Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 years ago

The Right Kind of Righteousness

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

If you are able, please remain standing and let's give our attention to God's word and Philippians, Paul's letter to the Philippians, chapter three, versus one to sixteen, Philippians three, verses one to sixteen. Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord to write the same things to you. Is No trouble to me and is safe for for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil doers, 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, though 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. But whatever gain I had I counted as law US for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as lost because of their surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in...

...his death, that, by any means possible, I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but one thing I do forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the Upward Call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way and if, in anything, you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have a tained. My God bless his word to us. Please be seated. Paul begins this next section of his letter to the Philippians with some very harsh words, fighting words, so to speak. He is being very clear about who is who and what is what. He calls these people, these Judaizers, who are bothering the Philippians and bothering on the Church of God. He calls them dogs, he calls them evil doers, he calls them mutilators of the flesh. He speaks in this very harsh way, though, to make a particular point. He wants the Philippians to understand that there...

...is something, even in their rejoicing, to be on the watch for particular people, but also a particular philosophy or religion or way of thinking about our place before God. He sets a dividing line, a great dividing line, between righteousness that comes from the law and righteousness that comes from faith. We want to think about this evening and and Lord willing come away with this, the kind of clarity that the Holy Spirit, through his servant Paul, wants us to have about what true godliness is and what it is that we have gained in Christ that we might be willing, like Paul, to lose everything else. So I want to begin and thinking about those kinds of things by thinking about this command to be watchful, to look out. He begins in verse one by saying things very similar to what he has been saying. Rejoice. This is something that's come up many times already, and he says it in verse one, concluding these things. Finally, my brother's rejoice in the Lord, but he adds to that a watchfulness. It reminds us that are rejoicing in Jesus Christ for all that we have been given, in all that we have received. It's not a party, it's not just a fun kind of thing. The rejoicing that we have in Jesus Christ is very deep. Sometimes it's very joyful, sometimes it's very serious, but it includes with it a certain kind of of watchfulness. Even in our rejoicing and on our certainty of who God is and what he's done, it doesn't mean that we are sort of out of the woods, so to speak, in terms of attack.

There are people, Paul says, that seek to do to the Philippians and to us as well, real harm. Satan continues to prowl around like a roaring lion, Peter says, and Jesus and a number of parables says that watchfulness is important, look out for these things, beyond guard about them, and he gives the proof of that right here in their own context. He speaks of these people that they seem to be very aware of, these evildoers, these dogs, these people who mutilate the flesh. Paul speaking here of what are called Judaizers, people that wanted to take Christians back to the law of Moses. They wanted Christians to be obedient to the law of Moses, I'm not only in its particular commands, but also when it's symbols, perhaps in its sacrifices, and in one particular aspect, and that's circumcision. That's why that comes up here. They wanted a Christians to show and demonstrate their obedience to the law and their willingness to be sub subject to the old covenant by being circumcised. Paul evaluates this point of view. He evaluates the efforts of these Judaizers in the harshest terms. First, he calls them dogs. Dogs in the ancient world were sometimes pets, but not nearly as much as they are to day. I'm often they were scavengers. In Israel, they were considered unclean and in the in the Jewish world. The dogs was often a a way to name call the gentiles. It was an attack on...

...those who were did not belong to Israel. These scavengers, these unclean people, these people that didn't belong or weren't worth very much, those were the gentiles. The here Paul applies that same word that is typically applied by the people he's addressing to the gentiles. He applies it to them and he says, no, it's not them who are the dogs, it's you who are the dogs. He calls them evil doers or workers of evil. Again, this has a way of kind of turning the tables. They're claiming to uphold the law, they're claiming to come and say, here is spirituality, here is religion, this is what you need to obey, here are the laws that God has given his his prophet Moses. Follow them, obey them, and Paul says that in doing so, it's just the opposite. They are evil doers, not do gooders. They are workers of evil and possibly it even connotes a kind of missionary enterprise as well, that they're not just doing evil but actively seeking this in other people as well. So at first he calls them dogs, then he calls them evil doers, are workers of evil, and then he calls them mutilators of the flesh. He uses this term to speak and and say, you guys want circumcision, this term that sort of typically referred to as sort of a cutting around and and instead you want to to cut off. I'm you're cutting against oneself, you are mutilating rather than doing good. These, it goes without saying, are very harsh things to say. They're very harsh things to say. Paul speaking too strongly here? Is He being UNCHRISTIAN in the way that he speaks? Why so strong...

...of those that wanted to turn Christians to Moses? Well, Paul speaks so strongly because to be connected to the law and the way that these people were advocating is to be cut off from Christ. Is Point is made in a number of ways here and throughout the pages of the New Testament. We're told over and over again, in many different ways, that Christ is the fulfillment of the law. He is the thing that the law was pointing toward, the law, the things that the law would be fulfilled in. And so, in a sense, not only by turning away from Christ to the law are they turning away from Christ, but an addition, in a sense, they're turning away from the law itself, because of the law is meant to point to Jesus, and you're not going to Jesus, but your goal, but you're sort of emptying the law of all that it was meant to do. Then it's to fail on both accounts. It's to fail on account of the law, it's to fail on account of Christ. This fulfillment in Jesus, Christ and in the things that he brings. Is why Paul says we are the circumcision. These people are asking you to go back and to be circumcised. They're saying to go back to the law of Moses, but we are the circumcision. They are but mutilators of the flesh. Why are we to be considered the circumcision? Because, says, we are the things that this circumcision was pointing forward to. We worship by the spirit of God and Glory in Christ, Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. Paul here is being very clear that there is a great divide between pride in the...

...law, which is the say, the same as pride in the Flesh, and pride in Christ. A great divide and to make that really clear, he goes beyond this kind of evaluative name calling to giving a very personal example. He says, if you want to play the boasting game, the boasting in the law game, if anyone has confidence in this, I have more, he says, in other words, if you want to treat yourself in this way, consider my own example. I will beat you at this every single time. I did. And listen to how he proves his case. He says, first, of his birth and natural standing in the law and as a Jew. First, he says, listen, I was circumcised on the eighth day. Now, this may seem like not that big of a deal. Isn't that what they were supposed to do? But that's kind of the point, right. Paul is saying that the he did, excuse me, he did what and had done to him on what was called to do. I'm some as we know, in the pages of scripture, often a delayed or in certain occasions delayed circumcision beyond where it should and he said this didn't happen with me. Now, of course Paul wasn't actively involved in that, but that's also part of the point too. He says that not only am I zealous about these things, but I didn't come to them later in life from the Vy, from the eighth day I was circumcised. He makes this point even stronger by saying I'm an Israelite by birth. My parents were...

Israelites as well. They were not proselytites who came in. He it's a way of him proving his credentials as a Jew. He's going about putting these fourth and saying and showing how, if anyone belongs and if anyone could win, so to speak, in terms of righteousness by the law, it would be him, circumcised on the eighth day and Israelite by birth. And he also says he was of the tribe of Benjamin. Their number of ways, Benjamin and that tribe or special and scripture. Benjamin was Jacob's favorite son from his favorite wife. Benjamin was the only one who was born in the land of promise. Israel's first king was a Benjamin nighte who, as it happens, Saul, was named after the Apostle Paul before his former names. Saul. Then the tribe of Benjamin was also a tribe that remained loyal to David during disruptions in the monarchy. And even geographically, the tribe of Benjamin was special in the Jerusalem and the temple were within its boundaries. From a number of angles, a Benjamin was an important and a beloved tribe among a God's people. And here you have this man named Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day and Israelite by birth. And he goes even further, a Hebrew of Hebrews. Here he marks out a distinction that was in the Jewish world at that time. I'm there were Jews, a Hebrews, that spoke Aramaic or Hebrew, and then there were Jews that were more hellenistic or spoke Greek. And it makes a difference if you are trying to prove your credentials as a Jew, to be not only a Jew,...

...not only of the tribe of Benjamin, not only in Israelite by birth, but one who was grazed and grew up culturally in this way as well, speaking Aramaic, knowing Hebrew. It gives him a cultural credibility and probably an academic one as well. He would have had access to ancient sources and translations and and various other texts that those who only knew Greek would perhaps not have. This kind of very this very hebrewness of of Paul as a Jew is proved in his biography in various places. You can imagine these parents, Paul's parents, who are also of all these things and they have set for their son a very intense, we might say, program to be a Jew of the Jews. It says he's born in Tarsus. We read in Galatians One and acts twenty six that he's born and Silicia. But yet he is brought up in Jerusalem before he is brought to, what we learn in other places, one of the premier teachers in Israel, Gamil Eel. So you imagine a situation where you have this husband and wife, this Jewish couple, living in Tarsus, they have birth to his son and they say we have plans for this young man. He is of a high pedigree and we are going to keep it that way. And so they don't keep him in Tarsus, but they send him to Jerusalem, they provide for him in education with one of the best teachers. This is one reason we think that Paul may have been of some means and of some wealth. I'm also considering his Roman citizenship, but setting all that aside. But Paul is proving here is that he's not only by birth and by culture and all of these things, a Jew,...

...but he's he's one of the best by his birth, by his natural standing among the people. But he doesn't leave it there. These things in many ways he had nothing to do with. But it goes even further. And then in the next part of these this list, he goes into his personal achievements. So here I was born. I'm a born, born far away, but sent to Jerusalem, trained there and he took it seriously. He wasn't some student who wasted his education and his resources that his parents had given him. He applied himself and he became a Pharisee, one who took it very seriously, took the law as serious as one could, but his phariseeism was not an ivory tower kind of Phariseeism. He goes on to say that that he was zealous in this, though he was very accomplished and and and good in the law and in knowledge of it, in an upholding it in a theoretical and kind of way. He was zealous about it as well, even to the point of persecuting the church. So Paul's not some kind of ivory tower theologian, but he is willing to get down on the streets and get his hands dirty with blood and murder people, as he himself says. Here you have a picture of some of the people that we hear even in the news today, people that are so committed to a particular law that they are willing to kill, destroy and murder those that do not follow the...

...law. Paul says that was me. I was that guy, not only knowledgeable in my head, but active in it's zealous and persecuting the church, or the Church of God, as he puts it in other places. And then, finally, the last one. He says, as an in terms of righteousness, blameless. For Paul. This is not a game. He is not going about this in some kind of haphazard way, and it's not a charade either. He's not just these things by way of of title or status or something like this. He was pursuing them with all of his heart and it was in his life in accordance with the law. He says I was blameless. One irony I find in this is that when we boast of our righteousness, we often boast in in kind of worldly accomplishments, of writing certain things or going certain places or lifting certain amounts of weights or whatever. It is a Paul here, it is not only boasting of these kinds of things, but he's boasting in very spiritual terms. The point of that is just to say again, if anyone is going to be able to get this right, it's Paul, and that's what he's saying. I had what everyone was seeking. But here's the conclusion he comes to. After putting all of that forward, he says in verse seven, but whatever ought, whatever gain I had, particularly in the perspective of the Judaizers, I counted as loss. For the sake of Christ, it was a liability, not an asset,...

...and said, indeed, he says, I count everything is lost because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, Jesus, my Lord, for his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I make gain Christ and be found in him. So, going back to the beginning, why does Paul put this in such a strong way? Why such a clear dividing line? Because, he says, compare the value you can have the greatest blessings and so called spiritual accomplishments, to be prized among your people, to be valued, to be zealous, to be blameless in the law, and so on and so forth. And yet it's it's nothing. I count it now as all loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, Jesus, my Lord. Paul hasn't given up on obeying God. He calls Jesus his Lord because Master, the one that he is a slave of, as he puts in other places, in puts uses that metaphor in other places. But in terms of pursuing that righteousness, in terms of the law, in terms of one's obedience and accomplishments, he says it's all rubbish. We use this word rubbish to refer to to trash. I. We actually don't even think use it that often in the United States, but it has behind it this word that means is sort of combined of filth and worthlessness. It's used of a couple things. One is excrement and...

...the other is rotten food, filth worthlessness. All of this, all of this that I had, all that could possibly be gained by righteousness according to the law. I count it as excrement. That is how lowly Paul Esteems it as good as the rotten food that you find in the back of your refrigerator and don't even want to touch, to throw away, because it's that worthless and that filthy. That's what righteousness by the law's worth, Paul says. That is what's justness by the law is worth. But righteousness and by faith in Jesus Christ, the righteousness that comes not by the law but by God, by this grant, by this free grace that comes from Jesus Christ and his work on our behalf. Oh now that's another thing, the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, Jesus my Lord. He talks about some of the specifics of that. In Verse Ten, he says I count all these things as waste and his filth, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection. I throw it all away because in Jesus Christ I don't have filth and worthlessness, I have resurrection from the dead. I have one who will obediently fulfilled the Law on my behalf and was vindicated in that by his own Riet resurrection, a resurrection which I too can trust in and know that...

I will share. I share in his sufferings. Now Paul says, becoming liken him in his death, that by any means possible, I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Who Cares about those who are persecuting me? Who Cares about the shipwrecks I've endured and the beatings on the jail and all the all the rest of it? Because I know Jesus Christ, I know what it means to be declared, to be declared not just blameless before men, perfect before God. Now he recognizes that, though he has this, these kinds of things in Christ, in his life, here and now, there is still work to begun, the work to be done. He is not he does not yet consider himself as being resurrected from the dead and made perfect in that sense, verse twelve. Not that I've already obtained this or I'm already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ, Jesus, has made me his own. That's so powerful, it's so lovely. Paul is working hard, he's striving towards what he calls the goal for the prize of the Upward Call of God in Christ Jesus. He's striving towards this goal, moving onwards and upwards each day of his life, even though he's suffering persecutions and setbacks and is writing this very letter from prison. He's pursuing this prize, this upward call of God in Christ Jesus, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. He knows who he belongs to, an he knows that this righteousness that comes to him by God is something that secures him before God forever and ever. And so he gladly forgets what lies...

...behind verse thirteen and strains forward to what lies behead ahead. The author to the Hebrews says is similarly, in Hebrews twelve, verse one, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. We look behind, we look to Jesus because of him behind us on the Cross and before us at the resurrection, and what he has done and what he has secured. We press on Jesus. Christ, Paul says, is not filthy, he's not worthless, he's just the opposite. He's immeasurably valuable, he's perfectly clean and pure and every way. The righteousness that we receive from him is not that filthy righteousness that we try to earn and have the somewhat possibility of earning in pursuing according to the flesh, but the righteousness that we receive from Jesus is the righteousness of God. Sit On that, dwell on that. The righteousness of God is what belongs to us through Jesus Christ. Paul lays aside these things because of what is gained, because of what God has done, comes to him all as a gift. He receives these blessings freely, and so you can...

...see why anyone who would seek to come between him and his beloved children in the faith, these Philippian Christians whom he's raised up in Christ, why he speaks of them this way. You are dividing, he says to them implicitly. You are dividing or trying to divide these people from the only thing that is a value. And so he says to them, to the Philippians and to us, beware, beware, watch out for those who will put you or point you to confidence in your own in your own righteousness, even if it's a righteousness that's by the law of God. If it's a righteousness by the law, it is a righteousness that is worthless, but if it's righteousness by the Jesus Christ, it's worth losing everything for. This applies to us, because it's not just a call to the Philippians, but Paul says it's for all of us. He says they are in Verse Fifteen. Let those who are mature think in this way, and of course he means in that let everyone think in this way, not only those who are mature, but those who should be mature and those who want to be mature and those who are maturing. We are to all think in this way. It is a mark of maturity. We are called to think in this way, to prize our Savior in this way, to pursue righteousness in this way, and it...

...should also cheer us as well, to go back to the rejoicing at the very beginning. Though we are on guard and though we are careful of these things, we all so rejoice. It cheers us to know that the legalists, though they should be watched, we need not fear their threats. We need not fear losing righteousness with God for not being circumcised or not following the mosaic law, for not coming again under those commandments. We need not fear these things, for we have all that we could ever need in Jesus Christ, freely given to us by God himself. It's in that freedom, of course, that Paul says we are now free to obey. We are free to give to God the works that he has called us to give, but we don't give them as something that is attempting to earn our righteousness, but we give them, as he said earlier, a few verses back. I'm in Chapter Two meurely as a sacrificial offering, as an act of worship and praise to the God of grace who has saved us. May God grant us this kind of maturity to rejoice, to be on guard and to live lives according to faith, faith not in ourselves, but faith in Christ, Jesus our Lord. Let us pray.

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