Philippians 3:1-3 Commentary

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice (2PPAM) in the Lord. To write (PAN) the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: To loipon, adelphoi mou, chairete ( 2PPAM ) en kurio. ta auta graphein (PAN) humin emoi men ouk okneron, humin de asphales

Amplified: FOR THE rest, my brethren, delight yourselves in the Lord and continue to rejoice that you are in Him. To keep writing to you [over and over] of the same things is not irksome to me, and it is [a precaution] for your safety. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Lightfoot: And now, my brethren, I must wish you farewell. Rejoice in the Lord. Forgive me, if I speak once more on an old topic. It is not irksome to me to speak, and it is safe for you to hear.

Phillips: In conclusion, my brothers, delight yourselves in the Lord! It doesn't bore me to repeat a piece of advice like this, and if you follow it you will find it a great safeguard to your souls (New Testament in Modern English)

Wuest: As for the rest [of which I wish to say to you] my brethren, be constantly rejoicing in the Lord. To be writing the same things to you is not to me irksome or tedious, while for you it is safe. (Eerdmans)

Young's Literal: As to the rest, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord; the same things to write to you to me indeed is not tiresome, and for you is sure;

FINALLY: To loipon: (Phil 4:8; 2Cor 13:11; Ep 6:10; 1Thes 4:1; 1Pe 3:8)

Finally (3062) (loipon from loipos = remaining) pertains to the part of a whole which remains or continues and thus constitutes the rest of the whole. Literally this phrase is as for the rest and in every case, the use of this Greek expression has the idea of something left over (furthermore, so then, now then would be synonyms). Clearly Paul does not mean by this that he is about to close his letter for half of the letter is still to come!

Paul is summing up all his exhortations to the saints at Philippi.

In English when we hear the preacher say "finally", we know the sermon coming to an end soon. But that is not the way Paul uses finally in his letters for he frequently uses loipon frequently in the concluding portion of his Epistles (cp, Ep 6:10 [note], 1Th 4:1 [note], 2Cor 13:11, 2Thes 3:1) often introducing practical exhortations but not necessarily implying that the epistle is drawing to a close. In other words, he uses loipon to mark a transition in the subject being discussed. In fact, there is another "finally" in Php 4:8 (note).

As Wuest explains "Paul has been concerned so far in the letter with the internal dissensions, mild though they were, that endangered the well-being of the Philippian church. Now he turns his attention to a danger that would assail it from without, namely, the Judaizers. These were Jews who were nominal Christians, who accepted the Lord Jesus as the Saviour of Israel only, and who taught that a Gentile had to come through the gate of Judaism in order to be saved. They thus refused to accept the fact of the setting aside of Israel at the Cross, and the bringing in of the Church at Pentecost. They wished to continue under the Mosaic law. What happened in the Galatian churches, Paul was trying to forestall in the church at Philippi. (Philippians Commentary Online- Recommended)

MY BRETHREN REJOICE IN THE LORD: adelphoi mou, chairete (2PPAM) en kurio: (Phil 3:3; 4:4; Dt 12:18; 16:11; 1Sa 2:1; 1Ch 15:28; 16:10,31, 32, 33; 29:22; 2Ch 30:26,27; Neh 8:10; Job 22:26; Ps 5:11; 32:11; 33:1; 37:4; 42:4; Ps 97:1; 100:1,2; 149:2; Isa 12:2,3; 41:16; 61:10; 65:14; 66:11,12; Joel 2:23; Hab 3:17,18; Zeph 3:14,17; Zech 10:7; Mt 5:12; Lk 1:47; Ro 5:2,3,11; 1Th 5:16; Jas 1:2; 1Pe 1:6, 7, 8; 4:13)

Spurgeon comments…

Let this be the end of everything; before you get to the end of it, and when you do get to the end of it, “rejoice in the Lord.” It is incumbent upon us, as Christians, to rise out of our despondencies. Joy should be the normal state of the Christian. What a happy religion is ours in which it is a duty to be happy! “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.”

It is your privilege, it is your duty, to rejoice in God; — not in your health, your wealth, your children, your prosperity, but in the Lord.” There is the unchanging and unbounded source of joy. It will do you no harm to rejoice in the Lord; the more you rejoice in Him, the more spiritually-minded will you become. “Finally, my brethren.” That is, even to the end, not with you the bitter end; but even to the end of life, rejoice in the Lord. Make this the finis of everything, the end of every day, the end of every year, the end of life. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” Blessed is that religion in which it is a duty to be happy.

Rejoice in the Lord - He could have said simply "Rejoice" but connects rejoicing with the Person of Christ. Christians can rejoice because of their relationship. They exist in the sphere of an intimate union with the risen Christ and thus are enabled to rejoice as they abide in Christ Jesus, the Vine.

Eadie - The modifying phrase in the Lord does not mean, “on account of Christ,” or as becomes Christians, but it defines the sphere and character of the joy. (Ro 14:17-note; 1Th 1:6-note; Gal 5:22-note; Col 1:11-note) The Christian religion is no morose system, stifling every spring of cheerfulness in the heart, or converting its waters into those of Marah (bitterness). It lifts the spirit out of the thrall (a state of being totally subject to some need, desire, appetite, etc) and misery of sin, and elevates it to the enjoyment of the divine favour, and the possession of the divine image; nay, there is a luxury in that sorrow which weeps tears of genuine contrition. Therefore, to mope and mourn, to put on sackcloth and cleave to the dust, is not the part of those who are in the Lord, the exalted Saviour, Who guarantees them “pleasures for evermore.” Such joy is not more remote from a gloomy and morbid melancholy, on the one hand, than it is, on the other hand, from the delirious ecstasies of fanaticism, or the inner trances and raptures of mystic Quietism. Chrysostom remarks that this joy is not “according to the world,” and his idea, according to his view of the connection, is, that these tribulations or sorrows referred to, being according to Christ, bring joy. This last opinion, however, is not from the context, though certainly the first remark is correct, for the joy of the world is often as transient as the crackling of thorns under a pot; and it often resembles the cup which, as it sparkles, tempts to the final exhaustion of its bitter dregs. The express definition or limitation in the Lord may be meant to show, that beyond the Lord this joy is weakened, or has no place; and that, if the Lord Alone is to be rejoiced in, the Lord Alone must be trusted in. The sentiment thus warned and fortified them against the Judaizers, whose opinions, in proportion as they tended to lead away from the Lord, must have retarded all joy in Him; while, if the Philippian believers continued to rejoice in the Lord, that emotion, from its source and nature, guarded them against such delusions. The next clause has seemed to many to be an abrupt transition. (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)

Brethren (80) (adelphos from a = denoting unity + delphús = womb = born from same womb) is literally "of the same womb" and speaks of a fellowship of lives based on identity of origin.

As Eadie remarks "The apostle addresses the Philippian converts, “as my brethren”. There was no official hauteur with him, no such assumption of superiority as would place him in a higher or more select brotherhood than that which belonged to all the churches. (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)

Spurgeon writes that…

“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” But never do it finally, never come to an end of it. Rejoice in the Lord, and yet again rejoice, and yet again rejoice; and as long as you live, rejoice in the Lord.

Rejoice (5463) (chairo) to be glad or delighted, to celebrate, to be cheerful. Joy is a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing. Joy for the Christian is marked by celebration and expectation of God’s ultimate victory over the powers of sin and darkness. We should make a clear distinction between joy and happiness, which is word related to "happenstance" which defines that exhilarating feeling we all have when things go well and circumstances are agreeable. The believer's joy however is not contingent upon circumstances but upon relationship. As we abide in the Vine, walk in the power of the Spirit of Christ, under His control, we find that our joy persists in adverse circumstances for it independent of those circumstances. Furthermore, the believer's rejoicing is not a natural emotional response as we experience when we are "happy", but a supernatural response because of our spiritual union with Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a response based upon truth, including truths such as the sovereignty of God, an assurance that He is in control, a truth which comes from the Scriptures (which is another reason we need to daily "eat" the bread of life, that we might be spiritually nourished and strengthened in our inner man). Joy is the outflow of faith and faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Ro 10:17-note).

Here Paul gives a command (imperative mood) for the Philippians to continually (present tense) rejoice. (see present imperative). Make the choice to rejoice. Wuest says they are to "go on constantly rejoicing in the Lord". It is not humanly possible to fulfill this command, which requires supernatural energizing. Paul explains that the source of this joy is "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness." (Gal 5:22-See notes on Joy in Gal 5:22)

Chairo - 74x in 68v - Matt 2:10; 5:12; 18:13; 26:49; 27:29; 28:9; Mark 14:11; 15:18; Luke 1:14, 28; 6:23; 10:20; 13:17; 15:5, 32; 19:6, 37; 22:5; 23:8; John 3:29; 4:36; 8:56; 11:15; 14:28; 16:20, 22; 19:3; 20:20; Acts 5:41; 8:39; 11:23; 13:48; 15:23, 31; 23:26; Rom 12:12, 15; 16:19; 1 Cor 7:30; 13:6; 16:17; 2 Cor 2:3; 6:10; 7:7, 9, 13, 16; 13:9, 11; Phil 1:18; 2:17f, 28; 3:1; 4:4, 10; Col 1:24; 2:5; 1 Th 3:9; 5:16; Jas 1:1; 1 Pet 4:13; 2 John 1:4, 10f; 3 John 1:3; Rev 11:10; 19:7 NAS = am glad(1), glad(7), gladly(1), greeted*(1), greeting(2), greetings(4), hail(4), joyfully(1), make(1), rejoice(33), rejoiced(8), rejoices(2), rejoicing(10).

An anonymous psalmist illustrates this relationship between rejoicing and a knowledge of the Word of truth writing…

our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy Name. (Psalm 33:21) (See studies on Names of the LORD as a Strong Tower - because to trust this Name we must know this Name in its manifold glory and we will have a foundation for rejoicing without ceasing.)

Spurgeon writes…

We, who trust, cannot but be of a glad heart, our inmost nature must triumph in our faithful God. Because we have trusted in his holy Name. The root of faith in due time bears the flower of rejoicing. Doubts breed sorrow, confidence creates joy.

In a similar manner David confidently declares…

Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalm 16:11)

Spurgeon comments on fulness of joy writing…

Christ being raised from the dead ascended into glory, to dwell in constant nearness to God, where joy is at its full for ever: the foresight of this urged Him onward in His glorious but grievous toil (He 12:2-note). To bring His chosen to eternal happiness was the high ambition which inspired Him, and made Him wade through a sea of blood. O God, when a worldling's mirth (gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter) has all expired, for ever with Jesus may we dwell at Thy right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore; and meanwhile, may we have an earnest (down payment) by tasting thy love below. Trapp's note on the heavenly verse which closes the Psalm is a sweet morsel, which may serve for a contemplation, and yield a foretaste of our inheritance. He writes, "Here is as much said as can be, but words are too weak to utter it. For quality there is in heaven joy and pleasures; for quantity, a fulness, a torrent whereat they drink without let or loathing; for constancy, it is at God's right hand, Who is stronger than all, neither can any take us out of His hand; it is a constant happiness without intermission: and for perpetuity it is for evermore. Heaven's joys are without measure, mixture, or end."

Here are some other OT uses of rejoice. Notice who is rejoicing and what they are rejoicing over.

(Save me) That I may tell of all Thy praises, That in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in Thy salvation. (Psalm 9:14) (Spurgeon's note)

But I have trusted in Thy lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. (Psalm 13:5) (Spurgeon's note)

There is joy and feasting within doors, for a glorious guest has come, and the fatted calf is killed. Sweet is the music which sounds from the strings of the heart. But this is not all; the voice joins itself in the blessed work, and the tongue keeps tune with the soul, while the writer declares,

I will sing unto the Lord.

"I will praise thee every day, Now thine anger's past away;

Comfortable thoughts arise From the bleeding sacrifice."

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones, And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. (Psalm 32:11) (Spurgeon's note)

Be glad. Happiness (joy) is not only our privilege, but our duty. Truly we serve a generous God, since He makes it a part of our obedience to be joyful. How sinful are our rebellious murmurings! How natural does it seem that a man blest with forgiveness should be glad! We read of one who died at the foot of the scaffold of overjoy at the receipt of his monarch's pardon; and shall we receive the free pardon of the King of kings, and yet pine in inexcusable sorrow?

In the Lord. Here is the directory by which gladness is preserved from levity. We are not to be glad in sin, or to find comfort in corn, and wine, and oil, but in our God is to be the garden of our soul's delight. That there is a God and such a God, and that He is ours, ours for ever, our Father and our reconciled Lord, is matter enough for a never ending psalm of rapturous joy.

And rejoice, ye righteous, redouble your rejoicing, peal upon peal. Since God has clothed His choristers in the white garments of holiness, let them not restrain their joyful voices, but sing aloud and shout as those who find great spoil.

And shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. Our happiness should be demonstrative; chill (cold) penury (extreme paucity) of love often represses the noble flame of joy, and men whisper their praises decorously where a hearty outburst of song would be far more natural. It is to be feared that the church of the present day, through a craving for excessive propriety, is growing too artificial; so that enquirers' cries and believers' shouts would be silenced if they were heard in our assemblies. This may be better than boisterous fanaticism, but there is as much danger in the one direction as the other. (Ed note: Amen!) For our part, we are touched to the heart by a little sacred excess, and when godly men in their joy over leap the narrow bounds of decorum, we do not, like Michal, Saul's daughter, eye them with a sneering heart. Note how the pardoned are represented as upright, righteous, and without guile; a man may have many faults and yet be saved, but a false heart is everywhere the damning mark. A man of twisting, shifty ways, of a crooked, crafty nature, is not saved, and in all probability never will be; for the ground which brings forth a harvest when grace is sown in it, may be weedy and waste, but our Lord tells us it is honest and good ground. Our observation has been that men of double tongues and tricky ways are the least likely of all men to be saved: certainly where grace comes it restores man's mind to its perpendicular, and delivers him from being doubled up with vice, twisted with craft, or bent with dishonesty. Reader, what a delightful Psalm! Have you, in perusing it, been able to claim a lot in the goodly land? If so, publish to others the way of salvation.

Spurgeon introduces his sermon on joy commenting that…

As for joy, if it be not the first product of the Spirit of God, it is next to the first, and we may be sure that the order in which it is placed by the inspired apostle is meant to be instructive. The fruit of the Spirit is love first, as comprehensive of the rest; then joy arising out of it. It is remarkable that joy should take so eminent a place; it attaineth unto the first three, and is but one place lower than the first. Look at it in its high position, and if yon have missed it, or if you have depreciated it, revise your judgment, and endeavor with all your heart to attain to it, for depend upon it this fruit of the Spirit is of the utmost value… and it is brought forth in believers not alike in all, but to all believers there is a measure of joy. (The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy - Pdf)

The Greek dramatist Aeschylus (525-456 BC) concluded,

Joy [is] a beauteous spark divine.

To ancient Greeks it was a greeting, a wish for the happiness of one's friend. It was also the object of fellowship, as seen in the festal joy of religion. Greeks spoke, as we do, of "tears of joy."

Homer saw joy as being rooted in human passions, as we may "feel" joyful. On the other hand, the Greek Stoics (who are mentioned in Acts 17:18) had no room for joy, which they regarded as a false judgment of reality. If you felt joyful, you must be ignorant of the facts! Most of us know people like that.

The famous Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) declared:

When I think of God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes leap and dance as they leave my pen; and since God has given me a cheerful heart, I serve Him with a cheerful spirit.

Oswald Chambers the famous devotional writer concluded that

The joy that Jesus gives is the result of our disposition being at one with His own disposition.

C. S. Lewis wrote that…

Joy is the serious business of heaven.

Bernard Ramm, a theologian, wrote that

Jesus Christ can put joy into the joyless work of the 20th century.

Keith Miller wrote that

Joy seems to be distilled from a strange mixture of challenge, risk, and hope.

Samuel Shoemaker said that

The surest mark of a Christian is not faith, or even love', but joy.

A noted preacher in England H. W. Webb-Peploe once said that…

Joy is not gush; joy is not jolliness. Joy is perfect acquiescence in God's will because the soul delights itself in God Himself.

Since joy is a fruit of the Spirit it follows that those who can most readily obey Paul's command to rejoice are those who are continually being filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit (Ep 5:18-note). The key to the Christian's joy is not found in circumstances or people but in the Person of Christ as indicated by the association with the phrase in the Lord . This phrase is found 9 times in this short (joyful, joy full, joy filled) letter…

Philippians 1:14 (note) and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

Philippians 2:19 (note) But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.

Philippians 2:24 (note) and I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly.

Philippians 2:29 (note) Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard;

Philippians 3:1 (note) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Philippians 4:1 (note) Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 4:2 (note) I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.

Philippians 4:4 (note) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Philippians 4:10 (note) But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.

Paul speaks of joy before warning his readers of some of the top joy stealers, especially the false teachers who have crept in among us and claim to be members of the body of Christ ("dogs… evil workers… false circumcision"). Watch out for these individuals because they love to steal your joy with their clever lies and devious deceptions.

TO WRITE THE SAME THINGS IS NO TROUBLE TO ME: ta auta graphein (PAN) humin emoi men ouk okneron:

Same things -- a good teacher emphasizes repetition. The probability is that he is going to take up again several details he had already mentioned, such as, those who were really spiritual antagonists (Php 1:15-note; cp Php 3:2-note, Php 3:18-note); the need of standing fast (Php 1:27-note; cp Php 4:1-note); dissensions and the need of unity (Php 1:17-note; Php 2:2, 3, 4-Php 2:2; 2:3; 2:4; cp Php 4:2-note); the antidote, a glorying in Christ and allusions to His union with His people (Php 1:20-note; Php 1:22, 23-note; Php 2:5-note; cp Php 3:3-note, Php 3:15-note; Php 4:7-note).

Spurgeon comments…

To go over the same old truths again and again, to proclaim the same precepts, and teach the same doctrines, is not grievous to us, and it is safe for you to hear these things again and again. If they have not made their due impression upon you already, perhaps they will do so when they are repeated in your hearing. At any rate it is safe for you to hear or read over and over again the old, old story with which you are already familiar.

Some hearers are like the Athenian academicians; they want continually to hear something new. The apostle says, “To have the same things written to you, is safe.” So is it for you, dear friends; to have the same gospel, the same Jesus, the same Holy Spirit, made known to you, is safe. New doctrine is dangerous doctrine.

Saying the same thing over and over again is Safe, for your minds do not catch the truth at the first hearing, and your memories are slippery.

Trouble (3636) (okneros is from okneo = to shrink, to hesitate, to delay) means that which causes reluctance or is tedious or bothersome (upsets a person's composure or which annoys and suggests interference with one's comfort or peace of mind). It describes being afraid to act, hesitating, shrinking or lazy.

Paul is saying it is not bothersome for him to repeat truth so that they might be kept from being tripped up by false teaching. As Eadie phrases it "To repeat the same truth is to me no task of irksome monotony." Biblical truth is always the best safeguard from error!

Okneros is found 3 times in the NAS (Matthew; Romans; Philippians) and is translated .lagging behind, 1; lazy, 1; trouble, 1. The KJV renders it grievous, 1; slothful, 2.

TDNT writes that…

Like oknos, which means “hesitation” through weariness, sloth, fear, bashfulness, or reserve, okneros is used a. of persons in the sense of “showing oknos,” “hesitating,” “anxious,” “negligent,” “slothful.” It thus denotes one who for various reasons or difficulties does not have the resolution to act… In the OT (Septuagint or LXX) okneros is often used in connection with rules of practical wisdom. Industry and work are here part of pious but prudent conduct. Thus okneros… depicts the slothful man who lacks the resolve to get to work (Pr 6:6, 9), who lets inconveniences stop him (Pr 20:4), or who, having no resolution, never moves on from the will to the deed (Pr 21:25). In contrast the continually active wife, who takes pleasure in work, is extolled (Pr 31:27).

Impelled by the Spirit to equip Christians adequately for salvation, Paul (here in Phil 3:1-note) overcomes the dislike or distaste which might arise through repetition of his admonition. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)

Vincent writes that okneros is found here and in "Matt. 25:26; Ro 12:11-note, in both (these latter) instances rendered slothful. (Ed note: thus conveying more the idea of lazy, idle, not active) From okneo to delay. Hence, in classical Greek, shrinking, backward, unready. The idea of delay underlies the secondary sense, burdensome, troublesome. It is the vexation arising from weary waiting, and which appears in the middle English irken to tire or to become tired, cognate with the Latin urgere to press, and English irk, irksome, work.

AND IT IS A SAFEGUARD FOR YOU: humin de asphales: (Phil 2:17,18; 2Pe1:12, 13, 14, 15; 3:1)

Spiritual joy is the best safety against error (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown)

Safeguard (804) (aphales from a = w/o + sphallo = throw down, trip up, totter, bring to the ground, make someone fall) literally means that which cannot be thrown down, tripped up, tottered or overthrown. It describes that which is secure and safe from stumbling or falling.

Asphales thus means firm, sure, secure, safety, unshakeable, certain, steady, immovable (as of the anchor in He 6:19-note - see below - or in Septuagint referring to the sky above in Pr 8:28) and then figuratively referring to a state of safety, stability and security which can be relied on and hence free from danger and secure from peril. Asphales describes something that cannot be made to totter when put to the test. In Acts 2:36 the related adverb asphalos means certainly, surely, speaking of that which is known beyond a doubt.

NIDNTT has the following note on the uses of this word group in classic literature…

Asphaleia occurs in classic Greek. with the following meanings: security against stumbling (Thuc., History, 3, 22), assurance from danger (Aeschylus onwards), caution (in post-Christian writings), assurance, certainty (Thuc. History, 2, 11), the certainty or convincing nature of an argument (Xenophon, Memorabilia, 4, 6, 15), and as a security, bond or pledge as a technical law term (Arrianus, Epicteti Dissertationes, 2, 13, 7; BGU 1149, 24; P. Teb. 293, 19; The Amherst Papyri, 78:16). The adjective asphales occurs from Homer onwards in the sense of immovable, steadfast, unshaken, unfailing both literally and in the case of friends etc., and safe both literally and figuratively. The verb. asphalizo is used in the sense of secure, safeguard and, in 1st cent. B.C. literature, arrest. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)

Compare Luke's use of the noun form asphaleia in his introductory comments writing… "so that you might know the exact (asphaleia) truth (logos - word) about the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:4) thus speaking of teaching or instruction which affords certainty and reliability.

The related noun asphaleia is found in the Septuagint or LXX of Deut 12:10 where Moses records that…

"When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security (asphaleia)" (Dt 12:10)

This word group was also used as a technical legal term for keeping a prisoner securely guarded security (see Acts 5:23).

The noun form asphaleia (803) is used by Paul in the phrase "Peace and safety (asphaleia)" in 1Th 5:3-note, where the "safety" or security from peril is false and deceptive for it is focused on this world which is passing away instead of looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:11-note).

The verb form asphalizo (805) is used by Matthew referring to Jesus' burial site where it was said "give orders for the grave to be made secure (asphalizo)" (Mt 27:64) and Pilate's orders "make it secure (asphalizo) as you know how (referring to Jesus' grave). And they went and made the grave secure (asphalizo), and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone." (Mt 27:65, 66). Luke uses the verb form to describe the incarceration of Paul and Silas writing that the jailer "threw them into the inner prison, and fastened (asphalizo) their feet in the stocks." (Acts 16:23).

Aphales is used in Hebrews presenting every believer with a powerful word picture of our unshakeable position safe in Christ…

(In the storms and trials of life) This hope (embodied in Christ Himself and since we are "in Christ" this reflects the truth that our glorification is as certain as if it had already happened which is truth that should keep us from drifting on the wild waves of doubt and despair) we have as an anchor (note that the anchor is not cast onto the shifting sands of this world but actually into the sanctuary in heaven = safe and secure!) of the soul, a hope both sure (aphales) and steadfast and one which enters within the veil (He 6:19-note)

Aphales is used 5 times in the NAS and is translated certain, 1; definite, 1; facts, 1; safeguard, 1; sure, 1.

Acts 21:34 But among the crowd some were shouting one thing and some another, and when he could not find out the facts (literally = not being able to know the certainty) on account of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks.

Acts 22:30 But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

Acts 25:26 "Yet I have nothing definite (no certain thing) about him to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write.

Philippians 3:1 (note) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Hebrews 6:19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil,

As noted above aphales is taken from a verb meaning to trip up, overthrow or cause to stumble. Here the negative prefix ("a") is added and thus describes that which has stability and firmness so as not to be easily tripped up or overthrown.

Philippians 3:2 Beware (2PPAM) of the dogs, beware (2PPAM) of the evil workers, beware (2PPAM) of the false circumcision (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: Blepete ( 2PPAM ) tous kunas, blepete ( 2PPAM ) tous kakous ergatas, blepete ( 2PPAM ) ten katatomen

Amplified: Look out for those dogs [Judaizers, legalists], look out for those mischief-makers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Lightfoot: Be on your guard. Shun these shameless dogs, these workers of mischief, these mutilators of the flesh. I call it mutilation,

Phillips: Be on your guard against these curs, these wicked workmen, these would-be mutilators of your bodies! (New Testament in Modern English)

Wuest: Keep a watchful eye ever upon the dogs. Keep a watchful eye ever upon the evil-workers. Keep a watchful eye ever upon those who are mutilated, doing this for the purpose of bewaring of and avoiding the same. (Eerdmans)

Young's Literal: look to the dogs, look to the evil-workers, look to the concision;

BEWARE OF THE DOGS: Blepete (2PPAM) tous kunas: (Pr 26:11; Is 56:10,11; Mt 7:6,15; 24:10; Gal 5:15; 2Ti 4:14,15; 2Pe 2:22; Rev 22:15)

Literally he says "Look to the dogs" with the implication that you will be warned against them. As Eadie says "Observe them so as to understand them, the inference being that when they are understood, they will be shunned."

Beware (991) (blepo) means perceive with your eyes. Have your eye on so as to beware of. Paul says to pay especially close attention to these men. Paul uses blepo three times in this verse, each time in the present tense (continual action called for = make this the habit of your life) active voice (choice of your will = he can't force them) and imperative mood (command not a suggestion). Wuest conveys the sense of the verb tense and mood rendering it "Keep a watchful eye ever upon". The idea is constantly observing with a view to avoiding, constantly be looking at in the sense of continuing to be wary.

Paul gave a similar, albeit positive command in (Philippians 3:17 see notes) exhorting the saints at Philippi to look closely at other believers who were following Paul's example.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a similar imperative, warning citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven to continually

Beware (present imperative) of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (see note Matthew 7:15)

Dogs (2965) (kuon) (See dictionary articles) in the ancient word dogs here were mangy, flea-bitten, vicious, starved scavengers, that tended to run in packs, dig through garbage and occasionally even attack humans.

The poet Homer uses it of men and women, implying recklessness in the former, and shamelessness in the latter. Gentiles of the Christian era were called dogs by the Jews.

Paul uses kuon as an ironic term of reproach which was also commonly used by the Judaizers to express their contempt for Gentiles in general. In context this phrase most probably refers to Jews who professed to believe in Christ but depended upon keeping the rituals of Judaism for their salvation. Their salvation was faith plus works which is not real salvation. They insisted that unless one kept the Law of Moses, he would not be saved. Paul regards this teaching as dangerous and subversive to the true gospel of Christ.

Some commentators explain "dogs" here in Philippians 3:2 as homosexuals on the basis of (Dt 23:17,18) but I think this would not fit the context in view of Paul's derogatory term ("false circumcision") that appears to describe Judaizers.

Spurgeon wrote that…

They are like to dogs. If they fawn upon you, they will bemire you, if they do not bite you.

Eadie - This hard expression, dogs (kuon), must be judged of by Eastern usage and associations. In very early times the name was applied as an epithet of reproach. In Homer the term is not of so deep a stain, especially as given to women; yet it resembled, in fact, the coarse appellative employed among the outcasts of society. Iris calls Athena, and Hera calls Artemis, by the term kuon; nay, Helen names herself one. Il. 8.423, 21.481. In the Odyssey, too, the female servants of Ulysses receive the same epithet. Odyss. 18.338, 19:91, 154. In countries to the east of Greece, the term was one of extreme contempt, and that seemingly from the earliest times. The dogs there were wild and masterless animals, prowling in the evening, feeding on garbage, and devouring unburied corpses, as savage generally as they were greedy. Isaiah 56:11. The fidelity of the dog is recognized in the Odyssey, 17.291, and by Aeschylus, Agam. 607. But rapacity and filth (2Pe 2:22) are the scriptural associations. Ps. 59:6, 14; 1Ki 14:11, 16:4, 21:19-compared with 1Sa 17:43; 2Ki 8:13. In Hebrew (this concept) was the epithet of the vilest and foulest sinners. Deut. 23:18; Rev. 22:15. The term was therefore a strong expression of contempt, and was given by the Jews to the heathen, Mt. 15:26, as it is by Mohammedans to a Christian at the present day, when, without often meaning a serious insult, they are in the habit of calling him Giaour (A giaour [Turkish: Gavur] is the Turkish word for infidel or nonbeliever and is similar to the Arabic word kafir). We must suppose the apostle to use the word in its general acceptation, and as indicative of impurity and profanity. To indicate more minute points of comparison, such as those of shamelessness, selfishness, savageness, or malevolence, is merely fanciful. (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)

Later in this same chapter Paul describes those who might qualify as dogs or evil workers writing that…

many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. (see note Philippians 3:18-19)

There are 32 uses of kuon in the Septuagint (LXX) (Exod 11:7; 22:31; Deut 23:18; Judg 7:5; 1 Sam 17:43; 24:14; 2 Sam 3:8; 9:8; 16:9; 1 Kgs 12:24; 16:4; 21:19, 23f; 22:38; 2 Kgs 8:13; 9:10, 36; Job 30:1; Ps 22:16, 20; 59:6, 14; 68:23; Prov 7:22; 26:11, 17; Eccl 9:4; Isa 56:10f; 66:3; Jer 15:3) Below are some figurative uses in the OT

Deuteronomy 23:18 "You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.

Comment: The parallel use of "hire of a harlot" and "wages of a dog" suggests that "dog" is a Hebrew "epithet" for a male cult prostitute which was a common practice in Canaanite so called "worship". This may help explain the somewhat enigmatic term used by our resurrected Lord Jesus to define those who will not be allowed to inhabit the New Jerusalem. see Rev 22:15 below.

1 Samuel 17:43 And the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

1 Samuel 24:14 "After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog, a single flea?

2 Samuel 9:8 Again he prostrated himself and said, "What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?"

Below are the other 4 uses of kuon in the NT.

Peter instructs us to remember that false teachers are true to their nature no matter how "spiritual" they may appear for a time…

It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire." (see notes 2 Peter 2:22)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed believers…

"Do not give what is holy to dogs (see discussion of kuon), (see this turning away put into practice in Mt 10:14-15, Acts 18:1-6, etc) and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (Mt 7:6-note)

Luke uses kuon in his description of Lazarus and the rich man writing that the poor man Lazarus was

longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. (Luke 16:21)

The last occurrence of kuon is in a figurative description in Revelation, John writing…

Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. (Rev 22:15-note)

Comment: Robert Thomas explains that here in Revelation 22:15 “The dogs”… is a metaphor for the morally impure as it is throughout Scripture. They represent male prostitutes (Dt 23:18), Gentiles (Mt. 15:26), and Judaizers (Php. 3:2, 3), among other things (cf. 2Ki 8:13; Ps. 22:16, 20; Isa. 56:10; Mt. 7:6; Mk 7:27). In the Orient dogs are scavengers and are objects of great contempt. (Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995) (Bolding added)

Vine writes that "the epithet 'the dogs' is metaphorical here of the Judaizing teachers and their ways, who had found their way into the churches (cp Phil 1:15). It is used to suggest defilement and savagery, and homeless, ownerless wildness, as with the prowling dogs of the east. It is likewise a term of contempt or apprehension (1Sa 24:14; 2Ki 8:13; Ps 22:16, 20; Mt 7:6; 15:26; Rev 22:15)"

Wiersbe writes that

Like those dogs, these Judaizers snapped at Paul’s heels and followed him from place to place “barking” their false doctrines. They were troublemakers and carriers of dangerous infection… (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

Barclay has a helpful note on dogs

With us the dog is a well-loved animal, but it was not so in the East in the time of Jesus. The dogs were the pariah dogs, roaming the streets, sometimes in packs, hunting amidst the garbage dumps and snapping and snarling at all whom they met. J. B. Lightfoot speaks of “the dogs which prowl about eastern cities, without a home and without an owner, feeding on the refuse and filth of the streets, quarrelling among themselves, and attacking the passer-by.” In the Bible the dog always stands for that than which nothing can be lower. When Saul is seeking to take his life, David’s demand is: “After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! after a flea!” (1Sa 24:14, cf. 2Ki 8:13; Ps 22:16, 20). In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, part of the torture of Lazarus is that the street dogs annoy him by licking his sores (Luke 16:21). In Deuteronomy the Law brings together the price of a dog and the hire of a whore, and declares that neither must be offered to God (Dt 23:18). In Revelation the word dog stands for those who are so impure that they are debarred from the Holy City (Rev 22:15). That which is holy must never be given to dogs (Mt 7:6). It is the same in Greek thought; the dog stands for everything that is shamelessly unclean. It was by this name that the Jews called the Gentiles. There is a Rabbinic saying, “The nations of the world are like dogs.” So this is Paul’s answer to the Jewish teachers. He says to them, “In your proud self-righteousness, you call other men dogs; but it is you who are dogs, because you shamelessly pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He takes the very name the Jewish teachers would have applied to the impure and to the Gentiles and flings it back at themselves. A man must always have a care that he is not himself guilty of the sins of which he accuses others. (Philippians 3 Commentary)

Marvin Vincent has a lengthy note on "dogs" writing…

Dogs. Rev., correctly, the dogs, referring to a well-known party — the Judaizers. These were nominally Christians who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but as the Saviour of Israel only. They insisted that Christ’s kingdom could be entered only through the gate of Judaism. Only circumcised converts were fully accepted by God. They appeared quite early in the history of the Church, and are those referred to in Acts 15:1. Paul was the object of their special hatred and abuse. They challenged his birth, his authority, and his motives. “ ‘Paul must be destroyed,’ was as truly their watchword as the cry for the destruction of Carthage had been of old to the Roman senator” (Stanley, “Sermons and Lectures on the Apostolic Age”). These are referred to in Phil. 1:16; and the whole passage in the present chapter, from Phil 3:3 -11, is worthy of study, being full of incidental hints lurking in single words, and not always apparent in our versions; hints which, while they illustrate the main point of the discussion, are also aimed at the assertions of the Judaizers. Dogs was a term of reproach among both Greeks and Jews. Homer uses it of both women and men, implying shamelessness in the one, and recklessness in the other. Thus Helen: “Brother-in-law of me, a mischief-devising dog” (“Iliad,” vi., 344). Teucer of Hector: “I cannot hit this raging dog” (“Iliad,” viii., 298).

Dr. Thomson says of the dogs in oriental towns:

“They lie about the streets in such numbers as to render it difficult and often dangerous to pick one’s way over and amongst them — a lean, hungry, and sinister brood. They have no owners, but upon some principle known only to themselves, they combine into gangs, each of which assumes jurisdiction over a particular street; and they attack with the utmost ferocity all canine intruders into their territory. In those contests, and especially during the night, they keep up an incessant barking and howling, such as is rarely heard in any European city. The imprecations of David upon his enemies derive their significance, therefore, from this reference to one of the most odious of oriental annoyances” (“Land and Book,” Central Palestine and Phoenicia, 593). See Ps 59:6; 22:16.

Being unclean animals, dogs were used to denote what was unholy or profane. So Mt 7:6; Rev 22:15. The Israelites are forbidden in Deuteronomy to bring the price of a dog into the house of God for any vow: Deut 23:18. The Gentiles of the Christian era were denominated “dogs” by the Jews, see Mt 15:26. Paul here retorts upon them their own epithet. (Philippians 3 Greek Word Studies)

Matthew Henry comments that Paul "calls the false prophets dumb dogs (Isa 56:10), to which the apostle here seems to refer. Dogs, for their malice against the faithful professors of the gospel of Christ, barking at them and biting them. They cried up good works in opposition to the faith of Christ; but Paul calls them evil workers: they boasted themselves to be of the circumcision; but he calls them the concision: they rent and tore the church of Christ, and cut it to pieces; or contended for an abolished rite, a mere insignificant cutting of the flesh.

BEWARE OF THE EVIL WORKERS: blepete (2PPAM) tous kakous ergatas: (Phil 3:19; Ps 119:115; Mt 7:22,23; 2Cor 11:13; Gal 5:13; 1Ti1:19; 2Ti 3:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; 2Ti 4:3,4; Titus 1:16; 2Pe 2:18-20; Jude 1:4,10, 11, 12, 13; Rev 21:8)

Pritchard writes that…

The passage begins with a stern word of warning. Evidently some false teachers had infiltrated the church at Philippi and Paul wanted to make sure the congregation knew how to handle them. In verse 2 he uses three exceedingly harsh terms to describe these false teachers. He calls them “dogs” (not house pets but wild dogs that roamed the streets) and “men who do evil” and “mutilators of the flesh.” These men were immoral, influential and injurious. They were zealous but wrong, active in the church but evil in their influence. (From Rubbish to Jesus - sermon by Dr. Ray Pritchard - November 1998)

Eadie - The verb (Beware) is repeated for the sake of emphasis, and not because a second class of persons is pointed out to their wary inspection. (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)


However prettily they may talk, if they are workers of evil, beware of them.” By their fruits ye shall know them.” Their speech may be clever, but if their lips be unclean, beware of them.

Paul meant those Jews who made a great point of circumcision; he calls them here “the cutters”, for they mangled and cut the Church of God in pieces: “Beware of the concision.”

Beware (991) (blepo) (see above) means perceive with your eyes. Have your eye on so as to beware of. Paul says to pay especially close attention to these men.

Evil (2556) (kakos) morally descriptive of those characterized by godlessness with the implication of harmful and damaging bad. Kakos describes their character as base and malicious.

Workers (2040) (ergates from ergazomai = engage in an activity involving considerable expenditure of effort) describes one who labors or toils. They did not just do evil in the general sense, but in this context they actually worked against the gospel of grace.

As Eadie says these men were "but they were set on evil; theirs was no inoperative speculation; they were not mere opinionists, but restless agitators; they were not dreamy theorists, but busy workers—earnest and indefatigable (unable to be tired out; unflagging, persisting tirelessly) in the support and propagation of their errors. (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus illustrates with the story of a house where the head gets up and shuts the door. When some come to the door and seek to enter he replies…

'I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.' (literally workers [ergates] of iniquity" or unrighteousness) (Luke 13:27)

Comment: These workers are not specifically immoral men, but workers of the law, who because of a legalistic approach to salvation are producing only "unrighteousness." They are typical of the group seen here in Philippians.

Paul appears to describe Judaizers who taught circumcision was necessary for salvation and thus were evil workers for the kingdom of God. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul addresses another group of "workers"

For such men (those were attacking the credibility of Paul) are false apostles, deceitful (dolios - describes Satan's servants who deliberately attempt to mislead other people by telling lies & desire to gain advantage by deceiving using deceitful cunning or duplicity) workers (ergates), disguising (transfiguring, changing their outward appearance - Satan's worker's most destructive efforts are accomplished when they transform themselves, changing their outward appearance) themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.(2Cor 11:13,14)

Wiersbe tells the following story

A lady was arguing with her pastor about this matter of faith and works.

“I think that getting to heaven is like rowing a boat,” she said. “One oar is faith, and the other is works. If you use both, you get there. If you use only one, you go around in circles.”

‘’There is only one thing wrong with your illustration,” replied the pastor. “Nobody is going to heaven in a rowboat!”

There is only one “good work” that takes the sinner to heaven: the finished work of Christ on the cross (John 17:1-4; 19:30; Heb. 10:11-14).(Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

BEWARE OF THE FALSE CIRCUMCISION: blepete (2PPAM) ten katatomen: (Phil 3:3; Ro 2:28; Gal 2:3,4; 5:1, 2, 3,6; Rev 2:9; 3:9)

Literally this reads "Beware of the mutilation"!

The KJV says "beware of the concision" where concision is an archaic term which means to mutilate. Concision describes the mark on the flesh of the Israelite who had submitted to the outward rite, but had never been circumcised in heart.

Spurgeon comments…

Beware of the cutters off, those who excommunicate and cut off others because they do not happen quite to agree with them in certain rites and ceremonies.

The Judaizers in essence were "mutilating" the message of the gospel of grace by adding law. The danger of these deceivers (and remember deceivers are usually also deceived which makes them especially dangerous because they really believe the false dogma they are teaching! 2Ti 3:13-note) was that this false teaching affected not only their own spiritual lives but also those of their converts. Thus Paul used strong language to warn those who would dare tamper with the Gospel writing…

As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed (anathema - given up to the curse and to destruction). (Galatians 1:9)

In Galatians 5:12 Paul again does not spare words writing…

Would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate (emasculate) themselves (or cut themselves off as when one was made a eunuch)!

Beware (991) (blepo) in its simple definition denotes voluntary observation. Blepo has the idea of constantly observing with a view to avoiding. In this context of course Paul commands (present imperative = calls for continued vigilance - don't let down your guard because the enemy deceivers are relentless - in this case they are Jewish legalists, but practically speaking legalists are in most if not every evangelical church) the saints at Philippi to continually be on the "look out" for these characters.

It appears likely that all three terms refer to the same group of men, all of whom were false teachers who sought to put believers under the Law, teaching that righteousness was attained by works (keeping laws and rituals such as circumcision).

Eadie comments on the false circumcision observing that this "term occurs only here, and the apostle, in his indignation, characterizes the class of Judaizers by it. Not that he could speak so satirically of circumcision as a divine institute, but of it only when, as a mere manual mutilation, apart from its spiritual significance, it was insisted on as the only means of admission to the church—as a rite never to be discontinued, but one that was obligatory as well on the Gentile races as on the descendants of Abraham. The term justly designates the men whose creed was, “Except ye be circumcised and keep the whole law of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” Viewed in this light, and as enforced for this end, it was only a cutting, and so the apostle calls those who made so much of it “the slashers.” Chrysostom well says of them, that so far from performing a religious rite,—“they merely cut their flesh.” (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)

False circumcision (2699) (katatome from kata = intensifies + temno = to cut) literally means a cutting down or (ironically) a mutilation. In the Septuagint or LXX the related verb katatemno is used to describe the mutilation that pagans performed as part of their religious ceremonies. Thus Moses records that the holy people, Israel,

"shall not make any baldness on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts (katatemno) in their flesh." (Lev 21:5)

In first Kings we read that the idolatrous pagan priests…

cried with a loud voice and cut (katatemno) themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. (1Kings 18:28)

Paul labeled these men "katatome" probably a play on words for they attempted to "mutilate" the gospel or cut away it's power by preaching Christ plus ______ (works, Jewish ritual, law, tradition). is closely related to "circumcision" or peritome (peri = around + temno = to cut) meaning literally to cut around. The false teachers had so distorted the meaning of circumcision that it had become nothing more than a useless cutting of the body.

Peritome had been ordained in the Law of Moses and did convey a spiritual significance, distinguishing God’s people Israel in the OT from the pagans. When this spiritual meaning is forgotten, then peritome, circumcision, becomes katatome, a mutilation, a butchering up, a mere cutting away flesh conveys no merit or value in itself. Paul says keep watching out for these “butchers”. The almost certainly taught that outward circumcision of the flesh was necessary to salvation. Tragically these deceivers were themselves deceived as Paul made clear in Romans "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." (Ro 2:28, 29-note)

Barclay explains that "There are two Greek verbs which are very like each other. Peritemnein means to circumcise; katatemnein means to mutilate, as in Leviticus 21:5, which describes forbidden self-mutilation, such as castration. Paul says, “You Jews think that you are circumcised; in point of fact, you are only mutilated. (Philippians 3 Commentary)

This false circumcision was the counterfeit of the genuine spiritual circumcision which Paul described in Colossians explaining that…

and in Him (speak of the believer's inseparable union with Christ - union created by the Spirit and effected by faith) you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ (see note Colossians 2:11)

Eadie comments that "the blessing described in the verse had been already enjoyed, for they were and had been believers in Him in whom they are complete. Through their living union with Christ, they had enjoyed the privilege, and were enjoying the results of a spiritual circumcision. Why then should they suffer the incision of a sharp flint or a glittering knife—in itself, at best, but a sign—when they had already experienced the blessing of a circumcision that drew no blood, and gave no pain—a circumcision “not made with hands”?" (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)

Application Do you see how would this warning might apply to the church? Dr. Barnhouse re-phrases Paul's warning in Romans giving in a more modern "spin" --

For he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, nor is that “church membership” which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Christian who is one inwardly; and “church membership” is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Eadie sums up verse 2 concluding that…

The repetition of the verb (Beware) proves the anxiety and stern ardour of the apostle. “For you it is safe,” and their safety lay to some extent in being formally and emphatically warned. Like three peals of a trumpet giving a certain blast, do the three clauses sound with the thrice-repeated verb—beware! That the same classes of persons are referred to, we have no doubt.

The same men are described in each clause—as impure and profane, as working spiritual mischief, and as taken up with a puerile faith in flesh-cutting. In the first clause you have their character, in the second their conduct, and in the third their destructive creed. The absurd stress they placed on a mere mutilation warranted the satirical epithet of the concision; but their convictions on this point drove them into a course of mischievous agitations, and they became the evil-workers; then from their belief, character, and actings, they stood out as impure and shameless—as dogs. Men who insisted on circumcision as essential to salvation made the rite ridiculous—Judaized ere they Christianized. To circumcise a Gentile was not only to subject him to a rite which God never intended for him, but it was to invest him with a false character. Circumcision to him was a forgery, and he carried a lie in his person. Not a Jew, and yet marked as one—having the token without the lineage—the seal of descent and not a drop of Abraham's blood in his veins. To hinge salvation, especially in the case of a Gentile, on circumcision, was such a spurious proselytism—such a total misappreciation of the Jewish covenant—such a miserable subversion of the liberty of the gospel—such a perverse and superstitious reliance on a manual rite, that its advocates might be well caricatured and branded as the concision. The rite, so misplaced, was both a fiction and an anachronism; for the benefits of circumcision were to be enjoyed in Palestine, and not in Europe, and enjoyed up to the period “of the abolition of the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” What these persons were may be seen in the Introduction. They might not have done damage as yet in Philippi, but there was a danger of their doing so. Such a warning, repeated, would put the Philippians on their guard and contribute to their safety. (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)

Philippians 3:3 for we are (1PPAI) the true circumcision, who worship (PAPMPN) in the Spirit of God and glory (PMPMPN) in Christ Jesus and put no confidence (RAPMPN) in the flesh (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: hemeis gar esmen (1PPAI) e peritome, oi pneumati theou latreuontes (PAPMPN) kai kauchomenoi (PMPMPN) en Christo Iesou kai ouk en sarki pepoithotes, (RAPMPN)

Amplified: For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances— (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Lightfoot: for we are the true circumcision, we offer the genuine service; we—you and I—Gentile and Jew alike—who serve by the Spirit of God, who place our boast in Christ Jesus and put no trust in the flesh.

Phillips: We are, remember, truly circumcised when we worship God by the Spirit, when we find our joy in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in what we are in the flesh (New Testament in Modern English)

Wuest: For, as for us, we are the circumcision, those who by the Spirit of God are rendering sacred service and obedience, and who are exulting in Christ Jesus, and who have not come to a settled persuasion, trusting in the flesh [human worthiness and attainment] (Eerdmans)

Young's Literal: for we are the circumcision, who by the Spirit are serving God, and glorying in Christ Jesus, and in flesh having no trust,

FOR WE ARE THE CIRCUMCISION: hemeis gar esmen (1PPAI) e peritome: (Gen 17:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11; Dt 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 9:26; Ro 2:25, 26, 27, 28, 29; 4:11,12; Col 2:11)

Related Resources:

Circumcision - peritome (Including Circumcision of one's heart)

Scriptures on Circumcision

Excursus on Circumcision Of the Heart

For (gar) introduces Paul's explanation of why the false teachers (probably Judaizers) just described have no right to claim they are the true circumcision. Observe that Paul's claim that he and the believing readers were the true circumcision is based on the three reasons which follow. See discussion of term of explanation.

Spurgeon notes "These are three marks of the true Israel of God; have you all of them,-worshipping God in the spirit, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and having no confidence in the flesh?

We - This pronoun is first in the Greek sentence adding emphasis. Paul is including himself with the saints at Philippi, many of whom were undoubtedly Gentile (see Acts 16 for his first European converts - Lydia, the Philippian jailer, both Gentiles as far as we can discern)

Robertson agrees writing that we refers to…

We believers in Christ, the children of Abraham by faith, whether Jew or Gentile, the spiritual circumcision in contrast to the merely physical (Ro 2:25, 26, 27, 28, 29-notes Ro 2:25; 26; 27; 28; 29; Col 3:11-note :11; Ep 2:11-note).

As Paul wrote to the saints at Colossae, when one is in Christ by grace through faith…

there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3:11-note)

Similarly writing to the Galatian churches he explained that…

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

The true circumcision - The NAS translators added the word "true" which is not in the Greek but it fits well with the context (as an aside this is why I recommend using a Bible translation which is literal and which uses italics so that you know what they have added to the original Greek text - NAS, KJV, NKJV, Darby, et al, use italics. The ESV and NET are both excellent translations but neither use italics) What Paul is saying here is that the circumcision God has always desired is not an external physical circumcision but an internal spiritual circumcision of the heart.

Spurgeon - This is the real circumcision, which is of the spirit, and not of the flesh. The men who have abandoned all confidence in themselves, the men who have come to rely upon Christ alone, the men who “rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,” those who care not for outward rites and ceremonies, but who worship God in the spirit, — these are the true circumcision.

Addressing primarily the Jewish readers in his letter to the Romans (but applicable to all unsaved readers) Paul explains that…

he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (~ the Law); and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Ro 2:28, 29-notes)

Circumcision (4061) (peritome from perí = around + témno = cut off) refers literally to cutting and removal of the foreskin. Both the Old and New Testament also use the concept of circumcision in a figurative or metaphorical sense (Click for in depth word study of peritome) (See also discussion of Scriptures on Circumcision)

The circumcision here is spiritual (figurative not literal) as elaborated elsewhere where Paul explains that now because of our union with and position "in Him (Christ) (we, the moment we believed in Him) were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh ("you were made free from the power of your sinful self" [ICB], "of the corrupt nature" [GWT], "… of your sinful nature" [NLT]) by the circumcision of Christ". (Col 2:11-NOTE) which parallels perfectly with God's charge in the OT to "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart" (Dt 10:16KJV), for God has always been more concerned with our internal heart condition over dead works of external formalism (Click for analysis of circumcision). (Click for another discussion on circumcision in context of the study of covenant)

WHO WORSHIP IN THE SPIRIT OF GOD: oi pneumati theou latreuontes (PAPMPN): (Mal 1:11; Jn 4:23,24; Ro 1:9; 7:6; 8:15,26,27; Eph 6:18; Jude1:20)

those who by the Spirit of God are rendering sacred service and obedience, and who are exulting in Christ Jesus, and who have not come to a settled persuasion, trusting in the flesh [human worthiness and attainment] (Wuest)

Worship (3000) (latreuo [word study]) originally meant to render service of any sort (Acts 7:42; 24:14) or service for hire (usually of a service rendered willingly) and then came to mean the rendering of respectful spiritual service or the service of worship. While worship is not specially defined in Scripture, it broadly signifies direct acknowledgment of God, His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by word, in praise or thanksgiving, or by deed done in such acknowledgment.

Wuest (quoting Vincent) makes an interesting point observing that…

The word worship is the translation of the Greek word referring to the service of Jehovah by His peculiar people, the Jews (see Acts 26:7 where "serve" = latreuo). A Jew would be scandalized by the application of this word to a Gentile. Paul uses it to designate the religious service and obedience of the believer in the Church. (Philippians Commentary Online- Recommended)

John MacArthur writes that…

True worship goes beyond praising God, singing hymns, or participating in a worship service. The essence of worship is living a life of obedient service to God.

Do not neglect doing good and sharing,” exhorts the writer of Hebrews, “for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Heb 13:16).

True worship involves every aspect of life. (Philippians 3:1-3 Qualities of True Christian)

Worship in the Spirit of God - This describes the result of true circumcision for all true worship to God is initiated by

"God… working in (us), giving (us) the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him." (NLT, Phil 2:13 )

Eadie adds that "The Spirit of God is He Who dwells in the hearts of believers, sent by God for this purpose. It follows, indeed, as a natural inference, that if the Spirit prompt and guide the worship, it will be spiritual in its nature. There is thus a quiet but telling allusion to the external formalities of the Jewish service, to which the dogmatists were so inordinately attached. The Mosaic worship, properly so called, could be celebrated only on one spot, and according to a certain ritual. Though of divine institution, and adapted to express in a powerful form the religious emotions of the people, it often degenerated into mere parade. It became a pantomime. Jehovah represents Himself as being satiated with sacrifices, and wearied out by the heartless routine. Only on one altar could the victim be laid, and only one family was privileged to present it. But the Christian worship may be presented anywhere and at any time, in the hut and in the cathedral. The Being we worship is not confined to temples made with hands, nor yet is He restricted to any periods for the celebration of His worship. Whenever and wherever the Spirit of God moves the heart to grateful sensation, there is praise; or touches it with a profound sense of its spiritual wants, there is prayer and service. How superior this self-expansive power of Christianity to the rigid and cumbrous ceremonial of Israel after the flesh, and especially to the stiff and narrow bigotry of the concision! (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)

In Isaiah God described the counterfeit of Spirit initiated and empowered worship declaring…

"Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote" (Isaiah 29:13)

Jesus taught that worship was not a matter of a physical place but an issue of the heart addressing the Samaritan woman's statement that…

"Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:20, 21, 22, 23, 24)

Jesus explained that worship which pleases God "must (be) worship in spirit and truth." This God initiated and God centered worship contrasts with the rituals and ceremonies that ensnared the Jews of old and which today entangle and deceive many who practice external acts thinking they are truly worshiping "in the spirit of God."

GLORY IN CHRIST JESUS: kai kauchomenoi (PMPMPN) en Christo Iesou: (Phil 3:7, 8, 9; Ps 105:3; Isa 45:25; Jer 9:23,24; 1Cor 1:29, 30, 31; Gal 6:13,14)

Glory (2744) (kauchaomai [word study] akin to aucheo = boast + euchomai = pray to God <> auchen = neck which vain persons are apt to carry in proud manner) means to boast over a privilege or possession. The idea is boasting with exultant joy about what a person is most proud of. Kauchaomai is a favorite verb of the apostle Paul who accounts for 34 of the 36 NT occurrences. It's frequent use shows the high spiritual level of the apostle’s life. The present tense indicates glorying in Christ Jesus was their continual response.

Kauchaomai expresses an unusually high degree of confidence in someone or something being exceptionally noteworthy. As used in the positive sense self-confidence is radically excluded and all self-boasting is abandoned. Faith implies the surrender of all self-glorying.

Eadie - They gloried not in themselves, or in anything about themselves—not in circumcision or Abrahamic descent, but in Christ Jesus, and in Him alone—not in Him and Moses—not in Son and servant alike; gloried in Him; in His great condescension; His birth and its wonders; His life and its blessings; His death and its benefits; His ascension and its pledges; His return, and its stupendous and permanent results. The spiritual circumcision boasted themselves in Christ Jesus; the implication being, that the concision boasted themselves in Moses and external privilege (Philippians 3 Commentary - Online)

To the believer his exultation is in Christ Jesus, Who is the personal embodiment of all his privileges, and in whom he glories, on the ground of His Cross. In Galatians Paul contrasts two objects of boasting…

For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast (kauchaomai) in your flesh (they want to boast that they are disciples of these false teachers). But may it never be that I should boast (kauchaomai), except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal 6:13,14)

Centuries earlier God declared through His prophet Jeremiah…

Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD. (Jer 9:23,24) (quoted by Paul in part in 1Cor 1:29, 30, 31)

AND PUT NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH: kai ouk en sarki pepoithotes (RAPMPN):

No (3756) (ouk) means absolute in contrast to relative negation. Paul is using the strongest negative to deny that the natural man can do anything of worth or value in the supernatural realm.

Put… confidence (3982) (peitho [word study]) is in the perfect tense which conveys the idea of coming to a settled persuasion regarding something. Paul had come to a settled conviction as a result of a past completed process of turning this matter over in his mind until he was persuaded and thus confident that the flesh was of no value in the spiritual realm. When did this happen for Paul? Undoubtedly the moment the Spirit caused him to be born again. Prior to that Paul was in fact quite confident in his flesh.

He had come to understand the truth of Jesus' great declaration that…

It is the Spirit Who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. (John 6:63)

In Romans 7 Paul wrote…

I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. (see note Romans 7:18)

In Romans 8 Paul explained the adversarial relationship of the flesh and Spirit writing that believers…

do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (see notes Romans 8:4, 8:5, 8:6-8, 8:9)

Flesh (4561) (sarx) (Click discussion of flesh) in this context represents man in his unregenerate state and unredeemed humanness, in short picturing human ability apart from God, whether in the religious or moral realm.

As Paul here shows he was (Phil 3:4-6), man apart from God and out of agreement with God, man without the possession of the Holy Spirit. Paul knew that there was nothing good within his flesh (Ro 7:18-note)

For physical meaning of flesh (our physical fleshly bodies) see (note Philippians 1:22)


F B Meyer


Phil. 3:1-3

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord, To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

THERE is a difference of opinion amongst scholars as to the precise meaning of the Apostle when he wrote this word "Finally." Bishop Lightfoot, for instance, supposes that he had already said all that he intended to say, and was bringing his letter to a dose. In that case we should accept the alternative rendering, Farewell/ which is suggested in the margin for Rejoice. This would justify the paraphrase: "And now, my brethren, I must wish you farewell. Rejoice in the Lord."

It is better, however, to hold that though Finally indicates that the Apostle is approaching the end of the Epistle, it is not necessarily a very near approach. (See 1 Thes. 4:1; 2 Thes. 3:1.) In this case we might adopt the following paraphrase: "My letter draws to its dose. Its key-note has been the duty of joy, and it shall be so to the end."

Three Christian duties are enjoined in this brief paragraph: We are to rejoice in the Lord; we are to beware; and we are to examine ourselves that we be of the true circumcision.


Christian Joy. --The Joy, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit's work in the heart, coming next to love, and before Peace, in the enumeration given by the Apostle in Gal. 5:22, is unlike anything which is produced from the natural soil of the heart. It is altogether peculiar to the regenerate soul. It differs from the overflowing good spirits of perfect health, for it persists amid weakness and pain; it differs from mirthful merriment, with its "quips and cranks," for it persists in dark hours as well as bright; it differs from mere happiness, for it persists amid the loss of all things. Those who have seen it reflected on the face of God's children will bear witness to the unearthly beauty of expression which it generates. Of this there is a beautiful story told by Dr. Trumbull, who describes "What a boy saw in the face of Adoniram Judson." One evening, he saw a stranger arrive by train in his native town, whose appearance greatly attracted him. He had never seen such a light on a human face before, and at last it dawned upon him that the man was the great missionary, with whose picture he was familiar. He hurried to summon his own minister, and the little lad was soon forgotten as the two fell into deep conversation; but the boy circled about them, steadfastly looking on that face. Until the day he died, he was accustomed to speak of its beautiful light that shone like the sun. That surely was the reflection of this inner joy.

The "Solar Look." In the American version of Psalm 34:5, we read, "They looked unto Him and were radiant." The "solar look" is a well-known expression for the smile that shone on the face of Rowlands of Llangeitho; and Margaret Fuller in her diary says, "Emerson came into our house this morning with a sunbeam in his face." Nothing more certainly indicates that we have fellowship with God than the radiance of that joy in our step, bearing, and look. The joy of the Lord arises from leaving all our burdens at His feet; from believing that He has forgiven the past as absolutely as the tide obliterates children's writing in the sand; that nothing can come which He does not appoint or permit; that He is doing all things as wisely and kindly as possible; that in Him we have been lifted out of the realm of sin, sorrow, and death into a region of Divine light and love; that we have already commenced the eternal life, and that before us for ever, there is a fellowship with Him so rapturous and exalting that human language can only describe it as unspeakable.

A Thing to be Cultivated. It is a duty for us to cultivate this joy. We must steadfastly arrest any tendency to murmur and complain; to find fault with God's dealings; or to seek to elicit sympathy. We must as much resist the temptation to depression and melancholy as we would to any form of sin. We must insist on watching the one patch of blue in the dark sky, sure that presently it will overspread the Heavens. We must rest upon the promises of God in certain faith that He will triumph gloriously, and that the future will absolutely vindicate the long story of human pain. We must cultivate a cheery optimism, and an undaunted hope. We must resolve to imitate him, of whom the poet sings, that he:

Never turned his back, but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

Rejoicing in the Lord. Moreover, we are to rejoice "in the Lord." "In His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures for evermore." We need not relegate the fulfilment of these sweet words to the far future, but now and here, as we live in fellowship with Him, we shall discover that Christ's presence made real to us by the Holy Spirit, is the "deep, sweet well of joy." We may not be able to rejoice in our circumstances, friends, or prospects, but we can always rejoice in Jesus Christ, whose Nature is the key to the understanding and unlocking of all mysteries, the Well-spring of hope, the Day-star in our hearts, till "the morning breaks and the shadows flee away."

It is not difficult to be bright and gay amongst comparative strangers and friends, but often those who are at their best in the social circle, are depressed and taciturn with the immediate inmates of their homes. Does not the wife sometimes shyly confess to herself the wish that her husband might shed the same genial warmth on the breakfast-table, when they are together, as he did on the social circle of the previous evening? But surely, if there is one company in all the world where one should overabound with joy, it is among those to whom our face is as the sun. If it is clouded, shadows fall on all things, if it shines with unobscured beauty, all things partake of a new radiancy.

Do not be Afraid of Joy. "Thou shalt rejoice in all the good which the Lord thy God giveth thee"; "Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." God is always putting into our lives bright and blessed things to be used for Him. Do not think it necessary to introduce thorns to your roses, and clouds for the unflecked blue sky. God loves to see His children glad, and so long as you are able to look up from the joy that fills your heart to Him who gave it, connecting the gift with the Giver, there is no reason why you should not drink to the full every cup of blessing which He places in your hand.

We shall hear the Apostle returning to this injunction in Phil. 4:4. To quote his own words, "To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe." Apparently, he was constantly exhorting them to Christian joy, he was repeating the advice he had often given, laying stress where he had often laid it, with him it was "precept upon precept, line upon line," and the teacher who reaffirms and repeats is sure to win in the end.


The Duty of Taking Heed. Beware of Dogs. --He adds, "Beware of dogs." Amongst the Ancients, dogs stood as representatives of certain human qualities. For the Greek they stood for ferocity, impudence, greediness; for the Jew, for degradation and uncleanness. In the Apocalypse the term is applied to those who are destitute of moral qualifications for entering the New Jerusalem--"Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the idolaters, and everyone that loveth and maketh a lie." Every traveller in the East knows how herds of dogs prowl through the streets, each pack holding its own street against all comers; they have neither homes nor owners, feeding on the refuse of the streets, quarrelling amongst themselves, and attacking the passers-by.

We are bidden, therefore, to beware of men of a quarrelsome and contentious spirit, who under the guise of religion hide impure and unclean things; and who are not only defiled, but defiling in their influence. If, in our circle of friends, there is one whose influence lowers the tone of our own life, who suggests and arouses thoughts and desires that tend to the gratification of the flesh, the tendency of whose conversation is towards the kitchen of our lower nature, rather than to the observatory of our spirit life, it is our duty to be carefully on our guard, and, if possible, to break off from familiarity and even acquaintance.

And of Evil Workers. "Beware of evil workers." These are not quite the same as evil doers. They are not set upon doing all the harm they can in the world, but are fanatical, unbalanced, and unable to distinguish between a part and the whole, magnifying some microscopical point in Christianity until it blinds the eye to the symmetry, proportion, and beauty of Heaven's glorious scheme. These people are the "cranks" of our Churches; they introduce fads and hobbies; they exaggerate the importance of trifles; they catch up every new theory and vagary, and follow it to the detriment of truth and love.

It is impossible to exaggerate the harm that these people do, or the desirability of keeping clear of them, they are the pests of every Christian community they enter; and their influence over young and unwary spirits is in a high degree pernicious. The Apostle tells us that when we speak, we must observe the "proportion of faith." No exhortation could be more necessary, and whenever any person makes a hobby of one special aspect of the Gospel, always agitating that one point, exaggerating it, and concentrating upon it an amount of attention that should be evenly diffused over the entire system of truth, let us beware, for such an one, intentionally or not, is an evil worker.

The Concision. Beware of the Concision. These years of the Apostle's life were greatly embittered by the antagonism of the Judaising teachers who dogged his steps. They did not deny that Jesus was the Messiah, or that His Gospel was the power of God unto salvation, but they insisted that the Gentile converts could only come to the fulness of Gospel privilege through the Law of Moses; they urged that Gentiles must become Jews before they could be Christians; they asserted that if the new converts were not circumcised after the manner of Moses, they could not be saved (Acts 15:1). Throughout his whole career, the Apostle offered the most strenuous opposition to these men and their teaching. He went so far as to say that they were traitors to the highest traditions of the past, and that the rite they insisted on, under such circumstances, and when viewed as a condition of salvation by the Blood of Christ, was only a mutilation and cutting of the flesh. It was not circumcision in the true, deep sense of the term. The distinction lies between the words concision and circumcision, the one "a cutting," the other a sacred rite.

Unauthorized Demands. Similarly, in our own time, we must beware of those who say that men must pass through certain outward rites before they can be saved. Still amongst us are to be found teachers and writers, the purport of whose words certainly is that, in addition to faith in our Lord, there must be certain acts of obedience to the institutions of the Church. They demand baptism, attendance at the confessional, and strict obedience to fasts, mortifications, and acts of self-denial, as conditions of salvation. Against all these we must be steadfastly on our guard, because they obscure and belittle the Gospel, and divert men's thoughts from Him who is the only way to the Father.

It is specially difficult to be on our guard against these false teachers, because they approach us under the guise of earnestness, sympathy, and religious sentiment. It is not so difficult to watch against the outwardly profane and rebellious, but the most wary may be snared by the specious appeals of those who seem more religious than themselves. It was therefore that the Apostle feared, in his time, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve with his subtlety, so the minds of his converts should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ (2Cor. 11:3). It is when Satan comes to us as an angel of light that he is most to be dreaded.


Examine Yourselves.--The analogue of circumcision in the Christian dispensation is clearly not Baptism, but a "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh." We must be circumcised in the "circumcision of Christ," i.e. in the cutting away of all the energy of our self-life, the placing the grave of Jesus between ourselves and the past, and the rising with Him into a realm of liberty and victory, to which He passed by the door of Resurrection (Col. 2:11, 12).

Specifically, the Apostle gives us the three notes of the true circumcision, by possessing which, we show ourselves to be the true descendants of Abraham, and in the true line of spiritual heredity and blessing; "For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God" (Ro 2:28, 29).

Is our Worship Right? Do we belong to this holy category? Are the three credentials on which the Apostle insists evident in us? Do we worship God in the spirit? The word translated worship means first to do servant's work, then to do religious service, and sometimes priestly duty. Do we understand what it is to live in the temple of worship, performing every duty as to the Lord? Is our worship, whether in public or private, mechanical in outward posture and routine, or do we know what it is to worship the Father "in spirit and in truth," and "to be in the Spirit on the Lord's Day?" Do we glory (exult) in Christ Jesus? Is He our boast and pride? Is following Him our highest ideal? Is the pursuit of His "Well-done" our loftiest endeavour?

Is our Confidence Right? Are we amongst those who put no confidence in the flesh? All through the Epistles the flesh stands for self--the self that seeks to justify itself, that endeavours to sanctify itself, that is always fussily endeavouring to win men for God, but has never learned to be submerged beneath the mighty tide and current of God's Spirit. If your religious life is one of self-effort and self-complacency, you must stand back; it is not for you to handle the priceless pearl; your eyes cannot detect its superlative beauty, excellence, and worth. But let all humble souls, who have nothing in which to glory, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, who put no confidence in themselves, but wholly rest upon the unmerited grace of God, lift up their faces with exceeding great joy. These are the true children of Abraham.

Jake Parsons. Do we rejoice in Christ Jesus? Dr. James H. Taylor wrote some years ago of the curious old New England character named Jake Parsons. "The change in his life was notorious, so significant and revolutionary had it been. He lay down to sleep one night an absolutely drunken, worthless wretch, having well-nigh lost his power of speech through his dissipation, loved only by the fragment of the family that was left to him. He woke up the next morning an absolutely changed man. For nearly forty years after that, he lived a life without blemish or spot. Eight years after the change, someone asked him what had produced it. This is the explanation he gave: "That night, Jesus Christ appeared in my sleep. His face, as I saw it, seemed so pure, so lovely, so friendly to me that when I awoke I forgot my old vices, and so loved my Saviour that I could not displease Him. He did not speak to me, He only looked at me; but His look told me that there was hope for me, that I could be forgiven, that I could be purified. I looked at Him, and cried like a child; I felt that I was a vile, miserable, wicked wretch, filthier than a dunghill. I cannot tell how I felt. When I looked at Him I was too happy to be afraid; but when I looked at myself I was too afraid to be happy. I forgot all about rum and tobacco, I was thinking so much about Christ, so pure, so lovely, so beautiful, so friendly.'"

One who knew him well, so Dr. Taylor said, wrote: "For thirty-five years he lived a blameless life, beloved by everybody. On a fine summer morning, my friend writes, the glorious old new creature would crawl out of doors, and seating himself on the grassy bank in front of his humble home, turning his sightless face to the sun to feel its warmth, would say: 'The door opened into heaven just a little crack. I shall know Him. He will look just so.' So he lived until he fell asleep in Jesus." God give us grace that till the eternal joy overtakes us as a flood we may live in the joy of a similar vision. (F. B. Meyer. The Epistle to the Philippians - A Devotional Commentary)