Summary: This Easter let’s all go through a metamorphosis as Jesus did. Let’s know the power of His resurrection.
George Orwell, the author of “1984” said in 1939 "We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." Well I think in western Christianity we have sunk even further since then, and what a better time than Easter to restate the obvious about what it means to be a Christian. A true follower of Christ.
J. I. Packer, on his 80th birthday, said that “the greatest challenge of evangelicalism is to re-catechize our churches. More than ever, Christians need to be able to speak intelligently and courageously about the hope that lies within”. That’s one of the reasons I gave you the basic Bible Doctrines package in January. We need to strengthen the basics of our faith to be effective in the world.
Charles Colson states: “The most obvious thing to be said about Christianity is that it rests on historic facts: the Creation, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection. Since our doctrines are truth claims, they cannot be mere symbolism. This is important to remember as we celebrate the Resurrection, which is often clouded by the pageantry of Easter.”
Since I started here in September my goal has been to take us through these three major historic events, and here we are today at the resurrection. There’s a fourth, the ascension, which we will cover in a few weeks.
We need to know what we’re talking about if we are going to be proper ambassadors of the faith. Today as we go back to the beginning of Philippians chapter 3 we complete our study of this extremely practical book, by looking at the resurrection of Jesus as a metamorphosis, but the primary message I want to give you is also how we as Christians are to go through a metamorphosis as Paul did because of the resurrection of Jesus.
We know about Jesus’ metamorphosis from death to life in an eternal body, that we celebrate this Easter weekend. But Paul as a human being like us, went through a monumental metamorphosis which for us is the example of the effect that Jesus death and resurrection should have on a Christian believer. Because of Jesus’ metamorphosis each of us as mortal human beings can go through one as well even before our physical death.
So let’s begin with the:
I. Inner Versus Outer Transformation (vv 1-3a)
Who are these dogs, evildoers, mutilators of the flesh that Paul warns us about? They are the Judaizers who are proclaiming a false doctrine of salvation by legalistic works.
They wanted everyone who claimed to be a Christian to also adhere to the Jewish religious traditions including circumcision. Paul has no confidence that the mutilation of the flesh will do anything for us spiritually. And he is circumcised Jew.
These people followed Paul everywhere he went trying to discredit him and turn the Gentiles into Jews. This is how serious Paul considered false doctrine, by using these very serious names. Dogs were what the Jews called all the Gentiles and pagans, so when Paul used it for them, it was quite an insult.
Anything but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as sufficient work for the salvation of sinful humanity was wrong to Paul. Circumcision was simply an ancient sign that you belonged to God’s people, but it’s kind of like infant baptism, it by itself does not reflect our faith.
We have a much broader selection of “dogs” in our world today. Media has brought the world closer to us and we have many different religions, cults and philosophies feeding false teachings to the world, so Paul’s warning to the Philippians is possibly even more valid today.
True Christians experience a circumcision of the heart or a spiritual transformation. Here’s what Paul says a few pages ahead in Colossians 2:11-15. In Romans 4:9-10 talking about Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, Paul asks “is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.”
This is how off course the religious Jews had gotten, they didn’t even see that God counted Abraham, their hero, as righteous by his faith before he was circumcised. Paul says that Abraham then became the father of all the faithful whether circumcised or not.
We also have:
II. Worldly Confidence Versus Heavenly Confidence (vv 3b-8)
Paul knows what he’s talking about. He was a faultless Pharisee who kept the law perfectly, but there he was persecuting followers of Christ, participating in the stoning of the first Christian martyr Stephen. He was a perfect Hebrew from the favored tribe of Benjamin, yet there he was struck blind on the Damascus road by Jesus himself after Jesus had died and risen.