For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
I. THE SACRAMENTS OF OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS ARE IN SUBSTANCE THE SAME. The Philippians who were baptized with water and the Holy Ghost are said to be circumcised. And so the apostle attributes our baptism and Lord's supper after a sort to the Church of the Jews (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). As the covenant was always the same in substance, so the seals of it were the same too.
II. THE REALITY OF THAT WHICH SEDUCERS PRETEND TO, WILL MORE READILY BE FOUND IN THOSE THAT CONSCIENTIOUSLY OPPOSE THEM. These men ran down the apostle and others, giving out themselves only for the circumcised ones. But the apostle proves he had the better claim. Thus the works of holiness are to be found more with those that press justification by faith, than with others who would be looked on as great patrons of good works. Be not, then, deceived with fair speeches; examine matters to the bottom. Often those who have the highest pretences to right on their side go farthest from it.
III. THE SIGN IN RELIGION WITHOUT THE THING SIGNIFIED IS LITTLE WORTH.
1. All it can do is to give a name before men which they lose before God (Romans 2:28-29). Christian may be an honourable title before men, and an empty title before God.
2. The sign is a mere external thing on which nothing of weight for salvation can hang, and therefore when the Lord comes to judgment, He throws down all together (Jeremiah 9:25-26). For He looks not to the outward appearance but to the heart.
3. It is an inefficacious thing; as a body without a spirit. He who has got the sign only, has only the meanest half of the sacrament. Sacraments are seals of the covenant; but where there is no covenant there can be no seal; and what avails a seal at a blank.
4. Men in Christ's livery may abide in the devil's service and meet with his doom (Luke 13:26-27).
5. To apply all this.
(1) Baptism with water without the Holy Spirit is little worth. Many never reflect seriously on their baptism. Hence they live as though they had never sworn allegiance to the King of heaven, and were entirely their own, and will never renew it. Let me ask as touching this baptism:(a) Baptized ye were with water, but were ye ever baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire — the thing signified? Alas, in consequence of the want of this, the universal coldness in the things of God.
(b) Hast thou realized that only the blood and Spirit of Christ can cleanse thee? In baptism is a profession of this. If not what avails thy baptism.
(c) Wast thou ever made partaker of the washing of regeneration? (Titus 3:5-6). Unto what then were ye baptized? (Acts 19:2).
(d) Where ye ever cut off from the old stock of Adam and ingrafted into Christ? (1 Corinthians 12:13). Baptized into the name of Christ, and yet not in Christ, but without Him makes sad work.
(e) Are lusts reigning: or are they dying, and your souls living a new life? (Romans 6:5-6). Has the water been but as that thrown upon a corpse?
(2) The Lord's supper without the thing signified is little worth. To be partakers of the bread of the Lord without the bread which is the Lord will go but small length (John 6:57).
IV. BELIEVERS IN CHRIST ARE THE TRUE CIRCUMCISION. They have in spirit which the Jews, by this ordinance, only had in the letter. Circumcision was —
1. A token of God's covenant (Genesis 17:7-11). This honour have all God's saints to have God Himself to be ours.
2. A distinction between Jews and others, as God's people (Genesis 17:4). So believers are God's people, His garden, while others are but His out field.
3. A cutting off of part of the flesh, signifying the believer's privilege and duty (Colossians 2:11). Their hearts are circumcised to love the Lord; their ears to hear Him; their lips to speak for Him.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.