Pastoral Reflection

July 29, 2020

“Helping Others Cope”

For it is we who are the circumcision… who boast in Christ, and who put no confidence in the flesh.
Philippians 3:3

At the first verse of chapter 3, Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. But then what follows immediately is this warning: “Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.” (v. 2)

Who are these evildoers?

They are the Judaizers who taught Christians that God’s grace alone was not enough for their salvation. They insisted that Christians must keep the law of Moses in order to be saved. These Judaizers taught that all Christian males must be circumcised according to Mosaic Law.

Why would Paul tell Philippians to watch out for Judaizers after telling them to rejoice?

It is because these Judaizers will take away their joy in Christ.

Paul vehemently opposed the teaching of Judaizers. Circumcision had nothing to do with one’s salvation in Christ. Paul taught that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ, not by keeping the law.

Dale Bruner, a beloved Presbyterian commentator of Matthew, always referred to the Pharisees as “The Serious.” The Pharisees were always stern. They had no joy in their hearts because they put their confidence in their flesh. They thought they were able to keep the law to satisfy God’s requirements.

If God’s acceptance depended on our performance, we can never have true joy, because we can never be certain of our salvation. When we feel like we have kept the law, we feel righteous and saved. When we feel like we have failed to keep the law, we are sure that we are condemned. Since we feel that we have failed on most days, we cannot have that joy deep down in our hearts.

Then how can we have that true joy deep down in our hearts?
We put our confidence in Christ and on what he has achieved for us.
The good news is that God accepts us as righteous people not based on what we do, but based on what Jesus has done. In his life, Jesus achieved perfect obedience to the law. In his death, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against sinners by taking our sins upon himself and dying in our place.

When we put our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are united to Christ spiritually. The righteousness Christ achieved becomes ours. Once we are united to Christ, Christ will not let us go. We can be certain of our salvation because Christ is faithful. Such confidence of our salvation in Christ is what can give us true joy that will transcend all circumstances.

Pastor Joe
Wednesday, July 29, 2020