Philippians on Friday: The Concision

Thanks for joining me for Philippians on Friday! I’m sorry I missed posting a devotion last week – I was preaching in the Philippines. It’s good to be back in the U.S and back to our study of Philippians!

Let’s move on to verse 2 of chapter 3:

“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”

Wow! What a blistering indictment against the Jews. Paul is warning the Philippians of the Jews who trusted in their own works, rather than the work of Christ!

Paul does not mince words or worry about political correctness in his warning to the Philippians. He calls the Jews 3 things: dogs, evil workers and the concision.


Paul turns the tables on the Jews. The Jews had always considered the Gentiles to be “dogs.” But Paul assigns that label now to the Jews.

PhilippiansPaul calls them dogs because they are doing what Old Testament gentiles did – refusing to embrace the plan and purpose of God. The Jews had become the very thing they accused the Gentiles of being. By rejecting Christ, the Jews were the ones who were resisting the truth. They were now the unbelievers!

Evil Workers

Not only were the Jews resisting the truth of Jesus Christ, they were actively working against the truth. Paul calls this, not just error, but evil. Their opposition to the gospel of Christ was an evil work. They were undermining the glorious gospel of Grace!


Paul shares an incredible concept with the Philippians in this verse. He doesn’t refer to the Jews here as the “circumcision,” but rather, just the “concision.”

In the Old Testament, circumcision was the physical act that indicated one was in a covenant relationship with God. This religious rite of the Jewish people began with Abraham. Every male child was to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. The physical cutting away of the flesh was a sign of one entering into a covenant with Jehovah. It was a physical act that demonstrated a faith in God – faith that they were now covenant partners with Jehovah. That is circumcision.

“Concision” is a word that just means a mutilation of the body. Paul doesn’t call the Jews the circumcision – just the concision. What is he saying?

The Jews who were trusting in their own righteousness by adherence to the law, had strayed so far from what God had intended.  Their act of circumcision was not circumcision at all. It was just concision.

So they may have been going through the physical act of circumcision. But because of their lack of faith in God and purity of heart and spirit, their circumcision was not even valid. It was just a mutilation of their body.  Their pride, arrogance and self-exaltation had rendered the act of circumcision invalid – it was just concision.

A Modern Day Example

What’s a good modern day example? We know the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament rite of circumcision is water baptism:

Col 2:11-12: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism…

If you were to get baptized, but your heart or motives weren’t right or if you didn’t Philippianshave true faith, you wouldn’t be getting baptized at all. Rather, you would just be getting wet! Your “circumcision” (baptism) would just be “concision” (you’d just be taking a bath!)

This is what Paul is telling the Philippians by calling the Jews the concision. The Jew’s hearts weren’t right. They weren’t trusting in God. On the outside they looked the part – but inwardly they were whited sepulchers (as Jesus called them.) So their act of Circumcision was really just concision.

Be careful that your religious activities don’t become hollow, empty rituals because of an inward spiritual deficiency.

What does that teach us today? One can go through the motions of religious activities and rites, but without faith, those activities are hollow rituals. If something isn’t happening on the inside, all the outward religious rites lack efficacy. They are just works of the flesh. A person can appear to do all the right things, but if the heart is not right, it’s just “concision.”

Old Testament Prohibition

It’s interesting that the Old Testament strictly prohibited the mutilation, cutting, piercing, or tattooing of the body. (As does the New Testament) The Jewish people had strayed so far from the spirit of the Law that Paul calls their act of circumcision just concision – which ironically is condemned by the Law.

A Warning for Us Today

Paul’s warning to the Philippians is a warning to us today. Beware of those who put their trust in their own righteousness and religious rituals rather than the righteousness of Christ.  Be careful that your religious activities don’t become hollow, empty rituals because of an inward spiritual deficiency.  Beware of putting your trust in your own works or righteousness rather than His!

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

~Matthew Ball