Paul calls them dogs. He labels them evil doers. You’ll know them, he says, because they are those who mutilate the flesh. And to the believers at Philippi he says, “Look out for them.” They won’t come with snarling teeth or wearing a black cape. They won’t call it mutilation but initiation. Do this and you’re in. Do that and you’ll be worthy. Do the other thing and God will then accept you. And then, they say, you can count yourself among the circumcision. You’ll be those who have shown in the flesh what real devotion to God entails. But Paul says, beware of the them. In fact, says the apostle, we are the circumcision.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the real 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)
In the dark corner, clothed in their own best efforts, are those who claim that righteousness before God is on the basis of, well, righteousness before God — circumcision being one such act. In that corner there’s a ladder to climb, a list to keep, acts to be demonstrated in order to merit the banner of God’s people.
In the light corner, wearing a robe provided by Another, are those whose righteousness is by faith in the finished work of the cross. Those who know they can’t climb high enough, nor keep His commands well enough, nor demonstrate consistently enough anything which merits God having to let them into the kingdom.
Instead their only claim is that they worship solely by the Spirit of God . . . they glory only in the Son of God . . . and they put no confidence in their flesh which, unless it is regenerated by an act of grace, is wired to rebel in the face of God. And such are the circumcision.
The flesh cut off not at the hands of men but by the redeeming work of Christ. Worship no longer defined as external acts of piety, but now experienced as an internally sourced, Spirit ignited, response to heaven’s abounding favor. Boasting no longer in what I think I can do, but solely in what I know Christ Jesus has done.
More than just something being cut away, which is all the law was able to do, the true circumcision brings with it freedom, abundant life, and overflowing joy. No longer a sign of the flesh it is the evidence of the Spirit. Worship is no longer manufactured by trying to go through the motions, but instead exudes from the pours of those have known the sweet fellowship of abiding in the Vine. No longer worried about what we’ve done, no longer focused on building our spiritual resume, instead we glory in what Christ has done and the spiritual legacy He is building in His bride.
No confidence in the flesh. No confidence that I could have ever plucked myself out of the miry pit of sin. No confidence that I can now get my act together, and keep it together, in order to be a “good Christian.” No confidence that, because I lived a pious life, Jesus will one day find me a room in His house. No confidence in the flesh.
Instead, all confidence is in the Lamb of God, come to take away the sin of the world. All confidence is in the power of Jesus to save and to save to the full. All confidence is in the love of God shed abroad through the Spirit in the hearts of all who believe the good news of God’s wondrous salvation. All confidence is in His sure return to take His people to be with Himself. That’s our confidence. That’s our circumcision.
All because of grace. All for His glory.