At the risk of shattering your image of the Apostle Paul, I need to let you know that he wasn’t a dog-lover. Our man’s-best-friend image actually hinders us from understanding how intense these words are:
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh (Philippians 3:2).
Along with most of his contemporaries, Paul viewed dogs as packs of ravenous creatures who roamed the countryside eating whatever they could find.
So, to put it mildly, referring to a group of people as “dogs” was not complimentary.
Apparently, Paul is writing about a group of people who were trying to undermine his gospel preaching. Like scavenging dogs, they were coming behind him to shatter the faith of new converts who weren’t grounded in the faith.
They bragged about their obedience to the Law, but they were actually “evildoers.” They took pride in their commitment to Jewish circumcision, but it was nothing more than mutilation of the flesh.
Perhaps you’ve heard of these false teachers before. Paul taught that salvation was by God’s grace, but these folks added a few more requirements.
It infuriated Paul.
Much of Philippians 2—and all of Galatians—addresses the errors of these folks.
Their modern-day contemporaries are those who undermine the gospel by adding regulations and traditions that make salvation a matter of keeping law instead of receiving grace.
If you find yourself worrying about whether you’re able to measure up, you might’ve been influenced by this thinking.
If you start thinking God will save you when you’re able to follow the law, perhaps you’ve been misled.
Don’t misunderstand—Paul preached obedience to the law of liberty and never advocated “cheap grace”—but he strongly warned against making anything other than grace the grounds of our salvation.
He described the distorters of grace with the strongest possible terms.
In your devotional time this week, thank God for saving you through Christ and ask him to help you revel in your awareness of and appreciation for his gift of salvation. —Chuck