Philippians 3:1-21-Paul’s Teaching Concerning Legalism
Philippians 3:1-3-The Warning of Paul About False Teachers
Philippians 3:1-Paul has taught them these things before. But, because of their importance he has no hesitancy to do so, again.
Philippians 3:2-3-Paul warns them against those who would require them to keep the Jewish ritual system in order to be saved. These people were commonly referred to as “Judaizers”. Notice the strong language he uses when he speaks of them…”dogs…evil workers…false circumcision”. “Dogs” was a term that the Judaizers used in reference to Gentiles. He is making his opinion of them perfectly clear. Why? Because they are leading people away from the means of salvation…saying that you must believe in Christ and keep the Jewish law. This is literally a matter of life and death...eternal life and eternal death.
For more information about the Judaizers see:
Philippians 3:4-14-The Example of Paul Concerning the True Teaching
Paul reviews his own life as a Jew and says that if keeping the Jewish ritual system (Law) had any benefit, he would certainly be a candidate.
- "Although I (emphatical) might have confidence even in the flesh." Literally, "I having," but not using, "confidence in the flesh."
I more--have more "whereof I might have confidence in the flesh."
- In three particulars he shows how he "might have confidence in the flesh" ( Phl 3:4 ): (1) His pure Jewish blood. (2) His legal preciseness and high status as such. (3) His zeal for the law. The Greek is literally, "Being in circumcision an eighth day person," that is, not one circumcised in later life as a proselyte, but on the eighth day after birth, as the law directed in the case of Jew-born infants.
of the tribe of Benjamin--son of Rachel, not of the maid-servant [BENGEL].
Hebrew of the Hebrews--neither one or other parent being Gentile. The "Hebrew," wherever he dwelt, retained the language of his fathers. Thus Paul, though settled in Tarsus, a Greek city, calls himself a Hebrew. A "Grecian" or Hellenist, on the other hand, in the New Testament, is the term used for a "Greek-speaking" Jew [TRENCH].
touching the law--that is, as to legal status and strictness.
a Pharisee--"of the straitest sect" ( Act 26:5 ).
blameless--Greek, "having become blameless" as to ceremonial righteousness: having attained in the eyes of man blameless legal perfection. As to the holiness before God, which is the inner and truest spirit of the law, and which flows from "the righteousness of God by faith," he on the contrary declares ( Phl 3:12-14 ) that he has not attained perfection.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown :: Commentary on Philippians 3, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/Phl/Phl_003.cfm?a=1106004
- (5-6) Paul's reasons why he might have confidence in the flesh.
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
- Circumcised the eighth day …: Paul first listed four things that were his possessions by birth, all reasons why he might have confidence in the flesh.
- Paul was circumcised the eighth day in accordance with Leviticus 12:3.
- Paul was of the stock of Israel, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and therefore an heir to God's covenant with them.
- Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, a distinguished tribe. Benjamin was distinguished by the fact that it gave Israel her first king, Saul (1 Samuel 9:1-2). It was the tribe that aligned itself with faithful Judah when Israel divided into two nations at the time of Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:21). It was also the tribe that had the city of Jerusalem within its boundaries (Judges 1:21).
- Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. This contrasted him with the Jews who embraced Greek culture as it spread through the Mediterranean. In that time, many Jews became ashamed of their Jewishness and tried to live and act as much like Greeks as they could, sometimes even to the point of having their circumcision cosmetically restored or hidden so they could enjoy the Roman public baths without being noticed as Jews. In contrast, Paul was raised by his parents as a Hebrew of the Hebrews.
- Concerning the law …: Paul then listed three things that were his by personal choice and conviction, all reasons why he might have confidence in the flesh.
- Paul was concerning the law, a Pharisee. This tells us that among an elite people (the Jews), Paul was of an elite sect (the Pharisees), who were noted for their scrupulous devotion to the law of God. "There were not very many Pharisees, never more than six thousand, but they were the spiritual athletes of Judaism. Their very name means The Separated Ones. They had separated themselves off from all common life and from all common tasks in order to make it the one aim of their lives to keep every smallest detail of the Law." (Barclay) The concern that Pharisees had for keeping the law is reflected in passages like Matthew 23:23.
- Concerning zeal, persecuting the church. Paul was not merely an intellectual opponent of perceived heresies against Judaism; he was also an active fighter against them - even in his blindness to God. Paul's observation that the Jews of his day have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2) was true of his own life before God confronted him on the road to Damascus.
- Concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. This shows that Paul achieved the standard of righteousness which was accepted among the men of his day - though this standard fell short of God's holy standard. Because of how the law was interpreted and taught, there were those of that day who were deceived into thinking that they really were blameless, like the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23).
- In summary, if anyone could lay claim to pleasing God by law-keeping and the works of the flesh, it was Paul. He was far more qualified than his legalizing opponents were to make such a claim.
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Philippians 3, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Phl/Phl_3.cfm?a=1106004
However, the keeping of the Jewish ritual system does not qualify one for eternal life. In fact, Paul considers every thing that he ever did that was of religious value to be worth nothing in comparison to knowing Christ as his Savior. He says that he has gladly counted everything he might have ever done as totally lost that he might…
- be "found in Him"...to have a righteousness that comes not from himself, but from God;
- to “know Him"...meaning to experience a relationship with Christ that results in (1) living by the power that resurrected Jesus from the dead, (2) joining Jesus in the fellowship of His sufferings by being a continuation of His ministry, and (3) becoming increasingly conformed to His image, by being more and more like Jesus in character;
- in order that he would “attain the resurrection from the dead".
Paul says that he is not finished, just because he is saved. But, that he forgets what is in the past and strives for what is in the future, the "goal", "the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (:12-14). The Gospel is not just a message about how to be save…but it is also a message about how the saved should be. Knowing Jesus as our Savior will have a continuous affect on our life that brings about change that results in our being in harmony with His nature. You simply cannot have received Jesus as your Savior…and remain the same.
Philippians 3:15-21-The Encouragement of Paul to Following His Teaching
Philippians 3:15-17-Paul says that this should be the attitude and practice of all believers.
Philippians 3:18-19-There are many who do not follow this example...they are "enemies of the cross". They belong to the things of earth. Their 1.-end is destruction; 2.-their appetite is their god; 3.-their glory is their shame (the things they value are shameful and reveal their true nature); 4.-and their minds are set on earthly things.
Philippians 3:20-21-But we belong to heaven...that is where our citizenship is. One day, when Jesus takes us to Heaven, He will "transform" the "body of our humble state" into "conformity" with "the body of His glory"...His own Heavenly body. At this time, while we are still on earth, God is in the process of transforming our character (soul-mind, will, and emotions) to be conformed to the character of Jesus. But one day, when we go to Heaven, He will transform our very physical being, our bodies, to be conformed to Jesus.
Prayer: Father, I want to live like a citizen of Heaven. Please give me Heavenly desires. Help me to have Your righteousness. And help me to count everything as loss that I may allow nothing to come between me and Jesus.