The Heart's Foreskin

  • By Pastor Boffey
  • on Friday, August 19, 2011
(Jeremiah 4:4) Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. I was recently asked whether JER 4:4 might be demonstrating that the prophet had some insights into the true circumcision of which Paul spoke in ROM 2:28-29: (ROM 2:28) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (ROM 2:29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. In short, the answer to the inquirer's question is, “Yes.” The O.T. does indeed witness the fact that the true circumcision has always been an internal operation: the inward circumcision of the heart that is evidenced by faith-motivated duty and godliness, as witness the examples of Abel, Enoch and Noah (HEB 11:4-7) who preceded Abraham and the circumcision of the foreskin of his penis. DEU 10:16 and DEU 30:6 are also texts which speak of the heart being circumcised, similar to JER 4:4. Scripture speaks also of (un)circumcision of the lips (EXO 6:12, EXO 6:30), and of the ears (JER 6:10; ACT 7:51) as well as the heart. Obviously, these are all figurative uses of the term “circumcision,” spiritual applications of the principle of the fleshly circumcision of the penis, which act was the cutting off or cutting away of that which shrouds that bodily member from which natural life springs. By analogy, the abundant spiritual life (JOH 10:10) which springs from a renewed heart (for belief and duty must be in and from the heart, ACT 8:37; ROM 10:9-10; ROM 6:17 c/w MAT 15:8) may be said to be shrouded by various foreskins that need to be dispensed with. The flesh lusts against the Spirit to hinder us (GAL 5:17). Uncircumcised lips (per EXO 6:12; EXO 6:30) implied a perception of being ill-equipped to speak on God's behalf in Moses' case (EXO 4:10) and we may rightly conclude that prior to conversion we were ill-equipped to witness to others: our understanding and speech were impaired by ignorance and by sin. Jesus said, “...We speak that we do KNOW...” (JOH 3:11), but ignorant witnessing is little more than the blind leading the blind (MAT 15:14). To the wicked, God righteously asks, “...What hast thou to do to declare my statutes...?” (PSA 50:16). David said of his prayed-for forgiveness and restoration after his great sin, “THEN will I teach transgressors thy ways...” (PSA 51:12-13). Converted saints are in essence instructed to circumcise their lips: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth...” (EPH 4:25), mortifying and putting off “...blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth...” (COL 3:5-9). Uncircumcised ears would imply that there is something impeding the hearing of the truth which makes men free (JOH 8:32), the liberty that springs from faith which comes by hearing (ROM 10:17). Scripture speaks of those who “...stopped their ears, that they should not hear” (ZEC 7:11 c/w ACT 7:57). Or it may be a matter of a desire to only hear what satisfies the flesh: “...children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (ISA 30:9-10). Paul warned of those who turn from the truth to fables and so heap to themselves false teachers because they have itching ears (2TI 4:3-4). Or it may be owing to an overwhelming pollution from hearing evil communication (1CO 15:33) and, if so, the ears should be circumcised accordingly: “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge” (PRO 19:27). Following this chain of thought, all spiritual “uncircumcision” derives from an “uncircumcised heart” since sin generates from the heart (MAT 15:18-20). Hence, verses like JER 4:4 or DEU 10:16 are most appropriate, and are another way of telling saints, “...purify your hearts...” (JAM 4:8). In the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the elects' sins were legally “cut off” in fulfillment of the symbol of O.T. circumcision: “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” (COL 2:11). Christ was “circumcised” in the sense that He was, as Isaiah had prophesied, “...CUT OFF out of the land of the living” (ISA 53:8). In being made a curse for us (2CO 5:21; GAL 3:13), He experienced the censure of God in PSA 37:22, “...they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.” Our sins, like a foreskin, were cut off when Christ was cut off. This legal circumcision IN CHRIST is patently a circumcision made without hands inasmuch as no sinner “has a hand” in putting himself IN Christ in this sense. Rather, it is “...of [God] are ye IN Christ Jesus...” (1CO 1:30), according to His elective purpose from before the foundation of the world (EPH 1:3-7; 2TI 1:9). In Christ's death, “...our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed...” (ROM 6:6), and saints have the assurance that their sins have been legally circumcised by Christ's death when they in practice “...reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin....Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body...” (ROM 6:11-12). This the elect can do only because they have had a vital inward spiritual circumcision wrought by God upon their heart (DEU 30:6 c/w EZE 36:26-27; JER 31:33) which enables them to obey God and conquer sin. The sons of Abraham after the flesh had an outward circumcision that was a token of their part in an earthly covenant; the sons of Abraham after the spirit have an inward circumcision as a token of their part in a heavenly covenant. The former had to be able to prove by their natural outward circumcision that they had rights to an earthly altar and temple (EZE 44:7-9); the latter must show by a spiritual inward circumcision that they have rights to a heavenly altar and temple. For Abraham, the circumcision of his flesh was a token, “...a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised...” (ROM 4:11), and faith like Abraham's is the token of an operation of God upon the heart: the inward circumcision which convicts and enables sinners to forsake confidence in the flesh for confidence in Christ: (PHIL 3:3) For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. The token of fleshly circumcision could guarantee a man no more than an earthly altar and temple where the blood of animals never took away sin (HEB 10:4, HEB 10:11); the tokens of faith and mortified members (circumcised heart, ears, lips, etc., per COL 3:5-9) guarantee men and women alike a heavenly altar and temple, the blood of Christ having obtained eternal redemption for them (HEB 9:12).

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