When you read the first few verse of Philippians chapter 3 you quickly see that Paul is agitated. He says, “Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.”
The question is: who is Paul calling these things? Who is he upset with?
Well, we know there is a group called the Judaizers that were Jewish Christians at the time and they were calling gentile believers to be circumcised and to follow the Old Testament law if they really wanted to be Christians. To Paul this is an issue. So much so he throws some of the heaviest language you could use to insult another Jew in the commonwealth towards this group.
Now, we have to be honest that today circumcision is not really a big deal in the church. Don’t worry. It is not mandatory for church membership!
So what do we do with this? It seems a little out of date doesn’t it? Does this matter for us two millennia later?
While circumcision may not be a big deal for us today there is something bigger going on here. Paul is concerned that this group of people is putting things in the way of other people coming into the Jesus community. Nothing to Paul should get in the way of people coming to faith in Jesus because it is by grace we are saved not buy a laundry list of things we should do.
Do you feel it? There’s a lot here for us as the church. We are deeply confronted with this question: Am I putting things in the way of people truly coming to know Jesus?
Is it preference? Style? Cliques? Excluding others? Viewing the church as a particular kind of people? Selfishness? Being comfortable with what I have always known? Control?
We need to be confronted with this, even if we are in a healthy spot as the church because it helps us prevent these things permeating the church in the future.
What is humorous is that as Paul continues to write he gives his credentials. Paul was the Hebrews of Hebrews. He was educated, followed the law and a Pharisee and yet he says all of this compared to knowing Jesus is garbage. The Greek word for garbage here is the word skubalon. It as close to a curse word you will get in the bible. It was a vulgar word that gave a picture of human excrement. I think you are getting the picture!
Paul is calling us to watch out for those who get in the way of people coming to faith in King Jesus and he is calling us to press on in the reality that everything in our lives is garbage in comparison to knowing Jesus Messiah.
So lets do it! Lets watch out and press on!