Series: "CHOOSE JOY" • Pastor David R. Stokes
Today: “Of Dogs and Dung”
1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
The Apostle Paul had the capacity for tenderness and diplomacy, but I think his default manner was to be blunt—sometimes brutally so. Throughout his ministry, and no doubt related to the fact that Jewish leaders saw him as a traitor, he was hounded by vicious critics and enemies. Bear in mind that he once represented the Sanhedrin—the rulers and ruling class—as a persecutor of Christians. He became a notorious outlaw to them after his conversion. It was both a philosophical disagreement and personal affront, as far as the elites were concerned.
So when Paul got into “warning” mode, he didn’t usually mince words. In fact, he called those who sought to undermine the faith and joy of the Philippian church dogs. Not little puppy-dogs, but wild and vicious animals. I’m sure you’ve heard of a nation having a policy about “not negotiating with terrorists.” Well, Paul saw those who propagated false teaching as being like terrorists. He even said that their goal was to mutilate the those who were choosing joy.
The issues may be slightly different in our experience today. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever had someone oppose sound doctrine by insisting that all the men in a church be circumcised. But there are “hoops” that some insist people must jump through to be truly spiritual.
It comes down to this, is righteousness earned (and kept) by something we do? Or is it through Christ alone?
What kinds of “hoops” do some promote when it comes to salvation?
What kinds of “hoops” do some promote about what it means to live godly?
How does legalism short-circuit and replace true spirituality?