It's a holiday weekend woohoo! It seems impossible to me that it is already Memorial Day weekend. I pray that wherever the weekend takes you that you take the Lord with you. Include Him in your plans and you cannot go wrong.
We had a deluge of rain here in our hometown yesterday that brought an unholy flood of sewage into our basement. What a mess! It could have been a lot worse, but for a germaphobe like me the thought of someone else's body waste in my house was about more than I could take. Fortunately we do not have carpeting just throw rugs, but most of them we had to be throw into the garbage. Ugh! But after about 2 hours of cleaning and almost 2 full bottles of bleach we were back to normal. Please Lord, never again!
Back to much more pleasant things: In our study today of the book of Philippians, Paul presents a warning for the new Christian against Judaizers. These were Jews who professed to be Christians but tried to coerce the new believers into the customs of the Law such as circumcision as evidence of salvation. This epistle is all about joy; and there is no joy to be had in the constriction of the Law.
Philippians 3:1 "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."
The word "finally" is a transitional word that means Paul is now moving to a new subject. He is about to issue a warning to the Philippian church. It "is not grievous" or a bother for Paul to repeat himself on some issues of great importance, "but for you it is safe" or a safeguard against problems that may arise.
2 "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision."
"Beware of dogs" is not a warning against our 4-legged friends, but a word of disdain against "evil workers" from the Jewish faith who wanted to put the new believer's in the yoke of the Law of Moses again. Dogs were considered the lowliest of creatures in the middle east. They roamed the streets of the towns as nomads, eating the refuse from garbage heaps. To equate these Judaizers with that of dogs was a sharp insult. Paul further insults them by calling them as "of the concision". The word concision means mutilation. Paul is telling them that their circumcision was nothing more than a disfigurement of the flesh.
3 "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
"For we" Paul and his intended readers, "are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit". True worship of God does not come from the appearance of the flesh, but the circumcision of the heart. Paul goes into more depth on this issue in Colossians chapter 2 beginning at verse 8: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 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: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." Being uncircumcised in the heart means that the sinful nature has been cut away by the Spirit of God that dwells in us.
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: 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; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless."
The concision bragged about the condition of their circumcised flesh, but Paul had more to "have confidence in the flesh" than any "other man". Paul lists here 7 of his credentials or things that he could brag about if he chose to among the Judaizers. (1) He was "circumcised the eighth day" as the Jewish commandments insisted and the Judaizers promoted. Anyone born of the seed or descendants of Jacob were to be circumcised the 8th day of their lives. The descendants of Ishmael (Abraham's son from Hagar, Genesis 16:15) were to be circumcised after their 13th birthday. (2) "of the stock of Israel" Jacob's name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with an angel (Genesis 32:28). (3) "of the tribe of Benjamin" Paul was a product of the tribe of Benjamin; one of the two most prestigious tribes of the 12. (4) "an Hebrew of the Hebrews" meaning that he was full-blooded Jew. There had been no mingling of his family's bloodline with any Gentiles. This was a badge of honor amongst the Jewish people. (5) "as touching the Law, a Pharisee" He was trained by a famous Jewish scholar named Gamaliel, and became a Pharisee sworn to defend, observe, and expound the Old Testament Scriptures. (6) "persecuting the church" no one was more zealous, or legendary in his efforts to stop the way of Christ than Saul of Tarsus. (7) "blameless" no one could fault him for not adhering to the Law of Moses. He kept every commandment and ordinance in an outward show of presumed "righteousness". He was the perfect picture of a Jew, but that was not nearly enough!
7 "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 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, 9 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:"
All of his accomplishment in the flesh "I counted loss" or were meaningless when it came to "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord". All of the things that he at one time he had pride in himself in were now nothing "but dung" or excrement to him. As a person must empty themselves of bodily waste, Paul had to empty himself of the things which were contrary to the Gospel of Christ. He now knew that righteousness only came from a relationship with the Risen Savior. To "win Christ" is to gain salvation.
10 "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,"
Paul longed to know every aspect of the Savior. He wanted an intimate knowledge of Jesus that he "might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" which only comes from a relationship with the One who has gone before us. We "follow after" the footsteps of Jesus. He first achieved resurrection by the power of God so that we too can be where He is in Heaven with the Father. Paul knew well that following Jesus also meant to have "fellowship of His sufferings" for His Name's sake. Paul did not know at this time if the trial he was awaiting would bring him to sacrifice his life for the cause of Christ, but he was ready and willing to face whatever came. Christ "apprehended" or caught Paul on the road to Damascus; now Paul longs to "apprehend" or possess Jesus. He was not "already perfect" but one day we will all reach perfection in Glory. Part of attaining perfection is "forgetting those things which are behind" in our former lives, and "reaching forth" as a relay runner does to take the baton across the finish line.
14 "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
The "mark" is the obtaining of the perfect knowledge of Christ in verses 10 and 11. We "press" or strain to reach this mark of perfection. The "prize" is salvation and a home with Jesus forever in the Kingdom of God. Paul knew that nothing else mattered. If we do not attain this "high calling" we are without hope. Life is nothing more than a fleeting moment in eternity without Christ Jesus. Are you pressing toward the mark?
Have a wonderful weekend!