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Summary: Philippians - Manual of Joy The Bondage of Legalism and Freedom of True Righteousness

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Philippians - Manual of Joy

The Bondage of Legalism and

Freedom of True Righteousness

Philipians 3:1-11

David Taylor

Legalism is as deadly as it is dangerous. It brings about spiritual bondage and frustration in the Christian life, it hampers the inner transformation that God intends; and it robs us of both joy and the pleasure of intimacy with Christ. Every one of us . . . is prone to legalism.

Main idea – Put no confidence in the flesh, meaning my goodness or effort or ability gains God’s favor or earns a right standing before God.

Legalism is the tendency to regard as divine law things, which God has neither required nor forbidden in Scripture and the corresponding tendency to look with suspicion on others for their failure or refusal to conform to these things. Legalism in all its forms revolves around salvation and/or sanctification.

1. The Dangers of Legalism (1-2; 5-6)

Paul is harsh because these people are dangerous, peddling a false gospel (Gal. 1:6-10). The root mentality in legalism is putting confidence in the flesh, which is the belief that my goodness or my effort inclines God toward me. We saw that this was Paul’s own mentality before Christ (v. 5-6). The root of all forms of legalism, whether it revolves around salvation or sanctification is unbelief.

 Signs of Legalism  Signs of Grace

o Judgmental picking o Desire to help

o Dishonesty o Vulnerability

o Interpersonal distance o Interpersonal closeness

o External righteousness, conformity o Inner transformation, real change

o Underlying depression o Freedom, thanksgiving

o Drudgery o Rejoicing

o Emphasis on tradition, rules o Emphasis on word

o Death o Life

o Pride o Humility

o Focus on my efforts o Focus on the power of Christ

o Sees God as taskmaster o Sees God as Father

2. Gods Alternative to Legalism (vs. 3-4; 7-8)

Paul is saying that genuine followers of Christ have had their hearts circumcised, have the Spirit dwelling in them working to transform our lives, and put their hope in Christ for salvation (Col 2:11-15). The path to true righteousness is faith in Christ, nothing else. Now notice verses seven and eight. Verse seven starts with a negative particle to emphasize a contrast but then verse eight strengthens the contrast even more with three particles that could be translated, ‘but; on the contrary; also’ to show a strong contrast between putting confidence in the flesh and putting confidence in Christ. Whatever profited Paul prior to Christ he now sees as a detriment), in fact all confidence in the flesh presently is a detriment because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. He not only rejects everything about his past life that hinders his relationship with Christ but rejects everything in the present that hinders his relationship with Christ. In other words, does this help me gain Christ? He is talking about ridding himself of everything that is a liability spiritually and exchanged that for Christ. He considers putting all confidence in the flesh as dung in order that he may gain Christ (1:21). His greatest desire is to gain Christ, to experience him personally and intimately.

3. What does True righteousness Look Like? (vs. 9-11)

What does it mean to gain Christ and be found in him? First, it is abandoning all confidence in the flesh (plan A), turning away from my own effort to faith in the gospel (plan B). What destroys legalism is justification. “Justification is the instantaneous act of God in which he thinks of our sins as forgiven (-) and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us (+) and declares us to be righteous in his sight.” This righteousness is the very righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God given to me (Rom 3:21-23; 4:3-6, 2 Cor. 5:21). When God looks at us, he does not look at all the sin that is there; he sees the prefect righteousness of his Son. Faith is what gives us a right standing with God not human effort or human goodness. Faith turns away from ourselves and looks to God to do what we cannot, which is, earning God’s favor and give us relationship with himself. That is why legalism leads to death; grace leads to life.

When we turn to him in faith we don’t just have a right standing before him, we actually know him. Not just knowledge of him or knowing about him, but know him. We know him three ways: We know him in a personal way; we know him in a powerful way; and we know him in his presence. That word, know, is the knowledge of personal experience. Paul has experienced the love of God in Christ. Paul is talking about first hand, personal, intimate knowledge of the person of Jesus. Jesus said of his followers, ‘my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27). We know him because he has set his love and grace upon us. We also know Christ in a powerful way.

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