Summary: This is a sermon that focuses on living a life worthy of our calling.
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! To write the same things to you is not irksome to me, and is safe for you.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
I would have loved to have known Paul. If nothing more I would want to talk to him about this passage. In this passage we see the core of Paul’s theology, an insight into his life, and by example he challenges us to follow Christ. Within this verse we are catching Paul at his best.
In this letter to Philippi, we see Paul genuinely angry. However, in a nice change of pace Paul isn’t angry with the church. No, he is angry with those who challenge the cross. And in passionate defense of the heart of his theology, we see an untethered Paul responding to them.
He holds nothing back, and lets fly with three very condemning labels, calling them dogs, evildoers, and the mutilation. While these might seem tame to us today, when seen within their context we can better sense the full amount of bite that Paul put into these insults.
These dogs were luring the church away from Christ, and Paul was furious. They lured the church with rules of cleanliness, and Paul attacked them by calling them dogs, one of the must unclean animals.
These same dogs lured the church away with strict observance of the law, and Paul attacked them by calling them evildoers for in his mind, their striving for righteousness had made them stumble into unrighteousness.
Finally, these dogs lured the church away from Christ by insisting that circumcision was the only entry point of salvation, and Paul attacked them by calling their circumcision a mutilation.
Can you sense Paul’s anger? Can you feel his bite? Nothing was going to stand in the way of Christ while Paul was on duty.
How nice it must have been to have a friend like Paul to keep you on the right path. I think about those dogs back in his day and am glad they are no longer in our church. And then I begin to look around. And I begin to examine my life outside of these church walls. And I ask… are we really free from dogs today?
I look to our Telegraph Herald for clues, and read an article that all we need in our life - to solve all of our problems… is to start having more fun. “Drop your list of grievances and go ride a roller coaster. Take a brisk walk. Dance. Take a trip to Duluth. Read Dickens.” Sounds nice doesn’t it?
However, turn the page and another article claims that this is exactly the sort of thing that is getting us into trouble today. The writer claims that we are no longer one nation under God,… but one nation under pursuit of pleasure,… one nation under self,… one nation under money.
And who can argue with them. It is much easier to overhear someone talking about their weekend plans, their big stock tip, or even to hear them talk on and on about themselves. And how often do you hear people talk about Jesus Christ, God, or how we should live as disciples?
It makes me ask where my priorities really are, and even more importantly… which God am I serving? Much like the dogs in verse 2, there are many things today standing in the way of Christ. I imagine Paul would have very harsh words to share with us today. I imagine he would fling insults like hedonistic, God complex, egotistical, and greedy.