Philippians 3 ~ Stealing Our Joy

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Lord willing we will be meeting together at the building again in June. Keep on reading your Bible and never forget how much the Lord’s loves YOU!

Philippians 3

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again to you is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you. (Philippians 3:1) One of the big problems you always struggle with in translating something into another language is how literal you can be and still be understood. If you recall, in chapter 2 we noted Paul’s use of intestines as the source of tender affections. To translate his thoughts into English we typically would use the word heart.

The Greek word translated here as finally in most translations is loipos and it can sometimes refer to a final point being made. It’s actually the same word used by Jesus in Mark 14:41 when He inquires in the Garden, Are you still sleeping and resting? Of the 61 times the word is used in the New Testament, it is only translated as finally 6 times and all of those in Paul’s writings. So when we chuckle about Paul writing finally here and then again in chapter 4 verse 8, we are the ones missing the point. Paul is NOT coming to a conclusion as he begins chapter 3 but rather is simply making a transition in thought, shifting gears to his next point. In Galatians 6:17 the same word begins the sentence there and nearly every translation renders it from now on or henceforth. And that seems to be more in line with the point Paul is making.

Because of how great our Savior is and because we are to imitate Him (Paul’s lesson in the first part of chapter 2) AND because of the faithful brothers working with Paul and the Philippian church we should all from now on rejoice in the Lord. This is much larger than a conclusion and certainly not the end of what Paul has to say. In fact, he’s just about to start in on those that steal the Lord’s joy from God’s people!

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who practice mutilation. For we are the true circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:2-3) We sometimes hear people say that God wants us to accept and go along with everybody. The same Jesus that taught compassion also used whips on those that reviled God. And Paul here makes it very plain that those who lead Christians astray with their false teaching are dangerous dogs.

Paul’s early dealings with teachers that taught compromise with Old Testament practices led to stern lessons to the Galatian Christians years earlier. As these false teachers continue to follow the Lord’s church and seek to corrupt each new congregation, so Paul condemns them every time they attempt to draw Christians away from the truth. And what better way to draw people away from Christ than by claiming that they are superior to Christians?

They are not entitled to think that! In no uncertain terms, they are nothing but dogs. Paul then identifies them as Jews that reject the Law of Christ. How? By striking at their own pride. Circumcision was the badge of honor, the mark that showed them superior to Gentiles. But Paul turns the tables and makes a joke of their circumcision.

The Greek word for circumcision is peritomē and the word for mutilation is katatomē. The play on words that sound alike but have totally different meanings is intentional. Make fun of Christ and teach something that leads people away from God and you are not deserving of kind words.

Occasionally today we find false teachers that brag about their degrees or who they studied under or in some other way imply that they are greater than God’s people. Many of the Apostles were dismissed as Galileans and Paul apparently heard a lot of similar dismissal as a Christian, too. And Paul, when pushed, would occasionally, just like Jesus, come out fighting with the whips.

[E]ven though I have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews. In regard to the law, I was a Pharisee; as for zeal, a persecutor of the church; as for the righteousness set forth in the law, I was blameless.

But whatever things were gain to me, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and regard them as rubbish, in order to gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that is based on faith —that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:4-11)

Paul’s point is NOT just that I’ve been there, done that and got all the human glory but rather that he has something even greater in Christ! We can never afford to lose sight of what REALLY matters. Just like James (4:13-17)) reminds us that we cannot plan tomorrow because God is what really matters, so Paul acknowledges the same truth.

Not that I have already obtained all this or have already reached my goal, but I press on in order to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider to have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14) Even when the whips have to come out against evil (or perhaps more correctly, especially then!) remember who you belong to!

So those of us who are mature should take this point of view; and if in anything you think differently, that too God will make known to you. In any case, let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:15-16)

The word translated mature here is also translated as perfect in many translations. A point Paul also made to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:1- 3; 14:20) was that right thinking is mature thinking. Just because someone “doesn’t see things that way” doesn’t mean that they actually have a right to their own viewpoint in God’s eyes. A child will see you as being an old, grumpy, mean person for not giving them candy for supper. That doesn’t mean their opinion is just as good as their parents’. It just means they haven’t grown up. And they still don’t get their own way because, immature or not, it’s wrong! Thus Paul concludes live like a Christian and grow up to take the correct attitude.

The idea that there are other opinions and other ways to be right before God is as prevalent today as in New Testament times. So Paul again reminds us much like the Old Testament that there is a way that SEEMS right to people (cf. Proverbs 14:12) and that means that there is the RIGHT way we need to follow.

Join in following my example, brothers, and pay close attention to those who are living this way, as you have us as an example. For many are living (I have often told you about them but now tell you even with tears) as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame. Their minds are set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:17-19)

Just as nothing good comes of living the wrong way, nothing bad comes of living God’s way! When we suppress ourselves and fill our lives with Christ, then all the promises and all the blessings of God are before us.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that also enables him to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)

It requires a lot of growing up to live responsibly. Sometimes we wish we could just be a child again with no responsibility, no expectations of acting like a grownup. But childhood misses out on all the beauty and richness of maturity. Family and friends are far more precious treasures when we’ve grown into them. And God, together with all His eternal promises, has far more in store for us than we could ever imagine here!

—Lester P. Bagley

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