This week’s section of Philippians finds Paul doing some amazing setup. He begins by writing:
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
So far so good, right? Seems like this is going to be a great encouragement. Next verses:
Look out for the dogs. Look out for the evildoers. Look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—
And there it is. Paul lets this outstanding warning fly—look out for dogs, evildoers, mutilators of the flesh… Here, Paul’s talking about the Judaizers who plagued his ministry—those who were trying to say that salvation was through faith in Christ plus keeping the Mosaic Law.
And as we know from reading Paul’s other writings, Christ plus anything equals nothing.
So Paul lets this this fly and then reminds his readers that if it were a question of confidence in the flesh, “I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.”
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day; of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Let those credentials sink in for a second.
Paul was serious business. A Hebrew of Hebrews; a Jew by birth, able to trace his line back to Abraham. A pharisee, a persecutor of the church, blameless in his keeping of the law.
That’s a tough act to follow. And if that’s what we were to have to do to be saved, we’d all be completely lost.
Fortunately, it’s not the end of Paul’s rebuke against the Judaizers and encouragement to the Philippians. All this is just set up for what comes next:
But whatever gain I had, I counted it as loss for the sake of Christ.
Jesus plus anything equals nothing.
How’s your memorizing been this week? What’s God been teaching you through it?