Beware of Dogs - Bola Olu-Jordan
This common expression is found in many homes, hanging on the gate. It is meant to be a warning to intruders. But should they actually be warned or be left to intrude and take some bites of the creatures? But that is not the purpose of this message, anyway. Little did many realize that this expression is taken from the Bible! Yes: Beware of dogs!
Paul told the Phillipian Church three things to beware of: 1. Beware of dogs, 2. beware of evil workers, 3. beware of concision. Phil.3:2
But Paul is not talking of literal dogs, but a set of people. It is amazing to know that Jesus Himself called some people dogs. A woman came to Him begging Him to heal her daughter. But surprisingly, Jesus declined; on the condition that: it is not good to give the food of the children to the dogs! Interestingly, the woman did not refute or protest the claim, she rather appealed to Him that even dogs eat of the crumbs that fell from the master's table (Mt.15:22-27)! Jesus was amazed with the woman's claim!
When we acknowledge ourselves as a no good person, it is then we can receive the grace of God. Jesus came for sinners who acknowledge that they are sinners, not sinners who think they are saints. These type of people were not only in the Phillipian Church but present in today's church! These are the descendants of Pharisees, and therein lies the answer to the question; who are the dogs?
In the Pauline context, a sect of Christians were actually referred to as dogs. These are those who believed that circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Laws were necessary for salvation! They were many in the Phillipian Church, just as they are in our churches today. The leadership of these people were actually Judaizers who converted to Christianity. They still held on to the Laws and Traditions. Yet, if these had been enough for salvation, Jesus wouldn't have come. Jesus came that salvation would no longer be by the labour of the law, but by trusting faith in the finished work of the cross, for it was obvious that the law could not deliver man. The best of it was (and is) filthy rags with God (Is.64:6)
These believed in Jesus PLUS the work of the law: the circumcision of the flesh for the Phillipian Church and many denominational creeds, laws and constitution for the church of today.
How salvation is synonymous to not wearing of shoes to church, tying scarf or clapping hands in a particular way, looking sad and morose, wearing a particular colour of dress or not using ear-ring rings, claiming that your sect (cult) alone is holy and others are wrong, etc, is a wonder! Good as they are in themselves, they have nothing to do with salvation!
Salvation is the Spirit getting born again, not the flesh. The body truly may have a form of godliness in such observance, but never experience the power of the spirit. It is the Spirit-man that controls the Physical-man, and not vice versa. Compelling people to do all these by denominational creeds, church doctrines, etc, will produce bunch of hypocrites with self righteousness. As long as they do all these, they think they are born again. It is the spirit of the Pharisees!
The Pharisees were so pious and diligent observing the physical laws, yet could not recognize the spirituality of Jesus. They, in fact, killed Him. However, the common and disdained people like Peter, recognized Jesus as ‘the Christ, the son of the Living God’! Such did not trust in their works and that was why Jesus came to these type of people who have no work of righteousness to lay claim to, but to simply trust and obey.
The Phillipian Church would compel people to observe laws: ‘don’t wear this’, don’t eat that’; ‘this is how to walk, look,’ etc. Paul called it concision, i.e., mutilation of the flesh; imposing rules and regulations of rituals on congregation. The congregation obey them truly; circumcising the flesh, but the spirit is not circumcised, but rather mutilated; cut, scard, thorn, destroyed by deceit of religion and self-righteousness.
Paul warned the church at Collossae: ‘Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; (shadow, not the real thing) but the body is of Christ… Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh’ (Col.2:20-23).
Paul called advocates of such ‘dogs’: a promiscuous, shameless scavenger, who feast on refuse and filth that has been abandoned (the law). They rejoice in bones, whose flesh (grace of God) has been removed (circumcision).
Dogs are known for their backing and these are known for their shouts. Paul also called them ‘evil workers’, and advice Born Again Christians to beware!
Paul knew better, because he had been involved in it before he had the Damascus experience. He was known for his ‘backing’ around; ensuring people obey the law (Acts 9:1-2), not knowing that he was persecuting Jesus (Acts 9:4). He had a towering credential doing these and was even called a ‘doctor of the law’: ‘Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless’. Phi.3:5
It is interesting to know that later, when Paul came to his (Christ’s) ‘senses’, he confessed that he did all those in ignorance. He said he counted all his attainments and achievements in the law as nothing but loss and dung; so ‘that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having MINE OWN righteousness, WHICH IS OF THE LAW, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith’ (Phil.3:7-9).
He abandoned his own righteousness WHICH IS OF THE LAW and took on the righteousness of Jesus, WHICH IS OF GOD BY FAITH.
This set of people who believe in circumcising their flesh more than their hearts are still around today. They impose laws, doctrines, denominational creeds, church constitution, etc, as prerequisite to membership of their own denomination. People obey more of the doctrines than Christ; the letter more than the spirit! They know more of church laws than Christ commandments. They quote more of what the pastor says than what Jesus says, yet they are accepted.
Paul called them evil workers. The warning is still valid: beware of dogs! Further reading: Acts.15:1,5,10