Philippians 3:1-3

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Text: Philippians 3:1-3


We have already seen -


We have also seen -


In addition, we have seen -


Furthermore, we have seen -


We have also seen -


Finally, we have seen -


We look next at -



In Philippians 3:1-3 Paul admonishes his readers to beware of those involved in legalism. Although the ones promoting legalism pride themselves in their circumcision, believers are the real circumcision. Believers worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh.

According to 3:4-8, we see that although Paul has an amazing pedigree in things deemed important by the legalists, he has come to regard all these things as loss for Christ.

In 3:9-14, we see that Paul has received the righteousness of God through Christ and is striving to attain complete Christlikeness in this life.

In 3:15-17, Paul exhorts the believers in Philippi to have the same mindset he has, the mindset of striving to be completely Christlike in all areas of his life.

Unfortunately, according to 3:18-19, the believers in Philippi cannot follow the examples of some because they are enemies of the cross of Christ and will one day find themselves in the lake of fire.

According to 3:20-21, unlike these unbelievers, believers are citizens of heaven who are looking forward to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and their glorification at the rapture.

We see that believers should -

A. Have No Confidence in the Flesh - 3:1-14

Inasmuch as legalism places confidence in the flesh, believers

must -

1. Beware of Legalism - 3:1-3

There is a common, but false, misconception that legalism is advising believers that they should not engage in activities such as attending the movie theater, drinking alcoholic beverages, using tobacco in any form, dancing, and playing cards. A preacher who preaches against things like these might be referred to as a legalist, but this is not legalism. Legalism believes that salvation is gained by doing good works and by not doing other things. Believers are saved in order that they might do good works, but doing good works does not save anyone.

Ephesians 2:8-10 - 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Titus 3:5 - Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

Philippians 3:1-3 - 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.

Finally signals a change in the direction Paul is heading in his epistle rather than the end of his epistle. Finally suggests as far as the rest is concerned, beyond that, or in addition.

Paul addresses his readers as my brethren, i.e. my brothers, by which he means his fellow believers.

Paul commands the Philippian believers, Rejoice in the Lord. Its tense indicates that it is to be done continuously and also indicates that its action may already be in progress. It is understood as be rejoicing, continue rejoicing, or keep on rejoicing.

In the Lord implies in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Believers have reason to rejoice. Regardless of the circumstances we may encounter in life, we have been saved from our sins and from the consequences of our sins as well as from the power of sin in our lives. We will spend eternity in heaven with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we have God the Holy Spirit dwelling in us; and we are experiencing the fruit of the Spirit, which He is producing in our lives as we submit our hearts and minds to the Word of God, which has been given to us to guide our lives.

To write the same things to you refers to what follows in this epistle. He is about to write some things he has already written or said on other occasions.

To me indeed is not grievous is for me on the one hand is not troublesome, for me on the one hand does not cause fear, or for me on the one hand does not cause reluctance and means that, on the one hand, it is not a burden for Paul to write these things to the Philippian believers. It causes him no fear, and there is no reluctance in his writing them.

But for you is but on the other hand for you Philippian believers.

It is safe means it is secure, suggesting that it is best that Paul is writing regarding these things because the Philippian believers need to know them in order that they might do those things which are right and proper.

Philippians 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

Each use of beware is a command. It is used three times for emphasis, and each time its tense indicates that this action is ongoing and was already going on. It is understood in the sense of continue (or keep on) being aware, continue (or keep on) watching out for, or continue (or keep on) looking out for.

By dogs Paul does not mean four-footed domesticated animals. In this first-century society dogs were vicious, roaming, filthy, mangy, and menacing scavengers; so, this designation was not intended as a compliment. Dogs describes the Judaizers as vicious, roaming, and menacing scavengers who sought to convert Paul's converts to their way of thinking.

The Philippians are also to beware of evil workers. It is a second way of describing these Judaizers. These are the ones who are working evil or the ones who are doing evil.

By evil Paul means injurious things or bad things.

The Philippian believers are also to beware of the concision, which is the mutilation or the cutting in pieces. The concision is a negative reference to the Judaizers who taught that circumcision was necessary for salvation. One is reminded of Paul's comments regarding the Judaizers in Galatians 5:1-6 , 11-12.

Galatians 5:1-4 - (1) Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. [The thought is that believers, whether Jew or Gentile, have been set free from the law by salvation. They should stop subjecting themselves again to the requirements of the Mosaic law from which the death of Christ delivered them.] (2) Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. [What is stated does not refer to those who have been circumcised as little babies because it is standard practice in the countries in which they were born; instead, it refers to those who submit themselves again to the law and who are circumcised as part of their submission to the law, thereby making circumcision a requirement for salvation. The Judaizers were teaching that these saved Gentiles had to place themselves under the Mosaic law, including circumcision, but Paul is arguing that placing themselves under the Mosaic law, which includes circumcision, repudicates the work of salvation provided by Christ's death on the cross. The point of the passage is that the person is either saved by grace through faith or else he is saved by works of law. If he is going to adopt law or legalism as a system of salvation, Christ is going to do him no good. If he adopts Christ as a system of salvation, then Christ will save him.] (3) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. [The point is that when somebody is circumcised as a part of submitting to the law, he is obligated to do the whole law. He is not able to pick and choose various parts of the law to which he will submit, while at the same time choosing other parts of the law to which he will not submit. They had already begun observing days, months, times, and years (4:10). Now they were considering being circumcised to become the sons of Abraham. It would not be long before the Judaizers would introduce them to the necessity of keeping the whole law.] (4) Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. [A person who believes that justification is by the law cuts himself off from justification by faith. The opposite is also true. The one who believes that justification is by faith cuts himself off from justification by the law. Salvation by grace through faith and salvation by works of law are mutually exclusive. One who chooses Christ rejects law as a means of salvation. Likewise, one who chooses law rejects faith in Christ as a means of salvation.]

The point of fallen from grace is not that they have lost their salvation, but that if they choose to be saved by works of law, they remove themselves from the system of being saved by grace. A true believer will never do this. However, if somebody is unsaved, he may very well choose to try to earn his salvation; but he is not going to be saved in this way. There are two mutually- exclusive systems. One is salvation by works of law, and the other is salvation by grace through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only one will work. A person who attempts to be saved by keeping the law has removed himself from the system of grace. This is not the unpardonable sin, however. If he changes his mind and trusts Christ as his Savior, God will forgive his sins and give him eternal life. He will then have removed himself from the system of law.

Galatians 5:5-6 - 5 For we through the Spirit wait for [i.e. are awaiting eagerly] the hope of righteousness by faith [the hope (or expectation) of attaining righteousness or the hope (or expectation) which is righteousness]. 6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision [i.e. neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything spiritually - they do not bring about salvation]; but faith which worketh by love [i.e. Faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross at Calvary, however, does result in salvation. Faith in Christ also results in love being produced in the believer by the Holy Spirit and in good works done in love.].

Galatians 5:11-12 - (11) And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. (12) I would they were even cut off which trouble you (emphasis added).

In Philippians 3:2 Paul is using all three terms - dogs, evil workers, and the concision - in reference to the Jewish unbelievers who have persecuted him and other believers wherever he has gone. As a matter of fact, at the very time he is writing this letter to the Philippians, Paul is in prison in Rome because of workers such as these who have attempted to destroy Christianity.

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

As indicated by for, verse 3 explains why it is safe for the believers at Philippi that Paul writes these things, and why they should beware of dogs, of evil workers, and of the concision.

We is emphatic and refers to Paul and his readers, who, for the most part, were Gentiles. It also refers by extension to all believers everywhere.

Paul is making the point that believers are the circumcision, i.e. the truly circumcised people of God, rather than these unsaved Jews who thought they were the circumcision because they were circumcised outwardly in the flesh. Paul also addresses this in Romans 2:25-29 where he indicates that true circumcision is inward and of the heart.

Romans 2:25-29 - (25) For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (26) Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? (27) And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? (28) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (emphasis added).

Back to Philippians 3:3

Which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh further identifies the ones who are the true circumcision.

Which worship God in the spirit is literally the ones who worship (or serve) God the Father in spirit (i.e. spiritually). It indicates that worship (or service) is not something done externally or through mechanical means, such as circumcision, but is done through a spirit of submission and humility in which believers give themselves to the Lord and serve Him.

In spirit has to do with an attitude or disposition of mind and is best understood in the sense of spiritually, but I recognize that spirit may instead be used of the individual believer's own spirit and be understood in the sense of in (the) spirit or with (the) spirit. I also recognize that Spirit may refer to the Holy Spirit of God. If so, it is by means of the Holy Spirit of God that believers worship God the Father. However, I believe that spirit in this verse is better understood as spiritually or as referring to the believer's own attitude of mind and heart rather than to the Holy Spirit of God.

Not only are believers the ones who worship God in spirit, but they are also the ones who rejoice in Christ Jesus.

Rejoice in means boast in, glory in, or pride ourselves in. Believers have no reason to boast or take pride in themselves because there is nothing good dwelling in themselves.

Instead, they rejoice, boast, or glory in Christ Jesus because of Who He is, what He is, and what He has done for them. He is God the Son, the sinless One, the perfect One Who loved them and died upon the cross, shedding His precious blood in order to pay for their sins, and not for their sins only, but also for all the sins that anybody and everybody in the world has ever committed or ever will commit. Believers rejoice or boast in this because, apart from it, there would be no possibility of their ever having been saved. They are not good enough to save themselves; but Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29 ). He died upon the cross and paid for the sins of all humanity; and, consequently, everyone can be saved by trusting in His atoning work on Calvary's cross.

There is no significant difference between Christ Jesus and Jesus Christ, except that Christ Jesus emphasizes the fact that He is Messiah; whereas, Jesus Christ emphasizes the fact that He is the One Who would save His people from their sins.

And have no confidence in the flesh means that believers are not depending on, are not trusting in, or are not putting confidence in the flesh, which refers to anything that is human that can be done in one's own strength. All that people have in their flesh is their old sin natures, and all their sin natures have ever done is get them in trouble with God. They have nothing in themselves which could possibly merit eternal life, salvation, or favor with God, even though people sometimes try to portray themselves or act in such a way that they think God ought to have special favor on them. The truth is that they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8 ). When one realizes that he can have no confidence in the flesh, he has to wonder why people are sometimes put forth as outstanding Christians simply because they are famous or wealthy. The truth is that it may be very rewarding and impressive to be famous or wealthy; but it has no merit before God; and it really does not teach children to place their trust in the things of God rather than in the things of the flesh.

Romans 8:8-13 - 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.