V. A Warning and a New Life 1-11
A. Warning 1-6
B. New Life 7-11
As chapter 3 begins, Paul takes an interesting turn in the flow of the letter. While scholars do what scholars always do, and argue about why this happens here, it is clear to anyone with a basic understanding of writing, that the word translated as “finally” is a transitional device. (It is usually a transitional form that indicates the end is near, but it can also be a device that indicates the conclusion of a thought process) In this case, it seems to me that Paul is summing up the previous message of joy, overlooking his circumstances to focus on his (and our) mission and offering a final note of caution. While some scholars have difficulty in seeing this, if you pause to think about it, I’m confident that you’ll see it as such. Note that he says, “…it is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again…” He appears to have the thoughts of the previous chapter in mind, since he isn’t quoting anything directly.
Points of Interest
vv. 1-2: “Rejoice in the Lord!” This can sum up everything that Paul has been saying to the Philippians up to this point. When we rejoice in the Lord, we naturally respond to His commands to be faithful and to serve Him. Also, by focusing on the Lord, we will go a very long way to avoid pitfalls and false teaching. In this section, Paul refers strongly to a false teaching that the people must be dealing with; that of the Jews who are claiming that salvation cannot be attained outside of circumcision. It would seem that Paul is claiming that evangelical Jews are doing evil by teaching Jewish Law, but really there is more to it than that. By taking Jewish Law to Christians, they seek (inadvertently, no doubt) to deprive Christians of salvation by teaching things that cannot save them: this is evil. Circumcision and the Law cannot save anyone, especially now that the New Covenant has come. This is easy to see for most Christians, as there is no requirement for circumcision in the New Covenant. It is also demonstrative of something else, the Apostolic Doctrine of Two Covenants. The Apostles taught that there is separation between New and Old Covenants; the New is in effect and the Old is over. Thus, there is no longer any circumcision. It is also interesting to note that circumcision in particular was a requirement of the Abrahamic Covenant; in fact it was the sign of that covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant must also be out of force and effect, for it has been fulfilled: Salvation is through Christ. To be in relationship with Christ through His Covenant is true circumcision (sign) of a saving relationship. We have no confidence in the Law, for it creates Israel according to the flesh, and circumcision denotes relation with God through the flesh; it is temporary and will perish. Jesus told us that God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and truth, not merely in the flesh.
vv. 4-11: Paul takes his message further, pointing out that if anyone should be confident in the old way (“the flesh”) then it is himself. But he has no confidence in the old way because it is no longer in effect; it is now worthless, for God has sent His Son to establish a new covenant.