Philippians 3:1-3 begins with a positive praise, pauses to present a warning, and gives evidence of a true follower.
Philippians 3:1-3 begins with a positive praise
Paul starts the chapter on a positive note by repeating an encouragement to “rejoice in the Lord.” Or maybe better said “because you are the Lord’s.” The Greek word for “rejoice” is charo, which is also translated joy. And this is the tenth time Paul has used it so far in the letter.
Keep in mind, Paul is in prison and unsure about his release. And yet, he rejoices. Why? Perhaps, because of Paul’s eternal perspective. This perspective appears in Philippians 1:21 where he says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In other words, I’m good with however this turns out. Paul doesn’t let his circumstances drive his attitude. He lives with an assurance that his ultimate destination is with Jesus in heaven.
Are you struggling in your circumstances? An uncertain future? As a Christ-follower, your eternal future is secure. Let that encouragement drive your perspective. And then rejoice.
Philippians 3:1-3 pauses to present a warning
Paul turns from rejoicing to a warning about people the Philippian church should watch out for. And his tone grows scathing.
Who is he talking about it? Most likely Jews or Jewish Christians who followed him during his evangelistic travels. Because they distorted his message of grace by teaching new converts there were additional religious practices they had to follow. They were adding “works” on to the Gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus. And it irritated Paul.
Look out for the dogs…
These dogs weren’t the cuddly, domestic pets we love today. They were dangerous canines that roamed wild, feeding off trash in the streets. And were considered unclean by the Jews. It’s the word Goliath used in his a rhetorical question when David faced him in a one on one fight. Using a mocking tone like, “Seriously? Is this the best you can do?” To call someone a dog demeaned them in the lowest manner.
Look out for the evildoers…
The Greek word for evildoers is tous kakous ergatas and literally means the evil workers. Is Paul accusing them of purposely leading new believers away from the faith? Not necessarily. Sometimes people are sincere in their misunderstanding of scriptural truth. But are adamant that others believe and practice the Christian faith the way they do. And in Paul’s mind, any teaching that misrepresented God’s truth was evil.
We all grow comfortable around certain practices that help us live out our faith. And that’s fine. But don’t insist others adopt the same practices and beliefs beyond the gospel that you do.
Look out for those who mutilate the flesh…Philippians 3:1-3
In Acts 15:1, there’s an example of teachers who contradicted Paul’s teaching. They insisted that circumcision was a requirement for salvation.
Circumcision was a universal practice by the Jews as part of the Old Testament Law. It was introduced as a sign of God’s special covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:9-11. But notice. It was a sign of the covenant with God. Not a practice that guaranteed the covenant.
A similar example today is baptism. It too is a symbol…a public demonstration of faith. New believers follow Jesus in baptism to publicly demonstrate their faith. Not to insure salvation.
The Greek word for circumcision is peritome. But in this verse, Paul uses the Greek katatome, which means to cut or mutilate. Essentially he’s saying if you’re practicing circumcision as an “add-on” to insure salvation. All you’re really doing is mutilating yourself. A bit blunt, right? But obviously, Paul’s using sarcasm to discourage them from a painful practice that had nothing to do with salvation by grace.
REFLECT & RECORD
In what ways do people “add-on” to the gospel? What impact do you think that has on someone’s faith? Where do you have that tendency?
Philippians 3:1-3 gives evidence of a true follower
V. 3 For we are the circumcision who worship by the Spirit of God…
Scripture reminds us that God’s first concern is always the condition of our heart. And Paul goes on to describe Christian circumcision as a spiritual transformation within the heart.
Although this spiritual circumcision does manifest itself in three ways:
- In worship by the Spirit of God
- Glory in Christ Jesus
- Putting no confidence in the flesh
Good works are important in living out your faith as a Christ-follower. But they should be motivated by a heart that is devoted to God. In order to please God.
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