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Understanding the Principle of Spiritual Circumcision
By Steve Highlander

In the Bible God revealed to us a spiritual principle and experience called circumcision. As with all spiritual truth God first revealed it in a physical picture in the Old Testament. In order to understand the Spiritual truth that we are to apply and experience in our Christian lives, it is first necessary to look at the dynamics of circumcision as God revealed them in the Old Testament.

The prevailing idea in most churches is that God's primary objective is to forgive our sins so we can make it to heaven for eternity. While salvation and the forgiveness of sin is a fundamental objective in God's plan for His creation, and heaven is our ultimate destination, this falls way short of the complete work God desires to do in and through you and me. It was never a thought in God's mind that we would find forgiveness only to be left in bondage to sin. It wasn't God's intent that you keep repeating a cycle of sin and forgiveness over and over. Here is God's perfect vision for you...

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son." Rom. 8:29

Jesus' death on the cross accomplished much more than simply the forgiveness of sins. It made it possible for you to become like Christ. In order for you to become Christ-like you must get rid of the old flesh nature that is sinful. This is where the spiritual principle of circumcision comes in. Circumcision is the cutting away of the flesh.

God Reveals His Covenant To Abraham

"This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner--those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." Gen 17:11-14 NIV

When God revealed Himself in a covenant to Abraham He gave Abraham a sign of that covenant ... Circumcision. Many times we read right past significant issues never realizing the spiritual message God is trying to impart to us. Almost any thinking person would have to ask a simple question here. Why circumcision? What does that have to do with anything? Why is God so concerned about an extra little piece of skin?

It brings to mind the scripture where God commands the children of Israel not to eat any leaven or even to have it in their house during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15). Does God have something against yeast?

In both of these instances God seems to be pretty serious about the people's obedience to His commands. In both cases the people who didn't obey were to be cut off from Israel--left out of the covenant. This is serious business in God's eyes.

In the big scheme of things we can be pretty sure that having yeast in our house or having an extra little piece of skin isn't a big offense to God. Therefore God must have had something else in mind when He gave these commands.

Jesus asked the Jews an important question. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? John 3:12

God first established spiritual truth with natural laws. Once the principle of the thing was understood, He could make the jump to spiritual truth and application.

Throughout the Old Testament God spoke to Israel in picture form. His commands, although righteous, also carried a deeper prophetic message. The seven yearly Feasts, the temple, all the sacrifices and the minute detail of the elaborate costume of the high priest all bore more significance than the Jewish people (and most Christians) actually knew. So it is with the issue of circumcision.

God has a spiritual truth for you and me to enter into. In order for us to understand it He had to give us a physical demonstration so we could see it. Before we look at the dynamics of circumcision revealed to Abraham, let's see what the New Testament has to say about the issue.

" A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code..." Rom. 2:28-29

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Col. 2:9-14

Notice these two New Testament scriptures speak of a "spiritual circumcision." This is what God is after. The Old Testament law was simply an example and picture to help us understand what God was really after ... a heart that was circumcised to him.

What is the significance of circumcision and how do we become spiritually circumcised? Let's look.

First of all we need to understand the significance of circumcision from God's point of view. He gave the natural or physical sign to illustrate spiritual truth, so we need to start there.

From our passage in Genesis 17:11-14 we can glean some important facts.

  1. Circumcision was not optional. It was to be KEPT!

  2. Every person had to be circumcised, even foreigners who lived with the Jews.

  3. It was THE sign of the covenant.

  4. Circumcision was to be performed on the 8th day after birth.

  5. Failure to be circumcised was regarded as a breaking of the covenant and was grounds for being "cut off" or removed from the people of God.

To these obvious statements we might add a few other observations.

  1. A person didn't circumcise themselves. They yielded to circumcision.

  2. Circumcision was the "cutting off of the flesh."

  3. Circumcision was done in a private, personal part of the body

  4. That which was cut off is unnecessary.

  5. Circumcision was a point of consecration.

  6. It concerned the cutting away of flesh.

From the two New Testament passages we can ascertain that:

  1. God wanted our hearts circumcised

  2. The Spirit performed spiritual circumcision.

Let's begin to apply these principles to the spiritual circumcision.

Circumcision Was Not Optional

Under God's Old Testament illustration circumcision is not optional. It is something that the Jews had to submit to. If God's pictures are to convey any truth at all they must remain consistent. I believe that God was telling us that spiritual circumcision is not an optional part of Christianity. Not to go through spiritual circumcision would be a breaking of God's spiritual covenant, just as failure to be circumcised was a breaking of His natural covenant. We need to understand this spiritual principle and yield our lives to it.

How does this apply to our spiritual lives? First, many people make a profession of faith in Christ, but their lives never changed. By its very nature, salvation is a life altering experience. It isn't a mental assent to live better or turn over a new leaf. It is a personal, spiritual encounter with God whereby a person's very nature is changed from the inside out. These passages in Romans 2 and Colossians 2 point out that the spiritual circumcision is performed by the Spirit of God.

When a person is born again a circumcision takes place. Something of the old flesh nature is cut away and the Spirit of God is imparted. Where no life change take place there has been no spiritual circumcision and thus no salvation.

A Sign Of The Covenant

Circumcision was a sign of God's covenant. It was the seal, so to speak. The New Testament gives us a "sign of the covenant" and even links it to the old sign. We have just looked at Col. 2:9-14. Notice how circumcision is the common subject, both physical and spiritual; but also notice how Paul brings in baptism and says that a circumcision takes place at that point. Baptism thus becomes the sign of the new covenant, just as circumcision was the sign of the old covenant. Paul says something happens in our lives when we yield to baptism in faith.

I have sought God on the issue of baptism for a number of years and I am convinced that indeed a spiritual work takes place in a person's life when they yield to baptism in understanding, faith and obedience.

Performed On The Eighth Day

There are several reasons for this. Physically and medically it has been shown that the blood clotting agents in the male blood stream reach their peak on the eighth day after birth and then diminish afterwards to normal levels. This was the practical side of the issue. A baby circumcised some 3000 years before modern surgical methods would not bleed to death.

Spiritually I believe that God knows when we are ready to have something of our flesh cut off. God doesn't want us to "bleed to death" spiritually, so He works in out lives to prepare us for His dealings.

Another reason is more directly related to spiritual reality. Circumcision wasn't performed right after birth. Likewise God doesn't start our Christian life out by cutting deeply into our hearts. While there is a fundamental change that takes place when we get saved, we usually go through a nurturing period where God is very tender and loving.

As we begin to grow and mature God begins the work of spiritual circumcision. Circumcision is God cutting off that part of us that is unnecessary. It is a deep and personal thing and cuts to the very core of who and what we are.

The number 8 in the Bible is the number of new beginnings. Throughout the Bible God did things in series of sevens, seven being the number of divine completion. After God brought His purpose to completion there was a new beginning. This is significant in the context of circumcision for two reasons.

The first is that nobody was ever circumcised before they had experienced one Sabbath. (See the booklet "Keeping Sabbath" in this series of messages for a better understanding of the principle of spiritual Sabbath.) Cutting off our fleshly nature is not easy. We were born with a sense of self-preservation. Nobody likes to deny himself or herself. God did not expect a man to circumcise himself. He was to submit to it. Experiencing spiritual Sabbath is resting in God's ability to get the job done in our lives. We stop striving and working and we begin to place our faith in God to do what we could never do.

One of two problems exists today in this area of cutting off our flesh. Either we've never been told it is necessary, or we set about to do it on our own. Spiritual circumcision is something that we must rest in. It came on the 8th day after a day of rest.

The 8th day also signifies a new beginning. Something is different after circumcision. It is the start of a new thing in our lives. Sometimes people come to know the Lord and are really excited about God, but after a while they get stagnant. Newness comes after the old has been cut off. And the reverse is true also. There are some new things we can't enter into until we've submitted our lives to spiritual circumcision.

New Testament Circumcision Is An Ongoing Work

Sometimes God illustrated a spiritual truth in the Old Testament, but its dynamics changed somewhat in the new. For instance, in the Old Testament it was necessary for certain sacrifices to occur every day, or on special days throughout the year. However, when Jesus came we are told in Hebrews that His one sacrifice was good forever and replaced the multitude of yearly sacrifices.

Jesus' crucifixion was a one time experience, yet we are told to take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23).

Likewise, circumcision, by its very nature could only happen once physically, but it can be a continuous spiritual work in our lives.

There's a curious scripture in Joshua 5:2 "At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time."

It is important to read a little more of the story. In it we find out that all of the men who had come out of Egypt 40 years earlier and who had been circumcised were dead (except Caleb and Joshua). And all the baby boys born in the wilderness had not been circumcised at all. While these boys and men were being circumcised the first time personally, God called it a second circumcision for the nation of Israel. It was a re-establishing of the covenant. God left us an example of it being possible for spiritual circumcision to be an ongoing work of grace in our lives.

More on this passage later

Breaking The Covenant

The 5th point in our study brings us to a significant question.

If failure to be circumcised under the old covenant was grounds for exclusion from that covenant, does it stand to reason that failure to be spiritually circumcised is grounds for exclusion under the new covenant? Remember that God didn't do one thing in the old and something different in the new. The old, natural example was to illustrate a spiritual truth. It makes no sense for God to require something in an Old Testament picture then discard it in the spiritual fulfillment and reality. We must settle this issue.

"... Without holiness no one will see the Lord." Heb 12:14b

What was the issue here? Circumcision was the "cutting off of the flesh." While salvation is a free gift of God through Jesus Christ, God does require that we get rid of the old flesh nature. Paul and Jesus required us to "take up the cross daily." The cross had but one purpose ... it was to kill the flesh. Spiritual circumcision is the removal of the old flesh nature. It started at conversion, continued through baptism and will remain a principle throughout our lives. Every time we face the issue of the old flesh nature, it must be "cut off." Not to do so is to allow sin to overwhelm us again and with it, the possibility of losing our faith in Christ.

So many Christians have the idea that God's sole objective is to forgive our sins and get us to heaven. Salvation is only the starting place of a much deeper work God desires to accomplish in our lives.

"For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them." 2 Pet 2:20-21 (For an in-depth treatment of this subject see the tract, Eternal Security or Once Saved Always Saved: Can a Person lose their Salvation?)

You Don't Circumcise Yourself

Nowhere does the Word of God tell us to circumcise ourselves. It was the job of the priests to perform the circumcision. Originally God told Abraham to circumcise everyone in his household. Later God spoke to Joshua, telling him to make sharp knives and do it. After that the duty fell to the priests on duty at the temple.

Likewise you are never told to crucify yourself. Even Jesus didn't crucify Himself, though He did yield to it. We are told to do what Jesus did ... "take up your cross and follow me...." We are to carry our cross. And we are to yield to the crucifixion of our flesh. But we aren't capable of doing it ourselves. Even in the physical sense you could, at best, only nail your feet and one hand down.

This is for several reasons. The first is that God placed within us a sense of self-preservation. We are not real good at accomplishing that which causes us pain. It's too easy to stop short. When you go through spiritual circumcision and your flesh is being cut off, it isn't dead flesh, but living flesh that is being trimmed out of your life.

Another reason is that God wants us to learn to YIELD to His Spirit. There are two agencies at work in spiritual circumcision. The first is the Spirit of God and the second is God's ordained ministry. (I'll treat this subject more thoroughly in a minute.)

The Principle Of The Flesh

It is important to understand what God has to say about the flesh nature. A lot of people get confused when you start talking about the flesh. They think in terms of the outer covering of this natural body, but the principle of the flesh is much more than that. While we are here, let me interject a thought. God is not against our bodies. The Bible says, "The body is ... for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." I Cor. 6:13 Paul goes on to say that our physical bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (verse19).

God isn't against our physical bodies. He is against the sinful fleshly nature that dwells in our bodies and causes us to sin. We need to understand this principle if we are going to understand and yield to spiritual circumcision.

"And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Gene 2:7 Here we discover the three parts of man. God formed a body, breathed the breath of life (the spirit) into him and he BECAME a living soul.

God originally spoke of man in terms of his soul. Later, after the fall and after man became corrupted, God spoke this way, "And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also [is] flesh..." Gen. 6:3

Lets see what the New Testament has to say about the flesh nature.

"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." John 6:63

"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:" John 6:63

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: for sin: or, by a sacrifice for sin. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Rom.

"For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." Gala 5:17 NIV

These, and many other passages, clearly demonstrate the conflict that exists between the two natures that reside within a Christian. The principle of the flesh (sin nature) is plain; it opposes God and delights in sin. Sin can easily be characterized as simply gratifying one's own desires. It is this flesh nature that promotes sinful behavior.

When the Bible speaks of sin it does so in two dynamics. There is "SIN" (singular) which refers to the sin nature, or the root of sin. The Bible also speaks of "SINS" (plural) which refers to the specific acts of sin. The ministry of Jesus deals with both aspects of sin. His death brought about forgiveness of SINS (plural) that we have committed and His resurrection brought power over SIN (singular) that dwells within us.

We must have our flesh nature dealt with. God pictured this "cutting away of the flesh" in the Old Testament sign of the covenant--circumcision. The New Testament also has a "cutting away of the flesh." It is "flesh nature" that must be cut off in spiritual circumcision, just as the natural flesh was cut off in physical circumcision.

There is absolutely no doubt that God had this in mind from the beginning. All the way back in Deuteronomy 10:16 God gave this admonition to Israel, "Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer."

The spiritual circumcision of the heart directly relates to the new covenant, just as physical circumcision related to the old covenant.

Circumcision Was Done In A Private Part Of The Body

Circumcision seems a strange way to initiate a covenant, doesn't it? However, everything God did in the Old Testament had meaning. Nothing was done without foreshadowing a spiritual truth to come. So it is with circumcision. I believe that God was trying to make a two-fold point here. The first was that circumcision is a personal matter. God is dealing deeply in the hearts lives of people when spiritual circumcision takes place. It isn't a matter for public display. God is gracious to deal with us privately about these things. It is fair to say that God wants us humbled, not humiliated.

The second point of the picture is similar to the first. Circumcision wasn't something everyone could see. You could see the effects of circumcision. A Jewish man followed the law of God (or should have). Likewise you can't see if a person has a circumcised heart, but you should be able to see the results of it. This causes a real problem for those in the Church who like to judge after the flesh. God can be doing a work in someone's heart and the effect has not yet been reflected in the outer life. We must be careful to "judge righteous judgment" as Jesus instructed us in John 7:24. True life-change starts inside, in the heart, not outside in the flesh.

Cutting Off the Unnecessary Part

I believe another point is being made here. Stop and think about something. The foreskin is the only part of our flesh that is unnecessary. It is the only part of our skin you can cut off without leaving a hole someplace. God only cuts out of our life what is unnecessary. Sometimes we think God is being unreasonable, but nothing He removes from us is of any value to our spiritual lives and well-being.

Circumcision Was a Point of Consecration

God declared that any Jewish male that was not circumcised would be "cut off from Israel." Circumcision then, became the point of consecration for the Jewish people.

Another interesting passage is found in Joshua 5:2 where the Bible tells us:

'At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day."

Why did God command them to be circumcised again? We've already pointed out that a person can't be physically circumcised twice. There is a spiritual truth here. Before the Israelites could enter into their inheritance, the nation had to be re-consecrated to God. Here God looked at the nation as a whole when saying that the nation needed to be "circumcised again the second time." It was the flesh that caused the Israelites to fail at God's promise to enter into the promised land. And although they had a covenant relationship with God, it was this flesh that had to be dealt with before the nation could finally enter in to their blessing.

Likewise, spiritual circumcision is a point of consecration to God. As a general rule we are pretty found of this stuff we call flesh. We pamper it and cater to it. We feed it and water it and generally take pretty good care of it. Self-preservation is a strong instinct. Allowing God to "cut off our flesh" takes more than a casual commitment to the cause. It takes real consecration.

To accept God's offer of forgiveness and salvation doesn't require a lot of sacrifice on our part. Although we must repent, we are in fact the beneficiaries. However, after salvation comes consecration. After the initial work of salvation, we must allow the nature of Christ to be formed in us. This is a life-long process--a continual circumcision--a continual consecration.

A couple more truths can be gleaned from this passage of scripture in Joshua.

Gilgal, the place where they were circumcised, means "rolling", because it was here that God "rolled away the reproach of Egypt."

Although God had taken His people out of Egypt, He hadn't yet gotten Egypt out of them. When God called Moses to the Mount for a few weeks, the Israelite, including Aaron, demanded "Gods". What they came up with was a golden calf, just like the Egyptians worshipped. They continually wanted to go back to Egypt rather then have to trust God to provide for them.

Circumcision (or consecration) was a way for God to give Israel a new identity. No longer were they slaves in Egypt. No longer would they be homeless vagabonds wandering around the desert. No longer would they suffer the indignities thrust upon them by the Egyptians. With circumcision they were renewing their covenant relationship with God. They now had a new identity as God's special people. This is what the Bible means when it says that God "rolled away the reproach of Egypt."

The Word of God tells us that we were slaves to sin. Many of us have done things that we are ashamed of. Sin held sway in our lives and we were not the FREE people we liked to boast about being. When we are born again God begins a circumcising work in our lives setting us free from the shame, guilt and bondage of our past lives, thus preparing us to enter into our "promised land." Truly the reproach of our old lifestyle is rolled away as we yield to God in spiritual circumcision.

Circumcision Requires Healing

The last point I want to make here is somewhat obvious. Circumcision required the CUTTING of the flesh and that involves some pain and a time of healing to follow. Remember that God didn't waste words in the Bible. When He pointed out that they stayed in camp until they were whole (healed) He was trying to tell us something.

Spiritual circumcision will usually carry some pain with it. Sorry, but that's part of yielding the flesh. Jesus and Paul both admonished us to "take up our cross and follow." Paul said, "I die daily." Carrying the cross, spiritual circumcision or whatever you want to call it is not a nice Christian doctrine to preach about, it is a spiritual reality to enter into. Dying to self will never be most people's idea of fun. The old nature will kick and scream all the way to the cross. Many will be the time that God asks us to give up something that we are pretty fond of. Or possibly ask us to do something that we are not fond of. Either way a "Cross is formed." A "Cross" occurs in your life when your will crosses God's will. Somebody's will is going to be crucified on that cross.

The pain associated with spiritual circumcision isn't generally physical pain. It is probably going to be an emotional struggle to yield to God. Sometimes after a particularly intense struggle to yield God will give us time to heal. I want to make a point here. During the past few years I have watched God work deeply in my own life and the lives of those people around me. Many times those same people did not have a clue that God was actually at work. Much of what God is doing today involves major changes over a period of time. The frustration and struggle is often painful and confusing, but God knows how to get the job done.

Paul admonishes us in the book of Hebrews 12:11 "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."

Read again the stories of the people most used of God in the Bible. You'll find they all went through frustrating times when everything looked absolutely hopeless in regards to what God had promised them. But in it all God was at work preparing each for the job He had planned for them.

So it is with us today. Sometimes after a time of spiritual circumcision we need time to heal. This is normal. Those who need to hear this will understand what I mean.

Spiritual Circumcision in the New Testament

"A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code..." Rom. 2:28-29

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Col. 2:9-14

In these a passages we find some interesting thoughts. First, as we have already discussed, we find that we do not circumcise ourselves (or each other for that matter). Christians today are really good at wanting to cut off the flesh, whether it be our own or someone else's. (Although I must say it is mostly other's flesh we want to cut off for them.) This is a fancy way of saying that we want to change all the bad stuff we see in others. We tend to spiritualize it by calling it discernment and "ministry". Often it is nothing more than self-righteousness and impatience. It isn't maturity, it is the height of immaturity.

I believe the bible addresses this tendency in Christians to be overzealous in whacking each other up. In Phil. 3:2 Paul tells the church something that the average person passes right over. However it is relevant to our message. "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision."

Paul used this word in a contemptuous manner referring to those who still required physical circumcision for a person to be right with God. However there is a deeper meaning here. Paul didn't warn them of the "circumcision" as he had in other places, but of the "concision." The word meant "mutilators of the flesh."

I believe Paul was telling the Philippians to be careful. He wanted us to be sure that in the process of cutting off the flesh we didn't "mutilate" people.

Spiritual circumcision was to performed by the Spirit of God.

While we should discipline our lives and yield to God, we must be careful not to get in God's way and try to do God's work. Much pain and destruction has been caused by Christians trying to straighten other Christians out. Along the same lines, many people become discouraged and quit serving God because they just couldn't be as spiritual as someone else. All Christian growth takes time and God knows how and when to get the job done.

Man can't touch the spirit of man, but God can. However God rarely does anything without His servants. It is still the job of the ministry to circumcise the Body of Christ as they preach the word of God and lead the flock of God. They must be led by the Spirit however, and not their flesh.

Paul told us to submit ourselves to the elders of the Church. As the ministry of God begins to touch live areas of our life by the Spirit of God we do one of two things. We can yield or we can get angry. A popular old phrase illustrates this perfectly. They used to tell the preacher he "stopped preachin' and started meddlin."

What is happening here? The Spirit, through the preacher, brings the flesh to the place of circumcision and self-preservation kicks in. Since we don't often understand what God is trying to do, we get mad at the preacher for confronting something in our lives. (The next time you get angry at something the preacher says why not stop and ask yourself if God is trying to bring something to your attention.)

Here is one reason why so many Christians don't ever mature. They go from church to church looking for a place to belong, to teach, to minister, but not for a place to be circumcised. When the ministry starts dealing with them, they find fault and run to the next new church that sprang up down the road.

Learning to yield to the voice of God, no matter what agent He speaks through is a maturing thing. We can certainly hear from God on our own, but the fact is that God still uses His ministry to work a work in the lives of his people. Smart is the Christian who will allow God to speak to them, correct them and circumcise them through His appointed ministry. It is humbling and it hurts sometimes, but it is the only way. Remember that circumcision must be yielded to.

Old and New Covenant Signs

Something else we should consider here is how God linked the Old Testament sign of circumcision to the New Testament sign of baptism. The passage in Colossians 2 seems to tell us that a circumcision takes place at baptism.

While I do not believe that a person must be baptized to be saved, I do understand that it is more than "an outward sign of an inward act." Consider this: Even the rituals God commanded under the Old Testament carried spiritual significance. Although they were signs that pointed to the spiritual reality that was to come, God still honored the people who obeyed them.

. Why would He suddenly command meaningless ritual under the new covenant that contained the spiritual reality. God only gave two ordinances to the Church: communion and baptism. I believe these have spiritual power attached to them. As we are obedient to observe them in faith, God ministers to us.

Before you argue about that last statement let me ask you a question. How could you do anything in faith and obedience that would not have a spiritual impact on your life?

In Conclusion

Several things are abundantly clear from our study. The main one is that circumcision is a spiritual principle in the bible that cannot be ignored.

We find that a circumcision takes place at the point of salvation. Again, Paul links it with baptism as a sign of the covenant. We also discovered that circumcision was an ongoing principle in our lives as we daily yield to the Spirit of God.

Another important fact is that Paul clearly links the old and new covenant signs in one passage. What should this mean to us? For the most part I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions based on what you have already read.

I will say this. Spiritual circumcision is not an option for the born again child of God. It isn't something you or I can take or leave. If the Old Testament people of God had to undergo circumcision under an inferior covenant, how much more is it required of us who have a better covenant?

And a final Scripture to bless you with on your journey.

"And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart , and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." Duet. 30:6

 I believe He is able to do just that! Don't you?

 

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