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 judgeth 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.
I. They worship God in the spirit. This clause may be interpreted: —
1. In opposition to the legal ordinances. So it is taken, John 4:23, 24, But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. ‘God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.’ The Jewish worship is in a sense called carnal, the Christian spiritual: Hebrews 7:16, ‘A carnal commandment;’ Hebrews 9:10, ‘Carnal ordinances imposed on them till the time of reformation;’ and ‘shadows,’ Hebrews 10:1. Now the Lord would have a spiritual worship, and the truth of what was in these shadows, these external forms, he allowed (instituted in the infancy of the church), so ‘that they worship God in the spirit’ is, they have embraced the true worship of the gospel, and serve God, not by the carnal rites of the law, but by the pure rational worship of the gospel. This is part of the sense.
2. It implieth worshipping God with the inward and spiritual affections of a renewed heart: Hebrews 12:28, ‘Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.’ Worship flowing from grace, engaging the heart in God’s service, is that which God prizeth; therefore a Christian should not rest in an external form: ‘God is nay witness, whom I serve with my spirit,’ Romans 1:9.
3. It doth also imply the assistance and continual influence of the Holy Spirit: Ephesians 6:18, ‘Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;’ and Jude, Ephesians 6:20, ‘Praying in the Holy Ghost.’
The doctrine is this: That a true Christian is known by his worship, or is one that doth worship God in the spirit.
Here I shall show you: —
1. What is worship.
2. Why a true Christian — (1.) doth worship; (2.) why in the spirit.