30 November 2009

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (3:2-3:7)

There has been a trend over the last few years among quote-unquote evangelical churches, to avoid the subject of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They don’t want to offend people, so they say that you can get saved in January, and eventually, you can......gradually......give Jesus the privilege of making Him Lord. One popular “Christian” magazine ran an article that said the following: “Since the decision to make Christ Lord is possible only for those who have already trusted Him as Savior, the gospel presentation should not contain anything about yielding in submission to Christ as Lord to be obeyed.” Did you catch that? “The decision to make Christ Lord.” WE DO NOT MAKE Christ Lord!! To say that is nothing short of heresy. I ain't afraid to say it, and I will back it up with Scripture. Acts 2:36“God has made this Jesus, both LORD and Christ.” Philippians 2:11Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD. Romans 10:9 (NASB)If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. If you confess Jesus is Lord, you will be saved. What is the opposite of that statement? That if you don’t confess that Jesus is Lord, you will NOT be saved. Over 100 times the NT declares that Jesus IS Lord. We don’t make Jesus Lord. He already is!!!

One day, those of us who labor in the word and teach and preach and follow our Lord’s command to do the physical work of building up His body will not be able to do the work any longer. There will come a day when these tabernacles of flesh are folded up and put in the ground. And we will leave that work for someone else to carry out. And when we do, we will have to trust in the Lord to raise up someone who will carry out that work faithfully and not lead the people into error. The apostle Paul went through the same thing when he heard from many of the churches that he had planted. That he had worked so diligently and suffered so much in teaching them the gospel, only to have people come in behind him and undermine those efforts. He had to write a very long letter to the Corinthians to follow up on the first very long letter he had written to the Corinthians. He wrote to the Galatians for the same reason. And one thing that these false teachers had in common was they were very boastful, very proud and they appealed to people’s sense of self-righteousness. And when we see this section of this letter to the Philippians, Paul lets it be known that “Hey, if anybody wants to boast—I could outboast anybody any day, anywhere, anytime.”

So, Philippians 3:2-7Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.

Look at the terms that Paul uses to describe false teachers in Verse 2. Dogs…evil workers…the mutilation. He makes no bones about it. First he calls them dogs. I've got a dog. I like my dog. She’s a good little dog. We think of dogs as happy little pets, they wag their tail, and we go, “Awww!” But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, in OT Jewish culture, dogs were considered vile. And here’s the thing: Jews would always refer to Gentiles as “dogs.” But now, Paul takes that term and turns it around and uses it to describe these Jewish teachers who wanted to drag people back to living under the burden of keeping the OT Law. The apostle Peter did the same thing in 2nd Peter 2:22But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit.” These false teachers had heard the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, but they wanted to go back to keeping a set of rules and regulations. And they taught others to do the same.

But are we saved by keeping a set of rules and regulations? No. We are saved by hating the sinful things we used to do and by declaring that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord (not by "making" Jesus Lord. See above). Many times when a person gets saved—you're looking at a perfect example—there is a tendency to think, “OK, I'm saved. Now I have to never, ever, ever do anything bad ever again or I'm not saved.” That’s the kind of thing these false teachers were teaching. But we are not saved by keeping the Law. Galatians 3:21If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. In other words, there IS NO LAW that can give life. James 2:10Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point—how much is he guilty of?—he is guilty of all.

If you take a chain that holds the anchor of the largest cruise ship in the world. Break one link. What good is that chain anymore? The same goes for anyone who thinks they are saved by “keeping the 10 Commandments.” Because in order to be saved, one must be absolutely perfect, and never, ever sin. People who say, “Well, I'm saved because I try to keep the 10 Commandments.” What's the key word there? "TRY." Ask them if they’ve broken even one—if they are honest they will say, “Yes.” And they will condemn themselves. Now, if we are saved, should we do our best to obey the commandments? Yes. It’s a fine line I'm drawing, but Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). 1st John 2:4He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar. We do not become children of God by trying to keep those commandments. But if we are children of God, we will want to keep His commandments.

Next he calls false teachers evil workers. That word evil literally means.........“evil.” He doesn’t hold back here. He calls these men that corrupt the gospel of Christ “evil.” If I were a doctor, and I was performing surgery on a patient, and I walk into the operating room drunk. I take the scalpel and I just go and butcher the patient beyond recognition. Would people call me an “evil man?” I would hope so. Now, think how much more serious it is when someone teaches things that lead people away from Christ and sends them on the path to Hell. Who will that person answer to? And what does God think of that person? He calls them evil. There is no call from the apostle to “Let’s just all get along with these people because we don't want to hurt their feelings now, do we?” God is calling the false teachers “evil.” And if God calls them “evil,” should we not also consider them to be “evil?”

Now, the third thing he calls them is the mutilation. Referring to the practice of circumcision, which was part of the OT Law. If a male wanted to be in full compliance with the OT Law, he had to be circumcised. A few years before he wrote this letter to the Philippians, the apostle had gone through Galatia preaching salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that salvation had nothing to do with keeping that OT Law. But after Paul left, here come these false teachers, saying that if you were a Gentile, you had to be circumcised. And in response, Paul wrote his most scathing letter, and as you read it you can almost hear him screaming at these people, “Didn’t you understand a word I said?” And in Galatians 5:12, he says I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! He uses a different word there, which literally means “to cut something off.” It’s the same word Jesus uses in Mark 9:43, 45 when He says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.” And in John 18:10, when Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. And since, in Galatians, Paul was talking about circumcision, I think we know what he was saying they should "cut off."

Basically, what Paul told the Galatians was, “If these guys are so hung up on you being circumcised, let them circumcise themselves.” Now, in this passage in Philippians, he uses the word “mutilation” to refer to circumcision—not voluntary circumcision, but the fact that these “dogs and evil workers” were trying to say that we need to be circumcised in order to be saved. That kind of circumcision is unnecessary, and is, in effect, a type of “mutilation.” And what is the warning Paul gives us about these people? Beware!!! Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! Danger Will Robinson!! Danger!! Danger!! That word “Beware” means, “Keep your eyes open for these guys!” It's in the imperative mood--it's a command. And it’s in the present tense. Be watching out for dogs! Be watching out for evil workers! Be watching out for the mutilation!” He is pleading in the worst possible way for us to watch out for them.

Jesus uses the same word when He warns us about false doctrines and false Christs. Mark 8:15 (NASB)“Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” Luke 21:8 (NASB)See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.” We are not to be all buddy-buddy with people teaching false doctrines. In fact, Paul says that if someone preaches a different gospel that they are to be anathema (Galatians 1:8-9). So, beware! Beware of the mutilation!

For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. I think we all know what gets circumcised. Circumcision was what made a man a Jew. But look at what Paul says is now the true circumcision. Worshipping God in the Spirit, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and having no confidence in the flesh. Whenever Paul talks about circumcision, he is very clear that since Christ has died and has risen again, it is not that circumcision that puts one in God’s family. Romans 2:28-29For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit. We're gonna turn to Galatians 5. Galatians 5:2-3, 6Indeed I say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law…For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. Now, you may wonder why we’re going on and on about circumcision. There is a reason, so please be patient.

Galatians 5:2--If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. In other words, if a person takes the gospel of Christ—salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—and tells others, “Well, yeah, but you have to do something on top of it to make it complete.” Then that person can believe anything they want to about Christ and it won’t do them any good. Because they are adding to Christ’s gospel. Because, Galatians 5:3, every man who becomes circumcised is a debtor to keep the whole law. If a person thinks they will gain eternal life by believing in Christ AND by keeping the Law of Moses, then they will have to keep it perfectly from now until the day they die, never ever messing up even once. And in Galatians 5:6, we see why--For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. It is no longer an outward ritual. If we know Christ as our LORD and Savior, we don’t have to go around in fear all our lives. We don’t go around with this list of ordinances hanging over our heads. We are no longer under the Law. Because Christ fulfilled that Law for us. We don’t have a curse hanging over us. Christ took that curse upon Himself on the cross.

Now, flip over to Galatians 6. A person may wonder why these Judaizers would be so gung-ho about circumcising people. Paul tells us why. Galatians 6:12As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. These Judaizers wanted to gain the praises of men, but they didn’t want their Jewish friends to shun them, so they compromised. They wanted to make a good showing in the flesh without suffering persecution. Galatians 6:13--For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. It was all about appearances. They wanted it to appear that they were a step above both the Christians and the Jews. They wanted to tell the Christians, “You have your faith, but you're not circumcised.” And they wanted to tell the Jews, “Yes, you keep the Law of Moses, but you need Christ to go with it.” But, in Galatians 6:15, we see they strike out from both sides of the plate, because in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. Back to Philippians.

So what does this mean for today? Well, this: there are some who say that if you don’t do this or you don’t do that you're not saved. What is the number one thing that people say you have to do in order to be saved? Get baptized. “If you aren't baptized you're not saved.” We don’t get baptized in order to be saved. We get baptized because we are saved. Go through all the places that Paul uses the word “circumcision” and substitute “baptism.” Anybody ever talk to someone who believes that? What is the argument they will make? They will compare it to OT circumcision. “Circumcision was the OT seal of being in God’s covenant people. But baptism replaced circumcision.” First of all, good luck finding any Scripture to support that. But let’s play along. If in Christ Jesus circumcision profits nothing, and if baptism is the NT equivalent of circumcision, then doesn’t it follow that in Christ Jesus baptism profits nothing?

Now, Paul says that WE are the circumcision. Because in Christ Jesus, circumcision is of the heart. That’s why he says that we have no confidence in the flesh. We know that there is nothing good inside us (Romans 7:18). So now we focus all of our faith, all of our trust, all of our love on our Lord Jesus Christ. But these Judaizers were only concerned with one thing, and that was the praise of men. They mutilated people in order to boast of their religiosity. They could boast all they wanted to.

But look at what Paul says in Philippians 4:4-7--If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Before He met Christ, Paul had it made. He was training at the best school for Jewish rabbis. He was learning from one of the greatest teachers ever. When it came to knowing the Scriptures—nobody could touch him. He even had authority from the Jewish leaders to go out of his jurisdiction to round up Christians and bring them to Jerusalem to have them put to death. He was probably pretty well off. He had it all. Until the day Christ stopped him cold and Paul realized he had nothing. In fact, he realized he had a negative balance. Luke 9:25“What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” Remember that rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22? “Good Teacher, what must I do to enter into life?” What did Jesus tell him? “Keep the commandments.” “Hey, great, got that covered! Check that! What else?” “Sell all you have; give the money to the poor, and follow Me.” What did that young fellow say? “Sorry, can't do that.” And he traded away eternity for a few years of ease.

How many times do people do that today? You don’t even have to be “rich” to do it. Everybody has their own idol. Whether it’s cars or money or houses or jewelry or clothes—even if it’s nothing more than a habit they don’t want to give up. If someone is putting anything ahead of worshipping Christ, they are no different than that rich young ruler. And whatever it is they're holding on to, one day they will realize they did not gain anything—but they lost everything. They counted Christ to be loss for the sake of all things earthly.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Jesus Christ is Lord.

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