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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Philippians 3:2 - (L 25)

Home Bible Study©

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

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Established November 2008                                                          Published Weekly on Friday

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men (and women) to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).


Welcome to HBS.

"To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe” (3:1b).

Last week I explained the Bible is a progressive revelation.  We learn from the Scriptures as we diligently study our Bible, rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16-17).

When Paul wrote “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous…,” One thing we learn from this statement is the Bible is repetitive.  God is gracious to us in our weaknesses, and based on mankind’s history, He knows we’re likely to forget what He has said.  Thus, repetition is often used for emphasis or to drive home a spiritual point, but it’s also a teaching tool.  Before summer camp started the staff with a teaching responsibility were required to attend the camp pastor’s training seminar.  One of the things he taught us is “Repeat the main teaching point at least ten times in your Bible lesson,” and he repeated it ten times.   That was about twenty-five years ago, and I still remember these words, which proves repetitious teaching works.

But what does “but for you it is safe” mean?  I’m glad you asked.  Paul’s reminding these Believers of something he said earlier, they are not to be intimidated or “terrifiedby their adversaries i.e. the opposition:

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.  For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me (1:28-30, 3:1- 4:1).

The adversaries Paul’s referencing above were enemies of the gospel of grace and we’ll get to this in just a minute.  Right now, I want to remind y’all of Paul’s command to the Philippians in 1:27: “Only let your conversation (behavior) be as it becometh the gospel of Christ…”  That is, “your speech full of grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man, (Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:29).

Not only are we to study God’s Word to find the answers to all our specific needs, we are called to present the Scriptures, rightly divided, to others as an answer for their needs.  This is one of the things Paul meant when he instructed the Philippians to “Hold forth the word of life;” (2:16a).  Their ministry to the unsaved was to be enhanced by being “blameless and harmless, the sons (and daughters) of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (2:15).  In other words, their behavior had to be above reproach in order to share the gospel of grace effectively.  This is the pattern Paul set for these Believers and we’re to follow his lead.


Please open your Bible at Philippians 3:2.

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (Literally, a cutting off.  Hence, in scripture, the religious Jews who stressed the need to be circumcised).  For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and (what) rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (or Old Adam, i.e. our old man). 

Three times in verse 3:2 Paul said “Beware” in effect saying, “Be ever vigilant for dogs, evil workers, and those who herald circumcision.”  Paul used three negative terms to describe one group of people.  These men were adversaries of the gospel of grace, but who were they?  He didn't identify them here by name, but he did identify their characteristics, which in turn underscores their motivation.  So, we understand they are the Judaizers from Judea.  They traveled around in the first century promoting Judaism and they obstinately opposed the gospel of Christ and those who taught it. 

Please turn in your Bible to Acts 15:1-5.  Here we find Paul and Barnabas disputing with these men from Judea because they taught legalistic principles:    

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.  When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.  And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.  And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.  But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them (Gentile converts), and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

Clearly, the Pharisees of verse 15:5 were attacking Paul's gospel.  They taught the necessity of adopting Jewish customs and practices, especially those found in the Mosaic Law to be saved and circumcision was a Jewish, religious practice.  Acts 15:5 reveals these Pharisees were Christian Believers, but with a twist.  They didn’t denounce Christ Jesus, but they believed it took more to be saved then simply believing Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

In 1 Corinthians 7:19, Paul said circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing; in effect saying good works cannot save anyone; what matters is obeying the commandments of God:

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God (See 1 Corinthians 14:37).

But now,” dispensationaly speaking, Paul declared “the righteousness of God without the law is manifested (made clear), being witnessed by the law and the prophets; (Romans 3:21).

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28). 

Circumcision is mentioned about a hundred times in the Bible.  However, I don’t assume everyone understands why the Jews stressed the need  to be circumcised, so let’s take the time to visit Genesis 17 where this operation of man began: 


God’s Covenant of Circumcision

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.  And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.  And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.  Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.  And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.  And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.  And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.  This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.  And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the (Abrahamic) covenant betwixt me and you.  And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant (Genesis 17:1-14).

In 17:1-8, the LORD used the term "I will" seven times, revealing all He would do for Abraham and his descendants under the Abrahamic Covenant.  Then, starting with verse 9, He told Abraham what he needed to do for Him.  I split this passage along those lines for your benefit.  

I was taught things that are concealed in the O.T. are often revealed in the N.T. and we have an example before us.  Circumcision is normally thought of in the natural sense, but we soon discover in the N. T. God had a spiritual meaning in mind.  Paul informed us in 1 Corinthians 15:46 the natural comes first and then the spiritual.  This common thread of truth runs throughout the Bible.  First came Cain, and then Abel; Esau preceded Jacob, and Adam, the first man, came before the Son of Man, the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, etc.:

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.  Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual (1Corinthians 15:45-46).

To help you understand God’s spiritual purpose in circumcision let’s visit Deuteronomy 30:6:  And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart (Strong’s Hebrew #3824, meaning:  inner man, mind, will), and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Right off, this is an O. T. Bible verse, so this has to be a prophetic future event.  This verse is also telling us God will do something man is unable to do for themselves.  I don’t think it needs to be said, but just in case, this verse is not referring to the physical heart.  The word “heart” refers to the inner man, i.e. the spirit of man, so the LORD God is saying He will one day future circumcise the spirit of man.   

As a rule, circumcision doesn’t mean all that much to the Gentiles and from what I’ve read over the years the Israelites were not the first to practice it.  However, in the first three chapters of Romans, Paul deals with the condemnation of the entire human race, which underscored mankind’s desperate need for the gospel of grace.  In Romans 2:17-29, Paul began to specifically address the self-righteous Jews saying:

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.  Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?  thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?  Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery?  thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?  Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?  For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.  Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?  And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?  For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter (of the law); whose praise is not of men, but of God.

In verses 2:28-29, God is contrasting and comparing two different groups of people.  Both are referred to as being Jews, but one group is said to be circumcised by God and the other group by the hands of men.  God initiated natural circumcision in the flesh with Abraham and his seed, etc.  This was a natural, outward token of the Abrahamic Covenant.  This religious rite was not performed by the LORD, this circumcision was performed by man.  So, down through the centuries, this ritual was performed on the male child 8 days after their birth (Leviticus 12:3).  This is the circumcision done by human hands God is speaking of and comparing to the “true” circumcision.  Those who have been circumcised inwardly of the heart (man’s inner spirit) are the “true” Jews.  The heart must be set apart unto God.  This pictured the reality that one must have his or her heart pierced and cut to the core by the sharp, two-edged sword of the Word of God.  So, physical circumcision is a picture of the spiritual circumcision that must take place in the life of every true Believer. 

In Galatians 6:15, Paul wrote:  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

This means there is no saving value whatsoever in physical circumcison.  If you recall, Paul addressed the false teachers, known as the Judaizers; they came into the church after Paul had left.  They told the Galatians to be saved you must obey the Mosaic Law and be circumcised, in effect, putting these grace Believers back under the Law.

We understand the “fickle” Galatian Believers were returning to and in some cases turning away from Paul’s gospel of grace to legalism, the sign of which is circumcision performed by man:  I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7).

Then later in Galatians 4:9- we learn these people were considering a complete acceptance of the law: 

But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?  Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.  I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

In Philippians 3:2, Paul used three derogatory terms to identify the Judaizers because they infiltrated the grace churches aiming to discredit him and undermine his gospel (Acts 15:1; Romans 2:16).  So, Paul warned them to beware of dogs, which was an offensive term; everyone knew what Paul meant.  Dogs were filthy, diseased scavengers that often ran in packs.  People detested them.  The Jews referred to the Gentiles as dogs, meaning the lowest of the low.  Jesus Himself used this negative term while speaking to the Canaanite woman (a Gentile) in Matthew 15:26:  But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.

The Judaizers were attacking Paul’s gospel and his ministry, so he responded in kind by borrowing a passage from Isaiah 56:10-11, denouncing their evil practice:

His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, They are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.  Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, And they are shepherds that cannot understand: They all look to their own way, Every one for his gain, from his quarter.

Perhaps now you understand why Paul warned the Philippians x3.  He doesn’t want the Jewish converts returning to legalism, and he doesn’t want the Gentiles forsaking the gospel of grace for something he referred to as “weak and beggarly” (Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 4:14).  Paul identified the Pharisees in three ways so the Philippians (and us today) could recognize them when (not if) they appeared on scene.  He doesn’t want anyone perverting the gospel of Christ Jesus and disturbing the liberty every true Believer presently has in Him. 

(To be continued)

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