Year 3 Day 81
Read - Philippians 3
Message - Scott Woodburn
A few weeks ago our devotions centred around the book of Galatians. If you remember that letter then you know that Paul spoke passionately against "other gospels". There were those who preached that salvation was by faith AND circumcision. It sounded plausible and even Peter acted hypocritically because of it but Paul stressed salvation was by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Unfortunately the Galatians were not the only Christians troubled by the group called "the Judaisers". Paul tells the Philippians to watch out for those who insist upon circumcision as necessary for salvation (v2). A Christian doesn't need to be circumcised because we are the true circumcision. Christians worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ and have no confidence in the works of the flesh (v3).
There was no one with more ability to boast about his fleshy works than Paul (4a). He was a circumcised man (5a) and a born and reared Israelite (5b). Paul's family knew that their roots and heritage were with the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin's parents were Jacob and Rachel and from their line would come King Saul. Paul's mum and dad were Hebrews, he was a Hebrew and more than that when it came to the things of God Paul was a Pharisee. The group called the Zealots wanted to overthrow Rome while the Sadducees did their best to get along with Rome. The Pharisees on the other hand sought to be separate from any unclean influence. They took the law of Moses incredibly seriously - Paul was no theological liberal!
This passion overflowed into Paul's attitude to the church. As Christians began to move throughout the Roman empire, Paul (then called Saul) sought to persecute Christians in an attempt to stamp out their faith. But this didn't cause him any sleepless nights. Paul considered his life and came to the conclusion that under the law he was righteous and blameless - he had done all that was required and much more.
Paul could certainly outboast the boasters, he had done more works in the flesh than even the finest Judaiser. Yet Paul did not stand on the shifting sands of his own performance. As he trusted Christ, Paul came to realise that all of his works were rubbish compared to surpassing worth of knowing Christ as Saviour (v8). He shunned having a man centred righteousness that came from the law and instead turned to Christ by faith (v9). This is Paul's vital point. The righteousness from God depends on faith and not your works or ethnic background (v9).
Therefore Paul's focus had shifted away from his own pedigree and now he was firmly focused on his Saviour and Lord. The Apostle understood that his life was coming to a close but even in the final days of life Paul wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. Even if Paul was called to suffer and die like Jesus, he knew that just like Jesus he would one day be raised from the dead (v10-11).
Paul hadn't yet been raised nor was he perfect but nevertheless he pressed on towards the goal of resurrection and perfection (v12). He put aside the past and pushed forward to his inheritance in Jesus (v13) and he invited the Philippians to imitate him (v17) and also think in this manner (v15).
Tragically there were those who had once longed for the upward call of Christ (v14) but sadly they had turned their backs on the Gospel and turned towards works based righteousness. Paul wept when he told the Philippians about such individuals (v18). These enemies of Christ would end up destroyed, they sought righteousness by following dietary requirements, their so-called glory would only end in shame and their minds were set on earthly concerns (v19). The Judaisers may have seemed to be convincing but Paul understood their awful end.
Not so the Christian. The true child of God looks for the upward call to glory. We are citizens of heaven and from that place will come our Saviour Jesus (v20). On that great day Christ will transform our bodies so that we will be like Him. We will stand again on this earth with bodies that will never die. This will be accomplished by Christ's awesome power which enables Him to put all things (even death) under His feet (v21).
The Judaisers put their confidence in the temporary and we would be fools to follow their example. Standing on our works for righteousness is like trying to catch the wind - despite all our efforts, it is a futile chase. The Christian understands that this world is fading away and therefore we swap the temporary for that which is permanent. Brothers and sisters, we are not yet perfect and we have not yet attained that which we hope for, but today we heed the call of the Apostle. We forget what lies behind, we live our eyes to Christ and we press on!
Q78 What is forbidden in the ninth commandment? The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.