Read Philippians 3:1-11
Paul uses the word “finally” to start chapter 3, but in reality this Greek word means “it so follows” or “now to another subject”. It is not his final argument.
Why is Paul being so repetitive with this theme of joy and rejoicing? Is it overkill to you yet? We should never get over the joy we have in Christ!
What is joy again? It is that deep-seated sense of peace and contentment that rests in Christ’s sovereignty and love regardless of our circumstances where we know that He holds us in His grip and gives us Himself!
Paul begins this transitional chapter by contrasting two groups of people. He describes the first group in verse 2 as 1. dogs, 2. evildoers and 3. mutilators of the flesh. These are false teachers that he must address sharply.
In stark contrast, he describes the true children of God in verse 3 also with three descriptions: 1. The real circumcision 2. Those who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ 3. Those who put no confidence in the flesh.
This is a metaphorical contrast between the true circumcision and the false circumcision. It is a distinction between those who are religious and those who are righteous. It is a distinction between those who have an outward mark that identifies them with God and those who have had an inward change.
In verse, two Paul goes to great lengths to repeat the word “look out”! Why is it so important to “look out” or “be on guard” against false teachers? Do they usually show up and announce that their wolves? Or do they show up in sheep’s clothing?
Let’s explore these three indicting terms Paul uses to describe these false teachers:
- Dogs: dogs were generally hated by people in that culture and it was a derogatory word for Gentiles. Paul here uses it to speak about Jews.
What image comes to your mind when you think of a pack of ravenous wolves/dogs lurking in the distance as scavengers? How does this image paint a picture of false teachers?
- Evildoers: read carefully—Paul doesn’t say that they do evil works. He goes right to their character. These were Jews who thought that they were blameless and righteous through doing good works. They would have never considered themselves evildoers.
- Mutilators of the flesh: this refers to circumcision. The cutting of the foreskin that was an outward symbol of their Jewish identity. He simply calls it a cutting. It had no real value in a personal relationship with Jesus. It was an outward formality.
Now let’s look at the three marks of a genuine believer in Jesus:
- The real circumcision:
Before we dive into this concept, we must look at some promises back in the Old Testament that speak to the fulfillment of the New Covenant.
Read the following verses:
God promised a day when His true children would experience a spiritual circumcision. A cutting away of an old heart of stone, and replacing it with a new spiritual heart of flesh.
Let’s talk about regeneration for a moment. This is a theological word that comes from two words “re”-which means “again” and “genesis” or “generate”—“birth or beginning”. In other words, regeneration is another word for the new birth or being born again.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:17
As a new creation in Christ, you and I have had our evil, dead stony hearts of rebellion cut out by the Holy Spirit and have been given a new, pure, responsive heart that beats for Jesus. Regeneration is none other than a heart transplant. It is going from spiritual death to spiritual life.
- True worshippers—they aren’t bound by outward religious ceremony, but since they’ve been born again, they worship God and glory in Jesus Christ by the Spirit. They are Trinitarians!! They worship God the Father, and glory in Christ the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- They put not confidence in the flesh—in the immediate context, it means that Christians don’t worry about physical circumcision but experience a spiritual circumcision of being given a new heart.
This also means that we as believers do not put trust in what we can accomplish. We don’t put all of our confidence in our methods, machinery, and marketing but in the miracle of the gospel to produce supernatural power through the Spirit.
“When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend upon education, we get what education can do, when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do.” –A.C. Dixon
“We are constantly on the stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency of the gospel…The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men…What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.”—E.M. Bounds
As we move forward as a church in advancing the gospel, in praying for revival, paying down the debt on this building, seeing lives changed, doing international missions, loving one another, practicing humility, and being a light to a dark world, we CANNOT put faith in what we can do!
Only God can move mountains. Only God can advance the gospel. Only God can save sinners. Only God can pay down this debt. Only God can create a culture of love and humility at Emmanuel.
So we must put ourselves in a posture of absolute dependence upon Him to act and to move and to bring revival! Let us not put confidence in our flesh, but in the mighty Spirit of the living God!
Dear Sovereign God,
Thank you that you have made me alive in Christ. You’ve graciously cut out my heart of stone and have given me a new heart! You’ve caused me to be born again to a living hope! You’ve put a joy in my heart to worship Jesus! I don’t want to trust in what I can do, but instead, I want to be absolutely and totally dependent upon You. I want to see the dream of advancing the gospel to the ends of the earth! I want to see You bring revival and spiritual awakening! I want to see You transform our community. I want to see You empower us to give sacrificially to pay down the debt on our building! I trust in YOU!
In Christ’s Name,