The Expository Files


 "Confidence In The Flesh"

 Philippians 3:4

One trademark of the Pharisees and Judaizers was to boast about their attainments in Judaism. They were not silent or slow to recite to people all their grounds of boasting: the day of their circumcision, the name of their tribe, the language they knew, the soundness they claimed, and the zeal they "performed." It was like they handed out their religion resumes wherever they went, proud of their attainments in Judaism (pedigree, rank, reputation). And by "Judaism," I don't mean the law of Moses but the whole religious complex established by the scribes and Pharisees; institutionalized, traditional, but without divine authority.

Before becoming a Christian Paul had been involved in this! He was a militant Pharisee and full-time persecutor of Christians. He was high up in the religion of Judaism. If anyone could boast or claim the confidence of this establishment Paul could. But something happened that changed Paul forever. He saw the risen Christ. He heard Ananias preach the gospel. He was baptized. And, was called to be an apostle. Upon his conversion he renounced his status in Judaism. His confidence in the flesh was crucified. His confidence was now in Christ.

"For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ," (Phil. 3:3-7)

Confidence in the flesh is what happens, when we rest on past achievements. What we did one time becomes our grounds of boasting: a battle we won . . . an experience we went through, that others didn't have . . . an award we won . . . an honor we had. To rest on past achievements represents confidence in the flesh.

Confidence in the flesh is what happens, when men claim they are good and right because of their connections: your blood connections; who you knew; who you were or are associated with.

Confidence in the flesh is what happens, when you claim to be sound because of what you oppose. Paul persecuted the church. He opposed the disciples of Christ. Among the militant Pharisees and Judaizers, this was considered to be the mark of soundness - what you opposed. {While there are things we must oppose, soundness cannot be measured merely by opposition.}

When people are anxious to throw their religious resume around and brag about their attainments and elevate themselves above their fellows, that's confidence in the flesh. It carries absolutely no weight in our approach to God. And in fact, our confidence in the flesh is pathetic and worthy of no admiration at all, compared to what Christ did.

"But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith," (Phil. 3:8,9).

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 15.2; February 2008