‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Jodie Murchison. It’s based on the sermon ‘Joy in Christ’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-christ’
Paul is a figure who is often assumed to be arrogant, and Philippians 3: 1-11 appears to support this. Many read it and think, ‘Wow! how arrogant is this guy?’, to be fair it is easy to read the text that way with Paul listing all the things that make him seem righteous.
However, Paul is highlighting all the good that he has done to show that it’s completely worthless in comparison to knowing Jesus as his Lord. Paul is saying, look at all the things I achieved, not only did I keep the rules, I kept them better than anyone else. If he had left it there, then for sure Paul would be boasting and we could call him arrogant. But, that is not the case. Paul goes on to say that he counts all his religious acheivements as dung, it counts for nothing as it does not make him right with God, it is only Jesus who can do that.
The list of credentials that Paul gives is to highlight that he contributes nothing to his salvation. Paul is unable to do anything to merit favour with God, he earns none of the righteousness which is given to him in Jesus. This passage is screams the doctrine of ‘Justification by Faith Alone’ which renders our human efforts as weak, useless and unable to do anything.
What is true of Paul is also true of us also. Our efforts to be moral upstanding members of society who try to earn our own salvation by what we do is pointless. We are completely helpless when it comes trying to save ourselves. Like Paul, we can only be declared righteous and have full acceptance from God, by putting out faith in Jesus who is our righteousness.
Many people think that Christianity is for those who have it all together, keep the rules and live as good people. Scotland is full of people who think that if they can do enough good then God will accept them. For some that means being morally upright, for others it’s by keeping to a legalistic Christianity. Both ways are distortions of the Gospel, both detract from the beautiful message that we are saved by faith alone through grace alone. Ultimately both lead people to destruction.
The reality is that Christianity is only for the weak! It is for those who are willing to admit that they don’t have it all together, can’t keep the rules and aren’t a good person. Christianity is for those who know that they need a saviour. We cannot come to Jesus unless we admit that we can do nothing, that we are dead in our sins. Only when we acknowledge that are we humbled to receive the grace of God. Christianity is for the humble, for those who are open about their failings, not to celebrate their sin, but to point to a gracious God who has saved a wretch like me!