Paul warned the church at Philippi concerning the coming false teachers (Phil 3:1), and in 3:2 he repeats his warning three times, with the present imperative to “be continually beware,” of “dogs,” “evil workers,” and “those who mutilate the flesh.” He did not mince words or show any compassion for false teachers. Who were these people, and what did they teach?
Dogs refers to scavenger dogs that roamed in packs, feeding on garbage. They were despised, hence the derogatory connotation to these Jewish teachers.
The false teachers prided themselves on their supposed goodness, fasting, and religious ceremonies, but they actually were “evil workers,” denying a gospel of unmerited grace. Teachings of sacraments or rituals to save you is false.
The phrase “those who mutilate the flesh” refers to Judaizers who wanted believers to become circumcized Jews in order to be saved. However, the term used here is used in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) for pagan religious mutilation in Leviticus 21:5 and 1 Kings 18:28. Paul is stating that religious circumcision—-or any external rite or ceremony—-is as meaningless as a pagan ritual. They have no benefit for salvation.
Though circumcision is not an issue today, many people trust in their baptism, church membership, communion, or good deeds to others as a way to earn God’s approval. Many try to keep the Ten Commandments to be good enough for God, but no one can keep them perfectly.
James declared, “the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it”(Jas 2:10NET). Even Abraham was saved by faith alone (Gen 15:6) before he was circumcised (Rom 4:10). Good works cannot erase sin.
The New Testament believer seeks to be obedient out of a heart of gratitude for forgiving grace received by faith. Paul continues stating his own religious accomplishments, only to declare, “What things were gain to me, I have counted as loss for Christ . . . and count them as rubbish . . . and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Phil 3:7–-9). Rejoice that you know the truth of the gospel by faith!
“Dear Jesus, it is not our own goodness but Yours that makes this life worth living. Help me to recognize and avoid following leaders who only desire to point others to their own greatness. Thank you for your grace to forgive.”