Philippians 3:1-7

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

November 20, 2002


We now enter a new section in Philippians.

:1-3 The warning

:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.

finally loipon – remaining, the rest; hereafter, for the future, henceforth; at last, already; for the rest, besides, moreover

This is not just a preacher trying to tell the people he’s making his final point, but is only half way through the message.

This means literally, “as for the rest …”. Paul is now going to move on from the issue of the internal divisions in the Philippian church and to move on to other concerns.

rejoicechairo – to rejoice, be glad; to rejoice exceedingly. Present active imperative.

in the Lord


Joy in the Lord

I don’t think Paul is just saying one of those, “Praise the Lord” phrases that we often say, without having any idea of what we’re saying.
He’s sharing a command that they need to rejoice, but to rejoice in the Lord.
Don’t rejoice in your “stuff” or your accomplishments.
Rejoice because of what Jesus has done for you.

:1 To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

to writegrapho – to write, with reference to the form of the letters; to write, with reference to the contents of the writing

grievous okneros – sluggish, slothful, backward, irksome; from okneo – to feel loath, to be slow; to delay, hesitate

safe asphales (“not” + “fail”) – firm (that which can be relied on); certain, true; suited to confirm


Hearing the same old thing

When you’ve been a Christian for a few years, there is a danger of always looking for some “new” thing from the Lord. When a teacher gets to a certain lesson or application, we can say to ourselves, “Oh, I’ve heard that before.”
Peter wrote that it was important to keep reminding his readers of certain truths.
(2 Pet 1:12-13 KJV) Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. {13} Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
I heard a story about a pastor who had preached a beautiful sermon on “Loving One Another”. After the service several people came up to him and told him what a fine message he had given. The following week, the pastor gave a message on “Loving One Another”. It was the same, exact message. Same points. Same illustrations. Same jokes. Some of the people thought to themselves, “Well, maybe he’s had a bad week and forgot that he preached this message last week.” The following week, the pastor got up and preached a message on “Loving One Another”. You guessed it, the exact, same message. One gal in the church got the courage to ask the pastor what was going on. “How come you’ve preached the same sermon three weeks in a row?” she asked. The pastor responded, “When I start seeing the church doing what the message says, I’ll preach a different sermon.”

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

Beware …beware … bewareblepo – to see, discern, of the bodily eye; to turn the eyes to anything: to look at, look upon, gaze at; to perceive by the senses, to feel; to discern mentally, observe, perceive, discover, understand; to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, contemplate, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine

dogskuon – a dog; metaph. a man of impure mind, an impudent man

evilkakos – of a bad nature; not such as it ought to be; base, wrong, wicked; troublesome, injurious, pernicious, destructive, baneful

workersergates – a workman, a labourer; usually one who works for hire esp. an agricultural worker; one who does, a worker, perpetrator

concision katatome (“down” + “to cut”) – to cut up, mutilation; NAS – “false circumcision”

Paul is talking about people we call “Judaizers”.

These were men who went around teaching that for a Gentile to be saved, they first had to become Jews, especially, they had to first become circumcised.

These people tended to follow in Paul’s footsteps and disrupt the churches that Paul plants.
Paul didn’t like these guys. When he wrote to the Galatians, he wrote mostly as a warning against these guys. Paul said,
(Gal 5:12 KJV) I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

He uses the word “mutilate”, he wishes these guys would mutilate themselves.

The Judaizers called the Gentiles “dogs”. Now Paul turns the term on them. They are not people who teach “circumcision”, they were teaching “mutilation”.

This was a major issue in the early church. The church started off being entirely Jewish.

When Peter went to Cornelius’ house and some Gentiles ended up being saved and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, many in the church didn’t know what to do.
As Paul began his ministry among the Gentiles throughout the world, again, there were questions raised as to what the Gentiles should be taught.
In response to these issues, the church held its first big “council” in Jerusalem in AD 50 (Acts 15).
The final verdict of the church regarding Gentiles was written in a letter:

(Acts 15:23-29 KJV) And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: {24} Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:

These were the Judaizers, commanding people to be circumcised.

{25} It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, {26} Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. {27} We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. {28} For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; {29} That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

All the early church decided a Gentile needed to be concerned about was not eating meat sacrificed to idols, not eating things strangled (because it still had the blood in the meat, something offensive to Jews), and to abstain from fornication (sex outside of marriage).

Nothing about circumcision. In fact, they mentioned that it was not an issue.


Importance of warnings

This apparently was part of what Paul was willing to repeat over and over to the Philippians (vs. 3:1).
We need to be careful to guard ourselves against the kind of naiveté that blindly accepts everyone and their doctrine, all in the name of love.
We need to be careful of people who would say that we need to be doing anything other than trust in Jesus to be saved.
(Gal 1:9 KJV) As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
These are not things to be taken lightly. These are not things to say, “Well it doesn’t really matter much”. It does.

:3 For we are the circumcision,

circumcision peritome – circumcised; the act or rite of circumcision, "they of the circumcision" is a term used of the Jews; of Christians gathered from among the Jews; metaph. of Christians separated from the unclean multitude and truly consecrated to God


True circumcision

The concept of circumcision is not a bad one.
It is a picture of the cutting away of the fleshly sin nature.
kind of interesting to see how the word “circumcise” if used in the Old Testament.
The first time it’s used, it is the actual command to circumcise, given to Abraham:

(Gen 17:10-12 KJV) This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. {11} And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. {12} And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.

But the next three times you find the word “circumcise”, it refers to the heart:

(Deu 10:16 KJV) Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

(Deu 30:6 KJV) And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

(Jer 4:4 KJV) Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Paul tells us this spiritual “circumcision” is something that Jesus does.

(Col 2:10-11 KJV) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: {11} In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

True circumcision is a life that has chosen to live after the Spirit and not after the flesh.

:3 which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

worship latreuo – to serve for hire; to serve, minister to, either to the gods or men and used alike of slaves and freemen; in the NT, to render religious service or homage, to worship; to perform sacred services, to offer gifts, to worship God in the observance of the rites instituted for his worship; of priests, to officiate, to discharge the sacred office

God is to be worshipped not by our outward works like the cutting of the flesh in circumcision, but through the Spirit.

(John 4:21-24 KJV) Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. {22} Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. {23} But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. {24} God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

rejoice kauchaomai – to glory (whether with reason or without); to glory on account of a thing; to glory in a thing

Paul’s confidence was not in that he was circumcised by a rabbi, though he was. His boasting and glorying was in what Jesus did for him on the cross.


When you were a kid and open house was coming up, you got together the best papers, the best science projects, the best crafts that you had done, so you could show off to your parents. But this would be as if the things you chose were the projects that the teacher had done for you, things which you could take no credit for.

fleshsarx – flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of both man and beasts; the flesh, denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God

no confidencepeitho – persuade; be persuaded; to trust, have confidence, be confident

A person who is trusting in their keeping of the Law, in the performance of good works, is a person who is trusting in their flesh.

How do you respond when people ask you, “What have you been up to lately?”

It would be neat to learn to talk about what Jesus has been doing rather than what we’ve been doing.


True followers

These are the qualities of the true followers of the Lord.
They learn to serve the Lord under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit.
They learn to boast in what Jesus has done for them, not what they’ve done for Jesus.
They learn not to trust their own abilities, but the Lords.

:4-7 Paul’s confidence

:4 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:

confidencepepoithesis – trust, confidence, reliance

thinkethdokeo – to be of opinion, think, suppose; to seem, to be accounted, reputed; a subjective judgment growing out of an inclination (leaning towards)

he might trustpeitho – persuade; be persuaded; to trust, have confidence, be confident


Some think they can trust their flesh

They think that on their own, they can handle everything.
If anybody could trust in the flesh, Paul could.
If you want to learn from someone who “had it all”, listen to Paul.

:5 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;

circumcisedperitome – circumcised; the act or rite of circumcision, "they of the circumcision" is a term used of the Jews; of Christians gathered from among the Jews

the eighth day oktaemeros – eight days old; passing the eighth day

It was Jewish Law and custom to circumcise little boys on the eighth day.

Abraham was commanded this (Gen. 17:12)
Jesus was even circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21)

the stockgenos – kindred; offspring; family; stock, tribe, nation

the stock of Israel – Paul considered himself blessed, having been born a Jew.

tribephule – a tribe

the tribe of Benjamin – this was the smallest tribe in Israel, but it was also the tribe of the first king, Saul, and so it was considered a special tribe. It was the tribe that stayed loyal to David and was formed with the tribe of Judah to rebuilt the nation after the captivies.

Hebrew of HebrewsHebraios – Hebrew

There were “Hebrew Jews” and “Greek Jews”.  The Hebrew Jews knew and spoke Hebrew and practiced the Law carefully.  The “Greek Jews” (Hellenists) adopted much of the prevailing Greek culture around the world.

as touchingkata – down from, through out; according to, toward, along

as touching the law, a Pharisee – The Pharisees were the strictest sect, being careful to do everything according to the Law and their traditions.

:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

zealzelos – excitement of mind, ardour, fervour of spirit

persecuting dioko – to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after; in any way whatever to harass, trouble, molest one; to persecute

Paul could be considered in the elite among the Jews, believing so strongly in his faith that he had others put to death who disagreed with him.

It might be like saying, “I follow Islam so strongly that I will join a terrorist organization and kill Jews”

We might look at this today as a negative thing.

But to Paul in talking about his passion for Judaism, this was a mark of greatness.

righteousnessdikaiosune – in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God; the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God; integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting

blameless amemptos – blameless, deserving no censure, free from fault or defect; one with whom no fault is found. This of course refers particularly to the verdict of others upon one. No one knew of anything wrong in Paul.

Not blameless in the sense that Paul was actually in a perfect standing with God.

But blameless in the sense that as far as he knew as a Jew, he was doing everything he was supposed to do.

Paul had it all.

:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

gainkerdos – gain, advantage

countedhegeomai – to lead; to consider, deem, account, think; this word is different from the word “thinketh” in verse 4 in that this isn’t subjective in nature or based on inner feelings, it is a conclusion based on considering external facts, the weighing and comparing of facts.

loss zemia – damage, loss; disadvantage

everything that was once valuable has now in my estimation lost its value for me.[1]


The danger of your strengths

I think that sometimes we can fall into the trap of trying to become something great so God can use us.
The problem is that we then become a person who learns to trust in their own strength, and not in the Lord’s.
When Gideon raised an army to fight the Midianites, God said that there were too many men:
(Judg 7:2 KJV) And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
It’s not what you can do for God that counts, but what God can do for you.
God wants to do a bigger work through you than you could do by yourself.
But for that to happen, you need to get out of the way.
You need to become dependent upon the Lord. To “rejoice in the Lord”
Have you ever listened to Pastor Chuck and said, “Gee, I can teach better than that!”
That’s a dangerous place. Not because Chuck might be “threatened” by you, but because you don’t see what’s really going on.
As a pastor, I can fall into the trap of thinking that if I could just “teach as good as Chuck”, then I will have the same results in my ministry as Chuck.
The “success” of Chuck Smith isn’t due to his skills. It’s due to the Lord.

The issue is not learning to be “as good as” someone else. The lesson is always about learning to stay as close to Jesus as possible and being more and more dependant upon Him.


It’s only Jesus

There is only one way that you can get to heaven, and that’s by trusting in what Jesus has done for you on the cross.
Everything else is worthless.
Warren Wiersbe writes, “A lady was arguing with her pastor about this matter of faith and works. “I think that getting to heaven is like rowing a boat,” she said. “One oar is faith, and the other is works. If you use both, you get there. If you use only one, you go around in circles.” “There is only one thing wrong with your illustration,” replied the pastor. “Nobody is going to heaven in a rowboat!””
The only “work” that will get us into heaven is the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

[1]Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (Vol. 2, Page 890). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.