Read Philippians 3:2 (ESV)
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.
Are there “dogs” in our day? Why should we be so concerned about them?
In our society today, dogs are generally thought of as beloved pets. They even get referred to as “man’s best friend.” And in many homes dogs are treated like family members.
These are not the type of dog that Paul is referring to in today’s verses. Paul is likely referring to a wild dog that lived on the streets scavenging dead bodies. Not only were these dogs aggressive and potentially violent but they were also carriers of nasty infections. They were unclean and problematic thus they were generally hated. These dogs were pests, not pets.
In today’s verse, Paul is comparing false teachers, specifically the Judaizers, to these mangy animals. The Judaizers taught that saving faith was not sufficient for salvation. They mixed the law with grace and said that Gentiles must become Jews before they can convert to Christianity. They argued that it was necessary for Gentiles to practice circumcision. That’s why he says to watch out for those who “mutilate the flesh.” Circumcision does not secure anyone’s salvation.
Paul doesn’t mince his words here. He calls them evildoers for spreading this false doctrine. His point is that these false teachers weren’t merely an annoyance. They were dangerous!
Even today, we have dirty dogs among us. We have false teachers who preach legalism just as the Judaizers did in Paul’s day. They may not be claiming that you have to get circumcised to be saved or convert to Judaism, but the heart of their message is still the same. They are implying that what Jesus did on the cross was not sufficient. They are claiming that you have to add works to His grace in order for it to be effective. This doctrine is dangerous because people’s souls are on the line!
Maybe someone has told you that you have to get baptized in order to be saved. Or that you have to tithe a certain amount each month. Maybe you’ve been told you must go to church or take a mission trip. Perhaps someone has preached that dietary restrictions are necessary. But we know from Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace, through faith and not by works. Salvation is a gift from God. We accept His grace and we are saved. Our good works and obedience are the result of a transformed life. We seek to please God with our actions because we love Him, not because we are trying to earn our salvation.
Friends, whenever you hear “grace plus works” preached, run away! Avoid this message like you would avoid a dirty dog in the street. Legalism does not save you and it has the potential to do much harm. It can cause a nasty infection in your faith and sadly, it is contagious. It can be passed to those around you. So be on the lookout for false teachers. Read the Word of God daily to inoculate you against the diseases of false doctrine. And instead of spreading filth, spread the truth! Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those around you.
Lord, thank You for the free gift of salvation through Jesus. Please grant me the wisdom and discernment to be able to recognize the dogs who are spreading false teaching so I can avoid them. Give me the courage to spread the truth of Your Word instead. Amen.