"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you." (3:1) Paul is reminding us to 'rejoice in the Lord' when he himself is in jail! And James writes in the Book of James, "Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2) How? How do we rejoice when things are not going well? We don't rejoice in the situation, or the trial, but in the Lord. We rejoice in who God is. We rejoice that our God is the God of the universe! We rejoice because our God holds us in the palm of His hands! We rejoice for we know that God is in control. We rejoice because we know that He is the Good Shepherd. We rejoice because He loves us and wants the best for us. We rejoice because we can rest in His plan for our lives. Paul has told them this before, but he says it's a 'safeguard for you.' It's something we always need to hear repeated.
"Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh-though I myself have reasons for such confidence." (3:2-4) Paul is talking about those who are preaching Christ, but have misunderstood the reason for circumcision. They are false teachers and have turned circumcision into nothing more than 'cutting the body.' These teachers were boasting about their 'works,' their circumcision- Paul is clearly upset with this false teaching because they are not teaching the truth of the Gospel of Christ.
"If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew; in regard to the law, a pharisee, as for zeal persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless." (3:5-6) Paul looks at what these men are boasting about as far as their 'works,' but Paul shows them that if anyone has a 'right' to boast it is him who has accomplished so much for God in his own strength. Paul has done it all. He was "faultless," - you can't do any better than that! and yet, Paul writes in the very next verse, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose same I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings , becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (3:7-11) Paul is nullifying the need for works to win God's love. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church where, for me, works was the only way to win God's love and approval. I worked so hard at being good, but failed time and time again. When I was in high school I decided to walk away from the church because I knew I couldn't please God. I could never be good enough. I knew I couldn't be perfect all the time. It was too hard. If I had read this Scripture, what freedom I would have known! It is not by works. It is not my righteousness. It is, "...knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God is by faith." Paul is declaring our freedom from works! He is setting us free from the bondage of 'being good' in our own strength! There is freedom in Jesus Christ! Rest from your striving, and know Jesus.
Father, forgive me for trying to win your approval. Forgive me for striving and working in my own strength to be good and do everything right. I lay down my 'works' and surrender my striving to you. Help me to rest in the fact that you have done in all, you have died on the cross for my sins and my righteousness comes through faith. Thank you for the freedom of trying to please you. Thank you that I am accepted as I am. Thank you that you love me and you call me your own. Thank you that I can rests in your love for me. Thank you that I can also rejoice in all things knowing you are in control. I love you and give my life to you! In Jesus' Name, Amen.