Skip to content

Philippians 6a: “4 Enemies of Joy” (Philippians 3:1-4:4)

For Paul, religion is about Joy: and he passionately warns about 4 enemies that would steal it!

You can subscribe to my sermons podcast to hear my sermons, or my theology podcast for extra content. Subscribe on YouTube. Studying as a group? Download my “fill-in-the-blanks” handout. Scroll down to read my sermon notes.

4 Enemies of Joy (Philippians 3:1-4:4)


  1. This is a way of blocking off his content
    1. Paul is in Prison: the Gospel is preached (I rejoice) 1:12-20
    2. Share the Gospel, live the Gospel (I rejoice, u rejoice) 1:21-2:18
    3. Paul, Timothy & Epaphroditus are examples (u Rejoice) 2:19-30
    4. The Gospel, four enemies to Joh (U rejoice, u rejoice!) 3-4:9
    5. Thanks for the gift (I rejoice) 4:120-30
  1. Joy is central to Christianity (Isa. 65:18, Neh. 8:10)
    1. Not all religions are the same
      1. Judaism = Obedience
      2. Hinduism = “Work off your Karmic debt”
      3. Buddhism = “remove desire”
      4. Islam = “submission”
    2. Christianity is about Love, we are made to rejoice
      1. Created for joy (Isa 65:18)
      2. Joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10)
  2. Rejoicing runs like a thread through Philippians
    1. First time, “rejoice in the Lord
    2. FIrst time, repeated “again I will say….”
    3. Followed immediately by very harsh language

…because Paul wants to warn us about the four enemies of joy:

  1. Legalism
  2. Perfectionism
  3. Immorality
  4. Divisions


1. Beware of Legalism!

    1. “Beware the mongrels, the robbers, the slashers!”
      1. This is incredibly strong language!
      2. He is not cussing, but he is coming close!
      3. This could turn us off: isn’t this what people find so odious about religion?
      4. Conviction:
        1. Ideas are important (it’s how people live, make sense of life, stay sane)
        2. Religious ideas are the deepest, with the broadest impact
        3. Bad ideas can hurt people
        4. Bad religious ideas can be the most devastating
        5. …Paul is passionate about bad teaching because he loves the church!
      5. …bottom line on these teachers? They “put their confidence in the flesh, rather than in Christ”
    1. Confidence in the flesh rather than confidence in Christ

…Paul makes it about himself. Why?

– NOT subtle boasting

1) It is not impressive to say “I don’t put confidence in 

flesh” unless he really could put confidence there (e.g. 

strength, finances, political authority)

2) (more importantly) turns conversation on himself so he 

can reject it in the most powerful way


1. Heritage (things done to Paul)

  • Born a Jew, of tribe of Benjamin
  • Circumcised as a newborn, into faith
  • Taught to speak Hebrew, raised in faith

2. Accomplishments (things Paul has done)

  • Followed law as Pharisee
  • Zeal, to the point of violence 
  • Righteousness (from the law) found blameless

(Contemporary Significance)

1 Heritage

  • Born into Christian family, generations of Christians 
  • Baptized as infant or young child
  • Raise in church, taught Bible, hymns, vocabulary, theology

2. Choice

  • Followed all the church rules (esp. when young — no fornication, drunkenness, wild living)
  • Shared faith, to the point of being annoying
  • “As far as anyone is concerned, a really good, moral, upstanding Christian guy”

…we can understand why someone would want to put confidence in this.

“Are you a good person?”

“Well, yeah, I mean…raised right and try to live it…”

…this is why what comes next is so shocking!

    1. Paul calls all this “loss, loss, loss!” and “rubbish” (Isaiah 64:6)

For all of us have become like one who is unclean,

And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;

And all of us wither like a leaf,

And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.


  • We are sinners: our best efforts are filthy rags!
  • We should not put our confidence in our flesh!
    • Heritage (things done to us) choice (things we have done)
  • Rather, put it in Christ!
  1. We can receive righteousness from God, on the basis of faith
    (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:6, 10:9-10)
  1. We can know Him

– We can gain Christ!

– We can be found in Him!

– We can know Him!

– We can receive the power of His resurrection!

– We can have the fellowship of His sufferings!

(wait, why would we want this?

…is there any deeper fellowship than in suffering?

…we can’t chose not to suffer in life

…but we can choose who to suffer with

…every week, in communion, we partake in the sufferings of Christ: and every week through prayer, Jesus partakes in our sufferings! 

“Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you” – Heb. 13:5

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Mat. 28:20

“In this world, you will have tribulations, but take heart: I have overcome the world” Jn 16:33

– We can be conformed to His death

We can (somehow) attain to the resurrection from the dead!

….what good news! What joy!


  • All the glory goes to Jesus Christ
  • We can worship in the Spirit of GOd, through salvation

2. Beware of Perfectionism 

  1. Not that Paul has already achieved it
  2. Paul forgets what lies behind, and presses on towards the call 

(restates it stronger)

  • Secure in salvation
  • But that doesn’t mean he is sitting back and doing nothing!
  • No room for “cheap grace” — idea that “I’m saved, God did it all, so I don’t need to do anything”
  • Paul is running a race, and he is “full out”

The call

  • Do only missionaries have a call?
  • We all have a call!
    • Repent of sin
    • Pursue a deeper walk with God
    • Forgive our enemies
    • Love our God and neighbour
    • Put others first
    • Learn more about God, teach it
    • Fill needs in the Body
    • Sometimes, means moving!
  • Nobody free to sit back and “do nothing”

3. Beware of Immorality 

Immoral Teachers…

  1. Set their minds on earthly things
  2. Their god is their stomach
  3. Their glory is in their shame (Jeremiah 6:15, Jude 13)
  4. Their end is destruction

But Paul and Christians…

  1. Are citizens of Heaven
  2. Wait for a Saviour from Heaven…
  3. …who will transform our mortal bodies
  4. …and will bring all things into submission to Himself 

4. Beware of Divisions

  1. Live in harmony in the Lord
  2. Help others live in harmony 


Big Idea: The Christian Message (The Gospel) is about Joy!

Four enemies of Joy:

  1. Legalism

“Don’t put your confidence in the flesh: put it in Christ Jesus!”

  1. Perfectionism

“Don’t think you’ve arrived: press on towards Christ’s upwards call!”

  1. Immorality

“Don’t set your desires on things on earth: walk in light of Eternity!”

  1. Divisions

“Don’t let divisions steal your joy: live in harmony in the Lord!”

1 Comment »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s