WE PUT NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH BUT IN CHRIST (PART 1)
Paul begins this chapter as if he coming to a closing statement. Actually! This is the middle or the half way point of his letter. It’s sort of like when a pastor says “Finally” a phrase that on many occasions becomes a humorous response at the expense of the pastor. A little boy was seating with his father and whispered to him “Father what does the preacher means when he says “finally”?” To which the fathered muttered “Absolutely nothing, son” So this isn’t a closing statement, but Paul is introducing a fresh point for the church to ponder.
What is that fresh point
that Paul is trying to make?
Put no confidence in the flesh, and strive to know Christ better through the gospel confession. The only thing we are to rejoice in or about, are the grace received through Christ in the gospel.
Why? I know Mike Andrews.....I know him very well...and I’m sure you can say the same thing about yourself!
I know what my passions are.
I know what my desires are.
I know what I like and dislike.
I know what I’m capable of and incapable of.
I know what easily distracts me from what is important in my life and my Christian life.
I know that I am a sinner who needs to me put into submission every day by a holy God.
I know that in me nothing good dwells, apart from Christ’s mercy and grace.
The Apostle Paul felt the same when he penned these words! “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Rom 7:18
The soon to be apostle Peter knew this when he came face to face with the holiness of God “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." Luke 5:8
It’s a sobering truth to know that we are sinners to the core and we desperately need Christ. I say this because we live in fallen world that is directed and distracted by the flesh constantly and passionately! All of civilization is stained with sin and guilt and hostile towards the gospel. We rely so much on our flesh at times and the end result is failure, bitterness, sadness and separation from a holy God who extends mercy every day.
See! We need to stay focused on the true gospel; and that begins by putting no confidence in the flesh. The Christian confidence is in Christ, not in our own efforts or goodness. The greatest desire that Paul wants the church to know is to put no confidence in the flesh, but in Christ Jesus. How? By knowing him more and more as you grow in grace through the joy received in the gospel. Paul reminds them about the importance of “rejoice in the Lord” (v1) Paul says this because Jesus is the one who saved you from yourself; He has saved you from destruction and judgement! Don’t just rejoice and be happy.....rejoice because of the Lord’s work in your life. This is where true joy is found in God and not in the flesh. As the Psalmist wrote “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Ps 32:11
Dr Martin Lloyd- Jones said “God’s people are meant to be people who are always rejoicing in the Lord.”
The Christian life isn’t about happiness but about a joy that is sustained by the true gospel. Happiness in the Latin is “Fortuna” where we get the English word for “fortune”. So according to the culture and flesh, when my fortunes are good, then Fortuna, or happiness, rises high. When my fortunes are down, then my happiness drops through the floor. This means that happiness is entirely based upon circumstances of life. This is what the flesh puts their confidence in and its leads to sorrows and heartache. Our joy and praise is not based on circumstance but on Christ’s sustain goodness. Its’ for this reason Paul says (v1) “it’s safe for you” It’s a safeguard against the temptations of those who would attempt to undermine their/our faith.
Rejoice! Knowing that the joy we have in Christ is inherently safe from all walks and manners of danger. What Paul is saying is “The believer’s joy is so great and consuming, that it renders the tempter’s offerings bland by comparison.” The Psalmist wrote “Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!” Psalm 81:1. King David had installed the ark in Jerusalem and his song of thanks spoke about this strength and joy. He said “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.” 1 Chron 16:27. John MacArthur calls joy “the sphere in which the believer’s joy exists...a sphere unrelated to circumstances of life, but related to an unassailable, unchanging relationship to the sovereign Lord.” Love the Lord your God with all heart, mind, and soul; and put no confidence in the flesh.
Paul changes from a command of love and dedication to a very important warning to all professing Christians. (v2) Paul uses some language here that is not very seeker friendly in the church. “Dogs” are referring to the wild scavengers that plagued ancient cities. These dogs roamed in packs, feeding on garbage and occasionally attacking humans. Biblical times the Jews commonly referred to Gentiles as “dogs” It’s also used metaphorically, to which we see here in this verse. A dog refers to a type of person! What type of person? A Pharisee, Judaizers (legalist), a false teacher, any form of evil doer. (v2) Jesus said "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Matt 7:6. This is a person who rejects the way of righteousness after an experimental knowledge of it. It’s hearing the Gospel and saying “That's OK for you, but I will find my own way to Heaven.” The flesh is so weak and we should never put our confidence in so often, or so much. Yet! Evil workers, false teachers do, and they try, to conform you, to their doctrines of demons, as dogs that come to devour the flesh of weak people. Paul warned the church about such people “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (meaning the innocent, the simple, the sheep). Rom 16:17-18. Paul’s words seen rather harsh and unloving in today's day of tolerance and diversity. Many churches consider it to be unloving and intolerant to point out doctrinal error! Yet God commands us that truth and love are not mutually exclusive. You cannot have truth without love and you cannot have true love without truth! We as Believers are called to both. Paul wrote “that we may no longer be infants, being tossed as by waves, and being carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in regard to deceitful scheming, but speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ;” Eph 4:14-15. We must never put stock in our flesh because it only leads to deception and a false sense of security and hope. Ultimately a gospel that is created by man and for man, it makes us depend on self, instead of God. Jerome says “A false interpretation of Scripture causes that the gospel of the Lord becomes the gospel of man, or, which is worse, of the devil”
Now Paul turns to himself and reminding them not to put their confidence in their flesh! Why Because He knows Paul; just as I know Mike! Understand! Salvation is about knowing Jesus, it doesn’t mean merely to know about Him. It means that you have a relationship with Him, and those who know Christ want to know Him better and better. Do you truly and honestly want to know Him better? Paul gives us 7 reasons why we should never put our faith in the flesh especially when it comes to salvation and eternal life!
The Flesh Puts No Confidence In Rituals.
Paul said he was “circumcised on the eighth day” which was a major issue for the Judaizers
Gen 17:10-11 we see the beginning of this covenant. “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.” Paul was a Jew by birth and followed the Jewish rituals from the beginning. People today may put their confidence in other spiritual rituals, like baptism or attending church, but these experiences are not grounds for spiritual confidence. Following rituals does not make you a Christian any more than it did for Paul by following rules and regulations. Salvation is by becoming a new creature in Christ! Not by going through a particular ritual. Why? Because “In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,” Col 2:11
The Flesh Puts No Confidence In Ethnicity.
Paul was “of the people of Israel” which is the race of Israel. All true Jews were physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This means that Paul’s Jewish heritage was PURE! Yet this did not give Paul assurance of salvation, He had and must look to Christ. You win no favour with God by who you are born into, whether it’s into a Jewish family or Christian family. Remember what Paul wrote in Romans 3:9-12 “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
The Flesh Puts No Confidence In Your Rank.
“of the tribe of Benjamin ” Paul came from the line of Benjamin, he came from one of the elite tribes of Israel. One of the most prominent tribes in Israel, the direct line from the last son of Jacob, the second son Rachel, who was Benjamin. Israel’s first king came from the line of Benjamin (1 Sam 9:21) But see! It does not matter who you are born into too! Being brought up in a Christian home does not make everyone in the house a Christian. Again going back to what Paul the believers in Romans 3:20-23 “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,..” Salvation isn’t by your rank. It comes by trusting in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The Flesh Puts No Confidence In Your Tradition.
Paul stayed and remained and following all the tradition of the Hebrew culture according to the Old Testament Law. “a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law” But again this does not bring salvation....because no one can fulfill the Law of God. Paul said “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Rom 3:20. Tradition has its place, but we must never put confidence in tradition over the saving the grace and work of Christ.
The Flesh Puts No Confidence in Rule Keeping.
“as to the law, a Pharisee” Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisee’s, a devout man of the Law. Pharisee’s were known for their legalistic Judaism. They loved their laws and rules, and people today think they can attain Heaven by being moral! Morals are good, but it will not save you, only the Gospel can and will. Being a nice person or a boy scout, doesn’t merit eternal life. Trusting in Jesus Christ, alone. In John’s Gospel we read “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36
The Flesh Put No Confidence In Your Sincerity.
“a to zeal, a persecutor of the church” We hear today “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. “ That’s wrong, because before Paul’s conversion he was very sincere. It was expressed through his persecution of the church. Paul’s zealous but misguided love for God caused him to hate and persecute the Church “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Tim 1:13-15
The Flesh Put No Confidence In Legalistic Righteousness.
Paul was a model Jew who lived by the Law and was about to die by the Law until the Holy Spirit showed him his true heart. Paul wrote “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.” Rom 7:7-10
See we need to understand what the flesh does to the person! It leads to self-righteousness and good intentions. It leads to a false view of Scripture and salvation by grace alone through Christ alone. It leads to me centered worship and idolatry. A Kingdom of one…Me! It deceives the mind and consequently damns the soul to eternal punishment. See! We don’t glory in earthly status, in our achievements or in our gifts. We boast in Jesus Christ! The gracious gift of eternal life through His death and resurrection. As Paul said “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Gal 6:14. This is what we rejoice in! The same joy Paul said at the beginning of this letter! (v1) we are to rejoice in that and not in our flesh. We put no confidence in your own ability and achievements apart from God’s saving and sanctifying work in your life!
Ask yourself as we come to a close? Am I seeing God anew in the Word through discovery and meditation so I am compelled to draw near to Him and not my flesh? Am I being sincere? Is my heart fixed on Him and undivided or have I allowed the flesh to direct my path? Am I fully assured that only faith in Christ can bring me to God’s throne not by my flesh? Am I coming humbly, realizing I can draw near only because of what Christ has done for me?
Only you can answer those questions as
you seek to know Him more and more.