PHILIPPIANS 3:1-11 (ESV)
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 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 depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Paul encourages believers who hear these words to “rejoice in the Lord.” What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? How do we rejoice in the Lord? Is Paul merely encouraging us to put on some emotional display in front of others? Or is there more to rejoicing in the Lord than meets the eye? Well, the word “rejoice” in verse one means to be well off, happy, or satisfied. Beloved, we are called by God’s Word to be satisfied, happy, and well-provisioned in the Lord! Repenting of every dead work and turning in faith to the Living God, we rest entirely on Christ for all provision of righteousness, all hope of peace and life eternal. Christ is all and we are “happy” in Christ alone! To rejoice in the Lord means to find all spiritual satisfaction in Him. We forsake all attempts at works-righteousness, knowing that the Lord will keep us, giving us joy unspeakable and full of glory!
If our hope is in Christ, if God is our strength and portion forever, if we put no confidence in the flesh but make our boast in the Lord, then we count the things of this world as nothing. When trials come, and they most certainly will, our eyes are fixed on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Our hope in Christ will never be put to shame. He will certainly not let our feet slip. And, beloved, He will raise us up on the last day in resurrection power. For all of these blessed reasons, let our hearts rejoice in the sure and steadfast promises of God in Christ. Again I say, “rejoice!”
I. Rejoice in the Lord
(1). Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
A. “rejoice” – to be happy, satisfied, well-provisioned. We rejoice in Christ to the exclusion of all other so-called sources of righteousness. He is God’s champion of righteousness. He alone will receive all the glory and praise for the salvation of His people.
1 Chronicles 16:31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
Revelation 19:6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
B. “to write the same things to you is no trouble to me and in safe for you” – The Apostle explains that his exhortations are both fitting for him to declare and necessary and certain for the hearer. He wanted to make certain that the truth of the Gospel was protected and nurtured among his dear people in Philippi.
1 Corinthians 2:1,2 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
II. A Warning Against Works Righteousness (2-4a)
2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.
A. “Look out for the dogs” – It was common practice for certain Jews to call gentiles by this name. Paul turns the phrase around, using it on those who believed they could become righteous by cutting themselves. As a dog tears and cuts with its teeth, so too do those who seek to become righteous by cutting their own bodies.
B. “Look out for evildoers” – Here Paul equates those who attempt to become righteous by works with evildoers. Those who would attempt to circumvent or in some way supplement the righteousness of Christ with their own supposed works is a liar and a thief. It is evil to preach any so-called gospel that encourages people to work for salvation. It is evil!
C. “those who mutilate the flesh” – Paul says of those who were teaching salvation by Christ plus Jewish rites and rituals (works) that they were really the “mutilation party.” He gave no legitimacy to their movement. He did not call it simply another interpretation of the faith. He did not label them separated brethren. He did not excuse their false doctrine by saying that perhaps they would grow to understand his position at some later date. NO! He called those who believed in mixing works with the finished work of Christ evil mutilators! False teachers to shun and to expose for the evil they preached!
D. “we are the circumcision” – The true circumcision is the work of God performed on the heart of his elect in regeneration.
Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
The “circumcision of the heart” is the work of the Spirit in convincing us of Christ Jesus. This is a work of the Spirit performed by God alone in the preaching of the Gospel. As the Spirit testifies of Christ’s finished work, the mind is changed concerning righteousness and a man, by faith, believes the Gospel. All praise belongs to God for the glorious work of His hands!
E. “no confidence in the flesh” – While the false teachers were teaching that righteousness in the sight of God required human effort and works, namely circumcision and Jewish law keeping, Paul writes that Christians, true believers, put no confidence in works. Because we are by nature children of wrath and sinful law breakers, nothing we can do can ever make us holy or in any other way acceptable to God. Consider Paul’s words:
Romans 2:25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.
The outward rite of circumcision, here representative of the entire law, is of value….. IF you can perfectly obey the law in all parts at all times. However, if you can’t (and we truly cannot) then all of the outward rites and rituals serve only to condemn us!
Believers put no confidence in the works of our hands. Why? Because we “rejoice in the Lord!” We make Christ our loud boast! He is our song of praise and glory! Christ alone is our plea for righteousness’ sake. And God, through Christ, has made us acceptable in the beloved apart from the deeds of the law!
Isaiah 46:13 I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
III. No Righteousness Apart from Christ (4b-8a)
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
A. “I have more [(reason to boast in the flesh)”- Paul makes the case that if any man had reason to boast, it was him. Paul’s practice of the rites and rituals were spot on and He knew it. Yet, in the light of the perfect righteousness required by God, Paul knew he was nothing but a worm!
B. “counted as loss for the sake of Christ” – Paul confessed that anything he clung to in addition to the free Grace of God in Christ did nothing by violence to the finished work of Calvary. No human works ever measure up.
C. “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” – Knowing the true Gospel of God’s grace in Christ is far superior than all of Paul’s attempts at becoming righteous. He would never again boast in his flesh. Because God was pleased to grant Paul faith, Paul would forever rejoice in the Lord, forsaking all his previous attempts at righteousness as loss!
IV. Christ is the Righteousness (8b-11)
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 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 depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
A. “I have suffered the loss of all things, cutting them as rubbish” – In the light of the true Gospel, nothing else truly matters! If our boast is in the Lord, no earthly endeavor will ever satisfy our souls. We cling to Christ because we are convinced by the Spirit of the truth of the Gospel! Everything short of Christ is dung, rubbish, trash.
B. “and be found in him” – Those who make their sole boast in the Lord find themselves squarely in Christ! Here is peace and assurance the likes of which this old world will never know.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
C. “not having a righteousness that comes from the law” – There is no righteousness to gain from the law, because the law cannot make a sinner righteous. The law condemns the guilty. Only the blood of Christ cleanses from all unrighteousness! Paul understood that his best efforts at satisfying all of the law’s requirements, both moral and ceremonial, were stained with his own imperfection, wickedness, and sin.
D. “but that which comes through faith in Christ” – the only true righteousness is the righteousness of Christ. The only was we can be made partakers of this righteousness is by faith in Him. Our righteousness imputed to us, credited to us, by and from Christ Jesus!
E. “that I may know him and power of His resurrection” – Benefits of salvation are deep and lasting. We can know and be known of the Father through Christ. He will cast us into outer darkness like those whom he “does not know.” Additionally, every believer will know the power of His resurrection as he raises us up on the last day just as Christ Himself resurrected from the dead! Praise God, we have a righteousness not our own, one that will see us raised up on the last day.
Do not rejoice in your own strength. But make your loud boast in the Lord! Rejoice in the perfection of a righteousness not your own. Wonder in amazement at the power and peace afforded us in the finished work of Christ.