Summary: We are saved by Jesus alone, not Jesus and culture or law.
Philippians 3:1-14 May 18, 2008
No Confidence in the Flesh
Peter and Cornelius – first Gentile convert to Christianity
Question: what to do with believers who are not Jewish – do they need to be Jewish to accept Christ?
Paul taught no – both Jew and Gentiles come to God in the same way – through Jesus’ Sacrifice alone. This is the first large controversy in the church, and you can see about the council that was called to deal with it in Acts 15; where they decide that Paul is right! – People who are not Jewish don’t have to adopt the Jewish religion to be Christian. They do ask the Gentiles to try to refrain from doing things that would offend the Jews around them.
There were Christians who didn’t agree with the council, or Paul, and they went around to Paul’s Gentile converts and tried to convince them that they had to adopt the Jewish Law and culture if they were going to truly be saved. They focused in on one law in particular, and that is the practice of circumcision (if you don’t know what that is, for the sake of the squeamish, ask me latter and I’ll explain it.) Paul gives them no truck – because what they teach strikes at the very root of the gospel for him. They teach that Jesus’ death and resurrection saves us only when it is combined with circumcision and the law of Moses. It is not “Jesus and Jesus alone,” but “Jesus plus this and this and this…”
You can see how opposed he is to them in the beginning of this section – he starts by saying “rejoice in the Lord!” as if to say rejoice only in Him, not in any add-ons that might come along.
He pulls no punches when describing the people we call the Judaizers. He calls them dogs: a word the most racist among them would reserve for Gentiles: he calls the evildoers instead of Law-keepers: and while the would call themselves “The Circumcision” with great pride, he calls them “The Mutilators.”
He places himself with the Gentile Christians and says “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh”
He says that the new sign of being in covenant with God is not some outward, physical sign, but an inward, Spiritual one – the Holy Spirit residing in them.
Christ and culture – Roman and Celtic missions – the Westernizing effect of missions in the 19th and early 20th century. You don’t have to look and act Western European to be Christian!
There can be pride even within Christian subcultures – we are better worshipers because we worship with guitars! – not
Culture does not save us – Jesus does.
What do you add to Jesus that saves us?
There are some who would say that, because of Paul’s anger with the Judaizers and his strong language against them, he is anti-Semitic. But he goes on to say that he is critiquing from the inside. I their spiritual economy, he is one of the richest guys around!
He ticks off the ledger:
Circumcised? – on the eighth day!
Race? – Israelite!
Tribe? – Benjamin!
Descent? – Hebrew through and through!
Law observance? – A Pharisee!
Zealous? – I persecuted the church!
Official status under the Law? – Blameless!
Paul has it all – if you are looking for an amazing Spiritual balance sheet he has it. The Judaizers should be very impressed!
But he doesn’t believe in that economy! What he does in verse 7 is take all the things that should be on the gains side of the ledger and he moves them over to the losses side.
In doing this he is modeling Jesus – remember the hymn to Jesus in chapter 2? – that’s only 10 minutes of talking ago – it is still fresh in his mind.
Christ Jesus, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a human being,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:6-8
Jesus gave up all of his rights as God, all of his “divine credentials” as it were for our sake.
Paul gives up all of his rights as a Pharisee, all of his religious credentials for the sake of Jesus.
He says that the only thing that he has on the gains side of the ledger is Jesus.
Everything else pales in comparison – those other things, that I used to hold so dearly – they are “garbage” (the Greek word is stronger that garbage – it’s the stuff the honey truck picks up for all you country folk)