This Week's Focus Passage

‘Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision.’

Focus Passage: Philippians 3:2

‘Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision.’

This conspicuously stern warning—for that is what beware connotes; namely, be aware—is found sandwiched between truly gracious and uplifting thoughts from the apostle to the church at Philippi. He began this chapter—not that the chapter divisions are inspired—with Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. What could possibly be a more encouraging note; a call to rejoice in the Lord? The very next occasion in which Paul addresses his readers as brethren is found in verse 13, in the following words;

Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Does it not, on the surface, seem antithetical when we discover between an wonderful exhortation from an inspired apostle to rejoice, followed by an equally wondrous plea, by way of his own example, to stretch forward; to press on; to strive for the high calling of God in, and through, Jesus Christ; I say, to discover between these two exhortations, or pleas, this seemingly contrary sentiment, Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision? It would be somewhat analogous to give a friend a map of Cypress Gardens, or some such beautiful place, marking out the lovely and fragrant jasmine at the beginning of the pathway through this garden paradise and the gorgeously feathered water fowl near the end of that pathway, but somewhere in the midst feeling compelled to declare with feeling, ‘O yea, watch out for the alligators!’ Isn’t this what it seems that Paul has done?

And it is with every warrant of prudence to bring forth some very important and relevant questions; ‘Just exactly where are these alligators?’ ‘How will I be able to recognize them before they are upon me?’ ‘Will they give any sound of warning?’

‘How fast do they move; can I outrun them?’ ‘If not, is there any way that I can get the advantage of them?’ ‘What are some of the possible defensive postures that I could assume?’ Are these not, each of them, questions that would follow upon such a warning; Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision?

Who are they? What do they look like? How do they behave? Are they more than one? How may I deal with them for my safety? Is there a way of escape? Does Paul’s terminology, ‘dogs,’ ‘evil workers,’ ‘the concision,’ do these all speak of one and the same individual, or type of person? Is there one such person under all these descriptions or are there three different persons to beware of? One writer has suggested that the apostle, in these terms ‘not merely shows that he has a well-defined class of persons in his mind, but assumes that his Philippian readers would know at once to whom he referred.’

But again, who are the dogs; who are the evil workers, and who are the concision? Most commentators are confident that in these terms Paul has referred to Judaizing teachers; those of whom he says in Galatians are bringing ‘another gospel’ that is no gospel at all. These men had so provoked the apostle for that very reason; that they were seeking to corrupt the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In that epistle he said, let them be anathema; let them be accursed. Here he has employed rather vulgar metaphors when he speaks of them. Firstly, he calls them dogs. This needs to be understood from the Oriental perspective of that time. In our day and in our country, dogs are much beloved and pampered. They are fed and coddled and groomed; millions are laid out on these pets annually in this country. This, however, was not the view of dogs in the days when Paul used this figure against these that would spread false teaching. Peter gives to our mind’s eye, in his second epistle a rather gross picture of a dog, the dog returning to his vomit again, 2 Peter 2:22. And John also makes use of the figure in negative terms, eternally negative, at the close of the Revelation, he says when speaking of the consummation of all things of those that having washed their robes may enter in by the gates into the city. But following are these somber words, Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie. This is the end of these dogs. They will be outside of the Holy City with this listing of other wicked persons. These ‘dogs’ are a reference to evil workers.

What is the evil work to which Paul alludes? Of course, the evil work is that corrupting of the gospel. And again, to refer to Galatians, the apostle suggests in that epistle that there is not a more evil work that one could be guilty of. To preach ‘another gospel’ other than the gospel Paul preached; the gospel that Christ preached, could easily be construed as the sin against the Holy Spirit who has pronounced this gospel in the Word of God; it is to impugn His legacy, as it were. Those who would stoop to this low are in no uncertain terms, evil workers; they are working for evil.

Again, those doing this evil work in the days of the apostle Paul were those Judaizers that he here denominates, ‘the concision.’ Paul is here making a ‘play on words.’ He is making a play on the word, ‘circumcision.’ This ‘concision’ he stated in Galatians is going beyond circumcision; it is mutilation. He has anathematized them and now he wishes for them to mutilate themselves; this magnificently gives evidence to the depths of his low esteem of them, and of anyone that would add to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are many ‘judaizers’ in the church today; those who would add to the gospel. As Paul’s Judaizers demanded that circumcision be added to belief on Christ, so there are still those that teach, if effect, that Christ’s satisfaction does not satisfy fully. There are those in the churches today that claim to pronounce the ‘full gospel.’ This is what Paul would denounce as ‘another gospel.’ Yes, Jesus died to enable you to receive forgiveness of your sins; that is the gospel. But the ‘full gospel’ is that you must add something to that. It is Jesus plus this, or Jesus plus that; you may fill in the blanks. The true gospel is ‘Jesus plus nothing!’ Christ is fully sufficient!

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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