Philippians 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
God directed the apostle Paul to show the foolishness of trying to prove righteousness through what we have done. Paul once believed that. He was taught as a Pharisee. He chose that path. He believed that he had merit and that he could impress God with his credentials.
Paul pointed out that he had confidence in the flesh. He stated that he was one of the best in trusting in the flesh.
Notice his “credentials”. God commanded the children of Israel that the male children needed to be circumcised on the eighth day. We know that during their wilderness wanderings many of the male children were not circumcised. They could have been, but the nation had become careless in this matter during that time. Thus, before they could go and take control of Jericho, Joshua needed to make sure that all the males were circumcised. This was the sign that God gave Abraham for the nation of Israel in all their generations. This circumcision did not make them saints. It was to be done in obedience to the command of God.
Paul noted that his parents had been obedient to God’s command. He was circumcised on the eighth day. He was also of the stock of Israel. He did not come in as a stranger and become an Israelite. He was born into that nation. He was also of the tribe of Benjamin. Israel’s first God-appointed king was of the tribe of Benjamin. Paul, who was named Saul by his parents, even had the same name as the first king. He was an Hebrew of Hebrews. Both of his parents were of Jewish descent. He was educated as a Jew. He was taught and followed the Jewish customs. No Jew could claim to be more Jewish than he was.
When it came to the law, Paul was a Pharisee. The Pharisees prided themselves in being keepers of the law. They had distorted the law of God, and they were legalists. They insisted that it was by law keeping that a person was saved. They corrupted the law and they replaced God’s law with their own, and they taught that their law was God’s law.
In verse 6 we see that Paul was not a secret Hebrew. He was very religious and he made that well known to all he met. He proved his zeal for his “god” by persecuting the church. He was out to stop this new way. He was not going to have anything to do with them and he would do his best to try to stop others from believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
Paul declared himself to be righteous according to the law. Again, this was according to the Pharisaical law. He was blameless in that. His teachers told him that. He believed that in his heart.
There are people today who claim: “follow your heart”. God directed Jeremiah to write:
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
We cannot trust our hearts. We can convince ourselves of many things. I spoke with some people recently who reject the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are convinced they are the true people of God. They call themselves “the Church of Christ.” The Bible never uses the phrase: “Church of Christ”. Romans 16:16 is the only place where we have the phrase: “Churches of Christ”. Eight times we find the phrase: “Church of God” in the New Testament. It is foolishness when people get hung up on a phrase without submitting to the truth in that phrase. The fact that God uses the phrase “church of God” and “churches of Christ” interchangeably is another fact that Jesus Christ is God. God uses the terms to describe the same thing.
Those people are very convinced that they are right. They believe that only their people will go to their holy city. Interestingly, they never called it heaven. The ones I spoke with would not accept anything that I read to them from the Bible. They had their own spin that they put on it. They have a zeal, but not according to truth. How sad.
It is not enough to be personally convinced that what you believe is true. Your faith must be in God’s Word. If God’s Word does not clearly teach what you claim to believe, then your belief is wrong. God’s Word is truth. Paul came to understand this.
In our text, he was directed by God to remind the saints in Philippi of this fact. We do not know what all was going on in Philippi at that time. We know that God wanted Paul to write these words for their benefit. They are also written for our benefit today. There are many people today who have faith. The problem is that most of them do not have their faith in the true and living God. In order to have our faith in the true and living God, we must be following what He says. We must start with believing that He is the only true God. We must believe that His Word is truth. We must believe that His Word is our only and final authority. We must be saved. We can have opinions. Every person has their opinions. However, the true child of God must submit his or her opinions to the authority of the Word of God. If my opinion is not supported by the Word of God, then my opinion is wrong. Too often people will read their opinion into the Word of God and make the Word of God say what they want it to say.
The apostle Paul had been guilty of that. He was sure he was serving God. He was going after people that believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. He consented to the death of Stephen. He had letters from the chief priest to go after the saints in Damascus. He had soldiers travelling with him to give him the power to arrest these people and imprison them.
Paul came to see that all that he had was worthless. We will see that as we move on in this passage. This is so important to see. We need to build our lives on the sure Word of God. The Holy Spirit will never lead any person contrary to the sure Word of God.
Paul had been deceived. He was now a true servant of God. He had been humbled by God and he accepted that and he humbled himself. He accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Saviour and Lord. He was corrected in much of what he had previously held as truth. He cast that off and trusted in God alone. That is of critical importance. That is what we must do today as well. God’s Word is truth. We must accept His Word as truth. We must put our faith in Him alone for our salvation. He provides salvation through His eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are saved are changed, and they are challenged to have the mind of Christ.