Rejoice In The Lord And Beware Of Those Who Place Confidence In The Flesh― Part 1 (series: Lessons on Philippians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Date: 12/26/18



Lesson #21

Title: Rejoice In The Lord And Beware Of Those Who Place Confidence In The Flesh
• “Special Notes” and “Scripture” are shown as endnotes.
• NIV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.


Scripture: Philippians 3:1-3 (NIV)
(1) 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


Introduction

We come to a passage that some will say is one of the most amazing passages in the history and life of Paul. We get a little inkling here of the passion in this man's heart for the Savior. But before he talks about that, he takes up the question of what the flesh can do and doesn't do. In other words, we are going to see things that hinder our knowing Christ.

If I were to give you a theme for chapter three, I would say "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering." This is Christian experience—to know Him. Not so much to know about Him, but to really know—Him. This is experimental knowledge.


Commentary

(3:1) 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.

Paul starts the chapter with certain things that hinder our really experiencing knowing Christ. In verse 1 he is saying, "I don't mind writing to you about these things because for you, “it is a safeguard." He then adds, “My brethren, rejoice in the Lord.”

You know, it's easy to rejoice in the things of life. It's easy to rejoice when you get what you want. It's easy to rejoice when you have your own way. But here the basis for rejoicing for a Christian never changes: "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice." He always has a good reason to rejoice. It never changes. We are not to rejoice in gifts or accomplishments or service, but we are to rejoice in Him.
You know, we're too often affected by our circumstances, and when our circumstances are not very good, we whine and we grumble; we're not very good people to be with, are we, anyone of us? We get so occupied with ourselves; and, when circumstances are not very good, we expect everyone to sympathize with us—and, in fact, we sympathize with ourselves. But, my friend, when Christ is the source of our joy, we can rejoice regardless of our circumstances. Circumstances were bad, but, you see, the ground for his joy hadn't changed. So Paul says, “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord!” "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord." I say again, these dear Philippians had suffered for the Gospel. Their circumstances were pretty tough, but so was Paul's. He had been in jail and beaten up in Philippi, and now he's in Rome, and he's chained to soldiers. Yet he could say "Finally, my brethren{1], rejoice in the Lord, and to write to you is not going to be a hard thing because I have you in my heart." What a tremendous place the people of God had―in this man's heart.

You know, I find so many Christians who are in great, great need due to the tests and trials of life. Some are in very, very difficult circumstances; and yet Paul says, they are no worse than mine. I'm a prisoner of Jesus Christ, I'm here at Rome chained to soldiers, I've been beaten up, and I’ve been persecuted. Yet he could say, "Finally, my brethren{1], rejoice in the Lord.”


(3:2) Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.

Watch out for those dogs
Here is more repetition, the threefold "watch out" “beware” is a better word to use here. and one of the most dramatic warnings in Scripture.

The term “Dogs” applies to those who have unholy tastes and desires; Jesus warned the multitude about them in the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not give what is holy to dogs . . .” (Matthew 7:6). Furthermore, the status of dogs in that ancient culture was a far different thing from what it is in our own. The dog in America today is a loved and appreciated creature, but the dog was held to be most contemptible in ancient times. Dogs in the east are mostly without masters; they wander uninhibited in the streets and fields, and feed upon the internal organs and entrails of an animal offal, and even upon corpses; compare 1 Kings 14:11;

1 Kings 16:4; 1 Kings 21:19. They are believed to be unclean, and to call anyone a dog is a much stronger expression of contempt there than it is here; 1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Kings 8:13. The Jews called the Gentiles “dogs,” because the Gentiles were not included in the covenant―they called them Dogs; and themselves, the children of the Most High. Now, they are cast out of the covenant and the Gentiles were taken in; therefore they are the dogs, and the Gentiles the children. The Muslims called Jews and Christians by the same name. The term “dog” also is used to denote a person that is shameless, impudent, evil, scowling, dissatisfied, and contentious, and is evidently the meaning employed here. The prophet Isaiah compared the false shepherds of Israel to dumb dogs, lazy dogs, and greedy dogs (Isaiah 56:9-11).

those evildoers,
Referring, doubtless, to the same persons that he had characterized as dogs. The reference is to Jewish teachers, whose doctrines and influence he regarded only as evil. We do not know what was the nature of their teaching, but we may presume that it consisted, most of all, in urging the obligations of the Jewish rites and ceremonies; in speaking of the advantage of having been born Jews: and in urging a compliance with the Law in order to obtain justification before God. In this way, their teachings tended to set aside the great doctrine of salvation by the merits of the Redeemer.

“Dogs ... evildoers ... concision Those who mutilate the flesh...” Many believe that these are not three classes of enemies but three designations of one class, that class being rather effectively identified by the word "concision," which is a derogatory reference to circumcision and points squarely at the Judaizers who were the most active of the Gospel enemies of that era. The cutting or excision; the circumcision: the word is used by the apostle to degrade the pretensions which the Jews made to sanctity by the cutting of their flesh. Circumcision was an honorable thing, for it was a sign of the covenant; but since they now had rejected the new covenant, their circumcision was rendered uncircumcision, and is termed a cutting, by way of degradation. The secular, nationalistic Jews were also enemies but when Paul referred to them, his references to circumcision were more respectful. But the thing that infuriated him was the insistence that the rite be enforced on Gentile Christians in order to make them “full Christians.”

those mutilators of the flesh.
Some Bible scholars are of the opinion that there are three classes of Gospel enemies in this verse. “Those mutilators of the flesh” clearly refers to the "Unbelieving Jews” who are radical and vicious in their opposition to the Gospel of Christ; Jewish hostility was violent beyond measure in Macedonia (Acts 17). If this view should be accepted, then the three classes of enemies would be:
• dogs ... those of unholy desires and appetites.
• the unbelieving Jews who tried to exterminate the gospel.
• the concision ... the believing Jews who sought to pervert the gospel.


(3:3) 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

For it is we who are the circumcision,
We who are Christians possess and observe the true doctrine of circumcision. We have that which was intended to be secured by this rite, for we are led to renounce the flesh and to worship God in the spirit. The apostle in this verse teaches that the ordinance of circumcision was not designed to be a mere outward ceremony, but was intended to be emblematic of the renunciation of the flesh with its corrupt nature and to lead to the pure and spiritual worship of God. In this, he has undoubtedly stated its true propose. Those who now insisted that it is a necessary component of salvation, and who made salvation depend on its mere outward observance, had lost sight of this object of the rite. But this, the real aim of circumcision, was attained by those who had been led to renounce the flesh, and who had devoted themselves to the worship of God; see the notes on Romans 2:28-29 at page 116.

we who serve God by his Spirit,
The oldest manuscripts read, “worship by the Spirit of God”; our religious service is rendered by the Spirit (John 4:23-24{2]). Legal worship was outward and consisted in outward acts, restricted to certain times and places. Christian worship is spiritual, flowing from the inner workings of the Holy Spirit, and not from certain isolated acts, but embracing all of life (Romans 12:1). In the former, men trusted in something human, whether it descended from the theocratic nation, or the righteousness of the Law, or mortification of “the flesh.”

See the notes on Genesis 17:10-14 on page 118.

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