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The True Circumcision Of God
The True Circumcision Of God (Philippians 3:1-16)
2 Look out for mthe dogs, look out for nthe evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.3 For owe are the circumcision, pwho worship qby the Spirit of God2 and rglory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—4 sthough I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 tcircumcised on the eighth day, uof the people of Israel, vof the tribe of Benjamin, ua Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, wa Pharisee; 6 xas to zeal, ya persecutor of the church; zas to righteousness under the law,3blameless. 7 But awhatever gain I had, bI counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of cthe surpassing worth of dknowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I ehave suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ9 and be found in him, not having fa righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but gthat which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—10 hthat I may know him and ithe power of his resurrection, and jmay share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may kattain the resurrection from the dead.
Straining Toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already lobtained this or mam already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: nforgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on toward the goal for othe prize of the upward pcall of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are qmature think this way, and if in anything ryou think otherwise, sGod will reveal that also to you. 16 Only tlet us hold true to what we have attained.
1. Throughout his ministry as an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul had to
contend with certain Jewish Christians
a. Known today as "Judaizers", they were false teachers who often
followed Paul wherever he went
b. They would try to bind the act of circumcision and the Law of
Moses itself upon Gentile Christians - e.g., Ac 15:1-2 - But some men came down from Judea and were teaching zthe brothers, "Unless you areacircumcised baccording to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and cdebate with them, Paul and Barnabas and dsome of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to ethe apostles and the elders about this question.
2. Even as he writes this "epistle of joy", encouraging the brethren to
rejoice in the Lord (3:1), he finds it necessary to warn them of
these false teachers (3:2-3)
a. In these verses, we find Paul making a play on words...
1) He calls the Judaizers "katatome" (mutilation) - 3:2
2) And refers to true Christians as "peritome" (circumcision)
b. In doing so, he also declares that "the true circumcision" are
1) Worship God in the Spirit
2) Rejoice in Christ Jesus
3) Have no confidence in the flesh
3. Using himself as an example, Paul further defines the attitudes and
characteristics of those who are "The True Circumcision Of God"
[In doing so, Paul actually does it in an order reverse to what we find
in verse 3; thus first illustrating "The True Circumcision Of God" as
I. HAVE NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH (4-8)
A. IF ANY COULD, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN PAUL...
1. He could have boasted in things of a "RACIAL" nature
a. "circumcised the eighth day"
1) A genuine Jew from birth
2) Not a proselyte
b. "of the stock of
1) Directly descended from Jacob
a) The Arabs could boast of their descent from Abraham
b) The Edomites could boast of Isaac
2) But only the Jews could boast of Jacob, who had prevailed with God and was given the name "
c. "of the tribe of Benjamin"
1) The son of Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel
2) The only son actually born in the promised land
4) The only tribe that remained true to
kingdom was divided
d. "a Hebrew of the Hebrews"
1) Both his parents were Jews
2) He was true to the customs of the Jews, not a Grecian or
2. He could have boasted in things of a "RELIGIOUS" nature
a. "concerning the law, a Pharisee"
1) A very religious person
2) Belonging to a sect known for their loyalty, patriotism,
and conservatism to the Law of Moses
b. "concerning zeal, persecuting the church"
1) Illustrates his sincerity and enthusiasm for his religion
c. "concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless"
1) Not that he was perfect
2) But was diligent in fulfilling the requirements of the
Law (e.g., animal sacrifices)
B. YET PAUL CONSIDERED THESE THINGS AS "LOSS FOR CHRIST" (7-8)
1. All these things which could have provided Paul with prestige
and social standing, he counted as loss
2. In fact, he lost many things when he chose to follow Christ
- cf. 1Co 4:11-13 - To the present hour bwe hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and cbuffeted and dhomeless,12 and we elabor, working with our own hands. fWhen reviled, we bless; gwhen persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. hWe have become, and are still, like the scum of the world,ithe refuse of all things.
3. Yet, compared to the excellence of the knowledge of Christ,
they were to Paul nothing more than "rubbish" (literally,
C. WHAT ABOUT US?
1. Do we place confidence in our fleshly accomplishments?
2. Do we take pride in our racial background, religious heritage,
3. Or do we consider such things as "rubbish" compared to the
knowledge of Jesus Christ?
[How we answer helps to determine whether we are "The True Circumcision
Of God"! But there is more; those who are the "true circumcision"...]
II. REJOICE IN CHRIST JESUS (9-11)
A. THEIR JOY IS NOT IN THINGS MATERIAL OR FLESHLY, BUT IN CHRIST!
1. As in Paul's case, he considered fleshly accomplishments as
2. His compelling desire was to "gain Christ" (8)
B. WHAT IT MEANS TO "GAIN CHRIST" (9-11)
1. To "be found in Him", which includes...
a. "not having my own righteousness, which is from the law"
(not trusting in his keeping the Law of Moses to save him)
b. "but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith" (experiencing salvation as a gift from God through faith in Jesus)
2. To "know Him"
a. The word "know" as used here, means...
1) "to recognize" or "to become acquainted with"
2) I.e., a personal knowledge, not a theoretical or vicariousone
b. In particular, to know "the power of His resurrection"
1) The same power Paul wanted the Ephesians to know - Ep
- having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is sthe hope to which he has called you, what are tthe riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, uaccording to the working of vhis great might 20 that he worked in Christ wwhen he raised him from the dead and xseated him at his right hand yin the heavenly places,
2) A power that is first experienced in baptism into Christ
- Col 2:12-13 - having been buried with him in baptism, in which yyou were also raised with him through faith in zthe powerful working of God, zwho raised him from the dead. 13 aAnd you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God bmade alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
3) And throughout our lives - Ep 3:20-21
4) And ultimately in our own bodily resurrection - Php 3:
c. To know "the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death"
1) In his effort to know Christ, Paul wanted to experience
and share even in His sufferings!
2) "Such fellowship in the sufferings of Christ includes a
turning from sin, and the death of self. It may involve
much hardship for the sake of Christ. For Paul it finally meant martyrdom." (CHARLES ERDMAN)
3) We all should be willing to do the same! - cf. 1Pe 4:1-2
3. To "attain to the resurrection from the dead"
a. This would be the ultimate experience in "gaining Christ"!
b. I.e., a personal and experiential knowledge of the "power" of the resurrection!
C. WHAT ABOUT US?
1. Such was the goal of Paul's life, the source of his true joy!
2. Can this said about us?
3. Is our goal in life to truly "know Christ"?
[If it is, then what Paul continues to say will be our attitude also;
for "The True Circumcision Of God" are also those who...]
III. WORSHIP GOD IN THE SPIRIT (12-16)
A. JESUS WAS THE FIRST TO DEFINE "TRUE WORSHIP" AS SPIRITUAL
1. In His discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well - Jn 4:
2. Since God is Spirit, our worship must be of the spirit as well,
and not limited to particular locations
B. PAUL DESCRIBES THE ATTITUDES OF THOSE WHO WORSHIP GOD IN THE
1. They are never satisfied with their present spiritual condition
2. With perseverance, they press on (13-15)
a. Not looking back
1) Resting on past laurels
2) Or bemoaning past failures
b. But ever reaching forward, which is a mark of spiritual
3. All the while living up to the standard of knowledge they have
1. Do these attitudes characterize our devotion to God and His Son?
a. Do we worship God by allowing His Spirit and the Spirit-given Word to rule over our complete lives?
b. Do we consider the relationship we are developing with Christ to be our primary joy and focus in life?
c. Do we place no confidence in the flesh?
--- If so, then we are "The True Circumcision of God"!
2. As Paul invites us to do in verse 17, let's be sure to follow his
How does one begin in becoming "The True Circumcision Of God"? It
begins when we in faith submit to the working of God in baptism, in
which we experience the "circumcision of Christ" (cf. Col 2:11-13).
Have you had the "circumcision made without hands" (i.e., been baptized
into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins - Ac 2:38)?
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