Getting the Right Things Right

Most fans of American football know the name Vince Lombardi. He coached the Green Bay Packers and won the first two Super Bowls, among other things. He is considered the greatest football coach of all time. So much so that in 1971 the NFL renamed the “Super Bowl Trophy” the “Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy.” Like any coach, he had to see his team through highs and lows. It’s said that one year when his Packers were in a bad slump that he took the whole team and went over the basics starting with holding up a football and saying, “This is a football. To score points, you must get this ball into your opponent’s endzone.” I’m sure that raised a lot of eyebrows, but by bringing his team back to the basics, he also brought it back to a winning stance.

In Philippians 3:1-3, Paul brings his readers back to the basics:

Philippians 3:1-3
(1) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
(2) Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
(3) For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

The first thing he tells them is to rejoice in the Lord (v. 1). Given that he is writing this from a Roman prison, it’s probably safe to imply the words “no matter what.” Then he acknowledges that he is going over familiar ground: “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” When I taught high school history at a Christian school for special needs children, I’d always have a review day before a major test and the kids would groan about needing to review, to which I would say: “Y’know, I hear repetition is a great teacher. Know what else? It’s good to repeat things. Did you know repetition is a good teaching tool?” Then they’d groan again and say: “OK, Mr. H., we get it!” Sometimes when a preacher goes over a familiar passage, or covers well-known ground, it is our habit to tune out because we think: “I got this.” If God has seen fit to have us hear something again, it’s probably because “we ain’t got this” and we need to hear it again. Ever go through a situation and feel like you stumbled through it only to realize you knew what you needed to do, but just didn’t apply it? It’s because we think we have the basics, but in time of crisis we forget them. So, guess what? God brings us back through them again.

In addition to remembering to rejoice in the Lord, what other basics is Paul reminding the Philippians of? He tells them “beware of dogs” (v. 2). What Paul means by “dogs” is pagans and pagan influences. You would think that would be obvious, but how often do we let pagan influences into our lives just by the media we allow on our devices? Paul then says: “beware of evil workers.” This refers those who make it their job to teach false doctrine and undermine those who are trying to follow Christ, think the smooth talkers and religious charlatans you see on TV, the people who use religion to take advantage of people for personal gain. Then Paul says: “beware of the concision.” The warning is specifically about those teachers who said that no one (obviously no one male) could be saved without also being circumcised. These were teachers who said Christians still had to be subject to old Jewish ceremonial law or they could not be good Christians. For us, it means to beware of anyone who would add anything to the gospel of Christ that Christ Himself has not added. There are only two ordinances the Lord instituted in relation to the gospel: baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and both are meant as means of identifying ourselves with the Lord, not as means of salvation.

Paul then finishes with why we need to beware of these things by reminding us of who we are:

For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.  (Philippians 3:3)

The most basic thing we need to remember is who we are and what we have in Christ. Jesus is the whole package. He is all we need for salvation and the solution to all our problems whatever they are. When it comes to success in the Christian life, the most basic thing to remember is: “This is Jesus Christ. He is my Savior. To succeed in my walk, I must always follow Him.” Its how we get the right things right.

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Photo by Glenn Haertlein on Unsplash

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