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


Philippians 3:1-8
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" (Bullinger).

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. 3:1).   

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. 2:14-21).

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. 4:13-17).

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 Kingdom.

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 Christ.   

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 people:

* 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 others.

* 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 employment. 

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. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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