Devotion 9-24-15

Philippians 3

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.

To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.

2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! 3For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh— 4even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul now speaks up – likely the purpose of the letter – against those who are threatening the church in Philippi. In this case, those are the Jewish Christians who have plagued Paul from the outset, going behind him to the churches he founded, and telling the Gentile Christians that they must be circumcised and follow the Jewish Law in order to be Christian. Paul calls them dogs, evil, mutilators of the flesh. True circumcision is in the heart, in the worship of the Spirit. We are not saved by putting our confidence in the “flesh”, in human actions.

Were human actions enough to save, Paul himself would have all confidence, more event than those who plague him – he too is one of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews, and a Pharisee, obedient to the law. He was zealous to the point of the persecution of the church, and faultless under the law. He had been an ambitious man, seeking prestige as a Pharisee. And yet – he now knows that all that brought him to nothing, all his gains were in fact losses. The thing that mattered was knowing Christ. What if he has lost other things? They are rubbish (actual translation of the word would be “dung”), which Paul now regards as nothing, wishing only to serve Christ. The goodness he now has is not of his own doing even, does not come from obeying the law, but comes through faith in Christ. His righteousness, then, is a righteousness from God, based on faith. He wants to know Christ, even to share in his sufferings, and to die for him, if somehow, he will attain resurrection with him.

All of our accomplishments, all of our “good works”, all of our wealth and power, status and position, count for nothing – they are rubbish! What counts is turning our lives over to Christ, learning to live into his will, to live in the Kingdom now! Salvation is about where our hearts are, not about someone keeping score up in heaven! Salvation is about loving God and surrendering ourselves to him, not about seeking details of the law to condemn others.

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