This is a personal Bible study in Philippians Ive been working on in the mornings. I have written it out mostly in commentary form. Please verify all things I have written imitating the Bereans in Acts 17:11 "they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so". Thank You! Robin Aylor 11/09/18.
Philippians 3 (ESV)
In the last chapter Paul began with a desire for the Philippians to find their encouragement and comfort in Christ, overflowing with the same love that God has given us. He told them to count others more significant than themselves. To have the same mind of humility and love Jesus had when he gave himself for us on the Cross. Paul also said not to grumble or be disputing… he said God is working in you for his own pleasure. We were created for his glory. He said they should all be in unity and rejoice together with one another. Then he spoke about wanting to at some point to send Timothy to spend time with them but for now is sending Epaphroditus as a messenger to be a conduit between the Philippians and Paul while he was in Prison. It is a chapter about living in the unity shared between the Philippians, Paul and Christ and is meant for us to live with the same mindset. Now chapter 3.
1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
For the unbelieving… their safe place is to believe happiness comes from money and power and control… their comfort zone is sin… For believers we are always safe to rejoice in Jesus; how he dealt with our sin on the cross, including all the promises we receive along with our new life in him.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
These next verses begin setting up the vast contrast between rejoicing in the Lord by the Spirit and finding our hope in things relating to the flesh. We will see the two examples he compares; one is the way some mutilate their body to obtain righteousness… even using Gods command in the Old Testament of circumcision of the flesh. He then addresses what circumcision represents and points to as the best reason of all to rejoice.
2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.
Today Mutating of the flesh as self punishment or to attain forgiveness for sins is known as religious self-flagellation. Self flagging and cutting is also used by some in religious mourning practices and ceremonies.
One example is how every year many Muslins will slash themselves as a form of mourning for the death of Muhammads grandson.
Self-flagellation was common in the Old Testament especially among peoples with foreign gods.
In First Kings after Gods prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal, those false prophets tried to get Baal’s attention by self-flagellation.
1st Kings 18:28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.
In Paul’s day it was also common among religions he encountered. He mentions it in:
Colossians 2:23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
In the 13th century, a group of Roman Catholics, known as the Flagellants, would publicly beat and whip one another as they preached to encourage people to turn away from sin.
In the 1500’s Flagellation was practiced during the Black Plague to purify sin and prevent contracting the disease.
Many have a wrong thought that they can obtain forgiveness from sin by wounding or by causing physical injury to their bodies, so they mutilate or cut the flesh.
To some extent we also see the fundamental flaw of self Flagellation played out among many in the Christian community. When we sin we are tempted to try and make up for those failings. We deprive ourselves of things or stay away from sinful temptations… not for the sake of Christ but rather that we prove ourselves and only then can rest in his forgiveness; that is, after we deserve forgiveness. This is a dangerous way of thinking. We are saved by Gods grace through faith and not of ourselves.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The Jews of the Old Testament were commanded by God to be circumcised in the flesh which was not a self punishment for sin but a sign that pointed to the one who’s flesh would be broken for man and how as Gods people we would be able to have victory over sin in Christ. This cutting away would symbolize Gods people as separate and different from the world. In Paul’s day some Jews wanted to force circumcision upon believers as a legalistic law which helped bring them righteousness. This would have made circumcision something comparable to the self flagellation other nations religiously preformed. But Jesus fulfilled our righteousness in his life, death and resurrection.
In his life in that he lived a perfect life without sin and is able to impute his righteousness to us. Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
In his death in that he was paid the wages of our sins. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In his resurrection for our justification. His word is secured, he will raise us up like him, incorruptible from sin and he will stand up for us on Judgment Day. Romans 4:25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
We find our righteousness and full acceptance in Jesus.
3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—
So Paul did not abandon the true meaning of circumcision but realized it pointed to the spiritual circumcision of the heart which he fully embraced. Physical circumcision does not cut away sin or make us right with God but through the cross Jesus accomplishes this not only positionally but also ongoing practically till the day of his return.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
So we can take no personal credit for our own righteousness because of any knowledge or deeds or accomplishments; God receives all the glory for that. Paul continues:
4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people 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 righteousness under the law,c blameless.
If it were possible that anyone could make a worldly rationalization that they were self righteous before the Law it was Paul. He could likely make a good case before a court of man that he deserved heaven… however God knows the truth of mans wicked heart.
Other places we find Paul speaking about the reality of his non-self righteousness without Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Ephesians 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Still, from the worlds standpoint Paul was seen as a super saint among the Jews before his conversion.
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Notice how Paul saw knowing Christ as surpassing worth… More than all he just mentioned… more than all he had given and worked for in his life… He could not hold on to his own life and works as his great treasure and have Jesus as his great treasure both.
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Remember Paul called knowing Christ surpassing worth. See if you can detect this same spirit in the man in Jesus parable in:
Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“In his joy” he “sells all”. Is there joy for us in standing up for Christ? When we die to self daily? When we face annoying interruptions while focusing on our daily tasks do we joyfully pause and take time to honor Christ? Or is it all about us… all about our old goals before we came to Christ? What are we pursuing with our life?
8 …For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Notice the sense of responsibility Paul is speaking with. Even though we are saved by grace through faith and not of ourself, Paul realizes he must be giving his all, straining himself forward. How does that not counteract grace?
We do see it all through the scriptures don’t we? It is a work we do… yes, however as a child of God this too is Gods grace working in us and not of ourselves.
In 1st Corinthians Paul expounds more on this:
1st Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
And as he explains in:
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Straining Forward and Pressing On Toward The Goal… Paul continues:
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Without Jesus making us his own… without him choosing us, we would not seek after him at all.
Psalm 53:2 God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
In Romans 3 Paul quotes Psalm 53 letting the text answer its own question:
Romans 3:11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
Paul says he presses on to make it his own not based on anything he has done, but all because Christ Jesus made him his own.
We then can only hold on to Christ because he holds on to us, and he held on to us first; still even now, we are responsible to hold on to him with everything we have and all this comes from him. This is a part of our sanctification and who we are in Christ… We persevere all the way to the end because of his grace at work in our lives.
15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Don't quit thinking about the hidden truths and mysteries in Scripture. Keep looking to see more of the glory of God and keep being transformed by the Spirit. If you don’t understand something Paul has said, don’t just give up and quit seeking. Someone who has settled for securing their own soul in heaven and doesn’t keep giving all they have to see more facets of the greatest treasure of all in Jesus may have never truly seen Jesus as beautiful. Otherwise why would you quit looking? So keep looking to Christ and he will expound everything he wants you to see in his time. God will show his children who seek him his unfathomable glory.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Paul was the best example the Philippians had for seeing Jesus lived out in someones life. Paul tells the Philippians to look at how he has lived… what he has given up in the world and what he has gained in Christ… All these things he has been speaking about… All this joy he has in Christ and the family unity he has with believers. He surly does not want them to imitate any of his or anyone else’s shortcomings. But he does say there will be others besides him who walk in Christ that they can imitate.
For us, we can learn from Paul and we can learn from good biographies and we can learn from loved ones and friends. They can be good role models in the way they imitate Jesus like Paul did. We can clearly discern from Gods word what ways to model ourselves after them. And we need that discernment from the word to distinguish others who are not of Christ that we might not be led astray.
18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
These are those who have not found the hidden treasure in Christ. The earthly things of the world sparkle and hold their gaze. They sell their very souls for all those treasures promise. They are on their own mission for glories promised by the world and not in Christ Jesus.
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
This world is not our home, We have been born again into the kingdom of God. As a child begins to see new things when he is born into this world we have began to see Spiritual things because we have been born into his kingdom.
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
One day his kingdom will come in its fullness and we will see more than glimpses of Gods glory. We will be with him in the Kingdom of Heaven.
We're pilgrims passing through, travelers moving on
Wayfaring Strangers, soon we’ll be gone.
Outlander, devotee, we travel light as we hope and sing
Where we're from everyone is free, To worship the one true King
We’re going someplace fairer there’s no disclaimer.
We are Peace sharers true love campaigners
Flag bearers, for the Son, Thy Kingdom Come
21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Death is the power that sin has always had over us because as sinners our paycheck is death. It might be given to you on the spot or deposited into your account or sent to you as a paycheck… But it will come to you. The good news is that Jesus was paid the wages of our sins on the Cross and he defeated death on the third day. He arose with a glorious Spiritual body unaffected by entropy, sickness, old age or death.
At his return God will raise up all who hope in Christ and our lowly bodies will be transformed to be like his glorious body. How is this possible you may ask?
"21 …by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
We as believers are tethered to this same power in which God commands all things subject to himself. The same power by which he created the world… The same power he upholds all things in the Universe. The same power that he shows himself sovereign over every leaf falling to the ground, every encounter, every relationship, every neighbor you have ever had, every sickness, every job and every major event in the Cosmos. We are tethered to the same power that raised Jesus incorruptible from the dead. Through his power he will raise all who find their delight in him. This is an amazing promise!!!