Contention Between Religious Law and Paul’s Grace Gospel

A Study of Philippians 3:1-11

We as grace believers are not under any demands of “the Law.”

14 … for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14 (KJV)

In this study we see how Paul warns the Philippians of the evils of the corrupt law-doctrine of the Judaizers who were infiltrating and trying to undermine “the faith” of Paul’s converts to “the gospel of the grace of God.” The went about telling Paul’s grace believers they had to keep the law of physical “circumcision.” which was a sign of the Lord’s covenant with Israel.

You will note in verse 2 that Paul uses three very strong words to describe these men indicating just how seriously awful he viewed their corruption of the truth of the grace gospel for this dispensational age called “the dispensation of the grace of God.” (Eph. 3:2).

This also indicates how we should view and not accept or give credibility to anyone who appears okay just because he obviously ‘believes in God and’ … while we know they are significantly off on some point that is contrary to Paul’s pure grace gospel. So, believing in Jesus’ is not enough. The Judaizers obviously ‘believed in God’ and knew their bible … but they were still wrong in promoting Israel’s “Law” for salvation… for Paul’s Gentile grace believers. We are not be fooled. As you mature in your knowledge of the Lord you will note how that serious significant error comes mixed-in with a wagon load of distorted truth and that what was going on even in Paul’s time.

Let’s see what Paul wrote to the Philippian grace-believing church;

1 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. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision [Jerusalem’s Judaizing adherents to ‘circumcision; to be saved].

3 For we are the [real] circumcision, which worship God In the spirit [without outward display], and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the [externalities of the] flesh.

4 Though I [Paul] might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win [gain] Christ,

9 And be found in him [in Christ], not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that [righteousness] which is through The Faith of Christ, the Righteousness Which Is of [from] God By Faith: Philippians 3:1-9 (KJV)

Consider Philippians 3:1-2:

Paul, caring for the Philippian believer’s safety (v1), in v2 gives them a warning about those who would still try to persuade them that they needed to be physically circumcised in order to be salved. So, Paul warns them referring to these Judaizers, calling them dogs”, “evil workers,and “the concision,” meaning thefalse circumcision. Paul was referring to … those who dogged the trail of the apostle Paul and endeavored to compel Paul’s grace believing Gentile converts to submit to Israel’s ritual circumcision and other Jewish practices in order to be saved.

The three phrases designate them first as ‘dogs’ denoting being wild and vicious, indicating how serious their lies were. Used figuratively, ‘dogs’ was always a term of reproach (cf. Deut 23:18; 1 Sam 17:43; 24:14; Prov. 26:11; Isa 56:10, 11). Jesus used it in reference to the opponents of God’s truth for Israel (cf. Matt. 15:24).

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you [Israel’s believing remnant]. Matthew 7:6 (KJV)

Jews often similarly used it to refer to the Gentiles. So, Paul turns the figure back upon these Judaizing teachers of “the Law” and castigates them with the very term they probably used of others.

“Evil workers” means ‘Men who do evil.’ If the word ‘workers’ emphasizes their energetic labor and commitment, concentrating upon performing the ‘works of law rather than trusting God’s grace as found in Christ and His Cross-work.

While “concision” literally means “to cut off. the term concision” refers to what Paul considered false circumcision.’ The prefix con’ is a negative side to a point. The fact is that after our Saviors death, circumcision was no longer a ‘seal of the covenant but a mere cutting of the flesh. Nevertheless, as we will see these Jews who adhered to ‘physical circumcision’ taught CONtrary to Paul’s teaching concerning the ‘real circumcision of the heart.’ So, these Judaizers had lost the real significance of ‘circumcision’ as was prescribed by God and insisted on it as a ‘rite’ for Paul’s Gentile grace-believers. By using the word ‘concision’ Paul deliberately parodies the Judaizers’ insistence on circumcision for his converts. Paul sarcastically calling it aconcision [a mutilation].”

Then in verse 3 Paul says of grace-believers, we are the [true] circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and Have No Confidence in The Flesh [the outward circumcision].”

Thus, Paul wrote similarly regarding the genuine Jerusalem Messianic believers;

28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and Circumcision Is That Of The Heart, In The Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Romans 2:28-29 (KJV)

The sign of physical circumcision had at one time identified God’s chosen people, Israel, those with whom He made an unconditional covenant (promise) based on Faith In His Words. Today, that outward sign is no longer needed. The real sign of the inner circumcision is now a Heart Changed by Grace through Faith Alone.

These Judaizers put “confidence in the flesh.” They relied upon the external things to establish or confirm their relationship with God. That is not the way of faith. Faith does not need any ‘outward sign.’ The only possible sign that will be seen is the “fruit of the Spirit,” which indicates a changed life.

Yet today we still see so-called Christians among Christendom who still rely upon doing “external things” to establish their relationship, thinking they can be saved and/or win favor with God – by attending a church building of the religious organizations of man, or by partaking of religious rituals, rites, prayers, paying tithes, keeping the Sabbath, dressing a certain way, and so much more.

Now, re-read verses 3:4-6 to note Paul’s external credentials:

4 Though I [Paul] might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Most of the things Paul listed were not “bad”; they were just no longer necessary to be known by God.

Surely, if anyone had a right to put confidence in the flesh, it would be Paul. Putting confidence in the flesh means Using Anything as A SUBSTITUTE FOR FAITH. For the Judaizers, it was, amongst other things, “circumcision.” For Sabbatarians sects even today, it may be worshiping only on a certain day of the week. For others, it may be what they do not do, such as drinking or dancing.

Oftentimes the things of God as seen in the past dispensations of “the Law are misused by people today, thus representing a law or doctrine not intended by God for Today. When they do this… they give us a clear indicator that reveals those who Paul would today call “dogs,” “evil workers,” the “false circumcision.”

Now re-read verses 3:7-8 to see how Paul himself regarded his historical credentials as a Jewish Pharisee.

7 But what things were gain to me [Paul, in the past], those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all [those] things, and do Count Them But Dung, that I May Win [Gk. kerdaino, gain] Christ.

So, we see how Paul regarded his past credentials and how they compare to ‘knowing Christ.’ They pale in comparison. Knowing and being in union with Christ personally is the only thing that is needed. Thus, Paul wrote:

17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)

Now re-read verse 9:

9 And be found in him [in union with Christ], Not Having Mine Own Righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is Through the Faith of Christ, the Righteousness Which Is of God by Faith:

In verse 9 the righteousness which is of God by faith is set in contrast to one’s own falsely assumed righteousness that would be by the outer “works of the Law,” such as circumcision.

‘Faith’ is a choice and act of the will that establishes our personal relationship with Christ. Actually, today adhering to the outward signs such as “circumcision,” are actually the indication of A LACK OF FAITH In the TOTAL SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST’S CROSS-WORK FOR US. The idea that we must do something in order to get right with God is a substitute in place of following Himfrom the heart. Yet this is what is at the heart of manmade religion’sPERFORMANCE-BASED ACCEPTANCE SYSTEM.’

Paul is saying that all his achievements of the past were meaningless when compared to knowing Christ personally… through faith. Paul, referring to his rich past, “counted all things as loss.” Yet Paul’s past did serve him well in his serving of the Lord. Here is how; God used Paul’s past to be enable him to reach the Gentiles and defend against the Judaizers, and write his 13 epistles, upon which we stand for the truth of the redemptive work of Christ at the Cross. In other words, Paul’s accomplishments meant nothing when it came to the issue of his salvation, but they were important when it came to his service. Paul delighted in in achieving righteousness solely on the basis of God’s grace and faith in Christ alone, not of law. (cf. Eph. 2:8-9).

Although some of our past, before we really believed, seems as lost time and meaningless, God has redeemed it all to help us to see and appreciate the truth of God’s grace all the more vividly and thereby serve Him more effectively.

Now re-read verses 10-11

10 That I May KNOW HIM, and the POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION [LIFE], and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death [in the expectation that]; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

The three items listed above in verse 10 tell us that Paul even in his dying days wanted 1) to know Him, 2) he wanted to know His resurrection power, and 3) he wanted to know His [Jesus’] sufferings, even to the point of death. Of these three, the average Christian perhaps wants to “know” points 1 or 2. But what about the fellowship of His sufferings”? What does that mean?

(You can learn about suffering and glory at: )

Now read verses 12-16 and see how Paul still considered himself to have not yet fully “apprehended” the things of Christ.

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect [Gk. teleios, mature]: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high [heavenly] calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect [mature], be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

Philippians 3:12-16 (KJV)

Note Paul’s words in verse 12. “… I count NOT myself to have apprehended…” Here Paul is saying ‘I consider myself to have not yet arrived spiritually.’

Then in verse 15 we see the phrase, “…be thus minded…” We’ve seen that phrase before, in Philippians 2:5 regarding ‘humility.’ Paul was referring to “…as many as are perfect [Gk. teleios, mature]in verse15 (above). It was those who assumed they ‘had arrived spiritually’ that were looking down on others who they perceive don’t have their spiritual act together. Paul is telling these self-declared high-minded ones to be humbleas Jesus was humble.

5 Let this mind [humble attitude of mind] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Philippians 2:5 (KJV)

Note in verse 12 what it was that Paul was trying to ultimately ‘apprehend’ or lay hold of. In verse 14 Paul says he wants to lay hold of“the prize of the upward [heavenly] call of God in Christ Jesus.”

The “upward call” of the God in Christ Jesus most likely refers to that point when physical death comes and Paul’s spirit is called upward into full fellowship with Christ. He would no longer be seeing though a mirror darkly, but be face to face with Jesus;

12 For now We See Through a Glass, Darkly [Dimly]; but Then Face To Face (1Cor 13:12)

This above will occur soon after we are Raptured to dwell “eternal in the heavens” (2Cor 5:1b). Now consider this Pauline verse;

8 Finally, there is laid up for me The Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also To ALL Who Have Loved His Appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8.

May we also aspire to what Paul sought.

Questions or Comment?

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