1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. Writing the same things to you is no burden for me but is a safeguard for you.
2 Beware of the dogs! Beware of the evil workers! Beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, we who worship through the Spirit of God, who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in flesh, 4 although I myself have grounds for confidence even in the flesh.
If anyone else thinks he can be confident in flesh, all the more can I. 5 Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee, 6 in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless. 7 (But) whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.
8 More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith 10 to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ (Jesus). 13 Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us, then, who are "perfectly mature" adopt this attitude. And if you have a different attitude, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only, with regard to what we have attained, continue on the same course. 17 Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us.
18 For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their "shame." Their minds are occupied with earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.
- Paul is more than willing to repeat himself if he thinks this will help his audience (v.1; Ephesians 3:3. Peter also was happy to remind people of what they had already been taught (2 Peter 3:10).
- Paul encourages the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord -- and then he warns them to watch out for the "dogs" (v.2). What is the connection?
- Either he got sidetracked, only resuming his thought in chapter 4, or
- Rejoicing in the Lord is being set in contrast to rejoicing in one's achievements. The "dogs" (Judaizers -- see below) -- rejoice in the flesh (going in one's own strength to achieve). See Galatians 6:13.
- The enemies of the gospels are teaching that one must be circumcised before he can be baptized (v.2ff). Yet the old law has been repealed. See Colossians 2:14-17, Galatians 1-6.
- “Dogs” is hardly a term of endearment!
- Mutilation (katatomé) sounds like circumcision (peritomé) in Greek.
- These false teachers put confidence in the flesh, in two ways:
- The flesh indicates the foreskin, which is removed during circumcision.
- The flesh, in much of the N.T., refers to our tendency to go in our own strength, egotistically rejecting grace. For example, Galatians 3:3 (NKJV) reads, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
- Paul assures the Philippians that he could very easily play the religion game (v.4), seeking perfection by virtue of one’s own merits. He was, after all, “a Pharisee of Pharisees.”
- Paul was circumcised on the correct day (Leviticus 12:3).
- I was not a convert to Israel (a proselyte), but born a Jew.
- He was a Benjamite.
- This was a tribe that had come back from the brink of extinction (Judges 20-21).
- It was also the tribe of Israel’s first king, after him Paul (Saul was named).
- He was a Pharisee, a member of the sect that strictly held to the Bible.
- Nor was he only marginally committed. Paul (Saul) not only obeyed the laws himself, but zealously challenged all whom he perceived to be a threat to God's law.
- For more on his strides as an ardent apologist for the law, see Galatians 1:14.
- But all of these feathers in his cap Paul considers worthless, compared to the glory of knowing Christ.
- For Paul, Christ is everything (v.7ff). He wants to know Christ:
- By sharing in his sufferings.
- By drawing on his resurrection power.
- By relying on Christ, not on himself.
- And one day, to be resurrected from the dead (when Christ returns).
- Although a mature Christian, Paul knows he has not yet "arrived" (v.12ff).
- He has a balanced and spiritual perspective on the past, present, and future.
- He challenges those who consider themselves "mature" to keep the same perspective.
- There is no excuse for not pushing ourselves to continue to mature spiritually. We can imitate Paul, imitate other disciples, and imitate Christ.
- Paul returns to the theme of the enemies of the gospel (v.18ff).
- Paul is neither bitter nor caustic. He writes these words with tears of concern, for he knows that these opponents of the truth will ultimately be destroyed.
- They are fundamentally unspiritual men.
- They are men of large appetite. Self-indulgence betokens inner spiritual malaise.
- The glory in their "shame." (In the Bible, this word is often a euphemism for sex or the pudenda.)
- Their agenda is earthly, not heavenly (power, privilege, prestige, perks, etc).
- In contast, Christ's followers seek not earthly gain. Their citizenship is in heaven.
- Although Christians are socially and ecologically aware and sensitive, they know that the eternal things should be at the center of their focus.
- We may be "citizens" of various nations (Germany, South Africa, Canada, Brazil....) but we can never pledge our ultimate loyalty to the state. Our true citizenship is elsewhere.
- We count on salvation coming from heaven.
- We do not expect the kingdom to be realized on this earth. Our focus is entirely different from that of those false Christians whose veneer of faith covers over a worldly heart.
- We shall be resurrected, our bodies transformed. (For more on this, see 1 Corinthians 15).
- In 3:1 Paul seems to be ending the letter (“Finally…”), but this is hardly his conclusion. To loipon can be translated “finally,” but also “from now on; in the future; in this connection” etc. This it is surprising that most translations have “finally.”
- “Cave canem,” the ancient Romans said: “Beware of dog.” But these dogs are not domestic protectors, but vicious beasts who seek to devour true spirituality. In the first century AD, the Jew-Gentile Controversy was the number one issue in the church. Namely, must one become a Jew before he can become a Christian; must circumcision precede baptism?
- Paul’s Hebrew name was Shaul (sha-UL in the original), the name of other biblical figures, too (see Genesis 36, 46; Exodus 6; Numbers 26; 1 Chronicles 1; 4; 6).
- Do I cave in to pressure to conform to religious norms? Take pride in religious achievements? Draw attention to myself or desire that it be directed towards me? Do I more readily tell others of my earthly accomplishments, or of my faith in God and relationship with him through Jesus Christ?
- Would people guess that I am more devoted to my own appetites than I am to the Lord? That I am more careless in cultivating my inner spiritual life than I am in feeding my body and making it comfortable? Are my priorities confused?
- Do I act as though I have "arrived," or am I as determined to push forward, learn, and grow as I was when I first became a Christian?
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