Start Well – Finish Well
Philippians 3:1-21 (Pastor Brian)
Philippians = The Letter of Joy. “Joy” or “rejoice” = 25 times throughout this letter.
Even though Paul was chained up, he had the ability to say, “Rejoice in the Lord always” because of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins.
Paul, religious, encourages believers to continue to trust in the Lord. In the congregation = Lydia (high-end fabrics business, gave hospitality to Paul and his group), the slave girl (who’d followed Paul around, telling fortunes with the spirit in her – we don’t actually know what happened to her, but she may have been there).
The consequences of Paul’s actions = in prison. He rejoiced in that prison – he and his fellow servant were singing at midnight, the Lord sent an earthquake to release them, the jailor almost committed suicide, but Paul said, “Don’t!” and converted him to faith in Christ – he and his entire household. This jailor may also have been a member of the congregation in Philippi. He’d originally gone in response to a vision he’d received from the Lord.
He’s on good and friendly terms with this congregation – though not rich, they’d helped him on numerous occasions.
No Confidence in the Flesh
1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh– 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Pressing on Toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Paul is writing to the believers in Philippi to encourage and exhort them to consider one another’s needs ahead of their own.
He comments on the foundation (beginning) of their faith, and exhorts them to finish well (press on for the goal).
Salvation is not IN works, but he encourages them now TO work – do not be lazy in your salvation. God works IN us, we work OUT our salvation. God works, we cooperate.
Here, in the middle of the letter, here’s the transition: “Finally, my brothers…” (lots more)
“Finally, rejoice in the Lord.” = true joy is found in the Lord Jesus alone.
“It’s no trouble for me to write this to you again, and it’s to safeguard you.” = He’s written before, he’s a good teacher, he knows the value of repetition. (Keep repeating something until you get it.)
Peter also says the same thing in one of his letters, “You know this, but you need to be reminded of the truth constantly because our memories are short.”
Paul warns of the false teachers – like those in Galatia – trying to get the Gentiles to be circumcised in order to be saved. In Galatia, this was a very serious problem. In Philippi, it was just a threat, not yet serious – but enough to be warned and prepared.
v. 2 “Watch out for those DOGS…”
He’s throwing back onto the Judaizers that which they call Gentiles (they called the Gentiles “dogs”). The Judaizers considered them dirty and unworthy. So, Paul is turning that “compliment” back on those who first assigned it.
The OT (Old Testament) covenant was a foreshadowing of the NT (New Testament) covenant in Christ. Now, why would anyone return to a shadow when the substance of the thing has arrived?
Jesus also talked of this with a Gentile woman. “Lord, even dogs eat from the Master’s table – give us the crumbs.” And Jesus healed her daughter.
In Revelation, there is also mention of “dogs” as Gentiles.
Paul says the Judaizers are practicers of evil.
- Perri Temne – cut off
- Katta Temne – mutilate
Paul says, “These (circumcisers) aren’t really ones who ‘cut off’ – they rather mutilate!”
For Jews circumcising Gentiles – this doesn’t matter. What matters is a New Creation. “A man is a Jew, if he is one inwardly. And circumcision is circumcision of the heart.”
For Abraham and his household, this was an outward act, but should have had an inward meaning and attitude. The INNER is what counts more to the Lord than the OUTER.
“If salvation was based on genetics, I’d be the best.” he says. But, even though he has such confidence, he trusts in Christ alone. “Of all the Pharisees, I was the chief in my zeal for the Lord.”
He lists his qualifications as a Jew:
- Circumcised on the 8th day
- Born into the faith
- From the people of Israel (Jacob)
- (Ishmaelites and Edomites weren’t “technically” Israelites. Only a TRUE Israelite could trace their lineage back all the way to Jacob.)
- From the tribe of Benjamin
- (The only son of the patriarchs who’d been born in the Promised Land. From the tribe of Benjamin, came the first Israelite ruler – Saul. The battle cry of the Israelites was “After thee! Benjamin!” They were the warriors as well. The person responsible for the salvation of the Jews (Mordecai – in Esther) was a Benjaminite.)
- A Hebrew of Hebrews
- (Both mom and dad were Hebrews and he spoke Hebrew. Sometimes, the Jews who were scattered around the earth lost their language – even though they kept their traditions – but a “true” Hebrew would take pains to maintain their language.)
- A Pharisee
- (Special, elite, religious, law-makers, law-adders, law-adherers. Called the “separated ones” because they were so zealous for God they were separated.)
- So zealous I persecuted the church
- (He persecuted what he thought was a cult.)
- Legalistic righteousness? Perfect
- (Crossed all his t’s, dotted all his i’s)
BUT, ALL this is worthless. I consider it as loss. They are spiritually valueless – they can’t bring me closer to God. In fact, EVERYTHING is a loss compared to knowing Christ – for whom I’ve lost ALL things. This “knowing” is intimate, the same kind of word is used for a husband and wife in marriage. This isn’t just about “knowing ABOUT” but “knowing deeply and BEING known” by Christ.
Paul is still a Jew, but his genetics and traditions cannot save him. “They are all rubbish.” In and of themselves, they are not bad, but in order to save him? Worthless. “I’ve got no righteousness of my own through the Law, but only in Christ – through that he bestowed upon me.”
This is the RIGHT PLACE to start.
But Paul’s goal is to know the power of the resurrection, to become like Christ in death, and to know the resurrection. “Now, I only know in part, but soon, I’ll meet Christ and know in full.”
The world is not friendly to Christ and Christianity. Satan is a fallen angel who’s caused much trouble and still does. This environment will produce much trouble for us. “Nevertheless, rejoice in the Lord.”
“Brothers, I don’t consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and pressing on toward the goal, to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
“I strive to press on for the prize” (though I know I already have it) – “and I want you to do the same. All of us, who are mature, ought to take such a view of these things.” The immature sometimes claim victory prematurely – too early.
As you mature in Christ, you’ll learn to think this way as well.
- The FIRST day isn’t the most important day.
- The LAST day IS the most important day.
Consider kings (Solomon) in the Bible. Consider your own life, your marriage, family, career, church. The FIRST day isn’t the most important. The LAST day is the most important. How will you end it?
The founding pastor of Antioch church (though retired) continues to “press on” and preach in other places and bless others. How will you live your last days?
God will keep us in his power until our last days.
START WELL – give your life to Jesus. The Lord will give you sustaining power to go through to the end. – FINISH WELL.
Pauline’s father is a good example of one who’s served the Lord with gladness and been faithful from his early years, into his 80s.