The Circumcised Heart

The New Testament links the “Promise of the Spirit” to the “Blessings of Abraham,” the promise that God would bless the nations through the Great Patriarch. The Spirit is the gift believers receive “through the hearing of faith.” It is part of the covenant promises given to Abraham, and Peter connected this gift to the “blessings” for the nations during his sermon on the Day of Pentecost.

The Gift of the Spirit received by the 120 disciples on that day, and later by 3,000 converts in Jerusalem, was the outworking of what God had promised Abraham centuries earlier.

Waterfall Iceland - Photo by Derek Sutton on Unsplash
[Iceland - Photo by Derek Sutton on Unsplash]

  • “The promise is for you, and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” - (Acts 2:38-39).
  • (Genesis 12:1-3) - “And Yahweh said to Abram… So shall be blessed in you all the clans of the earth.
  • (Genesis 17:7) - “And I will confirm my covenant between me and you and your seed after you to their generations for an everlasting covenant.”

Unfortunately, Israel failed to keep the requirements of the covenant. Though the nation had sworn to perform “all the words which Yahweh has spoken,” history attests to its failure to fulfill its obligations.

The Israelites could not meet the covenant’s requirements since they did not yet possess the Spirit. Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, they could not fulfill the “righteous requirements of the Law” of Moses - (Exodus 24:1-8, Numbers 11:1-15).

Nevertheless, the Mosaic legislation anticipated Israel’s downfall and the need for something beyond written Law or Torah. After predicting the dispersal of the nation, God promised that after Israel truly repented, the nation would “return to me and obey my voice with all your heart and soul.”

On that glorious day, He would gather the people from all nations and “circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed to love the LORD your God with all your heart” - (Deuteronomy 30:1-6).

The themes of RENEWAL and CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART are taken up by the prophet Jeremiah. The day would come when God would “make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” but not a covenant according to the one He made with the nation’s forefathers – (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would provide a New Covenant in which He would write His laws in the hearts of His people. This circumcision of the heart foreseen by Moses has come to fruition in the “New Covenant” prophesied by Jeremiah and inaugurated by Jesus of Nazareth.

The New Testament applies this promise to the covenant founded by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Likewise, the Prophet Ezekiel employed the same theme, but he added the essential element of the Spirit - (compare Hebrews 8:6-12):

  • (Ezekiel 36:24-28) – “Therefore will I take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the lands, and will bring you upon your own soil… And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the heart of stone of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, and MY SPIRIT WILL I PUT WITHIN YOU and will cause that in my statutes you shall walk, and my regulations you shall observe and do.”


Thus, Ezekiel combined the promises of the New Covenant, the Gift of the Spirit, and the circumcised heart. Centuries later, Paul would apply these promises to the congregation in the city of Corinth:

  • (2 Corinthians 3:1-6) – “You are our letter, inscribed in our hearts, noted and read by all men, manifesting yourselves that you are a letter of Christ, ministered by us, INSCRIBED, NOT WITH INK, BUT WITH THE SPIRIT OF A LIVING GOD; NOT IN TABLETS OF STONE, BUT IN TABLETS WHICH ARE HEARTS OF FLESH… Not that of our own selves sufficient are we to reckon anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who also has made us sufficient to be ministers of THE NEW COVENANT, not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive.

The prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel pointed to the centrality of the Spirit. With the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the long-awaited New Covenant with the Gift of the Spirit arrived among the people of God.

The connection of the Gift of the Spirit to the Abrahamic covenant and the “New Covenant” illustrates the continuity of what God is doing today in His Church, and with His redemptive purposes for the nation of Israel.

Neither the Church nor the receipt of the Spirit was an unforeseen interim stage or necessary detour in God’s redemptive plan. They have been fundamental parts of His covenant from the very beginning.

The covenant with Abraham finds its fulfillment in Jesus and his people composed of Jewish AND Gentile followers of Jesus, his “Assembly.” With his Death and Resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost, “no longer can there be Jew or Gentile.” Together, they are the “heirs” and “seed” of Abraham.

Regardless of race or nationality, the disciples of Christ are filled with the Holy Spirit, and with their “circumcised hearts,” they follow the Messiah of Israel wherever he leads as “one new man” - (Galatians 3:26-29, Ephesians 2:15).

  • The Life-Giving Spirit - (The Spirit of God imparts life, especially the everlasting life of which the Gift of the Spirit is the First Fruits, foretaste, and guarantee)
  • The Age of the Spirit - (The Gift of the Spirit is part of the New Covenant, and the first fruits of the New Creation and the gathering of the nations)
  • To you is the promise - (The gift of the Spirit is for all men who repent, even to those afar off, in fulfillment of the promise of the Father)



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