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ES/PHIL/20 Philippians 3:2-3

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:48
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Philippians 3:1–11 NKJV
1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Last week we concentrated upon verse 1. Rejoice in the Lord. We found that the main reason for this is that it takes the focus off ourselves and upon the One who is Lord over all, is our Saviour, Redeemer, Friend and Brother. This rejoicing in Christ also stops us from the kind of things Paul criticises in this letter such as complaining and murmuring. We cannot both rejoice in the Lord and be angry. We cannot both be thankful to Him and be moaning and grumpy. We learned too that we can have no confidence in others let alone ourselves because we will be let down by others or by ourselves and that all our confidence is instead in Christ who never fails. As it says in:
Psalm 118:8 NKJV
8 It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in man.
It is upon this foundation that we now build.
And Paul does not mince his words: beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! Paul is not being subtle at all.
Beware of dogs? Why beware of dogs? What has Ethan done?! But we are talking of the 1st Century world here where dogs were not pets but were on the street, scavengers and wild and going round in packs. In fact it was the Jews who called the Gentiles dogs. They thought themselves superior to the rest because they were chosen by God. Whilst it is true that they were chosen by God it was so that that would be light to the Gentiles. But instead Paul is saying that it is these same Jews, who are now outside of the chosen ones of God, who are the dogs nipping at the legs of people of faith. This would be antisemitism if it were not for the fact that Paul is also a Jew and proud of it as we’ll see next week.
Why beware of evil workers? Truly these people, these Jews, were doing everything right, they viewed themselves as good workers. So why did Paul call them evil workers?

“not because they do what is morally wrong, nor because they act out of malice, but … because their reliance on ‘works’ is in the end harmful both to themselves and to others” (Caird, 133). It is harmful in that such reliance is ultimately self-reliance and tends to obscure the need for God, who alone is the source of true life and goodness.

Not many people enjoy going to the doctor, but according to Reuters, in 1994, one London accountant took that to an extreme. The sixty-three-year-old man knew he needed bladder surgery but he could not overcome his fear of doctors and hospitals. So he self-reliantly did what had to be done: He tried to perform the surgery on himself. Tragically he got an infection from the self-surgery and later died. The coroner said, “Unfortunately, [his] drastic remedy went wrong. A simple operation would have solved the problem.”

Just as this man didn’t trust doctors or hospitals, many people don’t trust God. In their self-reliance, they destroy themselves.

And these people were going around like evangelists proclaiming that they need to fulfil the law and be like them – so not only destroying themselves but the faith of others. I also feel this way about Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses who also are like these legalistic Jews for Jesus Himself says:
Matthew 23:15 NKJV
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
And therefore they were not true Gospel preachers but false ones and hence they were evil workers.
This cannot be overstated. They had not understood that the law and their keeping of it did not put them right in the sight of God but as it says in:
Romans 3:20 NKJV
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The law and trying to keep it did not make people right with God. The law existed to prove that they couldn’t keep God’s standards completely. It proved instead that we are sinners:
Romans 3:23 NKJV
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:10–11 NKJV
10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
And Paul then says beware of the mutilation which has to do with circumcision that is performed to this day on 8 day old baby boys in Judaism. Circumcision was the proof that they were of the people of God; it was their pride and joy and badge of honour but Paul calls it mutilation because they were not the people of God at all. for they did not mix with faith in the living God. They were relying upon their heritage that they were God’s people. This is similar today where people think that they are Christians because they were born into Roman Catholicism or Anglicanism or born in the UK and have been christened. But to the Jews they were surprised when John the Baptist preached:
Matthew 3:9 NKJV
9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
And in
Romans 9:6–7 NKJV
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”
It would have sounded incredible to the Jews to hear but there had been a reversal in roles:
Jews are the new Gentiles, while Christian believers have become true Jews. Hughes, R. K. (2007). Philippians: the fellowship of the gospel (p. 124). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
How is this the case? Well we have been grafted in whilst, for a time, the physical people of Israel are spiritually blinded. They still do not realise that the law, nor circumcision, nor heritage does not save them but faith alone.
In verse 3 Paul goes on to say that
 we are the circumcision
 for we worship God in the Spirit,
 rejoice in Christ Jesus,
 and have no confidence in the flesh.
So who are the real circumcised?
The truly circumcised are those who worship God in the Spirit. Remember the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well: She said:
John 4:20–24 NKJV
20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Unlike the days when the Jews would have to visit the temple or synagogue to worship we can worship everywhere. Our whole lives become worship.
This is not possible for someone who has not come to Jesus in faith.
Romans 8:8–9 NKJV
8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

John Donne so well said:

Wilt thou love God as he thee? then digest,

My soul, this wholesome meditation,

How God the Spirit, by angels waited on

In heaven, doth make his temple in thy breast.

And what happens when the Spirit lives in us? We become true worshippers.
This leads into the next part which says rejoice in Christ Jesus. The word rejoice is boasting. So this is about glorying or boasting in Christ Jesus.
We boast because it is not our hold on Christ that saves us—it is Christ. We boast because it is not our joy in Christ that saves us—it is Christ. We boast because it is not even our faith that saves us—it is Christ. Hughes, R. K. (2007). Philippians: the fellowship of the gospel (p. 125). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Christ is the one who takes our focus. It is the refrain that runs through this letter: To me to live is Christ. We have a one-track mind – not as the world understands this but as we, His people, understand it. Christ is all.
In Irena’s favourite hymn ‘Jesus, lover of my soul’ Charles Wesley wrote the words:
Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find.
Paul echoes this in
Galatians 6:14 NKJV
14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
We boast in the cross not in what we can do. Christ becomes our obsession. This is the measure of how much we are affected by His Spirit in our lives. Is Christ our all in all or has something or someone taken His place?
Revelation 2:4 NKJV
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
The Church in Ephesus lost their way and it seems possible for us to lose ours too. Repent. Remember Christ is everything. This life is too short to spend on anything else.
Why spend time on the world when the world hates us?
John 15:19 NKJV
19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
We are crucified with Christ. The world is dead to us and we to the world.
Finally, Paul says in verse 3 - the truly circumcised are those who have no confidence in the flesh. These are they who have no confidence in anything outside of Christ. If we boast in Christ we cannot boast in ourselves.
Ephesians 2:8–9 NKJV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
We cannot boast that we have done anything – all we have is because of Him.
John 15:5 NKJV
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Without Christ we are lost. Only in Christ can we be who we are meant to be.
It was Benjamin Franklin, not the Bible, who said: God helps those who help themselves. But this common saying in the Church is just not true. We are utterly reliant upon God. We cannot help ourselves:
Romans 7:18 NKJV
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
False circumcision comes in many forms. The proliferation of false gospel preachers out there is evidence. But how can we know what is the false? Well those who are cashiers in banks are taught what is the false by learning what the true is. They handle the real thing and learn exactly what it is like and then they will easily pick out the fake. And so it is with the Gospel – you have to know what it is and really know and then the fake stands out.
Especially those who preach a prosperity gospel – if you give to them God will give to you, they say but it just lines their pockets. Also in the many self-help guides and programmes in books and on TV. The teaching of self-reliance and self-love is all the rage. But these worldly things are just that – of this world and not of Heaven.
Then you have the cults out there such as Jehovah’s witnesses who record all their deeds and track all their good works and Mormons who put their trust in Joseph Smith rather than Jesus Christ and boast in the wrong person. I also mentioned last week Roman Catholicism which is received by many so-called evangelicals today because we have a few thing in common especially in relation to their stand on abortion and the sanctity of life. But theirs is still a false gospel. Who cares that they get some moral things right – being moral cannot get you saved. Paul cannot understand why some in his day were turning to a moral religion and one of works rather than the Gospel that is about grace and faith:
Galatians 1:6–9 NKJV
6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
For Paul, and for me, these are very serious things, only the pure Gospel saves, and it is through faith alone in Christ alone.
Only knowing what is true can we know the false and not be taken in. To rely on God and to love Him is what is needed.
We are those who are the real circumcision who worship God in Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Right?


Colossians 3:16–17 NKJV
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.


Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Hawthorne, G. F. (2004). Philippians (Vol. 43). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
Hughes, R. K. (2007). Philippians: the fellowship of the gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Larson, C. B. (2002). 750 engaging illustrations for preachers, teachers & writers. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Leadership Ministries Worldwide. (1996). Galatians–Colossians. Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide.
Runge, S. E. (2011). High Definition Commentary: Philippians. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 21:55 23 June 2018.
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