Beckett: The Circumcision of the Spirit

“In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12).

The beginning of God’s people post-Fall started with the circumcision of Abraham (Genesis 17:1-12). “Circumcision” literally means “cut around.” These words are most important from our Lord, “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised” (Genesis 17:10-12a). Circumcision, therefore, is to continue into perpetuity. Yet later, the Lord foretold a greater circumcision than that of the flesh—the circumcision to be made without hands, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). The circumcision that continues into perpetuity, therefore, is the circumcision of the heart, which came in Christ.

This is a far different kind of circumcision, for one does not undergo open heart surgery to have the “foreskin” of their heart cut around. Rather, it is “made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh.” By what means? By the means of “the circumcision of Christ,” which we commemorate on January 1st every year. In the Colossians text above, Paul reveals to us that this occurs in Baptism, wherein we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). If the physical circumcision cuts around the foreskin of the male member, just what is the Holy Spirit cutting in our hearts?

As Paul continues, he writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). While we may not undergo open heart surgery, the Holy Spirit does perform a surgery of sorts. He cuts around the heart and removes its hardness against God—the original sin that has been there since birth, that is, He cuts the Old Adam off from us. “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6). That is why the Scriptures say “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit” (Hebrews 4:12), for the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), is sharp to cut out whatever is impure and unholy in our hearts. Sometimes, we realise this as joyous reflection on our growth. Other times, we experience it as our Lord’s discipline (Hebrews 12:5-6), which we don’t like so much. Either way, it is the Lord’s work that we might love Him more dearly just as He has loved us.

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