The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
February 12, 2012
1) Philippians 3:1-8 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
by Tom Edwards
After speaking commendably of Timothy and Epaphroditus, Paul then
exhorts the saints with the following reminder: "Finally, my
brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no
trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you" (Phil. 3:1). As
pointed out, the Philippian letter is an epistle of joy, in which
the word "joy" is used 7 times; "rejoice," 8 times; and "rejoiced,"
once -- and all of that in spite of the fact that Paul was
imprisoned in Rome when he wrote this.
"Rejoice" (from "chairo") is seen in connection with being "glad"
and rendered that way 7 times in the New Testament. One such
instance is in Luke's account of the Beatitudes, in which the Lord
states, "Be glad ["chairo"] in that day, and leap for joy, for
behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their
fathers used to treat the prophets" (Luke 6:23). The "for joy"
in this verse has been added by the translators, rather than having
been in the original Greek. It rightly fits in place with "glad" and
"leap." But what "day" is Jesus alluding to? The
previous verse declares, "Blessed are you when men hate you, and
ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil,
for the sake of the Son of Man" (v. 22). Isn't
that something? On the day that they would be hated,
ostracized, insulted, and scorned for Jesus' sake, that would also
be the day they could be glad and leap for joy! Nothing,
therefore, can keep God's people from rejoicing -- even if
their feet are in shackles in a Philippian jail, as with Paul and
Silas (Acts 16). For they could still rejoice in the Lord and
"leap for joy" in their hearts!
The Greek word for "rejoice" ("chairo") has been defined as "to be
full of 'cheer,' that is, calmly happy or well off..." (James
Strong); "to rejoice, be delighted or pleased, to be glad"
Of all people, the Christian truly does have the most to rejoice
about -- even when health or external circumstances might not be
going so well.
Paul even repeats this exhortation to rejoice in Philippians 4:4:
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" And
in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, "Rejoice always."
Paul refers to rejoicing in the Lord as being a "safeguard."
So praise serves as a protection or a defense, which might remind
you of Psalm 22:3, where the psalmist declares that God "inhabitest
the praises of Israel." Therefore, if we are truly in a right
relationship with God so that we can rejoice in Him and acceptably
praise His name, then we are in the safest place one can be.
Listen to how David expresses this, after the Lord had delivered him
from all his enemies and from Saul: "...'The LORD is my rock and my
fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge;
My savior, Thou dost save me from violence. I call upon the
LORD, who is worthy to be praised; And I am saved from my
enemies. God is my strong fortress..." (2 Sam. 22:2-4, 33).
God has instructed His people to "rejoice in what is good" (2 Chron.
6:41). For the godly are those who also possess the true love
that "does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the
truth" (1 Cor. 13:6); and this includes many things, such as God
sending His Son (Gal. 4:4; Jn. 3:16); Christ being our atonement (1
Jn. 4:10; Heb. 10:4-12); the blotting out of sin (Heb. 8:12; Psa.
103:12); being delivered from the domain of darkness and brought
into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Col. 1:12,13) -- a kingdom that
is characterized with "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy
Spirit" (Rom. 14:17); being set free from the power of the devil
(Heb. 2:14,15); having the promise and hope of eternal life (1 Jn.
2:25; Titus 1:2); having a relationship with God (Rom. 9:24-26; 2
Cor. 6:16-18); having the blessing of prayer, in which the
Christians are to cast their every care or anxiety upon God because
He cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). Christians can also rejoice
in the word of the Lord for it leads and helps on the way to heaven
and provides all that pertains to life and godliness (Psa. 119:105;
1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:3). So whether it is physical or
spiritual blessings that God has provided, the Christians have much
reason to rejoice. And we who are God's children can also
rejoice in knowing that God will always do what is right, as well as
to rejoice in God for being the perfect Being that He is and far
superior to us. For as all the matter in the universe is
compared to a grain of sand, even more so, God is greater compared
to us -- greater in His knowledge and wisdom, in His power, in His
love, and in all the other wonderful virtues that He
possesses. These are just some of the reasons why we, who are
Christians, can do as Paul states to "...rejoice in the Lord" (Phil.
Paul then goes on to say in Philippians 3:2, "Beware of the dogs,
beware of the evil workers, beware of the false
circumcision." Whether this refers to three classes of
people ("dogs" = those of unholy desires; "evil workers" =
unbelieving Jews who tried to destroy the gospel; and "the false
circumcision" = the Judaizers) or three descriptions of the same
group, we still clearly see them as being those whom Christians
should not be deceived by.
The "false circumcision" (v. 2) is rendered as the "concision" in
the KJV. It comes from a different Greek word (katatome) than
the one used in verse 3 for "circumcision" (peritome). The one
in verse 2 also means "mutilation"; and it appears that Paul is
using that particular word contemptuously to express his disapproval
of the Judaizers' unlawful use of circumcision, which they sought to
bind on every male. But even during the Mosaical Period when
that law was in effect, it was a command God had given to the Jews
-- not to the Gentiles. So, obviously, Judaizers are being
referred to in this passage.
If Paul were writing to postmen of not too long ago who made their
rounds on foot, we might take "dogs" literally as something they
need to be aware of; but "dogs," when used figuratively in the
Scriptures, always has a derogatory or negative connotation. Notice,
for instance, Revelation 22:14,15: "Blessed are those who wash their
robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may
enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the
sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the
idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying." It is
said that in ancient times to the Jews, dogs were viewed as being a
most contemptible animal -- rather than being the loved and
appreciated creatures of our time, which are sometimes referred to
as even "man's best friend." But to many Jews long ago, "dogs"
was a term that they used to describe the Gentiles, for they were
viewed as being an unclean people of whom it was unlawful for the
Jews to even associate with or visit (cf. Acts 10:28). In
addition, "dog" is used euphemistically to refer to a Jewish male
cult prostitute in Deuteronomy 23:17,18: "None of the daughters of
Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of
Israel be a cult prostitute. You shall not bring the hire of a
harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God for
any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the
LORD your God." The figurative use of "dog," in the
Scriptures, has also been defined as "mean, low, and contemptible"
(Albert Barnes' comment on 2 Kings 8:13: "...'But what is your
servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great
thing?'..."). These false teachers whom Paul alludes to were
some of the ones who were binding circumcision and the rest of the
Law of Moses, which was a problem during the early church, as seen
in Acts 15:1: "And some men came down from Judea and began teaching
the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of
Moses, you cannot be saved." Any false teacher that would
confront a Christian, the child of God must be aware of and not
deceived by -- for deception can lead to ruin. Note the
danger, according to Galatians 5:2: "Behold I, Paul, say to you that
if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you."
(Paul means this to only those who believed circumcision was
necessary for their salvation.) It appears that some of
these Judaizers were influential -- even temporarily bringing peer
pressure upon the apostle Peter: Galatians 2:12,13 states:
"For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat
with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold
himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest
of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even
Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy." And, so, not
just Peter; but also Barnabas and the rest of the Jews that were
with them had become guilty of this, which led to Paul's opposing
Peter to his face in the presence of all to correct this error (Gal.
Clearly, circumcision is not part of the New Covenant (1 Cor.
7:18,19; Gal. 5:6). It has no spiritual value for our time.
But though this is so about physical circumcision, there is,
however, a great deal of value in a spiritual circumcision, as Paul
shows in Romans 2:28,29: "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly,
nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he
is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of
the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not
from men, but from God." It is a spiritual circumcision of the
heart that people today must be concerned with -- which involves the
cutting off of sin from their hearts and from their lives.
Going along with this, Paul declares in Philippians 3:3, "for we are
the TRUE CIRCUMCISION, who worship in the spirit of God and glory in
Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3).
Since the Christian is of the "true circumcision," then what of
those, of the Gospel Age, who are still binding the physical
circumcision of Judaism as a requirement for salvation?
Also, what does Paul mean by this expression, "put no confidence in
the flesh"? This can be understood from the example of Paul's
former life while in Judaism, which he speaks of in the next
passage: "although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh.
If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far
more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the
tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee"
(vv. 4,5). So these were Paul's fleshly "credentials" in
Judaism; but that all became nothing but rubbish to Paul, and
certainly nothing to put his confidence in, after he had come to
Christ. For Paul's salvation was in Jesus -- and not in the
Law of Moses, which the Lord annulled by His death at Calvary (Eph.
2:13-16). Nor was Paul's salvation in simply being a physical
descendant of Abraham. For when John the Baptist was urging
people to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance," he also pointed
out to them, "and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We
have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these
stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham" (Matt.
3:8,9). The Bible shows that it is those who are of the faith
of the gospel who now are the children of Abraham, spiritually
speaking, and regardless of whether they are a physical Jew or
not. For example, Paul declares: "Therefore, be sure that it
is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The
Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith,
preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'ALL THE NATIONS
WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.' So then those who are of faith are
blessed with Abraham, the believer" (Gal. 3:7-9. See also Rom.
Paul was "circumcised the eighth day," which was in accordance with
the Law that God had given to the Jews (Lev. 12:2,3) and seen
exemplified in 8-day-old John the Baptist who was born near the end
of the Mosaical Age (Luke 1:59,60). Circumcision is also seen
as an ordinance that had been given to Abraham prior to the Mosaical
Period (Gen. 17:10-14): Thus, "...Abraham circumcised his son Isaac
when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him" (Gen.
21:4). Paul, too, had not been in violation of this observance
in any way.
Also pertaining to the flesh was Paul's having been "of the nation
of Israel" (Phil. 3:5). Paul had not been a proselyte to Judaism;
but, rather, he had been born a true-blooded Jew. He,
therefore, was from that very special nation that God had chosen to
be His covenant people during the Mosaical Age. As the
psalmist writes, "For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel
for His own possession" (Psa. 135:4). Paul could be thankful for
this. He declares in Romans 3:2 that it was Israel that had
been "entrusted with the oracles of God." And it was through
the nation of Israel that the promised Messiah would come -- and did
come (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-19).
Not only was Paul from the nation of Israel, but to be more
specific, he was also "of the tribe of Benjamin." Though the
smallest of the tribes of Israel, it was from them that Israel
acquired their first earthly king, Saul; and it was also this tribe
that had remained with Judah during the period of the Divided
In Philippians 3:5, Paul also speaks of himself as being "a Hebrew
of Hebrews," indicating that his parents were also from the nation
of Israel and, therefore, he was a true Hebrew.
Paul then uses the term "Pharisee," with regard to his relation to
keeping the Law of God, to express how devoted he was toward that
Law. For Paul refers to the Pharisees as being "the strictest
sect of our religion" (Acts 26:5). Yet, when in Judaism before
coming to Christ, Paul was able to zealously live that way, and
submit to its traditions (Gal. 1:14).
He then says, "as to zeal, a persecutor of the church..." (Phil.
3:6). We need to remember that Paul did not do this out of
animosity or rebellion toward God; but, rather, out of a devotion to
do what he believed to be right in God's sight (Acts 26:9-11).
For it was all done "...with a perfectly good conscience before
God..." (Acts 23:1), which goes to show that a conscience that is
not instructed properly cannot be a good guide. Later,
however, Paul came to realize his error (1 Tim. 1:12,13).
There were probably many other Pharisees that had the same
conviction of Paul, prior to his conversion; but they did not do
anything about it. Paul, however, was motivated by his
beliefs to maintain what he believed to be right. He got up,
went out, and lived his belief, being a man of action, which
characterized him prior and after his coming to
Paul then says, "as to righteousness in the Law, found blameless"
(Phil. 3:6). How many people of Paul's day would have been
able to say the same? Undoubtedly, Paul was brought up in the
way of Judaism and the traditions that helped him to be a morally
fine young man. Paul says, "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of
Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel,
strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God
just as you all are today" (Acts 22:3). Paul's statement might
remind you of that of the rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16-22).
He, too, lived a life seemingly above reproach. He could
testify that he had never been guilty of adultery; he had never
stolen; he had never borne false witness; he had honored his father
and mother, and he had loved his neighbor as himself. He was
what many would classify as a good, outstanding, upright young
man. Jesus said to him that "only one thing you lack."
But though Paul was a strict adherer to the Law, he still could not
be saved by that Law on the basis of his works. As Paul later
proclaimed to the Galatians, "...for if righteousness comes through
the Law, then Christ died needlessly" (Gal. 2:21). And to the
Romans, Paul declared, "because by the works of the Law no flesh
will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the
knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20).
All of these various truths -- these things that would have enabled
him to put "confidence in the flesh" -- could have easily elevated
Paul above many of his contemporaries, if he were strictly
concerned with Judaism. But note how he came to regard those
things, after having come to Christ: "But whatever things were
gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of
Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view
of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I
have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so
that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:7,8). To reach a high
plateau of worldly attainments meant nothing to the apostle
Paul. He had his sights aimed on something much higher -- Paul
was looking to heaven's glory itself! Gaining Christ was, by
far, the greatest goal that Paul strove for. This he did by
his thoughts and by his deeds: For to Paul, "...to live is Christ
and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21); and Paul was so deeply entrenched
in his service to the Lord that he could also say that "...it
is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which
I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved
me, and delivered Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20).
Yes, it is obvious that the Judaizers could not accuse Paul of
merely being envious towards what they had; for if Paul wanted to be
a Judaizer, he probably would have far excelled them all! But,
in this passage, we are made aware of Paul's real ambition -- and
that was to know and gain Christ Jesus. May that also be the
earnest desire and goal of each one of us!
News & Notes
Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following
* Rory Babin who had to be
taken from his work to the emergency room (2/15), due to an
infection of the small intestine.
* Roy Fenner who has been
diagnosed with basal cell cancer (the most common type of skin
cancer). For more than a year and a half, he has had 3 spots
on his neck and 1 behind his ear that will not heal; so they will be
removed. Roy also has been having an eye problem that requires
injections into the eye.
* Geneva Wilson who is now
back home from the hospital, but is still in need of our prayers,
due to her physically weak condition.
* Jean Calloway who is
still recovering at home from some recent trouble with pain and
swelling around her knee.
* Mike Dubose who continues to
receive treatment for cancer.
* Mozelle Robertson (Ken's
mother) who is healing from wrist surgery.
* Clifton Trimble who has
not been well.
* Shirley Young who
experiences fibromyalgia every day, and with some days more so than
* Cheryl Crews who has
chronic ailments and has also been experiencing nausea, due to some
of her medication.
* Anthony Webb, Andrew Robertson, and Cheryl Anderson who are seeking
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
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