Beware of false Teachers:
(Read Philippians 3:1-3)
Paul here deals with the subject of legalism. He warned believers to safeguard them from false teachers. He 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. The false teachers taught that in order to get saved one must believe in Christ but also keep the law. They stressed that circumcision was necessary for salvation (Philippians 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 (Ephesians 1:7). Paul calls the false teachers "dogs". 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 grace with work. Anything added to the gospel will corrupt the gospel of grace. Circumcision has no spiritual merit in itself. It points to the circumcision of hearts of believers (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” (Philippians 3:3). Our flesh is always sinful and corrupt (Romans 7:18). The Pharisees centered their religion entirely on dos and don’t. They were boasting about their religion and 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 (Romans 8:8).
Personal Merits in the flesh will not Save:
(Read Philippians 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 (Philippians 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. The ten tribes 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 (Philippians 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 (Galatians 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 considered all his merits worthless because of what Christ has done (Philippians 3:7). His encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road has made the difference. He became a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Salvation is only by Grace through Faith in Christ:
(Read Philippians 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. He followed Christ with no reservation. He was willing to suffer the loss of all things for 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. We are not made righteous through good works but by faith in Jesus Christ. Christ alone has paid the penalty of our sins (Romans 3:24-26). Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. He is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). When Paul found Jesus Christ, he counted all his accomplishments as rubbish (Philippians 3:8). In Christ he found his righteousness, the forgiveness of sin and acceptance before God. The songwriter wrote "Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and his righteousness".
Paul desires a fuller and richer knowledge of Christ:
(Read Philippians 3:10-11)
When we believe Christ, salvation is only the beginning and not the end. Paul did not want to remain in a spiritual infancy. He wants to know Christ intimately. Unfortunately many believers do not grow spiritually (Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:1-2). Paul wanted to know Christ and experience His resurrection power (Acts 1:8; Ephesians 1:19-20). This is essential for victorious Christian living. Paul desired to suffer for 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 (Romans 6:4; 8:29). The purpose of Christians life is to know Christ and also to make him known. This happens only when they experience His resurrection power in their daily life (Romans 6:4-5). Knowing Christ is knowing God. Paul desires that he would experience physical resurrection when Christ returns. He is confident that he will enjoy richer and fuller fellowship with Christ at that time
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This is Christian's blessed hope. There is nothing compared to the satisfaction of knowing Christ.
Paul’s Goal and Purpose of life:
(Read Philippians 3:12-16)
Though Paul made great spiritual progress, he has never reached perfection. His conversion was sudden but his spiritual growth is a lifelong process. Sanctification is a lifelong process in Christian life. Paul was walking with the Lord for over twenty years yet he is not perfect. He still struggles in his flesh (Romans 7:18). He was pressing on to perfection like a runner pressing toward his goal. Being perfect is not natural for us. Perfect does not mean flawless but useful for the purpose it is 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 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 possess 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'' (Philippians 3:14). It was a call to be like Christ. It is a call from heaven to heaven. Many Christians experience defeat by dwelling on their past failures and not following their high calling. There are three stages of perfection. First, there is a positional perfection called justification (Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 10:14). Secondly, there is progressive perfection called sanctification (Galatians 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 (Hebrews 6:1;12:1).
Mark those who do not follow Christ:
(Read Philippians 3:17-19)
Paul addresses believers by the title “brethren”. It was the common title for first century Christians. They belong to the family of God. Paul wants them to follow his example. Christ is our ultimate example (1 Peter 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 line. Someone has said "If the present fights 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. They live to gratify their fleshly desires (Philippians 3:18). They glory in their shameful conduct and boast about it. They set their mind on earthly things (Philippians 3:19). Paul says that their end is destruction and eternal separation from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This is the destiny of all those who are not saved by the gospel. Paul wants believers to focus on Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2). We should not be enslaved by our natural appetite for pleasure. Only Christ can change our hearts and give victory over sin.
Our Citizenship is in Heaven:
(Read Philippians 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 this world. They should seek the things above (Colossians 3:1). We cannot know about heaven apart from biblical revelation. "We are not of this world but 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. 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 repentant 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 Corinthians 5:8). It is a prepared place 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 “The Church is a colony of heaven where believers share 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 Thessalonians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 15:58). When Christ returns, he shall change our mortal bodies into his glorious bodies (Philippians 3:21). This body is corrupt and sinful (Romans 5:12). Our body now experiences a degenerative process which results in death. When Christ returns, He will take our weak bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own (1 Corinthians 15:52). Our mortal body shall put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:54). He does that by using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control (Philippians 3:21). What an incentive to live for Christ with eager anticipation of his return! Someone has said "Christians are the one who live 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.