Summary: Paul knew what it was like to be a Jew in the highest sense of the term, and had deliberately abandoned it all for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Title: If Anyone Had Reason To Boast In The Flesh, It Would Have Been Paul (Phil. 3:4-6)
• NIV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.
Scripture: Philippians 3:4-6 (NIV)
4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised 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; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
Paul has just attacked the Jewish teachers and insisted that it is the Christians, not the Jews, who are the truly circumcised and covenant people. In response, His opponents might have attempted to say, “But you are a Christian and do not know what you are talking about; you do not know what it is like to be a Christian.” So Paul sets out his credentials, not in order to boast but to show that he had enjoyed every privilege which a Jew could enjoy and had risen to the highest rank to which a Jew could rise. He knew what it was to be a Jew in the highest sense of the term, and had deliberately abandoned it all for the sake of Jesus Christ. Every phase in this catalog of Paul’s achievements has its special meaning revealed in this short passage.
(3:4) though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:
(3:4.a) though I myself have reasons for such confidence
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that Paul did not put any confidence in the flesh. He had gained victory over that temptation of the devil. His presentation in these verses was intended to review for the Philippines the things in which he could have placed confidence if he had wanted to. In fact, the list included things in which he did place great value and trust before he met Christ. His intention was to show that in the flesh he had more in which he could have boasted than any of the Judaizers.
(3:4.b) If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:
Someone else referred to all who place confidence in the flesh. Paul wrote as though he were challenging the Judaizers to a showdown. His preliminary conclusion before he even got specific was that no matter what advantage was brought forth by his opponents, his advantages exceeded theirs (Gal. 1:14). Paul was willing to stack his religious life against that of any man, and he knows that he could measure up to him and surpass him?I have more.
(Gal. 1:14). ”I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”
There are seven advantages listed in Philippians 3:5-6 that demonstrate what Paul used to have in the flesh but what he later counted as loss for Christ. Two kinds of advantages are enumerated. First, are those things which the apostle had by birth, apart from his choice. Four of these are listed?circumcision, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, and a Hebrew son of Hebrew parents. Next, he named those privileges which he voluntarily chose?Being a Pharisee, being a persecutor of the church, and having a flawless external record of legalistic righteousness.
(3:5) circumcised 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;
(3:5.a) circumcised on the eighth day,
Circumcision was a big deal with the Judaizers. Paul’s specific time, the eighth day, stressed that he was not a proselyte or an Ishmaelite but a pure-blooded Jew. Proselytes were circumcised later in life and Ishmaelites, after age 13 (Gen. 17:25-26) But Paul had been circumcised when he was eight days old. It had been the commandment of God to Abraham: “every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised” (Gen. 17:12). And that commandment had been repeated as a permanent law of Israel (Lev. 12:3)
(Gen. 17:25-26) “And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the very same day Abraham was circumcised and Ishmael his son.”
(Lev. 12:3). “On the eighth day, the boy is to be circumcised.”
(3:5.b) of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews;
Paul was of the people of Israel, which describes his heritage. His parents were both true Jews, unlike some of the Judaizers. He could trace his family lineage all the way back to Abraham. He was a true member of the covenant people (2 Cor. 11:22). It was the Israelites alone who could trace their descent to Jacob, whom God had called by the name of Israel. By calling himself an Israelite, Paul stressed the absolute purity of his descent.