CIRCUMCISION TAKES PLACE IN THE HEART
In the book of Genesis in the Bible, at the time that God made His covenant with Abraham that He would give the Israelites the promised land, the promise was for Abraham and his seed. As a sign of that covenant, the Lord had instructed Abraham, for each male to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. “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 of the covenant betwixt me and you” (Genesis 17:10 &11 KJV).
But Paul later explains, that this same covenant is available also to the Gentiles, who, being accepted as ingrafted branches by faith, are also part of Abraham’s seed; the sign of their circumcision being that which takes place in the heart.
When speaking of the Gentiles being ingrafted branches into that same vine, Who is Christ, the Apostle Paul says: “For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh (here he is speaking of his fellow Jews) and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit (Who is Jesus Christ - also a Jew) is holy, the lump (those who choose to receive Him) is also holy; and if the root (Again, speaking of Jesus Christ) is holy, so are the branches (All those who choose to believe). And if some of the branches were broken off, and you (the Gentile believers in Christ), being a wild olive tree were grafted in among them, and with them (the Jewish believers in Christ) became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root (Who is Christ), but the root (Christ Jesus) supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear” (Romans 11:13-20).
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3: 26-29).
A SIGN OF WHAT WAS TO COME
Paul explains that Abraham’s circumcision (that which was performed in his flesh) again, like the first tabernacle, was a sign, or a representation of what was to come, having been performed after the righteousness that was credited to him by faith. All this, so that both Jews and Gentiles alike might also have that same righteousness (in Christ Jesus) credited to them by faith, not of the outward circumcision or by their own works, but by the inward circumcision of their hearts; all acceptance being obtained only through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.
“Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised (outwardly in the flesh), in order that righteousness might be credited to them” (By faith in Jesus Christ) (Romans 4: 9-11 NIV).
Though Paul, like Christ, was a Jew, he was sent by God to speak to the Gentiles and he was ever careful to keep reminding them of the POWER of the workings of the Gospel on their behalf in each one of their lives; warning them again and again, not to live by the letter of the law but to persevere in the freedom they had found through the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Regardless of whether we are Jew or Gentile, Paul warns all believers in Christ again and again, as a safeguard, to remain free from the letter of the law (which leads to death) and to remain purposeful about the pursuit of staying in the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ.
“Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh (those who were demanding that the Gentiles should live by the law and be outwardly circumcised). For it is we who are the circumcision (by faith in Christ), we who serve God by His Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:1-3 NIV).
Paul reminds us all again, as believers in Christ to remember, that the circumcision that matters is not the works of the flesh or the outward appearance, but the circumcision that takes place in the heart. Both Moses and the Apostle Paul said; “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16) “And circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person's praise is not from other people, but from God” (Romans 2:29 NIV).
WE ARE NOT TO CALL UNCLEAN WHAT CHRIST HAS MADE CLEAN
The book of Acts in the New Testament of the Bible tells the true story of a centurion named Cornelius. Cornelius was a devout man who loved the Lord. One day, an angel of God was sent to him, saying, “Cornelius! ………. Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner; whose house is by the sea” (Acts 10:3-6 NIV).
“About noon the following day as they (speaking of the men Cornelius had sent) were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter (the Apostle) went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat’” (Acts 10: 9-13 NIV). According to Jewish law, certain foods at that time were considered unclean. And yet, here was God telling Peter to ‘Rise, kill and eat.’ “’Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times (being a sign of confirmation), and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven” (Acts 10: 14-16 NIV).
Whilst Peter was still wondering about this vision he had seen, behold, the men sent by Cornelius were standing at the gate asking whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. The Holy Spirit said to Peter, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them” (Acts 10:19&20 NIV).
These same men then explained to Peter, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say” (Acts 10:22 NIV). After having the men lodge the night, the next day, Peter and some men from Joppa went with the men to Caesarea to see Cornelius, together with his relatives and close friends. Having now understood by revelation the purpose of his vision, Peter then said to them, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection” (Acts 10:28 & 29 NIV).
THE GENTILES RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT
When Cornelius explained to Peter what the angel had instructed him to do, Peter continued to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34 & 35 NIV).
Peter then began to witness about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, ‘Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days” (Acts 10:44 – 48 NIV).
On hearing that the Gentiles had also come to believe in Christ, having already received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, there were some who began wrongly teaching that they should also be outwardly circumcised, saying, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1). In this way, these same men began wrongly adding extra conditions, borne out of their own flesh that the Lord had not said, concerning His free gift of Salvation in Christ! For this reason, the Apostles and the elders began to seek the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit, as to how to accurately teach all men how to live according to Christ’s commands. For Jesus had said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). When the Apostles and the elders and the whole church had come into agreement, having judged the matter according to the word of the Lord (see Acts 15:16&17), they sent men with Paul and Barnabas to say to the Gentiles,
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell” (Acts 15:28 & 29).
And they laid no further burden upon them!
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR
In the book of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about the signs of His second coming and His near return, saying, “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.’ Then He said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.’ Then He spoke to them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away’” (Luke 21: 8-33).
Therefore, knowing that the time of the second coming of Christ draws ever nearer, and being thoughtful of these things, what should our response be? Whose example are we called to follow? Jesus Christ, after John the Baptist had been put into prison, came to Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Again, when Jesus sent the twelve Apostles out, He began by commanding them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10: 5-8).
What then, should our response be? Whose example are we called to follow? We are to follow that of Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ calls ALL MEN at ALL times to follow HIM, to follow HIS example. Jesus said (To Simon Peter and Andrew), “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). “He (speaking of Jesus) saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me’” (Matthew 9:9).
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’” (Matthew 16:24).
“Jesus said to him (speaking of the rich man), ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’” (Matthew 19:21).
“He (Again, speaking of Jesus) said to them (His disciples), ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them’” (John 13:12-17).
The Apostle Paul himself was an imitator of Christ saying, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Again, speaking of Himself Paul said, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the Gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). The Apostle Paul was stating his claim as an apostle of Christ, called by the living God to be wholly separated to the Gospel of Christ. Paul’s whole mission in life was not to please Himself, but to be a messenger, a sent out one for the purpose of spreading the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whilst saying, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
WE ARE CALLED TO HOLINESS OF LIVING
The Lord uses the foolish things to shame the wise. He sent Peter and John, uneducated and untrained fisher-men, to speak to the Sanhedrin (the rulers, elders, scribes, Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest). And He later sent Jews (the twelve apostles) to speak to the Gentiles. This is because the POWER is in the Gospel, not in the person who speaks. For this reason, it is IMPOSSIBLE for the Gospel of Christ to meet with defeat! He (Jesus Christ) is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end! The Apostleship of Christ, CANNOT meet with defeat! It goes from STRENGTH to STRENGTH, from VICTORY to VICTORY!! THIS is the GRACE upon which we STAND! The Apostle Paul also said, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
Because Christ rose from the dead, so will those who believe. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man (Speaking of Jesus Christ Who had come in the flesh) also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
Because Christ rose from the dead, He conquered the power of sin and death. Therefore we are not called to live in defeat but to live in that same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead! We acknowledge the price that Christ has already paid on our behalf and we receive and rely on His mercy, that in that great exchange HE HAS ALREADY GIVEN US HOLINESS OF LIVING! We therefore have FAITH TO BELIEVE in that SAME abiding presence of Christ to be with us on a CONTINUAL BASIS as we wholeheartedly live our lives in worship and communion with Him. It is the ABIDING PRESENCE of HIS HOLINESS WITHIN US that protects us and keeps us safe from sin and harm, because our adversary the Devil, cannot stand being in the presence of God’s Holiness!
EACH ONE OF US IS CALLED TO EXAMINE OURSELVES
Paul, in the book of 2 Corinthians said, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul warns us - that it is possible to be disqualified from the faith that is found only in Christ - for we must FIRST come to Him in FAITH in order to BELIEVE; and having BELIEVED we are then able to RECEIVE! Do you have this same mind that is in Christ Jesus? The Apostle Paul said, “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Do you live as Christ lived? Do you speak as He speaks? Has this same Gospel of Christ become your whole life as it was His? What are the fruits of the Spirit or the signs in that of your own life that the Kingdom of God is near? Are you a constant carrier of His presence? Are you living a Holy life? Are you free from the entrapments of this life that would want to draw you into deceit? Are you walking in His presence daily, moment by moment, enjoying His love as he called you to do?
The Apostle Paul also said, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19&20).
Again, the Apostle Paul said, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (See Leviticus 11:44 & 45). And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He (Speaking of Jesus, Who is the Christ) indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him (Again, speaking of Jesus Christ) believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the ‘Word’ (translated ‘logos’; ‘Christ’; or ‘spoken word’ – See Strongs Concordance) of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:13-23).
THE WITNESS OF OUR HEARTS IS MADE COMPLETE
- WE HAVE THIS WITNESS IN OUR HEARTS!
- BECAUSE OF THIS GREAT LOVE OF CHRIST, WE HAVE RECEIVED HIM AND HE HAS REDEEMED US.
- WE NOW STAND HOLY, JUSTIFIED, RIGHTEOUS, PURIFIED, AND FULLY ACCEPTED, BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.
This is the SAME message that we are to give to others. But we do this not just by preaching this message, but by living this message – working it out in our every-day lives.
God loves you – therefore I love you.
God has mercy on you – therefore I have mercy on you.
God’s heart embraces you – therefore I embrace you.
God receives you on account of His grace – therefore I receive you.
God reaches out to you – therefore I reach out to you.
This is a TRUE representation of Christ!
May you continue to grow in your trust and acceptance of His holiness at work in you, by His grace and His love, moment by moment, day by day. We are His, forever and ever, Amen.
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