Philippians 3:1-7 Beware of the Flesh WC McCarter
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Paul on Offense (1-3)
Paul, again, commands the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord (1:26; 3:1, 3; 4:10). This is the theme of the letter. This is the theme of the Christian life. No matter where we are or what we are going through, we rejoice in the Lord. Even when we are faced with adversaries, we rejoice in the Lord. Paul has been gracious and loving. He has been personal and joyful. But now he aggressively goes on the offensive against false teachers. He tells the Philippians in verse one that repetition is a good thing. Christians need to hear some of the same things over and over again. He says that it is not tedious for him, or he does not have reason to hesitate in sharing the same things again. On the other hand, to repeat himself is a safeguard for the church. An enormous part of pastoring is reminding! I am always glad to hear you tell me that you have learned something new, or you have never looked at an issue “that way,” or that I gave you something else to think about. Those are wonderful words. But, for the most part, I am sharing with you things that you already know. I am reminding you, week-after-week, some simple things. There is no reason to hesitate in sharing these things again because it is a safeguard for the church.
So, Paul tells them again what he probably already told them when he was with them—that false teachers would come, that wolves in sheep’s clothing would come, that there would be folks that would seek to lead them astray. Paul lashes out in righteous zeal for the church in verse two. This verse is emphasized in the original language. Each phrase begins with the word “Beware!” or “Watch out!” Each phrase also has alliteration with the “k” sound.
Paul carefully chose his words for intense irony, not derogatory speech: (1) Dogs- outside of the true religious community (Gentiles); scavengers, unclean; (2) Evil Workers- word play on legalism; although they professed to be workers of righteousness Paul says that were the opposite; and (3) Mutilation- Paul’s rhetorical way of saying circumcision, they wanted men circumcised simply to lay claim over them.
“For we are the circumcision,” that is, the true/spiritual “circumcision” (3 vs 3): (1) Worship God in the Spirit- sounds like John; (2) Rejoice in Christ Jesus- theme of the letter; and (3) Have no confidence in the flesh (human credentials). Here is a true believer, a true child of God. Christians are those who do not live, trust, or worship merely outwardly. We are spiritual.
Mock Boasting (4-6)
For the sake of argument, Paul adopts one of the Judaizing attitudes—confidence in the flesh. He does this to mock those who boast in the flesh, that is, their religious performance, all the righteousness that can be mustered up from human effort apart from divine intervention.
Paul doesn’t choose to not rely on Jewish credentials because he doesn’t have them, but because they are nothing before God ~ non-meritorious.
Paul’s credentials according to the flesh:
1) Circumcised the 8th day- as Lev 2:2-3 commands
2) Stock of Israel- son of observant Jews, possibly both parents Jewish
3) Tribe of Benjamin- Traces to Jacob, not Esau (son of Rachel, beloved of Jacob, Saul, the first King was same tribe)
4) Hebrew of Hebrews- thoroughly and outstandingly Jewish
5) Pharisee- highly educated, respected, devout
6) Zeal- persecuted the church (SEE Gal 1:13-14)
7) Righteousness of Law ~ blameless
On the one hand he had done everything, on the other it wasn’t enough.
According to men’s judgments (flesh)—outward conformity (not sinlessness)
Think of the rich young ruler from Mark 10:17-27
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) We must be willing to name false teaching. False doctrine can injure and even destroy the church. This is of utmost importance in our own local congregation, but we must also be willing to point it out among other churches. We do not want to point out the speck in another’s eye when we have a plank, and we do not want to belittle others for the sake of truth, but when there is unbiblical teaching that threatens the Faith, we must be willing to speak against it, resist it, and disown it. There are different levels of falsities, I think. Some folks come to wrong conclusions from the Bible, but they are teaching and believing things that they think to be true. Others are in it for themselves and lead people astray for power, prestige, money, and other reasons. One of the great travesties of the American church is the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” which says that you can live your best life now, God wants you happy above all else, God wants you to flourish financially, etc. Although this teaching represents the exact opposite of what the Scriptures teach and what we know about church history, it is not only believed by millions in America but is being spread like a disease throughout the world. People are promised health and wealth, so they “come to Jesus” but they never really put their faith in Him. And the first time something awful happens in their life, they realize that this teaching was not the truth. I have personally known people that taught/believed that if we have enough faith, Christians will not get sick. It is really awkward when they get a cold, or the flu, or worse. So, watch out for who you are sympathizing with. There are many who lead believers astray.
(2) You cannot trust in yourself. God does not care how much education you have or how much money is in your bank accounts. He does not need anything from you. Paul could brag about his old life to those false teachers if he wanted to, and he could outperform them; his resume was much more impressive than any of theirs. But remember, Paul made that his “old life” for a reason. He gave up worldly accomplishments and took Christ’s accomplishments as His own. This is what it means to become a Christian. You come to the realization that no matter how much good you do or how much you may be able to impress other people, it is never enough to pay for your own sins. We are not who we want to be much less who God expects us to be. He is high, holy, and just. He is perfect, and we have sinned against Him. Therefore, we forsake the world and the things of it, and we take Christ’s achievement as our own. We throw out our resumes and take His as our own.