by Wayne Barber
Freedom is the Divine ability in Christ to be and to do what He desires of us! There is no freedom in the Law. In Philippians chapter 3, Paul warned the believers that there were those (the Judaizers) who threatened their joy by seeking to add Law to Grace. In verse 2, after commanding them to keep on rejoicing in the Lord, Paul says “beware” three times!
Three terms figuratively describe the Judaizers who were threatening their freedom in Christ. Paul calls them “dogs,” because they preyed on tender flesh. He also warned of “evil workers” who disguised themselves in the body of Christ. Finally, he also called them “the false circumcision” because they completely destroyed the message of Christ. These false teachers were spiritual terrorists to the body of Christ.
Then, in contrast, Paul offers three powerful statements about believers. First of all, he reaffirms that believers are the only true people of God (“we are the true circumcision.”). He continues and says that believers are the only true worshipers of God (“which worship in the Spirit of God”). Thirdly, he says that believers are the only ones who truly depend on God (“and put no confidence in the flesh”).
In explaining his last point, Paul expounds on the fact that if religious works and heritage could qualify one to be spiritual, then he had to be way up there. He begins with his own pure heritage as a Jew. Then he uses three statements that show without a doubt his pure Jewish blood. First, his pure stock: “of the nation of Israel” (v. 5). This was the badge of honor to a true Israelite. This was the name of the covenant people of God. Second, his precious stock: “of the tribe of Benjamin.” Benjamin was the son of Abraham and Rachel. He was the only child born to Jacob in the Promised land. Benjamin was the smallest tribe but was very precious. The Temple stood in the land that Benjamin and Judah inhabited. Third, his proud stock: “a Hebrew of Hebrews.” This was a very proud statement! It meant that both of his parents were Hebrew. It also meant that he was brought up in the strictest of Jewish traditions. Then Paul also shows his prestige when it came to the Law: “As to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (vv. 5,6).
Not only had Paul been brought up in the strictest of Jewish traditions. He had chosen to be a Pharisee. These were the ones who not only obeyed the ceremonial law of Moses, but also added 613 additional commandments. No one was as religious as these people! The Judaizers could not touch them. As for zeal, he had been a persecutor of the church. Paul had stood by as Stephen was stoned to death. He was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians when Christ arrested him! Christianity is the biggest threat to religion because it is not built on works! It is built on faith in Jesus Christ. Finally he says he was “blameless,” in that he had obeyed every law the Jews had that could be obeyed.
Isn’t it interesting that God chose the most religious man that ever lived to preach the message of God’s grace to the Gentiles? Hey, Judaizers, you want to talk about works? Paul says “I’ve been there, done that!” Then he makes the most devastating statement yet to the Judaizers: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (v. 7). He uses the perfect tense! “I made a choice when I became a believer in Christ,” Paul says. “I am today what I am because of that choice. I turned my back on religion! I walked away from the performance mentality! Why? To receive Christ as my Lord and Savior. I’m not going back!” You can hear his plea to the Philippian believers: “keep on rejoicing in Christ.”
Don’t pay those who would seek to put you back under law any attention! Aren’t you glad that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ? In Christ we are free to be all that He has ever desired us to be! Beware of those who would put you back under “the law” or “their law.”
Wayne Barber is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.