Here Paul gives a revolutionary definition of who a Jew is. He divorced it from the physical lineage of some patriarch, saying it is not about the outward circumcision, but to inward circumcision, the circumcision of the heart.
As far as he was concerned, the inward reality is more important than the outward. God said he looks at the heart while human beings look at the appearance (1Samuel 16:7). And concerning Jesus, it was written that he will not judge by the hearing of the ears but what he sees he judges by the inspiration of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:1-5).
It is also not what you claim to be but what you really are in spiritual essence that matters. The sons of Sceva wanted to use the name of Jesus to cast out devils (Acts 19:11-17). Having observed Paul, and seeing what he did, they wanted to practise the form of using the name without a functional relationship with Jesus. In the end they barely escaped with their lives, as the demon using the body of the man pounced on them. It is not about the right earthly motion you make, but the right divine motion in us.
As it is written, God is at work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), Christianity is not about certain activities that you do daily like praying, going to church, talking nice, it is about a new life (Galatian 6:15). Nothing else is more important that having the new creation experience.
When a good Jew in Nicodemus came to Jesus, Jesus was very blunt with him, saying: nothing else matters, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Nicodemus’s piety was not going to help him in this matter, neither would his sincerity. Jesus says that what is needed is to be born of the Spirit.
Paul was very bold to say that it is not the one who is a natural offspring of Abraham that will inherit the promise, but the promise was made to one offspring, and that is Christ, and those who associate in faith with him (Galatians 3).
He wrote that he who is of faith, is linked to faithful Abraham through Jesus Christ, even if by natural lineage you are disqualified.
The bible says that Abraham believed God and that was accounted to him for righteousness (Galatians 15:6), since the sin in the Garden of Eden was the lack of belief in the word of God that the devil introduced in the garden (Genesis 3). So those who follow in the steps of Abraham in having faith in the Jesus (the word of God), are also counted righteous.
There is a concept of adoption, in which, those who were not naturally linked to the covenant with God, becomes sons by adoption (Romans 8:15-16), and the Spirit of God is sent to our heart to validate that God is now our new owner, our father, source of our life.
The time when you just wear the label of Christian is over, you must now bear Christ in your heart to the world, not just a name, or a tag, or a church. It is not about what you claim to be, but what you have been made to be.
John wrote that those who receive Jesus are given the power to become sons of God (John 1:12), with the attendant rights and privileges, receiving the truth and grace that are through Jesus (John 1:14).
When Paul said in the focus verse that the true circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, whose praise is from God, he compared the physical reality of the cutting the foreskin of a male child (which is done by man, which man can take some glory for) to the spiritual reality of inner transformation which can only be done by God and praise for it can only go to God.
While the physical circumcision, is associated with the old covenant, the circumcision in the spirit is associated with the new covenant in Jesus Christ.
While John the Baptist was introducing him, he said: though I baptised you with water, applying physical substance to you, the one coming after me (Jesus) will apply spiritual substance to the people, baptising them with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11).
He was announcing (as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make plain the way of the Lord) the passing of the old forms of all things rituals, and heralding the coming of Jesus and things spiritual.
When John baptises he pulls down, but when Jesus wanted to fill the church with the Holy Spirit, it was in an upper room. John came to clean the people up, Jesus came to fix them permanently. When you are cleaned, you’ll always need another, because the dirt is both from inside the heart and outside in the world (Jeremiah 17:9).
That was the deficiency in the old covenant. There needed to be a constant repetition of the same sacrifice year after year, month after month, day after day, a constant cleaning which hardly lasts a day not even a moment. That is not the best of God.
And through the history of Israel God outlines how he rejects the first to embrace the second. He rejected King Saul and embraced King David (1Samuel 15:27-28). He said: Esau have I hated and Jacob have I loved (Romans 9:13). He rejected Cain and accepted Abel (Genesis 4:3-7).
He rejected Ishmael to accept Isaac (Genesis 17:17-19). So what can stop God from rejecting the old of covenant and building a lasting new covenant (Hebrews ), putting aside the natural Israel to embrace the spiritual Israel, rejecting the earthly Jerusalem, to refocus us on an heavenly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:45-46)?
There is the rejection of the first Adam for the established of the second Adam (1Corinthians 15:22, 45). The first Adam was chased from the garden, but now the garden is brought in us in the second Adam, our heaven comes to live in us, the connection with God is established in us.
John spoke about Jesus: there is one coming after me, who was before me, whose sandal I am not worthy to loose, the greatness of whom is without limit (Matthew 3:11). But it is interesting that it is the same Jesus who bent down to wash the feet of the disciples, in eternal lesson of humility (John 13:1-17).
And that will be the hallmark of the new order, it is not about how great you are but how great you make others to become (Matthew 23:11).
The Jews were proud of and attached to their historical heritage, but Jesus left his own heritage in heaven to share the same with us. He left heaven to come after us and take us there. The Jews points back to history, speaking of the manna from heaven which they enjoyed for forty years under Moses in the wilderness, but Jesus was the bread from heaven giving spiritual life, while those who ate the manna all died (John 6:47-51).
- The Church | Part 1 (faithfulstewardship.wordpress.com)