Don't Pet These Dogs
(If you'd rather just listen to the entire message - about 25 minutes - just CLICK HERE)
Finally (further, so then), my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. Watch out for “dogs,” watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh— although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.
But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ.
Philippians 3:1-7 HCSB
In brief, what we have going on here is Paul telling his friends in Philippi that he’s going to go over some material again and he doesn’t mind it one bit, because it’s an ongoing problem. It’s safer for them, in fact, if he reiterates some things.
And so the warning is against certain people. The problem was, there were Jews in this Greek town, who were saying to the believers at "Community Church of Philippi" that yes, Jesus is great, but in order to be saved, you have to also have the sign of circumcision. Now of course the Greeks weren’t circumcised, and that’s what they were told they had to do if they wanted to be saved. Circumcision was a mark of the old covenant, but it was actually a shadow of what really mattered, a heart changed by God.
Now obviously this was stirring them up and causing distress, because, first of all, this would not be a pleasant experience when you’re all grown up, and second, and more importantly, the Philippians were doubting their salvation because they hadn’t been circumcised.
But Paul steps in and says, “These people are wrong! They are not of the circumcision (even though they're circumcised), they do not share in the Spirit in the way that we do – they are the ones who are not saved, because they’re adding something to what Jesus did!”
Notice that at the same time he was condemning the Judaizers, he was assuring the Philippian believers. He wanted them to be assured of their salvation. And he basically goes on and says, if works had anything to do with salvation, I’d be in like Flynn! Because Paul had done all of these things, achieved all these accomplishments, and before coming to Christ he thought they amounted to something. But now he realizes that every last scrap of that is a loss, and he doesn’t mind because He has Christ.
Why does all of this make any difference in our lives today? Because so often we trust our own list of accomplishments to give us confidence before God, or we despair because we think we haven't done enough to be confident before God. They are two sides of the same terrible coin. We need to keep in mind that the devil wants to destroy our confidence in the finished work of Christ. The Gospel is simple, strong and sufficient.
(For more about how shocking it was for a Jew to be a called a "dog" by Paul, how adding to the Gospel actually causes us to lose the Gospel, and just how beautiful this passage is for the believer, CLICK HERE for the entire 25 minute sermon. Thanks!)