Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More on "the heart"

Once again I was responding to someone's comments (this time Aida's comments on The heart post from earlier today), and I found my comments becoming longer than what I had planned. :) And that's a good thing, because this is some good stuff to be discussing. So anyway, again instead of typing it all in the comments of that post, my comments have become this new post.

Without getting too deep into definitions, I'll just say that my understanding is that "heart" can have more than one meaning, and our one word in English can come from more than one Hebrew word or Greek word.

But apart from looking at the original language, we can also see the meaning of each instance of the English word according to its context. I'm by no means an expert here, but I'll just break down two particular meanings of the word. One is "spiritual" and one is "soulful."

God says in Ezekiel 36:26, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Also, both Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16 quote from Jeremiah 31, in which God says, "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts..."

In these cases, my understanding is that the "heart" here has to do with our spirits. One reason I think that is because Rom 2:29 says that "circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter" and 2 Cor 3:3 says, "clearly you are an epistle of Christ...written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart."

We have been given a new heart (in our spirit) that is a heart of flesh and not stone, and that has the law of God written on it. This is God's doing, obviously not a result of anything we've done, or do, or will do or not do. This "heart" doesn't fluctuate, but has the requirements of the law fulfilled in it, and loves the law of God, because this heart is holy and the law is holy. As opposed to the deceitfully wicked heart that we once had, this heart is pure and clean.

There are many, many scriptures that speak of the "heart" in a different way than the above scriptures. I believe the above scriptures represent an entirely different meaning than the following instances of the word "heart."

Rom 9:2 "I tell the truth in Christ... that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart..." (Paul was grieving for his brethren, the Israelites).

2 Cor 4:16 "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day."

2 Cor 9:7 "So let each on give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver."

One of my favorites, Heb 13:9 "For it is good that the heart be established by grace."

Do you notice the difference between the "spiritual" heart that is fully and completely established in God's Spirit (the heart referred to by "I will give you a new heart"), and the "soulful" heart that has feelings, thoughts and emotions that fluctuate and that needs to grow and become established in grace?

I hope this provides food for thought, and I know the process of processing the truth always continues in each of us! Thoughts anyone?


  1. Joel, thanks for clarifying. I've known that the heart was related to the soul but I couldn't make a lot of scriptures fit that definition. I aso know that many words in the Bible have several meanings, some totally opposite to each other, so to know the correct meaning its necessary to read the verse in the context of surrounding scriptures.

    What you explained makes perfect sense to me. One of those "ah ha" moments. Thanks for the explanation.


  2. I want to reaffirm that I'm not a deep theological expert on all this. :) I pretty much observe the use of the word "heart," and I see that it seems to have more than one meaning. In the way that I understand spirit and soul, it appears that one use of the word "heart" has to do with our spirits (the essence of who we are) and other uses of the word have to do with our soul (mind, will, emotions, etc).

    Along with what I said before, if anyone has done any deeper study on this or has any more thoughts, I'm sure we could all learn from each other.

  3. You know what is so cool about all of this...I don't think as Christians we should take the Bible and just read it at face value( I used to)....maybe God made it so that we would dig for ultimate truth, that way we have to get to know's like trying to satisfy the curiosity of say a 5 year old, coming into the phase of "mommy how does the TV actually work?" in otherwords we should be so childlike that we always ask and seek for more......I want to know all the mysteries of God!!!
    ...(does this make any sense? it does to me:)

  4. oh and Joel, I am glad you would not consider yourself a deep theological are going on your personal and tangible experience and revelations from Divine Theology Himself....what could be better than that!!!

  5. Lydia, yep that makes a lot of sense! We cannot read the Bible at face value, but indeed must, by the Spirit, dig into it for the ultimate truth. And not only that, but realize that Jesus Himself is the Word of God, and we live by Him, not by the face value of words on a page. I know that many who would hear such a comment as you made, and what I am saying, would be in an absolute HUMPH about it... LOL... but really if they would just settle down and understand, this is lifting up Jesus Christ more than they realize!

    And it's true, too, that while there are people who devote their lives to "theological study," and we can learn a great deal from their exegesis and from their study of Greek and Hebrew, etc, the truest theology comes from our simple relationship with the Living Word, Jesus Christ... and you are right, what could be better than that!