1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for 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; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3)
What a great chapter to look forward to! After taking a short break, a several week break from our study in Philippians to look at the topic of worship, today we get to resume where we ended in Philippians. We ended with chapter 2 and so today we move forward into chapter 3.
We ended chapter 2, as you may recall, with a several week look at spiritual friendships. We observed at the end of chapter 2 several different parties or people – Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and the church at Philippi – and how they were all tied together spiritually because of their common bond and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what brought them together in these unique relationships, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. They were bound to each other. They were not friends just because they had the same hobbies, that’s not what primarily brought them together. They didn’t come together because they liked the same foods or the same vacation spots. They were not friends simply because of where they lived geographically even. They were not employed at the same place. Their ties were due to their love for the Lord Jesus Christ. It wasn’t that they just shared the same political interests. They loved Christ, so their ties were strong, they went very deep, they were very significant, because they were founded on something that was unbreakable, and that is their bond with Christ Himself. They were spiritual friends, that’s what we looked at in chapter 2.
This is how you and I are to be with one another, the same type of relationship. When we come together, when we gather here together, or whether we gather somewhere else, a part of us, for lunch after church. Whether we’re together at Braum’s for some ice cream, or Chick-fil-A for a sandwich, or at a ballgame, or at the gym, or wherever we may meet together, we should gather as those who are mutually concerned for one another, who love each other, who are tied together in Christ. When we have been out in the world surrounded by non-Christians, doing God’s work among them, there ought to be a sense of relief and joy as we come back together as a church, whether it’s here or somewhere else, when we come together as Christians, because we are all a part of the same body, the very body of Christ. There is this unity that we are to enjoy with one another as we reach out and interact with each other.
We saw this kind of mutual love and affection at the end of chapter 2 among God’s people. And so we go then from that right into chapter 3, and chapter 3 is incredible. The Christ-centered focus of the chapter really stands out, it comes into full view. Paul begins to tell us of his desire to gain Christ, to be found in Christ, to pursue Christ, and to be transformed by Christ. With great passion we see all of these things, we see Paul so focused – which is really the theme of the book – so focused on the Lord Jesus Christ in everything he does, with great longing we see him, and we see his heart’s pursuit. So, Lord willing we will cover these things together.
For today, we will look at verse 1 of chapter 3. Only verse 1, and in sort of a general sense. It is a verse that I think about very often. A verse I share with other people often. If you’ve been around me much at all you may have heard me quote this verse, or paraphrase it. It is a very important verse to me personally, and it may be to you as well, I hope if it hasn’t been then maybe after today it will be.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. (Philippians 3:1)
Paul begins this chapter with a word that may seem to us to indicate he is finishing up. In the ESV it says, “Finally, my brothers.” It sounds like he’s done with the letter and he’s going to conclude here. But this was a common way to say something like, “so then,” or “now then,” with something to follow. It is a word that indicates transition more than conclusion. We are only about halfway through the letter here, so he’s transitioning here, not concluding. I like to think of it as saying, “Okay, now we have covered some very important things, so now let’s move on to some other very important things!” And so here we go with these new things of importance. And the two beginning important issues that he raises from this one verse are both reminders! They’re just reminders.
Back in Paul’s day letters didn’t come very frequently. When the church in Philippi would have gotten this letter from the Apostle Paul it would have been a really big deal. If you think about the church back then, it was new. Christianity was spreading, and yet in its infancy under the new covenant of grace. There would have been many new, young believers in the church. We read of that in Acts, that there were many new believers. Many I’m sure were very anxious to hear more from the Apostle Paul or perhaps the other apostles to learn more. They didn’t have the bound Bible like we have, so I’m sure they were soaking up whatever they could get from the apostles to learn more about the Lord Jesus Christ in their walk with Him. Things were unfolding in the early church, and this important letter gets to them.
They would have read the entire letter together to the congregation at one time. They would have read the first half and probably thought, “Wow, that’s great! That’s interesting. I see now who Christ is and His humility, and what it means to be a spiritual friend to other people,” really soaking that up I’m sure. Then we get to part two with an obvious transition with the word “finally,” and what would be next? What is next, first of all at least, are two things that have already been said! I wonder if some would have thought, “Come on Paul, you’ve already said these things. Give us something new!”
But he doesn’t in verse 1; he’s pointing to reminders. The rest of the book is somewhat of a reminder. It says, “Rejoice in the Lord,” and then a statement that indicates he is about to repeat himself from some earlier teaching. He’s going to give them reminders. I find it fascinating how we see so many truths repeated in the Bible. So many reminders in the Bible. The New Testament writers describe gospel truths over and over again.
For example, we were in 1 Peter not so long ago. In that book, chapter 1 verse 6, we read, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” Peter is encouraging us to rejoice even when trials come, he goes on to explain that God uses them in our lives for good purposes. That is in 1 Peter. In James we see the same truth being taught again. James 1:2 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of all kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…” See that repetition? That reminder? The same truth being taught by two different men.
Even on the topic of reminders, we have Paul giving reminders to us, to the church in Philippi, and we see Peter doing the same thing. 2 Peter 1:12 – “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in the body, to stir you up by way of reminder.” We need reminding.
I want us to look at this and think of reminders from two sides. First as those who can remind others of truth. You can, I can be those who are quick to remind others of God’s truth. Paul does this, Peter does this, and we can do this for each other. It seems pretty simple, yet it can be challenging. And it may be because sometimes I think we get hung up on, “I don’t have anything to say that is original, so I don’t have anything to really say at all.” We may see a friend who is suffering, struggling in some way, hurting over a loss or disappointment, maybe a friend who is confused over circumstances, grieved over personal sin or the sin of another. God puts them in our path, brings this person to us, and we freeze up with, “I don’t know what to say, so I’ll not say anything. I don’t have an original thought to share.” You know, that is really not the time for originality, when somebody is suffering or hurting. Can we say something to encourage? Some truth about God, about Christ? Maybe even, “Yes, life is hard, but God loves you.” Do believers know that already? Of course they do. Can we say it anyways? Sure we can, it’s a reminder. We can say, “I see you hurting, and I’m sorry, but Christ will not leave you during this time.” It’s a reminder of Biblical truth. Does the Christian know that already? Probably. But are they thinking that at the time? Probably not. Or how about, “I’ll pray for you.” God calls us to that, right? How about a simple reminder? Nothing original, nothing new, nothing that seems profound outside of Scripture, just God’s truth.
Paul reminds his readers to rejoice, he says, “rejoice in the Lord.” How many times has he already said that in Philippians, or at least alluded to it? Over and over again, but he doesn’t stop! He is about to say some hard things about false teachers, and so he couples it or he frames it with, first of all, “rejoice in the Lord.” A simple reminder.
Sometimes we are looking for something grand to say, maybe it is in pride that we do that. We want to say something great, when the best counsel, the greatest encouragement, may be a gentle word spoken in love, a truthful, simple reminder from God’s Word.
Not long ago I was really struggling with my schedule, it seemed to have gotten out of control this particular week. It’s not uncommon for me, if you know me well, it doesn’t take much for that to happen. Several unplanned appointments during a particular week. I was headed down a path, in a bad way, of, “I can’t do all this, it’s too much, I’m not capable of dealing with these things.” I was struggling in that way, headed down a bad path with some negative thinking, wrong thinking, and in my struggle I walked to Tammy’s office, began to share with her what I was thinking. I’m sure she could hear in my voice a certain degree of despair. She looked at me and said, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” Those were the words that came from her mouth. Those were not original to her. She didn’t just come up with that. She got that from 1 Corinthians 10:13, and it was a gentle reminder of several things in that short statement. That God is sovereign over my circumstances, over my day and week, and He is faithful to regulate anything and everything that comes into my life, including unplanned appointments; anything that enters my world comes through His hand. It was a short statement of truth given at a time of need, and guess what? That is something I already knew. In fact, that is something I would be quick to share with you, or with her even, but was I thinking that at that moment? Not a chance. I needed a reminder of something that was already known and dear to my heart. We need reminding.
I heard those words of reminder, I let them sink in for a moment, and by God’s grace I chose to believe what God had said in His Word, and put away my foolish thinking, at least for a while. But guess what? I can guarantee you, I’m sure I’ll need to hear those words again from someone in the future, maybe often. We need reminding. We can be those who are faithful to remind others of God’s truth.
Not only can we remind others of what God has said, but we can also be those who are quick to embrace reminders that God brings to us from other people. We can give reminders and we can receive reminders. We can be thankful and grateful when someone shares a reminder with us from God’s Word. I say this because I think we may take that for granted sometimes. Someone comes to us, seeing something going on in our lives, and wanting to help they share with us perhaps a simple truth, and we may think, “I already know that! I don’t need to hear that.” Well, maybe you do, maybe I do, but I guess God wanted you to hear it again, or me to hear it again. Maybe hear it in this new context I’m living in of what’s going on in my life. And if it is God’s truth, truth from God’s Word, it’s as if God is sharing it with us. No matter what it is we ought to, I believe, receive it with great reverence and consider why God has brought that word to us at that very moment. Our tendency may be, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that already.” And if that is our tendency, we may fail to really consider, “What is God trying to show me in this moment?” Truth we already know can be like white noise when we fail to notice it for what it is. We need to think through this when we receive reminders from other people.
This may be really important for us as we continue in Philippians, because when we started this book many of you came up to me and said, “I’m so glad we’re in the book of Philippians, it’s my favorite book.” I was surprised by how many people said that. I haven’t heard that as much from any other book I’ve preached through except this one. So for a lot of you this is your favorite book, and it is mine too right now because I’m preaching through it, and that’s how it tends to work. So when we started this book many of you said, “This is my favorite book,” or “My favorite verse is from Philippians,” or “I really like this particular section in Philippians.” There are so many good things, so many familiar verses, common verses, favorite verses. And as we go through them together we may be tempted to just fly past some of them as if to say, “I already know what that means.” And I would just say, receive the reminder. See what God want us to learn, to see, maybe in a fresh way as it relates to us now.
I’m simply talking about receiving reminders, how to receive them as from the Lord. In fact Paul says that he doesn’t tire of giving reminders, or that it is no trouble to him because it is “safe for them.” In other words they need these reminders, they give them safety, these reminders keep them safe from the enemy, safe from run-away, out of control, emotional living, safe from destructive thinking, safe from being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. Reminders keep us safe if we will receive them.
If you think about this, Paul wrote the whole letter of Galatians as a reminder of the true gospel of grace. The whole book is a reminder. He says in chapter 1 verse 6 – “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” Remember how he begins Galatians then spends the whole book convincing them of things they had already learned, reminding them of things they had already known? They had received the true gospel and now they were turning from grace back to the works of the Law. They needed reminding of what they had been taught, it was for their good, it was to keep them safe, it wasn’t new; they were reminders.
How high a value does God place on repetition and reminders in His Word?
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God (Romans 15:15)
That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:17)
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:6-7)
1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:1-2)
All of these are reminders, not something new. Something they had been taught of which they needed reminding. We can be those who remind others, and we can be those who willingly and quickly receive reminders from others as messengers of God’s word.
Are we just dense? Why do we need this? It’s because we are so forgetful. We can get so clouded in our thinking, deceived in our thought life, confused in our circumstances. And God is faithful to bring to us those who are willing to help clear the way for us with God’s truth. Aren’t you thankful for that? Can we be that for other people, for each other? Listen to how Paul puts this from Romans 1:11-12. From one spiritual friend to another he demonstrates how we should think about and relate to one another.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12)
This mutual encouragement that so often comes through mutual reminders of God’s truth. I want to encourage you this week to do that. Most likely you’re going to be rubbing shoulders with other believers, whether here or somewhere else; can we be those who are quick to encourage and remind each other of God’s truths?
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. (Philippians 3:1)