Philippians 3:1-11 Scripture
“1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
“2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
“7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:1-11)
Philippians 3:1 Meaning
“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.” (Philippians 3:1)
By this point in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he has encouraged them to rejoice in the Lord 4 times, this being the 5th.
We have to remember that Paul wrote this while under house arrest in Rome. Our circumstances do not determine our level of joy because our joy does not come from this world.
This is why Jesus said, “In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We often lose sight of the great gift the Lord has given us. We should consistently remind ourselves of the “good tidings of great joy” the angels promised that the Lord Jesus would bring (Luke 2:10).
All of Paul’s letters to the churches carry the same theme, outline, and message. He almost always writes the same things to the churches. Rarely, do we find Paul mentioning something new, or something that he hasn’t already taught them.
The reason for this is that Paul wants to remind them of what they have been given and to encourage them to continue to walk in it. In this verse, Paul calls this reminder a “safeguard” and that it is not tedious for him to write it to them over and over again.
The only exception to this is when Paul is directly addressing an issue that has arisen within the church. Things like doctrinal issues, questions, and sinful activity taking place. Other than these few things Paul will write the same things to the churches to ensure safety in their walk with Christ.
Philippians 3:2 Meaning
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” (Philippians 3:2)
In this verse, Paul is not telling the Philippians that they should beware of unbelievers.
We are called to reach out to unbelievers and evangelize them with love. Now, of course, we should be cautious in certain circumstances, this is why Jesus said, “Be harmless as doves and as shrewd as serpents.”
But Paul is not speaking of unbelievers in this verse, he is warning the Philippians of those that appear to be followers of Jesus but have twisted intentions.
I believe each one of these descriptions is not referring to different groups of people, but the same group. The “dogs”, “evil workers”, and “the mutilation” are all the same class of people.
They are the Jews that taught that you must be circumcised and obey the Old Testament law if you are to be saved. They were adding works to salvation and mixing it together and calling it the Gospel and Paul says that we are to beware of such people.
Paul even says in a letter that he wrote to the Galatians that if anyone preaches a different Gospel than what he has preached they should be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).
Salvation does not come by works, it comes by repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:3 Meaning
“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3)
Paul says in this verse that believers in Christ are the true circumcision. The true circumcision in this passage is referring to the fact that true believers are circumcised in the heart and not of the flesh (Romans 2:29).
We can only receive the circumcision of the heart through believing in the finished work of Christ, and we apply His finished work by acting on our faith through water baptism.
“In Him (Christ) you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:11-12).
Notice that the circumcision of Christ is water baptism. When we go under the water we are dying with Christ and burying our old man of the flesh, then we rise up out of the water identifying with Christ’s resurrection and signifying our new ability to walk in new life.
This is the true circumcision: faith and obedience to Jesus.
Circumcision is not the physical cutting of the flesh, that is nothing but mutilation, as Paul calls it in the previous verse. But circumcision is that of the heart when we place faith in Jesus and then carry out our faith through obedience to His word.
Once we have buried our old man and risen to our new man, then we are free to worship God in the Spirit.
To worship God in the Spirit simply means to worship the Father through Jesus Christ, by His Spirit.
“For through Him we both (Gentile & Jew) have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18)
If you want to know more about worshipping God in the Spirit, I have an entire article written on the topic you can check it out by clicking the title. Worship in Spirit & Truth: What it is & How to do it.
Finally, Paul exhorts the Philippians to have no confidence in the flesh because if we place our confidence in the flesh (a.k.a our works, abilities, degrees, accomplishments, etc.) then we aren’t in the Spirit because our faith is no longer in Jesus alone.
So Paul tells us to rejoice in the work of Christ and place no confidence in the flesh.
Philippians 3:4-6 Meaning
“…though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4-6)
In the natural, Paul’s resume of works looked very impressive. He was “blameless” according to the law. Very few people during Paul’s time could make such a claim.
Paul says this right after he tells the Philippians to not place confidence in the flesh but to instead place their confidence in Jesus Christ, he then shares with them all of his works in the flesh to prove to them that no matter how holy you are in the flesh it does not grant you relationship with God.
He reveals this in the next verse.
Philippians 3:7 Meaning
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Philippians 3:7)
The “what things were gain to me” were all of his works i.e. being circumcised, being a pharisee, being zealous, being of the tribe of Benjamin, etc.
Paul counted all of these things as loss so that he might gain Christ. These works of his were according to the flesh and God takes no pleasure in the defiled works of the flesh, he only takes pleasure in faith (Hebrews 11:6).
The point Paul is attempting to make is no matter how much you accomplish while you walk on this earth it will never be enough. You and I will never be able to have access to God through our accomplishments. But God provided a Way and that Way is Jesus Christ.
So if we want God we need to strip our confidence in the flesh, place our faith in the work of Jesus, and then begin to access the Father by the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 3:8 Meaning
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)
Not only did Paul decide not to place his confidence in his natural accomplishments, but he even took it a step further. He counted them as rubbish, or some translations say “dung.”
It meant nothing to him because he realized that those things meant nothing to God. He could either hold onto his works and his successes and not draw near to God, or he could let go of everything and see that they mean nothing and then begin to finally draw nearer to God.
Paul chose the latter and he encourages everyone else to do the same.
In comparison, Christ Jesus is so much greater than anything we could ever attain in this life. All the wealth, recognition, and applause would never amount to knowing Christ. This is why Pauls calls it the “excellence of the knowledge of Christ”. Because to truly know Him is excellent and it is far surpassing anything we could ever muster on our own.
Do you and I count every thing we have, everything we’ve worked for, all the righteous acts we’ve done as rubbish?
Do we really want to gain Christ to the point to where it doesn’t matter what we own or the financial status in which we live but that all that matters is knowing Christ and having Him shine through us?
Do we view the world as a vapor passing away and coming to nothing, or is the world the very focus of our affection?
Knowing Jesus Christ and following Him is the purpose of our lives. If we gain the whole world but fail to gain Christ through laying down our lives by faith and obedience then our life was meaningless.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live a meaningless life.
So what do we do?
Take time everyday to get to know Jesus. Study His Word. Spend time in prayer. Obey what He says. Walk in love. Make disciples. Forsake all of the world to gain all of Him.
Philippians 3:9 Meaning
“…and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9)
Paul suffered the loss of all things so that he might gain Christ (previous verse) but also so that he might find himself in Him.
Christ was Paul’s identity, not his success. Paul didn’t want his righteousness because at its best it’s nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Paul wanted the perfect righteousness of Christ, which is the free gift given to us by God on the basis of faith and faith alone.
Philippians 3:10-11 Meaning
“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)
The apostle Paul says that he counted all of his fleshly works as nothing so that he could receive the righteousness of God that comes through faith.
After this Paul says “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection..”
This implies that Paul could never begin to know Him on a personal level if he did not first receive Christ’s righteousness by faith.
The prerequisite to knowing Christ is righteousness on the basis of faith.
This is huge because so many Christians come before God on the basis of their efforts.
Then because of this they feel like they are continually striving in their relationship with God. They feel as though there is a gap between them and God if they don’t do the “right things.”
But the truth is, Jesus already did the right thing; He died on the cross and rose from the dead, and if you could make up for yourself, through your own efforts, Jesus would have never had to come and die.
It’s important to understand that if we don’t start where Christ finished, we’ll never run well in this life.
So if we want to have a fruitful relationship with God. One that is full of His presence, His Word, His voice, and His power, then we need to come to a place where we fully believe in the finish work of Jesus Christ.
We need to read the Word and believe it to the point where we know that we have been made right before Him.
And that we don’t need to justify ourselves, because He has justified us. We don’t need to measure up to anything, because He measured us up and filled us with His Spirit.
So I encourage all of you, every time you go to prayer be reminded that you are clean and purified by the blood of Jesus, and that the Father is happy that you have come to be with Him.
Spend time with Him on the foundation of His free gift called righteousness and your walk with Him will flourish.
I hope you enjoyed this article and that assisted you in your walk with God.
If you want to read more on the 3rd chapter of Philippians then I encourage you to click one of the titles below.
Also, if you want to read more articles on whole chapters of the book of Philippians then click one of the chapters that interest you.
God bless you all! Enjoy.