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ES/PHIL/21 Philippians 3:4–6

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  19:50
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Philippians 3:1–11 NKJV
1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Last time we found out that because we have the Holy Spirit living in our lives we now worship God how we ought…in Spirit and truth, that is with wholehearted devotion. This may not be completely evident in our daily lives as it should but it says in:
Romans 8:26–27 NKJV
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
This groaning reflects that we want to go to be with God and to be in fellowship forever in unbroken communion. More proof of this is found in:
Ephesians 1:13–14 NKJV
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
For this reason we know that we can have no confidence in the flesh, that there is no room for boasting:
1 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV
For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
There is no room for boasting about anything in ourselves, as I said this morning God hates pride. As Paul says: we have no confidence in the flesh but we rejoice and glory and boast in Jesus Christ.
So, on one hand he says we have nothing to boast about and then, it seems, that he goes onto boast! But there is a point to all this: He is saying beat this if you can! More than anyone else he should have confidence in the flesh but it did him no good at all in the realm of salvation or since. The only good that has come out of it is now showing that even if you are as good then it is not going to help you with God.
Paul has already set out Christ as an example in Chapter 2 and earlier on we had Timothy and Epaphroditus as examples and now Paul sets himself out as an example.
Let’s have a look at Paul’s credentials:
 He was circumcised on the eighth day, just as specified in Leviticus 12:3—a full-blooded Israelite even though he hailed from Tarsus. Like a proper Jew he went through this rite.
 And he’s not just any Israelite. He is not, as some, converted into Judaism but the credential is clear – He is of the physical children of Abraham. He was a true member of the covenant people. He declares this again in:
2 Corinthians 11:22 NKJV
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.
 He’s from the tribe of one of Jacob’s two most-favoured sons: Benjamin. Why were they special in the eyes of the Jews? Well, for one, the first Israelite King was a Benjaminite and his name was Saul, Paul’s own birth name. And the other reason was that they were the only tribe besides Judah to remain faithful to the House of David. Their inheritance also included parts of Jerusalem.
 A Hebrew of the Hebrews. ‘Hebrew was Paul’s native tongue. Unlike some of the Israelites, he did not adopt Greek customs. He knew thoroughly both the language and customs of the people of God. He was

a Hebrew son of Hebrew parents

This then moves on to the practices of his life rather than simply heritage:
 As far as religious education, his reference to being a Pharisee implies adherence to a strict interpretation of the Torah according to their customs. Even the name ‘Pharisee’ means ‘Separated one’. We read in Acts that he was taught by the famous Rabbi Gamaliel.
 His statement about persecuting the church makes him a bona-fide Pharisee. No one else had the zeal that Paul had. And Pharisaic zeal was shown very much by opposing foreign gods and governments. But he took it further than his colleagues by carrying out physical attacks on people to eradicate Christianity.

Paul orchestrated a terror campaign against the church and had achieved a growing infamy as a Pharisaic terrorist

And, in fact, in Galatians he makes it clear he was on the path, as a Jewish leader, to great heights and ambitions:
Galatians 1:13–14 NKJV
For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
 His connection to Pharisaicism was more than casual; it singularly directed his actions. His lifestyle also bore out his commitment to living a righteous life. Paul lived a life characterised by strict obedience to the Pharisaic code; he lived it out blamelessly, without fault.

This survey of Paul’s religious credentials proves that if anyone had a right to claim a favored status and to wield religious influence over his peers, it was Paul far more than the Judaizers he references in 3:2. If the Philippians wanted to put someone on a religious pedestal, Paul is the guy who deserves it.

What he was by birth and what he had become by conviction and achievement were enough to tally a high level of superiority compared to any who might be preaching circumcision and righteousness by the law.

Privileges of birth and human achievement, however noble, count nothing.

But how could Paul have been so wrong in his former life? And this is a question that has to be asked today of the many people who are religiously passionate. I do meet such people today. Surely there is nothing wrong with this is there? It depends. I hope to God that we are passionate for Him. But if this passion is about appeasing God or about pleasing man then it is here that it goes wrong. It is here that Paul also was wrong.
People today still think that they are good, especially when comparing with others, not realising how far short they fall of God’s ways. But as we find in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount the outward doesn’t always reveal what is really going on in people’s hearts:
Matthew 5:21–22 NKJV
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
Matthew 5:27–28 NKJV
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
When Paul looked at himself he would certainly have considered himself righteous for he had an outwardly perfect record and was above reproach but it was not until he discovered the righteousness of Christ that he realised he had got it completely wrong and was, in fact, spiritually bankrupt.
Everything we read about Paul’s heritage and life should have meant that he had self-confidence for he had not failed in his own religion. He then shocks his hearers by saying that I count all these things as loss, as rubbish, as nothing, as things to be discarded and not to be considered worth anything.
Paul made the grade on the surface for a person of God because of his heritage and life but once there he found it inadequate and worse than useless. In fact, Paul says that it is these very things that make the Jews stumble at the gospel.
They think that
1) they are a Jew therefore in God’s good books and
2) they can make the grade by obeying the law.
Not realising that in both cases the impossibility of this – it did not put them right with God. Paul is the example put forward as a man who did it better than anyone and was more zealous, more passionate, more law-abiding and, if were possible, more acceptable to God. He had attended Synagogue every time, was of God’s chosen ones, did all the right things at all the right times and was on the road to being the star of the Jews.
There are many today who are also striving, many today who go to Church not just every Sunday but two or three times on Sunday and not only that go every day to services and always celebrate high days and holy days. There are many today who seek to please God through all their striving in obeying commandments and not only that but many more besides, some even beating themselves up over mistakes quite literally until they believe they have got what they deserved.
But true Christians would never do this, right? We would never become like these people? You would never beat yourself up over mistakes made when failing God’s or men’s or our own commandments?
My suspicion is that it is all too easy to fall into the trap of being legalistic, of trying to keep the law or a bunch of rules for our lives and when we fail, as we most certainly will, we will be emotional wrecks because we have consciences attacking us.
My friends, the purpose of all that Paul has written here about his own experience is to show that we cannot be righteous in the sight of God without first being clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. We have no righteousness of our own. It is one thing for us to have objectives for our lives but it is another to think that somehow we can please God by living according to them.
How can we please God? It is faith that pleases God and faith alone.
Paul is showing the futility of trusting that what Country or religion we were born into or our actions can put us on a better footing with God. Yet it seems we still try but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gift: Once we have received it then we have the gift of righteousness, the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life where we are new creations and we have been made right in the sight of God. We cannot improve this situation. We are accepted in the beloved. It is when we realise this that our strivings cease. Then we really start to live for Him in response to all He has done for us.
His Spirit lives in us and then we can walk in the Spirit by faith, hearing our master’s voice. He empowers us to live the lives He has given to us if we let Him.
Ezekiel 36:27 NKJV
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
We’ve come full circle – it is only by the Spirit that we can live godly lives – all this as a result of receiving Jesus as Lord and Saviour into our lives.
Nothing we do, nor who we are, can make us right with God. Paul is proof. We cannot be righteous but Jesus is our righteousness and He has clothed us with righteousness. Our righteousness is found only at the cross covered by His blood – the proof that He paid the penalty for our sins so that we could be clean. It is all about what He has done not what we can do that puts us right with God. All strivings can now cease.


1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 NKJV
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.


Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Dunnam, M. D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / Philemon (Vol. 31). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.
Hughes, R. K. (2007). Philippians: the fellowship of the gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Leadership Ministries Worldwide. (1996). Galatians–Colossians. Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide.
Osborne, G. R. (2017). Philippians: Verse by Verse. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Runge, S. E. (2011). High Definition Commentary: Philippians. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Walvoord, J. F., & Zuck, R. B., Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 07:17 06 July 2018.
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