Warm-Up Before the Hike:
Consider sharing something about your life that is a beautiful surprise and something challenging you never expected.
Have you ever stopped to consider how your life speaks to others about Christ? Last week, Kaitlyn invited us to “slow down and gaze upon the beautiful examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Like these faithful men, may we each desire to walk humbly, serving those around us with genuine love in a way that honors Christ.” I am excited to continue our journey this week as we observe, interpret, and draw application from Philippians 3:1-11 where Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christ alone is the source of salvation. All former works in the flesh are garbage in comparison to knowing Christ.
Scripture – Philippians 3:1-11
1 Further, my brothers and sisters, 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 evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh– 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have 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 righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 on the basis of faith.
10 I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Observation – What does the passage say?
- Paul exhorts the church in Philippi to “Rejoice in the Lord!” 
- He reminds them that it is no hassle for him to remind them again because this truth will protect them from “dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.”[1-2]
- Contrast – Paul explains that believers in Christ are the true circumcision by the Spirit as opposed to the Judaizers who place their confidence in circumcision in the flesh 
- If confidence in the flesh was worth anything, Paul was an overachiever:
– 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
-as for zeal, persecuting the church
-as for righteousness based on the law, faultless [4-5]
- Contrast – all of those accomplishments in the flesh are worthless in comparison to knowing Christ. [7-8]
- Righteousness comes through faith in Christ, not the law 
- Paul wants to know Christ in his power and his sufferings to experience the miracle of resurrection from the dead [10-11]
Interpretation – What does the passage mean?
It’s important to understand who Paul is warning the church about. Sonic light provides great insight:
“The Jews habitually referred to Gentiles contemptuously as “dogs” (cf. Matt. 15:21-28). In ancient times, many dogs were unclean, wild, and vicious animals that threatened the safety of everyone. Paul now hurls this term of contempt back ‘on the heads of its authors’ …, for to Paul the Jews were the real pariahs that defile the holy community, the Christian church, with their erroneous teaching.” The Judaizers emphasized circumcision because it was the rite that brought a person into Judaism, which they viewed as a prerequisite to justification (cf. Acts 15:1). “False circumcision” refers to circumcision for the wrong reasons, namely, circumcision contrary to the revelation of God in Scripture. The Philippians and Paul, and all true believers belong to a different camp, that of the “true circumcision.” Paul was referring to the circumcision of the heart that happens when a person trusts in Jesus Christ. The alternative is trusting in oneself and or in rite-keeping for salvation. So Paul says: “You Jews think that you are circumcised, but really you are only mutilated.”
Paul makes it very clear that salvation comes only from knowing Christ. None of the physical acts, conformance with the Jewish law and birthrights are enough. In fact, there is nothing in our nature, even our God-honoring accomplishments, that make us acceptable to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Knowing Christ is the singular focus and Paul is eager to write as many times as needed to warn the people against falling away from the truth.
We can’t forget that Paul is writing from prison. Even there he’s encouraging others to “Rejoice in the Lord.”
Application – How does the meaning of the passage apply to me?
After his Damascus road experience, Paul poured out his entire life spreading the gospel to those he formerly persecuted. Ironically, the man who did great harm to early Christians authored most of the New Testament. His impact carries on 2000 years later. It’s eternal.
Paul experienced God’s protection and deliverance many times as he spread the gospel across dangerous regions, yet he is chained in prison. Why would the Lord allow this to happen? Paul was preaching about The Great Deliverer, yet he wasn’t delivered. Have you ever experienced this in your own life?
As a believer who has walked with the Lord since childhood, I want to believe my story will be different from Paul’s. I never persecuted the church, so my prosperity gospel should come with a fairy tale ending, right? The truth is, my faith is being tested because things aren’t working out as I planned. I didn’t mind the world watching when great things happened but what do I say of my Deliverer when my heart is crying “Lord, are you kidding me?”
What do you do when life doesn’t go as you planned, when circumstances don’t match the Christian story you wrote?
Like me, do you struggle to achieve more good to dilute the bad? Sometimes there is no Christian effort that can change the circumstances. Sometimes we’re given the opportunity to shine for Christ from our personal prison cells. Perhaps it’s only then that we come to truly know the overwhelming, more than sufficient love of Christ. It is more valuable than all that is lost in the process.
Paul tells us clearly that all the things he formerly valued are “loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” The goal is to know Christ. Christ alone. It’s not to know Christ, so that…he can fix what I don’t like about my story.
My friend, Anita Carmen, provides a beautiful perspective.
“There are times in life when the star disappears. We were following, following and then there is silence. It is during those times that we must return to when we last heard Him. He hasn’t changed. His mission hasn’t changed. When we anchor ourselves to God the person we flow with Him into new circumstances. He is no longer a rule book or a tablet of Ten Commandments. He is the living, breathing, resurrected Christ who will lead us. I pray that we will follow Jesus one day at a time. Father forgive us for the times we wanted to see the plan. Teach us to live holding on to you as our living plan! We get to say, “What’s next, Lord?” and we learn to fly blindfolded with your Spirit as our navigator! We’re in for the adventure of our lives.”
Scripture Memory and Homework
Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-10. Consider writing the verses on note cards and take them with you on a walk. Ask the Lord to speak specifically to your heart through each verse. For next week work through the rhythm of observation, interpretation, and application for 3:12-21.
As you hike through the days again, go blindfolded with the Spirit into the adventure of your life!
In His Unfailing Love,