Text: Philippians 3:1-21
Title: Fashioned Like Unto His Glorious Body
Date: January 15th, 2023
Location: Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, Washington
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Father, we thank you for the power and promise of resurrection life. We ask that you would renew us in the inward man by the preaching of your Word, for we ask for your Holy Spirit in Jesus name, Amen.
In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus tells a series of parables about what the kingdom of heaven is like. He says “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:44-46).
- Have you found the kingdom of heaven? Have you found something so valuable, that you would be willing to give up everything for it?
- This is what Philippians 3 is all about. It’s about the treasure that Paul has found, and hid, and is willing to count everything as loss for.
- Do you know this treasure?
As we come to Philippians 3, we come to the beginning of the end of this letter. The first word of chapter 3 is finally. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” And so the joy that began in chapter 1 verse 4, where Paul was “making his prayer requests with joy,” continues on unto the end of this book.
- This joy that Paul has is the joy of the man in Jesus’ parable. The joy of a man who has found treasure in a field and is now waiting for that property to close so he can take possession of it.
- Do you know this kind of joy? The joy of hope, of anticipation. It’s what you feel when you buy something you really want and are waiting for it to be delivered. There is a kind of joy in expectation.
- For children, this is the joy of Friday when school gets out, or summer break and vacation.
- Well for Paul the object of his joy and hope is that by any means, he might attain to the resurrection of the dead. “To be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body,” is what Paul has found and hid and desires more than anything else. And it is what all true believers await.
- And so Philippians 3 is the story of how to buy heavenly real estate. It is the story of how men can exchange a temporal and vile body, for one that is glorious and imperishable. That’s where we’re going.
Context and Overview of Philippians 3:1-21
- Let me set the context for these verses.
- In chapter 1, Paul expressed his joy and thanksgiving for the Philippians as they were the first church to support him financially. He is in prison in Rome awaiting trial, but is hopeful that soon he will be released.
- He has just received a gift from the Philippians by the hand of Epaphroditus, and this letter is a thank you, along with other words of encouragement to persevere.
- The dominant themes we have seen in this letter have been: joy in suffering, love and humility, and the need for these qualities to be in us if we are going to stand united against adversity.
- The book reaches a climax at the center (Phil. 2:6-11) where we are given the example of Christ, or what we might call the Christ Pattern, and this the model that all Christians are to imitate:
- 1. Christ, being in God
- 2. Takes on human flesh, humbles himself unto death, even death on a cross.
- 3. And because of this, God hath highly exalted him above every name, such that all will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
- The Christ pattern is a humiliation before exaltation, a descent in order to ascend.
- And this Christ Pattern replicates and multiplies itself in those who have the mind of Christ, in those who can say with Paul to live is Christ and to die is gain.
- We saw this last week in the lives of Timothy and Epaphroditus, faithful ministers who risk their lives to serve Christ and His Bride.
- Like Christ, they give up their safety, security, and reputation and take on the form of servants. And because of this, Christ will exalt them and reward them richly on the last day.
- Now here in chapter 3 we see this same Christ Pattern being played out in the life of the Apostle Paul.
- Like Jesus, Paul is going to humble himself. He is going to give up everything he had and was that gave him cause to boast, and exchange it for something far better, resurrection from the dead.
- And the force of this chapter and this whole sermon is to get us to ask ourselves: What does the Christ Pattern look like for me? How must I humble myself if I will be exalted? What must I give up here and now, if I want to live forever with God? That is the question this text forces upon us.
- We saw this last week in the lives of Timothy and Epaphroditus, faithful ministers who risk their lives to serve Christ and His Bride.
- So with that as an overview of this chapter, let us jog through these 21 verses together, I’ll spend a lot of more time on this opening section and then pick up the pace.
The text neatly divides into three.
- Verses 1-11 are Paul’s response to the threat of false teachers,
- Verses 12-16 are Paul’s resolve to press on toward the prize of eternal life,
- Verses 17-21 are Paul’s admonition to follow this same Christ Pattern
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
- This is Paul’s way of saying, “the warning I am about to give you, is something you’ve already heard, but it’s no problem to repeat myself, and its safe for you if it’s said again in writing.”
- So this is Paul amplifying the importance of the written verses that follow.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
- Who does this refer to?
- In this context, dogs are outsiders, unclean, scavengers. This is an inspired and intended insult from the Apostle and a pejorative for those who are evil workers who mutilate the flesh.
- There is a wordplay in the Greek here between concision (κατατομήν) and circumcision (περιτομή). And the sense is that these Judaizers who teach that you must be circumcised in order to be saved, are not actually practicing circumcision, instead they are just practicing mutilation.
- As Paul says in Romans 2:25, “if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.”
- Now what exactly was the purpose of circumcision?
- In Romans 4:11 we are told that circumcision was a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith. And so when Abraham was told to circumcise himself and his household, that cutting of the male private part was testifying that a savior would be born to crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15), but he would be born not according to the flesh (like Ishmael was), but according to God’s promise (as Isaac, and eventually Christ was).
- In other words, salvation is not going to come by our works of the flesh (by carnal copulation), but rather by the grace and promise of God (who opens the barren womb, who brings life from the dead, who overshadows the virgin Mary and brings forth the Messiah).
- Circumcision was sign and seal of God’s grace. It was a symbolic castration that said, I put no trust in the flesh to save, my faith is in God alone.
- And so this sacrament that was once commanded by God in the Old Covenant (Genesis 17:14), and testified to the coming of a son who would make them righteous, becomes obsolete after Christ arrives.
- And so to continue with circumcision as a covenant sign after the son of promise comes, is actually to deny that Jesus is the Messiah. It is in effect to say “we are still waiting.”
- And so after Christ comes, circumcision loses its status as a sign and seal, and baptism becomes the new covenant sign and seal (Col. 2:11-12).
- And so these dogs, evil workers, the concision that the Philippians must beware of, are Christian False Teachers. They are people who teach salvation in Christ but require circumcision, and thus deny him by their works.
- Now if you are a careful reader of Scripture, you might be wondering, if circumcision is mutilation after Christ, then why did Paul circumcise Timothy? Was he being hypocritical?
- The short answer is that circumcision is only mutilation when it is intended as a sacrament for salvation (which is what these false teachers were claiming).
- Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9, that in Christ, he is so free that he can observe the Jewish laws and customs in order to win Jews, and live as a Gentile when he is with Gentiles, he says “I am made all things to all men, that by all means I might save some.”
- And so Timothy was voluntarily circumcised as a freeman in Christ, in order to win the Jews. As it says in Galatians 5:6, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
- This is also why Paul says in Gal. 5:2, that “if you accept circumcision” as a covenant sign, “Christ will be of no advantage to you.”
- So this is one of those places where the intent and purpose behind the action makes an enormous difference. As a covenant sign circumcision is mutilation (it is a denial of Christ), but as a means to win Jews to Christ, it was a thing indifferent. Timothy was circumcised but Titus was not. Paul was free under the law of Christ.
- He goes on in the next verse to explain his reasoning…
3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
- That is to say we are the tree seed of Abraham. Christians are the heirs of what circumcision signified, and circumcision is and always was “of the heart, in the spirit” (Rom. 2:29, Deut. 10:16, Jer. 4:4). And so Gentiles who never received physical circumcision were still justified and righteous, because they were circumcised in their heart.
- And so verse 3 is a description of whether your heart is circumcised or not.
- 1. Do you worship God in the spirit?
- 2. Do you rejoice in Christ Jesus?
- 3. Do you put no confidence in the flesh?
- If your answer is Yes to all of those questions, then you have been born again. You are the true circumcision.
In verses 4-7, Paul elaborates on what it means to boast in the flesh.
4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
- Meaning, of all the Jews then living, Paul had more reason to boast than any of them. For whatever these Judaizers boast in, Paul can out do them.
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
- Unlike many of the Jews who had apostatized, or lost their tribal identity in exile, Paul was a “pure blood” Jew. He could trace his family lineage back to Jacob himself, not as a descendent of Leah, or Bilha or Zilpah, but of the beloved wife Rachel.
- If anyone could claim Abraham as his father according to the flesh, Paul was it. And yet he counts that ancient heritage, which was a genuine blessing (a “gain to him” he says), as loss for Christ.
- He goes on in verse 8…
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
- If you think about what the body produces, stuff goes in and stuff goes out. According to the flesh we are all dung factories. And so Paul is saying, I regard as dung whatever comes from the flesh. And I am going to exchange this dung factory, he calls it a “vile body” in verse 21, for something far better: that I may win Christ.
- In verse 9 he continues…
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
- Paul’s mindset towards the resurrection is by any means necessary. This is how true faith operates:
- We regard whatever our flesh boasts in as worthless, we give it up, count it as dung. Whatever gives you your sense of worth, of being special, unique, distinguished, superior to others, must be regarded as excrement next to Christ.
- And then we esteem Christ, and the knowledge of God, and the resurrection from the dead, as treasure worth giving everything for. If you knew just how valuable Christ is, it would make every carnal thing worthless. Because nothing compares in value to God.
- And so I ask you again, have you found the kingdom of heaven? Have you found the treasure of Christ?
In verses 12-16 Paul clarifies that this perfection he strives for is something he has not yet attained.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
- This is kind of a clunky translation, but he is saying, “I have not yet reached the completion I long for, but I keep striving to take hold of Christ, because Christ has taken hold of me.”
- As we saw back in chapter 2, “we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, because God is at work within us to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
- So Paul is striving like an athlete for the prize, for resurrection life, and he wants all who are mature to have this mindset:
- We are not yet perfect, but we run hard for perfection, we take hold of Christ because Christ has taken hold of us. These are the marks of spiritual maturity. You run hard through the finish line.
Finally, verses 17-21 are a call for the Philippians to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ:
17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example.
- This means, “closely observe those who live in accordance with the example you have in us,” the us being Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus.
- So observe this Christ pattern, this humiliation before exaltation pattern, and do the same yourselves. And the reason is because…
18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
- The reason the church needs faithful ministers and faithful examples, is because it is so easy to lose sight of Jesus. It is dangerously easy to drift away from your first love, and to become accustomed to this world and its values.
- Notice how Paul describes these enemies of the cross:
- their God is their belly,
- they glory in their shame,
- and they mind earthly things.
- These are people who live to satisfy their own appetites, they glory in what God calls perversion (they wave their rainbow flags and celebrate sodomy), they promote what is shameful in the eyes of God and boast about it. These are enemies of the cross.
- And when you live in that kind of oppressive godless culture, it can wear you down. It can wear you down to the point where you don’t even realize how worldly you have become. You don’t realize how much of the world’s catechism you know and recite in conversation.
- Instead of loving what God loves and hating what God hates, theses enemies of the cross start to reinterpret Scripture, they deconstruct and reimagine a god to match the spirit of the age. You see this when churches turn Sunday into a show for unbelievers, entertainment instead of actual worship of the Triune God.
- This is the entropy of all flesh and it will drag you to hell. Paul says, “I tell you now even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.”
- These are tears we are too immature to understand, and too callous to cry ourselves. “I tell you now even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.”
- Paul was serious about Jesus, he was serious about the dangers of worldliness and false teaching corrupting the Philippians.
- And remember, these are tears over one of the healthiest churches in the New Testament. Imagine what he felt for Galatia, for Corinth, for Rome, when false teaching arose.
- Imagine what Paul what say about the church today? I think there would be joy at the gospel’s growth, and weeping over the idolatry in the church.
I said at the beginning that this chapter forces a question upon is, and that is:
- What does the Christ Pattern look like in us?
- And so I ask: What are the things that you must give up if you would attain to the resurrection? What must you count as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ?
- The answer that every Christian must come around to is: everything. And eventually, everything will be taken from you, you will die. The question is, will you live again? Will you be fashioned like unto His glorious body, or will you be resurrected unto the judgment of the lake of fire, and the second death?
- Christ is valuable beyond comprehension, and it is suicidal to reject what he offers unto you: life everlasting. And so turn to him and be saved all the ends of the earth.
- In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.