20th September 2018

Philippians: Week 7 (Thursday, September 20 2018(

 

Chapter 3: 1-6

 

Paul warns them against false teachers 3:1-3

v1 Finally, my friends, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me. And for you it is safe. v2 Look out for the dogs. Look out for the evil workers. Look out for those who cause injury by cutting the body. v3 It is we, not they, who have received the true circumcision. That is because we worship God by his Holy Spirit. We rejoice in our life united with Christ Jesus. We do not put our trust in a physical sign in the body.

 

Verse 1 ‘Finally’ suggests that Paul is reaching the end of his letter. But he continues writing to 4:8, where he uses the word ‘finally’ again. So some writers suggest that 3:1 to 4:8 forms a separate letter. Perhaps Paul put it into the main letter. But the Greek words can mean ‘what remains for me to say’. This is, therefore, the start of another section and not the end of the letter.

‘*Rejoice in the Lord’ means that the Christians at Philippi should have great joy. Jesus would always be with them, whatever happened. That should be the reason for their joy. The words have almost the same meaning as ‘Praise the Lord’.

It was no trouble to Paul to repeat what he had written to them before. He was thinking about their spiritual safety. It is very easy for people to forget. Paul knew that teachers need to repeat some truths many times. The ‘same things’ might mean:

1          He had told them to rejoice in spite of their difficult circumstances.

2          He had warned them about divisions in the church.

3          What he will say next. He is now going to warn them about Jewish Christians who were a danger to the truth of the gospel. This seems the most likely explanation. Those Jews denied that salvation came only from God’s grace. They said that Gentiles would not receive salvation unless they first became Jews by circumcision. Gentiles must also obey all the Jewish laws. Paul had spoken against these ideas when the Judaisers had first come to Antioch (Acts 15:1). He had written to the Christians in Galatia. In that letter, he emphasised how wrong this doctrine was. Philippi had few Jews. But it was on a major Roman road, the Egnatian Way. So these Jews could easily travel from church to church. They were enemies of the true faith.

Verse 2 Paul warns the Christians at Philippi three times. He describes the Judaisers in three ways. He uses three Greek words that begin with the letter ‘k’. These words show the depth of Paul’s feelings. And the three initial letters would help Christians at Philippi to remember them.

1          ‘dogs’. These were not family pets but wild dirty animals. The name ‘dogs’ described everyone who was miserable and without value. It was the name by which Jews spoke about Gentiles. Paul gave the name back to the Jews in order to describe them and their doctrine as dirty and dangerous.

2          ‘evil workers’. The Jews thought that they were good workers. They obeyed all their laws. And so, they thought that God would approve of them. Paul said that, in fact, they were evil. They were denying that salvation is God’s gift. And therefore they were turning people away from God.

3          ‘those who cause injury’. The Jews were proud of the physical sign of circumcision. It was a sign of their covenant with God that went back to the time of Abraham (Genesis 17:10). Paul used two Greek words very like each other. Instead of ‘cutting round’ (*circumcision), they were ‘cutting to pieces’ (concision). The law forbade Jews to make cuts on the body (Leviticus 21:5). What God required was a ‘circumcision’ of the heart. God does not require people to trust in laws and ceremonies, as the *Jews did. He requires a humble trust in his mercy. Paul said that the Jews were causing injury to the true faith. It was as if they were cutting it to pieces.

Verse 3 Paul gave three signs that ‘we’ Christians, not the Judaisers, have received the true circumcision:

1          We worship by the Holy Spirit. True worship means ‘a humble heart’ (Psalm 51:17). The Holy Spirit gives the power to offer sincere worship to God (John 4:24).

2          We rejoice in Christ Jesus. True Christians rejoice because of what Christ has done for them. They are united with him. They know that he is always with them.

  1. ‘We do not put our trust in a physical sign in the body.’ To trust in the circumcision of the physical body does not save a man. ‘But I am never proud about anything except the death of our Lord Jesus Christ... It does not matter if someone has circumcised you or not. All that matters is that you are a new person’ (Galatians 6:14-15). He was also referring to any human advantages or ceremonies.

     

    Paul’s advantages 3:4-6

    v4 I could, of course, put my trust in such things. Some man may think that he can trust in human advantages. Then, I have even more reason to trust in mine. v5 My circumcision was on the eighth day after my birth. I belong to Israel by birth. I come from the tribe of Benjamin. I am a pure Hebrew. I obeyed the Jewish law of Moses as a Pharisee. v6 I was so eager and serious that I opposed Christians. And I attacked them. With regard to the kind of goodness that the Law of Moses gives to people, I was without blame.

     

    Verse 4 Paul showed that he had every right to describe human advantages as without value. He had more advantages than anyone else could claim. He gave this list to show that he considered them to be of no value.

    Verse 5 The advantages from his family:

    1          He received circumcision when he was eight days old. So his parents obeyed the command that God gave to Abraham (Genesis 17:12). He was a true child of Abraham. He had not, like some Gentiles, come into the Jewish faith when he was an adult.

    2          He belonged ‘to Israel by birth’. Israel was the name that God gave to Jacob (Genesis 32:28). Paul was a Jew and so he had a special relationship with God.

    3          He came ‘from the tribe of Benjamin’. Benjamin was the child of Rachel whom Jacob loved. He was the only son of Jacob that was born in the promised country (Genesis 35:16-18). The first king of Israel, Saul, came from this tribe (1 Samuel 9:1-2). Jerusalem was in the territory of Benjamin. The tribe remained loyal to David’s family when the country became two countries.

    4          He was ‘a pure Hebrew’. Many Jews who lived in other countries spoke only Greek. This was the language of the people where they lived. Paul came from the city called Tarsus and he could speak Greek (Acts 21:37). But he had gone to Jerusalem in order to learn from Gamaliel, a famous Jewish teacher (Acts 22:3). So Paul could also speak Hebrew, the Jewish language. He was able to speak in Hebrew to the Jewish crowd that had attacked him (Acts 21:40).

    He was ‘a Pharisee’. He had chosen to be a Pharisee like his parents (Acts 23:6). Pharisees were the most strict Jews. They tried to obey even the smallest detail of the Law of Moses. Paul said that he had carried out the most strict demands of the Jewish faith.

    Verse 6 Paul’s efforts to serve God

    1          He had been so eager to defend the Jewish faith that he tried to destroy theChristian faith. He had put Christians in prison. He was so eager to attack the church that he was prepared to travel from Jerusalem to Damascus. He intended to arrest any Christians that he found there. He never forgot how he had tried to destroy the church (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13).

    2          He was without blame as far as the Law of Moses could produce goodness. The Greek word for ‘without blame’ is a word that really means ‘not to leave out a duty’. There were no demands of the Law of Moses that Paul had failed to obey.


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