Study Notes

Philippians 3:1-11


The Philippians have received this letter written by the apostle Paul, and carried by Epaphroditus. They have read Paul's reassurances that his imprisonment was working out for the good of the gospel. They have heard his exhortation to have love for one another and to get along. They have received explanation of Epaphroditus' delivery, Timothy's approaching visit, and Paul's desire to get to Philippi soon as well. We pick up in chapter three, verse one.

3:1 Rejoice In The Lord

Paul says "finally." Paul thinks that he is finishing up the letter with a last point, but in reality, the letter is only half finished. After writing another 27 verses, he will say, "Finally," again. This characteristic of preachers, apparently, runs in the family!

And, like a preacher, he says, "To write the same things again is no trouble to me..." We pastors do have a tendency to repeat ourselves, don't we?

Now, all joking aside, Paul is repeating something for a purpose. He is repeating the exhortation to rejoice. He has talked about joy and rejoicing eight times already in just the first two chapters. He commanded them in verse 2:18 directly to rejoice and to share their joy with him.

He encourages them directly again, a command that we need to hear more than once, because we don't seem to get it the first time: Rejoice in the Lord, not in your circumstances.

"Easier said than done," you might respond. "What do I have to rejoice about? I'm broke, my kids are sick, my neighbor hates me, and my car won't start!" I'll be the first to admit that this world stinks. If you're looking for reasons to rejoice on this earth, you're going to be disappointed most of the time. However, Paul says to rejoice in the Lord. So what do you have to rejoice about? The New Testament tells us to rejoice in the Lord in relation to dozens of things. For example,

* When we hear the message of God's free gift of salvation (Acts 13:48)

* When we are saved (Acts 8:39)

* That our names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20)

* That we have a blessed hope (Rom. 12:12)

* That we have a reward waiting in heaven (Matt 5:12)

The world goes up and down, but God's salvation and love for us is a constant. It's no wonder, then, that David wrote,

Ps. 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation...

We who are saved have so many reasons to be joyful.

* We may be bummed about the high price of gas, but our salvation is free!

* We may be upset that our dog got lost, but we have been found by God!

* We may be crestfallen that special person didn't know who we were, but God knows who we are.

* We may have lost hope that things will get better, but we have a blessed hope in heaven.

* We may be discouraged that the promotion and raise went to someone else, but we've got treasures waiting in heaven.

It's all in how you approach life. Is this world the most important thing? The thing that is going to dictate your emotions and feelings? Or are you a citizen of the kingdom of God?

A Safeguard For You

Paul didn't just repeat himself because he wanted us to keep our chins up, or because he wants us to keep our blood pressure down. He repeated the command because rejoicing in the Lord is a safeguard for us. It is protection, a shield. Against what? Against what we should always beware of, as he warns them in verse two.

3:2 Beware

All of that dead, legalistic religion that we spent months talking about in our study of Galatians is what we need to beware of.

Those who want to convince us that salvation is not as free as it seems. That we must believe in Christ AND do something else. We must believe in Christ and wear certain clothes to come to church. We must believe in Christ and make sure that we're in church on a certain day of the week. That we must believe in Christ and speak in tongues. That we must believe in Christ and follow certain rules, regulations, and rituals.

People like this want to tie us up in religion - but beware: have no part of it. We are saved by the grace of God. Our sin is forgiven at the cross. As long as we are in close relationship with Jesus Christ, then we have no need to worry that our righteousness is somehow falling short.

The neat thing is that if we are rejoicing in the Lord, we will be safeguarded against that kind of religious oppression. You see, I've never met a happy legalist in my life. They are too busy judging others and co-miserating among themselves to have any kind of joy in their salvation. If you're busy rejoicing in Christ, you won't be sucked into the false doctrines and opinions that He is dictatorially insisting on your observance of religion.

3:3 The True Circumcision

Paul had said, "Beware of the circumcision." That is what he called those Judaizers that tried to convince Gentile Christians that they had to be circumcised and follow the Law in order to be saved. But he says that they don't even understand the true nature of circumcision. He says, "We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit and put no confidence in the flesh."

Hearing this would drive most religious people crazy, because they cannot understand or even imagine the true nature of grace.

Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

The "circumcision," those people who are trusting in their works to prove themselves righteous, are really nullifying the cross by believing that. They are in effect saying that the crucifixion of Jesus wasn't enough to give me salvation.

They cannot understand that I don't have rules in my life that dictate my actions. I don't have a set of regulations that I adhere to. I just have a close relationship to God, and I pray about things before I decide to do them. No one tells me the words to pray, and no one tells me how to dress for church. I just read my Bible, let God speak to me, have fun with other Christians, and rejoice in my salvation. That is what a real Christian does.

That is the true circumcision - the circumcisions not of the outward body part, but the inward heart. Even the Law commanded this (Deut. 10:16; 30:6). Jeremiah spoke to the people, saying

Jer. 4:4 "Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My wrath go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds."

Paul insists, "We are the true circumcision, who simply worship in the Spirit, glory in Christ, and don't trust anything that we do can make us righteous before God."

3:4-7 Counted As Loss

Make no mistake about it, Paul could have driven circles around any religious person. Remember the life that he came from: ultra-religious Jew, having followed all the Law. Higher than most legalists, he was a Pharisee - super conservative, orthodox, fundamental, knew the Scriptures, jumped through all the religious hoops. But what value did any of that have? None at all.

He says that when he came to Christ, it was all put behind him. He says that all of those "benefits" as far as religion was concerned were "counted as loss."

As a Christian, he no longer had any need for religion - it was unnecessary. All he needed to do was realize that his sins were forgiven, worship God for giving him that grace, and walk closely with His Savior. He counted everything else as loss, completely worthless.

3:8-11 All I Want Is Jesus

Not only were these things counted as loss, but Paul gets more extreme here, saying that they are counted as "rubbish." The Greek word "SKOO-bal-on" he uses here literally means "dung."

Now, don't misunderstand this or take it too far to the other side. Remember that we can commit error on both sides of this fence. The first mistake to warn against is saying, "Grace isn't enough. You've got to do these righteous works." But the other mistake is in the other direction, saying, "Grace is enough. You don't have to live righteously."

True, religious systems have no value in the church of Jesus Christ. The only thing we need to be concerned with is being found in Jesus. But being found in Jesus does mean that we are living righteously. That means we are busy:

* praying to Him

* walking with Him

* being pleasing to Him

* having faith in Him

* knowing Him

There is no need for dead religion, for if we are found in Christ, we are living righteously. Are you walking in the power of His resurrection, living and walking in that newness of life? Are you being conformed to His death? You may ask, "What does that mean?" Paul elaborated on this in Romans 6.

Rom. 6:3-11 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with {Him} in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also {in the likeness} of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with {Him,} that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Being conformed to the death of Christ means walking in newness of life, not allowing sin to reign in your life any longer. So again, we have the same balancing act we learned of in Galatians: don't be caught in religion, but don't be caught up in sin either. Simply live as close to Jesus as you possibly can, and you'll never have cause to doubt that you too will attain to the resurrection of the dead.

Go to next study

Go to previous study