Philippians 3A

Chapter 3:1-6

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  • We’ve arrived at Chapter 3 of the book of Philippians where Paul is beginning to wrap up some of his final statements to the church of Philippi.

    • He has walked these believers through understanding their justified positions in Christ and the sanctifying work of God in us, by faith.

      • He began this book with the fact that what they positionally possess is a grace gift from God, started by the Lord and continued by the Lord.

      • And what we will find tonight is a sub-theme of God’s grace being critical so that we may not be misled by a work-based gospel.

    • Tonight, Paul will address the dangers of failing to rest in the grace-oriented Gospel that the Philippians first received.

      • Because the moment that we lose sight of the grace of God is the moment we move to a legalistic, man-oriented life.

      • And this shift in understanding of the grace of God and the Gospel of Christ will suck the joy out of our Christian walk.

    • Paul, for the past 2 chapters, has been adamant about the joy that is experienced in Christ and His finished work on the cross.

      • That when we pursue living for Christ through and by His enabling power and not our own strength, we find that there is joy to be had in it.

    • So, we will witness Paul express the need to remember the joy of the Lord that they both positionally and experientially possess.

      • Moreover, Paul is going to help both the Philippians and the readers of this letter today see that there is no adding or subtracting from Christ’s work.

    • If I were to outline our time in the text tonight, we are going to see the following:

      • 1. Rejoice in the Lord (v.1)

      • 2. Avoid Legalism (vv.2-3)

      • 3. Crushing of Self-Confidence (vv.4-7)

    • If I were to put a tag on tonight’s text it would be: The Danger of Legalism.

      • With that being said, I invite you to meet me in Philippians 3:1 for the reading of the word of God.

Philippians 3:1 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.
  • Last week, we saw Paul conclude Chapter 2 with the example of Epaphroditus as an example of Christ-like humility and service.

    • That through his example, the Philippians should hold Epaphroditus in high regard knowing that in every circumstance, Epaphroditus served well.

      • Now, in Chapter 3, verse one, Paul transitions to some concluding remarks that will go from Chapter 3 verse 1 to Chapter 4 verse 1. (“Finally”)

    • Paul’s emphasis throughout the majority of this letter has been on the believer’s reality and perception on both their positional and experiential joy in Christ, respectively.

      • Joy and rejoicing in the reality of what Christ has accomplished, and by His grace enabled us to do by His Spirit, is reason to have great joy.

      • That despite what we may face or the difficult circumstances we may come across, that there is reason to have joy through it.

    • Our joy, as we have been studying, is not dictated by our feelings or trials we face.

      • Rather, when we put on the mind of Christ and place the lense by which Christ prescribed us, we can start to see things differently.

      • That instead of our circumstances being seen as burdensome, we can see them as opportunities to live and look more like Christ.

      • Or when we encounter opposition of disunity, that rather than trying to ‘make a point’ or ‘be right’, we seek a humble response in the matter.

    • So Paul, at the start of this chapter says, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.”

      • In other words, “If you have missed the other times I have mentioned the need for joy in the Christian life in Christ, let me repeat it again.”

      • That in all things and in every season, joy is and should be the common theme in the life of believers.

      • Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, when we have the proper perspective, we can approach the situation like Christ.

    • Paul continues by mentioning that the repetition of his teaching on joy to the Philippians is one worth repeating.

      • It’s as if Paul, knowing how much the theme of joy is woven into the very fabric of this letter, saw a benefit in sounding like a broken record.

  • You may recall instances growing up or even as a parent how there may have been common teachings or lessons your parents taught you growing up.

    • And as the opportunity came to share those words of wisdom with you repeatedly, your ears, years later could repeat them, word for word.

      • I recall my mom saying. “I might be sounding like a broken record, but I hope you get the picture.”

      • The point being that repetition is not always an annoyance, and in this case, Paul considered it a “safeguard” for the Philippians.

      • And what timely instruction even in our world today, that we should never get tired of teaching the same message of the gospel.

    • As one Pastor once said, “The majority responsibility of a teacher/Pastor is to remind their congregants of the same things that have been previously taught.”

      • So in this case, a “broken record” is a good thing because it becomes a constant reminder of setting our affections and mind on Christ and not our circumstances.

    • So as Paul reminds the believers of how they received Christ (through grace) and who they are in Christ, he cautions them to mind their ears.

      • Look at verses 2-3.

Philippians 3:2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;
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,
  • Notice, how Paul suddenly shifts his attention from reminding the Philippian church to firmly warning them.

    • He mentions the word “beware” three times in verse 2 alone and it’s not for passive purposes.

      • This word “beware” is one that we have heard before in some of Paul’s writings.

      • It is the Greek word blepo which means to be on guard against and to watch out for.

      • And all three instances of this warning are speaking to the characteristics of certain men who sought to chain the believer with legalistic requirements of the Law.

    • These types of men who Paul is speaking about were what was known as Judaizers.

      • These individuals were a Pharisaic group who looked to impose Judaism upon the believing Gentiles of that day.

      • They taught that the circumcision was a necessary work in addition to the saving work of Christ on the cross.

    • In other words, these individuals looked to add additional work to God’s provisional means of Salvation. (Jesus plus ‘something’)

      • However, when you examine the scriptures to understand how one comes to faith, there are no additional steps.

      • There is no requirement of needing to have your life together before coming to Christ.

      • There is no sin-less, repent of your sins, and then ‘you can be saved’ process.

    • Salvation simply requires a transfer of confidence from yourself to the Lord’s provision for you.

      • All scripture requires for one to be saved is to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

    • These Judaizers not only required circumcision alongside the work of Christ, but they took it a step further.

      • They would then require Christians to follow the Laws of Moses.

    • So, if I were to provide a comparison of what these Judaizers were teaching in contrast to Paul, it would be the following:

      • 1. Where Paul taught Justification by faith in Christ, the Judaizers taught justification through circumcision.

      • 2. Where Paul taught Sanctification by the Spirit, the Judaizers taught sanctification through the Law.

        • This very point was the cause of the meeting at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15:1.

    • This gathering was to gain a consensus of how men were saved, because up to a point the Gospel was being preached to the Jews.

      • Remember, it wasn’t until Peter had preached to Cornelius and his family in Acts 10 that he witnessed what God was doing among the Gentiles.

    • So, when Peter reported what he and some of his brothers witnessed with Cornelius, they reported to Jerusalem.

      • And you’d never guess who took issue with it. Cheek out Acts 11:1-3.

Acts 11:1 Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
Acts 11:2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him,
Acts 11:3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
    • It would be from Peter’s lengthy explanation of their experience at Cornelius’ home that these men concluded the following.

      • Check out Acts 11:18.

Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
  • Furthermore, as Paul goes into his first missionary journey to preach the gospel, his message is that Justification is found through Christ and not the Law (Acts 11:39)

    • So, when Paul now goes before the Jerusalem Council, he too finds that there is contention between what he taught versus some other Jewish believers.

    • Here is what Acts 15:1-5 says:

Acts 15:1 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.”
Acts 15:2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.
Acts 15:3 Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren.
Acts 15:4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.
Acts 15:5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
  • The result of this meeting of the council in Jerusalem was a letter to be circulated to the churches concluding that salvation is solely through Christ alone.

    • And this official letter from the council served as the final authority on how one comes to faith in Christ.

    • Here is just a bit of how it reads in Acts 15:24-28.

Acts 15:24 “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls,
Acts 15:25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Acts 15:26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 15:27 “Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth.
Acts 15:28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:
  • So, it was determined that no additional works or effort on the human end is required to be justified by Christ!

    • It is only believing upon the Lord Jesus Christ by which men are saved!

    • So, we see that the problem with legalism was that it was adding to a work that had already been worked out, in and through Christ!

      • All legalism is at its core is man’s efforts of trying to look good to God on their own merit and in their own confidence.

    • At the very core of it all, legalism is man seeking to get to God in their own way and not the way in which God had intended.

      • The Apostles and Elders in the council stated that there was no need to lay upon any a “greater burden”.

      • Friends, that burden of making one right with God was laid upon Christ!

      • Isaiah tells us that it pleased the Father to crush the son, not you and I. (Isaiah 53:10)

    • It was only Christ alone who could take upon Himself the wrath of God so that peace could be made between God and man.

      • However, it seemed that although this letter of clarity was circulated to combat the false teaching in that day, the false teachers weren’t backing down.

    • This is why Paul writes a ‘frank’ letter to the Galatians, because they were failing to hold dear the teachings Paul first delivered to them.

      • That where they should have remained steadfast, some were beginning to slip.

      • Check out what Paul says to the Galatians in Galatians 2:16.

Galatians 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
  • Paul’s point is to be mindful of these men’s character, be cautious of their evil deeds, and stay away from their mutilating teaching.

    • The teaching of these legalistic teachers only served to the compromise and complication of the true gospel.

    • Did you notice, how Paul draws the contrast between what these false teachers are saying versus who Paul says these believers truly are in Christ.

      • He says that “…we are the true circumcision…”

      • So, Paul’s comparison really begins to communicate his point which is Justification in Christ is not a matter of one’s conforming in the flesh.

      • Rather it is something that is made possible spiritually through the cutting of the heart and having eyes to see and ears to hear.

    • This is why you can have Believing Jews, who may have been circumcised due to their culture and Gentiles who become believers but are not circumcised.

      • This work that God has accomplished in Christ is a Spiritual work.

  • You have to consider that as this letter circulates throughout the churches in Philippi, that these false teachers had gotten word of the content of the letter.

    • So, hearing Paul characterize them as dogs, evil workers, and most especially of a false circumcision had to be a heavy and embarrassing blow.

      • Moreover, our English translations don’t do justice as to the word “circumcision” found in verses 2 and 3.

      • These are actually 2 separate Greek words.

    • Circumcision in verse 2 regarding the Judaizers is the word katatome which means mutilation.

      • Whereas circumcision in verse 3 is the Greek word peritome which correlates with God’s people (chosen ones).

    • So, Paul, in few words, throws the book in these men’s faces and says, “You may think you are God’s chosen, but you are only mutilated men.”

      • True worship, service, and honor to the Lord is motivated out of a heart that has been transformed by God and in return gives praise in one’s living.

      • However, the reverse stands true as well, that a heart that has not been transformed will seek praise for itself and not the Creator.

      • And the warning in it all is that if you fall victim to this legalism, you too can find your motives transferring from Savior to self.

      • This is why Paul states three times, be watchful!

    • Therefore, when we safeguard ourselves from false teaching and false gospels, we can walk confidently in knowing the grace we have received.

      • Because this life in Christ has been made available not through our confidence in ourselves, but our confidence in Christ.

    • Notice that Paul in verses 4-6 is going to provide the reader with quite an extensive yet impressive resume of Paul’s “worldly accomplishments”.

      • However, in Paul doing so, he is using his past experiences as an example as to why he could have the confidence to boast in himself.

      • Yet, that is not his point and that’s what we will see in the subsequent verses. Check out verses 4-6.

Philippians 3:4 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:
Philippians 3:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;
Philippians 3:6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
Philippians 3:7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
  • Paul makes the point that if there be ‘any individual’, outside or inside of Christ, who had the audacity to boast, it would be him.

    • And he proceeds by mentioning 7 reasons for this sense of confidence or boasting. He says:

      • 1. Circumcised the eighth day

      • 2. Of the Nation of Israel

      • 3. Of the tribe of Benjamin

      • 4. A Hebrew of Hebrews

      • 5. A Pharisee

      • 6. Former persecutor of the Church

      • 7. Followed the Law of Moses

  • He begins with the circumcision being that this is the “hot topic issue” for the Judaizers’ incessant false teaching.

    • Not only does Paul mention that he has been circumcised, but he mentions that he was circumcised on the eighth day.

      • That detail would make known to the Judaizers that Paul was not a proselyte, moreover that he was an ethnic-Jew, by blood.

  • Next, Paul mentions that he was of the people of the nation of Israel. This established heritage.

    • For someone to be Jewish means that they can trace their family lineage back to Abraham.

      • And in this case, Paul by way of this statement shows that both his parents were Jewish.

      • Therefore, his claim to being a true Jew, in every sense of the word, was validated.

    • Next, Paul mentions the tribe of which he was from – the tribe of Benjamin.

      • This being the tribe of Israel’s first king.

      • Although, there was failure in Saul’s rule as king, this tribe was held in a place of honor and remained faithful to David’s house.

    • Fourth, Paul was well versed in the Hebrew language as well as the customs and traditions of the Israelite people. (Cultural/ethnic expert)

    • Fifth, Paul was a Pharisee and being that he was an expert of the Law meant he had to be schooled in this manner.

      • And Paul was taught by the leading scholar of that day, by a man named Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3).

    • And along with this zeal for the Law would by default cause uproar for the movement of “The Way” (Church) throughout Jerusalem in that day.

      • Lastly, in all of his studies, traditions, accolades, awards etc., according to the Law, he could do no wrong. (blameless)

  • And in all of these means of confidence, we find in verse 7 that none of it meant a thing to Paul, in comparison to Christ.

    • It’s like a guy from Harvard University saying, “Yeah I have a Harvard degree, but it means nothing in the grand scheme of things.”

      • Within our world and society today, we soak up every opportunity to flaunt our degrees and accolades.

      • We aim to find value and worth in the things that we do because the world looks at the exterior whereas the Lord looks at the heart.

    • And because God is concerned with our heart condition, why would His Gospel espouse a self-improvement, works-based salvation.

      • The reality is, the Lord is a jealous God and shares His glory with no man.

      • Therefore, for one to truly walk in the freedom and joy of the Lord, it requires an abandonment of trust within self and a dependence on Christ.

    • This is why Justification by works is heretical by every definition provided.

      • You cannot work your way into heaven.

      • You cannot tithe your way into heaven.

      • You cannot perform your way into heaven.

    • The only qualifier by which gets you into eternal life is you placing your trust in the provision by which God made available for you – His Son.

      • Jesus did all the heavy lifting and hard work necessary to make peace with the Father for us.

      • And to reject His provision is to reject the only way into heaven and eternal life.

    • To reject the Person and work of Christ is to run the hamster wheel of life trying to find out what truth is.

  • So, Paul says in verse 7, “whatever things I attained as reward or accolade in this life, I count it as loss for Christ.”

    • What freedom that is to know that access to the Father doesn’t require your need for effort or work to be saved.

      • It simply requires a transfer of trust (belief) in the Lord Jesus Christ!

    • When we begin to add things, or steps, to coming into a relationship with Christ, we set up barriers for people to receive the free gift of grace.

      • The gospel of Jesus Christ has no barriers because Christ through His death and resurrection has bridged the gap between God and man.

      • And as scripture tells us, who the Son has set free is free indeed.

    • You don’t have to wake up day after day questioning, “am I still saved”, after you have fallen short of the Glory of God.

      • The same grace that saved you from the wrath and rightful judgement of God is the same grace that is keeping you!

      • May we all learn to walk in the freedom of this grace and live in such a way that reflects this glorious work of Christ!

    • As we will see next week, when we grow in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus and what He has richly done for us and is doing in us, we can truly behold the Joy of the Lord.

      • For when we walk in the confidence of the Lord, we will come to see that there should never be a need or desire to boast in ourselves.

      • Let’s Pray.


  • It is recorded in scripture that all Jewish males were to be circumcised on the eighth day and this served as a covenant between the Lord and all of Abraham’s descendants. This circumcision served as a sign of the covenant made. (Gen.17:9-12)