In the third and final warning of Philippians 3:2, Paul stated - "Beware of the mutilation!" Paul used this term sarcastically. Christians who were teaching that one must be circumcised to be saved were not really teaching God's true circumcision. What they were teaching was merely a physical surgical procedure. But, when done for religious reasons as a Christian, it was nothing more than a mutilation since it was a useless cutting of the flesh. Under the Old Testament, the Hebrew males were required to be circumcised, but, by this time, the Old Testament was no longer in force. God no longer required physical circumcision. He did, however, require circumcision of the heart! Consider two New Testament passages on this point. Romans 2:28,29 - "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart..." Colossians 2:11-13 - "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (also note: I Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6; 6:15; Eph. 2:11).
We can learn from Philippians 3:2 that warnings are always appropriate as preventative measures--otherwise the Holy Spirit wouldn't have inspired them to be written! Sadly, there are some members of the church who are hypersensitive to any exposure of false doctrine or false teachers, regardless of how destructive the teaching or teacher may be. It is likely that some who lived in Paul's day thought he was being too harsh or not tolerant enough in referring to some people as "dogs" or "evil".
I hope you understand that today there are warnings that need to be issued! The Lord's church is being overrun by liberalism in many places because warnings were not issued as they should have been in the recent past. The cancer has been allowed to grow in the body and continue to spread instead of being identified and cut out! Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to realize that problems in the church caused by false doctrine will never be cured by ignoring them! We would be wise to stay informed regarding the issues that the church is dealing with today. It is necessary to know the difference between truth and error today, and we need to be able to identify those who have abandoned God's word. We need to avoid them and alert others as Romans 16:17 teaches - "Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them." If we sound forth appropriate warnings today (as Paul was doing here), many problems can be prevented. We will become stronger and be better able to withstand error when it confronts us.
Of course, the warnings we give must be specific enough to be useful. Paul was specific in his description here. Everyone knew he was talking about the Judaizers. In other places, Paul gave specific names in his warnings (e.g., I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 4:10). This should still be done today. Not out of spite, but for protection--for the safety of our souls!
Now, in contrast to the mutilation (i.e., those who sought to bind physical circumcision as a requirement for salvation), Paul taught in Philippians 3:3 that faithful Christians were the circumcision. They were the true followers of God because they: (1) worshipped God appropriately, (2) rejoiced in Christ Jesus, and (3) had no confidence in the flesh.
The Judaizers were not rendering proper service to God. They didn't rejoice or find glory in doing the will of Christ. Rather, they delighted in themselves and their misdirected loyalty to the Law of Moses. They foolishly had confidence in the flesh in believing that physical circumcision would get them to heaven. Their trust was misplaced!
We will continue studying this context tomorrow.