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Improbable Joy – Philippians 3:1-9

Mar 25, 2024
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Paul begins this section of his letter by reminding the church in Philippi that the church is protected from legalism and false gospels by hearing the gospel regularly. He goes on to say, “look out for dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh”. In that day, dogs were dirty, unclean, and dangerous. The often wandered where they didn’t belong, and Paul is comparing them to the false teachers know as Judaizers.

The Judaizers believed that Gentiles had to become Jews before becoming Christians. This involved the act of circumcision and taking on the law of Moses (Acts 15). But Paul and others denied this claim and preserved the gospel of grace. Salvation comes through Christ alone. The Judaizers often called the Gentiles “dogs”, but now Paul is calling the Judaizers “dogs”.

The circumcision that Paul speaks about (v3) in one of a changed heart

  1. Who worship by the Spirit of God – serving
  2. and glory in Christ Jesus – to boast in His glory

Paul then goes on to say that he isn’t going to play this game of comparison, “but if I did, here’s what I would say”…(vs5-6)

  1. Circumcised on the 8th day – ritual (Gen 17)
  2. of the people of Israel – not by conversion – ethnicity
  3. of the tribe of Benjamin – rank
  4. A Hebrew of Hebrews – tradition – he was a Hebrew-speaker
  5. as to the law, a Pharisee – rule keeping (Acts 26:5)
  6. as to zeal, a persecutor of the church – (Acts 7)
  7. as to righteousness under the law, blameless – self-righteous

Verse 7 says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Salvation is about knowing Jesus. It doesn’t mean merely to know about Him; it means that you have a relationship with Him. After meeting Jesus over 30 years prior, Paul still wants to know Him more and more!

He counts it all as trash in order that He knows Christ. (v8).

Other religions are driven by a works-based righteousness, but the gospel is about imputed righteousness, which is about receiving Christ’s righteousness as our own. Righteousness is not achieved by trying harder but by imputation-the Lord places it in you and credits it to you. It is the great exchange!


  1. To be steady and joyful in all circumstances, we must place our confidence in Jesus. When we struggle in our marriages or in our careers or in school, we’ll be miserable if we’ve placed our confidence in things. What things pull your attention away from Christ?
  2. In what ways are you like the Judaizers? Where do you look at yourself as “better” than others because of what you do or where you have come from? What “false rules” have you (accidentally or deliberately) put on others before they can know the love of Jesus?