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If I can borrow (and slightly modify) a turn of phrase I once heard, I would say that discipleship exists because worship does not. The very reason Jesus has given His church the mandate to disciple the nations is because He desires a people from every tribe, language, and nation to join together in an unbroken harmonious symphony of praise to the triune God. That means, as we faithfully fulfill the mandate of discipleship, we need to endeavor to draw people to the vistas of worship.

In writing to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul draws a connection between discipleship and worship: “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). The reason Paul appeals to circumcision is because of the context into which he is writing. As it was given by God, circumcision was intended to be a sign in the flesh that physically marked out the people of God—it was a sign of God’s covenant. Those who were circumcised according to the promise of Abraham were followers of Jehovah. Or, to put it another way, circumcision was a mark of discipleship in the Old Testament.

In Philippi, however, certain teachers had come in trying to establish their own righteousness. They insisted on what Paul called “the mutilation of the flesh.” By doing this, they were missing the whole point of circumcision by putting their confidence in the flesh and not in Jesus. This is absolutely contradictory to the gospel of God’s free grace. When we get the gospel wrong, tragically, we inevitably get worship wrong. That is, because we will replace Jesus with something or someone else, all praise, honor, and glory cannot go to Him. That was the fatal misstep of these false teachers. Circumcision was intended to point beyond the physical sign, but they were too nearsighted to see the spiritual truth and gloried in a Christ-substitute. Paul spared no words as he put down this evil and vain confidence in the flesh.

The true circumcision—not those circumcised in the flesh—are those who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Jesus Christ. Paul insists on that because true worship is not just skin deep. Worship is a response that comes when the Spirit gives our hearts an apprehension of the righteousness of Jesus provided in the gospel as we praise His glorious grace. This, according to the Apostle, characterizes a life of discipleship. To be a disciple of Jesus is to forgo all confidence in anything but Jesus and to glory in His person and work with the melody of heart and tongue.

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From the June 2018 Issue
Jun 2018 Issue