Summary: Message demonstrates the proliferation of warnings in Scripture and addresses the value of such warnings. It is tempting to avoid giving warnings. However, people can benefit from them when given in the right spirit.
We are in a study of Philippians and our text today is found in chapter 3, verses 1-7. Follow with me as we read from the New International Version.
“Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”i
The first word in this text indicates a transition. The NIV has correctly translated the Greek word loipos with the word “Further.” That word could be translated “finally.” In fact, Paul uses it that way in 4:8 as he brings this letter to a conclusion. But here in 3:1 the context would indicate a simple transition in which Paul is moving to a new subject. At the end of chapter 2 he talked about sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippians. Now he wants to warn them about the Judaizers who may come and mislead them. In 3:1 the Philippians would have understood loipos as a transition into a new subject. Paul is saying, “further,” or “furthermore,” or “in addition” rather than finally or in conclusion.ii
The insertion of the imperative “rejoice in the Lord” seems out of place. But that theme runs all through this letter. In these first two verses Paul tells Christians to “rejoice in the Lord” and to “watch out.” We can do both at the same time because our rejoicing is “in the Lord.” The basis of our joy never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). We can continue to rejoice in the Lord regardless of what perils we may face. And we are commanded to do so. The theme of our text is a warning against false teachers who are likely to come to Philippi with a message that would corrupt the gospel with legalism. They are not there now. If they were, Paul would be addressing it more extensively and more harshly as he does in Galatians. But they will eventually come, and Paul wants these believers alert to the danger. This morning I want to talk about the value of such warnings. Next week we will address the specific warning in the text.
The Bible is a book filled with warnings. God warned Adam about the consequences of eating
from the forbidden tree. Noah warned his generation of the coming flood. Moses warned Israel
of what would happen if they disobeyed the commandments of God. In Deuteronomy 28 Moses
told the people what would happen if they obeyed the Lord and what would happen if they
disobeyed. He began with the blessings of obedience: “If you fully obey the Lord your God and
carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all
the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey
the Lord your God.” That is followed by an extensive list of the blessings they would experience.
Then in verse 15 he warns them of what will happen if they live in disobedience: “However, if
you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I
am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you.” That is followed by a
list of the judgments they would experience.
David thanked God for the warnings given to us through the commandments. In Psalms 19
David celebrated the instruction he had received from God’s commandments. Then in verse 11
he said, “By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” The
commandments of God give us much needed warning and guidance. Stay within these lines of
behavior and you will be blessed. Cross those lines and you put yourself in harm’s way. When
you’re driving down the highway you see a double yellow line between you and the oncoming
traffic. Why is that line there? It is there so you can travel safely. If you stay to the right of that