Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Circumcision of the flesh or the heart?

In the last Blog on Hebrew Idioms I identified the specific idiom in:

Jeremiah 4.4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts,  
which means to commit yourelves and commit yourselves fully, and noted that physical circumcision is a physical mark of commitment to the LORD. Therefore, the ‘circumcision’ of other parts of the body is used as an idiom that symbolises commitment to the LORD.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, and explained to them what circumcision really means, in the light of a proper understanding of the Hebrew idiom and, particularly, Jeremiah 4.4.

I have inserted in brackets explanatory additions that show how Paul contrasted 1. the physical mark of circumcision with 2. circumcision of the heart. The failure to understand Paul’s contrast has led to centuries of pain and enmity:

Romans 2:25-29:
For (the physical mark of) circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the Torah; but if you are a breaker of the Torah, your circumcision (physical mark of commitment) has become uncircumcision ….

as the Habakkuk 2.16 described: You are filled with shame instead of glory. …be exposed as uncircumcised! (= with no commitment to the LORD)

Therefore, if a (physically) uncircumcised man (a Gentile) keeps the righteous requirements of the Torah, will not his (physical mark of) uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? (= commitment to the LORD)

And will not the (physically) uncircumcised, if he fulfills the Torah, judge you who, even with your written code and (physical mark of) circumcision, are a transgressor of the Torah?

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision (commitment to the LORD) that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision (commitment to the LORD) is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Following on from his explanation in Romans 2, Paul explains in Romans 4 how Abraham is the father of faith and commitment to the LORD to both Jews and Gentiles who walk as Abraham walked….and as the Apostle John wrote in 1John 2.6: who walk just as Jesus walked.

Again, I have inserted in brackets the explanatory additions:

Romans 4:11-12:
Abraham received the sign of (physical) circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still (physically) uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all those who believe. Although they are (physically) uncircumcised, righteousness might be imputed to them also.
Therefore, Abraham is the father of circumcision (commitment to the LORD) to those who not only are of the (physical) circumcision,(= Jews) but also those who walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still (physically) uncircumcised.(= Gentiles)

Paul highlights and explains the same contrast in his Letters to the Corinthians, the Galatians, and the Colossians.  It seems that the misunderstanding was common to all the new believers!!:

1Corinthians  7:19:
(The physical mark of) circumcision is nothing and (the lack of the physical mark of) uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the Commandments of God (The Torah of commitment to the LORD) is what matters.

Galatians 5:6:
In Christ Jesus neither (the physical mark of) circumcision or (the lack of the physical mark of) uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

Colossians 2:11:
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,

…..because, as the Prophet Jeremiah explained in Jeremiah 4.4:
You have circumcised (= committed) yourselves to the LORD, and taken away the foreskins of your hearts, (= totally and fully committed yourselves to the LORD) 

So…which is more important - the physical mark of circumcision of the flesh, or the spiritual mark of circumcision of the heart?  

The answer is that without circumcision of the heart, the circumcision of the flesh is meaningless!!

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