"Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe" (Phil. 3:1). In the prior chapter, Paul had been discussing matters pertaining to attitude and now prepares to alert them to an outside threat. However, before doing so he exhorted them to "rejoice in the Lord." Paul had already used the word "joy" or "rejoice" nine times in this short epistle, and he would do so another four times before concluding! He wanted the message to be clear, and that is why he kept repeating this command to them. Keep on rejoicing is the idea. As a Christian, there is so much to be joyful about even when physical circumstances are challenging or unpleasant. We'll talk about this idea more when we examine 4:4.
Paul didn't mind repeating himself in his writing. It wasn't a chore for him, and it was necessary for their spiritual safety. We see much repetition throughout the Bible, especially in the books of Deuteronomy, the Samuels, the Kings, the Chronicles, and also in the accounts of the gospel. Why all this repetition? Perhaps because people forget and need to be reminded for their own good! Today, repetition is still a vital part of the learning process. Good teachers and preachers must be patient in covering material that they have already taught before. As a preacher, it is easy to think that once I've preached a sermon on a certain subject or portion of Scripture that I'll never need to address the issue again with that group of people. Such is far from the truth. Spiritually we need a steady diet of the whole counsel of God. We need both the milk and the meat of the word, even when we've heard the message before. Otherwise, with the passing of time, we will forget and be more likely to drift away (cf. Heb. 2:1).
Philippians 3:2,3 warns - "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." For the most part, the book of Philippians is a very mild and positive book. This was because there were evidently nocatastrophic problems threatening the church's existence or fidelity in Philippi at that time. This wasn't the case elsewhere (e.g., the Christians in Corinth, Galatia, and many other places were having some serious problems). However, even though things were fairly good in Philippi, there were still warnings that needed to be issued. Here we find a very strong three-fold warning.
Paul first declares - "Beware of dogs". Obviously, he's not warning them about any literal four-legged dogs, but he is warning them about humans who were behaving like dogs. From the other warnings in this immediate context, we know that Paul was referring to the Judaizers (i.e., certain Jews who had been baptized and who were determined to force Gentile Christians to keep the law of Moses, particularly regarding circumcision). They were like dogs in that they were constantly barking out their false doctrine, hounding Paul, and biting and devouring others with their error.
Besides calling them dogs, Paul didn't hesitate to also label them as "evil workers". They were zealous in their works of error, yes, but that just made them all the more destructive! Today, we need to realize that even if a person is kind, jovial, well-known, likeable, zealous, and doing many good works, that doesn't mean we can embrace them if they do not teach the truth! False teachers are still evil workers and must be exposed and opposed as such.
We will have more to say regarding the Judaizers tomorrow.