Summary: We either believe that Jesus Christ alone is sufficient for a life of faith or He is not.
“Living a Joy-Full Life: Know Your Profits and Losses”
I recall a conversation that took place during a Consistory meeting of another church I served. It was about requirements for who should serve on Consistory. Some wanted to add guidelines to what the Scriptures have already laid out. One of the deacons, who was a tither, expressed that only tithers should serve on Consistory. Knowing this gentleman only attended morning worship services, I chimed in (somewhat facetiously) and said that only those who attended worship both morning and evening should serve. After a few more such requirements were suggested – most of which were offered tongue-in-cheek – the point became clear: we cannot pick and choose ‘laws’ to add to our faith. We either believe that Jesus Christ alone is sufficient or we do not.
That’s precisely the issue Paul dealt with in his letter to the Philippian Church. There was a persistent group that was trying to add required works to faith; they were trying to pile up profits by which they could then gain salvation and blessing. But with Paul as the leader and mentor of this young church, this group was barking up the wrong tree. Listen again to verses 2-4 (NLT): “For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!” Paul tells them they are wrong – he knows because he’s been there and done that.
To prove his point, Paul talks about his life of PERSONAL PROFITS. Paul had built a profit of RITUALS. (5) He said he was ‘…circumcised on the eighth day…” Circumcision had been established as the mark of belonging to the Jewish nation. So the devout Jew believed that PEOPLE HAD TO BECOME JEWISH before they could become Christian - that God’s approval could only be gained by being Jewish. Belief in Jesus Christ had to be supplemented with a Jewish rite in order to be accepted by God.
We tend to shake our heads and wonder how in the world these Christians could ever start adding requirements to faith. Yet OUR RITUALS TOO EASILY BECOME REQUIREMENTS. Baptism easily becomes more than something that’s just important to faith – it’s soon a requirement. We start to believe that someone must be baptized to be saved – and not only baptized but baptized in a certain way and perhaps even at a certain age. The Lord’s Supper quickly becomes more than just a meaningful celebration – it must be celebrated a certain number of times and in a certain way – and those who don’t follow suit are not as ‘Christian’ as they should be. For some it’s the order or content of worship - it must be a certain way to be acceptable. Our rituals too easily become requirements for faith. Paul said rituals are easy to pile up as profit.