“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But He is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter, and his praise is not from men, but from God.”
It’s interesting that Paul tells his readers that a Jew is not one who simply practices the Jewish traditions and looks like a “Jew”. God is after something deeper and more meaningful. It’s not to say that circumcision and the Law weren’t beneficial, but they weren’t the end goal as intended by God. They however did become more of a boastful image that the Jew’s portrayed to the world and the real work that God intended went deeper then just the cutting of the flesh and adherence to a moral standard. God desires genuine people that are marked by their faith and obedience to Him by the circumcision of their heart.
The circumcision of the heart. What does that mean? Circumcision by the Spirit. This all relates to the new birth that Jesus talked about in John 3:5-8
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit. 7Do not be amazed that I said, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.””
Paul is continuing the teaching of Jesus in that this is an inward work that must happen in the hearts of people in order to be justified before God and able to live the Spirit filled, Spirit led life that God intends for His people.
This new circumcision is what God has been planning since the fall in the Garden of Eden. The process of reconciliation between God and man, the process of restoration of what was broken will be completely made whole again.
How does the Spirit circumcise our heart? Such a powerful statement given to the Jews must have been astonishing for them to hear. It is a new birth, it is a regeneration, it is the power of God to bring something dead to life and set them apart as His own. But this time, the badge of allegiance isn’t a physical one, it’s a spiritual one that changes the person. In fact, what was the original purpose of circumcision given to Abram? Circumcision was given to him and his descendants as a sign of their covenant with God! This is the marriage, the union, the promise of life in God! Now, Paul is saying the the Spirit is doing a new circumcision that goes to the heart for a new covenant that is a covenant of restoration between us and our God.
This is all a very personal and spiritual thing that is happening to someone who is circumcised of the heart by the Spirit of God. It’s done not to please mankind or for personal gain or for praise from the world. It’s a covenant that happens between a person and God and it’s done for His good pleasure and purposes in which we graciously receive praise from God Himself. He is so pleased and delighted that His creation is being restored to Him that He praises His own work that He has done in us. What could please God more then to see His glory and handiwork accomplishing His great mission towards us by giving us new life in His Spirit.