Summary: Paul refuses to allow anything to be added to the gospel because such things steal the joy that comes from salvation by grace alone.
Sunday, May 26, 2002
One of the greatest truths from the Word of God is the truth that salvation is by grace through faith completely apart from any of our works. Yet there is something perverse within us that even when we know that truth we desire that there be a set of rules or laws by which we can judge if we are spiritual. I was going through a catalogue of christian books this week and it struck me how many present themselves like they have the one and only secret for a successful Christian life. They tell us we can reduce Christianity to seven principles or twelve steps or even one prayer. If we just do what they tell us is the right path, we will be happy, successful Christians. Spirituality is reduced to a formula. If you add one plus one it will equal two.
It makes it all so simple - if we read our Bible for thirty minutes, if we pray, if we follow the instructions - presto - we will be spiritual.
If we fail to keep the rules then we are unspiritual. We end up making the Christian faith a "Honey Do" list. Check off item one and move on to item two.
Such a life is attractive to us because it makes this thing called faith so simple. But I think as we look at the verses before us in Philippians we will see that Paul would condemn such perspective. Spirituality is not a formula or a secret - it is a relationship. When we make a simple set of rules, we ultimately destroy the joy that comes from true faith in Christ.
1. Paul’s Command to Rejoice 3:1
Rejoice in the Lord - this last part of the book turns again to the practical of subject of how to have joy in your Christian life.
2. Paul’s Command to Beware 3:2
Who is he talking about?
Judaizers - right from the beginning the church struggled with how much of Judaism to keep. Acts 15, Galatians, Colossians all have elements of this. They went about teaching that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and that they needed to keep the dietary laws and to observe the Jewish Holy Days in order tobe truly saved.
Why does he speak so harshly here compared to 1:15-18?
In chapter one - despite bad motives the true Gospel was being preached.
Chapter three - these people undermine the Gospel - they reduce the Gospel from salvation by grace through faith to salvation by keeping the rules.
These people exist today - and not just in the most obvious forms. If any one comes along and adds some work to the Gospel then they are dogs, evil workers. Some add baptism, some add speaking in tongues, some add their own set of rules that must be kept, some even add license, reverse legalism. Anything which adds to the Gospel must be rejected entirely.
All of these will steal joy - faith becomes a tedious preoccupation with the rules. Self-righteousness takes over from Christ’s righteousness.
3. Paul’s Confirmation of their Position in Christ 3:3
For it is we who are the circumcision
Col 2:11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,