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Summary: What does Paul mean when he brags on his past?

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Concordia Lutheran Church

March 21, 2010

What Are You Holding on To?

Phil 3:4-14

As you realize that the things we leave behind, some which brought us pain, and some in which we confidently based our identity, may we intimately know the power of His resurrection, given to us by God our Father, through the grace afforded to us in Christ’s death and resurrection. AMEN!

Robbing Paul’s passion:

In our bulletin today, something is unusual. Three little letters, that follow the identification of where out epistle reading is found in scripture. Anybody remember what translation is abbreviated KJV? Normally, the readings are taken from the English Standard Version, or occasionally I use other modern translations like the NKJV, the CEV, the NJB or the Message. All are accurate, but occasionally, like in this passage, they soften the message a little. They clean it up, so it won’t be as offensive. But sometimes, the message of scripture is offensive.

At the beginning of the chapter we are looking at, Paul refers to those who intentionally require people to do works in order to be saved in a derogatory fashion. Because one of the things they require is circumcision, he refers to them as the mutilation, but even then, that is the clean edition. The Greek is the phrase “cut off” instead of circumcision’s “cut around”.

Similarly, here, in verse 8, the translation is softened. Where the King James uses dung, modern translations clean it up, translating it garbage(3), worthless(3), rubbish (10)and filth (3). One modern translation uses dog-dung. But there is a bit of a difference between dung and trash. For example – some of us have some trash in our car, straw wrappers or napkins, junk mail – right? We tolerate it for a while – but how many of us would tolerate dung, or insert either of our two modern words for it, in your car? We could say the same for kitchens or garages, or college dorm rooms. We will tolerate garbage or trash or rubbish, but how long would someone tolerate “dung” in those places?

Would you agree – that crap is more offensive than “rubbish” or “trash”? That in cleaning up the scriptures, in reality, the translators have weakened how offensively Paul is referring to something?

Paul’s passionate feelings about the topic we are looking at, are diminished in the translation. So I used the old King James, because it expresses what Paul believes so strongly. All that he left behind, when Christ took hold of him, is dung to him.

Paul’s Context

The battle

A little bit of history will help us understand Paul’s position here. Paul was once the prize student of the prize teacher in Judaism. He makes that case here, and in other places. The reason he has to make it is equally clear. There are those people who consider themselves “experts” in Jewish law, who still teach the rules of the Pharisees are binding on Christians. Circumcision is required, as is ritualistic fashion, as is doing good works, and making sacrifices – before one can truly be a Christian. They will claim that their teaching is more accurate, and that Paul just doesn’t understand, and couldn’t understand. They want people to put their trust in their own words, leading them to God.

Paul knows better, and so should those he has taught. The passionate use of terms in this passage show the importance of the matter then, and it is no less important now. It is no less than the difference between viewing God as our father, and viewing God as some hyper-legalistic divinity that wants to crush those who failed Him. It’s the difference between a relationship with God, and seeing God simply as a puppetmaster. It’s the difference between life in Christ, and a dead system.

So Paul fights it on their terms. You want someone who can have confidence in their knowledge – he says – let’s compare and see how I do against these experts.

Are you guys part of God’s people from birth – Paul says “I am!”

What about from God’s chosen people going all the way back to Abraham – I am

I speak the language that God’s scripture was preserved in – for that’s what being Hebrew of the Hebrews means – most scholars used the Greek LXX for their work – but Paul was in the exclusive group that went back to the originals.

He was accepted into the group of men considered holiest – not holier than thou, but truly holy men – that is what the Pharisees were.

As you go through these things, I can imagine the church in Phillipi thinking they are watching a battle between the guys they had confidence in, who has a jackknife, and Paul, who is in a Marine Corp battle tank,

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