March 29, 2009
Remember that the context of this passage is the same as was the book of Galatians. That is, it is being written to counter the tremendous Jewish influence on the new Christians to continue in Judaism in order to secure their salvation.
Paul is not condemning the things he is going to list. Rather,
he is making it clear that the things
listed have nothing to do with saving faith and eternal life. He is speaking from experience. All of these things that the Jews held important did him no good. He tried them, and found them insufficient to meet God with. Now he is warning others who are being influenced toward Judaism or who might already be caught in the Jewish trap that these good things will do them no good.
I am continually distressed over Christian churches who seek to know the ways of the Jewish religion.
Let me make the point again that we made in v. 2. The Law of God clearly forbids the study of false doctrines.
EXO 23:13 And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.
Colossians chapter 2 tells us that we are to be studying the word of God, not the false doctrines that are going around. It was the Jewish religion's rights, rituals and ceremonies that were preached against by every New Testament author.
In other words, churches who seek to teach their people the Jewish religion's workings are in clear violation of Exodus 23:13.
Paul is telling the people here:
"You may think these things will prepare you to meet God; the truth is, they will not. How do I know? Because I have tried it. I had all of these things. If you think you have a work to be confident in, I had more."
The ones who are against something the most are the ones who have been caught in it, and only the Lord can open their eyes. He usually uses something drastic to get the deceived one's attention. Once a person is delivered, he will be "death" against the things that deceived him.
Only the formerly deceived person can realize the hold the false doctrines or even sins can have on a person, and the difficulty in getting away from those "powerful" things.
Paul had a perfect life according to the religion he had followed, and that religion convinced him he was fine with God.
It is not uncommon for people to look on their good moral life and said, "I would not be living a good moral life if I were not saved. Look at the change I have had; therefore, I must be saved."
Yet in their heart of hearts, they know that they did not hear nor understand about the atoning work of Christ for their sins when they made that profession. This shows that they have placed and are placing their hope for heaven in a work of the flesh.
Those who have been extracted from such a morality trap are the hardest on this trap. We know all of the pitfalls that are involved.
Yet those who were not in the morality trap before they were saved, have a hard time seeing its dangers and the hold that it can have. To them it may seem foolish to even consider such a thing.
Another difficulty I have encountered is that one can have an emotional experience which delivers them from an immoral life style, yet that emotional experience was not based upon hearing and understanding the true gospel. They will then look at their cleaned up life, and will assume they are saved. Only the Spirit can open their eyes.
The above is why I am so hard on the issue of asking Jesus into your heart or turning your life over to Him, and then using a good Christian type of a moral life to confirm that one is saved. I was saved out of that lie; therefore, I know its pitfalls.
Those who were not saved out of that kind of background cannot understand the tremendous danger of this false plan of salvation; therefore, if someone comes to them with this question on their mind about asking Jesus into their heart, or something similar, and they have a good moral Christian life to back up their claim of salvation, the first response will be, "There is nothing wrong with that. Sounds good to me," giving a false assurance of salvation.
They are able to honestly say they see no problem because it was not a problem for them.
All of that to say this about Paul he was saved out of a life of faithfulness to the Jew's religion. So he clearly understands what the Jews were teaching the new converts, and he is very "hard" on them in their false teachings.
Paul mentions many things. We cannot understand the seriousness of what Paul is talking about, because we were not there caught in these moral issues.
I see nothing wrong with circumcision because I was not saved out of a background that held circumcision as a necessary ingredient for salvation. Circumcision in itself was not the problem; the problem was the confidence these people were placing in it.
Now let us apply this a little
V. 4. Paul says, "If you have any hope of salvation in any of these good things, I had more. I am not speaking from hearsay, but from personal experience."
And, as I said, this is my chapter. When someone starts to tell me how much they love God and have served Him, so they must be saved, I tell them as Paul does here, "WHATEVER YOU HAVE, I HAVE HAD MORE."
But in saying that, I am simply condemning any hope in anything that undermines hope in Christ. I will have to say, "Praise the Lord that you have been faithful in these areas in your hope of heaven, but if you are using any of these things to confirm that you are saved or to merit heaven in any way, you are one that Paul is speaking to in this chapter."
V. 5. Paul gets specific as to where he had placed his false hope. Paul is speaking against any hope that somehow being a Jew and doing all of these things, merited a special place in paradise.
I am speaking against any hope that somehow keeping all that is expected of us as a Christian merits a place in heaven.
1. Circumcised the eighth day. He had been circumcised in exact compliance with the law. If there was any ground for any confidence of heaven in keeping the law, he had it. From the very earliest of his life, he had been in complete conformity with the ceremonial laws of Moses.
Remember the rich young ruler who came to Jesus in Lu.18:18-27 (Mt.19:29; Mr.10:20)? The young man said, All of these have I kept from my youth up. And the Lord gives us no reason to doubt the sincerity of the man.
Paul says here that if there were any advantage that could be gained from keeping any of the law of Moses and living a good moral life, he had that advantage.
I could not tell you how many I have had tell me, "I have always gone to church. I have not been that bad of a sinner." To which I wished to reply, "Whatever you think you had, I had more." I normally hold my tongue.
2. of the stock of Israel. He could show his genealogy all the way back to Jacob, Israel. He was not a circumcised proselyte out of the heathens, nor were any of his ancestors.
If any one had any hope whatsoever in the line to Jacob and to Abraham, Paul points out that he had this advantage.
There are those even today who try to claim some special place because they think they have linage back to Jacob and Abraham. The "Christian Identity"crowd is a good example of this false hope.
Even in the Old Testament, membership in the literal nation of Israel did not mean anything toward eternal life. The old nation was simply the people through whom God chose to reveal himself to the world. According to Romans 3, being a member of that nation did not given them a free pass on sin. Rather, it made them more accountable.
Again, how many times do people start telling about how godly their parents were, maybe even missionaries or pastors. My answer to them is, "My dad was a pastor."
3. of the tribe of Benjamin. Only Benjamin and Judah remained faithful to the line of David after the Jeroboam's revolt against Solomon's son, Rehoboam. Only these two tribes remained true to the true worship of God at Jerusalem.
Paul is not saying that he is a better Jew than are the ones who's ancestors revolted, but if there were any advantage to being a faithful Jew, Paul had it.
It is also said that the temple was built either on or very near to the dividing line between the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah.
Thus, if there was any advantage of growing up close to the church, or even in it, Paul could claim this advantage. He was a member of the tribe that was next to the temple.
And how common of a defense by the unsaved this is. We hear how active the person was in the church 'back home.' Maybe active in the youth, in the music (I played the piano, sung in the choir), in the upkeep of the church.
Sometimes I will ask someone how long ago 'back home' was. They will tell me 20 or so years ago. They are still depending on their good works from 20-30 years ago to merit some special favor with the Lord.
Parents especially, in their attempts to justify their children's present indifference to the things to God, will tell of how much that child did in the church when they were smaller, as if all of their spiritual activity would earn that spiritually dead child special grace when they meet God.
4. an Hebrew of the Hebrews. Both his father and his mother could not only trace their linage back to Jacob, but could trace it to Abraham the first Hebrew. There was no foreign blood in his line anywhere.
This was a Hebrew expression of the superlative degree of their Jewish linage. He could trace his linage to the very fountain-head of their race of people. He belonged to the tribe that had remained faithful over the years, and was the closest to the center of the nation. His blood line had no Gentiles in it. Any Jew would be proud of what Paul claimed.
If there were any advantage to be gained by being a Jew, a physical descendant of Abraham, as the Jews claimed, Paul said he had it.
Again, how many times have we heard folks justify their hope for salvation by recalling their faithfulness to the requirements of Christianity.
5. As touching the law, a Pharisee. The Pharisees were the most strict of all Jews in their rigid adherence to the letter of the law. Their desire to protect the law caused them to add a great many traditions, which they considered just as binding as the law itself, (Mt.15:2ff., Mk.7:3ff.).
Paul says here that if there could be any advantage gained by strict adherence to the law and to the many traditions added to it, he would have had it:
Acts 26:5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
And, obviously, this is common today, especially among the strict Bible believing churches. They hold up their list of do's and don'ts as the standard, and claim salvation because they live up to them.
Certainly, Christians will have standards that sets them apart from the world. It is a sad day for the name of Christ when you can not tell a woman from a man from the back. We can not stand against the sodomite crowd when Christians do the same thing in their apparel.
6. Concerning zeal, persecuting the church. Zeal has always been an important part of the religious life of the followers of the Lord (2 Kg.10:16; Ps.69:9; 119:139; Isa.59:17). If there is no zeal for the Lord present, then something else is lacking. Confidence that something is true will lead to zeal in promoting and following the belief. e.g., Mormons, JW, Mohomandans, &c.
If God's people had half of the zeal that they do, what would happen?
If zeal proved anything, then Paul set the example. Yet his zeal was without knowledge, Romans 10:2.
Paul here is destroying any fleeing to zeal for God as proof of salvation or proof that one has a place in heaven. He tells them, "You have zeal? I had more." He is not against zeal because he urges God's people to zeal in many places. What he is condemning is the use if zeal either to be right with God for salvation, or as proof of salvation.
7. Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. This is speaking of the righteousness for salvation. Paul, while not claiming to be sinless, says that he did all that he knew to do according to the law in order to be saved.
The Pharisees are described by Josephus as extremely virtuous and sober, and as despising luxuries; and Ab. R. N. v. affirms that they led a life of privation. The ethics of the Pharisees is based upon the principle "Be holy, as the Lord your God is holy" (Lev. xix. 2, Hebr.); that is, strive to imitate God. (Deut. 49; comp. Matt. v. 48: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect").
We have already made reference to this. The rich young ruler honestly said, All these have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? And he was telling the truth. Yet he was unwilling to give it all up for the Lord.
Paul is not speaking against morality. Rather, he is saying, "If a good moral life would merit anything for salvation, I had it."
All... The advantage of his birth, of his education, of his external conformity to the law. All of these things that others would see and say, "My, how that man must love God!" And the most dangerous part, he himself would look at all of these things and say, "I sure love God or I would not be doing all of this."
Gain...Loss... Before Christ met him on the road to Damascus, he held all of these things as things to be desired and worked for. These things were of great advantage to him:
* They were his assurance that he was right with God.
* They were probably his assurance that he was on his way up in his social standing with the leaders of the Jewish religion, therefore the nation.
As an unsaved man, these things that he mentions were gain to him. As far as he knew, his future was bright in the eyes of God and in the eyes of men. Then he met the Lord Jesus in Acts Acts 9.
The Lord met him. This gave him a whole new outlook on life.
The Spirit of God showed him that he was headed the wrong way.
The Spirit of God showed him the uselessness of all of these things that he was holding on to for his hope of pleasing God for eternal life.
The Spirit of God showed him that he was serving the wrong masters, abiding by the wrong standards, had the wrong goals.
Christ turned it all upside down. What he had been using for his hope for heaven and for his advancement in life, is now gone. It is lost. It is now nothing. Through the word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, the things that were gain to him are now lost. He has renounced all dependance on the things that he had for Christ.
I can honestly say with Paul, "Whatever good you might have now to confirm that you are saved, I had more."
V. 8. All things but lost
What are we willing to count as lost so that we can do the
will of God?
What are we willing to sacrifice that we could know more about Christ and increase in His knowledge?
Paul gave up all that the had ever hoped to be in men's eyes for the sake of Christ. He renounced everything that his heart might desire for the knowledge of Christ. He did not say that he could not have his heart's desires. Just the opposite. He does promise the heart desires for those who desire the knowledge of Christ Jesus, only now our desire will be far different than it was.
He suffered the loss of all things that he could follow Christ.
And do count them but dung.... Again, the context is salvation. The application can be service.
Here we see that he has discarded as utterly worthless anything that he might have held on to in order to merit salvation. He now considers all of the things listed as the most vile of all things as they were held to in hope of heaven.
Isa. 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken we away.
We have no more to justify us before the holy Father than did Paul, in fact, nothing like he did in terms of good works. If he had no hope, how much less does anyone today?
We will not cover much of the next verse yet, but we mut put it in herethe purpose of abandoning all:
V. 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
[Index] [Topics] [Philippians]