It is often said that in Nigeria, you are your own government since the government is mostly dysfunctional. You generate your own power, provide your own water, provide your own communication lines–many people patronize more than three companies at a time, since you can’t tell when which will be dysfunctional–and in Nigeria, you also provide your own security. So, many people keep dogs, not as pets, but as security watch dogs. So, it’s a common sight to see the sign “Beware of Dogs” on gated, wired and high fences.
It is a sign that tells you to be careful, because some of those dogs are trained to attack and bite. I personally regard such signs as gracious; this is because some people keep attack dogs at home without any warning sign and sometimes, you just bump into them, which may result in flight or injury or both.
Dogs are generally regarded as man’s best friend from the animal world. When trained, they understand language, eye communications, they live with man, guard him, hunt for him and are loyal to him. But no matter how good a dog gets, a dog is a dog.
Dogs come in different categories, some are so small, they can’t even attack while some are so big, they can cause severe wound and when infected can kill man. Hence, no matter how harmless you may think dogs are; beware of dogs. The sad story of a boy attacked by a neighbour’s dogs was in the news recently. “The dogs chewed the skin and exposed the victim’s skull during the attack…A resident said the people living in the house had warned Wesley about his dogs but he refused to listen”.[i] It is unknown to me whether the child survived the attack, the news has only intensified my dislike for keeping security dogs in private homes. Beware of dogs.
Beware of dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision. (Philippians 3:2). Paul here, under Divine inspiration, warns the Philippian believers to be wary of dogs. In the context of that section of Paul’s letter, dogs referred to those who come among the believers in order to introduce wrong teachings, especially those which place confidence on the flesh. Hence the warning: “Beware of dogs”. They are dogs because they act like your friend, claim to be part of the believers, but then they introduce their false teachings. Beware of dogs.
Paul admonishes in the next verse: “worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). But unfortunately, anyone who is discerning enough, would know that popular Christian teachings today places confidence in the flesh. Someone puts it thus:
Christianity is undergoing a paradigm shift of major proportions–a shift from faith to feelings, from fact to fantasy; and from reason to esoteric revelation.[ii]
Everyone is a prophet and is being ministered to by a spirit which is mostly claimed to be the Holy Spirit. And so, the word of God is not enough to reveal truth, but rather it is a function of the “spirit”. For example, I once told a Christian friend of mine that God was not pleased with alcohol intake based on some verses of the Bible; he said to me that if alcohol were wrong, he would know because his spirit would reject it that he is a very spiritual person. Another person, when confronted with the fact that the Biblical seventh-day (Saturday) Sabbath is still binding today as God never pronounced anywhere in scripture that the day had been changed, but that man changed it; she said, if it were true, the “Holy Spirit” will tell her. The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible (see 1 Pet. 1:21) and what He has told us in scripture, some still expect to be told personally because such persons feel more special than to be directed by a mere book which any other “unspiritual” person can read.
Even though it appears as though such people are not putting confidence in the flesh but in the “spirit”, it reveals a sense of pride which does not want to submit to the teachings of the Holy Spirit through the Bible, but rather wants to “feel” like a “spiritual” man in the sense of one who can also be consulted as a source of truth instead of one who consults another source of truth–The Word of God. The Bible admonishes that “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding…So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Prov. 3:5; Romans 10:17). The Christian life is one which is characterised by humility and submission to the wisdom and the will of God not one which places confidence in self. It is one which recognizes that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:9)”
Beware of putting confidence in the flesh in believing that you are a god and within you is a “goodness” that can be attained. This is a deception of the enemy in order to lead men to put confidence in themselves instead of Christ. Don’t be a dog and beware of dogs.
Spiritual men like Jesus, James, Paul, Peter and all the apostles who have their writings as part of the new testament all depended on the scripture (Old Testament) as their guide for truth. The scripture guided them because the Spirit which inspired them was not in conflict with the old testament scripture.
Paul says beware of the “false circumcision” (Philippians 3:2); for circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?…circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:25, 26, 29). When one claims to be spiritual and a mouth piece of God and he boastfully breaks the law of God, beware of such “false circumcision”. To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isa. 8:20)
Beware of dogs. Beware of blackmailers. There is a common song among Christians of my tribe which is translated in English to mean “if you cannot dance, you owe God a debt.” That cannot be substantiated by any teaching of the scripture, it is a blackmail with no consequence. And many of such blackmails exist while they prompt many to carry out religious obligation with a mind of bribing God. We fast, pray, sing, tithe, work in the church in order to bribe God. A christian ought to think carefully of why he/she is motivated to do things, if love for Christ is not the motivator, then it is a selfish act. Ellen White writes:
The shortness of time is frequently urged as an incentive for seeking righteousness and making Christ our friend. This should not be the great motive with us; for it savours of selfishness. Is it necessary that the terrors of the day of God should be held before us, that we may be compelled to right action through fear? It ought not to be so. Jesus is attractive. He is full of love, mercy, and compassion. He proposes to be our friend, to walk with us through all the rough pathways of life.[iii]
If love for Christ and an appreciation of His sacrifice on calvary is not enough to motivate your commitment, then all your works are meaningless. God would not have us put our confidence in the flesh because “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD your God with all thy heart and with all thy soul (Deut. 10:12). God requires us to do all these in submission to His words. Any form of righteousness which undermines the scripture and exalts a “spirit” above the plain teachings of the word of God is a heart of stone, and a heart of stone cannot please God but will rather be an “evil worker”. Thus, God says “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Eze. 36:26,27).
The spirit of God causes us to walk in the written statutes of God and not to find a way to walk contrary to it while crediting our disobedience to the same spirit. Paul says beware of dogs. This same spirit of self-righteousness is prevalent in Christendom today even though it is tagged “living in the spirit”, some may be voracious like a strange dog while some may be subtle like a neighbour’s dog, as long as they bite in the end, beware of dogs and be careful not to be a dog. The Bible says in the book of revelation that “Blessed are those who do His commandements…but outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Rev. 22:14,15). Commenting on this verse, Uriah Smith wrote: “Dog is the Bible symbol of a shameless and impudent man”. Don’t be a dog but “Beware of dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.”[iv]
[ii] Hank Hanegraaff, The Counterfeit Revival, Article ID:DP244-1, http://www.equip.org/articles/the-counterfeit-revival/
[iii] Ellen G. White, The Bible Echo, June 25, 1894 par. 7
[iv] Uriah Smith, The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, Nashville TN, Southern Publishing Association, 1944