Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The book of Philippians was not written in logical order according to doctrine. For this reason, it is rather difficult to divide the book into sections. We may even wonder why Paul, after speaking of the mutual fellowship between him and the believers in Philippi in chapter two, goes on to speak of other matters, which he refers to as “the rest” (3:1). I believe that the reason for this change of subject lies in the fact that Paul was deeply troubled by the activity of the Judaizers. He knew that the Judaizers were disturbing the churches, damaging the church life, and trying to turn the saints away from the faith.
The Epistle to the Philippians was written when Paul received material supply from the believers in Philippi. Through Epaphroditus they had sent this supply to care for Paul’s need during his imprisonment. After receiving their gift, Paul wrote them this Epistle.
As we have pointed out, in the first two chapters we see the believers’ concern for Paul and Paul’s concern for the saints. According to 1:7, Paul realized that the believers in Philippi had him in their heart and that they were partakers of his grace. Paul went on to say that he longed after them all “in the inward parts of Christ Jesus” (1:8). Thus, there was a mutual care between the apostle and the believers.
Toward the end of chapter two, Paul speaks of sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to Philippi. Remarks about the sending of co-workers to visit the saints are usually found at the very end of Paul’s Epistles. This may indicate that Paul was planning to close this Epistle at the end of chapter two. Paul, however, was obviously burdened to write more. After he spoke of Timothy and Epaphroditus, his burden still was not discharged. Deep in his heart he was troubled by the Judaizers. I believe that this is the reason for the change of subject at the beginning of chapter three.
In 3:1 Paul says, “For the rest, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, and for you it is safe.” The Greek word rendered irksome also means “wearisome, tedious, troublesome.” Paul did not find it irksome or wearisome to write the same thing to the saints.
Paul here charges the saints to rejoice in the Lord. To rejoice in the Lord is a safeguard, a security. For Paul to write the saints about rejoicing in the Lord was safe for them. Paul’s use of the word safe points to the connection between 3:1 and 2. There must have been a situation in Philippi which required a safeguard, some kind of protection. The situation Paul had in mind was the trouble caused by the Judaizers. Therefore, after telling the believers to rejoice in the Lord, he charges them to beware of the dogs, the evil workers, the concision (v. 2). The Greek word for beware means “to keep a watchful eye ever upon.” On the one hand, the apostle advises the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord; on the other hand, he warns them to beware of, to keep a watchful eye ever upon, the Judaizers.
In using the word dogs Paul was very strong. If we were to use such an expression today, we would surely be condemned. Paul, however, was not the first to be so bold in his utterance. Both John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus referred to the Pharisees as the offspring of vipers (Matt. 3:7; 12:34). Like John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus, Paul was honest and frank in speaking the facts. The Pharisees truly were the offspring of vipers, and the Judaizers really were “dogs.”
In 3:2 Paul says, “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision.” Since there is no conjunction used between these clauses, they must refer to the same class of people. Dogs are unclean (Lev. 11:4-8), the workers are evil, and the concision are those deserving contempt. (Concision, meaning mutilation, is a term of contempt, used in place of circumcision.) The “dogs” refer to the Judaizers. In nature they are unclean dogs, in behavior they are evil workers, and in religion they are the concision, people of shame. In such a book concerning the experience and enjoyment of Christ, the apostle warns the Gentile believers to be wary of such unclean, evil, and contemptible people.
In speaking of the dogs, the evil workers, the concision, Paul exposed the shame of the Judaizers. In nature, they were dogs; in behavior, they were evil; and in religion, they were contemptible. Although they gloried in their religion, Paul regarded it as an object of shame and contempt. He wanted the believers to beware of the dogs, the evil workers, the concision.
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