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—
(Philippians 3:2-3 ESV)
In today’s passage Paul has very harsh words for those who were trying to teach a false doctrine – that circumcision was required for anyone to be saved from their sins. In other words, these people were claiming that God saved people based on what they did rather than on His mercy alone. People who believe and teach this are called “legalists”.
Legalists believe that a person can earn their way to heaven based on their so-called good deeds. All man-made religions are legalistic as they all teach that people can please God and earn eternal life based on what we do on this earth. This includes all major religions such as Islam, Catholicism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. These religions essentially state that we can force God to reward us in the next life, thereby turning God into a puppet who is controlled by man.
But this is not the teaching of the Bible, which unlike these religions is not man-made but originated from God [2 Timothy 3:16]. The Bible is replete with verses and passages that tell us that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation [Ephesians 2:8-9 et. al].
People who are legalists think they are doing “good”. But Paul points out that they are actually “evildoers” who are not accomplishing anything spiritual. Paul’s words for these people is actually quite harsh in the original Greek – emphasizing just how spiritually damaging this false doctrine is.
When we look at the major religions of the world we see that the overwhelming majority of people are subscribing to this false doctrine and will be terribly disappointed when they come face-to-face with Jesus after death. They will think they are going to heaven only to find out they are not.
That is why Paul tells us to “look out for” such false teaching. The Greek word translated “Look out for” is βλεπο (pronounced: blep’-o). It means “to examine or to weigh carefully”. We need to examine what we believe to make sure it is actually true. The truth is that belief is how someone enters heaven [John 3:3, John 3:16 et. al].
If someone has a counterfeit dollar bill in their wallet they don’t realize it until they try to use it and have it rejected. The bill may look real but it is actually worthless. The same is true of the doctrine of salvation by works. It seems to make sense. But it is actually worthless. It is a counterfeit.
The sad truth is that many people will buy into this false belief [Matthew 7:13-14]. Many people, when they die, will offer up their good works as proof they should get into heaven. Sadly they will discover that they believed a counterfeit and will be rejected [Matthew 7:21-23].
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