Translations: Chinese GB Big5

Philippians 3 (web)

Against False Teachers
of the Legalistic Righteousness

3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.
To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not tiresome, but for you it is safe.
3:2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers,
beware of the false circumcision.  (Acts 15:5; Gal 5:7-12)
  • 3:3 For we are the circumcision,
  • who worship God in the Spirit,
  • and rejoice in Christ Jesus,
  • and have no confidence in the flesh;

  • 3:7 However, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ.
    3:8 Yes most assuredly, and I count all things to be loss
    for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord,
    for whom I suffered the loss of all things,
    and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ
    3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law,
    but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

    3:10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection,
    and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death;

    3:11 if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
    3:12 Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect;
    but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that
    for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
    3:13 Brothers, I don't regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do.
    Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before,
    3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

    With a Mature Attitude

    3:15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way.
    If in anything you think otherwise, God will also reveal that to you.
    3:16 Nevertheless, to the extent that we have already attained,
    let us walk by the same rule. Let us be of the same mind.
    3:17 Brothers, be imitators together of me,
    and note those who walk this way, even as you have us for an example.
     
    3:18 For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping,
    as the enemies of the cross of Christ, (1Cor 15:34; 2Cor 5:20)
  • 3:19 whose end is destruction,
  • whose god is the belly,
  • and whose glory is in their shame,
  • who think about earthly things.

  • 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven,
    from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (1John 3:2,3)
    3:21 who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory,
    according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself. (1Cor 15:42-44, 49-50)


    Discussion Questions

    vs 2 What group of people is Paul referring to in this verse?
    What groups may the be likened to today?
    vs 3-8 What does it mean to put confidence in the flesh?
    vs 9 In receiving the righteousness which is by faith,
    what concept of righteousness did you have to give up?
    How can you strive to be found in Christ to have a righteousness which is of faith?
    vs 10-14 How would you contrast one who seeks righteousness by the law
    and one who seeks it by faith in Christ in this section?
    What is the relationship between one's salvation status and one's performance?
    What is the prize Paul refers to? (1Cor 9:24-27)
    How would you determine whether your faith is of a quality that is qualfied to receive eternal life?
    vs 15 How might you measure one's level of spiritual maturity from this verse?
    Or what might be some attributes of a mature Christian from this chapter?
    vs 18-19 What are characteristics of those who live as enemies of Christ?
    According to the context, might he be referring to some nominal Christians?
    vs 20-21 What is it about Christ's coming that you look forwards to?


    Comments

    The Benefit of Repetition

    Php 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.

    When it comes to living the Christian life, hearing the Word once is not enough. Just like with food we need to develop a habit of taking in the Word on a regular basis. And especially concerning those things which call for action, seeing as our flesh is in opposition to the desires of the Spirit and as such will take every opportunity to avoid application, including making us forget. Besides, you'll find that as you read the same thing you read a year ago, suddenly you'll discover something new. That's been my experience. Keep safe. Keep in the Word.

    Now as a couple of examples elsewhere in which the Bible teaches about reminding others consider 2Peter 3:1-3  "Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires."  And likewise we have to be reminded not to start quarrels over things which aren't that important. Paul writes to Timothy saying, "Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen." 2Tim 2:14

    Consider practicing some scripture memory, as God instructed, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Josh 1:8



    Watch out for Dogs!

    Php 3:2  Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.

    The group that Paul is referring to is the group of the circumcision of whom he wrote extensively in the book of Galatians. These were those who claimed that "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1 These came from the church at Jerusalem which served as their base of operations. They were tolerated by the church leaders, Peter, James and John. But Paul did not tolerate them, and even rebuked Peter, who feared the group of the circumcision, and had compromised on this matter . Gal 2:11"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed."

    Beware of putting too much trust in your institutional leaders. Here even Peter, James and John had failed to watch out for the dogs, those men who do evil. And this was likely due to the prejudice they held against Gentiles at the time. But Paul went to Jerusalem and settled the matter with them, Peter taking a stand saying,  "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

    As for this cult of the circumcision, Paul calls them false brethren. "This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you." Gal 2:4,5

    In jest he says of them, "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" Gal 5:12, which is also his reference here to the hyperbole "mutilators of the flesh." For if they think that cutting the skin around one's penis invokes righteousness, then why not go all the way and cut it off altogether. We should have such an attitude towards those who make much of fleshly rituals, like those found in Catholicism which make salvation contingent upon water baptism, eating and drinking, and other such rituals. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" Rom 14:17



    Put no Confidence in the Flesh

    Php 3:3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—

    While the cult of the circumcision claimed an elite position in the kingdom, in fact they were not even of the kingdom. And in contrast to their prejudice against Gentiles, Paul here declares that these believing Gentiles were the true circumcision. Likewise he says in  Col 2:11 "In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ"

    That is, believers in Christ are the true Jews. That is, as he says in Romans 2:29 "A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God." And likewise in Gal 3:29 "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham‘s seed, and heirs according to the promise." And Jesus said, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." John 4:24

    Those saved by grace through faith don't put confidence in the flesh for redemption. And while the faith that saves is the faith that works, such as for example Jesus commanded that those who believe get baptized, such works are viewed as evidences and outworkings of saving faith rather than as requirements for salvation. This distinction is essential in avoiding the trappings of legalism.



    What Constitutes Confidence in the Flesh

    Php 3:4-6 "though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless."

    Notice the categories of things concerning the flesh of which we should avoid placing our confidence and the inferences I would make.

    circumcised on the eighth day - We shouldn't put our confidence in - shall we say - things like infant baptism. What is done to the flesh of an infant has no bearing upon their salvation status.

    of the people of Israel - God's chosen people
    of the tribe of Benjamin - One of the two surviving tribes of Israel
    a Hebrew of Hebrews - that is, both his parents were Hebrews, in contrast to the Hellenistic mixed marriages of his day.

    We put no confidence in our pedigree, our race or ethnic background as a basis for a righteous standing before God. And along those lines we put no confidence in the righteousness of our parents or ancestors to save us. Nor do we reckon others disqualified based upon their race, ethnic background or upon the basis of the unrighteousness of their parents or ancestors. (This is one of those things the other apostles had to learn over time in overcoming their prejudice against Gentile Christians)

    in regard to the law, a Pharisee - Pledging allegiance to a particular denomination is not basis for such confidence concerning our salvation status.

    as for zeal, persecuting the church - Being zealously religious is not a basis for confidence. You cannot be saved by being zealously religious. In fact today it is rather obvious in the case of Islam that murderers and evil men can be quite religiously zealous. Nor are we to place confidence in the degree to which people get all emotionally aroused over religion. These kind of things are associated with the flesh.

    as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. Conformity to God's commands will not save you. The righteous do not place confidence in their own good works to save them. "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." Rom 3:28



    The Value of Knowing Christ

    Php 3:7,8 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

    A person's faith is revealed by his valuables. Or as Jesus put it, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:34 Remember the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price, how in each case when the kingdom was found, all else was reckoned expendable. There are those who place value on their race, ethnic background, or heritage. But when they become a Christian these are reckoned as rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ. They may place value upon their family, their wife and children, but Jesus said, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" Mt 10:37 Or they may place value in their stuff, their property, their money, or their success, status or dignity. But when a person comes to Christ with saving faith, these are reckoned as mere shadows, as vanity in comparison to knowing Christ.

    Does that reflect your values? Or is knowing Christ just one of many things which you equally value?



    A Righteousness by Faith

    Php 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ— the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

    For "no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." Rom 3:20-22

    There are two ways to attain a righteous standing before God. Righteousness by the law is a performance-based righteousness which requires a perfectly sinless behavior. But seeing as "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God", there are none qualified. But God has provided another way to attain a righteous standing, that which God graciously provided in the redemptive work of Christ, that which is through the forgiveness of sins and through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. It is an imputed righteousness rather than one which is earned. It is not unconditional. It is conditioned upon faith in Christ - faith being an attitude of the heart and not a work.

    Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but believes God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." Rom 4:4-8

    On the day of judgement, which kind of righteousness will you be relying upon to save you from His wrath?



    Experiencing Christ

    Php 3:10  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

    "Know" here is ginosko - relational knowledge, which is somewhat obvious from the context. For it's one thing to know about Christ, his resurrection and sufferings, but quite another to personally experience them. The power of Christ's resurrection is something all believers anticipate experiencing, namely our resurrection from the dead."Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." 1Cor 15:20 But there is also the sense in which we have already be raised with Christ. That is, "having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead." Col 2:12  That is, while we were dead in sin with regards to our relationship with God, those of us who are now in Christ have be raised from that condition of spiritual dead and are now in a living relationship with God. But what also is implied in the power of his resurrection is the power to overcome the corruption of the flesh, namely what we refer to as sanctification, which is the process by which we are made more like Christ with regards to our desires and attitudes.

    Fellowshipping in his sufferings is somewhat inevitable in the process of living the Christian life - if you're doing it right. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2Tim 3:12 But "consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Heb 12:3 And "if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Rom 8:17

    And not only his daily sufferings, but also conforming to his death. His death was the fulfillment of his mission. And as Jesus prayer just prior to his death, "I have finished the work which You have given Me to do." John 17:4, likewise we seek to identify the mission God will hold us accountable for and seek to complete it, so that at the end of your life you may likewise say, "I have finished the work which You have given me to do."



    Strive to Attain the Resurrection

    Php 3:11  and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

    Paul had just  spoken of striving to share in Christ's sufferings, being conformed to his death. He does so with the expectation of his resurrection in mind. Realize that all will be raised eventually, for even Paul said, "I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." Acts 24:15 But here, speaking by way of ellipsis, he is referring to attaining the resurrection of the righteous, as Jesus said, "those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead ..." Luke 20:35  And it is this worthiness that Paul is alluding to. For as I had quoted Paul earlier, he said, ""if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Rom 8:17

    The key to understand Paul's attitude here is understanding precisely what he means by saying "And so, somehow".  It's the combination of the Greek words "ei pos" (strongs number <1513>), typically translated "if by any means", and is used 4 times in the New Testment, each of which appears to be in the context of doing something to achieve a possible outcome. We see it in Acts 27:12 where it says, "And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means <1513>they could reach Phoenix,". It's used of prayer in Rom 1:10 "making request if, by some means <1513>, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you." We see it in Rom 11:13,14 where it says, "... inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means <1513> I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them." Given its usage, a more precise translation of <1513> would be "with the expectation that" or "with the faith that". There is a cause/effect relationship expressed in the usage of <1513>

    Thus Paul is saying he wants to experience Christ with the expectation that such experience will attain for him the resurrection from the dead. Its just like when they decided to set sail for Phoenix. They didn't expect to get there apart from setting sail. And likewise when Paul prays in Rom 1:10 and magnifies his ministry in Rom 11:13,14. In each case the attaining of the goal or destination was viewed as contingent upon doing something. Also while in each case their expectation <1513> wasn't a complete certainty, neither does it express a remote possibility or an action taken in hopeless desperation. In fact it may be said - I do this in order that in all likeliness that would be the outcome.

    With regards to attaining the resurrection of the righteous, there is a worthiness involved, just as you may note from what Jesus said above in Luke 20:35, "those who are considered worthy ..." And likewise he says, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." Mt 10:37,38

    May we all take up our cross as Paul did and follow Jesus, and consequently be found worthy of attaining the resurrection of the righteous. "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Luke 13:24



    Forget and Press on

    Php 3:13,14  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

    Perfect sanctification will not be attained in this life, which is why Paul set his hope upon the resurrection. In this life we will always retain the sinful nature, as Paul writes to Christians saying, "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." Gal 5:16,17 And Paul describes his own struggle with the flesh in Romans 7.

    If this is not your struggle, then you may have surrendered to the flesh. And it's not just the flesh against which we battle. Our battle is against the world, the flesh and the devil. But even if you fail as all do, confess and press on. Forget past failures as God does. "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Heb 10:17  Dwelling on past failures is itself failure. Judas committed suicide. But Peter went on the feed the sheep. Put your hand to the plow and don't look back. Press on towards the goal. Set you mind on things above. Exercise the kind of faith which is worthy of the kingdom. "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."Php 2:12,13



    A Mature Point of View

    Php 3:15.16  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

    There are a great deal of different points of view among immature Christians, but less so among mature Christians. As Christians mature in their walk with God through study and application of the Bible, prayer, fellowship, outreach and good works, they develop a common point of view, which is that of Christ. "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature" Eph 4:11-13 But don't presuppose age or institutional position to be  necessarily indicative of maturity. Plenty have pledged allegiance to denominational positions or forms and refuse to mature out of them.

    Maturity doesn't come simply with knowledge. Going to seminary may increase knowledge but may do nothing for one's level of maturity. Maturity comes with applying the knowledge of God, which is why Paul tells us to live up to what we have already attained. That is, put into practice what you know. Jesus said, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21 Thus revelation of the knowledge of God is a function of obeying the Word, putting it into practice.



    The Christian Lifestyle

    Php 3:17  Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

    That is, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1Cor 11:1  And "remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." Heb 13:7  There is a Christian lifestyle. But it is often more caught than taught. A relative absence of good examples and the presence of bad examples hinder the edification of the body. The Christian lifestyle is to be lived in service to God. For "he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15  Paul even abstains from that to which he is legitimately entitled so as to practice generosity as an example to follow. (Acts 20:33-35, 1Cor 9:14,15) He practices what he preaches, and so he tells others to do so. "In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us." Titus 2:7,8 The Christian lifestyle is characterized not so much by forms, but by attitudes. It's one which says "No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and lives a self-controlled, upright and godly life" Titus 2:12 "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." Gal 5:24 And it is from such attitudes as holiness, love and humility that applications are derived. The Christian lifestyle is likewised characterized by one's conformity to God's authority structure - women being in subjection to male authority, congregations to church leaders, citizens to civil authority. And among other things the Christian lifestyle is lived in community with other believers, reaching out to the world through the communication of the gospel. These are but a few of the characteristics of the Chrisitan lifestyle.



    Living as Enemies of Christ

    Php 3:18,19  For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

    My impression is that he is saying that many in the Christian community live as enemies of Christ. For it is to be taken for granted that everyone outside of the Christian community lives as enemies of Christ, even those who are now in Christ prior to their conversion, as he says in Eph 2:3"All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."  But what brings Paul to tears, and indeed what should bring us all to tears, is when alleged Christians live in such a manner. Of course such are Christians in name only, destined for destruction. Or "do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10, regardless of what they may claim.

    As I said, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." Gal 5:24 And so they say "No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and lives a self-controlled, upright and godly life in this present age." Titus 2:12 But there are alleged Christians who "view the grace of our God as a license for immorality" Jude 1:4, and other such passions of the flesh. Is there any legitimate reason for any Christian to be obese, or drunk, or to be involved with sexual immorality, or to swindle others out of money or to be greedy, let alone embracing these as one's chosen lifestyle and glorying in them, as for example homosexual Christians do as it says, "men with men committing what is shameful," Rom 1:27b  and "it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret." Eph 5:12 ?

    Instead let us not make the fulfilling of our fleshly desires a priority, but to exercise self-control, minding the things of God. "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Col 3:2 "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Rom 8:5



    Our Citizenship is in Heaven

    Php 3:20,21 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

    The Christian's affiliation, allegiance and identity are derived from heaven and not from earth. A Christian is firstly a citizen of heaven and only secondly a citizen of whatever country they are from. A Christian's family is firstly those of the Christian community and only secondly those who are family according to the flesh. "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother." Mt 12:50

    Having "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,we wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead— Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." 1Th 1:9b-10 "The trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." 1Cor 15:52, no longer having to battle the sinful nature inherent in our present flesh, having been transformed under the control of Jesus Christ to be sinlessly perfect and blameless in his sight.


    The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


    Jul 29,2015