The Prerequisite for Confidence
Tim Temple


Our text is Philippians, chapter 3, verses 1-14:

Philippians 3

1Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
2Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
4Though 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:
5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9And 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:
10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Several years ago, a man by the name of Maxwell Moss wrote a very interesting book. The book is almost as interesting as the man's name. It was a book called Psycho Sibernetics . The basic idea that Mr. Moss brings out in the book is after doing a great deal of research on people who, for legitimate reasons, required plastic surgery–not just people who thought their chin was too baggy or their eyes too baggy, but people who had been injured in accidents in war time and in automobile accidents, people who really needed to be restructured–studies showed that one of the things that most quickly brought about their recovery was to inspire an idea in themselves of what they should look like and what they should be like. It was very interesting to discover that many times other people would get the same concept that the individual who had had the surgery had of himself.

The basic idea of the book was that once you have in mind what you would like to be, you will begin to reflect that image to some degree, and others will see that in you whether you physically appear that way or not, even though in fact you may not physically appear that way.

The book has a very interesting thesis in that regard and at one time had a very widespread distribution because of this idea of building up confidence in one's self. The whole idea, and it was a good idea from a human standpoint, was the idea of propping up confidence.

One of the things that is always interesting to me, as I discuss things with other people and look at their lives and read biographies of other people, is the kinds of things that give them confidence. We might all ask ourselves, “What is it that causes me to be the charming, wonderful person that I am? Why is it that I am so successful in life, and what is it that I depend on to make others accept me?”

I am sure that all of us feel that way, that we are completely what we ought to be and etc; but you might ask yourself the question, “To whatever degree I have self-confidence, what is it that gives me that confidence?”

The Apostle Paul, in writing this personal letter to the Philippians, touches on that very idea, as he writes in chapter 3, concerning the confidence that comes in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we look at verse 1, and particularly as we get into verses 2 and 3, we see that Paul is pointing out for us the fact that we do not need to, and in fact we should not, have confidence in the flesh, particularly and specifically as it relates to spiritual things, but really in a general sense our self-confidence in life.

Rejoice In the Lord

In verses 1-3 we have the prerequisite for confidence, some things that need to be kept in mind as we talk about the subject of confidence, some things that need to be true in our lives, some things that we need to be careful to avoid as we think about the subject of confidence. The first of these, in verse 1, is what we have referred to as “Rejoice in the Lord.” What does it take to have the kind of confidence that God wants to see in individuals' lives? First, rejoice in the Lord. Notice:

Philippians 3

1Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

Now it may be that by this time, as we have studied the book of Philippians and other passages of Scripture, you might feel just the way that Paul thought the Philippians might feel. As we read “rejoice in the Lord,” once again, this is a phrase that occurs at least eighteen times in this very short epistle in one form or another. At least the Greek word chairo , in its various forms appears in this book eighteen times. It is a term that we hear often in discussions of spiritual matters. “Rejoice in the Lord.” Perhaps some of us may feel, “I have heard that before.” And in fact some of us may think those are rather shallow words. “If Paul only knew what I was going through right now, and the things that I have to face, he would know that those are empty words for me to hear, 'Rejoice in the Lord'.”

The Holy Spirit understood that that might be the reaction because he says, in the second part of verse 1:

Philippians 3

1…To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

One of the things that is very important for us to remember as we study the Scripture is something that goes a little bit contrary to our standard approach to things from the pulpit, the fact that the Word of God is full of repetition. In fact, the Word of God encourages repetition. I, as a preacher, like to realize that for one of the cardinal rules that we as preachers are supposed to keep in mind is that we should never repeat a sermon. We should always be very careful to write down what place and what date we delivered the sermon, that we do not inadvertently give that same sermon to that same group again, because it is a cardinal sin in the profession of preaching to give the same sermon again.

The problem with that is that even though those are good rules for homiletics class or whatever standard of professional approach to preaching you want to take, those are not Biblical rules, because the Scripture again and again tell us in various ways that it is God's pattern to repeat things, and here is one of those places. Paul says, “I do not apologize for writing the same thing to you again. I know you have heard 'rejoice in the Lord' in various ways, but I don't apologize for saying it again.”

Importance of Repetition In Teaching

Notice there in verse 1, the last part of the verse, “to me indeed is not grievous.” The word “grievous” is a translation of a word that actually could be translated with our English word “laziness.” I think this is specifically what Paul is saying. “Philippians, I want you to remember, I want you to realize that when I write the same thing to you again, I am not just writing it out of laziness. I'm not just writing it because I need something to fill the space, because I have a certain amount I want to write on this scroll, and I see that I need to fill some space, so I will just put, 'rejoice in the Lord,' again. I'm not writing again out of laziness, because it is safe for you to be reminded of this again.”

Of course, as we have pointed out many times before, the Old Testament tells us that the Word of God, the principles of God's Word, are given line upon line, precept upon precept, that they are repeated again and again even without verses which specifically say it, as this one does. We know by example that many of the principles of God's Word are repeated again and again. So let's get straight in our thinking that there will be times, if we study the Word of God in an expository ministry, that we are going to hear a sermon much like you have heard before. That does not excuse our repeating something word for word. I'm not saying that it is legitimate for any of us who teach here at Abilene Bible Church to get up and say exactly the same thing again and again. Yet we must realize, as we study the Word of God systematically, that we are going to come across the same words again and again. God designed it that way, and in fact, it is important, Paul specifically said, for you to hear the same things again. So it is a very important thing for us to hear: Rejoice in the Lord. This is one of the keynotes of this book–that we should be rejoicing in the Lord.

Again, if we are honest with ourselves, it may very well be that there are some of us who are saying, “Well, even if it is safe to be repeated, and even if it is legitimate, it really doesn't mean a lot, 'Rejoice in the Lord.' With the pressures that I have facing me, the problems I have waiting for me at the office tomorrow, the problems that attend me as a mother with three screaming children, the problems that face me in the month and a half that is left before school is out, it's kind of hollow to say, 'Rejoice in the Lord'.”

Sometimes we overlook the obvious. Let me point out carefully what Paul is saying here. He is talking about one of the things that has to be remembered if we are going to have the right kind of confidence as Christians, and this is a prerequisite for confidence–to be able to rejoice. Notice he is not saying, “Get happy.” He is saying, “Rejoice in the Lord.”

I knew the day would come when I would have to say this in my father's presence, and I think that time has come. I have said it behind his back a number of times, and maybe the word has gotten back to him already, but one of the memories of my childhood is my dad coming in and finding one of us unhappy about this or that and having him say, “What is the matter?” And we would tell our sad story, and he would say, “That is ridiculous; just get happy.” I never expressed it to him, but I used to think, “How do you just get happy? You can't just get happy.” I was good at appearing to get happy in his presence, but that is not easily done.

The interesting thing is that when my oldest child was no more than one year old, I found myself saying those very same words to my little girl. I would never have believed that I would say that. But you know, we who are parents know there are times when our children are upset about something–sometimes we as adults are upset about something–that it is ridiculous to be upset about and the best possible answer is, “That's silly. Get happy.”

I want to point out carefully that that is not what Paul is saying here even though sometimes that is a legitimate statement to make. He is not just saying, “Get happy; rejoice.” Notice what he is saying. It is so simple that we tend to overlook it. “Rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord.” He doesn't even say, “Rejoice in spite of the circumstances.” He doesn't even say, “Rejoice because of the circumstances.” He certainly doesn't say that. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord.”

It is very realistic that we may not be able to rejoice in the circumstances we face. In fact, the circumstances we face may be a cause of great concern for us or a cause of great boredom for us. But Paul is not saying that; he is saying, “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Paul's own circumstances were certainly no cause for rejoicing. As we have read before, his physical surroundings included being chained to Roman soldiers twenty-four hours a day. He was imprisoned awaiting trial, which could have resulted in the death penalty for him. And so he certainly is in no position to say, “Rejoice in your circumstances,” or even “Rejoice in spite of your circumstances.” But he is a perfect example of being able to rejoice in the Lord.

Recognize That Sins Are Forgiven

What does “rejoice in the Lord” mean? Well, there are probably various ideas about it, but if we think about it, why should we rejoice in the Lord? I'm sure that various ones of us could give various suggestions, but let me suggest that to rejoice in the Lord is to recognize that our sins are forgiven. It means to recognize that even though circumstances around us may be oppressive, that even though the future may look bleak, our ultimate future is to stand in the presence of the God of the universe, completely whole and perfect, justified, worthy to stand there all because of what Jesus Christ has done. Even though our immediate circumstances may not be too promising, our ultimate future is a beautiful one because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. “Rejoice in the Lord,” means to rejoice in all that we have because of Him.

Certainly as we build a bigger frame of reference, and as we look at our lives from the perspective of eternity, we can realize that these things that may legitimately weigh us down in the human life may be legitimate causes for concern to us now, are nothing compared with the glory and the joy that is ours eternally, and it is all because of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, “Rejoice in the Lord.” This is one of the basic prerequisites, Paul is saying, for having the kind of confidence that God can give, to recognize our real source of rejoicing and our real reason for rejoicing.

Resist the Enemy

Then in verse 2, there is another prerequisite, something that must be done, as we rejoice in the Lord and that is to resist the enemy. In verse 2, you will notice, he says:

Philippians 3

2Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

It is an interesting thing to notice that Paul, first of all, says, “Beware of dogs,” because in our society today, we don't think of dogs in the way the first century Christians and non-Christians would have thought of dogs. Today if we say, “Beware of dogs.”, that simply means that I have a particularly mean dog or a particularly untrained dog behind this fence and if you come in here, you come in at your own risk. In Paul's day, there were wild packs of dogs that roamed the streets and that were actually dangerous to human beings. The term “dogs” was a term that was used for more than just the physical animal; it was a term of derision that was applied to those who did not measure up to standards they should have, and much more so in the first century than now, the term “dogs” was applied to people. We rarely do that. The Chinese like to use that term, but in our western civilization, we don't use that term applied in the derogatory way that it used to be used. You are probably aware of the fact that the Jews of Paul's day referred to any non-Jew as a dog. The non-Jews of that day were referred to as “Gentile dogs.”

What Paul has done here is to take this term, which was a term of derision, and turn it around and apply it to those Jews who are misusing Judaism because that is one of the things that he has in mind as he tells the Philippians to resist the enemy. In verse 2, we have these three warnings: Beware of dogs; beware of evil workers, and beware of the concision. In the context of this passage, he is talking about those who are misusing Judaism.

The Misuse of Judaism

Let me get ahead of myself for a minute and tell you why we say that. Notice the last word of verse 2, the word “concision,” which is a translation of a Greek word that means “to mutilate” or “to cut.” Probably you are aware of the fact that one of the basic characteristics, one of the distinctive characteristics, of Judaism was the rite of circumcision in which a male baby was cut in the flesh as a sign of his relationship with God, his covenant relationship with God. It was the distinctive of Judaism. Paul is talking not about circumcision, not the careful surgical cutting of the flesh; he is talking about the mutilation of the flesh. In that he is talking about the misuse of Judaism. In the very next verse, he compares it with circumcision. Notice in verse 3:

Philippians 3

3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Go back to verse 2. He is using two terms to describe the misuse of Judaism. To get these things a bit more firmly fixed in our minds, let me quickly mention the kinds of Judaism that we find in the Scripture. First, Judaism, by whatever name it may be called, is sometimes referred to as “Biblical Judaism.” This is Judaism as God intended it to be, with the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, being an example of what God can do in the lives of men and women, an example as a lighthouse to the world of what God can do with those who will wholly trust Him. That is exactly what His purpose was in bringing the nation of Israel into existence–to demonstrate to the rest of the world what God could do with men and women who would let Him be king in their nation and in their individual lives. So there are many references to Biblical Judaism.

The example of this closest to Paul's day would be John the Baptist. In the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, said, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He went on to explain that the Messiah, predicted in the Old Testament, was about to make His appearance.

Remember in the Gospel of Matthew, we read that thousands went out from the area around Jerusalem and the other cities and towns around there to hear what John the Baptist had to say. He preached lengthy sermons to these people concerning the Messiah. His sermons are not recorded for us except in a very summary form, but John the Baptist was an example of ones who correctly used Biblical Judaism.

Of course, the great men of the Old Testament are examples of what we might call “Biblical Judaism,” that which God intended to do. The lives of David and Solomon, and Saul, as they at various times walked with the Lord, Abraham and all of those Old Testament heros were what God intended as Judaism.

Judaism Based On Tradition

However by the time of Jesus' day, there had developed what we would call “Pharisaic Judaism,” which was the idea of Judaism that was based on the traditions of the elders. What had happened by the time Jesus came along was that the Pharisees, who were a religious, political group in Israel, had codified all of the Old Testament law; and they had come up with a list of 365 negative commandments and 250 positive commandments, so that Judaism had degenerated by the time Jesus lived on the earth to a simple matter of keeping rules: If you do these things you will be spiritual; if you don't do this other list of things, you will be non-spiritual.

Of course, we have the same thing by other names today. “Legalism” is a perfect name for what had happened to Judaism by the time Jesus came into the world. We are fortunate to live in this society. The Pharisees had 365 negative commandments. Some of the legalists that we know have a lot of things that you should not do–the dirty dozen, the filthy five and things like that. They say that if you do those things, you could not be a Christian. If you smoke or drink or chew, or go with those who do, and all of these things that you must not do, you cannot be a Christian. Think how bad it would have been to have lived when they had 365 negative commandments, a negative commandment for every day of the year.

We may have trouble with the legalists, but at least it could have been worse. We could have had been born in the days of the Pharisees. They had 250 positive things that you had to do. Even if you were able to successfully refuse to do those 365, you had at the same time to be doing these 250 positive ones. You can see that it was an empty, hollow, meaningless form of religion.

This is why Jesus Christ, when He came into the world, was misunderstood. Jesus Christ dealt not with this external formula, outward kind of religion, but He dealt with matters of the heart.

Nationalistic Judaism

Then after the time of Jesus, there developed what you could call “Nationalistic Judaism.” This was the idea held even by the disciples shortly after Christ went back to Heaven. In order to be saved, you had to believe in Jesus Christ certainly, but you had to, in a sense, become a Jew. You had to convert to Judaism. You had to accept Jesus as the Messiah, and in order to do that, you had to essentially become a Jew.

You will remember that the first conference that the Christians had, which is described for us in the book of Acts, was that council in Jerusalem in which they decided this was not the case and that believers in Jesus Christ could be Christians, even though they did not use that name, whether they were circumcised or not, whether they kept the Old Testament law or not. So there was this “Nationalistic Judaism.”

Christian Judaism

Paul is addressing, in chapter 3, what developed after “Nationalistic Judaism” was dealt with by the council in Jerusalem. The same kind of thing is addressed in the book of Galatians and in various places in the New Testament, and it is what we might call “Christian Judaism.” The idea of Christian Judaism took Nationalistic Judaism a little further, and this was the idea that Christ's death provides for salvation. There is no other means for salvation, but sanctification, that living a life that is pleasing to God comes through obeying the Mosaic Law. So Paul wrote the book of Galatians to clarify that even sanctification does not come by keeping the Mosaic Law, that having begun in the faith, we continue in the faith and as we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, we walk in Him also.

We do not have to accept Christ by faith and then live by a set of rules and standards for our successful Christian living. Of course, this is still a problem that we see even today. That is why God saw to it that these principles were included in the New Testament. Even though we don't have exactly the same problem, we still have exactly the same principles–people trying to please God by what they can do and by what they refuse to do. “I do these fifty things, and therefore I am spiritual. I don't do these things and therefore I am spiritual.” People who get into that trap never stop to look at the heart.

Works of the Flesh

Go back to Philippians, chapter 3. This is what Paul is talking about. He says, “Beware of dogs.” He is referring to those that misuse Judaism. Actually, in each of these cases he is talking about those who misuse Judaism as it was intended by God. “Beware of evil workers.” These would be those who think that you can work and obey the Mosaic Law in order to have approval of God or for salvation. “Beware of the concision”–that is, those who mutilate. His idea here is that if circumcision is done for anything other than a spiritual purpose, it is nothing more than mutilation of the flesh.

This is really a summary of the idea that Paul is trying to get across. Remember again, our basic context is the prerequisite for confidence. If we are going to have the kind of confidence that Paul says is available through Jesus Christ, then we must be careful that we are not depending upon some work of the flesh to make us right with God.

Paul is going to say that we can have confidence because of Jesus Christ not only in spiritual things, but in all of our activities. We can be confident people because of Jesus Christ; but before we can be confident, a prerequisite for that is that we do not depend on any human activity.

Confession of Sin Necessary

This word “concision” is an interesting word to me, because it calls to mind one of my favorite concepts in the Scripture and one of my favorite passages. Turn with me to Psalm 51. Psalm 51 has to do with confession of sin and what is really involved in confession of sin. It is the same basic principle that we are talking about here with the matter of circumcision as opposed to concision, as he calls it in Philippians, chapter 3, verse 2. Notice in Psalm 51, beginning with verse 15, David has confessed his sin. He has recognized his sin. He has admitted it, and now it says in verses 15-17:

Psalm 51

15O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17[Notice this] The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Notice again what David is saying here. First, in verse 15, he is saying, “Lord, once I have confessed my sin and have received your forgiveness, then you will open my lips and I will be able to sing forth your praise.”

The idea is: I will not be able to praise you, God, unless my sins have been forgiven. Of course, one of the basic principles of the chapter is that God forgives sin when we confess it. But then he says, in verse 16, “Lord thou desirest not sacrifice, lest I would give it.” In other words, a sacrifice, especially in David's day, was an outer, symbolic thing. If there was anybody who was qualified to offer a sacrifice, and he was wealthy enough to offer a precious sacrifice, it would have been King David. But notice what he says: “Thou desirest not sacrifice.” “God, You are not interested in how many bulls and heifers I can slaughter and pile up on an altar and set fire to. That's not what You are interested in, not those external things. If that's what I thought You wanted me to give, I would give it.” But notice in verse 17:

Psalm 51

17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

The only reason God is interested in those external, physical sacrifices is that it was supposed to demonstrate a broken and a contrite heart. With that in mind, let's go back to Philippians, chapter 3, and notice that that is exactly what Paul is saying about any external rites, even something that is as sacred to the Jewish mind as the rite of circumcision, one of the basic concepts of Judaism. Paul says, “If you are following the rite of circumcision just to impress people with your spirituality, then that is really not circumcision at all, but mutilation of the flesh, and you might as well just take a knife and cut yourself all up. It is not circumcision at all.”

The concision that he refers to is the cutting of the same part of the body that would be cut in circumcision. Physically it might appear the same as circumcision that would have been done for the right reason, but God looks on the heart. God sees that circumcision done for the wrong reason, and He says, “That is just mutilation.”

Let's stop and think about this as it applies to our day because circumcision is done primarily for health reasons, particularly among us Gentiles. Even though it is a fairly common thing, it is rarely done for spiritual reasons. In fact, I would say it is never done in Gentile circles for spiritual reasons.

External Evidences of Christianity

Let's think of some of the things we as Christians might do as external evidence of Christianity or the right relationship with the Lord. Why do you not go to those places that you might not go to? Why do you not follow those practices that you do not follow?

If we stop and think about it, many times we would have to say, “Christians just don't do those things. That is just not what a Christian would do.” There is a sense in which we should know in advance some of the things that we just are not going to bother with and that we should not be having to think, “Will I do this or will I not do this?”, over and over again, every time the temptation comes along. There should be a general list of things that we know as Christians we are going to stay away from, but I am talking not about that, but about our motivation. Do we do what we do and refuse to do what we refuse to do because of the pleasure or displeasure that it might bring to the heart of God, or do we do them so that people will say, “My what a Christian! My what a fine Christian!”

Paul says that you will never have the confidence that Christ can give if you are doing those things for those reasons or refusing to do those things for those reasons. We must resist Satan in this area of doing things as the Judaizers were doing, as the misuse of Judaism of doing external things simply for external reasons.

Refrain From the Flesh

Moving on into verse 3, Paul gives us the contrast of that. He said:

Philippians 3

3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

We refer to this as a third prerequisite for having the confidence Christ can give, and that is to refrain from the flesh. Notice in the context here what Paul means by that phrase. Actually it is my phrase and not Paul's, but I am trying to describe what Paul is saying. “Have no confidence in the flesh.” It doesn't mean, obviously, that we stop making use of the flesh. We certainly live in our human bodies, and we certainly make use of our human bodies, and Paul is not saying (and I think it is very clear from the context), “Don't ever think about the physical flesh.” But he is talking about our confidence in what we can accomplish. “Refrain from being confident in what you can do.” This is the third prerequisite for having the kind of confidence that God can give.

In verses 4-14, Paul begins to give us a personal example of the kind of confidence that he is talking about. We will not be able to get through all of these verses, but we want to at least begin and think about the first things Paul had to say about an example of confidence.

Importance of Qualification for Speaking

Here is one of the interesting things about the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has chosen Paul to write these words and to say these things, because Paul is the perfect example of a person who has chosen not to have confidence in the flesh. As we come to this passage, I am reminded of the importance of being qualified to say certain things. For example, if we were going to discuss the best kind of fuel for a Lear Jet, you would not be too impressed with my opinion, because I don't happen to own a Lear Jet and I'm not able to even fly it. So my opinion of the best kind of fuel for a Lear Jet would not be particularly important to you. Neither would my discussion of what would be the best way to make money in the stock market, because I have not made any money in the stock market. In fact, I am not even sure how the stock market works. So you would not have much interest if I said, “Now be very careful about the stock market.” Obviously that would go in one ear and out the other. If someone who was involved in the stock market made that statement, you might tend to listen.

The example that I have heard my dad use is that it is not very impressive when an eighty year old man says, “I'm not at all tempted by pretty young girls.” That particular individual and most people in that category are beyond the point of having that to worry about, so he is not really very qualified to brag on that. Notice what Paul is saying here. He is talking about not having confidence in the flesh, and in verse 4, he says:

Philippians 3

4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh…

You see, Paul was qualified to talk about not having confidence in the flesh because he very easily could have had confidence in the flesh. In fact, he says, “If there is anybody who could take their confidence from their accomplishments, I am that person.”

Paul's Qualifications

Notice in verses 4-6, he talks about the past drives that he had. Let's quickly look through these.

Philippians 3

4Though 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:

You remember that statement was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and I believe that what that is saying is that Paul was the most qualified man in the world of his day to have confidence in himself. It wasn't just a bragging statement. God the Holy Spirit is saying, “Here is the man who could have had confidence in every area of life.” He was what we would call today a Renaissance man. He was accomplished in many many areas of life. He lists those. First, in the area of ritual, he says in verse 5:

Philippians 3

5Circumcised the eighth day, [you want to talk about ritual. I was circumcised on the eighth day] of the stock of Israel, [you want to talk about relationships–I am of the perfect kind of background] of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

Now that doesn't mean a great deal to us in the twentieth century. But in Paul's day that carried a note of respectability that no other tribe of Israel carried. The tribe of Benjamin was well known as a tribe that stood for the throne of David in particular, and for the glory of God in general, through the years, so to be from the tribe of Benjamin was a special mark of respectability, a special mark of loyalty, at least loyalty to Israel, if not to God Himself. So he said, “I had the right credentials, not only that, but I am of the right race, a Hebrew of the Hebrews.” What he means by this term is that there was no mixture in any of his background. He could trace his ancestry all the way back to father Abraham, and there was no inter-marriage any where in his background. In his father's line and in his mother's line there was not a Gentile anywhere. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, certainly qualified in that area; as touching the law, a Pharisee. He mentioned the Pharisees earlier. The Pharisees were those who held strictly to the law of Moses, and they were highly regarded as the ultra conservatives of their day.

The other group that we hear about are the Sadducees. There were these two groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Sadducees were the liberals of the first century. We are told in the book of Acts that Paul once got out of a mob scene and was able to make his way out because he brought up the subject of the Resurrection and got the Sadducees and the Pharisees all excited. He got them into a debate and a mob scene with each other and in the rhubarb, he got out the back door. The reason for that was that the Sadducees do not believe in angels or in the Resurrection, and the Pharisees, of course, held strongly to those two points. So Paul just got these religious people debating with each other and was able to get away. He was the only guy in the group who knew the truth.

Paul was not a Sadducee. He was not a liberal. He did not try to explain away the principles of the Word of God. He was, concerning religion, a Pharisee, a strict interpreter of the Word of God. He touches upon his zeal in verse 6:

Philippians 3

6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church…

His reputation was that of one who was a zealous defender of Judaism, and the rightness of Judaism, as opposed to the Gentiles.

Our Confidence In Christ

Then finally, as concerning righteousness:

Philippians 3

6…touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Now particularly remember as he talks about this blamelessness, Paul is talking here about outer, external evidences of religion. He does not mean that he never committed a sin, but he means that outwardly he was able to keep all of the law. He later tells us that when he fully understood what the law, “Thou shalt not covet,” meant, he understood what it was to break the law. That was what showed him the law was not external. It had to do with heart attitudes, too, because covetousness is a heart attitude; but as far as the outward context was concerned, Paul was a blameless keeper of the law. So we are setting the stage for what Paul is going to talk about in his present determination in verses 7-9.

Remember that we are talking about the confidence that comes in Jesus Christ and that our confidence must not be in the flesh and the confidence that we pump up in ourselves will simply not get us through the problems and issues of life. Confidence that the Lord Jesus Christ can give, the confidence that a relationship with Him can give, is the kind of confidence that can see us through even the most difficult of circumstances.

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