LESSON PLAN 5 - Phil. 3:1-14, 17-21 - FOLLOWING THE "RIGHT" WAY
LAST WEEK: In Phil. 2:12-20, Paul gave us solid instructions on how, as a body of Christian believers, we should be "working out our salvation," not in eternity, but in our present, earthly lives. In vv. 12-16, he explained that when God saves us, He also "works in" us to both inspire and equips us with the ability to accomplish His purposes on this world right now. He also commands us to do this work without complaining or arguing while holding firmly to the "word of life"-the gospel message-so that we will be bright lights in a dark world. In vv. 17 and 18, Paul described his life in the gospel ministry as being "poured-out" as a "sacrifice, " which, applied to you and me, means that we should likewise be pouring out our lives by devoting much of our free time to Christian work and making a sacrifices with the creative efforts and personal resources we put into it. Finally, in vv. 19-30, he described his relationship with Timothy as a great example of personal mentoring and commended Epahroditus as an example of how we should communicate praise for deserving church members.
THIS WEEK: In Phil. 3:1-14 and 17-21, we will hear Paul issue warnings to the Philippians about the danger of allowing false teachings to creep into the church from people like the Judaizers and self-seeking Christian leaders. To establish his point, he explains his own background and education as a religious Jew and his role as an early persecutor of the church and how all of that learning became completely pointless and worthless after he learned that only faith in Jesus Christ can save anyone. In the latter part of this chapter, Paul explains the right attitude Christians should have about the process of sanctification, which is the lifelong path of becoming more and more like Jesus.
Read Phil. 3:1-3 - WARNING AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS
1 Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and take pride in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh,
v. 1a: Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you" - The word "Finally" marks a transition to a new section of the letter before Paul draws it to a conclusion in Chapter 4. The exhortation, "rejoice in the Lord," is really an introduction to the theme of the entire chapter: how to make our relationship with Jesus Christ and our service to Him in the church a source of great personal joy.
v. 1b: "To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you" - Here, Paul tells them that he will be reiterating some of the spiritual principles covered in Chapters 1 and 2.
v. 2: "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision" - Paul uses very strong words to identify certain types of spiritual predators that attack churches:
• "dogs" - In the ancient world dogs were generally seen as unwanted scavengers and was also term that Jews used for unclean Gentiles. In today's context they are spiritual predators who mislead and take advantage of church members for selfish purposes or sometimes, simply for the fun of it.
• "Evil workers" and "false circumcision" both refer to false teachers who distort the true meaning of the gospel. These are self-righteous and self-seeking people who delight in causing divisions and chaos that can literally tear a church to pieces. Think of them as wolves in sheep's clothing.
v. 3: "for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and take pride in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh " - Here, Paul is more specific. Acts 15 reports the story of the "circumcision party," also known as the "Judaizers." They were Christian Jews who claimed that a person was required to keep the Mosaic Law, and in the case of males, be circumcised in order to be saved. The Jerusalem Council, reported in the same chapter, completely invalidated the Judaizer's claims, ruling that salvation was by faith alone. Instead of this pointless legalism, Paul explicitly states that followers of Jesus are the "true circumcision," recognizable by the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives rather than a superfluous physical mark that reflects "confidence in the flesh."
APPLICATION 1: Any reliance on human worth or works for salvation is "counterfeit" Christianity. True Christian believers must rid themselves of all reliance on human merit and instead, trust in Christ alone for salvation. True Christianity relies totally on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Read Phil. 3:4-6 - PAUL'S CREDENTIALS AS A "HEBREW OF HEBREWS"
4 although I myself could boast as having confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he is confident in the flesh, I have more reason: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
v. 4: "although I myself could boast as having confidence even in the flesh. If anyone
else thinks he is confident in the flesh, I have more reason:" - When Paul speaks of "confidence in the flesh" he's talking about the promise of salvation a man could earn by adhering to Jewish Law, that is, being circumcised. In this verse, Paul challenges anyone who claimed to have more expertise than him.
v. 5: "circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee" - Now Paul's lists his Jewish pedigree:
• He was "circumcised the eighth day" in accordance with Lev. 12:3. God instituted circumcision as part of the covenant He made with Abraham as a token between God and him which would also be required of all his descendants (Gen. 17:6-8).
• He was "of the nation of Israel," that he was of Jewish descent by birth (i.e., pure-blooded).
• He was "of the tribe of Benjamin," descendants of the youngest son of Jacob who were allotted a territory just north of Judah that was on the trade route into Jerusalem.
• He was a "Hebrew of Hebrews," by which Paul claims to be a Hebrew born of two Hebrew parents and schooled in both the Aramaic and ancient Hebrew languages.
• He was "concerning the law, a Pharisee," who were a prominent religious party in those times known both for their strict observance of the Law and their expertise in interpreting the Law. We also know that Paul had been a pupil of Gamaliel, the foremost rabbinic scholar of that era (see, Acts 22).
v. 6a: "as to zeal, a persecutor of the church" - Saul of Tarsus (Paul's Hebrew name) is known to have been an early persecutor of the Christian church (Acts 7:58; 8:1-3; 9:1-2) and his extreme loathing of Christians was a direct outgrowth of his Pharisee zealousness.
v. 6b: "as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless" - While Paul isn't specific about the meaning of "blameless," he probably referring to faithful observance of dietary laws, the Sabbath, and holy days. Of course, he's alluding to his former definition of "blameless" prior to meeting the risen Christ on the Road to Damascus in Acts 9.
Read Phil. 3:7-11 - THESE THINGS I HAVE COUNTED AS LOSS BECAUSE OF CHRIST
7 But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 if somehow I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
v. 7: "But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ" - To paraphrase, Paul is saying that Christ turned his world upside-down. The things that he had coveted-his Jewish identity, his Pharisee zeal-now seemed worthless to him. And the thing he most despised to point of persecution and even murder-claims of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus-had become the most valuable part of his life, and his former associates are now the "evil workers." This is how God works: He uses His power to reverse the world as He did when He resurrected Jesus.
v. 8a-c: "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish" - Paul connects this verse with v. 7 for to place even more emphasis on the upheaval in his life caused by his conversion in terms of his feelings, like falling out of love with one thing and falling in love with something else totally different. So, Paul is saying that after meeting the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and experiencing His grace first-hand, it caused an enormous and all-encompassing emotional flip-flop that forced him to re-assess everything in his life in terms of what was important and what was not. Experiencing the love of Christ made everything he valued as a Pharisee of Pharisee seem like "mere rubbish"-something you would now throw out with the trash.
v. 8d: "so that I may gain Christ" - Paul now switches from his "loss" to his "gain." All of the things he lost were nothing-I mean ZERO-compared to his gain-the priceless gift t of eternal life.
APPLICATION 2: Christian believers don't cling to any idea of their own goodness. Real Christian believers should consider all human merit to be "mere rubbish" compared to the salvation we received by faith in Jesus Christ. True Christianity demands that we see the utter worthlessness of our earthly status or works so we that we will give up all our confidence and trust in such things.
v. 9: "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" - The "in Him" (i.e., in Christ) is one Paul's most often used expressions. Being "in Christ" involves an all-enveloping relationship with Him in which we receive justification (i.e., are made righteous) as a free gift rather than an achievement, so that all people who are "in Him" are equal at the foot of the cross
where there is no distinction for gender, station in life, or anything else.
v. 10: "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" - For Paul, knowing Christ is much more than what some call "head knowledge"; it's "heart knowledge," which is a type of multi-layered knowledge a mother feels for a child which combines emotions and intellect to the edge of their limits. This is the kind of knowing that Paul applies here: He wants to know Christ to the fullest extent of his ability to know anything. He wants to know the "power of His resurrection"-how His victory over death is also out victory. He wants to the know the "fellowship of His suffering"-that is, to truly understand the hardships of Jesus life on earth as well as the agony He bore on the cross. When he says "being conformed to His death," he is talking about his life taking on the form of the crucified Christ. We should understand that Paul wasn't actively seeking death but identified with the crucified Christ when he said, "I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith" (2:17 last week).
v. 11: "if somehow I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" - Here, Paul means that he intends to live a life conformed to Christ's death, and if necessary, die a death conformed to Christ's death so that he might also be conformed to Christ's resurrection. He was willing to go the full mile.
APPLICATION 3: The goal of the Christian life is to know Christ. Christianity isn't a "religion" of philosophies, rules, or rituals that we must keep working on in order to be earn our way into heaven. Christianity is a growing, personal relationship with the risen Christ. Therefore, our number one goal should be is to know Him so that we can grow to become more and more like Him.
Read Philippians 3:12-14 - I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL
12 Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
v. 12a: "Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect" - The things Paul hasn't yet grasped are those listed in vv. 10-11: the power of the resurrection, the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, and being conformed to Christ's death. Like all other deceased Christians, Paul's process won't be completed until the all the dead in Christ are resurrected (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Though not "perfect," Paul's
faith journey has not reached its final destination, yet, he knows his destination.
v. 12b: "but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus" - The verb "press on" (Gk. diako) literally means hot pursuit after something, in Paul's case, his relentless and unceasing effort to expand God's kingdom on earth. What Paul accomplished in three missionary journeys is probably the greatest human achievement in history
v. 13: "Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead" - Paul reiterates that he hasn't yet hasn't taken hold of all the knowledge of Christ he referred to in vv. 8-11. As to "forgetting what lies behind," Paul doesn't rest on what he accomplished yesterday or anything he did before in the past but is "reaching forward to what lies ahead," which literally pictures runner in a race leaning forward, straining towards the finish line.
v. 14: "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" - Paul's not only stretching towards the goal, he's not slowing but keeps up his pace because he's running to win. And at all times while he's running, he keeps his eyes focused on the prize-"the upward call."
APPLICATION 4: To grow as a Christian, you've got to be in the race. This might seem obvious to you, however, there are lots of people who are trying to run a race that they've never entered! They try to live a good life and they do the things that Christians are supposed to do, but they have never truly given their life to Jesus Christ, in other words, they haven't "qualified" to run the race.
Read Phil. 3:17-21 - BE IMITATORS OF ME!
17 Brothers and sisters, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
v. 17: "Brothers and sisters, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us" - This verse is very important. Paul conformed his life in every way possible to be like Christ. This is the source of his trustworthiness: Paul imitates Christ; therefore, he is a trustworthy example that all Christian believers can follow with confidence.
vv. 18-19: "For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things" - The "many" Pauls speaks of who are "enemies of the cross" isn't a reference to people in the Philippian church but possibly to the "dogs, evil workers, and false circumcision" mentioned earlier in v. 2., but whoever they are, their goal is "destruction" of church congregations like these Philippians. The expression "whose god is their appetite," refers to people who are obsessed with things like sex, money, and power. Their "glory is in their shame" because they a proud of the sins they commit. When a person's minds is focused on "earthly things"-alcohol, drugs, sex, money, power, etc.-it's because they mistakenly believe that these things can bring them happiness or security, and they like to share their corruption and entice-e,g., party-people into their sinful lifestyles.
v. 20: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" - This is about our eternal perspective: in order to share Paul's mindset, we really need to view this world as a temporary dwelling, and we should regard our citizenship in heaven as vastly more important than this earthly existence. What's more, our heavenly citizenship places affirmative obligations on us as well as privileges-to worship God by actively serving Him NOW, to be living-out our earthly lives in a way that bears witness to God's saving grace NOW, and to actively and positively by demonstrating that love to our neighbors (and even our enemies) NOW. Doing all of this so that we will be the "lights" in a dark world that Paul explained to us last week in 2:15.
v. 21: "who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" - As Christians, we must acknowledge that Christ begins this transformation as soon as we first start our walk with Him. We need to recognize and emulate mature Christian examples of people we know for the steadfastness of their Christian walk, the depth of their faith, and the moral purity with which they live their lives. All of us should be preparing-becoming more and more Christ-like-as we await the final transformation that will conform our ordinary, earthly bodies to Christ's glorious body.
APPLICATION 5: Your heavenly citizenship should affect how you live NOW. The word "walk" Paul used in vv. 17-18 depicts two ways of life, one that is right, the other that is wrong. As citizens of heaven, our lives should not be conformed to earthly things-e.g., materialism, entertainment, social status, etc.-but lived-out in observable ways that bears witness to God's saving grace NOW and demonstrates Christian love toward others as "lights" in the dark world we live in NOW.
PRAYER: Dear God in heaven, I thank you again for allowing us to freely gather together and learn from the truth of Your Word. As we studied these divinely-inspired words of the apostle Paul this morning, he sets a very, very high bar for us. He tells us to follow his example according the pattern you have put in us-the very image of Jesus Christ. And not only that, he tells to emulate the examples of other mature Christians we see in this church and elsewhere. And Father, I am glad to say we are truly blessed to have quite a few of them in our midst. So, Lord, I ask for myself and every other person here this morning, that you will help us live out our lives in observable ways that bear witness to God's saving grace NOW. In the almighty name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray, AMEN.