Paul opens chapter three with an overt call to rejoice in the Lord. This is going to be one of the primary themes that we see throughout the next two chapters. Paul is going to call us and the Philippine believers to rejoice in the Lord – again and again. And at the outset of this chapter, it’s important for us to know why.

Paul has a kingdom perspective in all aspects of his life. In this letter, he is looking at his own life and the Philippians’ lives in the long view – from the perspective of eternity. He is looking forward to the coming Kingdom of God (we will see where he does this shortly), to Christ glorified and sin finally eradicated, and in this light he calls the believers to rejoice. Let’s keep this in mind as we study verse-by-verse through what he says next.

What is Paul’s warning to the believers in verses 2-4? Who do you think he is warning them to be on guard against?

Paul is giving the believers a head up: there are those who are prowling among you like dogs. They are evil, seeking to mutilate the flesh. This phrase “mutilators of the flesh” refers to Jewish believers who insisted that Gentile Christians practice the Old Testament Law in order to come to Christ. They were Jewish Christians who wanted non-Jewish Christians to be circumcised according to their tradition in order to be a part of the community of believers.

Why do you think Paul refers to them this way?

Paul is using a rather graphic name – note that this is what he calls them, not just how he describes them! – to point out the error of their ways! This group of Jewish believers got one thing right: Christ came to fulfill the Law of God. But they completely missed the grace of the new covenant: we are no longer under the yoke of the old law, but take on the new yoke of Christ. It is easy, and it is light.

Why do you think Paul concludes this warning the way he does in verse 4?

Paul knows what its like to be a zealous Jew, rigorously defending his faith against those who follow Christ. And Paul is pointing out what is at the root of the Jewish Christian’s demand that Gentile Christians be circumcised: confidence in the flesh.

Tomorrow, we’re going to look at the many ways Paul could put his confidence of salvation in the flesh, but for today, let’s reflect on our own.

Are there ways you have put the confidence of your salvation in the flesh?

Is there something that you do – tithing, serving, teaching the Bible, etc. – that you comfort yourself with when your confidence in your own salvation wanes?

Is there something you have sacrificed – a career, finances, comforts, etc. – that you remind yourself of when you fear God will reject you?

Is there an identity you have taken on – that of a mother, teacher, pastor, minister, etc. – that you soothe yourself with when you find yourself in a season of doubt?

If we in any way turn to ourselves when we loose confidence in our salvation we, too, have placed our confidence in the flesh. And, friends, there is nothing you could have done, said, been, or accomplished that could make God pleased with you. You cannot save yourself. But … glory to God it has been done on your behalf.


Thank God that you cannot save yourself. Ask Him to forgive any ways you have put confidence in your flesh, and ask Him to help you to trust Him and Him alone for your salvation.

Author: amygannett

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