What Does Philippians 3:3 Mean?

for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,

Philippians 3:3(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

In the early Church it was hard for Jews, who were steeped in centuries of tradition, to recognize that the Christian faith was not an extra bit of doctrine, tagged on to the Jewish religion but the fulfillment of God’s promise to make a new covenant with them. They did not understand that the Law of God, the Prophets of Israel, the Psalms and the Feasts-days were all pointing to Christ – and that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”, had set them free from “the law of sin and of death”.

Today, as in those early days of Christianity, there is still much confusion about the “gospel of God”, and there are many attempts to add law to grace and works to faith. Attempts were made to incorporate Jewish rites into Christian worship; to confuse Israel with the Church and to combine the programme God must carry out through His chosen nation – Israel, with the work He is currently undertaking through the body of Christ – which is the Church.

“Circumcision” was a special sign, which God specifically gave to the nation of Israel – through Abraham It was a sign that sealed the unique and important role they were to play in God’s plan for man’s redemption. Both before and after the cross there are Jewish men and women whom Paul calls “the Israel of God”. They are men and women of faith, who are not only physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but Israelites who have trusted God – and their faith is credited as righteousness.

People like David, Daniel, John the Baptist, Paul the apostle, Mary of Bethany, Barnabas and many others were physical decedents of God’s chosen nation.. and because they believed God and trusted His Word – they were justified in God’s sight. They are rightly called “the Israel of God” – which is a label that is given to ALL believing Jews. Jesus, however, clearly labels unbelieving Jews, both before and after the cross as “children of their father – the devil”.

Gentiles who trust God have physical, Gentiles ancestry, while Jews remain physically linked to Israel’s three patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. However, BELIEVING Jews are also referred to as “the Israel of God”. Gentiles, both saved and unsaved, can never become a Jew, and will never be part of “the Israel of God”. Gentiles are not genetically linked to Israel and have no association with physical circumcision. However, believing Jews, both before the cross and following Christ’s resurrection, are all called – “The Israel of God”.

Physical circumcision was given as a sign from God to the nation of Israel through their founding fathers and is a product of the FLESH.  The progeny of these patriarchs, up to the present day, are called “JEWs”. Indeed, Scripture labels Jews as “the Circumcism”, to identify their physical link to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to differentiate them from “Uncircumcised Gentiles”.

HOWEVER, as Abraham was also the father of FAITH, Paul identifies ALL believers, both Jew or Gentiles as “The True Circumcision”, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. ALL believers, whether circumcised Jew or uncircumcised Gentiles are one in Christ, and lay claim to the same spiritual circumcision – a true circumcision of the heart, because we are ALL saved by grace through faith in Christ. Physical circumcision may identify a person as Jewish, but only those who believe in Christ can be called “the true circumcision”.

In his concluding exhortation to the Galatian Christians, Paul summed up this vital truth with great clarity – Jews, who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel YOU Gentiles to be circumcised. He warned that “the circumcision” were trying to impose physical circumcision, and other Jewish traditions onto Gentile believers, and yet they do not even keep the Law themselves! They desire to have you Gentiles circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. Paul exclaimed God forbid!! May it never be that I would boast in anything, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but we are a new creation – and may peace be on all  (Gentiles) who will walk by this rule, and may MECRY be upon “the Israel of God”.

What grace.. that believing Gentiles, together with believing Jews, are designated by Paul as “the true circumcision”. Praise God that they been called to worship the Lord in spirit and truth – to worship in the Spirit of God; to glory in Christ Jesus our Lord and put no confidence in the flesh. There is no need to have confidence in any physical, fleshly identification with Israel – for we have been spiritually identified with Christ Himself – and are ONE with Him.

What grace that we who were once “Gentiles-in-the-flesh”, and called “the Uncircumcision” by the ones who are called “the Circumcision”, are NOW called “the true ‘Circumcision”, because of our faith!

Before our salvation we were at enmity with God, outside of Christ, aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the Promise. We were devoid of hope and without God in the world – but now we have the privilege of being “the true Circumcision”. Praise God that Gentiles – together with “the Israel of God (i.e. believing Jews) have been united into ONE BODY in Christ, and together are designated “the true Circumcision” of God.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You that I am not required to jump through various Jewish hoops to reach You, but have been saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, and together with believing Jews – the true Israel of God, we are all one in Christ, members of His body and joint heirs with our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in Whose name we pray, AMEN.

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