No Confidence in the Flesh
As is often the case with words, the word “flesh” has different meanings. Among other things, it can mean the meat of an animal (to be eaten as food), “kindred”, or it can be symbolic of those things which are of an external or human nature. In the following verses, the word “flesh” appears three times and in each case it is symbolic of outward things, things which may or may not be of some value (or could even have great value) but in which the Apostle Paul placed no spiritual confidence.
“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 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: 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; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 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,“
Paul wrote the words above to the believers in Philippi who were under spiritual attack by false teachers, some of whom were of the “concision” (false Jews who were attempting to persuade people that Christ was not enough and to lead them into legalistic bondage). This persuasion has been going on for centuries - it is still going on today in various forms. The Roman Catholic Church is a major source of this false teaching. Protestant churches (which are a hybrid of Roman Catholicism and scriptural truth) are guilty also.
We have in our Bible a very bold statement: Paul tells us that if trust could be placed in the flesh, he had more right to do so than anyone else. He gives seven reasons for this.
“Circumcised the eighth day”
Before Paul had the understanding to make his own spiritual choices, his parents put him on the correct religious course.
“Of the stock of Israel”
He was not a proselyte to the Jewish faith but was born into it.
“Of the tribe of Benjamin”
When the twelve tribes split into the northern and southern kingdoms, there were only two that followed God. One was Judah and the other was Benjamin.
“An Hebrew of the Hebrews”
Paul was a chosen person within God’s chosen people.
Way of life
The sect of the Pharisees was known for its knowledge of and strict adherence to the scriptures. This, in itself, is a very good thing. Even after his conversion, he still claimed to be a Pharisee.
“Persecuting the church”
Paul was so zealous of that which he believed to be right that he passionately persecuted those whom he believed to be enemies of the truth.
“Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless”
If any man could have been saved by keeping the law, it would have been Paul.
As good as these seven things were, they were of no value whatsoever when it came to being justified in God’s eyes. In fact, Paul counted them “but dung” so that he could be justified by God.
For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God:”
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