Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else things he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the Law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. ~Philippians 3:2-7 (ESV)
Some of the opponents that Paul faced were those who claimed superiority because of their Jewishness. This was a problem evident throughout many of Paul’s letters. He wrote to churches that often contained a majority of people who had come from a Gentile, or non-Jewish, background. Therefore, these followers of Jesus had never been under the Old Testament Law and did not possess the covenantal mark of the people: circumcision.
Early on in the life of the church, the decision was made not to burden Gentile believers with the necessity of circumcision (see: Acts 15). Yet, some would come into the fledgling churches and say: “You believe in Jesus, that’s well and good, but to truly be right with God you must be circumcised like us Jews.”
Paul responded by calling such teachers dogs, evildoers, and mutilators of the flesh. Righteousness, he argued elsewhere, had nothing to do with fleshly circumcision but everything to do with the circumcision of the heart, this being accomplished by faith in Jesus. Therefore, to add this physical burden upon the Gentile believers was to go against the very heart of the gospel they claimed to teach.
To emphasize his point, Paul described how he wasn’t speaking as an outsider. He was a Jew. In fact, he had been a rising star among the religious leaders of Israel and had been a zealot for the cause. Yet, there had come a day where he realized that everything he had meant nothing.
His ethnicity, education, leadership positions, and zeal did not earn him God’s favor. Though he possessed all these things that could make others jealous, he lacked faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior-King, and therefore he lacked the one thing that mattered most.
So, Paul looked at his gain and said, “I count it as loss. Give me Christ!”
This is how it should be with us: Jew or Gentile, black or white, male or female, rich or poor, high school drop outs or doctoral students, teacher or student, whatever we think we have that makes us superior or inferior to others ultimately matters not. Whether or not we have Jesus by faith matters eternally. We can have everything life has to offer and miss out because we don’t have Jesus. But if we have Jesus, then we have everything.