Summary: Message 9 in a series from Philippians. This message focus on the characteristics Paul considers evidence of true Christianity.
Paul’s letter to the Jesus followers living in a Greek city called Philippi contains the necessary ingredients of a life of “Maintaining the Joy of the Lord No Matter What”. The first ingredient is found in the first chapter where Paul calls us to adopt the
I. ADOPT THE RIGHT AXIS -- SUPERIOR PERSPECTIVE
The Exaltation of Christ in Everything -- Passion to Praise Jesus
II. MAINTAIN THE RIGHT ATTITUDE -- SUPERIOR PATTERN OF LIVING
Humble Obedience modeled by Jesus -- Passion to Please Jesus
III. PURSUE THE RIGHT AIM – SUPERIOR PURSUIT 3:1-21
Knowing Christ -- Passion to Pursue Christ above all else
as we move into chapter 3 I want to first provide you with an overview of the flow of Paul’s argument.
• Paul warned against false Christianity 3:1-2
• Paul affirmed genuine Christianity 3:3
• Paul confirmed his Christian credentials 3:4-8
• Paul shared his own pursuit of Christ. 3:9-14
• Paul invited the Philippians to join his pursuit of Christ 15-17,20,4:1
• Paul lamented those not pursuing Christ 3:18-19
People and groups are known by particular characteristics. Whether it is a nationality trait a regional trait a religious trait, each stands out from the rest according to particular traits.
A. Paul warned against false Christianity 3:1-2
Paul began this section of the letter by issuing a warning against false Christianity.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3:1-2
The regular theme in this letter is joy in rejoicing. Almost of the transition Paul again calls them to rejoice in the Lord. This is not a rejoicing out of a vacuum but rejoicing that stems from a relationship with God. Out of a passion to praise him and a passion to please him based on the encouragement that comes from him we are able to maintain the joy of the Lord no matter what. Paul justifies repeating truth that he has shared with them previously. We are no different today. We need constant reminders of truths that can easily fall along the wayside; especially in the midst of difficulty. Paul has a severe warning against some false teachers promoting a teaching guaranteed to rob one of their joy.
Dwight Pentecost in his commentary on Philippians:
"The apostle is facing a very dangerous and devious doctrinal defection as he writes this word to the Philippians. He is dealing with a false teaching that would set aside Jesus Christ from His rightful place of preeminence in a believer's life and would make the Believer himself the center of life. While these false teachers would not be so crass as to state it that way, that is the heart of their doctrine. Will a man glory in Christ or will a man glory in himself -- in what he is and what he has attained?"
Paul is so disgusted with these gospel polluters that he resorts to name-calling. Dogs, evil workers, flesh mutilators. These Jews taught that Salvation in Christ was only intended for Jews and that in order to come to Christ, a Gentile must enter though Judaism; including circumcision and keeping the Mosaic laws. It amounts to a salvation by merit or works teaching. They teach that a person can find favor with God through external ritual and ceremonial practices. Paul solemnly warns against this heretical teaching:
Continually Beware of the dogs.
Interestingly, "dogs" was a term used by Jews about Gentiles. Paul used this term that carried the image of an undisciplined, scavenger whose appearance was dirty and repulsive to refer to Jews who were stripping the essential meat off the bones of the gospel.
Continually Beware of the evil workers
EVIL = Evil in nature and purpose; that which is inherently evil but not always outwardly expressed. These Jews were hard workers but their work was destructive by nature. The wickedness was not always apparent on the surface but brought devastation to the faith of many.
Continually beware of the false circumcision
Jews were good at word plays. They would alter the sound of a word just slightly so as to change the meaning of the word significantly. Paul altered a word having spiritually rich meaning namely Biblical circumcision to actually refer to the terrible practice of mutilation. It is what these Jews were doing to the Gospel. They were distorting it beyond what was revealed by God and producing a painful distortion of the truth. In denouncing this bogus bunch and their focus on externals, Paul then affirmed the essential internal characteristics of the real thing.
B. Paul affirmed genuine Christianity 3:3
for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh…