Pastors Peter Simpson and John Sherwood, and Mr Graham Parkhouse from Epsom, were preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified in Slough High Street on April 25th.

As Pastor Simpson was handing out tracts, a man walked by refusing the offer of one and saying, “What? Are you trying to set me on fire?” It was not clear what was meant by this rather strange comment, but the man was presumably referring to the Bible’s teaching on the reality of hell and the righteous judgement of God upon the sins of men. God is all holy, and it is contrary to His nature to overlook sin and not to exact a deserved punishment. Yes of course, His mercy is freely offered to all who come in faith to Christ, but there must be genuine and heartfelt repentance for this wonderful forgiveness to be obtained. Those who refuse to humble themselves before the holy God whom they have consistently defied will incur His wrath, and it is part of our duty of love to our unbelieving neighbours to make this reality known. 

As Pastor Sherwood was preaching, he was confronted by a young Muslim man who stood in front of him and shouted out all kinds of questions, trying his best to drown out the preacher, whose practice in these circumstances is  to continue preaching on the grounds that it is such a vital and urgent task, and that anyone called and gifted to do so must not allow any hindrances to his commission. How the Devil is always pleased when preaching stops for any reason. So Pastor Sherwood in this kind of situation carries on preaching whilst encouraging one of the helpers to go alongside anyone who is issuing loud verbal challenges. 

Mr Parkhouse accordingly went up to the Muslim, who barraged him with questions, including “Do you follow Jesus?” to which Mr Parkhouse obviously replied in the affirmative. The Muslim responded with the following two questions : “Then why don’t you have a beard?”, and “Are you circumcised?”

The answer of course is that none of these practices are remotely necessary to be accepted by God. They both focus upon external acts, whereas God looks upon the heart, and he is looking for “a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17), whereby men cry out in realisation of their wretchedness, “What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30).  

To insist upon going through the rite of circumcision was a specific false teaching which the apostle Paul had to denounce in the New Testament. He had to deal with a situation where there were ‘Judaisers’ insisting that the new converts to Christ must carry on observing the Old Testament ceremonies, which had now become defunct, because they had reached their fulfilment in the coming of Christ.  All believers in Him have undergone a spiritual circumcision effected by Christ Himself. This is what Paul calls “the circumcision made without hands” (Colossians 2:11). Christians need no longer be concerned with the old physical circumcision, because they now have the spiritual reality which the Old Testament ceremony symbolised. Just as physical circumcision was the removal of literal flesh, so believing in Christ means the removal of a person’s flesh spiritually speaking, the overpowering and taking away of the old sinful nature. This is what the new birth is, as one repents of sin and trusts in the Saviour. The Holy Spirit is received who, as it were, cuts away the power of the flesh and transforms the believer’s heart, so that he now loves holiness and hates all sin, and indeed has the power to overcome sin.  

It was so difficult to get the Muslim to engage in a serious debate. Mr Parkhouse endeavoured to get him to focus upon his thought life, which inevitably leads on to the state of one’s heart. The human heart, being sinful by nature, cannot be transformed by any mere outward ceremony or rite. May the Lord open the eyes of the confident and highly assured Muslim, and cause him to see the wretchedness of his heart, as indeed is the heart of all men, and that only the Lord Jesus Christ can bring about the desperately needed circumcision of the heart. May others also who heard the gospel in Slough come to see their need for inward spiritual transformation and that “circumcision is that of the heart (and) in the spirit” (Romans 2:29).

By Pastor Peter Simpson

Pastor Peter Simpson is Minister of Penn Free Methodist Church, which upholds the historic Christian faith according to the Scriptures and the Reformation principle that the Bible, God's inspired and inerrant word, is the Church's only authority.