False Teachers, Philippians 3:2
By Ovid Need, Jr.
The book of Philippians is one of the sweetest books in Scripture. In it Paul compliments these Christians on their consistency in Christ. They have walked above reproach and the apostle is not one given to false compliments.
Here in about the middle of the book, he reminds them of a warning which he had given them while he had been there in person. That warning was concerning the false teachers which were undermining his teaching and were now evidently among them.
There are some characteristics we can safely assume about these men from this context and from other places in Paul's writings as he writes back to the new churches, dealing with their false doctrine.
First, these were sincere and dedicated men. There is no reason to think they were any less sincere and dedicated than was the apostle before Christ called him, Acts 26. He had the conviction that he was serving God as he sought to stamp out this new sect, Christianity.
As we read what Paul wrote elsewhere dealing with these men, we get the idea that they felt it was their responsibility to further instruct the new converts after Paul leaves the community. "The message of Paul was good, BUT it didn't go far enough. Here is what he didn't tell you." Then they would explain the importance of converting to Judaism, going to the temple at Jerusalem and observing the rites and rituals as given by Moses.
Thus, they mixed the rites and rituals of Moses with the finished work of Christ for salvation and for security in Him, Col. 2:13-15.
Second, these men had very winning (charismatic) personalities and excellent enticing words, I Cor. 1:27-2:5; Col. 2:4-8, (the context of Colossians is warning against anyone who would say that Christ doesn't contain all wisdom and knowledge. An example of v. 8 would be any education not centered in the Word of God).
Third and also within the passages mentioned, they had an immense amount of wisdom and knowledge, which they misused. They probably could argue the bark off a tree.
Fourth, they were moral men. Unlike some of the other churches (Corinth, for example), this church had no sin mentioned. Therefore, these people, unlike those at Corinth, were concerned about purity. They would not have accepted anyone as any kind of a teacher, who had known sin in their lives.
This church was strong in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, yet Paul saw a danger to them from these false teachers. A great enough danger that he writes to them this warning.
Fifth, they were prosperous men and identified godliness with gain, I Tim. 6:5.
The next point from this verse is that Paul identifies these false teachers as evil workers. Paul does not say, "Beware of those good men doing evil deeds."
This apostle would not fit in very well today as we are told not see evil workers as evil men. We are told that they are good people doing bad deeds. "Separate the sin from the sinner."
Unquestionably, if one is doing evil, they are evil. This should be obvious to us but we also have bought the devil's lie which seeks to take the pressure off the wicked to turn from his wicked ways. It takes evil men to do evil deeds. AND GOD'S WORD DEFINES EVIL.
Paul identifies these good (points 1-5) men as evil men because they are doing evil. The evil they were doing was teaching doctrines contrary to the revealed word of God. Can we see evil men differently?
Now the last point we want to make from v. 2. We forget that these churches which Paul writes to did not have a N.T. as we do today. Quite obviously, what we have is what these apostles wrote to deal with situations which arose as these new Christians sought to obey the law of God as found in the O.T..
Thus, we define what caused Paul to call these men evil. These men were teaching a doctrine which did not line up with the doctrine as found in the O.T. law and prophets.
This was a sound church in Christ. The only instruction which they had was the Scripture, Genesis through Malachi. We see from verse three that these false teachers were telling the people they had to become Jews in order to be part of the covenant people.
Paul plainly tells them that the true circumcision is the worship of God in accord with the instructions given by the Lord, John 4:23, 24. Paul not only deals with this problem here, but he deals with it in Galatians (3:17). Thus, the true covenant people have always been and always will be those in Christ by faith.
A conclusion here:
Anyone who does evil works is an evil person. It is impossible to separate the person from his works without departing from the word of God.
In the situation before us, when the instructions from the Scripture departs from the O.T. law and prophets, that instructor is an evil worker, (Paul also identifies them as dogs).
Paul's primary emphasis here is on the teaching which identifies any people other than those in Christ by faith, as the covenant people. These he identifies as false teachers and evil workers.
(Although in Galatians chapter one and II Corinthians eleven, his warning concerns those who promote any gospel other than faith in the finished work and substitutionary death of Christ.)
['Unpublished Material'] ['Home Page'] ['The Biblical Examiner']