2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 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: 5 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; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss 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 may gain Christ 9 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— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
The Apostle shows us very clearly the contrast between having confidence in the flesh and having confidence in knowing Christ. As far as the flesh was concerned Paul was born a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin who was trained as a Pharisee. He was a persecutor of the church and, so far as the law was concerned, he was blameless. Very few people could claim that they have such a high standard. We all need to have the same attitude that the Apostle Paul had. Even though he was very religious, and completely committed to the faith of his fathers, after he met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus his entire life focus changed. From that point on everything changed!
Paul had worked very hard on becoming a leading Pharisee. He lived and breathed the Old Testament law and the rabbis’ interpretation of it. If any man could think of himself as having arrived there were none better than Paul. Yet in spite of all that…
Paul counted all his achievements worthless. We are told almost nothing about the apostle before he came to Christ. The only blood family members we know anything about is a sister, and a nephew, who is unnamed. Yet, I can imagine that Paul was very special to his family. He was born in the city of Tarsus and probably grew to manhood there. Tarsus would have been a very cosmopolitan city. Anyone born in Tarsus was automatically Roman citizen. It was the capital city of a region called Cilicia. I can imagine that he was chosen by his parents to be the Rabbi in the family. We do know, from his own statement, that Paul came to Jerusalem to study under Gamaliel, a leading Rabbi. Apparently, Paul’s sister and her family lived in Jerusalem where Paul was held by the Romans. When a plot was devised to take Paul and kill him his nephew heard of it and warned the Romans.
Paul was a rising star in Jewish society but he…
Exchanged his credentials for knowing Christ. Turn with me to Jeremiah 9:23-24. Paul would certainly have been familiar with this teaching in Jeremiah. In fact, Paul might have been directly influenced by passages like this in the Old Testament. Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
Paul had written to the Corinthians to say that he had decided to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2-3) He did not come to them with eloquence and human wisdom. He said that he came to them in fleshly weakness but spiritual power. He gave up all his credentials in order…
To be found in Christ. Turn with me to Ephesians 1:3-14. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
This is a long passage of Scripture but “in Him” occurs several times. We have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Before the world was created, God chose us in Him. God predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ. In Him we have redemption through his blood. In Christ the Father has a plan to unite all things in heaven and on earth. I pray that he soon will come again to earth and establish that unity. In Him we have already obtained an inheritance. In Him we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Our inheritance is part of that unity found in Him.
We could go on and on citing passages of Scripture that talk about what we have in Christ Jesus. Among the most important things to have is…
To have the righteousness that comes through faith. Turn with me to Romans 1:16-17. Here we find the theme of the book of Romans. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Paul gave up all his worldly, as well as religous, human achievements after he met Jesus on the Damascus road. Having come to know Christ I am sure he began to restudy the Scripture that were so familiar to him. Now he approached the Bible with a new understanding of what it was all about.
The good news of Jesus Christ that had come to him with such force confirmed to him the words of Habakkuk, “The righteous shall live by faith.” He knew, of course, the words of Isaiah, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6) So he understood that in order to know Christ in that special sense of “knowing” that he desired he had to have the righteousness that comes through faith. It is important for us to note that Paul was not urging us to try harder to be righteous in our own strength but instead was urging us to come to a righteousness from God that depends on faith.
It is by grace that we have been saved through faith and that is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8-9) We have just observed Thanksgiving. High on our list of things to thank God for should be the fact that he has given us the faith to believe in Him and release His grace in our life. We cannot earn our salvation and we cannot work up any kind of acceptable “righteousness”. We have to receive it from God. In Christ Jesus we have a righteousness that is approved by God. A part of the work that God is doing in our life should spur our desire…
To know the power of His resurrection. Turn with me to 1 Peter 1:3-5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ Christianity would be meaningless. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that our faith is futile if Christ has not been raised. (1 Corinthians 15:17) Throughout the New Testament it is affirmed again and again that the power of the resurrection is the key to our salvation. Peter has confirmed that our new birth is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3) The primary theme of the preaching of the apostles was giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Paul had put aside everything in his life in order to know Christ. Not just to know about Him but to “know Him”. He knew and understood that nothing he could do in his own strength would give him the joyous relationship that he had acquired by the grace of God.
God had given to Paul the faith to believe and that caused him to be spiritually hungry for the righteousness of God. It is absolutely essential that all of us, along with Paul, experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
Jesus had stated that in the world we would have trouble but, He assured us that He had overcome the world. (John 16:33) In order to know his resurrection we will need…
To share His suffering. Turn with me to James 1:2-4. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
One thing for sure — we will face trials and tribulation. This is, in a way, sharing in Jesus’ suffering. After all, we are part of his body here on earth. When a Christian is persecuted for his faith it is Christ who is being persecuted.
When Paul was on the road to Damascus, as reported in Acts 9, he was on his way to arrest everyone there who claimed the name of Christ. He was going after the followers of Jesus.
But Jesus did not ask him why he was persecuting them he said to him, “Saul, Saul why you persecuting ME?” To persecute the church is to persecute Jesus. Across the world today governments and individuals are persecuting Christians. They may think of themselves as dealing with one individual or a group of people but God sees them as persecuting His Son.
The persecutors are on the wrong side of the issue. They are not just hurting believers they are calling God out. The power that raised Christ from the dead and that stopped Paul on the road to Damascus is the power that will confront the opponents of Christ today.
There are many examples throughout history of efforts to wipe out the Christians only to find that there were more, and more of them. It will be true today also! There will be many new believers in Christ Jesus in the world of Islam. In exactly the same way, there became more and more Christians in the Communist dictatorships. I often cite China for example.
Starting in the 1930s the Communist Party began to rise to power. One of the things they did was to attack missionaries and Chinese believers wherever they went. When the entire country fell under the control of the Communists in 1949 it is estimated that there were about 5 million Christians in China. 30 years later, after severe persecution, the Western world was allowed to look behind the “Bamboo Curtain”, as it was called, to the amazement of almost everyone the number of Christians had increased to 50 million or more. The current growth rate of the Christian church in China will cause that country to have more believers than any other country in the world in a few more years.
Today it is the Islamic countries that are trying to destroy the Christian church. In the short term they seem to be winning because everything is being measured by human standards. But we need to remember to factor in the power of the resurrection of Christ released in the world. In the long run God will raise up believers everywhere they are being killed today.
The Voice of the Martyrs reports on things that are happening in Syria today. In one situation the militants entered the church buildings and destroy everything in sight. They burned Bibles, hymnals, and prayer books. They tore down the crosses on the steeples and used the church buildings as sniper positions.
Although the church buildings were severely damaged many Syrian Christians remain hopeful. They know that the church is not a building but rather consists of all who belong to the body of Christ.
One pastor, who has remained there, fatefully travels each week to nearby villages to conduct services for the Christians there. The other church leaders that were there have either been killed or driven out by the Islamic State militants. This pastor’s wife recently said, “Our family is in danger, but we serve a mighty God.” There are many Christians who have remained behind and continue to bear witness to the Muslim neighbors. One Muslim, in Syria, was heard to say, “If this is what Islam is I don’t want to be a Muslim.” When he observed the Islamists and their cruelty.
Paul was wanting to gain Christ, and be found in Christ’s righteousness, and come to know the power of his resurrection. He came to know that such knowledge would result in…
Becoming like Him in His death. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 4:8-11. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Paul is not talking about our being crucified like Jesus was. He’s talking about us following Christ into deadly persecution. I can hardly imagine what the Apostle Paul’s body looked like by the time he came to the end of his life. Use your imagination. In 2 Corinthians 11:23, and following, we find Paul saying he had been beaten so many times he couldn’t count them. He was often near death. Five times he was beaten with 39 lashes of a whip. Three times he was beaten with rods. One time he was stoned. And the list goes on and on!
When one of His people is afflicted it is Christ who is being afflicted. We need to understand that being united to Jesus means that we are always carrying in our body the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus takes away our wrongdoing and releases life in us. In order for us to be comforted, and therefore qualified to comfort others, we have to first be afflicted. And when we are afflicted we share in His suffering and when that is carried to the extreme we become like Him in his death!
Most of us will never go through the kind of suffering that Paul did. But we need to be ready — the day may come, even here. When we gain Christ we get an entire package that includes suffering and also comfort. Praise God we also gain resurrection power over sin!
Above all things we need to be found in Christ Jesus. Our faith in Him should cause us to value everything in comparison to Christ. Nothing we have in our possession, nothing we have earned by the world’s system, no relationship that we have on earth, is of more value than Jesus Christ. It is absolutely essential that we have His opinion on every part of our life. If Jesus is your Lord then He has the right to direct us in our actions and decisions. Remember, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you have made that kind of commitment you need to follow through with baptism and church membership. This could be your day.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.