Letter To The Philippians, Part 10

Philippians 3:1-11
Begin with intentional reading:
  • Read Philippians 3:1-11 slowly and carefully. Consider the following:
    • Did you notice anything in this set of scripture you have never noticed in the Bible before?
    • Did you read any familiar verses? Which ones?
    • Were any of the verses you read particularly meaningful to you today? Why?

Chapter 3 of Philippians begins with another of Paul’s reminders to rejoice in the Lord.  This statement is remarkable since Paul was writing to the Philippians from his house arrest imprisonment.  Despite the fact his zeal for spreading the word of God had landed him in prison, Paul found joy, and encouraged his readers to do the same.

  • Read Philippians 3:1. What does Paul say to rejoice in?  Where does Paul have us keep our focus? How does finding joy in the Lord override the negative circumstances we find ourselves facing?  Read Isaiah 26:3. According to this verse, what benefit is there in keeping our minds focused on God? How does peace make room for joy?

Paul concludes verse 1 by saying that he has no trouble writing the same things to them again.  Every teacher in the universe both understands and loves this verse.  There is nothing like repetition to help us remember important information, and Paul knew this.  He goes so far as to say that repeating the message to us helps keep us safe.  Peter shares this same idea in 2 Peter 1:13-15.  Peter’s conclusion is that the repetition is necessary so that disciples will be able to remember or recall all of things they had been taught.

  • What is the practical benefit of repeating scripture? See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 for reference.  What methods can we use to repeat scripture?
  • Read Psalm 11:11. As Paul says, how can repeating scripture be a safeguard for us?

Beginning in verse 2, Paul has a harsh word for a select group of men causing problems in the church.  Judaizers were a group of Jewish converts to Christianity that taught gentiles needed to follow Old Testament covenant laws in order receive salvation.  Judaizers were particularly concerned with the rite of circumcision, which was understandably unpopular.  Now, as problematic as circumcision itself was, the greater problem was that this group of people placed as much, if not more, confidence in adhering to the law and in works as they did in the saving power Christ’s death and resurrection.  For them, faith was equal to works when it came to salvation, and it was a message that both confused and caused division in the early church. Paul pushes back hard against this teaching. As believers, what we do in service to the Lord is a result of our faith, not prerequisites for salvation.  Paul wanted this to be very clear to the church in Philippi.

  • Read Philippians 3:2-3.  Why was teaching that circumcision was necessary to receive salvation “evil”? What is dangerous about connecting salvation to man-made prerequisites? Read Ephesians 2: 8-9.
  • In verse 3, Paul says that believers are to “put no confidence in the flesh.” What is the connection between man-made religious rites and putting confidence in the flesh? Are there modern day Judaizers who have added man-made works as prerequisites to God’s offer of salvation? How can we discern them?

Paul follows this section of scripture about not putting confidence in the flesh with what might seem like a strange turn to boasting about his own accomplishments. Why in the world would Paul follow this teaching with his own resume? First, it’s important to note that all of the accomplishments Paul would have been highly valued by the Jews.  Second, each of the things that Paul lists – aside from his birth tribe - were all man-made works to display an outward righteousness. Paul is making the point that in all of his religious performance, he was perfect and yet he was still not aligned with Christ. Paul is a humbling display of putting off personal identity to follow the Lord.

  • Read Philippians 3: 4-11.  Begin by focusing on verses 4-6.  Before Christ, what did Paul consider the source of his righteousness? When we base our righteousness on our behaviors, where does that leave God?
  • Read verses 7-9.  After coming to know Christ, how did Paul view his “religious accomplishments?” Focus on verse 9.  After coming to know Christ, how did Paul’s view of righteousness change? What is the source of Paul’s, and our, righteousness?
  • Read verses 9-11 together.  In terms of “works,” who has done all the work required for our salvation? In light of this understanding, instead of pursuing man-made works to prove righteousness, what did Paul choose to pursue? What can we learn from his example?
  • In your own life, have there been man-made works that you have pursued to prove righteousness?

No amount of self-discipline, law keeping, rule following, or religious effort can bring us into a right standing with God.  Only faith in the saving power of the blood of Jesus Christ can do that.  Righteousness is not dependent on our effort and is only available to us when we exchange our sin for Christ’s perfection through faith in Him.  Paul understood that man-made works can make us feel as though we are in right standing with God, but they actually lead us to self-reliance rather than God-reliance.   Depending on Jesus exclusively as the  source of salvation is not only what Paul wanted for the Philippians, it’s what Jesus wants for each of his disciples.  Be encouraged by Paul to put away anything that is an external measure of righteousness and depend solely on the Lord for salvation.

Be blessed. Be a blessing.

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