"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those workers of evil, those mutilators of the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.”
In Philippians 3, Paul writes to the Philippian believers for the purpose of protecting them [safeguard] from the evil religious leaders of his day who were mutilating grace. These religious leaders were preying and pouncing on people of grace like vicious, wild dogs for their belief that righteousness [being in right standing with God, at total peace with God, completely forgiven by God, innocent before God, under no condemnation from God], came simply by faith in Jesus, not by following religious rules, rituals, or requirements.
Paul referred to these religious leaders as “dogs”, “workers of evil”, and “mutilators of the flesh”. These are extremely strong words to describe the dangerous nature and actions of these religious leaders. These religious leaders, though loved by so many in their religious circles, were viewed by Paul as evil.
These religious leaders were confident in their religious conduct [flesh], boasting in their keeping of religious rules, rituals, and requirements, such as circumcision and tithing, for righteousness before God. They bragged about how well they followed and fulfilled them, resulting, in their own minds, in a right standing before God. They gloried in their own religious performances, patting themselves on the back for how well they were doing. They mistakenly envisioned God as applauding their religious accomplishments and achievements, believing God declared them to be righteous before him because of their religious works.
Yet Paul called them “dogs”, “workers of evil”, and “mutilators of the flesh”. This is because these religious leaders prided themselves on their own religious works for righteousness, rather than placing their faith completely in the finished work of Christ on the cross (grace). They prided themselves on their own works, not the work of Christ. They preyed, like wild religious dogs, on those who were simply resting by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus for righteousness, seeking to convince them that righteousness before God came not by faith alone, but by faith plus adherence to religious rules, rituals, and requirements.
Paul knew that what these religious leaders were doing was evil, even though they masqueraded as “godly people”. They were viciously attacking God’s grace, all that he had done for us in Christ for righteousness. They were violently and gruesomely ripping it from the people who had been transformed by it. It would be as evil as snatching food and water from a starving and thirsting person.
These religious people were workers of evil!
Paul knew it would not be long before these self-righteous, religious, evil dogs would be roaming the streets of Philippi, ready to attack the Philippian believers who were resting in grace. Paul exhorted the Philippian people to beware of these vicious, evil, religious dogs who prided themselves on their own religious works, resting in their faithful adherence to religious rules, rituals, and requirements for righteousness before God, while preying and pouncing on those who took pride only in the finished work of Jesus, resting by faith through grace in him alone for righteousness.
These religious leaders - evil, religious dogs as Paul called them - still roam around today in cities, towns, communities, neighborhoods, and villages. Some roam alone. Some roam in religious packs. Many of them are pastors and teachers in churches and ministries. They are loved in their denominations and ministries. They pride themselves in their denominations, promoting their denominations above the rest, convincing members in their denominations that their denominations are the best. Some even believe that unless a person is baptized in their denominations, then they are excluded from membership within that church, or cannot be saved at all.
Other evil religious dogs, masquerading as “godly leaders”, arrogantly brag about their religious experiences, such as speaking in tongues, and boast in meeting religious expectations such as tithing, attendance, participation, obedience, witnessing, praying, reading, serving, and praising. Many who follow their leadership demonstrate the same boastful, braggadocios arrogance, confidently assured of their righteousness before God because of having religious experiences and meeting religious expectations, while others quietly suffer in silence because they have not had the experiences or met the expectations, believing they can never be righteous before God.
Just as Paul exhorted the Philippian believers, who were resting by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus for righteousness, to beware of the evil, religious dogs of their day, so we, too, must beware of them in our day. They are still around. They serve as pastors and staff in many churches. They are respected highly in their communities, religious denominations, and ministries. Yet they are workers of evil, viciously attacking the good news of God’s grace that he has freely given to us in Christ, while claiming how amazing God’s grace is in the songs they sing.
They verbally attack teachers of grace, slanderously accusing them of “watering down the gospel” and “giving people a license to sin”. Even though these religious leaders love to sing “Amazing Grace” in their churches, they snatch grace away from those who are hungering and thirsting for grace, placing them under their denominations’ or ministries’ requirements, or misinterpreting the Scriptures to keep people in bondage to a law-based mentality, robbing them of the liberating reality of grace.
Watch out for them!
Watch out for these evil religious leaders, no matter who they are, no matter what their title, no matter how well they are liked, no matter how great their reputation or wonderful their speaking abilities, who boast in anything other than Jesus and his work on the cross for righteousness.
They are mutilating grace!
Watch out for religious leaders who brag about their churches and denominations (or even being non-denominational - which has become a denomination), promoting theirs above the rest.
Watch out for religious leaders who underemphasize grace, watering down God’s gospel of grace for righteousness with a person’s good works for righteousness.
Watch out for religious leaders who claim to teach grace, but who are ashamed of the full message of grace, fearing people will use it as a license to sin.
Watch out for religious leaders who say people are saved by grace, but who then teach people they must maintain their salvation, forgiveness, or fellowship with God by works.
Watch out for religious leaders who declare a person must have certain religious experiences or meet certain religious expectations to be right before God, to please God, or to be a “good Christian” or “good church member”.
Watch out for those who water down grace with religious works!
Watch out for them, for according to Paul, they are evil, religious leaders who viciously prey and pounce upon those who are resting by grace through faith for righteousness, seeking to tear grace from them, violently ripping it up and mutilating grace before their very eyes.
*This post is the continuation of my teachings through Philippians. To see my other teachings, click below.