Saturday, 28 January 2017
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! Philippians 3:2
Paul now actually begins his words of warning and admonition which he hinted at in the preceding verse. Although his words can include other parties who are harmful to the faith, they are directed specifically at one group of people, the Judaizers. These are the Jews, or those following the Jews, who have come to reinsert the law, in part or in whole. They are those who, by one work or many, set aside the grace of Jesus Christ in order to establish a righteousness of their own.
He begins with “Beware of dogs.” The translation unfortunately leaves off an article before “dogs.” It is necessary and it makes the warning less forceful than it should be. “Beware of THE dogs.” The word “beware” in Greek is blepó, and “it carries what is seen into the non-physical (immaterial) realm so a person can take the needed action (respond, beware, be alert)” (HELPS Word Studies).
Paul is asking them to mark out and be spiritually aware of these wicked people. They are “the dogs.” The term “dog” is highly derogatory. It indicates a raging unclean animal. Dogs in the Middle East, even to this day, are not considered with the delight of folks in the west. They travel in packs, eat corpses and other dirty things, and are considered disease-ridden nuisances. This is seen in both testaments of the Bible. Paul’s words probably go beyond mere uncleanness, but also to the fact that they are snarling savages which tear and bite at those around them. This is how severely he treats those who would come in and attempt to reintroduce the law, in part or in whole. It is the greatest offense to the purity of the gospel. In Revelation 22:15, we read this about such people –
“But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
By trampling on His grace, Jesus places these evil-doers first in a list of the worst of all offenders.
Next he says to “beware of evil workers.” Again, an article has been dropped which takes away the severity of his words. It says, “…beware of THE evil workers.” The Judaizers are the epitome of such evil workers. There are those who are caught in sin and may not even realize it, but these people willingly cut themselves off from the grace of Christ, and they actively work evil against His name. Jesus has strong words for them, again from Revelation –
“Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” Revelation 3:9
A true Jew would come to Christ, understanding He is the fulfillment of all that is spoken in Scripture. A false Jew will work against Christ, demanding the law be adhered to in part or in whole. This is truly one who is the evil worker. He warns against them in several epistles. In 2 Corinthians, he identifies them and their false works with their true master –
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
He completes the verse with, “…beware of the mutilation.” This is a scathing phrase directed to the very heart of the sect of Judaizers, circumcision. He uses a word found only here in the NT. It indicates to mutilate or to spoil. A word in English which meets the irony of this word would be concision, which would then stand opposed to circumcision. Paul, in essence, is saying that those who are Jews in flesh only are simply flesh-mutilated and flesh-mutilators. They boast in the flesh, but speak against the grace of Christ. Much of the book of Galatians deals with exactly this subject. The warning there is so strong that he sums up the process of physical circumcision with these words –
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4
Life application: If you wonder why Judaizers and Hebrew Roots movement people speak so vehemently against Paul, it is because they are heretics who are set on a course to hell. They willingly cut off their flesh in order to cut themselves off from Christ. They are the epitome of wickedness because they see the truth of Christ’s grace, and yet they work against it. Such will find no peace, nor will any who follow in their deeds. Stand fast on the grace of Jesus Christ alone.
Lord God, Your word has the strongest and most condemning words of all for those who would set aside the grace found in the work of Jesus Christ. Instead of trusting once and for all in His cross and His resurrection, they reinsert the law, they mandate external rights, and they hold to certain observances, as if that is what makes them holy. But you have shown that we can only be holy through the work of Christ. Help us to trust in this, and in this alone. May we never set aside His grace by attempting to merit your favor in any other way. Jesus! Only Jesus. Amen.