Philippians 3

Philippians 3 has Paul exhorting the church to “rejoice in the Lord”.  This is a fitting theme for the whole letter. Paul shared with the Philippians the principle of being able to rejoice in the Lord – not in circumstances or in situations, but in the Lord who works all things together for good. And then, in almost the same breath, Paul warns the church to watch out for three groups:

  1. “Look out for the dogs – a harsh reference to the troublemaking legalists who attempted to deceive the Philippians
  2. look out for the evildoers – a word against their emphasis on righteousness with God by works
  3. look out for those who mutilate the flesh”  – a harsh reference to the insistence of the Jewish legalists to require circumcision for Gentiles who wanted to become Christians

Paul sets the record straight.  He gives his pedigree of where he came from.  “If anyone else thinks he has reason for 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; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless”.  Paul has every reason in the world to be proud of his heritage and past, but he discounts all that.  “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ”.  He knew Christ was the only thing that really mattered.  All his personal information carries no weight in God’s economy.

Paul gives us a long sentence about how His relationship with Christ is all that matters. “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 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—that I may know him and  the power of his resurrection, and  may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may  attain the resurrection from the dead”.  That’s a lot of words, but Paul basically says the only thing that matters is Jesus!

So given Paul’s understanding of his place through Christ, he can sit back and just wait for eternity.  Right?  Nope.  Paul says “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.  Paul is on mission.  He knows exactly what he is living to do.  “Brothers,  join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us”.  How we live matters.  Paul encourages the Christ Followers of his day to follow him.  We need to live in a way that people can follow us and get to Jesus.  What would happen to someone who imitates you?  Would they get to the Savior?

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