Philippians 3:2-3 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.
There are a lot of verses in the Bible we just read over without understanding; because some wording is foreign to us, we just keep on trucking through, assuming those verses are not really all that applicable to us or we would be able to understand what God had written. This passage could easily fit that mold.
The Flesh-Mutilating Dogs
Dogs and evildoers that mutilate the flesh… huh? We of the circumcision… double huh? Some historical background will help. Unlike the Western world of today, in first century Israel dogs were wild roaming scavengers. They were filthy, often diseased and mangy. That is why Gentiles were often referred to as “dogs.” Gentiles – that’s you and me. Nice, huh.
The Apostle Paul was referring to Judaizers, those who thought they were righteous and superior just because they were circumcised – derogatorily described here as mutilating the flesh. They taught “salvation via circumcision,” denying the saving work of Christ and insisting that others follow the Law instead of or, in addition to, Christ.
“Mutilate the flesh”… when righteousness was not present with circumcision, they might as well have been chopping up body parts. It meant nothing. Essentially, Paul is saying: “watch out for those evil Judaizing dogs who think they are God’s chosen simply because they are circumcised and insist that you be circumcised too in order to be saved…” Another interesting note is that mutilating the flesh is almost always part of pagan, Godless, religious practices. The farther away from God a culture gets, the more “cutting the flesh” becomes popular. Hmmm… anyone besides me see any parallels today?
How does that relate to us today? We have religious leaders, experts, and Bible-destroying liberals who are evil dogs as well because they elevate themselves over other Christians, while in reality they are chasing their own selfish agendas and personal advancement. These evil dogs include ear-tickling pastors, Gospel-peddling preachers, or “enlightened” Bible teachers who destroy the authority and authenticity of Scripture. Like dogs, they are uncontrolled, vicious, and concerned only with self preservation and personal gain. They “feed” on others to their own satisfaction.
Beware of the evil dogs of today who are preaching something more than Christ is needed for salvation… or leave out unpopular parts of the Gospel of Christ (such as the popular trend today to be “positive” and not speak about sin or hell).
The Judaizers were puffed up with pride, by believing in their own righteousness and superiority. How much more is that true today when pragmatism, large crowds, top-selling books, or media approval are “proof” of righteousness? Paul says to beware of the evil dogs who in any way add to or diminish the finished work of grace accomplished by Jesus Christ.
The true circumcision of Believers today is not a physical cutting of the flesh but a circumcision of the heart. We place no confidence in any fleshly act or ritual, but rather worship Christ in spirit and truth which is manifested and authenticated by our obedience and righteousness. It is not our religous activity, family, affiliations, or righteous acts that put us in fellowship with God but rather the worship and joy we have in Christ Jesus.
Okay, so what?
First, make sure there is no part of your life that falls in with the dogs or evildoers (self-righteous religious attitudes, fleshly rituals that you think make you holy, or prideful attitudes of superiority or manufactured holiness). Second, learn to be on alert and discerning about evil-doing dogs that are always present in the Christian community. Beware of them and protect yourself and others from them.