Philippians 3.2-11 – Religion and Relationship

Today, Paul lays out a strong case for leaving behind the old life and your old pursuits, regardless of how successful you may have been in them. 

He begins with a warning to look out for the dogs…evildoers…those who mutilate the flesh (v.2), namely, Jewish legalists who were trying to convince the saints at Philippi that physical circumcision was needed to truly be a believer and right with God. Paul goes on to say that, really, those who trust wholly in Jesus are the circumcision, those who put no confidence in the flesh (v.3). 

Paul was from a culture and custom where working yourself towards God and towards righteousness – demonstrated by physical acts like circumcision – was expected and was, frankly, prized. This, though, is what he had left behind. 

He lays out his credentials and says, basically, that if anyone was ever going to either be righteous by birth (vv.4-5a), or by hard work and dedication (vv.5b-6) then it was him. Can you honestly say you have more confidence in the flesh than Paul did? No, I didn’t think so.

All of this, though, Paul counted as loss for the sake of Christ (v.7). Paul knows that rituals and religion can never replace relationship (v.8), and uses particularly strong language when he says that he counted all this as rubbish (excrement, dung) in order that [he] may gain Christ… (v.9).

All of this to say, Paul came to a point in his life where he knew that religion is just not as good as relationship, and that he truly wanted the righteousness which comes through faith in Christ…that depends on faith…(v.9b).

Paul had realised this, have you? Are you content with knowing of Jesus, knowing who Jesus was reported to be, knowing what Jesus is reported to have said and done, or do you want more than that? Are you content with a religious understanding of Jesus, or are you pursuing a relationship with Him? 

Paul writes that everything in vv.2-6 is just not as good as everything in vv.7-11. Very simply, it comes down to religion (I had…I have…I was…I do…) versus relationship (His sake…in Him…faith in Christ…on faith…His resurrection…His death…). 

So, which are you pursuing today?

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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