Setting

In the last section, Paul exhorted the Philippians concerning Christian conduct. Now he warns them against the legalists and those who indulge in pleasure. His tone in this passage becomes more serious and strong. However, we also read of Paul’s powerful personal statements about his own faith and his relationship with Christ, which serve as an illustration of the message he conveys.

Key Verse

(3:8)

Did You Know...?

1. Dogs (3:2): “A harsh word for Paul’s opponents, showing their aggressive opposition to the gospel and the seriousness of their error and its destructive, “devouring” results (cf. Gal 5:15).” [ref]
2. Tribe of Benjamin (3:5): “Among this tribe’s claims to superiority was the fact that it gave Israel its first king.” [ref]
3. Hebrew of the Hebrews (3:5): “Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrew parents, who retained their native tongue and customs. Paul spoke Greek, but he also spoke Hebrew fluently. (See Ac 21:40; 22:2)” [ref]
4. Pharisee (3:5): The name means “separated.” The Pharisees were a group who set themselves apart by their strict observance of the law of Moses and the oral ancestral traditions.

Outline

  • Call to rejoice in the Lord
    (3:1)
  • Righteousness through Faith in Christ
    (3:2-11)
  • Pressing on toward the Goal
    (3:12-16)
  • Heavenly Citizenship
    (3:17-4:1)

Segment Analysis

  • 3:1-3

    1.

    How does the exhortation to rejoice in the Lord relate to the warnings that follow?

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    The false teachings and ungodly practices that Paul warns the Philippians against can rob them of the joy that they have in the Lord. That is why Paul tells them that the things he writes are a safeguard to them (1).

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  • 2.

    Who are “the dogs, evil workers, and the mutilation”?

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    Those who insist and advocate that circumcision and observance of the Old Testament regulations is necessary for salvation.

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  • 3a.

    What does Paul mean when he says, “We are the circumcision”? (cf. Rom 2:25-29; Gal 5:1-15; Col 2:11-12)

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    While these advocates of circumcision seem to be zealous toward God, it is believers in Christ who have been truly circumcised because they have received the spiritual circumcision from God. Through faith in Jesus Christ, believers who are baptized into Christ have been regenerated. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they have received a new heart and are able to obey God in truth and spirit rather than by mere outward observance.

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  • 3b.

    Explain the characteristics of believers described in verse 3.

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    We worship God in the Spirit because we serve God from our hearts and obey Him by the Spirit who is at work in us (cf. Rom 7:6). We rejoice in Christ Jesus (also translates as “glory in Christ Jesus”) because we have access to God and the hope of salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We have no confidence in the flesh because we no longer depend on our own efforts to achieve righteousness before God.

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  • 3:4-6

    4.

    Why does Paul mention his achievements before his conversion?

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    Paul uses his own example to show that although he had every reason to put his confidence in the flesh, more so than those who insist on justification by works, he has come to realize that these achievements cannot bring about the righteousness that God desires. If even with his heritage and achievements Paul fell short of God’s perfect standard, then no one else should put their trust in themselves.

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  • 5.

    What is the “righteousness in the law” (6)? When Paul says that he was blameless, does it mean that he was perfect before God?

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    Paul was blameless before men because he observed the letter of the law flawlessly. But he knew that he could not stand before God with confidence because, being controlled by his sinful nature, he had nothing good within him (Rom 7:14-24).

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  • 3:7-11

    6.

    What has Paul counted as loss? What has he gained?

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    He has counted his confidence in his achievements as loss because such confidence could only hinder him from accepting Christ. Instead, he has gained Christ and His righteousness.

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  • 7a.

    What are the things that the world considers as gain? Why does the world consider knowing Christ a loss?

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    The people of the world seek after vain glory and pleasure, and they consider it a gain to obtain these things. To give up their ego and sinful indulgence in order to follow Christ would be a loss to them. There are others who take pride in their religious zeal or their philanthropic deeds and think that they are able to attain to God’s standard. They are unwilling to acknowledge their sin and put their hope in Christ alone. To surrender their self confidence to believe in Christ is a loss to them.

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  • 7b.

    It is not possible to gain Christ without first forsaking “the things that were gain” to you (see verse 7). What have you counted loss in order to gain Christ?

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  • 8.

    What does it mean to “be found in Him” (9)?

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    To be found in Christ means to be baptized into Christ and to live in Christ, abiding in his love and commands. The only way to have confidence before God and be kept from the coming wrath is for us to be found in Christ (cf. 1Thess 1:10). On judgment day, we will be blessed if God “finds us” in Christ.

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  • 9.

    What is the difference between righteousness from the law and righteousness through faith in Christ?

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    Righteousness from the law is based on human effort. It is imperfect and superficial. Because of our sinful nature, no human being can ever meet God’s perfect requirements (Rom 3:20). But God has revealed a righteousness apart from the law—His righteousness (Rom 3:21). This righteousness is a gift that God imparts freely to believers. By the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can now be justified before God through faith. We who have been baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with Christ (Gal 3:27). Thus, we have received Christ’s righteousness and may stand before God with confidence.

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  • 10a.

    According to this paragraph, what does it mean to know Christ?

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    1. To know Christ is to know the power of His resurrection. This means being able to experience the Spirit’s transforming power in our Christian walk (Rom 8:1-4, 9-11)
    2. To know Christ is to know the fellowship of His sufferings. This means participating in the sufferings of Christ by enduring hardships for Christ’s sake (1Pet 2:21; 4:1, 13; Col 1:24).
    3. To know Christ is to be conformed to His death. This means dying with Christ and putting to death our sinful nature (Rom 6:4-11; 8:12-13; Gal 5:24).
    Only by experiencing the death, resurrection, and sufferings of Jesus Christ in our lives can we truly know Christ.

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  • 10b.

    What is the outcome of knowing Christ?

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    Attaining to the resurrection from the dead (11), the glorious moment that all believers eagerly expect (Rom 8:18-23).

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  • 10c.

    Do you consider the knowledge of Jesus Christ as excellent, that you are willing to suffer the loss of all things (see verse 8)?

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  • 3:12-16

    11a.

    What is Paul pressing on to lay hold of?

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    Paul presses on toward the goal of knowing Jesus Christ (8,10).

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  • 11b.

    Consider Paul’s laying hold and Christ’s laying hold of Paul. What does this verse teach about human endeavor and divine calling (12)?

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    Believers are able to lay hold of the heavenly prize because Christ has first “laid hold” of them. In other words, without the salvation of Jesus Christ and the upward call of God (14), all human effort to attain salvation or God’s reward is futile.

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  • 11c.

    Why is it important to forget what is behind?

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    Past achievements can make us complacent so that we stop pursuing spiritual advancement.

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  • 12a.

    What is your goal in life? Are you responding to the “upward call of God”?

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  • 12b.

    What lesson can you learn from Paul’s attitude in your own spiritual journey?

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    Paul regards the journey of faith as a race (cf. 1Cor 9:24-27; 2Tim 4:7), which requires all his energy and focus. We should likewise set our mind on the heavenly glory and make every effort to know Jesus Christ more and more (cf. 1Pet 1:5-11). Then our lives will not be unproductive and aimless.

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  • 13.

    How does Paul’s statement in verses 15 and 16 serve as a guide in dealing with differences of opinions among believers?

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    As long as we share the same attitude of pressing on to know Christ (“Let us, as many as are mature, have this mind”), God will reveal His will to us concerning issues which we cannot fully agree on. When our views differ, there is no need to turn our differences into endless disputes or even personal grudges. Instead, each one of us needs to make sure that we do have a sincere desire to know God’s will and pursue the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We should humbly seek God’s will through the study of God’s Word and prayer. With this goal and attitude as our common basis, we will eventually reach perfect unity under God’s guidance (cf. Eph 4:11-13). But in the process, we do not have to wait until we are in complete agreement on all things before seeking progress in our faith. We should continue to pursue spiritual growth towards our common goal with the same mind and same spirit.

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  • 3:17-4:1

    14a.

    What is the lifestyle of the enemies of the cross of Christ (18-19)?

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    1. They serve their appetites by indulging in gluttony and feasting (Rom 16:18).
    2. They advocate and boast of their shameful behavior (Eph 5:12 Rom 1:32).
    3. Their mind is constantly thinking of godless ambitions, material pursuits, and sinful pleasures (1Jn 2:15-16; Col 3:5).

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  • 14b.

    Why are those who live such lifestyles enemies of the cross of Christ?

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    Whereas the cross of Christ brings salvation, godless lifestyles lead to destruction (19). Not only are their conducts contrary to the will of God, they also often oppose the gospel and profane the message of the cross.

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  • 14c.

    Does this lifestyle, which is so prevalent today, have any influence on your life?

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  • 15a.

    Why should we constantly remind ourselves that our citizenship is in heaven?

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    If we realize and believe that we are heavenly citizens, our priorities, values, and conducts will be drastically different from those whose minds are on earthly things.

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  • 15b.

    What should be our lifestyle if we eagerly wait for the Lord Jesus Christ and the glorious transformation?

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    Instead of investing our hopes and energy in the temporary material things, we will live our lives as strangers here with reverent fear (1Pet 1:17 NIV; Heb 11:13). We will make wise use of our time, possessions, and talents to strive for spiritual growth (Phil 3:12-14), lay up treasures in heaven (Mt 6:19-20; 1Tim 6:17-19), and always abound in the work of the Lord (1Cor 15:58).

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  • 16.

    How do we “stand fast in the Lord” (4:1)?

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    Continue to strive for spiritual growth. Keep our eyes on Christ, who is seated in heaven, and remember that this world is not our home. Always focus on the coming of Christ and the glorious resurrection.

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