For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
The apostle does not mince words when he writes: ‘Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!’ (v. 2). He has previously warned about false teachers (1:28–29).
Now he warns about a particular kind of false teacher. He regards false teaching to be such a danger that it is impossible to mention it too frequently (v. 1b).
His words are cause for pause. Many minimize the dangers of false teachers. They have no ‘beware’ in their religion. There is no danger, so there is no need for caution and vigilance.
They fail to understand the battle in the Spiritual realm.
Some are astonished that Paul could write in such blunt terms. How could he call these teachers ‘dogs’? He did so because of certain obvious similarities between the two:
• as the dogs roamed the streets seeking something to eat, so the false teachers roamed about while looking for opportunities to spread their teachings;
• as the dogs were sly and cunning, so were the teachers;
• as the dogs represented a danger to those who encountered them, so the teachers represented spiritual danger to their hearers.
The apostles intent was to convey how the diligent the Judaizers were in spreading their doctrines. They advocated good works as the means for attaining salvation, they were, in fact, doing evil works. Any teaching that denies the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus or any way detracts from it has the apostolic description stamped upon it for ever—evil!.
The Judaizers believed that the circumcision of the flesh required by the law of Moses was essential for salvation. Paul decisively repudiates and rejects this teaching by calling such teachers ‘the mutilation.’ The circumcision of the Mosaic law was intended to be the outer manifestation of the true circumcision, which was of the heart. In other words, true circumcision consisted of the painful breaking away from sin with a truly repentant heart (Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4). If this inner reality was missing, the outer manifestation of it amounted to nothing more than mutilation of the body.
After describing the false teachers in such a graphic way, the apostle quickly adds that he and his fellow-believers in Christ are the true circumcision (v. 3). He characterizes believers as those who:
• Worship God in the Spirit—no operation on the flesh can produce true worship of God which is spiritual in nature
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”