From time to time, I meet some wonderful brothers of like mind through blogging. Joe Blackmon is one such brother. Joe has served in pastoral ministry in the past and currently lives in Tennessee where he works as an auditor. Joe is a faithful Christian layman with interests in teaching, studying, and spreading God’s Word. So, as we do from time to time, here at Elect Exiles, I am happy to present you with the first of a series of posts on the “Characteristics of Genuine Saving Faith” by guest blogger Joe Blackmon.
Philippians 3:3. Characteristics of Genuine Saving Faith
Paul, in verses one and two of this chapter, gives the Philippians markers that identify the false teachers who were trying to come in the church to spread their poisonous doctrine. These teachers claimed to have authority and appeared to be religious. Therefore, Paul writes in this verse a description of what a true follower of Christ looks like to remind them of the purity of their faith in contrast with the religion of the false teachers.
The Identity of Genuine Saving Faith
Paul, in verse 3 of chapter 3, tells the believers that “we are the circumcision”. The emphasis in the phrase is on the word we in the Greek. Paul wants to stress to the believers that it is they who are the true circumcision as opposed to these Jewish legalists who are in fact the false circumcision or “mutilation” as he calls them in the previous verse. The Jews were proud of their circumcision and felt that it gave them a spiritual advantage before God. However, scripture has a different testimony regarding circumcision.
First of all, we should realize that circumcision itself was not a Jewish invention. It was actually practiced by other people before Abraham was told to do it as the sign of the covenant. The spiritual significance of the procedure was totally missed by the Jews. God required spiritual purity. No physical procedure could provide that. However, the physical activity of circumcision here is used to point to a spiritual truth. In fact, the Old Testament records that God in fact revealed this truth about circumcision to the Jewish people. For instance, in Deuteronomy 30:6, scripture records that “the Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, that you may live.” Also, Moses called the people to “circumcise the foreskin” of their hearts in Deuteronomy 10:16. To have their hearts circumcised means to have their sin nature put off so that they would be clean before God and able to serve Him with a pure heart. Paul also wrote about this truth in the New Testament. In Colossians 2:11, Paul refers to this spiritual circumcision as “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” Also, in Romans 2:28-29, Paul writes, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is in the outward flesh but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men but from God.” Therefore, the title Jews claimed for themselves in a prideful way actually belonged to Christians because the Jews missed the true spiritual application.