Rejoicing in the Lord

Rejoicing in the Lord

Rejoicing in the Lord
Text: Philippians 3:1-3

Have you ever had someone try to encourage you, but instead you felt they were being condescending? That’s one of the difficulties we face in trying to encourage those going through trials when we ourselves are not going through them. And yet, it’s what we expect. We expect those going through the trial to be encouraged, not to be the encourager. But that’s what we find with Paul. He is the one imprisoned, and restricted, and uncertain about his future, yet he is the one calling others to rejoice.

Once again, as I said when we were in the first chapter, happiness and joy are two distinct things.

Happiness – comes from hap, which has the idea of things that just happen i.e. by chance. And so happiness is delight based upon a present happening. So it may happen or may not happen, it’s not something we can guarantee.

Joy – is completely unrelated to circumstances. It is a deep-seeded delight that is present regardless of what is going on. It is therefore something we draw from the Lord, and thus it can be our permanent possession. Do you have joy today?

I. THE PEOPLE WHO REJOICE IN THE LORD – “finally my brethren”

“finally” – show this is a new section.
“my brethren” – if you don’t know the Lord you don’t know true joy. Only those who know the the Lord can experience this joy. And this is something for all God’s people. They are described in v3…

“For we are the circumcision” – most of you will know that circumcision in the OT was an outward sign of being cut off from a sinful world and set apart unto God and told everyone that this is what must happen in their hearts. The act itself did not save, it was a picture of what needed to happen, that the outer hardness of the heart be removed surgically by the only instrument capable of doing that, even the word of God. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb 4:12

And Paul says the brethren are those who have received the word of God in a life-changing way. Circumcision then, is synonymous with regeneration and being born again. 
“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” Deut 10:16. “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Deut 30:6 “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem” Jer 4:4 “all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” Jer 9:26

If you have been circumcised in heart, you’re more Jewish than any ethnic Jew “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Rom 2:28-29

We have been cut off from the world brought to Christ, and this is why we’re the people who experience true joy.

“which worship God in the spirit” – Who worships God in the spirit? Only those who have had the saving work of the Spirit and are now the true circumcision. The word worship here has the idea of service. So it’s not talking about what happens at church, but the very attitude of our lives. We are given over to God. Everything we do is with an eye to Him, since we are those who have received the Spirit.

“rejoice in Christ Jesus” – the word for rejoice is not the word that’s used elsewhere in this book for joy/rejoice. It has the idea of glorying or boasting. So the brethren are those who make their boast in Christ. They are those that continually give Him the glory.

“and have no confidence in the flesh” – they do not trust in themselves in making themselves right with God, not just a confidence in a ceremony like circumcision, but in ANYTHING we do. Only such are the brethren, which is the case for many of you, but not all of you perhaps.

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Rom 14:17. Note that the kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Ghost. If you’re not part of the kingdom of God, you have no part in the joy of the Holy Ghost. What joy is for those who give up their sin.


i) The Command in the Prescription – “rejoice”

This is a command. It is a duty to every child of God. And if you find that you can’t know this or experience this, then you need to seek God until you do. And if you’re resistant to joy, then you have a heart problem my friend.

And here’s the thing, it’s not to be a one off experience, but a continual one. That’s the tense of the verb. Those Christians that complain about Monday mornings are sinning. The idea of this rejoicing in the Lord is giving us full responsibility to make it happen. We’re not passive in this. The failure to rejoice in the Lord is a failure on our part.

So if you claim to be the brethren, you must fulfill the duty to rejoice in the Lord. This doesn’t not mean we never weep or sorrow. There are times for these things. Weeping over sin or sorrowing over a loved one, but even in the midst of these times there should be an inner joy.

Let me ask you beloved, is God worthy of the excitement and energy of your being? Is He worthy of your exercising yourself to find your most positive emotions in Him? If there are other things that excite us and bring us more joy than the Lord, this is idolatry, and that thing is a threat to your spiritual life. If God is number one then He will be our greatest joy.

Your outward reflection of emotion toward the Lord has an impact upon others. When we have a joy in the Lord, I believe the Spirit of God uses that to minister to others around us.

ii) The Criterion of the Prescription – “in the Lord”

Finding our joy in Christ alone. All true joy is found in our relationship with Christ. Communing, serving, and speaking of Him. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” Jn 15:11. We are to have His joy. The more we have of Him, the more we have of joy, and the more we have of joy, the more joy we have.

Do you desire more joy? The parameters are Christ. Tell Him today that you know He is your joy, and that it is Him you have been neglecting, and He will restore unto you the joy of your salvation.


There are things that attack out joy, and we must be aware of them. And nothing will attack your true spiritual joy like false teaching.

“To write the same things things unto you, to indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe” – this hearkens back to Phil 1:28.These are the adversaries that are threatening the church, and Paul says I have to clarify this point and speak of this again, because if I don’t, you might fall. It’s not safe for me to ignore this. These adversaries are highlighted in v2.

v2 – this is all one and the same people, and he uses three ‘bewares’ here to emphasize the dangers to the highest level. Be on the highest alert.

“Beware of dogs” = moral character. In the ancient world wild dogs would move about in packs like wolves. They were aggressive and people needed to be wary of them. They were scavengers and threatened human life. Thus, Jews would have used this term of the gentiles. Now Paul is taking the term and applying it to the Judaizers. They are the real dogs. Who were the Judaizers? The most harsh book Paul wrote was focused on their false teaching, that of Galatians. In that book Paul says they are accursed, because they preach another gospel. They were Jewish false teachers who sought to corrupt the gospel by adding elements of the law and saying they were necessary to salvation, such as circumcision. They therefore attacked the key doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

And they were just like every other false teacher. They would smile, and charm people. But they were as destructive as a wolf among sheep.

“Beware of evil workers” = their purpose. They are actively working their evil and spreading their lies.

“Beware of the concision” = what they teach. He doesn’t use circumcision here, because he wants to show their distortion of the message, so he says concision, i.e. mutilation. It’s false circumcision.

Are the Judaizers about today? Yes, but with different labels. Paul’s strong language against them was because they misrepresented the gospel and added the need for works to justify. And any message that adds works to justify, ought to be treated with the same language and warning as Paul uses here. In his day it was circumcision they wanted to add. In our day it might be the all the baggage of the Roman Catholic Church, or the works righteousness of the JWs, or Mormons. Those who claim to teach the gospel of Christ, and add works – they are the worst false teachers on the planet, because they pervert the truth.