Not Having Confidence in the Flesh
Have you ever felt confident going into a situation (exam, competition, interview) but ended up not performing well? How did you feel before and after the result?
The writer of Philippians was the Apostle Paul. Share what you know about him. Who is Paul?
Focus: We can only serve God by the Spirit. No matter who we are or where we are from we should not have any confidence in ourselves but in Christ alone.
I. Read Philippians 3:1-6.
II. In verse 2 and 3 there is a threefold contrast between the Judaizers (Jewish converts who were attempting to draw others back to Judaism and the law) and the believers who focused on the experience and enjoyment of Christ. Identify three positive aspects of the believers Paul describes.
A. What is the spiritual significance of circumcision? How does this apply to us today? Read excerpt 1 below:
In verse 3 Paul continues, “For we are the circumcision, who serve by the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Those who are the circumcision here are the New Testament believers, the ones genuinely circumcised by Christ’s crucifixion. They are absolutely different from the Judaizers. They serve as priests by the Spirit of God, not by the ordinances of law; they boast in Christ, not in the law; and they have no confidence in the flesh, but have their confidence in the Spirit.
B. Why do you think Paul included verses 4-6 in this portion? Consider Paul’s religious qualifications before he was saved. Read excerpt 2 below:
Paul presented this list of qualifications for the purpose of showing the Philippians that they should not have any trust in the Judaizers. Paul once had been a leading Judaizer, but a radical change had taken place in him. Now he was very different from what he had been before. This was a strong indication to the believers in Philippi not to follow the Judaizers.
Paul’s word in 3:1-6 is also related to the experience of Christ. Had Paul remained a Judaizer, it would have been impossible for him to experience Christ. But because he became another kind of person, one who served by the Spirit of God, boasted in Christ Jesus, and had no confidence in the flesh, he could enjoy Christ and experience Him in a very rich way.
We also should be those who have no confidence in the flesh, in our natural ability, or in our heritage or tradition. Rather, we should be those who serve God by the Spirit, who boast in Christ, and who put no trust in the flesh. If we are such persons, we shall have the genuine experience of Christ.
Although we are not Judaizers, in principle we may actually be the same as the Judaizers were. Even though we have been regenerated, we may continue to live in our fallen nature, boast in what we do in the flesh, and have confidence in our natural qualifications.
We have pointed out that in 3:2 the dogs, the evil workers, and the concision refer respectively to the fallen nature, deeds, and religion. If we continue to live according to our old nature, boast in what we do in ourselves, and have confidence in our qualifications, we shall be the same as the Judaizers. As a result, we shall cause problems in the church, and we shall not be able to progress in the experience of Christ.
In order to experience Christ, we must serve by the Spirit of God, not by our fallen nature; boast in Christ, not in our own doings; and not trust our natural qualifications, but trust only in the Lord. This is a secret to the experience of Christ.
We may consider within ourselves that we are different from the Judaizers. However, we may still live in our old nature, boast in our deeds, and have trust in our natural qualifications. I do not have the assurance that most of the saints fully condemn their fallen nature. Instead, many may still live, move, and act according to the “dog” nature.
Furthermore, to some extent at least, we may still boast in our deeds, considering ourselves intelligent and capable. Moreover, we also may have confidence in our flesh, in our natural qualifications.
It is important that we all be deeply and personally touched by these verses in Philippians 3. We need the Lord’s light to shine on us concerning our nature, our deeds, and our confidence in the flesh. If we are enlightened by the Lord, we shall confess that although we have been regenerated to become children of God with the divine life and nature, we still live too much in our “dog” nature.
Yes, we have a right to proclaim the fact that we are children of God. But if this declaration is contrasted with our daily experience, it may be little more than a doctrine to us. One day, when the light shines on you concerning this, you will want to prostrate yourself before the Lord and confess how unclean your nature is. Then you will condemn everything you do by your fallen nature. You will see that in the eyes of God whatever is done in the fallen nature is evil and worthy of condemnation.
Formerly, we boasted in our deeds and qualifications. But the time will come when instead of boasting in the flesh with its qualifications, we shall condemn it. Then we shall boast in Christ alone, realizing that in ourselves we have absolutely no ground for boasting.
Only when we have been enlightened by God shall we be able to say truly that we have no trust in our natural qualifications, ability, or intelligence. Only then shall we be able to testify that our confidence is wholly in the Lord. After we are enlightened in this way, we shall be able to experience Christ. I hope that many among us will see this light and turn from a mere objective understanding of these verses to the subjective enjoyment and experience of Christ.
C. According to verse 3, how must we serve the Lord? In these following verses, what characteristics indicate this?
1) John 4:24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness.
2) Rom. 12:11 Do not be slothful in zeal, but be burning in spirit, serving the Lord.
3) Rom. 7:6 But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held, so that we serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of letter.
4) Rom. 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you always in my prayers
III. Memorize and pray over Phil 3:3, then recite it to one another.
For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh,
A. What are some ways that we can “boast in Christ Jesus” in our daily life?
B. How can we serve God by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit?