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Watching out for False Teachers

In addition, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for the dogs, watch out for the evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:1-3)

Verse 1, Paul marks a transition as we are at the halfway point of the letter with the phrase, “in addition.” One thing that he urges “my brothers and sisters,” to do is to “rejoice in the Lord.” It is a simple reminder that has been repeated by him previously, “To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a safeguard for you.” The joy of the Lord is what has anchored Paul during his many times of hardships, including his present circumstance of being in prison. Yet, he knows that the only source for joy can only be found in the Lord. Therefore, Paul never tired of sharing this simple yet powerful truth to the fellow believers in Philippi.

Verse 2, Paul warns the believers at Philippi to watch out for false teachers, giving them harsh titles, “watch out for the dogs, watch out for the evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh.” These false teachers taught that in order to be saved, one must be physically circumcised. Paul, along with other believers in Acts 15 made it clear that salvation was through Christ alone; there was no need for additional hoops or traditions to earn salvation.

Finally, in verse 3, Paul reiterates this point, stating that the believers are the true “circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh.” As Anders writes, “Christians are the spiritual ones who worship properly, directed by God’s Spirit rather than relying on external rituals and rules…Christians put no confidence in the flesh, neither in the ritual of circumcision nor in the practice of obeying the law.” Christ had already accomplished the work of salvation on the cross. Believers are saved by grace and not by their own works. In the context of staying away from false teachers, Paul urges believers to stay close to Christ worshipping Him, relying on the Holy Spirit.

Blessings,

Isaac De Guzman

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