4. Prequel: The Church at Philippi (NKJV)

April 29, 2019

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Acts 16: 4 “And as they (Paul, Silas, and Timothy) went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.”

These decrees were in the form of epistles, much like the same epistles we read in the New Testament. For these believers, the information contained in these letters fell under the category of The New Covenant. Look at Acts 15. In that chapter, you will find the who, what, when, where, and why. Some Jewish believers came from Judea to Antioch. They taught that all gentiles, according to the Law of Moses should receive the sign of circumcision. Apparently, they did not understand that God’s requirement now was the circumcision of the heart. The following is from JewsforJesus.org. This will give us a better understanding of the rite of circumcision.

What is Circumcision All About?

“The key here is that circumcision was to be a “sign of the covenant” that had already been given with no strings attached to Abraham. The rite of circumcision was made a part of the Law of Moses several hundred years later when God gave instruction concerning the birth of a male-child: “And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Leviticus 12:3).

This practice was continued generation after generation, but when the nation of Israel was forced to wander 40 years in the wilderness the rite of circumcision temporarily ceased. Some authorities believe God demanded this generation to die out because of their refusal to believe Him when He told them to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:32-35). Therefore, a rejected generation no longer practiced circumcision. The disobedient nation of Israel roaming through the wilderness like lost sheep , were momentarily taken out of the covenant. They refused to believe God’s promises when He told them to take the land, and now they were paying the price because of their rebellion.…

Yet, with God’s punishment comes God’s love. For when the 40-year journey was ending, the covenant—and all its blessings returned. As soon as the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan into the land of milk and honey the Lord God immediately gave a command to Joshua: “At that time the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.’ ” (Joshua 5:2.) Now that they were in the land, back in the place of faith enjoying obedience and fellowship with God, the practice of circumcision was restored and God blessed the people of Israel. Israel has always had a special place in the sight of God. He chose the nation to point the way to Himself and to spread His love among all the nations. Since circumcision was the sign of the covenant, which involved this universal blessing, it had significance beyond its observance as a national rite.

Beyond the Physical

Practically, they couldn’t not show the world they were circumcised, but God’s covenant extends further than just the physical realm. A way has been provided in which our words and actions can show the nations God has circumcised our hearts. We read His promise in Deuteronomy 30: 6:

“Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live”.

This type of circumcision, by definition a circumcision of the spirit and not the flesh, goes to the heart of a man, to his soul, his essence, his attitudes, and relationship with God. Because this theme of an inner circumcision is so important, God repeats and stresses it, as in Deuteronomy 10:12:

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. And to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more.”

These Jewish believers from Antioch’s necks were stiff. Moreover, we still deal with stiff-necked legalistic Christians today. They were determined to believe and teach an outward show of worship by hanging on to dead traditions, creeds, and titles, which can only produce death. You will know these type of believers easily because they will always have some type of hoop you must jump through. The LORD Jesus spoke these words:

Matthew 23: 1 “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ 8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation”.

Every day we need to examine ourselves, not just at The Table of The LORD. The wicked one does not sleep. Jesus said in another place regarding the condition of the heart.

Matthew 13: 18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

Know the Truth that will set you free. Because when Jesus sets you free, you are sho-nuff free indeed. To be continued…

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