“True and False Christianity Part 1”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 3.1-3 Part 1
I invite you to Philippians 3. “The country is awash in tens of millions of dollars in fake money,” begins an ABC’s 20/20 special. “At a grocery store in Connecticut and a hotdog joint in New York City.
Most of it are counterfeit $20 bills, Andrew Jacksons, and most of them are not that good, with more than 3,000 people arrested each year for doing it.
But there is a man, whom the US authorities had been tracking, produced a fake $20 bill that was so good that authorities describe it as virtually undetectable.
Frank Bourassa. Grew up and was arrested and still lives in a small town near Montréal Québec.
The US $20 bill has an embedded thread running vertically to the left of Andrew Jackson’s portrait. The thread has on it the words “USA Twenty” and a small flag in an alternating pattern and is visible from both sides of the bill. Plus, the thread glows green when illuminated by ultraviolet light.
There is a watermark in the bill. If you hold the bill to the light, you’ll find a faint image of Andrew Jackson in the blank space to the right of the portrait. That image too is visible from both sides of the bill.
There is also color shifting ink. If you tilt the dollar bill you’ll see the 20 in the lower right-hand corner of the front of the note and you’ll see a shift from copper to green.
Bourassa found suppliers on the internet from Europe to China that could provide the same security features and, perhaps most of all, the unique paper made of cotton and linen.
It feels the same and it looks the same.
All in all, he claims to have printed a quarter of a billion dollars worth of twenties. That’s $250 million dollars. He would then sell that money at 30%.
Undercover agents eventually catch up with him and they constantly have him under surveillance. The Canadian and American authorities move in and seize his printing press and equipment.
But after his arrest, the authorities didn’t know where all the bills were. So Frank had a card to play. He cut the deal of a lifetime and turned over the remaining bills in exchange for the Canadian government dropping most of the charges against. In total, he spent a month and a half at a local jail in Canada and is safe from US extradition.
He’s a free man.
Unfortunately, there are fakes, scammers, counterfeiters out there and it’s not just in money; it’s also in religion … and the scammers are getting away with it… at least for now, it seems.
And just like with money, only a trained eye can tell the difference in religion. However, once your senses are trained to discern good and evil, you should be able to tell the difference between God’s church and Satan’s work.
And it’s the same with individuals. There are those who make a claim to godliness, that make a claim to have gone through the narrow gate, but their lives appear to going down the broad way to destruction.
Philippians 3 begins a new section for us and today we have a warning regarding what is true Christianity and false Christianity.
Philippians 3:1–3 1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,
Beware the false circumcision and recognize the true circumcision. You must be able to tell the difference between true and counterfeit Christianity and we all must be able to discern who is telling us truth from God and who isn’t.
Chapter 3 begins and ends the same way. Look at 3:18-20.
Philippians 3:18–20 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;
There are those who are enemies of the cross, or who are the false circumcision…and those who are the true circumcision, whose citizenship is in heaven.
Can you tell the difference? For example, how can you tell if you are truly converted to Christ?
Here are 10 ways.
1. A desire to do the right things
2. No more desire to do wrong things
3. Concerned about what God thinks more than what others think about you
4. Try your best to live the gospel
5. You are more kind and compassionate in dealing with others
6. You have a desire to pray
7. You look forward to Sunday church
8. You keep the commandments and you don’t look for excuses, rationalize behavior, or try to find gray areas
9. You look forward to paying your tithes
10. You have a strong desire to help others know the truth and happiness that you have found
I hope you did not take notes on any of those 10 supposed ways to know if you are converted to Christ, because that was from the official Mormon website! That is false teaching and not how you determine if someone is a Christian.
See, it can be tricky to know the difference between true and false teaching. Are you ready?
Finally: Verse 1 is a transition to this next section about warning. Paul says with 2 chapters of writing to go… Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.
ILL: I can see the preacher cartoon now … the preacher says, “And finally, brothers…” A little boy leans over and whispers to his father, “what does the preacher mean when he says ‘finally?'” To which his dad replies, “Nothing, son… absolutely nothing.”
And it seems that way in this verse because Paul the apostle goes on for another two whole chapters!
But we have evidence that the word translated “finally” can function as a transition. For example, “Well then, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord” or “And so my brothers, rejoice.”
So Paul is transitioning and he wants to tell us as he does so to…
Rejoice in the Lord: That’s a common theme you have in the letter. In our day when our culture cries out “stuff, stuff, get more stuff” or “happiness is calm waters, peaceful lives” … the Bible screams “relationships, relationships!” Rejoice in the Lord. The Lord is to be the object of our joy and the source of our joy. The Lord transcends any bad things happening in your life; you can rejoice in Him no matter what else is happening. But He also is the one who gives us joy. He’s our joy; He gives us joy!
So, rejoice in Him.
Physical problems, there is always cause for rejoicing in Jesus. Trouble in human relationships? Find your joy in the Lord. He made you, He knows how you tick. Things come your way in this life to test where your joy is going to be found.
Anxieties will come, or you may find yourself lacking needed items, but for those in Christ, our relationship with the Lord never ceases. Find your joy in Him! He knows what satisfies your heart, He made you.
ILL: If the car engine is broken, the manufacturer knows how to fix it. If there is something wrong with your heart, God who made you, knows how to fix it.
True joy is in relationships, not stuff.
So what do you do when you’re down? Discouraged? That’ll tell you if you are rejoicing in the Lord. Do you go to the mechanic or to something else when your engine is broken?
And to rejoice in the Lord is not just to say, “Praise the Lord” when you’re crying. We’re not commanding emotion; Paul is commanding the will. You need to constantly make decisions every day about your relationship with Christ and finding your fulfillment in Him. When you rejoice in the Lord and have Him be your thirst and one true joy, you’ll grow in maturity as a believer. Rejoicing in the Lord is the basis for your growth as a believer.
TRANS: So Paul transitions to the next section with his major theme in the letter which is to rejoice in the Lord!
And evidently in some way Paul has already communicated what he has written to them in chapter 3.
Verse one, “to write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.” What same things did he communicate? Probably the warnings here in chapter 3.
And how did he communicate them? Maybe in this letter maybe in a previous letter or when he was with them before, but either way, Paul thought that this matter of warning was significant enough to say it again.
Philippians 3:1 1…To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.
Repetition aids learning. And we would do well to listen to repeated warnings about what and who is truly of Christ and what is not.
I’m preaching this morning on True and False Christianity and next on. Today will be a bit of background and next week we’ll get into the verses a little more.
TRANS: First, in verse 2. Beware of false Christianity. And verse 3, true Christianity described.
Beware of false Christianity (v2)
Paul doesn’t mince any words to describe the opposition to truth. Not only are these words insulting, there is a striking irony. Paul knows how to slap enemies of Christ with their own words. He uses their words against them. He has 3 of them…
Philippians 3:2 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;
All of these are describing the same people: a group of people called the Judaizers.
The Judaizers were Jewish so-called “Christians” who demanded that nonJewish, that is Gentile Christians, to submit to Moses’ Law in the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy.
Now, this is a big issue in the Scripture and today, much of the denominational differences swing on this big issue: the Christian’s relationship to the Law. Catholicism, 7th Day Adventism, covenant theology, infant baptism, and even the health and wealth gospel…prosperity theology… which is the most popular false religious teaching around…all of these have to do with this issue of the Christian’s relationship to the Mosaic Law. So if you get this right, you can avoid a lot of theological trouble. You need to know this issue well to avoid false teaching! And that’s Paul’s point in Philippians 3:2…Beware of the dogs!
ILL: Martin Luther, in his sermons on Galatians in 1532, said, “This difference between the [Mosaic] Law and the Gospel [or this issue of the Christian’s relationship to Moses Law] is the height of knowledge in Christendom. Every person and all persons who assume or glory in the name of Christian should know and be able to state this difference.” Let alone church leaders. How many church leaders are guiding others and preaching and they don’t have a handle on this so as to avoid and help others avoid a multitude of theological and practical errors.
Turn to Acts 15 and I’ll show you the controversy. Acts 15. We’re going to spend some time with this today so that we can appreciate the explanation of verse 2 next time. For the rest of our time this morning we’re just going to discover the New Testament’s teaching on the Old Testament. At the end of the message, I’ll summarize put it in a capsule form so it’s easier to swallow.
To set the stage, imagine you’re a Jewish Christian who keeps the Law of Moses and you receive Jesus as your Savior and as the promised Messiah and you’re wonderfully saved and transformed. But then you hear of Gentiles who aren’t circumcised and who don’t practice the Law of Moses and they are receiving Jesus as their Savior. You’d begin to wonder…hey, we’ve always kept the Law of Moses; I know I’m right with God, how can they be right with God and not practice the Law of Moses?
Well that’s what happened…
Acts 15:1 Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
No doubt they thought of Exodus 12:48-49 which teaches that “if a stranger [a Gentile] lives with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. … “The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”
See, you have to obey the Law of Moses and be circumcised, they say.
So there some who taught the Gentile Christians that they had to follow the Law of Moses to be saved, saved from sin to God. Paul debates them. And to discuss it more, they need to go to Jerusalem.
Verse 3, as they go to Jerusalem to address the issue, they describe in “detail the conversion of the Gentiles.” What happened? Gentiles are literally miraculously saved. And they aren’t obeying Moses’ Law of circumcision.
And when they get to Jerusalem… we have more controversy.
Acts 15:5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
And why should they not obey the Law of Moses; God’s people always have before this time and they always got in trouble when they didn’t obey that Law!
How can you say they don’t have to obey the Law of Moses?! Picture yourself there at that time during this transitional period and ask yourself that question, “How can you say they don’t have to obey the Law of Moses?!”
Peter stands up and gives his defense, v. 7.
Acts 15:7–11 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”
What is Peter talking about when says verse 8, “giving them [Gentiles] the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us [Jews]?” Peter’s argument is that Gentiles received the Holy Spirit in the same way that Jews received the Holy Spirit, so there is no need to come under the Law of Moses, but how does Peter know that they received the Spirit in the same way?
Turn back to Acts 10. Acts 10 will tell us how Peter came to know that Jew and Gentile both received the Holy Spirit in the same way.
In Acts 10 there is a man named Cornelius. He is a Gentile, a non-Jew. Acts 10:1–2 Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.
That language there indicates he is not Jewish: of the Italian cohort, a God-fearer, giving alms to Jews…ok, this is not a Jew.
Next, an angel comes to Cornelius and tells him verse five …“Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter;
Cornelius sends two men to go get Peter. As those men are traveling to go get Peter, Peter sees a vision of a sheet full of unclean animals. Verse 13, Peter hears a voice, “get up, Peter, kill and eat!”
Peter refuses to eat anything unclean, verse 14. This happens three times and then the sheet is taken back up and the sky.
Peter verse 17 is confused and right then, Cornelius’ men arrive to get Peter. Clearly, the vision is not just about food, but about people. The Gentiles are no longer to be considered unclean, is the point.
The men grab Peter, and they all go back to Cornelius’s house. Peter rightly interprets the vision, verse 28.
Acts 10:28 Peter says to all those present, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.”
Peter preaches the gospel to them beginning in verse 34 and proclaims Jesus as the Christ, a miracle worker, His death, and resurrection and that Jesus is the judge of all the earth.
The proper response…Acts 10:43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him [who trusts Him] receives forgiveness of sins.”
Now let’s see what happened, this is important for our point…how do we know Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised and to obey Moses’ Law to be saved? How do we know that Gentiles received the Holy Spirit in the same way as Jews? Note the supernatural events that tell us that God accepts Gentiles as Gentiles apart from the Law…
Acts 10:44–48 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. [that’s Gentiles] 45 All the circumcised believers [Jewish believers] who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. [how did they know the Holy Spirit was poured out on the uncircumcised?] 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues [that’s a miraculous ability to speak an unlearned human foreign language] and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
The Holy Spirit came on those Gentiles. Peter saw it happen when they had the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned human foreign language. That was the proof that God saved them apart from circumcision and without their keeping Moses’ Law. And that was the exact same thing that happened to Jews back in chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost. They received the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues. Since they received the Spirit of God in the same way, by faith, clearly God is saving Gentiles without requiring observance of the Law of Moses.
Now, back to Acts 15.
Btw, we can say that the gift of tongues has ceased today. Why? Because there is no longer any need to confirm Gentile salvation apart from the Law of Moses. That’s what the gift of tongues was doing, it confirmed Gentile salvation apart from the Law of Moses. We know today that we don’t have to become Jews to be saved; therefore, there is no need for that miraculous gift. And that’s why you don’t know anybody who has the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned real human foreign language.
Peter argues back in Acts 15:11 what we’ve been saying… “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they [the Gentiles] also are.” And Peter would know they are saved in the same way because the Jews received the Holy Spirit just like the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit.
In verse 12, Paul and Barnabas stand up and give their argument to this matter: God was doing miracles among the Gentiles. Then they sit down.
And in verse 13, James stands up gives his defense on this matter that Scripture predicts Gentile conversion and in verse 19 he concludes…
Acts 15:19 “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles,
That is, let us not trouble them with the Mosaic Law. That’s been the issue in this chapter. The Judiazers were preaching that Gentiles had to obey Moses’ Law. How do they know we don’t have to practice the Law of Moses? Peter’s experience of what it took to receive the Holy Spirit…simply trusting in Jesus, Paul and Barnabas’s miracles, and James’ argument from Scripture all testify that we don’t have to obey Moses Law to be saved.
TRANS: Now, to wrap this up… … “Finally my brethren”…give me a little bit more to bring this to a close…we still have some verses to turn to…
So what is the purpose of the Mosaic Law today?
Turn to Romans 3:19-20 … What is the purpose of Moses’ Law today and what do we do with commands not to eat shellfish, don’t wear clothing of mixed fabric, circumcision, and the Sabbath day and why can’t we claim Old Testament promises of prosperity to Israel for ourselves today?
There is a lot that we could get into, but we won’t.
#1 Purpose of the Law
The law is given today so that all the world may become accountable to God.
Romans 3:19–20 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
One of the functions of the Law today is that it gives us the knowledge of sin. It convicts people of their sin and it holds the whole world accountable to God.
ILL: Martin Luther again in his commentary on Galatians says, “But Satan, the God of all dissension, daily stirs up new sects, and, last of all (which…I should never have foreseen or one suspected) … [in other words he is shocked over this new sect… and last of all ] Satan has raised up a sect of such as teach that the 10 Commandments ought to be taken out of the church, and that men should not be terrified with the law, but gently exhorted by the preaching of the grace of Christ.”
The Law of Moses has a function today, to convict people of their sin against God. 2 chapters over in Romans 5. Ro. 5:20…
Romans 5:20 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase … that is, making it more serious. A written Law makes sin more serious.
And to the book of Galatians chapter 3. We’re seeing how these verses show the first purpose of the Law, to convict people of sin.
Galatians 3:22–25 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin [the Law does that, teaches everyone that they are under the rule of their sin], so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came [before the coming of Christ], we were kept in custody [in prison as it were…] under the law [of Moses], being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed [the faith of Christ]. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor [our slave master is more the idea] until Christ [came, is the idea], so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that [the] faith [in the person of Christ] has come, we are no longer under a [slave master].
The Law of Moses serves to convict the world of its sin and it judges us for our transgressions.
But at the same time, when Christ came, we no longer are under it’s legislation. The Law was humanity’s slavemaster until Christ came, but now that Christ has come, we are no longer under the legislation or the jurisdiction of that slave master. We are no longer under the authority of the law of Moses, Exodus 19 to Deuteronomy.
TRANS: So what do we do with the Law of Moses today? Turn to Ephesians 2:14. What do we do with the Law of Moses today?
To answer that, first note this: The Mosaic Law is fulfilled in the Law of Christ. Unfortunately, many translations slaughter Ephesians 2:14. The ESV, NIV and the NET get it right…I’ll explain the NASB
Ephesians 2:14 For He [Christ] Himself is our peace, who made both groups [Jew and Gentile] into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall [insert “of enmity” from verse 15], [how?] 15 by abolishing in His flesh…[take out enmity]… The Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
The ESV actually gets it right… Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 [here it is] by abolishing the law of commandments [that’s the Mosaic Law that Christ abolished] and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
Christ’s death has invalidated the Law of Moses.
The word “abolish” there can mean to invalidate or to cause something not to operate. The Law of Moses as a Law for God’s people is no longer operating.
In fact, Hebrews 8:13 says, it is obsolete.
Hebrews 8:13 13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first [covenant] obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
KJV says “old” that it is an old covenant. Why do we call it the old testament? Because of this passage, no doubt. We could, based on this verse, render it the obsolete testament.
ILL: obsolete. What do you do in technology when something is obsolete. The first iPhone is obsolete. It’s not in use; it’s old; it no longer has a functioning role in that company. The first computers are not in use.
Just like that, the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law, is no longer in use. It is old, ready to disappear.
Could that be more clear? Obsolete, no longer operating. That’s what Paul and the author to the Hebrews are calling the Law of Moses, Exodus 19-Deuteronomy. And it’s not like these authors are saying anything about which parts of that Law; they are saying the whole thing…it’s not like the civil and ceremonial laws are done away with and the moral laws from the Old Testament are operating. No, Paul says that the law of commandments contained in ordinances are not operating; that’s not code for only some parts of the Obsolete Covenant. It has been man who invented the civil, ceremonial, and moral divisions.
Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish [different word from Eph. 2:14 meaning to destroy or to throw away] the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
The Law of Moses is fulfilled.
Romans 10:4 4 For Christ is the end [the goal] of the law [of Moses] for righteousness to everyone who believes.
ILL: Everyone aboard the Old Testament train gets off at the train station of Christ, because the train stops there and goes no further, it’s no longer moving forward. It’s served it’s purpose; it’s time to follow Christ.
Second….. somebody says, “well, you must be without law then.” Do you live as if there is no law? The Law is fulfilled but do we live as if there is no law of God? No!
Paul answered that question in
1 Corinthians 9:21 21 to those who are without law, [I became] as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.
We are under the law, not of Moses, but of Christ. That’s found where? The New Testament.
We’re not under the authority of Moses’ Law, it does not operate today, it’s obsolete, and fulfilled. We are under the authority of the Law of Christ in the New Testament. And today, we use the Law of Moses to give us stories of application. We don’t just chuck it out the window, of course.
Paul retold the stories of God’s people Israel in the wilderness and said that they are examples for us.
He writes in 1 Corinthians 10:5-6
5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. 6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
Because we are under the law of Christ and the law of Christ applies those Old Testament stories to our lives, we can apply those stories to our lives, as well. We use the Old Testament Law of Moses as inspired by God to give us examples on how to please God.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 3.1-3 Part 1
Now we gone over all that this morning in order that we might better be able to recognize false teaching.
For example, Roman Catholicism, anglicanism, episcopalians, and others. They have certain people called priests. Bad… that is a carry over from under the old covenant. You can strike down these systems from just that, let alone many other things.
Or take Seventh-day Adventists. They misunderstand the role of the law today; the Sabbath is part of the Mosaic Law; we’re off that train.
Infant baptism. Because circumcision was for children in the Old testament some say, we must have a sign for our children today. Baptism is the sign of the community today; therefore, infant baptism. We don’t have to draw those conclusions; the law of Christ simply doesn’t teach us to do that.
Health and wealth gospel: The promises of material prosperity to Israel for their obedience to God’s word does not carry over to individuals in the church today. If you get off the train, get off the train. You can’t be half on the train.
So you can see how properly differentiating between the law and the gospel helps us to navigate the different systems of religion out there.
And next time we will use this as our background in order to better understand Paul’s the in language and Philippians 3:2 when he calls these people who teach the need to obey the law of Moses as … Dogs and evil workers and literally the mutilation.
But we’ll save that for next time.
I’ll call for this response: we can rejoice, as those trusting in Christ, that we are free from the slave master of the law!
Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
We no longer are under the power of the Law of Moses; in Christ as those who trust in Him, we no longer have the sentence of that Law against us. Praise God!
number 279…which is different than the bulletin.
DA Carson on this passage ↑