Circumcision of the Heart, the True Mark of a Child of God—Romans 2:28-29
“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).
This passage of scripture is powerful. In a world where we judge others on the basis of their skin, the country we live in, or even the church we belong to—we find so many things to divide us. But this is an invitation to unity in Christ. In a startling revelation, as Paul announces that it is the condition of one’s heart that makes him or her a true child of God.
Abraham had a righteousness that could not come from following the commandments in the Law because Abraham had been declared righteous over 400 years before the Law was given.
To the Jewish people, who had prided themselves in being circumcised, a physical sign showing they were a part of God’s chosen people, this is quite the statement. Paul reveals that circumcision is merely an outward sign of an inward reality. This reality is a circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God himself.
Circumcision began with Abraham, but this token was evidence of the righteousness he had obtained through faith (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:11). This righteousness could not come from following the commandments in the Law because Abraham had been declared righteous over 400 years before the Law was given (Gal. 3:17). His righteousness came from faith because he believed God’s promise to Him. So his circumcision was a reminder of that promise and of Abraham’s resolve to believe God. It was a symbol of their covenant.
What makes this profound is that Paul is clarifying that being a Jew is not because someone was born into that nationality or religion. Being of God’s chosen people comes through circumcision of the heart, which is spiritual rather than natural. This spiritual transformation comes by being united with Christ and born again (Col. 2:11).
He goes on to explain in Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28-29). In other words, the Church is now God’s chosen people on earth. Both Jews and Gentiles who have put their faith in Jesus, who have experience a circumcision of the heart, are part of the kingdom of God. The inward reality of this faith is the true mark of a child of God!
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Original article published June 14, 2009.