Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
In the first two chapters Paul gave his credentials for writing and also the challenge to the saints regarding unity. We notice in those chapters that Paul does not list some degrees that he has received. He was a servant of Jesus Christ along with Timothy. Today, some people are too concerned about the degrees a man has rather than whether he is a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul’s concern was to see the saints glorifying God. They needed to have the mind of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Lord. He will be exalted before all people one day. That is what is important to note and to submit to.
In chapter 3 God directed Paul to begin to draw this short letter to a conclusion. A letter does not need to be long to be effective. God’s Word is always valuable. Every Word of God is pure.
It is important for saints to rejoice in the Lord. We have already seen the importance of not being self-centred. Those who are saved need to keep their eyes on the Lord. If we understand God’s goodness we can rejoice in Him. Even during the evil of the past 2+ years we can rejoice in the Lord. He is still in charge. We have seen some new challenges, but we have also had the ability to grow in our faith in the Lord. We have seen how He has been there to guide us through the challenges we have faced. He will continue to be here to guide us in the future.
As we look at the escalating situation in the Russia/Ukraine war, we know that God is still in charge. The West has interfered in this situation. This has not helped the situation at all. It has robbed our countries of billions in tax dollars. That situation would never have escalated to its current situation if Nato would have listened to Putin earlier on. However, we are here now and things could get worse yet. God knows what is happening. He is working this all for His glory. Psalm 2 comes to mind as we look at how arrogant “leaders” think they are so very smart.
Paul was reminding the saints in Philippi of the importance of rejoicing in the Lord. He had written them before. He was not senile. God was directing him. The words he was writing were necessary for them then, and they are necessary for us now. Paul was not tired of reminding the saints of the things he wrote to them.
We know in the days of Moses, that God instructed Moses regarding his meeting on Mount Sinai with Him. Moses told the people to stay away from the mount as God had commanded. Then Moses went up the mount and God told him to go back down and remind the people again. Moses argued with God, but God insisted that he go back down and warn the people. God did not want anyone to be careless and assume they could go where they should not go.
We need frequent reminders of God’s instructions and commands. We can easily become complacent. We have mentioned the move toward the emergent church movement. Pastors need to warn their people against this ungodly shift. Pastors need to remind their listeners of the holiness of God. People need to understand what a true blessing is.
Too many pastors are trying to play politics and they are accepting these subtle changes. They are desperate to keep people coming and rather than preaching and teaching God’s Word faithfully, they are trying to keep restless people from drifting off to other places.
In verse 2 Paul used some very descriptive words to describe the ungodly religious leaders. The dogs here are not the four-legged kind. They are the Judaizers who were telling the people that circumcision was essential to salvation and even Gentile saints needed to be circumcised. The Judaizers taught that salvation was by works, not by grace through faith. The dogs here are vicious dogs. They are not the friendly pet that makes a good guard dog but not a vicious animal.
There was a sad report of a family that had two pit bulls. They had two young children as well. For some reason those two dogs attacked the children and killed them. The mother had tried to protect the children and she was seriously injured as well.
There are false teachers that are vicious like those dogs. They do not care about your soul. They want your money and they want your loyalty. They look for the gullible people and for those who do not want to submit to God’s authority. Those who refuse to accept the truth will fall for the devil’s lies.
Paul described these dogs as evil workers and the concision. The word translated as “concision” speaks of mutilation. It talks of cuttings that are contrary to the will of God.
The false teachers make cuttings to God’s Word that are contrary to God’s will. They rip out the truth and insert their lies.
Circumcision of the flesh was a law that God gave to Abraham, for the males in Israel. It was a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham. The circumcision that was of greater importance was and is the circumcision of the heart. The Jews are still commanded to keep the circumcision in the flesh, but they failed to understand its significance. The Judaizers were seeking to keep the people in bondage. God’s will is to set man free from the bondage of sin. It is not bondage to serve the true and living God.
We need His leadership in our lives. We need to follow His direction. Those who are saved and thus submissive to His Word will be able to identify the dogs, the evil workers, the concision. Gentiles are not commanded by God to be circumcised. It has no spiritual significance for a Gentile saint. As we already noted, circumcision was never commanded as a means of being saved. It was a reminder of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants through Isaac.
In verse 3 Paul wrote further on this matter. The circumcision that matters was that of the heart. True saints are set apart to worship God in the spirit. True saints are not worshipping God in the flesh. We have talked about music standards. We have also talked of modesty issues. The true Christian is not to be a distraction. He or she is not to be drawing attention to themselves. We are saved to worship God and to exalt Him.
True saints rejoice in Christ Jesus. True saints do not need the beat of “contemporary christian music”. They do not need to have their flesh excited. They put the old man to death and they exalt God from a pure and separated heart.
Christians need to look presentable. They need to dress decently. The idea of walking around with torn jeans and low cut tops and tight clothing is not Biblical. The devil wants people to draw attention to themselves. God saves people to exalt Him.
The apostle Paul knew he was not the greatest speaker. Apollos was a more eloquent man than Paul was. However, Paul had a better understanding of the doctrines of the Scriptures. Apollos needed to learn that. Apollos had a humble heart, even though he was an eloquent speaker. He received instruction and became a better preacher of the truth. God wants us to be able to communicate His truth in a manner that others can understand. He does not want the preacher to be a distraction to the message. We do not need to be “cool”. We need to be godly. We are not seeking to gain a following after ourselves. We want others to see the greatness and holiness of the Lord God.
That is what Paul had been directed to write this letter about. That is what the saints in Philippi needed to be reminded of. That is what we need to be reminded of today as well. Those who are saved are saved to serve the Lord. Those who are saved desire to know their Saviour and Lord better. They want to help others to see the importance of knowing the true God. They want to get out of the way so that Christ can shine forth. That is what we read of John the Baptist.
John 3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
That is the nature of the true child of God. We grow in the Lord so that people can see the importance of knowing the true God in their lives. We worship God with a true heart. We cannot worship Him if we are in the flesh.
John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.