Philippians 3:4-9; God’s Law Done Away?
By Peter Salemi
“touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless…But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” (vv.-6, 7, 8).
Did the Apostle Paul view the Law of God as “dung”? Is obeying and keeping the law of God a “loss” for the Christian? Many mainstream Christians feel this is what the Apostle Paul is trying to convey to the Philippians and of course all Christians. But how can this be when the Bible says that keeping the Law of God, “…thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:7-8)?
Jesus said, “but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17).
Paul said, “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:” (Acts 24:14)
Does the Bible contradict? NO! Personal interpretations that people try to work into the Bible contradict the message of the Bible. The Bible is consistent from Genesis to Revelation. So what is the Apostle Paul speaking of here, and what does he count as “dung” that he may “win” Christ?
Christians are Law Keepers
When one examines the scriptures, one can see that the Christian Church kept the law of God.
When, converted Jews joined the church of God, James and the elders of the church showed Paul and said, “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:” (Acts 21:20).
The converted gentiles in the church were told, “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.” The gentiles were to go to the synagogues and learn the commandments of God, because Moses was preached in the synagogues every Sabbath.
The Apostle John wrote that the churches in the end time are those, “which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev 12:17).
The church of God clearly is to keep the commandments of God; this is evidence that they are filled with the Holy Spirit-a spirit filled church! “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4).
“because the love of God [1 John 5:3 God’s Commandments] is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Rom 5:5).
Paul Message to the Philippians
Let’s breakdown what the Apostle Paul message is to the Philippian Church. Clearly the Apostle is speaking of Salvation. We must begin in verse 3 where the context begins.
The Apostle Paul writes, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” “We” Paul says, he includes himself in this says, “we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit.” There are two aspects of circumcision-obedience and sacrifice. Jesus is, through his sacrifice (circumcision is a sacrifice) has cleansed us of all our sins, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:” (Col 2:11). Jesus, living an innocent life like a new born baby, innocent of sin shed his blood for us.
Then there is obedience! “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” (Deut 10:16). Paul says the same, “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” (Rom 2:26). Paul then is saying here in Philippians 3:3 that the church of God including him is keeping the law of God!
Now the Apostle continues, “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:” (v.4).
The Lexham Bible puts it in the best way, “although I could have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else thinks to put confidence in the flesh, I can do so more:”
Clearly the Apostle is speaking of Salvation-verse 3 he speaks of spiritual circumcision; and those who are obedient to God, “enter into life” (Matthew 19:17). So Paul is saying if you trust in the flesh alone for salvation, well then he says “I more.” He has all the qualifications when it comes to the flesh, as he lists them in verse 5,
“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;” If this doesn’t qualify Paul to be saved according to the flesh then nothing does-Paul is at the front of the line-he has it all! But without obedience to God all this is meaningless. Paul wrote, “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” (Rom 2:25). Circumcision benefits people if they keep the law. How does it benefit? “it is of advantage, and no unmeaning rite, if thou understandest and carriest out its meaning; it introduces thee into a state of knowledge and opportunity, and certainty of Divine favour),” (Pulpit Commentary, emphasis added). When one understands the true meaning of circumcision of it representing the obedience of Abraham (Gen 26:5); (who for a bulk of his life was uncircumcised but was obedient to God, see Rom 4:12); and that one must be spiritually circumcised to be saved as God says in Deuteronomy 10:16, then it “profits,” not saves, but profits in this way of knowledge. And these passages in Philippians is all about knowledge of the truth of God (see Philippians 3:8)
Then Paul says, “but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” The circumcision is nothing without obedience and understanding what it truly represents. Paul said in another place, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Corinth 7:19). To be a true “Israelite” or spiritual “Jew” one must obey like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Being descended from them does not automatically make you saved.
John the Baptist told the Pharisees who had all the qualification of the flesh, them, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” He called them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:8, 9, 7). They were not obedient, but believed that just being descended of Abraham was enough.
Jesus when he saw Nathanael, said to him, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). A true Israelite is one who obeys God. Rightly Paul said, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
“But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Rom 2:28-29). And called the church, the “Israel of God.” (Gal 6:16).
“as touching the law, a Pharisee”
Many mainstream Christians believe that the Apostle Paul was speaking of the law of Almighty God when he said, “as touching the law, a Pharisee.” Here the Apostle was speaking of his “old” man the fleshly man before he was converted to Jesus Christ as he says in Acts 26:5, “Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” As we have seen in other scriptures-what John the Baptist said to the Pharisees that they trusted in the flesh and not in obeying God-As Paul again says in Romans, “who by the letter [Jew in name only-the flesh] and circumcision dost transgress the law?” (2:27). Jesus clearly said that they “transgressed” the law of God (Matthew 15). Paul, when he was a Pharisee in his old life did the same! If they did not keep the law of God-then what law is Paul speaking of?
Paul says in Galatians 1:14, “And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” This was the law of the Pharisees-their traditions not the law of God!
Jesus, when he dealt with the Pharisees, the Pharisees “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
“Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” (Matthew 15:1-2).
Notice now Jesus tells them that their traditions directly transgress the law of God, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (v.3). The traditions of the Pharisees are in direct conflict with the law of God and make, “the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (v.6). Jesus called this, “doctrines the commandments of men.” (v.9). these are commandments, doctrines, laws of the Pharisees. This is the law Paul is speaking of!
Paul mentioned it again in Philippians 3:6, “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” What law? What “righteousness”?
Notice in verse 9, “…not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law” His own righteousness NOT the righteousness of God! God’s law is his righteousness, “or all thy commandments are righteousness.” (Psalm 119:172). The law of the Pharisees are the “doctrines the commandments of men.” Their own righteousness.
Jesus even told his disciples, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20). The “righteousness” of the disciples was the righteousness of Christ-the law of God. To enter into the kingdom (life) we must “keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). Then there is the “righteousness” of the Pharisees, commandments and doctrines established by them, their own righteousness which is in direct contrast to the righteousness of God-his law! In no way is the law of God meant in Philippians!
Loss for Christ
The apostle Paul looked at all these things in his old life and said, “But what things were gain to me,” He believed that all these things would gain him eternal life in the resurrection which of course he still believed, in his old life and in his new life, converted to Christ (Acts 23:6) because it is clearly taught in the Bible.. In Acts 23 “He did not mean to deny that he was a Christian, but that, so far as the Pharisees differed from the Sadducees, he was with the former. He agreed with them, not with the Sadducees, in regard to the doctrine of the resurrection, and the existence of angels and spirits.” (Barnes Notes, emphasis added).
But these things that he thought were “gain” actually was “counted loss because of Christ.” (LITV). These things kept him away from Christ. He was so filled with pride and “Zeal” he was “persecuting the church” (v.6), that he was spiritually blind to the truth and was losing the spiritual battle for his eternal life instead of making any gains.
Then he continues, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” (v.8). You see all these things kept him away from the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”-his zeal for all these other things kept him away from Christ and the truth of God and now he considers them “dung” because of that very reason, being separated from Jesus and the knowledge of the truth.
Jesus, when he taught his parables experienced the same thing. The audience did not understand what he was saying and it was due to the pride, preconceived ideas zeal, and beliefs that they did not want to give up and throw away to “win Christ” to win the knowledge of the truth of God and Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:15). They “closed” their “eyes” and shut their “ears” they lose and not “win” Christ, and receive the knowledge of salvation. This is what Paul is saying. He threw all these things away that was in his mind-the beliefs, the commandments of men etc.…and now has “good ground” (Matthew 13:8) and accepted the message of the Gospel and now he won Christ-the knowledge of the truth of God and salvation! “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)
Faith in Christ- the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Now that Paul put aside his “own righteousness, which is of the law,” (Phil 3:9) meaning, the law of the Pharisees the commandments of men, Paul is now “be found in him” (v.9), meaning, he is now a “believer in Christ” (Clarke’s Commentary).
And now Paul has “that which is through the faith of Christ,” Now he has the same, notice “faith OF Christ” He has the same belief that Jesus believed in, and that is, “the righteousness which is of God by faith:” The “righteousness” of God is of course his law which Jesus followed and preached (Matthew 19:17). Jesus was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15) and sin is the transgression of the Law (1John 3:4). Now, instead of his own righteousness, Paul was following the same righteousness of Jesus Christ which is the law of God “BY Faith” and what is faith? Keeping the law of God, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work… I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 1:25; 2:18; see also Deut 32:20).We shew our faith by keeping the law of God-the works of God, not men!
The Apostle Paul is clearly telling us that we should put aside all of our preconceived beliefs and biases, our own righteousness throw them away, and put on the “righteousness” of Jesus and not rely of the flesh and the commandments of men. It is the commandments of God that if we “continue therein” will get us into the kingdom, the works of God not men!
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