Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Church and Her Enemies

"Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh" (Philippians 3:2)

The Philippian church, being mostly Gentile in origin, was not troubled by Judaizers as much as other churches, but such trouble was never far from Paul’s mind. Paul’s warning in Philippians 3:1–11 does not depart from his theme, because the essence of the Judaizers was that they put their own pride before the real needs of the people they were supposedly going to serve and educate. They are the negative example of all Paul has been saying.

The Judaizers refused to understand what the Old Testament clearly taught—that Israel was set aside to serve the Gentiles, not to master them. It was never necessary for Gentile converts to be circumcised and become Israelites. The Judaizers, however, wanted all Gentiles to be circumcised and tried to impose this on the church. Paul hated this attitude with a passion.

He called the Judaizers “dogs,” which is the term they used for Gentiles. He said that their circumcision is actually mutilation, and a mutilated person could not serve as a priest, according to the law of Leviticus 21:16–23. Thus, he was saying, these Judaizers had actually disqualified themselves from serving as priests to the “true circumcision,” as he called the church in verse 3.

Paul again became his own example. As far as the flesh was concerned, he had it all. He was circumcised strictly according to the Law on the eighth day. He had a perfect genealogical record tracing back to Benjamin. He had the best possible schooling in the Law. He had zeal and he obeyed the customs perfectly (vv. 4–6).

But all of this was “rubbish” compared to what had now come to him in Christ (v. 8). Some scholars contend the Greek word for rubbish is actually the ordinary slang term for dung, or may refer to garbage thrown to dogs. This stuff had value before Christ, but now it is to be flushed away. Christ is now the only thing that counts, and Paul put everything else away.

His call was for them to imitate Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus, and pay no attention to barking dogs. Those who divert attention from Christ are the enemy. The same is true today—stay away!

The church always has enemies who would steal her affection away from her Master and His service. We may wince when preachers warn us against enemies, but we should be grateful. It is their job to warn us against the church's enemies. Encourage your minister to this kind of Pauline faithfulness.