Rejoice, But Beware

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Rejoice, But Beware

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Philippians 3:1-2




Having challenged these brethren to let their lights shine in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, and having addressed his fellow helpers (Timothy and Epaphroditus), Paul now turns to another matter with encouragement.

In these verses we find numerous admonitions and applications.   Let us get started considering some of these.

  1. Finally brethren, rejoice…
    1. The term finally is challenging (but not earthshattering), as Paul transitions to another subject.   While the original word points toward an ending (and perhaps Paul intended for this to be his last point, BUT he finds more to say), it could simply here mean a transition.   (Consider that Philippians 4:8 uses the same word).  The word is translated “other” (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 2:3)   or “the rest” (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:2, 1 Timothy 5:20).
      But (enter the preacher jokes) consider that it is not necessarily wrapping up something. A preacher may present a “final” point that is as long as everything stated leading up to it.
      TAKEAWAY from this – when we hear this word, listen up!   It is usually associated with something important (such as a summary or making some application).
    2. Rejoice in the Lord – we have noted this is the theme of this letter.   Paul is encouraging these brethren continually to rejoice, even in troubling circumstances. The word for rejoice is found 11 times in this letter (including in all 4 chapters). Philippians 1:18 where Paul rejoices that his circumstances have turned out for good, Philippians 2:17-18 – I am glad and rejoice with you all,…be glad and rejoice with me. (Note: The word “glad” is the same word in our text, and “rejoice” is a compound form of it); Philippians 4:4 – rejoice in the Lord always…
      We have addressed the importance of rejoicing on many occasions.   As Christians, we ought to be joyful and work toward that end.
    3. In the Lord – our rejoicing needs to be in Him, not in ourselves or our selfish pursuits. It is always about bringing glory to Him.
  2. For me to write these things is not tedious
    1. Repetition is needed – very few remember something after the first time.   OR, they may only temporarily remember it.
      Frequently, in scripture we find repetition.
      Romans 15:15 – I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you…;
      1 Corinthians 15:1 – I declare the gospel I preached to you;
      1 Thessalonians 3:4 – we told you before when we were with you;
      Acts 20:31 – he warned them night and day for 3 years;
      2 Peter 1:13, 3:1-2 – stir up your minds by way of reminder…
    2. Repetition is a learning tool that helps us remember and strengthen important principles.
    3. For you it is safe – we all forget from time to time.     Reminders are good and needed.
    4. Beware of those who don’t want to be reminded, but are constantly seeking something new.   Consider 2 Timothy 4:3-4 – where they had itching ears to hear what they wanted
  3.   Beware
    1. Beware – A warning – just like we need reminders, we need warnings.     This is a call to be alert.   Something else we find frequently in scripture.
      Mark 12:38 – Jesus warned of scribes and other religious leaders who were arrogant and loved personal praise, yet were hypocritical in their actions and teachings.
      Mark 8:15 – Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees
      Colossians 2:8 – Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit
      Hebrews 3:12 – Beware, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief….
      Add to this the warning to be sober (alert) – 1 Peter 5:8 – sober and vigilant of our adversary the devil
      1 Thessalonians 5:6 – watch and be sober…
      2 Peter 2:1-3 is a direct warning about false prophets and teachers coming in. More on this text later
    2. Paul proceeds to use 3 different terms to describe those whom they are to beware of. All 3 terms are likely descriptions of the same group – Judaizing teachers who were demanding circumcision of Gentiles and making it a condition of faith.
      While we do not know their history with Philippi, it is evident from this text that they were in danger of being influenced by these false teachers.
    3. Judaizing teachers – about as soon as Gentiles began to become Christians, there was a group of Jewish believers who did not want to let go of the Old Law.   Thus, while they (perhaps reluctantly) accepted Gentiles as Christians, they demanded that they keep parts of the Old Law including circumcision (cf. Acts 15:1-2).
      There were so many problems with this: 1) They failed to understand the nature of the New Law and work of Jesus; 2) It was a product of pride and arrogance on their part; 3) It was a divisive and false doctrine; & 4) They often behaved hatefully against those who did not agree with them, including teachers like Paul – consider Paul’s critics that he addresses in 2 Corinthians, etc.
      Paul and others NEVER speak kindly of this – Galatians 6:12-13, 1:6-9, etc.
    4. They were described as
      1. Dogs (character) – the word for dogs here is reference to a wild dog that will attack (not an innocent puppy or domesticated pet).
        Used in other passages such as Matthew 7:6, Do not give what is   holy to the dogs
        and Revelation 22:15 – outside are dogs, sorcerers, etc.
        Clearly, it is symbolic of these false teachers who sought to devour their “prey” – Galatians 6:12-13.
        This is interesting as the Jewish nation viewed Gentiles as dogs – because they saw them as 1) Unclean; 2) Scavengers that would eat anything; and 3) Wild & unrestrained.
      2. Evil workers (conduct) – recall how as this letter began, Paul described those who preached Christ out of envy and strife (1:11).   Could this include these types of brethren, who tried to make Paul and others miserable wherever they went?
        The Bible warns about the exploits and efforts of false teachers – 2 Peter 2:1-3, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, etc.
      3. The mutilation (their doctrine) – here is where we define the false teachers involved.   The word is only found here, and in some versions is translated – the circumcision, or false circumcision.   This is a play on words when you understand the procedure involved in circumcision (which we will not go into at this time).
        Paul realizes that what they are doing is mutilating the TRUE gospel by demanding physical circumcision.   Paul is angered by this, as it has been determined that such was not necessary (cf. Acts 15:24, 28-29). There’s an interesting verse in Galatians 5:12 where Paul desires that they “slip” and cut themselves, rather than make their demands.
    5. Lessons for us:
      1. We too must beware of false teachers. They are out there and if we are not careful they might come in and do great damage to the body.
      2. Jesus said, You will know them by their fruits – Matthew 7:15-16 – look at someone’s character, actions and teachings to determine who they are.
      3. There is something to be said about “name calling”.     We don’t like to talk about this, but notice that Paul here uses strong words to condemn their charlatans.       While we should not be “naming names” just for the sake of it, there is a place that involves very specific exposure, including naming the source.   Sometimes people need to warned.
        John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7); So did Jesus (Matthew 12:34 & 23:33).   In one of the most scathing rebukes of the corrupt leaders, we find Matthew 23 where Jesus identifies them for who they are.
        The very descriptions of false teachers in 2 Peter 2 and Jude show there is a time for strong language to warn and mark.
        May we use this tool with wisdom and love!!!

And thus we see another admonition of Paul’s to these brethren.   In our next lesson, we will look at the others side – the side of spiritual circumcision and what Paul gave up for that.     Meanwhile, let us resolve to learn from God’s word and equally, let us learn to live it.     Think about it.