Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Philippians, Chapter 3

Yesterday we saw an example of how humility can be a distinguished trait through Christ's example. Today we see that Paul continues this lesson by showing humility and servanthood of his own through his ministry. When we look at Paul's background we see that he was a man of some privilege. He was a Roman citizen unlike many of the other disciples, and he was a Pharisee before his conversion. What we see in the beginning of the third chapter is that even though his conversion was dramatic and complete, he still wrestled with issues of faith and had to humble himself before God.

"3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." – Philippians 3:3-7

For Jews circumcision is a physical act and a reminder of Abraham's covenant with God. Paul uses it here to show that it, as a physical act and part of the law, is still not enough to bring us to Christ. We can only come to Christ through a spiritual circumcision and covenant with Christ. Paul is saying here that there is nothing at all that we can do in our flesh to gain the righteousness needed to get into heaven. He uses himself as an example, as before his conversion he was a strong and proud Jew. Since his conversion however he considers it all a waste in comparison to Christ. These are very strong words and they add depth to an already interesting character in Paul.

Imagine turning over your entire life to Christ as Paul did though. What would you go through and see as loss for His sake? This is what Paul did, as his conversion was no small feat. This is what Christ asks of us when we fully commit to Him and His cause. It is not an easy sacrifice, nor is it to be taken lightly. It truly is a spiritual circumcision, cutting off a part of us inside as a sign of our covenant to Christ. Why must we do this though?

"10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." – Philippians 3:10-12

This is why we must perform this dramatic separation in our spiritual lives. There is no other way that we can restore ourselves to the righteousness in Christ except through faith in Him. I know I continue to repeat myself on this point but it is the most important message we can take away from this life. Absolutely nothing else matters except this, and Paul sees that here in the third chapter of Philippians. It takes a benevolent and loving God to cleanse us and forgive us because in our very nature we fall short of His glory. Only Christ's blood can perform that cleansing as it is like Formula 409 for the soul.

This is not to say we are perfect once we accept Christ's gift of salvation, and that is where many people and even many entire churches error. We are FAR from perfect even when we have Christ in our hearts because we are still human. Remember, we are saved by grace through faith, and that grace extends to even after we accept Christ's gift. We must be fully confident in our salvation because of that faith and because of Christ's promise, but the beauty of grace is that we are protected even we do (and we will) screw up. We are to strive to better ourselves and cast off that which we know is wrong, but we're still going to screw up and fall short of the glory. That is why Christ is there and his grace is boundless.


  1. What do you consider profit in your life that could be considered a loss in the case of Christ?
  2. What does it mean to share in the sufferings of Christ?
  3. Why do we have to throw off the things of this world if we are already made perfect in Christ when we accept Him?

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