The Wednesday Bible Study Club met in the Library of First Baptist Church. Mrs. Cheryl O’Quin served as hostess as opened the meeting with prayer. Mrs. Carla Narcomey brought the lesson from Philippians, chapter 3.
In chapter 3, Paul transitions to a different subject – a pressing subject: the false teaching about the way of salvation advocated by enemies of the cross of Christ. Paul then engages in a strenuous warning about certain teachers who are trying to mislead the Philippians. He minces no words when referring to these false teachers.
Paul describes them in three ways:
1) he calls them dogs, evil workers and those who mutilate the flesh. “Dogs” was a term of contempt. A term used by Jews to describe Gentiles who did not adhere to the same food laws as they did. “Thus Paul is hurling back on people of a Jewish Point of View one of their own derogatory terms.” (Basic Bible Commentary) Paul emphasizes they continue practices; i.e., food laws, circumcision, etc. that God does not require for righteousness.
2) The false teachers put confidence in the flesh meaning dependence on or trust in something or someone. These false teachers regard human accomplishment without reference to God.
3) The false teachers are the enemies of the cross of Christ. “Their god is their stomach, and their glories in their shame with minds set on earthly things.” (v.19)
It is believed by some scholars that this passage again refers to their scrupulous attention to religious laws and their valuing earthly things that pass away. Most likely, though, Paul is referring to those who indulge in gluttony, revel in sexual and other freedoms, those who are totally earthbound in their satisfactions and goals.
There have been basically three views as to who these “false teachers” were:
1) They were Jews, Pharisees as Paul was, who gloried in their heredity, ancestral religious rites and their zeal for the law. They actively opposed Paul’s preaching of salvation through the cross of Christ; they sought to nullify his work.
2) They were Jewish-Christian missionaries possibly from Jerusalem. They wanted the Gentile Christians to be bound by Jewish laws as a requirement to become a member of the Christian church. Paul disagreed.
3) The Jewish-Christian Gnostics wanted the Gentile Christians to be circumcised as a badge of membership in the true “church.” These Jewish-Christian Gnostics regarded the suffering of Paul and his associates as evidence they had not reached perfection as the Gnostics had. They were self-seeking and prideful – exactly the opposite of Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus. This last view is thought to be the most likely purpose of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Chapter 3 deals with the question of the true way to salvation. The commentary explains that “Paul points out in Romans and Galatians, the more one studies the law and seeks to become righteous by it, the more one comes under the power of the sin that operates through it and becomes subject to the death that sin brings.” Thus, human assets and effort are worthless.
Paul, as well as other biblical writers, knows that full identification with Christ means to have an intimate, humble, adoring and obedient relationship. He writes that knowing Christ is an ongoing experience whereas the false teachers seemed to have believed they became perfect at the time of their baptismal birth in Christ.
The false teachers believed they had no responsibility subsequent to their baptism. But Paul writes that knowing Christ is an ongoing experience. In addition to his teachings, Paul offered models to the Philippians. He urged the Philippians to pay attention to heaven-oriented, not earth-minded, leaders. “We should not set our minds on earthly things because our ‘citizenship’ (or homeland) is in heaven.
Our life while here should be in keeping with what we are and with our destiny. That destiny will be realized when our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, will come from heaven to transform our bodies (that is, our persons) by His unlimited power in His own glorious likeness.”
The commentary notes that also important is Paul’s position that being in Christ during this life brings with it no absolute perfection. We press on in the knowledge that the goal is yet to be reached. We are Christians in the making, ever seeking to become actually that which we became ideally at the point of beginning. (Basic Bible Commentary)
President Nikki Murphy conducted a short business meeting. Members expressed prayer concerns. Mrs. Carla Narcomey led the intercessory prayer and the meeting was adjourned with the Closing Prayer.