Summary: Sermon 7 in a study in Philippians
“…although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Let’s just start right off, trying to get a picture in our own heads of what Paul had going for him in his life as Saul of Tarsus.
In saying he was circumcised on the eighth day he was telling them that right from the beginning he was a good Jew and that his parents were good orthodox Jews because they took him to have it done. So he was from good, faithful stock. “…of the nation of Israel” means he was a citizen of the homeland, so although he was apparently born in Cilicia, which is where Tarsus was, he considered himself an Israelite first, as did his parents.
He might have wanted to make that clear because he was now going by his Greek name, Paul instead of Saul, and his being born in Roman controlled gentile territory automatically made him also a Roman citizen which endowed him with certain rights that were now coming strongly into play in his life.
But yes, not only was he a citizen of Israel his lineage was traceable to the tribe of Benjamin, so he was definitely a Hebrew among Hebrews.
Then there was his religious status. He was a Pharisee, so his zeal for the Law was a given, and his zeal for his religion was marked by his fierce persecution of the church.
Now here is a bold statement for anyone to make because if it isn’t true there is certainly going to be someone around who can come forward and say, ‘Oh, yeah? What about this…?” “…as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless”. WOW!
Insofar as a personal uprightness that is marked by the dedicated and meticulous keeping of the Mosaic Law, Saul could boast that no fault could be found in him. Can you imagine? He might have qualified to be part of the North American Missions Board!
Now each of us could translate all of this into our own lives. I can’t do it for you and you can’t do it for me, because nobody sees us as perfect and wonderful as we see ourselves.
I’m not implying any hypocrisy on the part of Paul here. This is the Bible and Paul was an Apostle of Jesus Christ and every word he wrote is true and divinely inspired.