I have heard some religious zealots try to twist the scripture regarding “beware of dogs” as proof that man places too much affection on his pets. This is just simply not true. When you look at Philippians 3:2-3 it is clear that Paul is warning them and us to stay away from the religious. Those people who promote the Law of Moses, or by today’s standards their choice of denomination, as supreme over faith in Jesus’ perfect work on the cross.
Philippians 3:2-3 “2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,”
No one is 100% sure what Paul is referencing to in verse 2 when he starts out “beware of dogs”, however by looking at its past uses in the bible and coupling it with the truth of the gospel we can come to a solid conclusion. It is interesting to note that the term “dogs” is a disparaging remark used by the children of Israel when they referred to the Gentiles (Matthew 15:27, Mark 2:27). This term “dog” was a reference to an unholy or non-Jewish person. My thought is that Paul is turning the tables on the Pharisees and anyone else that is hanging on to the works of the law including circumcision as the means of gaining righteousness with God. Jesus Himself even warned us about these people in Matthew 7:15, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves”. It is clear that our salvation is through faith and anyone holding on to their work or promoting any form of law over the blood of Jesus for redemption will not inter into heaven, Revelations 22:15. Because Paul ties in the term “dogs” with evil workers and mentions the mutilation he must be referring to the Jews that were trying to keep others in bondage and under the Law. Christians need to understand how important it is to stay away from any form of legalism. Three books of the gospels, Matthew 16:6, Mark 8:15, & Luke 12:1 record Jesus as warning His disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees. In Mark 8:15 “and Herod” was included indicating that it was not just the Pharisees that had bad doctrine, but also the world. Paul’s warning to the Corinthians and Galatians was that even a little leaven “legalism” leavens the whole lump. Legalism was the main issue Paul had with the Galatians. Anytime anyone perverts the gospel by adding a rule or an action that “must” be done to gain salvation, repentance, or to maintain righteousness (which is actually being in “right standing with God”), they are counting the blood of Jesus as worthless. A person trying to live in legalism and the gospel of Christ together would biblically be considered unstable in all of their ways. My suggestion when you cross paths with such a person is to gently point them into the truth of the gospel. If this person happens to be a pastor or some form of church leader, run from such a person as they cannot be trusted in their doctrine even if they say good things that may help or often line up with the word of God. According to the word of God, even a little legalism leavens, makes worthless, the whole lump. A person that mixes rules or legalisms with the gospel would be considered an evil worker as their doctrine would actually be contrary to the truth of the gospel. Even the word of God taken out of context and used contrary to what the gospel is, is a lie from the devil. Remember that Satan used this trick in the wilderness when tempting Jesus, all three temptations were truths taken from the word of God and twisted out of context. The mutilation spoken of here is a reference to the physical circumcision of a male in effort to somehow become righteous.
Verse 3 is the awesome truth of the gospel and a complete answer to any attempt to add works, rules, or legalisms in a person’s life in effort to be righteous. The actual act of circumcision was a sign of separation unto a life of holiness and started back with Abraham. Anyone that calls on the name of Jesus for their salvation is actually “separated” unto God from the rest of the world. It is our faith in the blood of Jesus shed for our sins that spiritually circumcise us from the world. Therefore Paul tells us that we, “Christians” are the true circumcision, but it is in the spirit and not in an action that we are circumcised. Romans 2:29 says, “but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God”. God is Spirit and we can only worship Him in spirit not by actions. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying; we must be responsible for our actions and abstain from sin. Romans 6:1-23 addresses our sinful nature along with a life in grace and is very clear that if we are born under grace and have died to sin that we should no longer live in it. The point made in verse 3 is that we no longer have to focus on abstaining from sin in order to draw close to God or be in His righteousness, nor do we live a life of works and actions in effort to be holy in our natural bodies; the blood of Christ has made that possible. It is BECAUSE we are believers in Jesus Christ for salvation that we should not live in sin and not the sinless life itself that is of any worth. We therefore, can truly only worship God in the spirit, we must rejoice in Christ Jesus, and can NEVER have any confidence in our actions as a means to obtain righteousness.
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