REAL CIRCUMCISION: HEARTS SEWN UP IN BLUE
I wrote this article in two parts eleven years ago. It remains as relevant as ever and likely more so. The issue of heart circumcision is not a mere suggestion. It is a commandment.
It is said that the greatest pain known to humanity is childbirth. Or breaking a femur. Yet, I must say for all the males among us that circumcision must rank right up there, though the majority of us partook of the round cut as tiny tots and blessedly have no memory of the event. Based on this, a spiritual circumcision of the heart can’t be a walk in the park either or the apostle Paul would not have used such a descriptive illustration.
Though there are many good things associated with physical circumcision, especially in the realm of health, God used it to distinguish the ancient Hebrews from heathen nations. It was a mark in flesh denoting the particular people of God. It signified the later New Covenant circumcision of the heart, in that all seed proceeding from a cleansed heart is pure and holy, and takes place by the Spirit of God. It was a viable part of the Mosaic code and no man who would keep the Law was exempt. Becoming a real covenant man of God thus required serious commitment.
God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” [Genesis 17:9-14]
Is there any doubt that Abraham wondered if he heard right? “Uh, you want me to do WHAT?” Here was a serious test. Though there were several reasons for God’s command in this area, the greatest was obedience. The next was the understanding that covenant with God would cost, would separate, would distinguish, and would weed out all pretenders. There is no way His people could adopt this practice without a full heart commitment.
As opposed to most of our current sappy and wrongheaded Christianity, this was serious business. Yet, even circumcision became a mere rite over time. Like so many Christian things we presently do, many have become mere rituals with no heart involvement. It got so bad that the Lord had to make the following statements in the days of Moses:
“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” [Deuteronomy 10:16]
“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.” [Deuteronomy 30:6]
Though the Lord established an outward sign in the flesh, He kept trying to make the point that it was meant to also be a sign of an inward change of one’s heart. In a passage that echoes of the future Parable of the Sower, Jeremiah touched on this very topic in his time, speaking to a very wayward Israel:
“For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or else My wrath will go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.’” [Jeremiah 4:3-4]
The keeping of external regulations is worthless if the heart remains unregenerate. Unreal Christians with uncircumcised hearts have mastered the process of acting out their chosen religious forms while turning a deaf ear to God. They violate and rip to shreds the commandment against idolatry. They create a God to suit themselves. With very stiff necks, they obey a false depiction of God and refuse to bend their knee, honor the Name, and give their hearts to the real Lord Jesus.
For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. [Romans 2:25-29]
In writing such things, it is no wonder that Paul was a hunted man. The unbelieving Jews hated him for seemingly making of little consequence the distinguishing mark of ancient Jewish belief. Yet the truth of a circumcised heart was obviously revealed by God and it relates just as directly to all unbelieving Christians who make their religious service or quasi-Christian beliefs their saving grace. Paul was, of course, a Jew in very good standing. He saw the issue from both sides, first as an unbeliever and later as a disciple of the Lord. The believing Jews, who comprised the great bulk of early disciples, understood what he was saying, as did believing Gentiles, and applied the truth accordingly. They saw that one’s heart must change for the better and a person must become a new creation.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. [Colossians 2:8-12]
In spiritual New Covenant terms, physical circumcision is a non-issue:
Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. [1 Corinthians 7:19]
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. [Galatians 5:6]
For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. [Galatians 6:15]
It is the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God that really matters. It brings forth:
(1) The Keeping of the Commandments of God
(2) Faith Working Through Love
(3) A New Creation
From the Jewish perspective, that which Paul was stating was akin to blasphemy. To say that circumcision meant nothing violated the very covenant that God made with Abraham and the entire nation of Israel! Something had changed. For the unbelieving Jews, it was that the original covenant had been violated anyway, since it had become a mere ritual. For the believing Jews, they understood it was about the heart.
We are warned, therefore, to watch out for the counterfeit. There are many people preaching and believing false gospels. Paul was not the least bit shy, through speaking and writing by the anointing of God, in attacking the enemies of the Lord and those who persisted in bringing forth false teachings. Many in his day claimed to be the real thing. Many others stood up for truth and for the correct teachings of the Lord, regardless of the cost. False believers of today are no different from those of yesteryear.
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh… [Philippians 3:2-3]
The Lord has made a way to not only perform very necessary surgery on unregenerate hearts, but also established a method of remembrance upon them in keeping with an Old Testament type as put forth in the following passage:
The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. I am the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the LORD your God.” [Numbers 15:37-41]
In Hebrew, these corner tassels sewn into the garments of the sons of Israel are termed tzitzit. God instructed His people to wear these as ongoing means of remembrance of their Great and Mighty Lord and all His commandments. On these tassels, God commanded there be a cord, or thread, of blue. However, the exact knowledge of this color was eventually lost after the destruction of Israel in 70 A.D. It might have been more of a bluish-purple color. The point is that real Christians have the Word of God within their newly circumcised (or born again) hearts.
(For New Testament reference, it was one of these tassels, or “the hem of his garment,” that was touched by the woman with the issue of blood at the exact moment she was instantly healed.)
Regardless of suffering and persecution, real Christians serve the Lord Jesus because they love Him. They give their lives as a burnt offering, are washed in His Name in water baptism, are raised to new life, and submit completely to a holy God.
And their new circumcised hearts are sewn up with a thread of blue.
© 2011 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Posted on July 8, 2022, in Teaching and tagged Abraham, Blue Thread, Brit Milah, Christianity, Circumcision, Circumcision of the Heart, Heart, Lord Jesus, New Covenant, Real Christianity The Nature of the Church, Spiritual Circumcision, Uncircumcision. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.
We must allow God to mold, shape and yes even carve our hearts…so that they conform to His.
Amen. Thank you Barb. Blessings to you this day
Interesting thoughts here, RJ, and something I’ll be writing about at some point. Sprinkling babies has come to be thought of, by some, as the New Testament version of circumcision. I don’t know how that applies to girls, but it’s kind of an interesting perspective.
And of course, an incorrect perspective.
Paul appears to connect circumcision with baptism in Colossians 2:12. There is a connection in the sense that circumcision was a prominent sign among the Hebrews/Israelites illustrating separation from the world and dedication to God, though Paul explained it had become spiritually meaningless. Water baptism (full immersion) in the Name of Jesus clearly marked the early believers as distinct and separated from the world as it showed allegiance to their King and “an appeal to God for (from) a good conscience” (1Peter 3:21). It was an outward sign to the Community and the world of an inward transformed condition of heart. Sadly, baptism among many Christians has since become a mere rite with little transformative meaning.
The circumcision of the heart applies to both genders, of course:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. [Galatians 3:28-29]
Thanks Linda. Blessings
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thank you RJ!
“Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind in Christ” Romans 12:2
“Learn Christ, taught in Him, as the Truth is in Jesus. Put off your old nature that belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the SPIRIT of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in TRUE righteousness and holiness” Ephesians 4:20-24
Yes. You’re welcome Yvonne. Thank you. The Lord’s teachings are clear that every single individual who would become His follower must go through His ordained process to be completely transformed in heart and mind and become a new creation.
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. [2Corinthians 5;16-17]
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yes and a hearty amen; hallelujah for the Words of God our Father and his Christ!