Philippians 3-11(HCSB) Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. 2 Watch out for “dogs,” watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh— 4 although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; 6 regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. 7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
Paul speaking of his religiously self-righteous way of life before meeting Jesus, says, Philippians 3:8(NET)8 More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ,. That little word “Skubala” has been the source of big controversy. Various English translations use words such as “rubbish,” “garbage,” “filth,” “dung,” “refuse,” “worthless trash,” and “dog dung.” Making the entire issue more difficult is that the word is a hapax legomenon, which means it appears only once in the entire New Testament.
Greek scholar and expert Daniel B. Wallace has studied this word in great detail, and he explains: “In Philippians 3:8, the best translation of skuvbala seems clearly to be from the first group of definitions [that is, meaning (human) excrement]. The term conveys both revulsion and worthlessness in this context. In hellenistic Greek it seems to stand somewhere between ‘crap’ and ’s**t.’”
This is what it means to be a Christian. It is not advanced discipleship; it is basic Christianity. This is confirmed in Jesus’s words, Luke 14:33(ESV)33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Renouncing all we have is the same as “counting everything as loss.” This is what happens in conversion. You can’t be a disciple without it. Jesus said this. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that, if we must choose between Christ and anything else, we will choose Christ. For most people Christ is just an addition to their already jacked up lives. and if there isn’t anything better then they will do the “Christian” thing. They come to church when it is convenient, they worship when it is convenient, there is no separation between them and the world or them and their old ways.
Jesus describes this conversion in a parable: Matthew 13:44 (ESV)“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field”. Selling all you have with joy, in order to have the treasure of the kingdom, is a parable-way of saying: count everything as loss in order to gain Christ.
So, to become a Christian is to awaken from the blindness of spiritual death and find Jesus so all-sufficient and all-satisfying that 1) we count everything as loss, 2) we renounce all our possessions, and, in parable-language, 3) we sell all we have to possess the treasure of Christ.
If you ask people “what is Christianity, you will probably get whole lot of different answers. It seems to me that there is widespread confusion with regard to those who present themselves as the vendors of Christianity and its benefits. Just exactly what do you think people assume Christianity offers? Health, wealth, success, peace of mind, a certain level of tranquility, perhaps the promise of a better job, a better career, the fulfillment of your dreams and ambitions and desires, perhaps even everything you can think of and articulate, that would be a fairly common presentation of Christianity.
But I think the overall general sense of Christianity is that it offers you whatever you want. Whatever it is that makes you happy, whatever it is that satisfies you, whatever it is that fulfills your ambitions, your desires and your dreams, that’s what Christianity offers you. Christianity offers to make you everything you really want to be.
That is a very confusing message and a very unbiblical one. It also lays out a complex answer to what should be a very simple answer. In a word, what Christianity offers you is Christ, Jesus Christ, that’s what Christianity offers. That is a very simple, straightforward, one word answer to what has become a very complicated issue. We offer Christ in offering the gospel. The surpassing theme of the Scripture, the surpassing theme of the New Testament, in particular, is Jesus Christ. And in not having Christ, you have nothing. And in having Christ, you have everything.
Christianity is very simple, it is very pure, it is about having Christ, knowing Christ. Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He says in Philippians 3:8 that when he saw the glory of Christ, everything else became (Skubala)manure. And so he says, Philippians 3:13-14(HCSB)13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus What is that? What is the prize when we’re called up? It is to be like Christ. Paul says, “One day I will be like Christ. Until then, my goal is to pursue that Christlikeness.”
We have only one message, and that is Christ. We tell sinners they can have a relationship with Christ and in that relationship with Him, they will receive everything they need, all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. And yet in the name of Christianity, in the name of the gospel, in the name of the church, in the name of evangelism, people are told all kinds of things, promised all kinds of things, sold all kinds of things and in the middle somewhere is, if recognizable, a significantly diminished little Christ. Anything that diminishes Jesus Christ is a perverted presentation, it is another gospel, a false gospel.
Christ is Christianity and He is all there is to offer because He is all that we need. When you ask…what is a Christian? It is one for whom to live is Christ. Christ is our life. We have no other life. We have nothing but Christ and we have everything in Christ. Christ is not an addendum, an additive to your life, He is not something you add to it. Church is not something you go to when you have nothing else better to do. Christians not gathering together often was unheard of in the New Testament. Living for Christ wholeheartedly was and is the only way. Every other way is a false way, every other way is crap, it is idolatry.
Apparently the Philippians had been told that there was something more needed than just Jesus Christ. Something beyond Christ was necessary. There was some insufficiency in Christ that prompts the Apostle Paul to write these words. The insufficiencies in Christ can be made up by philosophy, human traditions, doctrines of man, external gifts, etc.. Christ is not enough.
If church history teaches us anything, it is that legalism — the belief that we must add something to grace to make us acceptable in God’s sight — is a never ending threat to the church. The catholic church, for example, made the system of penance a precondition of divine forgiveness. More recently, some traditions identify true Christians as those who do not drink, dance, or smoke nor chew and don’t run with those who do.
There have always been those who are unwilling to accept the idea of God’s salvation being offered freely to those who believe. They reason that such a grand gift as forgiveness from such a holy God must require some kind of payment from us. We thank God for His grace, but we understand that He expects us to somehow earn that grace—in other words, there must be something that we can do to pay off the debt we owe to God. In the early church, those who taught a combination of God’s grace and human effort were called “Judiazers.” The word Judaizer comes from a Greek verb meaning “to live according to Jewish customs.” The word appears in Galatians 2:14(NLT)14 When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions? Here Paul describes how he confronted Peter for forcing Gentile Christians to “Judaize.”
The first legalists in church history were the Judaizers described in the New Testament. These false teachers asserted that Gentile converts must believe in Jesus and do works of the Law, such as circumcision, to be declared righteous before God. Even the Philippian church needed to be warned about the Judaizers, and we find this warning in today’s passage.
Using the word dogs, Paul ironically contrasts the Judaizers’ false gospel with the true Apostolic gospel. The ancient Jews did not keep dogs as pets because the dogs living in ancient Israel were wild, unclean scavengers. In turn, the Jews often applied the word dogs to Gentiles, for they regarded non-Jews as unclean. In calling members of the Judaizing party “dogs,” Paul warns the Philippians that these Judaizers are actually filthy, even if ] Judaizers believe they are cleansing Gentile converts by circumcision.
Paul continues, calling the Judaizers “evildoers … those who mutilate the flesh”. God instituted circumcision as an old covenant sacrament (Genesis 17:1–14), but its new covenant fulfillment is baptism. Colossians 2:11–12(NLT) 11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
True circumcision is heart circumcision, the baptism into (union with) Jesus by faith. Romans 6:3–4(HCSB)3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. This sets us apart as holy, which is why all who trust in Christ alone are “the circumcision,” the true worshippers of God.
A Judiazer taught that, in order for a Christian to truly be right with God, he must conform to the Mosaic Law. Circumcision, especially, was promoted as necessary for salvation. Gentiles had to become Jewish proselytes first, and then they could come to Christ. Paul is saying watch out for those dogs, those religious ones who tell you to mutilate the flesh in order to serve Christ.
To add anything to the work that Christ did for salvation is to negate God’s grace. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, not by returning to the Law. Galatians 2:21(NLT)21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
We see dogs/judaizers being corrected in the New Testament. Paul admonished the Judaizers in Galatia, who thought they were holy because they were circumcised a bit, to go all out and cut the whole thing off. This literally would have meant that these dogs would no longer be accepted as Jews, and not only cut off physically but also cut off spiritually from temple worship. Paul says:
Galatians 5:11–14(HCSB)11 Now brothers, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated! 13 For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.
People love to prooftext verses, and they don’t read the context. The guy (Paul)who said “love one another” prefaced it by saying “cut your penis off.” How curious it is that sheep and the religious alike are prone to quote the latter half of this section of God’s Word and argue that we should be loving, as Jesus taught, while conveniently ignoring the part about cutting ones manhood off. Indeed, when the Bible says we need to be loving, we need to read the verses around those words to see how the Bible also exemplifies how to be loving to God, sheep, lost people, and religious people. Apparently, in some cases telling religious judaizers to castrate themselves is loving.
Though this is a long time ago, nothing has really changed. There are people today who tell us that Christ is not enough, we need more than Christ, more than all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are found in Him. We need Christ plus philosophy, human traditions, man made doctrines, external gifts, baptism,etc.
Pentecostal (UPC)– Oneness churches, generally teach the following as the foundation of Christian conversion: repentance, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. The Oneness Pentecostal movements generally teach that to receive and maintain salvation, a person must adhere to four essential requirements.
1. Faith in Jesus Only
Oneness teachers would agree that salvation requires putting one’s full faith in the Jesus of Oneness doctrine, that is the Jesus who is the totality of the Godhead, who died on the cross as an atonement for sin, and who rose again from the dead. They do not believe in the trinity. God has revealed Himself as Father (in parental relationship to humanity), in the Son (in human flesh), and as the Holy Spirit (in spiritual action). The one God existed as Father, Word, and Spirit before His incarnation as Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and while Jesus walked on earth as God Himself incarnate, the Spirit of God continued to be omnipresent.
2. Repentance and Baptism in the “Name of Jesus”
Acts 2:38 is used as evidence that the early church baptized only in the name of Jesus. They maintain that baptism in the trinitarian formula is invalid since it implies belief in three gods. They claim Matthew 28:19 is not to be taken as a command to baptize in that formula. Oneness believers believe that for water baptism to be valid, one must be baptized in the name of Jesus, rather than the mainstream baptismal formula in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
3. Speaking in Tongues
Like most traditional Pentecostals and charismatics, Oneness Pentecostals teach that speaking in tongues is a gift to be exercised today. However, unlike most traditionalists, the Oneness movements maintain that speaking in tongues is not just a post-conversion indicator of the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit, but an essential ingredient in the salvation experience itself.
4. Adherence to Holiness Standards
Most Oneness Pentecostals teach that once salvation is gained initially by the preceding ingredients, it must be maintained by daily adherence to legalistic codes of personal behavior. Alcohol and tobacco are prohibited. Women are not allowed to cut their hair, wear short dresses or slacks, use make-up, or wear jewelry. Men are expected to dress conservatively (white shirts and dark slacks), be clean shaven, and have short haircuts. Violations of these codes may result in a loss of salvation and exclusion from church fellowship.
Oneness Pentecostals have an anti-trinitarian view of God, an unbiblical doctrine of Jesus Christ, and unbiblical requirements for salvation (speaking in tongues, water baptism in “Jesus’ name,” and a legalistic moral code). Thus, those churches adhering to its basic doctrines cannot be regarded as authentically Christian. Any group or church that claims to be Christian yet deviates at any point from historical Christian faith is, by definition, a cult. Oneness Pentecostal churches are, therefore, cultic in nature and outside the theological parameters of historic Christianity.
Catholicism – Salvation, in Roman Catholicism, is a process with many steps: To begin, God grants actual grace to a person which enables him to believe in Christ (CCC 2000) and also believe in the truth of the Catholic Church (CCC 1814). After belief, the person must be baptized, which is necessary for salvation (CCC 1257). This baptism erases original sin (CCC 405), unites the person with Christ (CCC 977), infuses grace into the person (CCC 1999), and grants justification (CCC 1992, 2020). After baptism, he is saved. But, to maintain his salvation, it is necessary for him to perform good works (CCC 2010, 2068, 2080) and participate in the sacraments (CCC 1129) which provide grace that is “proper to each sacrament” (CCC 1129, 2003). This is necessary in order to maintain infused grace (CCC 987, 1468). However, grace can be lessened by venial sins or completely lost by mortal sins. Venial sins (CCC 1862) remove part of the infused grace but not the saving grace known as sanctifying grace (CCC 1863). To remedy the problem of venial sins, the Catholic is to take the Eucharist which the Church teaches forgives venial sins (CCC 1416). He must also perform various penance which must be done in concert with perfect contrition (CCC 1452). But there is a problem. Sins require punishment. Even though sins are absolved by a priest (CCC 1463, 1495) the punishment due to a person because of his sin can remain. To deal with that remaining punishment, indulgences are administered to deal with the punishment due to the guilt of the sins already forgiven (CCC 1471, 1498). These indulgences draw upon the “good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (CCC 1477) and “of Christ and the saints” so as to obtain “the remission of the temporal punishment due for their sins” (CCC 1478). Furthermore, the indulgences can be applied to themselves or the dead (CCC 1471) who are in purgatory (CCC 1498). Now, in case the Catholic has committed a mortal sin, then all his infused grace is lost. To regain this grace, he must partake of special penance (CCC 980) since it helps restore grace that was lost (CCC 1468, 1496). To conclude, the Roman Catholic must have faith, participate in the sacraments, take the Eucharist, keep the commandments, perform penance, and do indulgences in order to attain, maintain, and regain his salvation as well as reduce the punishment due to him for the sins of which he has already forgiven.
Colossians 2:8-15(NLT) 8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. 9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. 10 So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. 13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
In verses 13 and 14, not only a complete salvation but a complete forgiveness. “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us…that’s the record of all our sins which was, of course, hostile to us…and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
I want you to notice something. Verse 9, “In Christ.” Verse 10, “with Christ” Verse 11, “Ito Christ” Verse 12, “Buried with Christ. Raised with Him.” Verse 13, “God made you alive with Christ” It is about being in Him, in Him, with Him, with Him. And because we have Christ, we have complete salvation and complete forgiveness…so complete that He has literally blotted out our transgressions, canceled out, erased, wiped off our sins. In verse 15, “On our behalf He disarmed the rulers and authorities, the host of hell, the demons, Satan.” He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them. Again, through Him. When He disarmed the rulers and authorities, we triumphed over them through Him. Because we have Christ, we have complete salvation. Because we have Christ, we have complete forgiveness. Because we have Christ, we have complete victory over all the hosts of hell. Philosophy, Human Traditions and doctrines adds nothing whatsoever to that. What we offer in offering the gospel is what this text presents. We are offering a transformation through faith in Jesus Christ from death to life. We are offering the forgiveness of all our sins for Jesus paid in full the penalty for those sins, the list of our sins literally was nailed to His cross. We are offering in the gospel true, total, complete, triumph over Satan and demons. Philosophy, Human Traditions and doctrines can do nothing to embellish that.
So what does it take?
Faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior is the only “step” to salvation. The message of the Bible is abundantly clear. We have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Because of our sin, we deserve to be eternally separated from God (Romans 6:23). Because of His love for us (John 3:16), God took on human form and died in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God promises forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven to all who receive, by grace through faith, Jesus Christ as Savior (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Acts 16:31).
Salvation is not about certain steps we must follow to earn salvation. Yes, Christians should be baptized. Yes, Christians should publicly confess Christ as Savior. Yes, Christians should turn from sin. Yes, Christians should commit their lives to obeying God. However, these are not steps to salvation. They are results of salvation. Because of our sin, we cannot in any sense earn salvation. We could follow 1000 steps, and it would not be enough. That is why Jesus had to die in our place. We are absolutely incapable of paying our sin debt to God or cleansing ourselves from sin. Only God could accomplish our salvation, and so He did. God Himself completed the “steps” and thereby offers salvation to anyone who will receive it from Him.