In today’s world, confidence is a positive trait. We want our children to be confident adults, so we tell them they are unique, above average, and destined for greatness. But Paul’s view, as he tells us in Philippians 3:1–6, is radically different. His confidence was not in himself, but in the power of God’s Spirit.
The apostle employs the strongest language he knows to warn the Philippians to be on guard against those who would replace the freedom of the gospel with the bondage of Mosaic law. He calls them “dogs,” “evildoers,” and “mutilators of the flesh” (v. 2). This last reference is connected to their claim that it was necessary to undergo the Jewish rite of circumcision to be saved (v. 3). When Paul calls them “dogs,” he may have been using a slur that these teachers applied to Gentile believers who were uncircumcised. If you were uncircumcised, you were considered spiritually unclean. These people believed they were promoting righteousness, but they were actually doing evil because their teaching undermined the gospel.
If anyone had a right to be confident in their religious performance, it should have been Paul! He lists his credentials in verse 5. Paul was a Jew by birth and circumcised as an infant. He had observed the law of Moses and was a member of one of its strictest parties. His devotion was so strong that he persecuted the church. By the standards of this system, Paul would be considered faultless. But when he was confronted by the risen Christ, everything changed (Acts 9:1–6). The best thing that ever happened to Paul was to lose his self-confidence. Before he could become
truly righteous, he needed to see that everything he did on his own had failed.
>> What do you place your confidence in? The only way to serve God is by the
Spirit, and the only way to have the Spirit is by faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t concentrate on your
own effort. Look to Jesus to make
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me... I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). We are one with Christ!