VERSES 1-3:  Beware of the Judaizers

“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.”

         “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.”
         Literally:  “For the rest my brothers, rejoice in [the] Lord.”

        FINALLY: (Gr.-loipon)—Literally: “for the rest,” or “in conclusion.”  Not with the notion of time, but making a transition to another general subject,  Although “finally” may be an acceptable rendering of loipon in this context, it can also have other meanings; such as, “the remaining,”  or, “the rest.” 

This is normally the way that Paul concludes his epistles; but here he seems to be using the word to indicate that he is about to touch on another subject.  It may be that he was about to conclude the epistle, but first wanted to inject something of extreme importance before he did so.   

“Rejoice in the Lord”–Literally:  “Keep on rejoicing in [the] Lord.”  Be always happy; but let that happiness be such as you derive from the Lord. 

        REJOICE: (Gr.-chairō)—This word is used often in this epistle (1:18; 2:17-18, 28; 3:1; 4:4, 10).  In 2:17-18 it was translated as “joy.”  This was a familiar word to the believers in Philippi.

         That is in the Lord Jesus. ( v. 3, Acts 1:24, and I Thess. 5:16). The idea here is, that it is the duty of Christians to rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ. This duty implies the following things.
1.      They should rejoice that they have such a Savior.
         Men everywhere have felt the need of a Savior, and to us it should be a subject of unfeigned joy that one has been provided for us.
2.      We may rejoice that we have such a Savior.
          a.      He is just such as we need.
          b.      He accomplishes just what we want a Savior to do.
3.      We need one to make known to us a way of pardon, and He does it.
4.      We need one to make an atonement for sin, and He does it.
5.      We need one to give us peace from a troubled conscience, and He does it.
6.      We need one to support us in trials and bereavements, and He does it.
7.      We need one who can comfort us on the bed of death, and guide us through the dark valley, and the Lord Jesus is just what we want.
8.      We may and should rejoice in Him.

         The principal joy of the true Christian should be in the Lord. He should find his happiness not in riches, or gaiety, or vanity, or ambition, or books, or in the world in any form, but in communion with the Lord Jesus, and in the hope of eternal life through Him. In His friendship, and in His service, should be the highest of our joys, and in these we may always be happy.
         Take note of the sphere in which Paul wanted these believers to rejoice: “in the Lord.”  Paul was not able to rejoice in his circumstances, and he realized these Philippians were unable to do so either, but they could rejoice in the Lord.  In spite of their circumstance, each one who had trusted Jesus Christ as personal Savior had a perfect position in Christ, and such a realization could bring joy far greater than circumstances ever could.

“to write the same {things} to you,”
Literally:  “For me to write the same {things} to you.”–Paul seems to be referring to things which he had formerly preached to them or to other Churches, for he had but one Gospel; and we may rest assured that the doctrine of this epistle was the same with his preaching. 

As to what he means by, “the same thing,” one suggestion is that he is merely repeating what he has said earlier in the epistle; that is,  to keep on rejoicing and to retain close Christian fellowship.  However, the materials which follows is so different from exhortations that he has previously given them that some believe he may be referring to previous epistles he may have written to them that have been lost.  Whether or not this is true is open to conjecture.

“to me indeed {is} not grievous”
Literally:  “Truly {is} not tiresome to me.” Paul is saying that it is not burdensome or oppressive to me to repeat these exhortations in this manner. They might suppose that in the multitude of cares which he had, and in his trials in Rome, it might be too great a burden for him to bestow so much attention on their interests.

        GREVIOUS:  (Gr.-okneros)–Literally: “irksome; troublesome.” This word refers to something “troublesome.” This is an old Greek adjective from the Greek verb okneô, “to delay, to hesitate.” The word can also means “lazy.”

 Paul was emphasizing that it was not lazy of him to repeat what he had told them before because it was evident they needed to be warned again. It may seem odd that he thought repetition would bring the charge of laziness against him, but he emphasized that this was not the case.

         “but for you {it is} safe.”
         Literally:  “but for you, safe”– It will contribute to your security as Christians, to have these sentiments and admonitions on record.

           SAFE:   (Gr.-asphales)–It is not tiresome to me to repeat what is “safe” for you. They were exposed to dangers which made this admonition applicable. What those dangers were Paul specifies in the following verses

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

Although most of the Philippian believers were Gentiles, Paul still gives them the following warnings.

“Beware of dogs”
Literally: “Look to [look out {for}] the dogs.” The Jews, who have here the same title which they formerly gave to the Gentiles: because the Gentiles were not included in the covenant, they called them DOGS; and themselves, the children of the Most High. Now, the tables are turned; it is now they who are cast out of the covenant and the Gentiles taken in; therefore they are the dogs, and the Gentiles the children.

        BEWARE: (Gr.-blepete)–This word comes from the verb (blepō), meaning, “to see,” and hence in this case, “to look out for,” or “notice,” or “watch for.”  The verb here is in the present tense, meaning, “to keep on looking out for.” 

Three times for urgency and with different epithet for the Judaizers each time:
1.      The
dogs:  “beware of the dogs” (Gr.-kunas)

Dogs in the east are mostly without masters; they wander at large in the streets and fields, and feed upon offal, and even upon corpses (comp.  I Kings 14:11; 16:4; 21:19). Dogs were used by the Jews to denote what was unclean.  Dogs in the east are mostly without masters; they wander at large in the streets and fields, and feed upon offal, and even upon corpses (comp. I Kings 14:11; 16:4; 21:19). Dogs were used by the Jews to denote what was unclean.The Jews so termed the Gentiles which Jesus uses in a playful mood “little dogs”   (kunariois),  to the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matt. 15:26). 

        “But Jesus said unto her, ‘Let the children first be filled:  for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast {it} unto the dogs’”
        “And she answered and said unto Him, ‘Yes Lord; yet the dogs under the table eat of the little children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:27-28).

      The Moslems call Jews and Christians by the same name. The term dog also is used to denote a person that is shameless, impudent, malignant, snarling, dissatisfied, and contentious, (or in our vernacular—a “low-life”), and is evidently so it means here. It is possible that the language used here may have been derived from some custom of affixing a caution on a house that was guarded by a dog to persons approaching it. At Rome it was common for a dog to lie chained before the door of a house, and that a notice was placed in sight, (cave canem) “Beware of the dog.”
         The reference here may be to Judaizing teachers; and the idea is, that they were contentious, troublesome, dissatisfied, and would produce disturbance. The strong language which Paul uses here shows the sense which he had of the danger arising from their influence. By the use of the term here, there can be no doubt that Paul meant to express strong disapprobation of the character and course of the persons referred to, and to warn the Philippians in the most solemn manner against them.
         In the Middle East of Paul’s time, dogs were normally ownerless scavengers; about as unclean an animal as one could find.  The Jews had commonly referred to the uncleanness of the gentiles by calling them “dogs,” but Paul has turned it around and used this term to refer to Jews who were confused about the gospel.  They were mixing works with the gospel of grace, so although those Jews claimed to be clean ones, they were in reality the spiritually uncelan ones.  The thought is, that these Judaizing teachers, like dogs, are eating the garbage from the table instead of sitting down at the banquet table of the grace of God.

2.      The evil workers:  “beware of evil workers”–(Gr.-kakous ergatas)

Compare this with “deceitful” workers (II Cor. 11:13)–“For such {are} false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostle of Christ.”  Paul viewed them as evil workers because they were reducing the Christ life to a system of dos and don’ts.  The effect of their teaching was to take men and women further away from God instead of bringing them nearer to Him. Paul had already called the Judaizers "deceitful workers"   (Gr.-dolioi ergatas) , in II Cor. 11:13.

        Referring, doubtless, to the same persons that he had characterized as dogs. Instead of seeing the Judaizers as doers of good that would bring glory to God, Paul viewed them as “evil workers” because they were reducing the Christian life to a system of dos and don’ts.Referring, doubtless, to the same persons that he had characterized as dogs. Instead of seeing the Judaizers as doers of good that would bring glory to God, Paul viewed them as “evil workers” because they were reducing the Christian life to a system of dos and don’ts.
       Paul's is really referring to the doctrines and influence of Jewish teachers, which he regarded only as evil; who endeavored to pervert the Gospel. “Deceitful workers” (II Cor. 11:13), not simply “evildoers” are meant, but men who “worked,” indeed, ostensibly for the Gospel, but worked for evil: “serving not our Lord, but their own belly” (v. 19; compare Ro 16:18).  Paul warns against those who are guilty of evil practices. 
       We do not know what was the exact nature of their teaching, but we may presume that it consisted much in urging the obligations of the Jewish rites and ceremonies; in speaking of the advantage of having been born Jews; and in urging a compliance with the law in order to justified before God. In this way their teachings tended to set aside the great doctrine of salvation by the merits of the Redeemer

3.      The concision:  “beware of the concision.”(Gr.katatomēn)—Late word for incision, mutilation (in contrast with peritomê, or circumcision.

The cutting or mutilation; not the circumcision (Gr.-peritome),.  The word is used by Paul to degrade the pretensions which the Jews made to sanctity by the cutting in their flesh. Circumcision was an honorable thing, for it was a sign of the covenant; but as they now had rejected the new covenant, their circumcision was rendered uncircumcision, and is termed a cutting, by way of degradation.

       The Jews were concerned about circumcision because this was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17:11).  Many of the Jews during Paul’s day had trusted Christ as Savior, but some were confusing the gospel of grace by teaching that circumcision was required for salvation.  Paul viewed that circumcision for the gentile believers to be nothing more than mutilation.
        By extension, similar things can be seen about anything else being added to the gospel of salvation, which is by grace ALONE.  Church membership, water baptism, confirmation, good works, or anything that is added to the gospel of grace, corrupts the teaching concerning salvation.  Grace is Grace and that is all that -it is!  It is NOT grace plus circumcision; nor, grace plus baptism; nor grace plus good works; nor grace plus ANYTHING!  As Dr. M.R. DeHaan, Sr. was wont to say, “To add anything to grace is a disgrace.”  Yeah, and amen to that doctor!
        Circumcision had by this time lost its spiritual significance, and had now become to those who rested on it as any ground of justification, a senseless mutilation. Christians have the only true circumcision, namely, that of the heart; legalists have only “concision,” that is, the cutting off of the flesh. To make “cuttings in the flesh” was expressly prohibited by the law (Lev. 21:5). Doing such was a Gentile-heathenish practice (I Kings 18:28); yet this, writes Paul indignantly, is what these legalists are virtually doing in violation of the law.

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

“For we are the circumcision,”
We, who have embraced the faith of Christ crucified, are now entered into the new covenant, and according to that new covenant, worship God in the Spirit.  

Since Paul was writing to Gentiles, he was not referring to physical circumcision, but to a spiritual circumcision. But the Jews of Paul’s time were emphasizing the importance of physical circumcision without any emphasis at all on the importance of the spiritual circumcision.

        WE:  (Gr.-hēmeis)–We who are Christians. We believers in Christ, the children of Abraham by faith, whether Jew or Gentile, the spiritual circumcision in contrast to the merely physical (Ro 2:25-29; Col 2:11; Eph 2:11). See Gal. 5:12 for apotemnein (to cut off) in the sense of mutilation also.

We Christians have and hold the true doctrine of circumcision. We have that which was intended to secure this rites for we are led to renounce the flesh, and to worship God in the spirit.  We are are  the true and spiritual circumcision, and accounted circumcised by God, because we have that which the outward circumcision signified, namely, the circumcision of the heart, and the mortification of all carnal lusts and desires; we have the substance of that ordinance, which is infinitely more pleasing to God than the ceremony and shadow: though you have the sign, we have the thing signified.

“which worship God in the Spirit”
Literally:  “The {ones} worshiping by the Spirit of God.” John 4:24. (comp. Gen. 17:10-14). The oldest manuscripts read, “worship by the Spirit of God;” our religious service is rendered by the Spirit (John 4:23-24). 

         Legal worship was outward, and consisted in outward acts, restricted to certain times and places. Christian worship is spiritual, flowing from the inward working of the Holy Spirit, not relating to certain isolated acts, but embracing the whole life (Rom. 12:1). In the former, men trusted in something human, whether descent from the theocratic nation, or the righteousness of the law, or mortification of "the flesh" (“Having confidence,” or “glorying in the flesh”) (Rom. 1:9).
         We worship in the Spirit of God; or, we worship God in the Spirit.  Christian worship is not about ritual, or the observance of details of the law.  It is about the heart.  It is perfectly possibly for people to go through an elaborate liturgy and yet have hearts that are far away from God.  It is perfectly possible for them to observe all the outward observance of religion and yet have hatred and bitterness and pride in their hearts.  True Christians worship God, not with out-ward forms and observances, but with the true devotion and the real sincerity of their hearts.  Their worship is love of God and service to other people.

“Glorifying in Christ Jesus.”–That is, we have, through Him, renounced the flesh; we have become the true worshippers of God, and have thus attained what was originally contemplated by circumcision, and by all the other rites of religion. “Make our boast in Christ Jesus,” not in the law: the ground of their boasting.

“rejoice in Christ Jesus,”
Literally:  “glorying in Christ Jesus”– Our only boast is in Christ.  Their only boast of Christ is not in what they have done for themselves, but in what Christ has done for them.  Their only pride is that they are people for whom Christ died. 

        REJOICE:  (Gr.-kauchōmenoi)–This is not the word for “rejoice” that was commonly used by the Philippian Greeks. 

This Greek wordreally means, “to boast.”  Making our boast of Christ Jesus, as our only Savior, having no confidence in the flesh—in any outward rite or ceremony prescribed by the Jewish institutions. Instead of boasting, or having confidence in the flesh, as the Judaizers did, believers are those who boast in what they have in Christ Jesus.

have no confidence in the flesh.”
Literally:  “Not trusting in flesh.”–In our own corrupt nature; or in any ordinances that relate merely to the flesh. We do not depend on circumcision for salvation, or on any external rites and forms whatever; on any advantage of rank, or blood. The word “flesh” here seems to refer to every advantage which any may have of birth; to any external conformity to the law, and to everything which unaided human nature can do to effect salvation. On none of these things can we put reliance for salvation; none of them will constitute a ground of hope.

We place no confidence in merely human, or physical, things.  The Jews placed their confidence in the physical mark of circumcision and in the performance of the duties of the Law.  Christians place their confidence in the mercy of God and in the love of Christ.  The Jews, in essence, trusted themselves; Christ, in essence, trust God.  The real circumcision is not a mark in the flesh. It is that true worship; that true glory; and that true confidence in the grace of God in Christ Jesus.