Year C – The 5th Sunday in Lent – Philippians 3:4b-14

Text–If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—   that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:4b-14 ESV]

Summary–This week’s text is an explanation of what Paul has been saying in the first three verses in the chapter, where he claims, “we are circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (vv.3).  The Apostle is tearing down the strongholds of Jews who attacked Gentile Christians by asserting that faith was not enough to be a member of God’s people.  These Jews, so called Judaizers, erected their own high places that Gentiles had to ascend in order to find God, chiefly among these high places being circumcision.  Only after following these Jewish practices could could they call themselves Christian.  These men trusted in their status as God’s chosen people and tried to force Christians to follow suit.  In the text before us, Paul compares his Jewish pedigree with Christian life thus showing where we are to put our trust in this life and the next.

Insight–In our day and age, Americans have a deep confidence in the flesh.  We have the strongest chariots and horses the world has ever known.  With this fleshy strength comes a sense of importance.  We trust that our power will influence those nations around us and bring about peace.  Hebrews of Paul’s day felt similarly, but not because they had the strongest military forces.  They felt important because they had the law.  They trusted in their own ability to order the world through their following the law.  But look at where Paul puts his trust.  He puts it his knowing the Lord, Jesus Christ.  We can’t build a world of peace with the sword.  Peace does not come through strength, but meekness.  It comes when Christians are prepared to lose and to sacrifice everything else in order to follow Christ.  Paul’s example points us to this truth.  He, better than most every Jew of his day, could lean on his credentials and trust in his own merit.  He was a highly intellectual man, having better in the schools than anyone else, he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel.  But to be a Christian, Paul gave all this up, considered it garbage, and became a fool to those around him.  He lost it all, but gained the only thing that mattered.  Christian, where do you place your trust in bringing about the covenant blessings that God promises?  Do you place it in Washington DC?  Do you place it in the cockpit of an F-22?  Of course you don’t.  The world cannot understand that power is not found in politics or military might.  It is in Christ’s righteousness alone where we find our hope.  As we take our eyes off our own strength, we are able to stop trusting in what the world offers.  Trust in Christ. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Catechism–(Q) Where do you place your trust? (A) The surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

Discussion–Is America exceptional?  Discuss ways that other nations have trusted in their own strength and have fallen from the world stage.

Prayer–Father God, we count everything as rubbish apart from knowing you.  Thank you for calling us to your son, that we may put our faith and trust in him alone as we continue to strive for the goal of your glory.  We pray to you, Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, by the awakening of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

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