The Bible says in Philippians 3:2, Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. This is a three-fold warning for Christian congregations to beware of unbelievers inappropriately getting into their midst. Of course, we want to show love to the unbelievers of the world as we present them the gospel, but we need to remember that there are certain deceitful unbelievers who will try to come into a congregation of believers and do deceitful things. The unbelievers to beware of are called dogs, evil workers, and the concision. They are called dogs because when they come into a community they bring danger and disease. They are in a place where they do not belong. The only people who belong as members of a congregation are those who have repented of their sins and turned to Jesus Christ. Visitors are always welcome, but for the best interest of everyone, members should only be received who are known by their personal statement of faith and by their manner of life to be followers of Christ. It takes some time to know someone to this degree.
You would not want to receive someone who spiritually speaking is a dog, a scavenger, someone who does not belong. You would not want to receive an evil worker, someone who by their life prove that they are not a follower of Christ. And you would not want to receive a false teacher. That is what is meant by the concision. This is the only place in the Bible where this word is used. It literally means mutilation, and to fully understand what is being said, the next verse must be looked at.
Philippians 3:3 says, For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Most things in the world that are physical and material have a spiritual significance or symbolism to them. If you really understand life, then you understand the spiritual significance of what you are looking at. Circumcision was given by God in the Old Testament to Abraham as a symbol. The foreskin of males was cut away, and this signified the taking away of sin out of someones life in order for them to become rightly related to God. The real problem of man is the sin problem. If you take care of the sin problem, then everything else will fall into place. Thats why repentance from sin is so important. Jesus came into the world to die for the sins of the world. If you repent, you can find forgiveness and enter into the victory that Jesus purchased on the cross of Calvary. Jesus said, Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
In contrast to the true spiritual meaning of circumcision, Paul told believers to beware of the concision, the mutilation. Beware of those who will mutilate the gospel. Beware of false teachers. Beware of those who do not understand the spiritual significance of forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ. If they do not get that right, then everything else is of little importance. False teachers are those who do not understand the gospel and do not teach the truth of the gospel. If a religious teacher does not teach the truth of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then such a person is giving people a false hope and leading them the wrong way.
All false religion in the world has at least one common element: the teaching that salvation can be earned by the actions of man and the efforts of man. Paul will spend several of the next verses explaining why this just is not so. Here in Philippians 3:3 Paul says three things to explain what spiritual circumcision is. He says three things to emphasize the basis of salvation. He said that we worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Paul said, We worship God in the spirit. He learned this from Jesus. Jesus said, God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. This is an extremely important principle if you are going to understand and be involved in the true worship of God. When Jesus said this in John chapter 4, He was talking to a woman of Samaria. The woman was of the religion of Samaria, different from the Jews. Like many people still believe, this woman thought that one had to go to a certain place and a certain building in order to worship God. The woman said to Jesus in John 4:20, Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Beware of those who associate the true worship of God with being in a certain building or being a part of a particular organization.
The full answer that Jesus gave is recorded in the Bible in John 4:21-24. It says, Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship you know not what. We know what we worship for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Unless you worship God in spirit and in truth, all the things that you may do in regards to organized religion is in vain. False religion will emphasize the external and human requirements of organized religion, having no appreciation for or knowledge of what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth.
That is exactly what had happened to Judaism in the first century. These unspiritual Judaizers would come into the midst of the early Christians and would try to emphasize the keeping of the law including circumcision. Circumcision literally involves the flesh of a human being. The flesh is symbolic of human effort and the selfish human will. The problem with that is the fact that man can never attain to the righteousness of God by his own efforts. Rom. 3:23 says, For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Those who have experienced salvation through faith in Christ Jesus understand the three things that Paul said in Philippians 3:3. We worship God in the spirit. We rejoice in Christ Jesus. We have no confidence in the flesh. We rejoice in Christ Jesus because He is our salvation. We know that Jesus paid it all. We honor Jesus and uplift His name because of all that He did for us on the cross of Calvary, and all that He did for us to reach our hearts when we were lost in the darkness of sin. We have no confidence in the flesh because we are well aware of our own sinful natures, and we know that our hope of heaven is completely in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross.
Paul points out in the next several verses the fact that before he was converted to Christ, Paul himself was involved in religion from the standpoint of human effort. From his own life Paul was very well aware of the difference between trusting in ones own religious efforts and trusting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:4-6, Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he has whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more. Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Some people are very religious from a human standpoint, but there is such a thing as being religious but lost. That was Pauls condition until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Any person who trusts in their own efforts or in their own religious dedication should listen very carefully to what Paul has to say. Any Christian who is a believer in Jesus should listen very carefully also. Remember that Paul is on this subject because of the warning that he gave concerning false teachers who will try to get into the midst of Christian congregations. The false teachers will teach law instead of grace. The false teachers will emphasize human effort instead of salvation by grace through faith. The false teachers will attempt to put heavy burdens and guilt upon people. They will emphasize law. They will be self-righteous and brag about their own good deeds and accomplishments. They rejoice in themselves instead of rejoicing in Christ Jesus.
When Paul referred to his former life in organized religion, he said, Concerning zeal, persecuting the church. Religious zeal without knowledge is a dangerous thing. If someone is inspired to zeal, but they have not been instructed in the right way to channel their zeal, then negative consequences will result. One of the reasons that organized religion has been involved in some of the great atrocities of human history is because of this very thing that once had afflicted Paul, having religious zeal without knowledge.
True religion is faith in Christ. Its knowing Christ personally. True religion is not a church building. True religion is not organized religion. True religion is knowing Jesus Christ. All other religion is false or incomplete. Paul said in Philippians 3:7-9, But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
Paul said, But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Some people think that getting saved is an easy thing to do. After all, one only needs to believe. In reality for a person to get saved and to believe with saving faith, something must go on within their hearts that results in a dramatic change. The disciples left their nets and followed Him. II Corinthians 5:17 says, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. Salvation is easy to understand because anyone can be saved. Even a child can understand what needs to be known in order to be saved. But in addition to what needs to be known, there must be a major decision that ends up changing the path that one takes in life. If you have not made this kind of decision, then you have not believed for salvation. Paul described his decision by saying, What things were gain for me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Paul went from speaking of the past concerning what he gave up for Christ to speaking of the present. Some people at one time gave what they needed to give up in their hearts in order to come to know Christ. But for finite man there is always more to know about the infinite God. No matter what you have come to know about the Christ or to experience about Him, there are always greater blessings and greater revelations possible for you. Paul knew this. He called it the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. An old gospel hymn was written, understanding this principle of the possibility of an ever increasing knowledge of the Christ. Listen to the lines:
More about Jesus would I know, more of His grace to others show.
More of His saving fullness see, more of His love who died for me.
More about Jesus let me learn, more of His holy will discern.
Spirit of God my teacher be, showing the things of Christ to me.
More about Jesus; in His Word, holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in every line, making each faithful saying mine.
More about Jesus on His throne, riches in glory all His own.
More of His kingdoms sure increase; More of His coming, Prince
If you are blessed of God, you will understand and you will value just as the Apostle Paul did the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, and you will also count all things but loss in order to gain more of that knowledge. Three times in Philippians 3:7-8 Paul said that all things he counted as loss. What is it that can keep you and me from increasing in the knowledge of Christ? Things, the love of things and an over-involvement in things, will keep us from increasing in the knowledge of Christ. It comes down to what we love and we want the most. Thats why the Apostle John said, My little children, keep yourselves from idols.
There are many wonderful benefits to being a Christian. One of the greatest is the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.
Copyright; 2001 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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