The Search for Joy
No Confidence in the Flesh
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. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
In the third chapter of Philippians, Paul appears to be concluding his letter, but in reality, he is not. He is giving instruction to,“Rejoice in the Lord,” a sphere of life a true believer experiences not because of his circumstances, but because of his relationship to the Lord. Paul is sending warnings in this letter as a safeguard for the church, reporting the danger of false teaching approaching them. The warnings are strong and in repetition emphasizing three distinct groups: Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
Dogs roamed the streets during the first century and were considered dirty wild scavengers. The Jews likened the Gentile people to filthy dogs but here, in Paul’s exhortation, he is describing the Jews, specifically the Judaizers, as dogs, to portray their wicked, malicious, and uncontrolled character. Judaizers prided themselves in being workers of righteousness. Paul called their works, evil, because their attempts to please God only drew attention to themselves drawing away from Christ’s work of redemption. When Paul wrote, “Beware of the concision,” he was speaking of the Judaizers and their claim of righteousness by ceremony which ironically, had no spiritual symbol, it was merely physical mutilation. Christians do not possess a symbol of a contrite heart; they have been cleansed by the blood of Christ for their sins and therefore, truly possess a repentant heart and mind.
Paul encourages the Philippians to worship God, rejoice in Christ, and have no confidence in their flesh. He gives them a run down of his religious attributes prior to salvation and refers to himself as being a righteous man, “blameless,” which was, “but dung,” or useless, compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. To know Christ was not just an intellectual knowledge but it was to know Him experientially and personally, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) In accepting Christ, Paul was turning his back on Judaism and Phariseeism and therefore he literally would, “suffered the loss of all things,” to gain Christ.
Paul concludes this portion of Scripture with the phrase, “That I may know him...” How could he say he wanted to know Christ when he had already met the Lord on the Damascus Road? (See Acts 9:1-31). Paul desired a sincere personal intimacy and deeper knowledge of Christ. He realized the Supreme power of His resurrection, and the intense communion of the sufferings of Christ through other believers enduring hardships and through his own personal sufferings. Paul was proving his salvation by his willingness to suffer loss for the cause of Christ. True salvation produces a transformed life, exchanging death for life and as a result, expressing and demonstrating a passion for the cause of Christ.
Thought: Where does your passion lie? Are you resting in the hope of your salvation in a past event or in the power of the Gospel to convert sinners to Christ? Is your confidence in yourself because you think you are a good person or in the fact that; “All have sinned, and come (fall) short of the glory of God?”(Romans 3:23) Does your life show distinct signs of a transformed life or are you living a false or dead faith (James 2:14-26)? I pray that you truly know Christ as your Lord and Savior and that your conversion experience is validated by a changed life to the glory of God.