Circumcision of the Heart and the Irresistible Call

Posted on January 10, 2011


If not for the sovereign and effectual grace of God, not one person in all the ages of the earth would be saved from the wrath of God, and deservedly so. Each of us has broken the perfect Law of God and no one is righteous before Him in their own regard (Romans 3:10-11). In our fallen, sinful state, we are all unrighteous, unholy, and utterly separated from the goodness of God (Isaiah 59:1-2). It is for this reason each of us are dead men walking along a path of destruction leading to the epitome of God’s wrath in a place called hell, but for His mercy and grace!

Because we are all spiritually dead and condemned as natural men and women (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13), it takes a supernatural act of God to awaken us spiritually. Moreover, all those who are awakened from their natural, dead state will respond by repentant faith and submit their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is essentially what is known as effectual grace in that all those who are called by God will come to Him through His Son. God’s saving grace is therefore irresistible and effectual, or consequential, in all those who are called by it (John 6:37).

The Old and New Testament are rife with this truth that God must first perform open-heart surgery on a person before they can respond in saving faith. One such passage is found in Deuteronomy 30:6, which destroys any argument from Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians that man can choose to love and obey God without God first making that possible. Furthermore, it shows God does not circumcise every heart because all men do not love God, obviously. This is a problem for those who reject the doctrines of grace (Calvinism) because they claim that God makes salvation possible for all men, or that He draws all men to repentance but man’s autonomy (exercising free will) allows for Him to resist God’s drawing or calling. To support their position, they would be forced to say God circumcises all hearts though lacking biblical evidence to support that claim.

I have been thoroughly enjoying Dr. Steven Lawson’s Foundations of Grace where he journeys through each book of Scripture showing where the doctrines of grace are clearly thrust forth as eternal truths of our sovereign God. This first installment in a projected 5-book series by Dr. Lawson will be offered in a future gift giveaway here on airō as it has richly blessed me in learning more about the sovereignty of God in our salvation. I therefore invite you to read the following excerpt from chapter 3 titled, “Sovereign Grace in the Wilderness”, where Dr. Lawson expands on Deuteronomy 30:6 (pages 97-98):

Doctrine in Focus: Irresistible Call

“In Deuteronomy, Moses also taught the fourth main heading of the doctrines of grace – God’s irresistible call. Hundreds of years before Moses, God commanded Abraham to circumcise all the males in his household. For Israel, circumcision was a picture of what God must do to the unconverted heart. In the new birth, God must circumcise the sin-hardened heart if sinful man is to love Him with saving faith. By a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, God must cut deeply into the unconverted heart and supernaturally set it apart to Himself. This is the omnipotent work of the Spirit in regeneration. Again, then, we see that God is the sole initiating cause of regeneration. Man is passive while God is active in this vital step in the process of salvation:

“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

“Moses presented God’s sovereign work of grace as a spiritual circumcision, a cutting away of the foreskin of the unbelieving heart. It is a penetrating work of grace that removes man’s inability to believe and replaces it with true repentance and faith. Regeneration is open-heart surgery, a soul-reviving work of the Spirit that probes to the deepest level of a person’s being. Concerning this work of regeneration, Anthony Hoekema writes, ‘What does the Bible teach about regeneration? Already in the Old Testament we are taught that only God can bring about the radical change which is necessary to enable fallen human beings again to do what is pleasing in His sight. In Deuteronomy 30:6 we find our spiritual renewal figuratively described as a circumcision of the heart….Since the heart is the inner core of the person, the passage teaches that God must cleanse us within before we can truly love Him.’ Explaining the irresistible nature of this divine work, Craigie writes, ‘It is seen rather to be an act of God and thus indicates the new covenant, when God would in His grace deal with man’s basic spiritual problem. When God ‘operated’ on the heart, then indeed the people would be able to love the Lord and live.'”