Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

Philippians 3:1-8

warm up

As a parent why is it important to remind our children about certain "basic" things such as: 

[  ] Looking both ways before crossing the street.
[  ] Never talking to strangers.
[  ] Calling if your going to be late.

Does the repetition of such similar things become a chore at times? Can it also be a labor of love? Why? How does the statement: "I'd rather be safe than sorry" apply to such things? 

wise up

When it came to spiritual things, Paul preferred to be on the "safe side" even if it meant being overly repetitious. (Vs. 1.) So did Peter according to 2 Peter 1:12. What are some spiritual instructions (morals, doctrines and ethics) that, for the sake of safety, probably cannot be repeated too much? Discuss. 

I. It is safe to identify your enemy: Vs. 1-2.
In this text, Paul has a list of things he feels strongly about that he wants the brethren to beware of. (Vs. 2) It was important to Paul that his brethren recognize the difference between sinners and saints, vice and virtue, spiritual and non-spiritual things.. 

   1. After having encouraged the brethren to highly regard those like Timothy and Epaphroditus (Phil 3:29), it was equally important that they be aware that not every teacher or brother holds such a worthy reputation. There were those going throughout the brotherhood teaching that the Gentiles had to be circumcised according to the law of Moses in order to become Christians. Paul had diligently fought against that from the earliest days of his ministry. In fact, the epistle to the Galatians hammers away at this very point. Some were probably saying, Paul don't you get tired of always warning about such false teachers and refuting their arguments? Paul's response was....  to me its not grievous because for you it is safe. (Vs..1) The positive benefits far outweigh any negatives. Is it popular to warn against wolves in sheep clothing today? Even if it isn't, can we agree that it is safer to be aware of a danger than to be caught off guard?
   2. Paul's scathing description of the enemies of Christ in verse 2 may seem shocking but perhaps that was the point. These were not nice people and Paul was not handling them with kid gloves. They were bringing Christians back into bondage and perverting the will of God. He calls them:
      (a) "dogs" (a term the Jews used for pagans or the heathen Cf., Matthew 18:17); 
     (b) "evil workers" (we often admire those who are workers in the kingdom, but some obviously can work evil Cf., Luke 13:27); 
     (c) "concision" (which literally means to mutilate the flesh.) There is little doubt that Paul is referring to the Judaizing teachers of his day. Paul is not being disrespectful of the Jewish people or race nor the act of circumcision itself. But he sees those who were attempting to incorporate circumcision as a test of fellowship in the Christian faith as butchers and mutilators of the flesh. 

II. It is safe to identify with faithful brethren: Vs. 3
The Judaizing teachers were identifying the children of God by the flesh (physical characteristics or accomplishments) but in contrast, Paul identifies God's children (who he calls the circumcision) as those who: 
     (a) Worship God in spirit (emphasis is on attitude);
     (b) Rejoice in Christ (emphasis is on Christ rather than Moses); 
     (c) Have no confidence in the flesh as did the descendants of Israel or anyone who puts emphasis upon physical human achievement or heritage as the basis for their righteousness. 
   2.  For Paul, worshipping God from the heart and the daily joy that he found in Christ was superior to any fleshly achievement or human heritage. 
   3. Perhaps we should ask some sobering questions of ourselves. Do we put more emphasis upon ritual than we do on attitudes in worship? Do we worship from the heart and with deep reverence? What can we each do personally to assure that our worship is from the heart? Do we truly rejoice in Christ each day? Does the name of Jesus and lessons regarding his life and teachings bring joy into our hearts? If not, what can we do to rekindle such joy?  

III. It is safe to identify what we are glorying in: Vs. 4-8
   1. If anyone had a reason to trust in the flesh Paul certainly did. His pedigree was impressive. He was physically marked, racially pure, linguistically correct, religiously devout, zealous, and blameless in keeping the law. (Vs.. 5-6). 
   2. According to verses 7-8, did Paul mind losing all that he had gained by way of fleshly heritage or achievement? Why? What did he gain for what he gave up? Which is more important, Who your earthly father is or who your heavenly father is?  What are some things that it is always safe to glory in?
   3. After reading this passage, do you think true Christianity creates or removes racial and ethnic bigotry? Why? When Paul said in verse 8 that he suffered loss.... "that I may win Christ," was he saying that to glory in the flesh (racially or by social pedigree) runs the risk of losing Christ? Make a list of some things that we may have to give up or consider loss in order to win Christ today? Some things on our list may seem to fall into the gray areas between right and wrong When this happens what is always the safe thing to do? Why?

wrap up

   1. We often say that there is safety in numbers. And that sometimes is true. But there is also safety in sacrifice.  To walk the strait and narrow way can be lonely and difficult at times. There are bold and sometimes daring sacrifices that must be made. But the gain is worth the cost. Vs. 8. 


 Please read Philippians 3:8-14 for next week   copyright 2001