Text: Philippians 3:2
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. [AV]
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision. [NASB]
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! [NRSV]
Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. [NLT]
I don’t usually display such a variety of translations but the key word is katatomē which means to cut or to mutilate. True circumcision would be a surgery performed by another and in the O.T. sense authorized by God but ‘concison’ or ‘mutilation’ is self inflicted and is condemned by the law of Moses. Circumcision was the physical sign of the OT covenant relationship but Baptism is the NT fulfillment of this OT ritual. The Judaizers were Jews who had supposedly converted to Christianity but were hanging on to OT customs. They followed Paul where ever he went, infiltrated churches that he planted, and worked to undermine the true nature of the gospel which is GRACE.
There is no question that Paul has the Judaizers in mind when he warns the Philippians to ‘beware of the dogs’ because his very next phrase is ‘beware of evil workers’ [those people who do evil]. So Paul is referring to the false teachers as dogs. This was not a compliment: the term ‘dog’ was very derogatory in Paul’s life time, much more than today. Americans like dogs, they are popular pets. According to a 2006 Gallup poll, six in 10 Americans own some type of pet. Forty-four percent of Americans own a dog and 29% own a cat. Among pet owners, 73% own a dog and 49% own a cat. As you can see, Dogs are very popular and more so among women than men. Men get dogs to attract women which is why dogs are referred to as chick-magnets.
It was not like this in Paul’s day. Dogs were considered disgusting, dirty, deceitful, destructive and despicable. To the Jews, dogs epitomized uncleanliness. So to call someone a dog was not good. We know that dogs do have some wonderful qualities such as loyalty and they are known as man’s best friend in our present culture but it was not this way when Paul wrote Philippians. Dogs were scavengers who ran in packs and did a lot of damage to people and property.
Let me say before I get into my outline that you can go to YouTube and type in B.W. Smith ‘Watch Them Dogs’ and hear a wonderful sermon. I confess that I cannot do the passage justice and B.W. Smith makes is come alive. If you have never heard him preach this sermon, you need to go there now.
Why would Paul compare the False Teachers to Dogs?
There are a lot of similarities….
- The Judaizers were doggish in their mentality. Jesus said in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Dogs have no appreciation for holy or sacred things. Dogs have no gifts of discernment. You cannot leave your bible on the outside swing if you have a dog. The dog will tear the bible to shreds. The bible means nothing to the dog. He has no reason for ripping it apart other than his nature to do so. The Judaizers had this same destructive instinct. They had no appreciation for the gospel of grace, it meant nothing to them. They had no true love for Jesus. They had merely traded on religion for another. I’m not even sure they understood what they were doing.
- They were doggish in tenacity. Dogs are not prone to give up easily. They have been used as human trackers for ages. Once they get your scent and get on your trail, it is all but impossible to shake them. We use the term ‘dogging my steps’ to refer to someone who refuses to give us space. Paul went all over the known world preaching the gospel and planting churches and the Judaizers followed him. Paul would get a church organized and going and they would infiltrate by stealth and begin to undermine everything that Paul had accomplished. B.W. Smith tells about the old porch dog who sleeps all day and barks all night. Where do dogs get the energy to bark all night, to annoy and disturb the peace of God fearing hard working people? I don’t know but they can do it. God uses those of a good disposition to spread the good news but the devil uses those who have a doggish disposition to discourage and to defeat. The porch dog barks for no particular reason but he keeps barking until he has every dog on the block barking. Our churches are filled with yelpers, unhappy souls who bark constantly. They find fault with everything. They are happy about nothing. I have often quoted the preacher who said, “A barking dog doesn’t stop a freight train.” I agree but the problem is that very few churches have the force, the movement and energy of a freight train. Although I resent the philosophy of oiling the squeaky hinge and I hate the idea of playing nurse maid to a bunch of spiritually immature Christians, I will confess [in my old age] that the negative people [dogs] have a detrimental effect on the fellowship of a church. If the momentum shifts from a rolling freight train to a slow moving or dead still train, the negativity will take on added strength. I don’t think these people are totally ignorant of what they are doing; but like the Judaizers their goal is to rule or ruin and they have no scruples about telling the lie. The bad thing is they don’t let up: they are tenacious. Their philosophy is that if we keep hollowing smoke, eventually, everyone will believe there is a fire. I think it may be the most difficult aspect of pastoring a church in the 21 century. Can you keep the brush fires from spreading? I serve a good church but there has been so much negative fodder spread by Christ haters and insiders who are unhappy about this or that, that I have no doubt, it has hurt the church. I think Paul would also admit, the Judaizers where hurting the churches. Why else would he warm people to watch out for or be aware of the false teachers and those who think more of their appetite than they do good of the church.
- They are doggish in their philosophy. If you could get them to tell the truth, they would have to admit that they really don’t care that much about the welfare of the church and I have never met one yet who cared about the lost. There philosophy is carnivorous. I want what I want and I will tear the place to bits if I have to. It’s a ‘My way or highway philosophy’ or a ‘Rule or ruin.’ Who has the advantage when one is trying to preserve and the other is trying to destroy. If you goal is to destroy the fellowship of a church, to make them pay for not appreciating you, there are not rules. When people get into a dog mode, a destructive mode, they are not concerned about integrity. They will lie like a fox. Circumcision done right is a procedure and it is done in a sterile atmosphere by a professional. We don’t go to the woodshed and take a hatchet and circumcise ourselves. The difference between circumcision and mutilation is the way it is done and who does it. The trouble with most trouble makers in church is that they have never been circumcised by Christ. They mutilated themselves and are calling it circumcision. Thus everything they do is governed by their self-will. This is not what they profess but it is how they operate. When they gather for worship, they worship themselves. There can be no true worship when we are obsessed with our self-consciousness. In worship, we lose consciousness of ourselves and see only Jesus like the woman is Luke 7. If you focus on yourself or others, you are hindered in your worship. Dogs cannot think beyond themselves. When given to their nature, they are greedy and will destroy or hid what they cannot consume.
- They are doggish in their habits. Dogs are animals driven by an appetite and they can be deceitful. I’ve had some to growl but not bit and some to slip up behind me and bit without making a sound. If all false teachers would wear a name tag or a badge it would help but this is not the case. A big part of their success depends on how other perceive them so they do all the right things in the presence of the congregation, but go straight to garbage with the service is over. They partake of unclean things. They can be two totally different people. I have heard them tell an unclean joke and then walk straight to the pulpit and preach. No one listening to them would ever know where they mind was just before they entered the pulpit. Some women are prone to kiss dogs in the mouth: I always ask them the same question: “Do you know what that dog has been eating or what his face has been in? I was raised on a farm. I know what dogs will eat and it is disgusting. Dogs sneak in, tear up and destroy. They are church splitters not church planters. The Reform movement in big among the youth. It is attractive for many reasons but the one that draws them the most is the emphasis on worship. They are also heavy into bible study and the pursuit of knowledge. Reform theology is laced with enough works to give them a sense of pride and accomplishment but it is also a balm for their conscience and helps them to feel good about neglecting the one thing that Jesus was most passionate about. They are not going out in the world and start churches, their plan is to straighten out those of us who are wrong, so they enter a Southern Baptist Church, earn a degree of popularity [they love hero worship] and then mislead the congregation into their doctrine with is anti-evangelism and missions. I don’t know one single church that was planted by Calvinist, do you? I would be glad for you to correct my error. You cannot build a church on their theology; it has no cutting edge. They deny the power of the gospel and the gift of faith that every human possesses. You don’t have to worry about a Calvinist going door to door. In their mind, you have nothing to respond to and no way of responding to it. WATCH THEM DOGS!
If it four legs and barks like a dog; its probably a dog. Jesus said, “You know them by their fruit.” There are several dead give-a-ways when trying to discern if a teacher is true or false.
- Look for genuine humility. A person who can take criticism and respond meekly to accusation. Beware of those who are full of themselves. I attended a COLS some 20 years ago and the key note speaker talked more about himself than the deceased. One woman came out and said, “Did you hear that: he used this funeral to promote himself and his ministry.” This is not a good sign.
- Look for gracious generosity. Most false prophets are takers, not givers. They talk about giving: they may even preach on giving but the problem is they do not give themselves. Churches could save themselves a lot of heart ache by checking giving records. When the giving is not right, it indicates a huge problem. False teachers have a tendency to be greedy.
- Look for a Jesus Lover. It is always a good sign when a teacher talks more about Jesus than himself. Every true disciple knows that hero worship is strictly forbidden. In Acts 10:28, when Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet, Peter pulled him up and said, “None of that–I am a man and only a man, no different from you.” Good angels do not allow hero worship— [Revelation 22:8-9] “I, John, am the one who heard and saw all these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this book. Worship only God!” When the man becomes bigger than the message, that indicates a huge problem. As long as people go away praise God and giving glory to Jesus, we are OK, but when they talk more about us than they do Jesus, it is not a good sign.