Philippians 3 - Worship God In The Spirit

INTRODUCTION: Paul used the word rejoice five times in the first two chapters, and in this chapter he emphasized the importance of continuing to rejoice in the Lord, but also to be on guard against the false teaching that could develop in their midst. He used some strong language when he wrote about the false circumcision that some Jews in the local church were teaching as a requirement. The need to be converted in the heart by grace through faith is figuratively the true circumcision. Even though there was no synagogue in Philippi, certain of the Jews there found it difficult to accept justification by faith rather than by the works of the law.

NOTE: All scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


A - BE ON GUARD WHILE YOU REJOICE IN THE LORD

Philippians 3 "1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not tiresome, but for you it is safe. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh;"

COMMENTS: Paul wanted the believers to know that centering their heart-felt thoughts in joy in the Lord could keep them safe from erroneous teaching, so even though he had told them before to rejoice in the Lord, he wanted to remind them again. He advised them to be wary of those who teach that circumcision is a requirement for every follower of God, and with strong language he called such people dogs and evil workers of false circumcision. Those who worship God in the spirit have undergone the true circumcision of the heart and can rejoice in Christ Jesus, and not have confidence in the flesh, which is to say, not any merit achieved by their own efforts.

Even in the second book of the Law, Moses wrote about the true sign of faith in God which is figuratively the circumcision of the heart, and without that change the outward sign is meaningless. Deuteronomy 10 "16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked." This must be earnestly desired by each person, but the change is performed by God. Deuteronomy 30 "6 Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live." Centuries later, Judah needed to be warned to stop rebelling against the Lord, and to seek the true circumcision. Jeremiah 4 "3 For thus says Yahweh to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, "Break up your fallow ground, and don't sow among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to Yahweh, and take away the foreskins of your heart, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn so that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings."

Paul explained that Jews who belong to God don't have that gift through the law. Romans 2 "28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God." The Jews who depend upon their circumcision, and Gentiles who may receive it thinking it is required, do not have the grace by faith through the Spirit for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5 "3 Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace. 5 For we, through the Spirit, by faith wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love."


B - RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM CHRIST FAR EXCEEDS ANY ACHIEVEMENTS

Philippians 3 "4 though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I yet more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the assembly; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless. 7 However, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death;"

COMMENTS: Paul wrote that if confidence in Jewish heritage or personal achievements could make someone worthy before God, he had much about which to boast. He was circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the believers in Christ; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless. Before Paul was converted by Christ, he was very zealous to persecute all Christians because he believed they were blasphemers. He had given this testimony to a violent crowd of staunch Jews in Jerusalem who wanted to kill him for spreading the gospel, and his brief defense before them only raised their hatred toward him. . Acts 22:3 "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict tradition of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as you all are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women."

Paul wanted the believers at Philippi to understand that zeal for the law without faith and trust in Christ is of no value. So he readily rejected the value of what he had once prized so highly, and now counted all such things to be loss and nothing better than refuse, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, his Lord, and to be found in Christ. Paul declared that he had no righteousness of his own which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. This makes it possible to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death.

Paul had earlier written to Christians that the suffering of Christ has provided fellowship for us as we die to sin and are resurrected to newness in life. . Romans 6 "3 Or don't you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin."


C - PRESS ON FOR THE HIGH CALLING IN JESUS

Philippians 3 "11 if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I don't regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

COMMENTS: Paul said he was becoming conformed to Christ, so he clarified for his readers that there was still a journey of life in the flesh before the attainment the resurrection from the dead. Paul said for himself, and for us, We are not made fully complete while we are still struggling against our sin nature in this life, so we must press on to that final point for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of us. Paul encouraged the fellow Christians when he said since he had not fully taken hold of that goal, he was forgetting the past, reaching to things ahead, and pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.


D - OUR CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN WITH OUR SAVIOR

Philippians 3 "15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way. If in anything you think otherwise, God will also reveal that to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the extent that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule. Let us be of the same mind. 17 Brothers, be imitators together of me, and note those who walk this way, even as you have us for an example. 18 For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who think about earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted the believers to consider themselves completely equipped in Christ, and therefore to be as he was by considering all personal credit as nothing compared with the high calling given to them by Christ. If there were still ways in which they needed to grow in their faith, God would reveal those things to them. Nevertheless, Christians should endeavor to use the growth in Christ they have already attained to conduct themselves with the goal of being like-minded together, looking ahead to heaven. When Paul told them to look to him as an example, that was especially true of the way he had said all of his personal status and achievements were refuse with all credit to Christ alone. There are many whose conduct reveals them as the enemies of Christ, and Paul had warned of them before and now warns again as this even brought him to tears. Their end is destruction because their god is their appetite for material gain. They glory in what is shameful as they think only about earthly things. But the citizenship of the Christian is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change the physical body of our humiliation to be conformed to the spiritual body of his glory, according to the working of his power and glory by which he is able even to subject all things to himself!

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, keep me from developing any sense that my own efforts have earned the salvation of my soul, but may I instead rejoice in your grace to me. Thank you for the record of how Paul gladly referred to all of his personal status as a Jew and his scholarly achievements in scripture as nothing but refuse compared to the excellent and surpassing joy of receiving the righteousness which is from God by faith. Lord, please guide me in the power of Christ's resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, that I may become conformed to his death while I live in the flesh. I want to continually press on to that final point for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me to receive the prize of the high calling of God to resurrection in His eternal kingdom. Lord, I believe you will continue to reveal to me those areas in my life where spiritual growth is needed, with the goal of being like-minded with other Christians, looking ahead to heaven. May I be cautious about any people around me whose conduct reveals them as the enemies of Christ. They have shamefully made their desire for earthly status and material gain to be their god, and that will lead to their ultimate destruction. I want to remember to share whatever you provide for me in this life, and to live out the belief that my citizenship is in heaven from where I also wait for my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I eagerly await the time to come when Christ will change my physical body of humiliation to be conformed to the spiritual body of his glory, according to the unlimited power and glory by which he is able even to subject all things to himself! Hallelujah, amen.

Published 30 November 2015