Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.…
Having called upon the Philippians for public spirit, he now speaks, as if about to close the Epistle, about joy in the Lord. Inasmuch, however, as the Judaizers were abroad, he deems it best to insert a parenthesis, which the world could ill spare, about the true people of God and the progress towards the "citizenship of heaven. This third chapter is a magnificent parenthesis, in which the spiritual life is laid bare from its inception to its glorious close. In the verses now before us we have false and true Judaism contrasted.
I. CONSIDER THE JEWS FALSELY SO CALLED. (Ver. 2.) The custom of the Jews, in their pride, was to regard themselves as children at God's table and all others as only dogs" below it (Matthew 15:26). Paul reverses the figure, and has no hesitation in saying that the ritualists of his day, that is, the Jews who were preaching salvation by ceremonies, were only the "dogs" below the table, while believers in Jesus were the children at the feast. Moreover, as the dogs in the East are often captious scavengers, the Jews be here calls dogs were to be avoided by the Philippian converts just as one would avoid dangerous dogs. That he is not too severe in this judgment he shows by asserting that they have been "evil-workers." what had the history of the Judaizers been but that of "marplots"? They had done evil instead of good all through the infant Churches, turning the young converts away from the simplicity that was in Christ. Not only so, but the circumcision which they practiced and sought to enforce was only "concision" (κατατομή), i.e. mere mutilation. For once a man assigns a false value to a bloody rite like circumcision, and fancies he can contribute to his salvation by subjecting himself to the knife, he is merely mutilating the body and not benefiting the soul. These are not "the people of God," therefore, they are "Jews" only in name, who go about substituting ceremony-keeping for the faith as it is in Christ.
II. CONSIDER WHO ARE THE TRUE JEWS. (Ver. 3.) Paul states very succinctly the characteristics of the true people of God. Those are truly circumcised (περιτομή) who have been so circumcised in heart as to worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Let us take these up in the reverse order.
1. The true people of God have given up confidence in the flesh. They have seen that no incision in the flesh can render them acceptable to the Supreme; that no physical breeding can secure a prize in the great day of judgment; that nothing that they are or can be or do can win acceptance before God. Self has ceased to be the ground of confidence.
2. The true people of God rejoice in Christ Jesus - rejoice in him as their Lord. (Vers. 1, 3.) Self having ceased to be a ground of confidence or source of joy, Jesus has became the true Source. Pardon and acceptance are seen to be secured in him, and in his fellowship there is an unfailing fountain of delights. Out of the invisible comes a joy unspeakable and full of glory. We rejoice in him as all our Salvation and all our Desire.
3. The true people of God worship the Father in Spirit. This differentiates them from the formalists, whose delight and hope are in ceremonies. The Father, as an infinite spirit, can, we come to see, be approached acceptably only by our spirits. The bodily genuflexions, which go to make up the formalities, cannot be accounted worship. Unless the spirit moves reverentially within, all the formality is vain. The spirit, moreover, as we have just seen, realizes that it cannot be accepted by the Supreme on account of any supposed personal merit, but solely on account of the merit of the Lord Jesus. The worship which pleases the Father is the joyful worship which has its source in his Son. The outcome of felt obligation unto Jesus, it becomes fragrant in the nostrils of the Most High. Thus the spiritual Jews are made manifest. They gather spiritually minded around the feet of the great Father and adore him. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.