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PHILIPPIANS-SERIES NR 11: A new way of living right

In a certain sense the Apostle Paul is giving his testimony in Philippians 3 of how he himself had come to faith. He is making confession of his faith – to the entire church of Philippi (by letter).

In reality, in chapter 3 the apostle is repeating that which he already wrote in the previous part of the letter, but from a different angle. But it does not trouble him, because it gives more assurance to the readers concerning the content of the wonderful Gospel-message about the Lord Jesus.

It also brings joy. Joy which is not dependent on circumstances, but which is anchored in the Lord. That is true joy.

How in need the church in Philippi was for assurance and joy, because they were tormented by what was known as the Judaizers. The Judaizers were Jewish false preachers who claimed that they were also trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for deliverance and salvation, but that there was something more needed to be done to be a complete and accomplished Christian: You should also keep certain parts of the Law of Moses. For example circumcision and keeping Saturday Sabbath.

One can understand that the apostle felt the need to warn the Philippians, and to reassure them that it is not necessary to keep certain instructions in order to find favour with God. It is after all, not the physical circumcision which is of any value, but the heart that is spiritually circumcised! Someone who transfered his/her faith unto Christ, and whose life is controlled by the Holy Spirit, is someone who does not depend on external rituals and the performing of external instructions in order to be put right with God.

It is unbelievable to think that it was actually Paul who made this discovery, because if ever there was someone who had reason to have faith in his ancestry and keeping the letter of the law and keeping of rules and laws to be righteous with God, then it was Paul!

But something enormous took place in his life. And he witnesses about that to the Philippians – in order to help them to persevere against the Judaizers. He makes a public confession of faith.

But his confession sounds very different to confessions we sometimes hear.

One sometimes hear how people witness about the way they turned away from a wrong way of life to living a right way of life. But that is NOT the kind of turn-about Paul is witnessing about. He turned away from one way of being/living righteous to a completely different way of being/living righteous.

There was never a time in Paul’s life that he did not live a righteous life. From childhood there was a passion to live a life devoted to God. He always did his best to be sincere and devout. Indeed that was the way with all the Jewish Pharisees. They did not willy-nilly live bad/wrong lives. They were the exemplary leaders of the church of that time. Paul declares that he lived a FAULTLESSLY legalistic righteous life. Who else could testify about something like that? He was a real, true and devout Jew. He had faith in all the outward things to be righteous with God.

There was just one great problem: Paul thought he had to save himself with this faultless devotion to the Lord. Namely that his devotion would get God to like him and that he could gain God’s favour in that way. He thought the earnestness and sincerity of his devotion would count with the Lord. And that the Lord would smile on him because of his devotion – that is what he thought. That is what all people think who have not yet grasped the true Scriptural message of Christ – right throughout the ages until today.

And apparently Paul was on the right road, because he always lived RIGHT! He kept the Law 100% to the best of his ability! He lived an exceptionally good life.

Until he made the discovery that turned his life completely upside down. He discovered that – even though he lived RIGHT – that the WAY in which he lived right, was wrong. Which way? The way of doing it himself and trusting upon that which he did and did not do. Even although he lived “right”, PAUL was always at the centre – The SELF who performed so well – and therefore he was actually living hopelessly wrong even though it looked as if he lived right!

Then Paul discovered a new way to live/being right with God! The discovery which turned his whole life around!

And this new way of being right with God works as follows:

Paul began to trust in God’s promise that He (God) had literally done everything to put Paul right with Himself. And that God did it all through Jesus alone!

Just think what a massive conversion it wrought in Paul. When he came to the realization of the glory of the Lord Jesus, and that the Lord Jesus’ 100% perfect pure righteousness is actually the ONLY righteousness which can and will ever be acceptable to the holy God, and that all the external things upon which he (Paul) placed his trust, was completely worthless. It is like rubbish compared to Jesus’ perfect 100% righteousness. God transfers Jesus’ 100% righteousness onto the sinner’s account when the sinner is prepared to start trusting Him for it!

One can picture it by imagining a scale with a bowl on either side. In the one bowl is everything upon which Paul trusted before the Lord met him: his faultless legalistic righteousness, his ancestry, his zeal for God, etc.

And in the other bowl is the cross, is Jesus.

What weighs the most? The moment when Jesus is in the bowl, the weight tips the scale completely over to that side.

Paul says it in so many words. He says that he is now CASTING OFF the way he tried to live righteous since childhood. It is worthless. Because the scales fell from his eyes. He discovered that God gave him – the lost sinner Paul – the 100% perfect righteousness for free – should he trust and believe Him for it. And he now believes THAT. Now he is ONE with the power of Christ’s resurrection. ONE with His suffering. ONE with His death. By trusting it, he is now living right without trying to live right.

Faith means to turn away from the old way of doing & thinking and from a false faith in keeping of external rules, and starting to believe God that He’s made me righteous with Himself by giving Jesus as my substitute – Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection in my place! I am righteous, I live righteous as I am included in Christ. God included me in Him. I am therefore righteous in His sight!

Paul uses the most emphatic words imaginable. Listen how radical he puts it. To him there is no grey area. “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider it rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him”.

This man did not know about a middle course. It was Christ or nothing. It is only a supernatural miracle from God in a person’s heart that causes us to give up everything that we previously depended upon, in order to embrace Christ’s gruesome death on the cross as our ONLY salvation. And in addition to know that we are totally acquitted of every and all sin and blame. No sin we have committed before can any longer be reckoned against us. It is an absolute acquittal we receive (like in a court of law) by placing our trust on Christ’s work of redemption.

The apostle is convinced about the fact that he began to believe/trust God for His promise and is therefore included in Christ. “One with Him” is what he calls it. Included in His resurrection, His death, His suffering (verse 10). Jesus’ resurrection, His suffering, His death – THAT is Paul’s redemption and salvation and forgiveness! His only wish is to know the Lord Jesus – in whom he is included.

And it is simply just logical that a person – if one has received assurance of salvation – also will have assurance that one will one day be included in the resurrection from the dead! If we are included in Christ, we will be included in the resurrection from the dead.

Paul is saying something very severe. He is saying that he WANTS to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection. AND to share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.

Is that not forceful? Do you know what he is saying here: He wants to suffer a martyr’s death. Because he is sure that he will share in the resurrection from the dead. To glorify the Lord by suffering a martyr’s death, will be an honour to him. Therefore, he is saying that he is willing to die for the Lord and the Truth of the Gospel-message – if necessary.

But then he immediately adds that he has not yet attained these things. He is not yet at the point of martyrdom. Although we do know from history that he did indeed in the end die a martyr’s death.

In the meantime, he is striving to appropriate everything, because Christ has already made him His.

Wonderful words. It actually is a perfect summary of everything.

Paul was not striving to attain something which he did not already have. He did that before he got to know the Lord. But everything has changed. He knew that he had had – thanks to Christ – already obtained everything. In Christ, he obtained everything. He was already completely the Lord’s. And therefore – based on that – he was taking hold of everything and claiming the salvation for himself. He was living OUT OF the full package of salvation which was already his – thanks to the perfection of Christ’s redemption work. He was no longer living TOWARDS the redemption.

THUS: When a Christian does a confession of faith, what does it mean? You do not witness about yourself. You do not confess your own piety and power. You witness about the DISCOVERY you have made, a deep repentance you have undergone. The discovery of a new way of living right and being right with God. The discovery that in God’s eyes, you are/live righteous only because you believe/trust that the Lord Jesus’ 100% righteousness has been transferred onto your account.

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Category Philippians Series

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