Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 8 April 21:
Romans 2:29 – “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
Circumcision was intended to be a physical reminder of a spiritual reality of the relationship between God and His people. Circumcision didn’t cause or enable the relationship with God but rather symbolized it and testified to it. Nonetheless, God commanded circumcision in the Old Covenant and took obedience to the command quite seriously (see Exodus 4). Similarly, the sacrament of Baptism, which is also commanded by God, is a physical reminder and testimony of a spiritual reality in a believer’s life. I have never met anyone who forgot their Baptism; it a powerfully memorable event representing the new life we have in Christ. Baptism doesn’t save a person but symbolizes salvation by grace through faith and not by works. (Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9, etc.)
The circumcision that ultimately mattered eternally was not the circumcision of the flesh but rather the circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, much like the baptism that ultimately matters is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit —
- Matthew 3:11 — I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
- John 3:5 — Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
- Titus 3:5 — He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit….
- Acts 10:47 — Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?
- Acts 11:15-16 — As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
Today’s verse describes the difference between those who go through the motions (religious activities and deeds) of faith and those who actually have faith, a genuine heart of love for God enabled by the Holy Spirit –
- Jeremiah 4:1-4 — Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire.
- Jeremiah 9:25 — Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh….
Jesus called those who outwardly pretended to have faith “hypocrites,” the Greek word for stage actor, and Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:22, 23) Paul warned, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:2, 3) People judge outward actions, but God judges the heart –
- 1 Samuel 16:7 — But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
- Ezekiel 36:26 — And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
- Matthew 22:37 — And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
- Hebrews 10:22 — Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
- Hosea 6:6 — For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
- Romans 5:5 — And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The Lord’s covenant of salvation has always been a covenant of the heart, and it is God Himself who enables within us a heart of faith and love. We can’t determine what is truly in someone’s heart, only God can. Nor can we know what God is doing in the lives of others. All we can do is live by faith, walk in faith, proclaim the Gospel in faith, and pray for others in faith.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 Apr 21: Pray that God will convict the hearts of those who remain outside of a saving faith in Him, both those within the visible church and those outside the visible church.