Generally speaking, Paul used tough language to address two issues: (1) wrong doctrine and (2) when weak church members were harmed.
Like his letter to the Galatians and the Corinthians, Paul used strong language when Jewish Christians attempted to press Gentile believers into Jewish molds.
The issue of Jewish boundary markers was present in Philippi just as in Galatia. The most controversial marker was circumcision.
Philippians 3.1-4 – To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a source of steadfastness.
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh!
For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh – even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
Jewish Boundary Markers
Imagine a square and the conviction that you must be inside the square to be “righteous” or part of God’s family.
The four sides of the square were the Jewish boundary markers that determined who was inside or outside.
— Circumcision – the sign of the covenant.
— Sabbath observance
— Kosher food laws
— Observance of the Torah (the Law)
Rudy Ross, who is Jewish, has a great explanation of these requirements in today’s YouTube video. Rudy explains how baptism took the rite of circumcision to a higher level.
In other videos, Rudy explains how each of the four boundary markers has pointed to the crucifixion, resurrection, and giving of the Holy Spirit. They are great gifts, but if we stop with them we won’t experience God’s best for us.
Around 50 A.D., the church met in Jerusalem to discuss the issue of including Gentiles in the family of God without the necessity of circumcision (see Acts 15).
In today’s video, Rudy rightly points out how difficult traditions die.
Even though the official church statement from the Jerusalem Council affirmed the inclusion of Gentiles without the need for circumcision, that didn’t stop others from claiming the need for that observance.
Paul strongly rebuked the troublemakers and wrote to set the record straight. Faith in Jesus was and is what is necessary to be a part of the family of God.
Traditions and Opinions
I have been in the ministry for half of a century. During that time, I have seen several “hot button” issues come and go.
As I learned early in the ministry from my mentor, Pastor Wallace, some churches and media personalities don’t have a message unless they are against something.
These so-called ministers are always stirring up trouble. When one issue is solved, they have another to tackle.
The only way to not be a victim of these often excellent communicators is to be well acquainted with the spirit and the letter of the Bible.
A Hebrew of the Hebrews
Rudy Ross and I had fun with the next verses, as I read them in our video. He is able to say “yes” to nearly every one of Paul’s words. I told him that he is the best “Hebrew of the Hebrews” that I know.
Philippians 3.4-6 – If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more:
Circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;
As to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Paul often defended his ministry to the Gentiles by telling his story. He was an exemplary Jew. Besides all of the qualifications he mentions here, Paul studied the Law under the famous Rabbi Gamaliel for years.
He was not “soft” on the Christian faith. He was an ardent persecutor of the faith until the day that Jesus met him and let him know that he was for real.
I am thankful that God allows Rudy and me to talk about the Bible and produce videos together. I have insights into my relationship with God that come from visiting with him.
I pray that our videos bless you as much as visiting with Rudy blesses me.
I apologize for yesterday’s mistaken posting of the video. I hope you were able to find the second video. For an old guy, I’m not too bad with technology, but I’m still not as good as my grandchildren.
Today’s video can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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