We are beginning our study of chapter three this morning. In the first three verses, Paul is laying out the fact that there is an attack upon the gospel. In verses 1-3, Paul issues a strong warning against those who would pervert the gospel. From its earliest days, the gospel has been attacked by those who would destroy it by adding to it. Two thousand years later we face the same battle. Paul began to talk about the battle in:
Philippians 1:27 (NKJV) Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,
Paul tells them in this verse that they need to strive together for the faith of the gospel. Then in chapter 2, he talks to them about unity. He tells them that if they are going to stand, they must stand together. In verses 15-16 of chapter 2, he tells them they are called to be salt and light holding forth the word of life. Then in chapter 3, he cautions them to beware of those who would pervert the gospel. Verse 2 gives the warning and verse 3 gives us the essence of a true believer. Verse three is a very good description of a true believer. We'll look at that next week. This morning we want to look at the warning. Jesus warned of people who would distort the gospel in the sermon on the mount.
Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV) "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
These are restrictive terms, one only enters by faith plus nothing else, and by faith in Christ and no one else. That is narrow. There are all kinds of people telling you of different ways to get to heaven but there is only one way.
John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Acts 4:12 (NKJV) "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
It is a narrow and compressed way that can be entered only through Jesus Christ.
Matthew 7:15 (NKJV) "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
This might cause you to picture a wolf hiding under a sheep skin. But the idea of sheep's clothing is most likely referring to a wool garment, the clothing of a prophet. There are false prophets out there selling tickets to the broad road. The gospel is faith in Christ plus nothing. If you add anything to the gospel, you destroy the gospel.
In Philippians 3:1-3, Paul gives a warning to the Philippians to watch out for those who would add to the gospel. As they stand together, they can preserve the purity of the gospel.
Philippians 3:1 (NKJV) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
The word "finally" is the Greek word loipon. It means: "furthermore or as for the rest, now then, or it can mean finally." The best translation here would probably be: "as for the rest." It is used here as a transition, not a conclusion. The word "rejoice" is the Greek word chairo. It means: "be glad, rejoice." Paul has spoken much about joy in this epistle but here he tells them for the first time to rejoice "in the Lord." Our rejoicing is connected to a relationship -- not to circumstances or material blessings, but to the Lord.
"Rejoice" is a command. We don't often think of joy as a duty, but it is. "In the Lord" means: "because you are in the Lord or because of what He has done." In context here he's saying, "Don't rejoice in what you have done, in your accomplishment or achievements, but rejoice in Christ and what he has done. In verse 3, he tells us to rejoice in Christ and not the accomplishments of the flesh.
Joy is not an emotion, happiness is an emotion, but joy is a product of the Holy Spirit. It is a deep confidence in the future that is built on trust. It is the absence of any ultimate fear, because what is there to fear when everything is bound up in the relationship and the relationship is eternal?
Luke 10:20 (NKJV) "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Our joy comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ. It's different from happiness (the happiness of good health) because true joy persists in weakness, pain, illness, and even death. It's different from the happiness that we get from a new house, or new car, or new clothes or anything else because it persists through the loss of everything. Why? Because it is founded in a relationship that can never be broken. Look with me at:
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NKJV) Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls; 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.
First he describes a total economic collapse and then he says he will rejoice in the Lord. Habakkuk realized that man does not live by bread alone. We don't stay alive because we have food, we stay alive because God grants us life. We are dependant upon God and God alone for our life. Most people's happiness is based upon circumstances and not in a relationship. This joy only comes from a relationship with God. The deeper the relationship, the deeper the joy.
Paul goes on in Philippians 3:1 to say, "To write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe." What same things? Some say he is referring to joy. He had told them to be joyful before and now he is saying it again. That could be true but how is that a safeguard? I think what he is reminding them of is what he said in 1:27-28. He warned them of the adversaries of the gospel. He warned them that they needed to stand together. Now in chapter 3:2, he says, "Beware." Paul is a good shepherd, he warns them against those who would destroy the gospel. Who is he warning them against?
Philippians 3:2 (NKJV) Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!
Three time he says, "Beware," they are all in the imperative. He is saying, "Be on the constant look out for, dogs, evil workers, and the mutilation." Paul has one hostile group in mind and describes it in three ways. Who are they? If you compare the word "mutilation" in verse 2, to the word "circumcision" in verse 3, you'll know he's talking about the Judaizers. In the Greek, you can see his play on words. The words he uses are katatome and peritome. The Judaizers were a group of people who went around in the first century promoting Judaism. They were pushing Judaism on the believers. They were saying that in order to be a Christian you must first come through the door of Judaism. You must be circumcised and keep the law. They were saying, "Yes, you must trust in Christ but you also must keep the law." In Acts 15, we see one of the first church counsels. And the debate was over the need for believers to be circumcised and keep the law.
Acts 15:1 (NKJV) And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
This is the gospel under siege. They are saying you can't be saved unless you are circumcised.
Acts 15:5 (NKJV) But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses."
These Judaizers can be either one of two groups; they can be Jews who are not Christians that are just out pushing Judaism, or the could be believers, as verse 5 indicates, "Pharisees who believed." They were believers who had not parted from the Mosaic system. The Judaizers didn't denounce Christ, they just said that what He did was not enough. We must add to it. They were teaching a faith plus works system.
Let's look at some background on Judaism and circumcision. Paul is dealing with Jews in verse 2. There were many religious Jews in that world and they believed that they were the people of God. Remember, for 1600 years God dealt solely with the Jewish nation. If you wanted to come to God, you had to come through Judaism. They believed that they maintained a covenant relationship with God which secured their salvation. The proof of their identity and belonging was a mark. They bore a mark as the children of Abraham naturally, which they thought affirmed their right to be called the children of God supernaturally. The Jews held on to that mark and by it they assumed that they were secure with God. That mark is called circumcision. To the Jews of Jesus and Paul's day, circumcision was a very important mark.
The Talmud was a collection of Jewish writings that the Jews came to hold more sacred than the Scripture. The Talmud said, "The commandment of circumcision is more important than all the injunctions of scripture." That shows the value they placed on circumcision. The Jews believed that if a Jew was so vile and so evil that he was sent to Hell, before he could enter Hell, there were angels at the gate that removed his circumcision. The most important thing a Jew could do to secure his relationship with God was to be circumcised.
The English word "circumcision" comes from a Latin word which means: "to cut around," it describes the original biblical reference to a surgery that was performed on little boys and often on adult males. The simple surgery removes the foreskin from the male organ. God himself established the practice:
Genesis 12:1-2 (NKJV) Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, >From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.
This is the Abrahamic covenant. God promises to make of Abraham a great nation. Then in chapter 15, the covenant is inaugurated. God meets with Abraham.
Genesis 15:8 (NKJV) And he said, "Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?"
Abraham is asking, "God, how do I know that your promise will take place?"
Genesis 15:9-17 (NKJV) So He said to him, "Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon." 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 "And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 "Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." 17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
When people made a covenant, they would take animals and split them in half and the two parties would walk in between the pieces and shake hands. The idea of walking between the dead animals was, "May God do this to us if we break this covenant." This covenant was different, Abraham wasn't involved. God walked through the pieces Himself because this was a unilateral covenant. God promises Abraham that he would be a blessing. In this Abrahamic covenant is the promise of a Redeemer. That Redeemer is Christ. That is how Abraham is going to be a blessing to all nations-- through Christ. The book of Galatians makes it clear that this promise was in reference to the coming Redeemer, Christ. This is the Abrahamic covenant. Then in chapter 17, God gives Abraham a symbol of the covenant so he won't forget the promise that was made. Today we wear wedding rings as tokens of the covenant that we made with our spouse. This is God's token of the covenant-- circumcision.
Genesis 17:1-14 (NKJV) When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 "And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly."
This is quite a promise to a man who is 99 years old and has no children.
3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 "No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 "I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.
There is the promise of the Redeemer. This is to be an everlasting covenant, it will never end.
8 "Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." 9 And God said to Abraham: "As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 "This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 "and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 "He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13 "He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 "And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."
So, you can see from this that it was God who instituted circumcision as a sign or token of the covenant that he had made with Abraham. All Israel and those associated with them had to be circumcised. To the Jews, this was their badge that they were the children of God.
Circumcision was not unique to Israel. It was found in many ancient cultures, often used as a rite of manhood. But God ordained it as a sign for a spiritual reminder.
Nowhere or at no point is man's depravity more manifest than in the procreative act. We know man is a sinner by what he says and by what he does, we know he's a sinner by the attitudes that he carries. How do we know that man is a sinner at the very base of his character? How do we know that man is a sinner at the root of his existence? By what he creates, whatever comes from the loins of man is wicked. So nowhere is depravity so manifest, when man procreates, he produces a sinner. Remember, Jesus Christ had no human father, he was sinless.
The male organ then is the point at which human depravity is most demonstrated. You see the nature of sin passed on to the next generation. When God demanded that the male be circumcised, He was giving them a symbol that the outward part of man's procreative organ was cleansed to remind them that man needed to be cleansed of sin at the deepest root of his being. Man needed a spiritual surgery to cleanse him. Every time they circumcised a person they were reminding themselves of the fact that man was a wicked sinner and in need of a cleansing. Even the blood shed that occurred in circumcision symbolized the need for sacrifice to accomplish that cleansing. So there was even a picture of the pain and sacrifice needed to cleanse the sinner in circumcision.
God intended it to be a symbol of a spiritual reality. There are not many commands for circumcision in the Bible because the people did it. They were very good at doing the outward things. Look at how dedicated they were to circumcision.
Joshua 5:1-3 (NKJV) So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.
You must see this. The children of Israel were feared by the surrounding nations. Then verse 2 says, "At that time." At what time? At the time when all the nations were scared to death of Israel.
2 At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time." 3 So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.
We're talking about over a million people at one time being circumcised. They had just spent forty years in the wilderness and all the generation that was circumcised died off. And they didn't circumcise the new generation, which showed their spiritual apathy. Now they are in the new land and God says to circumcise them all. Just to show you how seriously they took this, they circumcised their whole army. When an adult male is circumcised, he is incapacitated for days. They incapacitated their whole army in the midst of enemy territory. Circumcision was taken so seriously by them that they circumcised their whole army in the midst of the enemy, which made them unable to fight, in order to obey God's command.
There are some interesting stories about circumcision, one of them is found in Genesis 34. It's the story of Dinah. Dinah was Jacob's daughter and she was raped by Shechem, who was a pagan that lived in the land. He took Dinah and raped her. Then he wanted her for his wife, so went to Jacob and asked if he could have her for his wife. Jacob knew that Dinah had been raped but he did nothing.
Genesis 34:11-17 (NKJV) Then Shechem said to her father and her brothers, "Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 "Ask me ever so much dowry and gift, and I will give according to what you say to me; but give me the young woman as a wife." 13 But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. 14 And they said to them, "We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a reproach to us. 15 "But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised, 16 "then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us; and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. 17 "But if you will not heed us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone."
So, they told them that if they were all circumcised, that only then could Shechem marry their sister.
Genesis 34:24-26 (NKJV) And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem his son; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city. 25 Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. 26 And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem's house, and went out.
The men were all incapacitated by the circumcision and Simeon and Levi killed them all and took back their sister. They used the sacred token of circumcision to avenge their sister. It seemed that they looked on circumcision as only an outward sign, it seemed to have lost its meaning.
Circumcision was to be much more than just an outward sign. It was to be the outward sign of an inward reality, but they lost the true meaning and kept only the outward sign.
Jeremiah 4:4 (NKJV) Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, And take away the foreskins of your hearts, You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury come forth like fire, And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings."
Circumcision was a spiritual thing. They were keeping the outward symbol but they were not realizing the spiritual significance of it.
These people were religious to the tee in external ceremony, but they were not righteous, they were wicked, they followed the outward with no inward spirituality.
Paul spoke out against the Jew's empty ceremony.
Romans 2:25-27 (NKJV) For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?
The symbol means nothing without the reality. The Jews were circumcised on the outside but not the inside. Circumcision is the external symbol depicting the need for a total cleansing from sin, but Israel had reduced it to a tribal tatoo. They felt as long as they were circumcised, they had God's blessing. Then Paul comes along preaching grace to the Gentiles. Paul is teaching that salvation is by faith alone. So the Jews are getting very upset and they trouble the new churches with Old Testament ceremony.
Acts 15:1 (NKJV) And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
Acts 15:5-8 (NKJV) But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." 6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.
Here we have the first church council.
7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us,
Peter is saying that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit just like the Jews had, and they were not circumcised. So the council decided that circumcision was not necessary for salvation.
Let's look at Colossians, which is the normative New Testament passage on circumcision.
Colossians 2:10-12 (NKJV) and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
Believers are circumcised in Christ with the true circumcision of the heart. The symbol of circumcision has now been replaced with the New Covenant sign of baptism. Just as circumcision was a picture of cleansing, so is baptism now. Baptism is a physical picture of the spiritual reality of cleansing. So, in the New Covenant, circumcision is no longer necessary.
Let's look at the book of Galatians, which was written to combat the Judastic heresy.
Galatians 1:6-9 (NKJV) I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
Paul says that he is preaching the gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone. If anyone preaches any other gospel, if they add anything to faith, let them be accursed.
Galatians 5:2 (NKJV) Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.
What he is saying here is, "Christ plus circumcision equals nothing." You cannot add anything to faith. If you do, you destroy faith. If you think in order to be saved you've got to be circumcised, then Christ won't do you any good because you're believing in salvation by works.
Galatians 5:3-4 (NKJV) And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
If you are trying to do anything to earn your salvation, you have fallen from the principle of grace.
These Judaizers followed Paul wherever he went preaching their gospel of works. They were a threat to the Philippian church, so Paul, in Philippians 3:2 says:
Philippians 3:2 (NKJV) Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!
Paul uses very strong language against these Judaizers. The word "beware" is the Greek word blepo, which comes from the verb meaning: "to see" hence to look out for, notice, watch for. It is in the present tense and has the idea of, "keep on looking out for."
They are to be continually looking out for "dogs." This comes from the Greek word kuon, which means: "a dog" literally or figuratively. Paul uses it figuratively here of the Judaizers. They were the apostles of apostasy, the evangelists of evil.
This is very strong language. You just didn't call people dogs in the ancient world. "Dog" was a derogatory term then, much more then it is today. We might use the expression today, "You dog", meaning the person is a low life. Or it may be used of an unattractive women, "she's a dog." As derogatory as it would be for a woman to be called a dog today, it doesn't compare to the strength it had in the first century.
"Dogs" of the ancient world for the most part were not pets, they were regarded with contempt, they traveled in packs and were scavengers and carriers of disease. In the Bible, the dog always stands for that which nothing can be lower.
Metaphorically, "dog" was a term of contempt:
1 Samuel 17:43 (NKJV) So the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
"Dog" was also a term of self-abasement:
1 Samuel 24:14 (NKJV) "After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A flea?
"Dog" may refer to a male cult prostitute (Deut. 23:19), though the exact meaning of "dog's wages" is disputed. The prophet insulted the priests by saying their sacrifices were no better than breaking a dog's neck and sacrificing the dog (Isa. 66:3). This means sacrifice is not needed in the New Covenant age and that the priests had neglected their first task, that of determining God's will.
Jesus used "dogs" to teach people to be discriminating in whom they chose to teach:
Matthew 7:6 (NKJV) "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
Peter and John both used the term "dog" in a derogatory way:
2 Peter 2:22 (NKJV) But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
Revelation 22:15 (NKJV) But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
The "dog" stands for everything that is shamelessly unclean. The Jews had come to use the term "dog" for Gentiles because the Gentiles were unclean. Jesus used it this way:
Mark 7:26-28 (NKJV) The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, "Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." 28 And she answered and said to Him, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children's crumbs."
Now here is Paul, a Jew, calling these Judaizers "dogs" because they pervert the gospel. No wonder they didn't like Paul. He calls them "dogs", filthy scavengers, foul, diseased, and dangerous. They spread their disease everywhere they go. Anyone who adds to grace is a "dog"! No matter what they add.
Paul also says they are to be continually looking out for "evil workers." The word that Paul uses for evil is kakos, and the word for workers is ergates. Paul is saying they were evil, worthless, depraved. They thought they were working righteously but they were evil workers. They were evil, and they were working hard to spread their evil. The height of wickedness is to think you can earn God's favor by your works -- this is pride. Paul calls them "deceitful workers" in:
2 Corinthians 11:13 (NKJV) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
They were legalists! Imposing their do's and don't's on people. They think they're spiritual because of what they do and don't do.
Then finally, Paul says they are to be continually looking out for "the mutilation." The word "mutilation" is the Greek word katatome. There is a pun in the Greek here which is not seen in the English. The word "circumcision", in verse 3, is the Greek word peritome, which means: "to cut around." In verse 2, Paul uses katatome, which means: "to mutilate." Paul is saying, "We are the peritome but they are the katatome." Paul is telling them that all they were doing was physically mutilating their bodies, it had no spiritual significance. "You Jews think that you are circumcised, but in fact, you are only mutilated." This word, katatome, is used in the LXX of the pagan cuttings of the body that were forbidden by the law of Israel. It is used in 1 Kings 18 of the prophet of Baal:
1 Kings 18:28 (NKJV) So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them.
Paul uses very strong language when confronting the Judaizers, look with me at:
Galatians 5:12 (NKJV) I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
The word Paul uses for "cut off" is apokopto, it means: "to amputate or castrate." Paul says, "I wish you Judaizers would go all the way and castrate yourselves."
Those who add works to salvation are very dangerous, very destructive, they're dogs, evil workers and mutilators.
Paul preached grace-- salvation by faith alone. Then along came the Judaizers and said, "Yes, you must trust Christ but you must also be circumcised and keep the law of Moses." Many Christians would buy into this system, and it was confusing the church.
So, how does this relate to us? We don't have any Jews running around saying that we must be circumcised in order to be saved. No, we don't have any Judaizers but we still have the same problem. We still have people saying, "If you want to be right with God, you must do this or that, join this, be baptized." There are many today that would add to the gospel of grace some human achievement. This is legalism! Anything you do to gain salvation is a work, whether it be baptism, church membership, walking an isle, or obedience to the law. There are many today saying, "If you don't live in obedience to the Word of God, you cannot be saved." They add works to grace. The Bible says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."
Philippians 3:3 (NKJV) For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
A Christian is a person who trusts only and completely in Christ for their salvation. If they believe that they can some how earn merit with God for salvation by anything they do, they are under the condemnation of God.
I believe that the gospel is still coming under siege today. The majority of people who think they are saved, think they are saved because they do or don't do something. Believers, we must stand fast defending the gospel of grace. We are saved by grace, and grace alone. All the glory for salvation goes to God, and God alone.
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