Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—
(Philippians 3:2-3 ESV)
Yesterday Paul exposed the false doctrine of salvation by works. He debunked the theory that circumcision is required for someone to be a true child of God.
Jews back then, and even today, believed that they were the only true children of God. They rejected Jesus as the one through Him salvation is offered. Certainly God had a special purpose for the Jewish people. It was through them that He brought the message of salvation to the world.
But salvation was always offered up to all people, not just the Jews [Romans 1:16]. In fact, there are examples of Gentiles becoming saved in the Old Testament, including Ruth, Rahab, and many others. The only requirement for becoming one of God’s adopted children is to believe [John 1:12]. Only those who believe (i.e. are born-again) will see heaven, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus [John 3:3, John 3:16].
Although God demanded physical circumcision of all Jewish males, being circumcised did not automatically lead to salvation. Circumcision was an outward sign of the covenant between God and Abraham [Genesis 17:11]. It still required faith to get to heaven, as we can tell from the fact that Gentiles – who were not circumcised – could be saved long before Jesus went to the cross.
Spiritually speaking, circumcision of the heart is what God is after. And only He can perform it [Deuteronomy 30:6, Colossians 2:11]. God wants to remove that part of us that defiles us and keeps us from getting close to Him – faith in self.
Paul points out that a true child of God worships Him through the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer [John 4:23-24] as opposed to worshipping God in the flesh – through works. True believers also “glory” (“rejoice” in other translations) in what Jesus did on the cross rather than in our own abilities, which fall woefully short. We do not have confidence in our own abilities. Our only faith is in our Savior.
Many try to earn God’s favor through human effort. This has been true since the Garden of Eden. But Jesus will reject those who offer up such credentials [Matthew 7:21-23].
Those who truly belong to God are those who believe the Gospel message – that Jesus was God who came to earth, lived a perfect life, died, was buried, and rose again for the forgiveness of sins.
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