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Tests for whether people truly belong to God

Philippians 3:3

Circumcision is the operation that God told Abraham and his family to carry out (Genesis chapter 17). Therefore the phrase ‘the circumcision’ usually means the Jews, the people who come from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. However, God was not telling his people merely to carry out a physical operation on their bodies. People need to obey God, to trust him and to love him (Deuteronomy 30:6). God wanted Abraham and his family to carry out that operation as a mark of what was happening inside them, in their hearts (minds) and spirits.

In Philippians 3:3, Paul gives three tests of whether that is happening in people’s lives. If so, then they belong to the people called ‘the circumcision’, whether they have received physical circumcision or not.

(1) God’s people allow the Holy Spirit to direct them in how they serve God. Therefore, they do not depend on ceremonies, traditions or the ideas that come into their own minds. Instead, God himself shows them how they may please him; and they gladly obey. That is possible because God is working powerfully in their lives (Romans 8:11).

(2) God’s people should have no pride in themselves, or in the things that they have achieved. Their pride must be entirely in Christ, and the things that he has done for them (Galatians 6:14).

(3) God’s people put their trust in Christ alone. Therefore, they do not depend on anything in this world to give them a right relationship with God. Paul calls those things the ‘flesh’ (the natural body), but he means much more than physical circumcision (3:4-6). Rather, he is using the word ‘flesh’ as a word-picture to include such things as family relationships, wealth, people’s work, and human effort. God’s people know that none of these things can give them a right relationship with God.

Next part: People who trust in themselves (Philippians 3:4)


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© 2020, Keith Simons.