Philippians 3 – The Prize of the Upward Call

This chapter of the epistle begins with Paul telling the brethren to “rejoice in the Lord,” continuing his encouragement. Then he begins his typical “beware” admonition. This time, however, he speaks of “dogs” and evildoers, and then a clever mention of “mutilators of the flesh.” All three of these refer to the same group of people – Judaizers.  This is a faction of the Christian movement who, despite what Paul and the other apostles have made clear, were still teaching others that circumcision was still necessary – in particular, to force such teaching on Gentiles. This was causing problems in the church in many places, and Paul wanted to make sure the brethren at Philippi were vigilant to “nip it in the bud.”

Philippi forum

Philippi forum

Paul tells them that “we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”  What he means is that the faithful Christians are the new children of Abraham. Referring to these Judaizers as “dogs” is intentionally ironic, as Gentiles were often so called by Jews in times past. It is in verse 4 that he refers to their unjustified pride, noting that if anyone has reason for “being confident in the flesh,” he himself does. He then recounts all of the things that he had always placed a high value on in his life. He was a Jew, circumcised on the eighth day according to the law of Moses. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, had been a Pharisee, and righteous and blameless under the law – a respected Hebrew among Hebrews.

Noting that he had lost all of those things he had valued, he now counts them as rubbish that he may know Christ, become like Him in His death, and attain the resurrection of the dead. It is with this in mind that he urges them to stand fast in the face of their enemies and trials, and press on to that goal.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Galatians 1 – Paul Called by God

Paul’s letter to the Galatians was one of the earliest written epistles; and there is much speculation as to which Galatians it was written.  It was a circular letter, almost certainly written to the churches of southern Galatia that he established on his first missionary journey with Barnabas.  The context of the letter can be understood best if one keeps in mind that many of the circumcision party – Judaizers – had come after Paul teaching, as was their custom, that in order to be saved, the Gentiles had to be circumcised, and had to keep the law of Moses.  In effect, they were being taught that they first had to be converted to Judaism.

Paul visited several cities in Galatia on each of his three missionary journeys. On his first journey he went through Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, and then retraced his steps; on his second journey he went by land from Antioch of Syria through the four cities in Galatia; on his third journey he also went through those cities on the main route to Ephesus.

It is clear from Paul’s writing in the first chapter that these Judaizers had also suggested, if not outright declaring, that Paul was not really an apostle – certainly not on the level of the original twelve.  He opens the letter with a greeting that immediately declares his apostleship – something he only does in his letters to churches that were unfamiliar with him or where his authority was questioned (Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians), as opposed to the letters to Philippians and Thessalonians.  He goes to some length in chapter one to be candid about his background as a persecutor of the church, and to declare that he was called by the Lord himself to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles (verses 11-16).

Paul often opens his letters with a commendation, but instead he opens with a rebuke here, as he declares his astonishment at hearing that many of them had accepted this false teaching.  He strongly proclaims that if anyone (even he himself, or an angel from heaven) would proclaim to them a different gospel than was preached to them previously, they were to be accursed.  This false teaching threatened the very foundation of Christianity and had to be quashed immediately and thoroughly.

One final note on this chapter is worthy of comment.  Verses 17-20 contain statements affirming (strongly underscored in verse 20) that Paul had not been among apostles other than Peter and James, the Lord’s brother, in the first years after the Lord had called him.  This point was important because efforts to disparage his apostleship had also suggested that he had merely been approved by them, or had been given his knowledge of the gospel by them.  The reference to James, the Lord’s brother, as an apostle should be understood in light of 1) his relationship to Jesus and/or 2) the fact that James became the official leader of the church in Jerusalem.  As Coffman pointed out, this James was not a plenary apostle, as were the twelve and Paul.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.