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Philippians 3:4b-14

As we read Philippians 3, we cannot help but hear echoes of chapter 2. Paul has just told us how Christ embodied the upside down way for us, by humbling himself and submitting himself unto to death. And now, in chapter 3, we hear how Paul is following the upside down way by submitting himself to the lordship of Christ

In the verse prior to the assigned pericope, Paul is dishing out some pretty harsh language. Dogs? Mutilators of flesh? Ouch. There is conflict between the Jews and Gentiles. People, claiming to preach the Gospel, are coming in and saying to these Gentile converts that in order to really be a Christian, they need to be marked by circumcision. This is troublesome for several reasons. First, the fact that some believers are insisting on circumcision as a part of the Gospel makes it obvious that they don’t really understand the Gospel, the Good News that God acted in a profoundly new way by sending his Son in the flesh to do what we were incapable of doing. Second, it seems to demonstrate that not only do these people not understand the Gospel, they are clinging to these old “signs” that were intended to set the Jews apart as God’s chosen people but have also resulted in some unholy pride.

Paul jumps in and says, this in nonsense! The things that set us Jews apart are all well and good but God is doing a new thing. No longer are these external signs the primary sign of God’s presence. Rather, we are the circumcision. We are the sign of God’s presence in the world.

Paul goes on saying, if anybody has a claim on confidence based on those external signs, it’s me. But now, all those things that I used to claim to demonstrate my spiritual status, they’re like garbage. The Greek word actually means dung. Why is Paul so willing to lay aside all these things that were once so important, and to denigrate them with such vivid language?

To gain Christ. To be found in Him. In all of his writings, there are almost 100 reference to being “in Christ” in Paul’s work. But what does it mean to be “in Christ?” Consider this in terms of citizenship. To be in Christ is to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God, of “Christ-land” so to speak. To continue to be “in sin” is to dwell in the land where Sin reigns, “Sin-land” for the lack of a better term. If you are a citizen of a certain place, you function by the customs of that culture.

Tommy and I learned this the hard way, multiple times, when we served as volunteer missionaries in Italy. We didn’t know how to live as “Italians” so we just kinda ‘winged’ it and learned as we went. For example, we went to the ice cream shop with some friends. Like good, rule-following Americans, we patiently waited in line for our turn only to discover that we were being cut in line left and right, even by the people that came with us! We probably would have stood there forever, waiting for “our turn” that would never come. The Italians weren’t being rude