Also in this chapter it is all about Christ. He is presented here as He is in the heavenly glory. There He is the source of power for the life of a Christian. When you look at His glory in faith, you will want to gain nothing but Him considering all other things as loss and rubbish.
Chapter 2 describes Christ in His humiliation as a model and the driving force for the true Christian spirit of self-sacrifice. Chapter 3 is the answer to the question of how to get the mind of chapter 2. When you are filled with Him, you will always be like Him and that gives power for a life in humility.
V11Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things [again] is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.. With the expression “finally” Paul goes on to another theme. Of course not essentially, but certainly there is a shift in the emphasis as I just pointed out. The joy remains the same because the object of joy does not change. Paul is not tired of asking the believers in Philippi to rejoice in the glorified Lord. He knows that he is associated with them as brothers. He and they form a family. Together they should rejoice in Him as they are connected with one another by Him. Whoever rejoices in the Lord is kept from preoccupation with his self. The joy of the Lord gives strength to live for the glory of the Lord (Neh 8:1010Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”).
Some things must be simply said repeatedly. Paul does not say that sighing with the undertone: ‘When will you learn it at last?’ No, he repeats his message gladly knowing how important it is. He knows how forgetful people are, even the believers.
It is not clear what precisely is meant by “same things”. It could refer to the joy but it could also be meant as a warning to the adversaries. He already dealt with it in chapter 1 (Phil 1:1515Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;). In the following verses he talks at length about it. When it is about joy Paul however does not present a new method in order to make faith more cheerful. When it is about the adversaries he does not seek to join them to make a compromise.
His teaching is the same. Nothing disturbs him and that gives the assurance to the Philippians that they are on the right track. When views are constantly changed it produces a lot of uncertainty and one might even say a feeling of insecurity. Teachers who once interpreted the Word of God clearly, now say, that they do not know all things so sure any more. Don’t let them throw you off the track. The Word of God is exactly the same and sure today as it was in the past centuries.
V22Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;. “Beware” (Paul uses this word three times) of people who want to undermine the faith and separate believers from Christ and from the joy in Him. They have always existed. Here it is mentioned about such categories of people. Paul does not use flattering terminologies. He calls them “dogs”, who are people with a corrupted way of life, just like the unclean Gentiles. He also calls them “evil workers”, people who introduce evil things under the guise of working for Christ. He speaks of “false circumcision”. This is a word-play on circumcision by which he means, by reintroducing the law, people mutilate what Christ accomplished. When this happens even the Christian witness is mutilated.
The letter to the Galatians is a huge argumentation against this undermining of the perfect work of Christ on the cross. There we read about the reintroduction of all sorts of practices of the law in the Christian church, including the circumcision. That circumcision Paul calls mutilation. Here Paul is very pungent. It is because he sees very clearly that his beloved Philippians run the great risk of becoming entangled in wrong doctrines. Therefore he is sharp. Love is always sharp in defending their loved ones against unscrupulous people who seek to plunge their loved ones into destruction.
As for circumcision certainly it is a God given thing (Gen 17:9-149God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.10This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.11And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.12And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a [servant] who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.13A [servant] who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.14But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”). It belonged to the Jewish people as an outward sign of God’s covenant with this people. When it is introduced into the church, it does injustice to God and to His people, and His Word is not taken seriously.
V33for we are the [true] circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,. For the church circumcision has a spiritual meaning. Paul says it in verse 33for we are the [true] circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, (cf. Rom 2:2929But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.). You have experienced a spiritual circumcision through what happened to Christ on the cross (Col 2:1111and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;). When He died under the judgment of God against sin you died there with Him. With “we are the [true] circumcision”, are those meant who are really separate from evil. Paul views this here not from the negative side, but from the positive. He cites three characteristics that belong to those who are the circumcision.
The first is that they “worship in the Spirit of God”. That puts an end to any stereotyped service which is often seen in Christendom in sacraments, in church orders and liturgy without regard to the Holy Spirit. A church service without the guidance of the Holy Spirit is a formal service which can be performed very well by people who are not born again.
The second point is that they “glory in Christ Jesus”. In the Old Testament people boasted in their own ‘I’. Anyone who paid attention to the rules got fame. But the Spirit points our hearts to Christ.
The third characteristic is to “put no confidence in the flesh”. The entire Old Testament was oriented on a service in the flesh. You must not understand flesh here as the flesh of sin, from which lust comes out. What is meant is something which you can touch and can lead to great achievements.
V44although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:. Paul knew what he was talking about. When it is about flesh he can enumerate a lot. In seven points he names his privileges about which he can boast. He possessed four privileges without having had to work for it; they were handed to him on a silver platter. Namely, one has absolutely no influence on the parents who gave him birth. The other three privileges are the consequences of his own decisions and have to do with his personal contributions.
With every measure of dignity he could have been winner on all fronts. No, he had no interest in this kind of triumph; on the contrary he gave up these privileges. He considered them even rubbish (verse 88More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,) in the light of the glory of the Man Who appeared to him when he was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-51Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,2and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.3As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;4and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He [said], “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,). He is exactly like Moses who gave up all the treasures of Egypt and all the prerogatives of a king’s son, because he had seen the Invisible (Heb 11:26-2726considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.). Thus he became a model for the Israelites. He gave up more than anyone else. Paul also is such a model. He gave up much more than what you and I would probably ever let go.
V55circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;. First, he mentions that he was “circumcised”, and that was because he was a part of the covenant God made with His people. He was not added as a stranger to the people through circumcision, but he was “of the nation of Israel”, which means he was an Israelite by birth. He was one of a people whom God chose from all nations to be His own people with special blessings (cf. Rom 9:4-54who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the [temple] service and the promises,5whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.). Among this nation he belonged to the “tribe of Benjamin” and was therefore a descendent of Jacob's family and his favorite wife Rachel.
V66as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.. Finally he was “a Hebrew of Hebrews”. This name is used for the first time for Abraham (Gen 14:1313Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram.) when he migrated away from his family and came to Canaan. This name means the migrant. By mentioning this name Paul says that he lived, as a true, pure-bred descendent of Abraham in the land of promise.
There were even more things of which he could boast. They were things which he had acquired with unbridled zeal and was committed to them with boundless energy. No one knew the law like him and lived according to the law like him (Acts 26:55since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived [as] a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.; Gal 1:1414and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.).
His zeal for the law had made him “a persecutor of the church”. He pursued after the church universally and visited places where the believers were to be found; where they were living as members of that one church in dependence upon the Head of His church, the Lord Jesus. This Name made him furious (Acts 26:99“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.). Wherever he could, he wanted to exterminate all who honored this Name. Borders counted nothing for him (Acts 26:1111And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.).
With all his knowledge of the law, even in persecution of the church, he remained within the bounds of the law. He was “blameless”. He was like the young rich ruler (Mt 10:2020For it is not you who speak, but [it is] the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.). Paul and the rich young man were blameless before the eyes of men, but not in the eyes of God (Ecc 7:2020Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who [continually] does good and who never sins.).
Now read Philippians 3:1-6 again.
Reflection: Are there things which you can boast about?