As Samuel lined up the sons of Jesse, the prophet was struck by the appearance of Jesse's older sons. Indeed, Saul, the original king of Israel appointed by Samuel, is described by his physical characteristics (1 Sam 9:2).

But, God does not judge by our outward appearances. God makes this clear to Samuel.

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." NKJV

In Scripture, the heart is the center of man's being.

In fact, God promises to give man a new heart, a heart truly turned over to God.

Ezek 36:26
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. NKJV

The idea of God searching the heart is summed up in Jeremiah as well. Through the prophet, God reports that "the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings" (Jer 17:10 NKJV).

It is not the outside physical characteristics of mankind that determine God's course of action. It is the inner being that God investigates and weighs. If one's heart is "circumcised," then one has accepted God as His Lord, Master, and Savior. This is the true sign of righteousness.

The outward signs, circumcision, professions of faith, church attendance, charitable acts, all are for naught unless one has allowed God to change the inner being. This inner circumcision is the work of the Spirit of God. It is not the following of a set of rules or rituals. It is not circumcision nor the keeping of the Ten Commandments. It is not the owning of a Bible. True circumcision is a reformation of one's heart as an act of the Holy Spirit by the power of God. This act occurs when one accepts Christ by faith as Lord and Savior.

The idea of the heart being circumcised, rather than the flesh, is clearly expressed in the Old Testament. The Jewish population should well have understood Paul's teachings on the need to cleanse their heart rather than take pride in the cutting of their flesh. To quote just a few verses that demonstrate this knowledge, consider the following (all of these verses are taken from the NIV):

Deuteronomy 10:16
Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.

Deuteronomy 30:6
The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Jeremiah 4:4
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done— burn with no one to quench it.

Leviticus 26:41
which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin

Ezekiel 11:19-20
19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 36:26-27
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

For a theological discussion of the heart, go here.

 

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