For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. Philippians 3:3-4 (EHV).
Paul uses much of this first part of Chapter 3 to remind us to have no confidence in our flesh; to not put our trust in this world but, instead, in Jesus. He does it using a comparison to circumcision.
Reading this in 2020, even I’ll admit: it’s uncomfortable, especially as a man. Yet it’s also logical to compare our faith in Christ to being ‘cut around.’ In the Bible, circumcision goes all the way back to Abraham, who was told by God to do it to the men in his life as a mark of devotion to God. In today’s world, women will (ok, rightfully) joke that a man’s penis is, to him, the most important part of his body. Even knowing that joke, God is STILL right, then, to have asked men to circumcise it He’s saying “dedicate the most important part of you to Me. Serve me this way.” In that, it becomes an act of love. Yet the more you read about it, the more you see it isn’t about a physical surgery.
Medically, there are some uses for circumcision but it is still mainly elective. Even going back to Paul’s time and beyond, that was true. It seems likely that this was something with which Abraham might have been familiar even before God commanded him to do it. For Jews of Paul’s day, it was part of Mosaic law; something they HAD to do. Yet, for Paul and we who came after him, it became just another Jewish custom we were no longer bound to obey because our circumcision was one of the heart: where God was asking us to cut around all else from the start (even in Abraham’s day).
Keep that in mind when reading the rest of the verses in chapter 3. It’s not about getting your foreskin cut off: it’s about excising from your heart any prideful sin that hides if from God. It’s about dedicating to Christ that which really is most important of all: our soul. Romans 2 spells it out: that our faith in God is a circumcision of the heart, where it matters most. Colossians 2 then takes that a step further, stating that it was Christ himself who cut off our sinful nature.
It is for men and women both to be circumcised of the heart, to have our sinful nature cut away and our souls reconfigured to be someone new. Only Jesus can do this.
For further reading: Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 6:15, Colossians 2:11, Philippians 3:5.
Lord Jesus, circumcise my heart and mark me as Your own. Cut away that which doesn’t matter and make me into a new person to serve You in Your work.