True Circumcision, and the Joy of its Promise

Taken from, “A Description of the True Circumcision”
Written by Thomas Manton

It is finished

“for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh”

–Philippians 3:3


AMONG those that entertain thoughts of religion…

…there ever have been and will be many contests who are the true church and people of God. The lazy place their plea and claim in external observations; the serious look to the vitals and heart of religion, and cannot satisfy themselves in an outward form without the life and power. This was the very difference between the true Christians and a certain sort of persons who took upon them to be the circumcision. ‘The Jews are often called the circumcision,’ therefore ‘Christ is said to be a minister of the circumcision,’ as being sent to the people that were to be circumcised, Romans 15:8. And ‘Peter is called the apostle of the circumcision,’ Galatians 2:7, 8, as being appointed to deal with that people. Now these Judaizing Christians, who had a zeal for the ceremonies of the law, did falsely boast themselves to be the only people of God and the true circumcision. This was the difference between them: who were to be accounted the true circumcision, the Jewish zealots, who placed their justification in the ceremonies of the law, or those who adhered to Christ only, and looked for the mercy of God through him? ‘We are the circumcision’ say they, excluding the other and better sort of Christians. The one had the form, and the other the effect and power; the one were circumcised outwardly, the other spiritually. The apostle judges for the latter; the former were κατατομή, ‘the concision,’ who, instead of circumcising themselves, did cut asunder the church of God; but the sound believers were περιτομή, ‘the circumcision’ indeed, as being circumcised by the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by Christ, Colossians 2:11. They were the true children of Abraham, who did indeed perform that for which circumcision was intended, for we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.’

In the words we have a threefold description of the true circumcision: how they stand affected to God, Christ, self.

I. They worship God in the spirit.
II. They rejoice in Christ Jesus.
III. They have no confidence in the flesh.

In the promises of Christ there is matter of joy…

In the general, God is your God, and that is more than to have all the world to be yours: compare Genesis 17:7, ‘I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee,’ with Psalm 144:15, ‘Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.’ We have an eternal and all-sufficient God to live upon, and from whom to derive our joy and comfort; a God infinite in power, wisdom, and goodness to be our portion. And where is matter of joy and comfort, if not in God? Behold the difference between carnal men and the children of God; the world is their portion, and God is ours; and who is better provided for? More especially we are told, 1 Timothy 4:8, that ‘Godliness hath the promises of this life, and that which is to come.’ Heaven and earth are laid at the feet of godliness; what would you more? Surely we have full consolation offered to us in the promises of the gospel; he can want nothing to his comfort who hath an interest in them.

To instance, in the lowest blessings, those which concern this life: God is our God, that can cure all diseases, overcome all enemies, supply all wants, deliver in all dangers, and will do it so far as is for our good; and desires of anything beyond this are not to be satisfied, but mortified, Psalm 84:11. But then for the more excel lent promises of the new covenant, which concern another world, such as the pardoning of our sins, the healing our natures, and the glorifying of our persons: 2 Peter 1:4, ‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ The pardon of all our sins, which are the great trouble and burden of the creatures. Who will rejoice like the pardoned sinner, who is discharged of his debt, eased of his burthen, and hath his filth covered? Psalm 32:1, ‘Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’

Oh, the blessedness of the man! He is like one fetched back from execution. Then the taking away of the stony heart, and the giving of a holy and heavenly heart. Oh, what matter of joy is this, to have all things necessary to life and godliness! What is the trouble of a gracious heart, but the relics of corruption? Romans 7:24. Paul groans sorely, but yet blesses God for his hopes by Christ, Romans 7:25. Renewing grace is dearly bought, and plentifully bestowed, Titus 3:5, 6; and graciously offered to those that will seek after it: Proverbs 1:23, ‘Turn you at my reproof; behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you.’ And this promise to be fulfilled by a divine power, 2 Peter 1:3. ‘Oh, what a comfort is the Redeemer’s grace to a soul that hath been long exercised in subduing sin!

It is true it groans while it is a-doing, yet the very groans of the sick show that life and health is sweet. Healing, renewing grace makes other things sweet; as your whole duty to God, it makes it become your delight. But the great promise is eternal life: 1 John 2:25, ‘And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.’ That is a matter of joy indeed. What, to live forever with God! The forethought of it revives us; the foretaste of it is a kind of heaven upon earth, 1 Peter 1:8. The certain hope of it will swallow up all grief and sorrow, Romans 5:2, 3. So that there is no question but that in the promises of Christ there is matter of great joy.