Read Romans 2:17-29
The Center And The Circumference
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.
Going Deeper: The covenant of circumcision was a highly important outward sign that was to distinguish the Israelites as God’s very own people. The covenant was first given to Abraham in Genesis 17:9-14, and later reaffirmed in dramatic albeit peculiar fashion to Moses in Exodus 4:24-26. Ritual circumcision was required of every Israelite male child, and it was an important physical reminder of the greater theological reality that the cutting away and cleansing from sin was necessary to a right relationship with God.
Unfortunately, over time, the Jews became prideful in their practice of the physical act of circumcision without the practice of the more important inward act of spiritual circumcision. In effect, the circumcised but disobedient Jew’s standing before God was no different than that of the uncircumcised heathen. In fact, the Apostle Paul, in a bit of news that must have been infuriating to the circumcised Jew, said that the uncircumcised but obedient Gentile was as good as circumcised in the eyes of God. (Romans 2:26)
I suppose at this point you may be wondering what Jewish males and ritual circumcision has to do with you. Simply this: It is easy to fall into the very same sin of Jews, presuming their ritualistic observances and religious activities got them in and kept them in good standing with God. There couldn’t be anything farther from the truth.
Let me illustrate it this way: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonalds makes you a Happy Meal. You see, neither outward appearances nor practices of piety are good and accurate indicators of authentic faith. True faith is internal—it is a matter of the heart.
That’s what God looks at: the heart—your heart. Now that is not to say Christians shouldn’t look and act a certain way. They should—just like the Israelites were expected to look and act a certain way. Our faith should be observable. It should be especially true that having been with Jesus will make a noticeable difference to those watching us. Having experienced the grace and mercy of salvation ought to catalyze change in the way we interact with the world and experience life. The very way we look, talk, relate, work, play and engage in our moment-by-moment existence should have the “fragrance of Christ” all over it.
But at the end of the day, the fragrance of our Savior is only possible if we are thoroughly saturated with Jesus. Jesus needs to get from the outside of our lives to the inside. Or perhaps more correctly, Jesus needs to start on the inside and work his way to the outside—which, by the way, is what takes places as a result of the more important spiritual circumcision of the heart. (Romans 2:29) Most importantly, at the core of who we are, we ought to retain the Lord Jesus Christ. In truth, Jesus must be both the center and the circumference of our lives.
So here is the $64,000 question: Is he?
“God sees hearts as we see faces.”