The Way of Righteousness
I love to hear a good testimony of salvation. I like to hear them because I know there is always someone who can relate to it. Paul was known to share his testimony on a regular basis. His testimony was different than most of the ones we hear today.
He didn’t say :
I know what it’s like to be a drunk because I used to be one
I know what it’s like to be strung out on drugs
I know what it’s like to be an atheist.
There was none of that. Paul’s testimony was :
I know what it’s like to be a false teacher because I used to be one.
By the way, that’s probably one of the reasons he was so passionate when preaching about false teachers. Paul was probably around 30 years old when he realized he was preaching false doctrine. He thought he knew how a person is made righteous before God. When he was saved, he realized how wrong he had been. He spent the rest of his life sharing the way of righteousness with anyone who would listen. This morning I’m going to show you three things Paul teaches us about righteousness from this text.
1. There is only one group of righteous people (1-3).
A. This truth must be repeated (1).
Look at what Paul says in verse 1. He says he is writing the same thing to them that he has already told them. Paul had no problem repeating himself. He gives two reasons he repeated himself in verse 1.
1) It was no trouble to him.
It didn’t bother him to share the same gospel over and over.
It didn’t bore him to preach the same gospel over and over.
Any good preacher will repeat himself.
You say, “I need something new preacher?”
Well, you won’t find it in the Bible. Everything in the Bible is old. There is nothing new under the sun.
Why do you want something new? Are you bored with the gospel?
Why does the preacher repeat himself?
The gospel is the same
The devil is the same
God is the same
Human nature is the same
Eternity is the same
2) It was safe for them.
Whether they realized it or not it helped them to hear the same things over and over.
When you got married you told your wife you loved her. I hope you have reminded her since.
When your child drove the car for the first time you told them to be careful. I hope you have told them since.
The context here is false teachers. The church needed to be reminded that the devil is real and he is trying to destroy the church. He is busy teaching people the wrong way to achieve righteousness. The constant reminder would help the church to be on guard.
B. There are false teachers who preach a false gospel (2).
Notice Paul is warning the people. Three times he says “Look out” in verse 2. Look at his description of these people.
He calls them dogs. To the Jewish person the term had serious implications. It was used as a derogatory slang word. Goliath asked David “Am I a dog that thou comest to me with staves?” (1 Sam. 17:43).
1) Dogs have a keen sense of smell. They can pick up a trail and follow it wherever it may lead. These false teachers seemed to always pick up the trail of Paul. They would follow him to the churches to do their damage. The dogs were always following Paul around.
2) Dogs will devour anything. These false teachers had no regard for the souls of people. They would come into a church and devour the people. They would tear the church apart for their own personal pleasure. Many times the Scripture even shows them eating the remains of humans. This was a symbol of great humility as it removed possibility for a decent burial. The most famous person eaten by dogs was Jezebel (2 Kings 9:36).
3) Dogs are unclean animals. These false teachers may have appeared moral but they were not. They were sinful through and through. The term was also used to refer to male prostitutes (Deut. 23:18).
4) Dogs are cruel. They have no love for Christ or His people. They surrounded Him at the cross (Psalm 22:16) and they surrounded Lazarus on the ground (Luke 16:21). Today they continue to bring shame to Christ and His people. They find people at their weakest point and exploit them just as they did Christ and Lazarus.
5) Dogs are shut out of the kingdom (Rev. 22:15). Regardless of how sure they are of their own salvation, they are void of any saving grace. They will spend eternity with the rotting corpses they love to devour. There is nothing in heaven that pleases them.
He says they are evildoers. Their putting a stumbling block before the people of God. They are a hinderance to the gospel.
In September of 2020 two Los Angeles police officers were ambushed and shot in their car. Protestors against the police went to the hospital where these men were fighting for their lives and blocked the entrance to the emergency room. They yelled “We hope they die”.
The people protesting didn’t shoot the cops but they had a message they wanted to get across. In sharing that message they were blocking people from receiving life saving treatment. The Sheriff’s office had to put out a message that said:
DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL, "People's lives are at stake when ambulances can't get through."
I think we could all agree those folks are evil doers. These false teachers were blocking people from receiving souls saving treatment. Their message was a hinderance to the gospel. They were evil doers.
He says they mutilate the flesh.
He’s talking about circumcision. These false teachers were Jewish and they were teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation. The Jews were known as “The circumcision”. Paul would not give them that much respect.
Sure, they had cut away a piece of their flesh. That cutting away, however, was no different than what the pagans did. Pagans often mutilated their bodies in an attempt to invoke their god to action (1 Kings 18:28). The false teachers were cutting themselves in an attempt to get God to declare them righteous. This put them in the same category as the mutilators. This would have been a great insult to the Jewish leaders.
C. Paul describes those who are truly righteous (3).
They worship by the Spirit of God.
The religion of the Pharisee was dry and dead because they did not worship the living God. They mistakenly thought that God was pleased with external works.
Jesus clarified what true worship is when He said “God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Jesus gave us two important truths.
1) Worship must be based on truth. The truth is God’s word. That word declares we are made righteous through faith (Romans 5:1).
2) Worship is a spiritual act. It must come from within a person. It is not rituals or works. It is more of who we are than what we do.
They glory in Christ Jesus.
This phrase means that believers give all the credit for their salvation to the Lord Jesus. Paul said “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ..” (Gal. 6:14). Those who have been redeemed are fully aware that they did not redeem themselves. Therefore, they live in humility before the Lord. They give Him the credit for salvation.
They put no confidence in the flesh.
Even the most virtuous of deeds is stained because of the filthiness of the flesh (Is. 64:6). Any attempt to gain God’s favor through works is stained because we are dirty sinners. Everything we touch is stained with sin. Therefore, we must be cleansed before we do good works for God (James 4:8). The new birth cleanses us and enables us to work righteously for the Lord. Therefore, true believers do not put any confidence in the flesh. It did not buy their salvation and certainly cannot keep it.
There is only one group of righteous people!
The blood bought!
The blood washed!
The born again!
2. Righteous people do not trust in themselves (4-6).
Paul says if anyone could be saved by human means it would be him. He lists a lot of reasons he could trust in himself for salvation. We will break it down in three categories.
A. His heritage (4-5a).
He was circumcised on the eighth day. This is what the Law required. Listed first because it was the most important thing. It was the sign of the covenant. The fact that he was circumcised as a baby showed he was not a convert to Judaism. He was born to faithful Jewish parents.
He was a citizen of the nation of Israel.
He was of the tribe of Benjamin. He knew his tribe. He was likely named after the first King of Israel who was also from the tribe of Benjamin.
He was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Many of the Jewish people had adopted Greek customs because the Jewish people had been scattered to surrounding nations because of war. These Jews were called Hellenistic Jews. Not Paul. He stayed true to his Jewish roots.
B. His accomplishments (5-6).
He was a Pharisee. This is a group that developed in the period between the Old & New Testaments. These men sought to keep patriotism and the Jewish religion alive. They were the most orthodox of the Jewish religious leaders. To be a Pharisee was to achieve one of the highest levels of status a Jewish religious man could reach.
He was a persecutor of the church. Paul was so zealous for the Jewish religion he attempted to stop the spread of Christianity by force. He had been commissioned to destroy the church by the High Priest (Acts 9:1-2). Paul witnessed and approved the stoning death of Stephen (Acts 8:1). He made havoc of the church, he caused them to run for their lives and took many to prison (Acts 8:3). He had such a reputation of violence that even after his conversion no one wanted to be around him (Acts 9:21). Paul never denied the horrible things he did to Christians before he came to know Christ (Acts 26:9-11). He also never forgot how terrible of a sin it was. It was for this reason that he called himself the least of the apostles (1 Cor. 15:9).
C. He was blameless according to the Law.
He kept the Law. It was serious business to him. He kept its commandments, the dietary laws, the feasts, and the holy days. He was a sincere Jew. Yet he was sincerely wrong. If Paul was not saved by the law, no one could be.
There are people who think like Paul used to think. They say:
We’re not going to heaven because of our heritage.
Being an American doesn’t get us into heaven.
Having a mom and dad who love the Lord doesn’t get us into heaven.
Being patriotic and committed to traditional cultural values doesn’t get us into heaven. You can be a conservative and still be lost.
We’re not going to heaven because of our accomplishments.
Graduating with a degree doesn’t get us there.
Working a double shift for twenty years doesn’t get us there.
We’re not going to heaven because we’re a good person.
Morality, charity, sincerity, none of those things are going to get us into heaven.
I remember a lady got so mad at me she left the church because I said Gandhi didn’t go to heaven. Gandhi did good things. Gandhi was zealous. But Gandhi did not have faith in the Christ of the bible. He didn’t claim to be a Christian.
People will get upset when you tell them they can’t buy their own ticket to heaven.
If you are trusting in yourself for salvation, you are not righteous in the eyes of God.
3. Righteous people trust in Christ alone for righteousness (7-11).
A. Hope in Christ means we abandon hope in anything else.
It’s like Paul is making a loss and a profit column. He’s looking at his life and arranging things in those two columns.
Whatever gain I had I count as loss.
My heritage- loss
My accomplishments- loss
My good works- loss
None of that stuff helped him.
Notice in verse 7 he uses the past tense of “count”. He says “counted”. Then in verse 8 he uses the present tense “count”.
That means when Paul got saved he counted all he had done before as loss. After he got saved he continued to count his accomplishments as loss. The point is we don’t trust in ourselves for salvation before we are saved and we don’t trust in ourselves after we are saved.
There was only one thing in Paul’s profit column. That one thing was Jesus.
He said the worth is not in my heritage, not in my accomplishments and not in my works. The worth is in knowing Christ.
Cargo is of less value to a sinking ship.
Think of it like this. Paul realized he was on a sinking ship. He begins to throw overboard all the cargo he thought was so precious.
Paul’s works were a liability to him. Trusting in them was keeping him from salvation.
When children are small they don’t understand the value of money. You can give them two shiny quarters and they will hold on to them. You can offer them a dollar and they will hold on to the shiny quarters because they are shiny and there are two them.
Many people are like that with their works. They hold on to them. They believe they hold some value in heaven. Paul says knowing Christ is of more surpassing worth than the pennies of human works we hold in our hands. Let go of the pennies and take hold of the Pearl of Great Price.
Paul says he counted his works as rubbish. The word “rubbish” is a strong word in the Greek that means manure. Paul saw all of his human works as a giant land fill of waste.
Folks we have to understand this. God offers you His righteousness. When you compare your righteousness to His, your righteousness doesn’t stand a chance. It’s a garbage pile.
Take a ride out to the land fill.
Smell the air.
Look at the heaps of trash.
Watch the buzzards circle.
That’s the illustration here. Don’t trust in human works for salvation.
B. Christ Himself is the righteousness of the believer (9).
Paul says, “not having a righteousness of my own”. My righteousness doesn’t come from a religious system or a moral code. It comes through faith in Christ.
Paul says the righteousness comes from God. God gives it to us! How does He do that? Look at the beginning of verse 9. We are “found in Him”. We are wrapped up in Jesus Christ.
This is the robe of righteousness Scripture speaks of.
This is imputed righteousness.
How does the transaction of this righteousness occur? Through faith in Christ.
C. Righteous people want to know Christ (10-11).
This is how you know you have been made righteous before God. You want to know Jesus. You want to learn about Him. You want to worship Him. You want to know His power in your life to overcome sin and have victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.
You’re willing to suffer. Paul said He wanted to be like Jesus in his death. In other words, he wanted to be obedient unto death. He wanted to endure until the end. He was willing to endure anything because he looked forward to seeing Christ. He looked forward to the completion of his salvation- the resurrection from the dead.
When Jesus is your righteousness, He is your everything.
Do you love Him this morning?
Is He alone your righteousness?
Is He the only One you are trusting for your salvation?