9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:9–11, NKJV)
The Christian is described as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Conversion to Christ includes a deliberate decision of faith to put away the sins that defined the old person of sin with its deeds and to put on the new person who is in the image of Christ (Col. 3:9-10). Notably, being a new person in Christ is defined by a new way of life, one that ceases the practice of sin and practices righteousness (Col. 3:1-9, 12-17). Being a new person in Christ is not defined by culture (neither Greek nor Jew), previous religious traditions (circumcised nor uncircumcised), ethnicity and race (barbarian, Scythian), or social strata (slave nor free). All of these are in Christ, and yet Christ is not limited by any such things. The gospel is for all the world because all have sinned (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:16; 3:23). It is very wrong to look through the lens of race, ethnicity, social strata, human traditions, or any other humanly devised label to identify those who belong to Christ. Scripture says, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Christians ought to act like it and never be driven by prejudices of the heart.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them (2 Timothy 3:13–14, NKJV)
In yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1599) we learned the gospel teaches God’s people are no longer identified by their flesh, but by their faith (Romans 2:28-29). Now, let us apply what we learned. God’s word of truth informs us that the physical nation of Israel is no longer the chosen people of God. Therefore, any religious doctrine that elevates the nation of Israel to “chosen” or “promised” status is necessarily mistaken. For example, a widely held view is that Christ will return to earth and return the nation of Israel to its promised land (even though God fulfilled that promise long ago, Joshua 21:43). Scripture says we will meet the Lord in the air, not on the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Another doctrine some teach says every nation will be judged by God based on how it treats the nation of Israel. The judgment of the last great day will be individual, not national (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). False doctrines concerning Israel deceive many souls. Today, it is one of the nations of the world, but the word of God gives it no superior standing among the nations. Every nation is under the rule of Jesus Christ, and every person who rejects Him as Messiah is lost in sin (1 Timothy 6:15; John 8:23-24). “In every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35).
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28–29, NKJV)
The gospel of Christ makes no fleshly distinctions when identifying the chosen people of God. The text before us is very clear. The gospel of Christ does not identify a Jew by outward circumcision, but by the inward circumcision of the heart. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God’s “chosen generation” today is His church that is composed of Christians, whether Jew or Gentile in the flesh, it makes no difference to God (1 Peter 2:9; Acts 15:9). Scripture says, “nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham” (Romans 9:7). Any doctrine that elevates any race of people above another has distorted the gospel of Christ and the salvation it extends to all, regardless of whether they are a Jew or a Gentile (Romans 1:16-17). Fleshly Israel was told to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16). In Christ, it is the circumcision of Christ – the cutting away of “the body of the sins of the flesh” (which occurs in baptism) – that identifies a person as a child of God (Colossians 2:11-13).
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11–13, NKJV)
The fleshly circumcision that identified Israel as God’s covenant people was an operation performed “in the flesh by hands” (v. 11). Removing the foreskin was a foreshadowing of the “circumcision of Christ,” which is “the putting off of the body of the sins of flesh” – the operation God performs when a sinner is “buried with Him (Christ, jrp) in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12). Baptism is an action of faith in the power of God that saves the sinner and raises him or her to spiritual life in Christ (Colossians 2:12). Whether you are a Jew or Gentile in the flesh does not matter. In this gospel age, one is not a child of God until the circumcision of Christ occurs in the heart, as the sinner is buried with Christ in baptism and God forgives his or her sins by the blood of Christ (Colossians 2:13). That is when the sinner rises from spiritual death to walk in newness of life.
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1–3, NKJV)
Religious zeal can be misinterpreted as divine approval. The Jews of Paul’s day were trusting in the works of the law of Moses to save them (Romans 2:17-24; 3:20, 27-28). Not a few Jewish Christians were being influenced to demand Gentiles keep the law of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1, 5, 23-24). The epistle to the Romans explains the futility of the Jewish attempt to be saved by the law of Moses, and to force it on the Gentiles. Paul said trying to be saved by the law of Moses amounted to establishing their own righteousness instead of submitting to the righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:3; 1:16-17; Galatians 2:16). Paul desired the salvation of the Jews, but their zeal without knowledge would not save them. Zeal does not establish God’s approval, faithfully doing the Father does (Matthew 7:21-23). Zeal is not a substitute for knowing God’s will. Zealous ignorance is removed only when a humble heart hears the word of God and obeys it in faith (Matthew 7:24-27; Acts 3:17-19). Learn God’s will and have the faith to obey it to be saved from your sins (Acts 4:12; 10:34-35).