Friday, September 4, 2009

9/5- No Confidence in the Flesh, Philippians 3:1-6

(Paul and Silas portrayed by actors in Philippi amphitheater. They rejoiced and sang even in prison)

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth. Here focuse on Calvin's commentaries to the Philippians- abridging his commentary.

9/5 Philippians 3:1-6

1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

1- “Rejoice in the Lord” – Paul was saying before that Satan distressed them unceasingly with daily rumors. Not he encourages them to free themselves from anxiety and gain courage. He encourages them to be faithful and not fall back into their old beliefs. 2- “Dogs” he called these false apostles “dogs” because for the sake of filling their belly, they assailed true doctrine with impure barking. He called them “evildoers” because under the pretext of building up the Church, they did nothing but ruin and destroy everything. Some who are thus busy would do better being idle! Third, he calls them “mutilators of the flesh” [circumcision]- because they tore asunder the unity of the Church. “write the same things to you again” (1)- may mean that he wrote to the Philippians already on some other occasion, or it could mean that he was reminding them of what he had said before when he was with them. He doesn’t mind repeating things because his silence might have meant their danger. A good pastor doesn’t merely lead the flock to pasture, but also rules the sheep by guidance, and keeps the wolves away. If thieves and robbers (Jn. 10:8) are constantly on watch to destroy the Church, what excuse will the pastor have if, after courageously repelling them in several instances, the pastor gives in on the ninth or tenth attack? Some are so difficult to please that they do not want to be reminded even the second time, yet they are tempted many times and their memory of good may lose its retention. 3-“we are the circumcision”- that is the true seed of Abraham, and heirs of the testament confirmed by the sign of circumcision. The true circumcision is of the spirit and not of the letter (Rom. 2:29). “serve God by the Spirit” [spiritual worship]- means that we put our confidence in him, invoke him, and renounce ourselves with a pure conscience. The antithesis of this is a legal worship (cf. Jn. 4:23). It should be noted that baptism replaced circumcision and is part of our pure and genuine worship- and not a shadow of things to come.
3- “we boast in Christ” [glory in Christ]- we have to do with the reality and substance and not with symbols and shadows. “we put no confidence in the flesh”- “flesh” means what is external, what is apart from Christ. The zealots fo the law are not satisfied with Christ and seek to glory in things apart from him. Confidence lifts up a person, to that they venture even to glory- so confidence and glory are connected. 4- “though I myself have reasons”- Paul puts his confidence in Christ, but if he were to glory in the flesh he would have reason to do so- perhaps even more than most. 5- “circumcised on the eighth day”- Paul’s circumcision was done properly and was superior to latter circumcision (that a proselyte might have). He was of the tribe of Benjamin- meaning he was of a superior tribe and of the race of Israel. “Hebrew of Hebrews”- Moses gives this title to Abraham (Gen. 14:13)- and Paul means he could trace his descendants back to Jacob. “in regard to the law a Pharisee”- the Pharisees were known for how they held their sanctity and doctrine, and thought they had the correct interpretation of the ancient Israelites. “as for zeal- persecuting the church”- though this was a heinous thing, Paul mentions that he was keen and zealous for the law, and on this ground persecuted the church. 6- “righteousness based on the law”- he cultivated an integrity of life suitable for someone devoted to the law. There are two ways to look at the law- one from God’s viewpoint (in which we do not keep it), and the other from humanity’s viewpoint (in which we may keep it relative to how others keep it). In the eyes of other humans, Paul was considered holy- and free from blame- a rare commendation, yet he did not hold other’s esteem as high as God’s.

Thoughts: Paul wanted the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, not in the keeping of the law. Paul was heartily guarding his flock from the wolves, and we should guard our families from the wolves. I saw an interesting e-mail yesterday about a man who let a stranger into his house to live who taught his kids how to break his own household rules and ethics- to curse regularly and have loose sexual mores. But the man kept the stranger in the center of his house- and they gathered around the stranger every night to listen to his stories. The stranger was TV. It could be the internet if we do not monitor it. But specifically Paul was talking about a different kind of wolf- the kind who taught that we can earn our way into God’s pleasure by keeping rules. Islam has its five pillars, Buddhism its eight-fold path, and Judaism its ten commandments. Christians are taught that we are saved not by doing, but by putting our confidence (belief/trust) in God. Only Christ keeps all of the law perfectly- he was the perfect God-man. Being good, and keeping the law often leads to self-righteousness and pride. It is this pride that can kill the spirit inside- thinking we don’t need God’s help to be saved. Humility again (as in chapter 2 of Philippians) is the key.

Prayer: Lord, today may my glory be found in you and not in anything I do. Protect me from spiritual pride and help me to find my pride only in you.

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