December 8 I Tuesday
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” —Philippians 3:2 NKJV
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he writes, “Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh” (Philippians 3:2). The NKJV renders a literal translation of Paul’s strong warning with three imperatives: Beware! Beware! Beware!
What does Paul mean by “Beware of the dogs”? He is not talking about a cuddly dog; rather, Paul is talking about a ravenous wolf that could kill us. The dogs Paul is alluding to are the religious leaders, Judaizers. People who, on the surface, are clean, upright, respectable, pay their taxes, do not lie, do not cheat, are ethical, work hard and go to synagogue every week. Paul warns, “Watch out for those uptight, legalistic, religious people.” Why? Because underneath the surface of these religious people, beyond the outward appearances, is a religious pride that is poisonous. This religious pride not only rejects Christ and the gospel, it actually puts Christ to death and seeks to destroy anybody who puts their trust in Christ.
During Paul’s ministry, he was constantly plagued by “stray dogs.” On his first ministry journey, Paul and Barnabas went to the city of Pisidian Antioch. They went into the synagogue and were encouraged by the religious leaders to share a message. Paul delivered a powerful sermon, with commanding knowledge of the Old Testament as he swept through Israel’s history and her relationship with God. But there was a distinction to Paul’s message. He talked about Jesus being the long-awaited Messiah, the one Israel was looking toward. Paul proclaimed, “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). The message was received well and they were invited to speak again.
On the next Sabbath, almost the whole city came out to hear the Word of the Lord. But we are told, “When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him” (Acts 13:45). Why? These Jews gave their whole life to following the do’s and don’ts contained in the Old Testament law, but all of a sudden, a man comes preaching a message that we can have peace with God, justification before Him and forgiveness of sins simply by believing in Jesus Christ.
Have we been set free from religiosity or do we still think that somehow, God is going to welcome us because we lived a really good life? Beware of dogs telling us we have to earn something that Christ has already given to us freely.
Prayer: Dear Precious Jesus, through You, I have peace with God, justification before Him and forgiveness of sin. Thank You, Jesus.