Be Aware Of False Teachers
Paul says in Philippians 3:2: “Watch out for ‘dogs,’ watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh.”
Paul is telling us here to watch out for false teachers, to consider the false teaching we heard from them, and to beware of it. At that time, these false teachers were also known as Judaizers; they were legalists. We can read about them all through the New Testament. They would always try to take parts of Judaism, combine it with Christianity, and make that the route to get to heaven. They would tell people that to go to God they needed to have a Jewish circumcision, follow some Jewish laws, and combine them with faith in Christ. However, what Paul is saying is, “No. Salvation is by faith in Christ alone.”
Why would Paul call them dogs? For the Jewish people, that was an expression of contempt for the unclean—those outside the people of God, the Gentiles, the “dogs.” Paul reverses the phrase and calls the Judaizers dogs. When he talks about those who mutilate the flesh, he means circumcision. When he says in Philippians 3:3, “For we are the circumcision,” he means that God has cut away the sin of our heart. That is the true circumcision—a spiritual one, not a fleshly one.
Sometimes we make mistakes; that is not false teaching. How can you know if someone is a false teacher? Ask yourself this question: Is the person willing to be corrected? If they are unwilling, and they are teaching falsely—there is your answer. In Acts 18 there was a man named Apollos who came to the city of Ephesus and was teaching about Jesus. But Apollos only knew a little about Him, so a couple named Priscilla and Aquila came to him, took him aside, and explained the way of God to him more accurately. They could only do this because Apollos was a teachable person.
The false teachers in Philippi were combining faith in Christ with Jewish law and did not want to be corrected. False teaching leads to false living. That is why Paul made it so clear that we need to beware of it. False teaching is not just a disagreement on a controversial biblical issue. False teaching is heresy. It is taking away from the Gospel or adding to the Gospel.
False teaching can lead us to believe that we can balance the imbalanced sheet; it can fool us into thinking we can do something to pay the debt Christ paid on our behalf. But it is only through Christ, and Christ alone, that our debt could ever be paid. We only have access to eternal life because of Him.