"THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS"
The True Circumcision Of God (Ph 3:1-16)
1. Throughout his ministry as an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul had to
contend with certain Jewish Christians
a. Known today as "Judaizers", they were false teachers who often
followed Paul wherever he went
b. They would try to bind the act of circumcision and the Law of
Moses itself upon Gentile Christians - e.g., Ac 15:1-2
2. Even as he writes this "epistle of joy", encouraging the brethren to
rejoice in the Lord (Ph 3:1), he finds it necessary to warn them of
these false teachers (Vs 2-3)
a. In these verses, we find Paul making a play on words...
1) He calls the Judaizers "katatome"
(mutilation) - v 2
2) And refers to true Christians as "peritome"
(circumcision)- v 3
b. In doing so, he also declares that "the true circumcision"
are those who:
1) Worship God in the Spirit
2) Rejoice in Christ Jesus
3) Have no confidence in the flesh
3. Using himself as an example, Paul further defines the attitudes and
characteristics of those who are "The True Circumcision Of God"
[In doing so, Paul actually does it in an order reverse to what we find
in verse 3; thus first illustrating "The True Circumcision Of God" as
I. HAVE NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH (Vs 4-8)
A. IF ANY COULD, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN PAUL...
1. He could have boasted in things of a "RACIAL" nature
a. "circumcised the eighth day"
1) A genuine Jew from birth
2) Not a proselyte
b. "of the stock of Israel"
1) Directly descended from Jacob
a) The Arabs could boast of their descent from Abraham
b) The Edomites could boast of Isaac
2) But only the Jews could boast of Jacob, who had prevailed
with God and was given the name "Israel" (literally, "one
who strives with God")
c. "of the tribe of Benjamin"
1) The son of Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel
2) The only son actually born in the promised land
3) Israel's first king, Saul, was from this tribe
4) The only tribe that remained true to Judah when the
kingdom was divided
d. "a Hebrew of the Hebrews"
1) Both his parents were Jews
2) He was true to the customs of the Jews, not a Grecian or
2. He could have boasted in things of a "RELIGIOUS" nature
a. "concerning the law, a Pharisee"
1) A very religious person
2) Belonging to a sect known for their loyalty, patriotism,
and conservatism to the Law of Moses
b. "concerning zeal, persecuting the church"
1) Illustrates his sincerity and enthusiasm for his religion
2) Always true to his conscience - cf. Ac 23:1; Ac 26:9-11
c. "concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless"
1) Not that he was perfect
2) But was diligent in fulfilling the requirements of the
Law (e.g., animal sacrifices)
B. YET PAUL CONSIDERED THESE THINGS AS "LOSS FOR CHRIST" (Vs 7-8)
1. All these things which could have provided Paul with prestige
and social standing, he counted as loss
2. In fact, he lost many things when he chose to follow Christ
- cf. 1 Co 4:11-13
3. Yet, compared to the excellence of the knowledge of Christ,
they were to Paul nothing more than "rubbish" (literally,
C. WHAT ABOUT US?
1. Do we place confidence in our fleshly accomplishments?
2. Do we take pride in our racial background, religious heritage,
3. Or do we consider such things as "rubbish" compared to the
knowledge of Jesus Christ?
[How we answer helps to determine whether we are "The True Circumcision
Of God"! But there is more; those who are the "true circumcision"...]
II. REJOICE IN CHRIST JESUS (Vs 9-11)
A. THEIR JOY IS NOT IN THINGS MATERIAL OR FLESHLY, BUT IN CHRIST!
1. As in Paul's case, he considered fleshly accomplishments as
2. His compelling desire was to "gain Christ" (v8)
B. WHAT IT MEANS TO "GAIN CHRIST" (Vs 9-11)
1. To "be found in Him", which includes...
a. "not having my own righteousness, which is from the law"
(not trusting in his keeping the Law of Moses to save him)
b. "but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness
which is from God by faith" (experiencing salvation as a gift
from God through faith in Jesus)
2. To "know Him"
a. The word "know" as used here, means...
1) "to recognize" or "to become acquainted with"
2) I.e., a personal knowledge, not a theoretical or vicarious
b. In particular, to know "the power of His resurrection"
1) The same power Paul wanted the Ephesians to know -
2) A power that is first experienced in baptism into Christ
- Co 2:12-13
3) And throughout our lives - Ep 3:20-21
4) And ultimately in our own bodily resurrection - Ph 3:20-21
c. To know "the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed
to His death"
1) In his effort to know Christ, Paul wanted to experience
and share even in His sufferings!
2) "Such fellowship in the sufferings of Christ includes a
turning from sin, and the death of self. It may involve
much hardship for the sake of Christ. For Paul it finally
meant martyrdom." (CHARLES ERDMAN)
3) We all should be willing to do the same! - cf. 1 Pe 4:1-2
3. To "attain to the resurrection from the dead"
a. This would be the ultimate experience in "gaining Christ"!
b. I.e., a personal and experiential knowledge of the "power" of
C. WHAT ABOUT US?
1. Such was the goal of Paul's life, the source of his true joy!
2. Can this said about us?
3. Is our goal in life to truly "know Christ"?
[If it is, then what Paul continues to say will be our attitude also;
for "The True Circumcision Of God" are also those who...]
III. WORSHIP GOD IN THE SPIRIT (Vs 12-16)
A. JESUS WAS THE FIRST TO DEFINE "TRUE WORSHIP"
AS SPIRITUAL WORSHIP...
1. In His discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well - Jn 4:23-24
2. Since God is Spirit, our worship must be of the spirit as well,
and not limited to particular locations
B. PAUL DESCRIBES THE ATTITUDES OF THOSE WHO WORSHIP GOD IN THE
1. They are never satisfied with their present spiritual condition
2. With perseverance, they press on (Vs 13-15)
a. Not looking back
1) Resting on past laurels
2) Or bemoaning past failures
b. But ever reaching forward, which is a mark of spiritual
3. All the while living up to the standard of knowledge they have
1. Do these attitudes characterize our devotion to God and His Son?
a. Do we worship God by allowing His Spirit and the Spirit-given Word
to rule over our complete lives?
b. Do we consider the relationship we are developing with Christ to be
our primary joy and focus in life?
c. Do we place no confidence in the flesh?
--- If so, then we are "The True Circumcision of God"!
2. As Paul invites us to do in verse 17,
let's be sure to follow his example!
How does one begin in becoming "The True Circumcision Of God"?
It begins when we in faith submit to the working of God in baptism, in
which we experience the "circumcision of Christ" (cf. Co 2:11-13).
Have you had the "circumcision made without hands" (i.e., been baptized
into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins - Ac 2:38)?
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