Beware of false Teachers: 3:1-3.
Those who put confidence in the flesh confuses the message of the gospel of grace. Paul here deals with the subject of legalism by warning believers to safeguard their faith from false teachers. He considered it important in his ministry and never got tired of warning believers. Paul exhorts believers to be joyful in all circumstances. The sphere of our joy is Lord Jesus Christ and his great salvation. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). God the Father planned it, the Son accomplished it and the Holy Spirit is applying it. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our salvation (Heb 12:2). The false teachers taught that for salvation we must believe in Christ but also keep the law. They stressed that circumcision was necessary for salvation (3:2). The issue is, whether Jesus is sufficient for our salvation or not. When Christ died on the cross he said "It is finished".. He paid the price for our redemption on the cross (Eph 1:7). Paul calls the false teachers "dog". They do not promote the person and the work of Christ. "Mutilators of the flesh" is a reference to false teachers who teach that circumcision is necessary for salvation. These false teachers mix work with grace. Anything added to the gospel will corrupt the gospel of grace. Circumcision has no spiritual merit in itself and was intended to point to the circumcision of hearts (Deuteronomy 30:6). Paul says “We who worship God by Spirit are the one who are truly circumcised and we have no confidence in the flesh” (3:3). Nothing good dwells in our flesh and our flesh is always flesh and corrupt (Rom 7:18). The Pharisees centered their religion entirely on dos and don’ts for righteousness. They boasted in their accomplishments. The Christian life should not be reduced to a system of dos and don’ts. Those who are under the control of sinful flesh cannot please God (Rom 8:8).
Personal Merits in the flesh will not Save: 3:4-6.
Paul had more things to boast in the flesh than anyone else. He lists his human qualifications and achievements in this chapter (3:4-6). Paul belongs to the covenant race of Israel and was circumcised on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:3). He is from the tribe of Benjamin that gave Israel their first king. He did not belong to the ten lost tribes. They lost their birth records when the temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. He was a full-blooded Hebrew who continued in the Hebrew customs and spoke the Hebrew language. He was educated under Gamaliel, the renowned Pharisee. Paul belongs to the sect of Pharisee. He says he observed the fine prints of the Law and is blameless (3:4-6). He was the Jewish ring leader that persecuted the church relentlessly (Acts 9:1-2). Paul was extremely zealous in his ancestral traditions (Gal 1:14). If salvation was based on personal merits Paul was the most qualified person to be saved. Paul’s example shows that people are not saved by personal merits or by sincerity. Only faith in Jesus Christ saves sinners. Paul says “Whatever things were gain, now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done“(3:7). His encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road has made the difference. He became a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17).
Salvation is only by Grace through Faith in Christ: 3:7-9.
The False teachers taught Philippians that it was necessary to keep the regulations of the Mosaic Law to get right with God. Christ alone met all the demands of the law. Paul followed Christ with no reservation, no retreat and no regrets. He was willing to suffer the loss of all things because of what he found in Christ. For him the greatest gain was to have the right relationship with God through Christ. No one can come to this relationship unless he realizes that he is a sinner and trusts in Christ. Paul found his righteousness through faith in Christ. Self-righteousness is worthless and it is opposite to righteousness which is in Christ. God’s righteousness is not obtained through good work but through faith in Jesus Christ. Christ alone paid the penalty of our sins (Rom 3:24-26). He is our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30). When Paul found Jesus Christ, he counted all his accomplishments as rubbish (3:8). In Christ he found his righteousness, the forgiveness of sin and acceptance before God. Christ has become the object of his hope and ground of his confidence. "Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and his righteousness". True satisfaction comes only in Christ.
Paul desires a fuller and richer knowledge of Christ: 3:10-11.
Salvation is only the beginning and not the end. Paul did not want to remain in a spiritual infancy but wants to know Christ intimately. Unfortunately many believers never grow to spiritual maturity (Heb 5:12; 1 Pet 2:1-2). Paul wanted to know Christ and experience the resurrection power in his life and ministry. Such power comes from the Holy Spirit (Act 1:8; Ephesians 1:19-20). This is essential for victorious Christian living. Paul want suffer with Christ so that he may be conformed to his death. Believers are dead with Christ and made alive to live in the newness of life (Rom 6:4; 8:29). The Christians are saved to know Christ and to make him known. This happens only when they experience the mighty power that raised Christ from the dead in their daily life (Rom 6:4-5). Knowing Christ is knowing God. Paul desires that he will experience physical resurrection when Christ returns to enjoy richer and fuller fellowship with him (1 Thess 4:16-17). This is Christian's blessed hope.There is nothing on earth that compares to the satisfaction of truly knowing Christ.
Paul’s Goal and Purpose of life: 3:12-16.
Though Paul made great spiritual progress, he has never reached perfection. He wanted to know Christ and follow him. The conversion is instantaneous but Christian life is a walk over life time. Sanctification is a life long process. Paul was walking with the Lord for over twenty years yet he is not perfect. He still struggles in his flesh (Rom 7:18). He was pressing on to perfection like a runner pressing toward his goal. Being perfect is not at all natural for us. It does not mean flawless but perfect in the sense of being put to use for the purpose it was made. Jesus wants us to become useful for him. This can happen only when we allow Christ to live his life through us. Then we manifest his moral character increasingly. In this life, we will never fully achieve the moral perfection but that is the goal of salvation. Here perfection means spiritual maturity. Someone has said "spiritual maturity is knowing what we are not as much as knowing what we are" Only in heaven believers will reach the goal of absolute perfection. Paul says "I have not achieved perfection yet, but press on to posses that perfection". Paul had no time to waste dwelling on his past failures. It is good to learn from past failures. Paul made it a practice to forget the past failures and made every effort to live for Christ. He was intensely pursuing the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14). It was a call to be like Christ. It is a call from heaven and a call to heaven. Many Christians experience defeat by dwelling on their past failures and not fulfilling their high calling. There are three stages of perfection. First, there is a position perfection called justification (Col 2:10; Heb 10:14). Secondly, there is progressive perfection called sanctification (Gal 3:3; Ephesians 4:11-12). Thirdly, there is an ultimate perfection called glorification (1 John 3:1-2). Paul exhorts believers to strive for spiritual maturity by fixing their mind on Christ and keep moving to the goal of perfection (Heb 6:1;12:1).
Mark those who do not follow Christ: 3:17-19.
Paul addresses believers by the title “brethren”. It was the common word used by the first century Christians for believers. They belong to the family of God. Paul wants them to fellow his example. Christ is our ultimate example
(1 Pet 2:21). In Christian life focus is everything. If we take our eyes of the Lord, we will be discouraged. Paul is pressing toward the finish life. Someone has said "If the present fight with the past, there is no future". It is good to take special note of those who follow Christ faithfully. Paul weeps over those who do not follow Christ. He had warned believers repeatedly about erring Christians. Their conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They confess Christ with their lips but deny him with their lives. They may accept Jesus as a moral teacher but refuse to receive him as their Lord and Savior. They preach Christian liberty but live in sin. They show religious piety but deny the power of God that transforms lives. They live to gratify their fleshly desires (3:18). They glory in their shameful conduct and boast about it. They set their mind on earthly things (3:19). Paul says that their end is destruction and eternal separation from God (2 Thess 1:9). This is the destiny of all those who are not saved by the gospel. Paul wants believers to focus on Christ and what he has accomplished for them on the cross (1 Cor 2:2). We must not be enslaved by our natural appetite for the pleasures of this world. Only Christ can change our hearts and empower us to have victory over sin.
Our Citizenship is in Heaven: 3:20-21.
Paul wants to renew believer's in their passion for heaven. They are the citizens of heaven. Paul wants believers to know that they should not be conformed to the world. Someone has said "Our upward call is not for a fantasy land" (1:6,10, 23). They should seek the things above and not on the things on the earth (Col 3:1). We cannot know about heaven apart from biblical revelation. "We are not of this world , we just passing through". Heaven is our eternal home. Our names are written in heaven. Our inheritance is in heaven. Our rewards are in heaven. We are seated with Christ in heaven. These thoughts must impact our life on earth. Do we live today in light of eternity and heaven? It does not mean we should become indifferent toward real life issues. We are not called to live in isolation. Nothing should get in our way to our desire for heaven. We are told that heaven is a place of indescribable beauty and wonder. Jesus said to the repented thief on the cross “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). There is no purgatory or waiting period prior to reaching heaven (2 Cor 5:8). It is a prepared placed for prepared people (John 14:1-3). Our blessed hope is the return of Christ. This should encourage us to live a holy life. Someone has said “Church is a colony of heaven where believers shares heaven’s glory and honor now”. The greatest event in a Roman colony was the visit of the emperor. Our blessed hope is the return of Jesus Christ. It is the purifying, comforting and encouraging hope
(1 John 3:1-3; 1 Thess 4:18; 1 Cor 15:58). When Christ returns, he shall change our mortal bodies into glorious bodies (3:21). This body is corrupted by sin (Rom 5:12). Our body now experiences degenerative process which results in death. When Christ returns, we will take our weak bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own (1 Cor 15:52). Our mortal body shall put on immortality (1 Cor 15:54). He does that by using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control (3:21). What an incentive to live for Christ with eager anticipation of his return! Someone has said "Christian is the one who lives for the future in the present". Do you live in anticipation of Christ's return? Pray that our trials should not discourage us but would draw us into a closer relationship with Christ.