“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!”
The first part of this chapter contrasts man’s righteousness and God’s righteousness. In himself, man has no righteousness before God. Man’s spiritual bankruptcy is conditioned upon the essence of God. God’s essence is absolute. He is 100% righteous. Man cannot attain 99.9% righteousness and relate to an absolute God. Any attempt, therefore, to measure up to God’s righteousness by man’s righteousness ends in a veto by God.
Present-day fashionable religion is operation bootstraps—man’s attempts to please God by his righteousness rather than through Jesus’ death upon the cross. This is why the three “bewares” of this verse surface at this point in the epistle.
“Beware of dogs”
We have all seen signs on the front fence saying “Beware of Dogs.” In that case, literal dogs are in view. This is not a command to beware of animals. Here “dogs” is a metaphor for false teachers. The dogs in the first part of the verse are similar to “evil workers” and “the mutilation” of the latter part of the verse. These three categories are all people.
They are called dogs because they act like dogs. Dogs were not pets in the first century. They were a hated animal. Man’s best friend in our day was an enemy in that day. The dog was a pariah. They ranged through the streets, often in packs, rummaging through garbage. They were vicious, snapping and snarling at anyone who came close. They were not domestic animals. The dog to the first-century person was a low life.
As a dog tears and devours, so false teachers tear and devour the work of Christ. They attempted to consume His work of grace.
False teachers are brutes. They are like animals. People who put God in their debt are brute beasts, dogs who savagely attack those who live by the grace of God.
It is the nature of some people to reject the grace of God.
It is the nature of some people to reject God’s grace. Not only do they repudiate grace, but they attack those who live by it. They attack grace with vicious legalism.
False teachers try to influence Christians to live in the streets with them, eating garbage. In packs they attack passersby. Are you intimidated to not live by grace? Do you feel you must go back to some form of works to gain God’s approval? Are you free to rest solely upon the work of Christ, not only for salvation but the Christian life? “Dogs” would love for you to live in the streets with them. They would enjoy your presence in the garbage dumps of legalism if you would just join them. Beware!