Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men (and women) to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome back to HBS everyone.
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (3:2).
Hopefully, after reviewing last week’s Bible lesson you now understand why the Pharisees stressed the need for a Gentile to obey the written and Oral law and be circumcised. These Judaizers were saying believing the Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins is insufficient. Therefore, they promoted and taught “legalism” and perverted Paul’s gospel of grace in the process.
The same spiritual battle continues today. The issue boils down to believing God and what He clearly said in the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 3:1-7). When Paul traveled from city to city preaching “the revelation of the mystery,” i.e. the good news of “Christ Crucified” for the sins of all, Satan’s representatives came in (usually after he had left the assembly of Believers) discrediting his apostolic authority and his gospel. He identified these religious Jews as dogs, evil workers, and the concision because they preached legalism or “a different gospel” (Acts 15:1; Galatians 1:6-7).
Circumcison was a big deal back in Paul’s day. I’m not aware of any church that is divided over the topic of circumcision today. I’m not saying this is not going on, I’m simply saying I’m not aware of it. However, I know there are churches who promote the religious rite of water baptism, so the situation is similar in that respect. They say unless you are baptized with water you can’t be saved while others teach it’s an integral part of your identification with the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the spiritual battle continues. Disagreement over this topic, and others, provoke heated arguments and resentment, which in turn brings about division in the church and Satan couldn’t be more pleased.
Please open your Bible at Philippians 3:3.
For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Here Paul addresses the issue of true Spirituality or the essence of the true Believer. In the beginning of verse 3, Paul said, "For we are the circumcision." The "we" is a reference to Paul and the Philippian saints but applies to every person baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Here Paul described the church then and now, saying it is the “true circumcision.”
In our study of Philippians 3:1-2, we learned the Jews’ view of circumcision was extreme, in fact, it had become a false idol. An idol doesn’t have to be something made of metal, stone, or wood. An idol is anything that replaces the Sovereignty of God. So, religion can easily become an idol. To show you what I mean let’s look at a Bible passage where the Lord Jesus Christ rebuked the religious scribes and Pharisees of His day:
– (Matthew 23:27-33).
Surely, y’all are aware some religions have twisted the Scriptures or thrown out the teachings of the Bible altogether, forsaking it for their own books and teachings. One of the signs of a religious cult is their dependence on a book other than God’s Word. These people claim they have received a new revelation from God which supersedes the Bible or what God has said. But the simple truth is “God desires all men (and women) to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). It’s the Believer’s responsibility to know the Bible well enough to discern truth from false teaching. Therefore, don’t rest on what I say or any other individual. Focus your attention on the Word of God and on the Lord Jesus Christ to strengthen your relationship with Him and mature in the faith, then your worship will not be in vain:
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:8-9).
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Genesis 17 teaches us circumcision was given as a “token” or mark of the everlasting Abrahamic covenant between JHVH and the nation of Israel. In Exodus 12:43-44, we learn it was part and parcel of the Feast of Passover (Pascha in Koine Greek):
And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
As it developed down through the nation of Israel’s history and even into the time of our Lord, it became very clear "the circumcision" was a title, a way of identifying God’s chosen people. There are many passages in Acts and a few in Paul's letters where the Israelites or “the Jews” are identified simply as “the circumcision:”
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:44-45).
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: (Romans 15:8).
It is clear in Paul’s writings we Believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. So, when Paul declared “we are the circumcision,” he is referring to spiritual (not natural) circumcision. Thanks to our brief study of Genesis 17 we know the natural sign of the Abrahamic Covenant was physical circumcision, which literally means the cutting away of the male child’s foreskin 8 days after his birth. #1 This was a faithful response to the LORD’s command, and #2 it marked the child as a member of the Abrahamic Covenant. But here’s the thing, this religious rite found its fulfillment in Christ Jesus’ finished work of the cross. Paul makes this known in Colossians 2:11:
“In whom also ye (insert your name here) are circumcised with the circumcision made (how) without human hands, in putting off the body of sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”
Every person saved by God’s grace and baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, both Jew and Gentile, has been spiritually circumcised “with the circumcision made without hands.” In plain language, God did something man is incapable of doing for himself. The sins of the flesh (our old man) were “cut off” when Jesus Christ was “cut off” from the living, i.e. He died once for the sins of all. This reminds me of the great teaching of Paul in Romans 6 regarding the true Believers’ identification with the Lord Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:1-11).
Here Paul explains the true Believer’s identification with Jesus Christ’s loving work for all on Calvary or His death and our holy walk under God’s abounding grace. This scripture passage answers two basic questions: #1 Shall we keep sinning so that grace may abound even more? And #2 the truth having been revealed that we are not under the principle of law but under grace, shall we flaunt our liberty in Christ Jesus and willfully continue sinning?
Paul’s short answer is “May it never be!” However, the answer to the first question is for all those who are saved, and in Christ Jesus, the old relationship to sin is forever broken, for we federally shared Christ’s death to sin, and we’re to not only believe this truth, we are to walk “in newness of life” to the glory of God the Father.
The answer to the second question is, anyone yielding their members becomes servant to that which he or she yields, whether of sin unto death, or of righteousness unto present sanctification.
So, then, the overall point Paul is making to the saints at Philippi is, which is better, physical circumcision that identified the individual as a religious Jew, or the reality all those in Christ, “the purchased possession” are identified with the Lord’s finished work of the cross having had all their sins removed and God won’t ever mention them again? The latter, of course.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:3-14).
Let’s look at a companion verse in Colossians 2:12:
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
Plainly said, when God sees the true Believer in Christ, He sees them crucified with His Son. We were also buried with him, in baptism, which means God reckons our “old man” is dead and buried. Furthermore, all our sin was “cut off” at the cross and buried forever:
And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation (behavior) in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-7).
A true Believer is a person who trusts only and completely in the Lord Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for the remission of sin. If someone believes they can somehow earn God’s favor by performing “good deeds” of any kind, or keeping the law perfectly, they remain under the condemnation of God. In short, these people are walking the Lord’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross underfoot, in unbelief, which dishonors God and His Son’s perfect, once-for-all, sacrifice. Why do people think this will not elicit a negative response from God?
But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6).
Make no mistake, the gospel of grace is still being attacked today. Many people teach salvation is based on something you do or don’t do for God the Father. If I may be blunt, this teaching originates in hell and those who believe it will one day future find themselves separated from the love of God and an eternal occupant of hell and then the Lake of Fire. Paul’s writings make it crystal clear men and women are saved by grace (plus nothing else). Think this through. If you could earn your salvation, why did Jesus Christ suffer and die for your sins? (See Ephesians 2:8-10).
Let’s look at the back half of verse 3:3:
“…who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (John 4:19-24).
Here Paul described the church, the true circumcision, then and now, in three different ways. Members of the Body of Christ (1) “worship God in the Spirit, and (2) rejoice in Christ Jesus, and (3) have no confidence in the flesh.”
Whether you’re aware of it or not Paul’s statement here stands in stark contrast to the Jews religious behavior back in Paul’s day where the Jews prayed and worshipped at the temple, in accordance with the ceremonial law (Acts 3:1). We no longer worship God via religious rites and ceremonies as the Jews did in the O.T. True Believers worship God in the Spirit, that is, in the inner Spiritual man, and rejoice in Christ Jesus whenever and wherever they happen to be.
Today, the true circumcision, “worships God in the Spirit,” and “we rejoice in Christ” continuously because of all He accomplished for the true Believer on the cross. We can commune (to converse; to talk together familiarly; to impart sentiments mutually, in private or familiar discourse) with Him at any time and in any place. We don’t have to go to a church building, at specific times of the day, to pray to God. If you’re saved and in Christ, you have access to the very throne room of God, through Christ Jesus 24/7/365:
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; (Ephesians 2:18-19).
According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Ephesians 3:11-12).
I’ve found myself praying to God while driving my car and here in Florida that’s not a bad idea. I’ve also prayed while on break at work, at the beach, in the privacy of my home, and in the company of likeminded Believers. Furthermore, there were times when I could not find the words to express myself; this is when the Holy Spirit interceded for me:
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26).
With this in mind, we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices in service to God and others – to the glory of God the Father.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
The problem with a “living sacrifice” is it typically wants to climb off the altar! People don’t normally want to put themselves out there because rejection and persecution are possible. Why invite suffering, right? I know from first-hand experience only 20% of the congregation serves in some capacity, while the other 80% gladly let them. But Paul said, every true Believer, not just some, are to present their bodies as a living sacrifice in service to God and others (Galatians 6:2, 9-10). We’re not to closet our God-given abilities and talents; we’re to put them to good use wherever there’s need not for our glory but Gods.’
There is but one way to do this effectively: instead of you conforming to the world’s systems, and I’m seeing more and more of this today, even from churched people; you’re to be transformed by the “renewing of your mind.”
Another Bible passage comes to mind, so let’s all turn to Ephesians 5:19-20:
Speaking to yourselves win psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
This speaks of the condition of one’s heart; or their motivation. Why you’re compelled to do something, is more important to God than what we do. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re truly a child of God He’s interested in both, but why we do what we do reflects our character and our mental attitude. This speaks of having “the mind of Christ,” (Philippians 2:5-8), that is, a humble, grateful, heart:
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ (and there is), if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Ephesians 2:1-8).
Getting back to verse 3:3b, Paul is saying because we have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we can worship God the Father at any time, in any place because it’s enabled, directed, and prompted by the indwelt Holy Spirit. We rejoice in Christ Jesus or take pride in Him and His accomplishments and not in ours: “for we have no confidence in the flesh.” Here “the flesh” is symbolic of anything and everything we accomplish under our own power. The Body of Christ or the true circumcision does not depend on such things for their salvation; instead, they place their faith in the loving work of Jesus Christ on Calvary for their salvation and leave it there.
(To be continued)
© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved