Tag Archives: Paul

Galatians 2:11-15; brief thoughts

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Conformity is a common unspoken demand of any society. When someone joins a community that community has a defining set of social norms. Sometimes those norms are explained and clearly articulated. More often those expectations are unspoken and are not so clearly defined. In order to truly integrate into the community, the adherent must submit to these demands in order to be considered a legitimate member.

As in any group, Christianity demands a conformity of sorts. The problem is that sin often corrupts our ability to discern the difference between what Christ demands and what we demand. As a result of sin, we demand that people conform to us. We have an unwritten expectation that people who come to share in Christ must behave and look as we do. They must submit to the same societal norms in which we have been immersed. When we insist on such an ethnocentric legalistic expression of Christianity, we miss the Gospel. The Gospel reaches across cultural and societal norms to establish life through the pursuit of God and His life! Indeed, Jesus does not require the Pharisees to surrender their religious customs of hand and foot washing when he goes to have a meal with them. Neither does Jesus require his fishing buddies and tax collecting friends behave as the Pharisees. He opens His arms to both groups and rescues any who will believe. He lays no additional law upon His followers.

In obedience to the Gospel, the early church opened her arms to anyone who would trust in Christ for righteousness. Peter and the disciples spoke a variety of tongues at Pentecost. They did not demand everyone learn Hebrew. God showed Peter that the Gentile, Cornelius, was admitted to the Kingdom, giving Peter a vision that defied the dietary restrictions of the Jew. He did not demand Cornelius become a Jew. Further, the model we have from Paul and the apostles at the Jerusalem counsel is one of reasoning together to understand overt Scriptural commands and exercising freedom where Scripture is silent.

Still, Peter and the apostles were just men and, even they, fall to hypocrisy at times. When Peter was worshiping with the gentile brothers at Antioch, there came a moment of such weakness. The “Circumcision party” came to join in the worship and Paul witnessed the shaming of the gospel message. Peter, desiring to be approved by these brothers, withdrew from the gentile believers.

Why did Peter withdraw? It is not common to see this particular apostle seek to accommodate the whims of men. He has a reputation as headstrong and often taking the leadership role. Perhaps Peter thought he could win over these Jews to the Gospel by showing himself to be disciplined in religious affection as they. Perhaps he was simply afraid that he would lose his prestige among the Jews, maybe even rationalizing that a loss of prestige for him would be the same as a loss for the gospel. Whatever his reasoning, Peter shows favoritism and Paul addresses him directly.

Paul’s response to Peter seems brazen and very confrontational. Indeed, Paul addresses Peter “to his face,” but he does so only because “he stood condemned!” Paul’s response to Peter was bold and forward for three obvious reasons. First, Peter was obviously in contradiction to the gospel and was in danger of God’s discipline. Paul states that Peter “stood condemned.” In saying this, Paul is framing the scene as one in which Peter is in danger of God’s intervention. He is guilty of wrongdoing and it is an act of mercy to confront him. Confronting Peter as an errant brother spares him from being disciplined as a disobedient son. Second, Peter was leading others away from gospel community. Gospel community includes ALL tribes, tongues, and nations. It is not restricted to Jewish people alone but includes gentiles as well. When Peter showed favoritism to the Jewish brothers, he was acting in contradiction to the gospel message itself. So Paul publically addressed Peter in an effort to clarify and defend the gospel witness as he states, “their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.” Third, Paul is concerned with defending the reputation of his brothers in Christ. When Paul saw that Peter and the brothers were living in hypocrisy, he recognized a need to preserve them through a minor error that could have massive implications. Hypocrisy is a dangerous poison that can damage the testimony of even the most devout believer.

Through Paul’s example, we can see the proper way to confront one another in gospel community. As we strive to walk in gospel obedience together we must first check our motives. Paul confronts Peter because of a gospel motivation. He does not desire power, he seeks to honor the gospel and preserve his brother’s integrity. We must consider the implications of what is being confronted. Paul addresses Peter publically because multiple people were actually being addressed. He recognized that his true target was a large group of believing brothers who needed to be corrected. Finally, when we approach each other we must strive to pose the question, and not simply demand correction. Questions allow for introspection and self-examination. Paul challenges Peter and poses the question, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” His point is well made. Yet, in posing it as a question he leaves room for rebuttal. Pose your confrontation in the form of a question and you are offering grace to the person you are challenging.

Oh, that we would always confront one another with such grace!

Galatians 1:1-2; Brief Thoughts

Paul, an apostle – not from me nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead – 2and all the brothers who are with me.

All the goodness and efforts of man cannot compare with the holiness of God and God’s own work. No amount of human strength can rescue the sinful man from their own disposition. No about of effort can redeem a man’s heart or rescue a man’s soul from death. Yet, the very word of God brings life. The Lord created the world with a word and brings life to the dead through very same means. God speaks, we breathe – that’s how it works.

Confronted by a leagalistic heresy, a mass of well-intentioned church people, and a culture that demanded religious observance and public piety, Paul wrote the church in Galatia about the miraculous and profound nature of salvation. There is no power that can free a man, no law that can restore a man to right relationship with God, only the gospel of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross can rescue mankind. One must trust Him for salvation. Thus, Paul begins his message to the Galatians by asserting his authority and message are from Jesus, not man nor any work of man.

Paul is an apostle. The word apostle means one who is sent. Paul has been sent by God with a message from God. He does not simply commend a message from God or reference a message from God. Rather, he brings the message from God. The words that proceed from the pen of Paul are words of tremendous conviction and are of a confrontational nature. Paul establishes, before engaging in the nuances of the Christian life, that this message comes from Jesus. He brings the word of the Lord to bare on the conscience of the reader.

Further, Paul’s apostleship did not come from his own ambition or from the urging of other men. Indeed, Paul’s original ambition was to remove every semblance of Christianity from the earth (Acts. 7:58-8:3). His own ambition was no longer a viable part of his life. He had surrendered his rights to promotion and self-exaltation in effort to see the gospel advance. Likewise, there were not many who believed that Paul should be in ministry. His history of persecution over the church was not lauded with tremendous zeal for him to begin Christian ministry. Indeed, it is much more likely that many were wary of his ministry given his history. Ananias, the first Christian to reach out to Paul even objected to the Lord’s command to go to Paul saying, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much even he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13) Yet, the Lord saw fit to redeem and call Paul an apostle. No committee or vote was held, no church ordination, no seminary degree was required, only God’s calling an commission were present. Paul’s apostleship was unique from all the others. He was commissioned by Christ on a road and the Holy Spirit in the desert (c.f. Acts 9).

Paul was made an apostle through Jesus Christ. He did not merit the apostleship. He did not earn it through years of study. He was made an apostle through the work and effort of Jesus Christ and Christ alone. Note the name by which Paul calls Jesus – Jesus Christ. He is the Christ. The one whom the law points all mankind. The Savior. The bringer of freedom. The righteousness of God and salvation for all who believe. The Christ! The anointed one in whom freedom and Sabbath is found! Paul’s apostleship comes from this Lord. This King who rules over all with the word of grace and life. Further, it is not simply through Jesus, but also with the authority of God, the one who brings resurrection and life. Paul’s apostleship comes from the very seat of life and creation. The very hand that wrote the law on tablets of stone and lead the Israelites through the wilderness into the promised land is the same One who gave Paul the commission of “apostle!”

Consider the power of such an authority. Is there a greater authority available? Is there a power stronger than the one who can defy death? Is there a strength greater? No… no there is not. The mission and authority by which Paul writes is unparalleled.

Finally, Paul does not write in a vacuum. He writes with the witness  of the community of grace. He calls to a community within the context of a community of faith that loves him well. Consider the focus of this letter – the law verses grace. Where law is overcome by grace, community thrives. In a community of grace, the apostleship of all Christians is recognized and self-inflated piety dissipates into nothingness because Christ has covered all who trust in Him.

This letter to the Galatians is much more than just a commentary on the Law. It is about living in grace. Christ has freed us from the Law. He has freed us from sin and death and enabled us to live in right relationship with Him and also with each other. This repaired relationship is the context by which Paul writes.

Colossians 4:9-11; Brief Thoughts

and with [Tychicus], Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus.[1] These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.

Who are these people with Paul?

Onesimus – (Philemon 8-22).

Onesimus was a runaway slave who became a believer in Jesus and connected with Paul. In his letter to Philemon, Paul explains that Onesimus had become useful to the gospel witness and he pleads with Philemon to take Onesimus back as a brother and not a servant. Paul calls Onesimus “faithful and beloved,” the very same descriptors of Tychicus. These brothers are entrusted to deliver the message of God to the Colossians.

Consider for a moment that a former slave who has been transformed by the gospel  is delivering the message of Colossians. This letter is been focused on discovering the Christian’s new identity as it is in Christ. It is quite appropriate that a man who has had such a dramatic shift from slavery to freedom is responsible for delivering a message that speaks of a dramatic shift from slavery in sin to freedom in Christ. Onesimus is a living analogy for salvation.

Aristarchus (Acts 19:29, 20:4, 27:2, and Philemon 1:24)

A Macedonian believer, Aristarchus was one of Paul’s “companions in travel” (Acts 19:29). He was present at the riot in Ephesus and spent significant time with Paul in Ephesus. In the midst of extreme danger, Aristarchus remained faithful to stand by Paul. Further, exemplifying the Macedonian spirit, Aristarchus has given all of himself to the mission of God. He has sacrificed his own comfort and position by following the Lord even to prison. This man is a bold follower of Christ who stands by Paul in some of the most difficult circumstances. Even in this letter, he is a “fellow prisoner.” What a great encouragement to have brothers such as Aristarchus who will serve even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Mark (Acts 12:12, 12:25, 15:37-39, 2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 24, 1 Peter 5:13)

John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, was greatly involved in the ministry of the early church. He was a member of Paul’s missionary cohort early on, until he fell sick and had to return home. He and Barnabas worked to advance the Gospel apart from Paul for a time before they were evidently reunited at Paul’s request in 2 Timothy. Mark’s own journey was one of transformation. He went from being a nuisance to being a valuable part of the mission of God. In his first attempt to live on mission, he was overcome with sickness and then rejected by the leader of the mission. Yet, he persisted and grew as a disciple, faithfully proclaiming the gospel when given the opportunity. So, over time, he is transformed from the sickly and annoying boy that Paul does not want to bother with to being one whose presence is requested because he is “useful” (2 Tim. 4:11).

So it is with many Christians. As we grow in the Lord we often find the journey to becoming useful to be a long and rather slow process. Most Christians are more akin to John Mark than Paul. We seldom have a Damascus road experience that changes us overnight. Most of us must walk through failures and successes and learn slowly. Although we have been changed in a moment, we still must grow into that change as Mark grew.

Jesus called Justice (Only mentioned in Colossians.)

This brother was among the faithful cohort of Paul. We know little about him because he is only mentioned in this one verse of Colossians. We know that he is with Paul as he writes Colossians. We know that he was Jewish (that is what “among the circumcision” means). And we know that he was involved enough to deserve mention in the letter. Beyond that, we can only know Justus through his relationship to the others.

Identifying these men as “among the circumcision” draws the mind of the hearer to the hostile circumcision party that is mentioned throughout Acts. The church at Colossae would have been well aware of the adversarial nature of the Jews. They would have noticed how Paul was frequently followed by wealthy Jewish leaders who wanted to push the gospel message out of the cities of Asia Minor. In his identification of these brothers as “among the circumcision” Paul is sharing a victory with the church! The gospel has converted and transformed even those who were adversarial to it!  The transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ transcends all boundaries. Even the most antagonistic can be transformed to become an encouragement and a fellow worker in the Kingdom of God!

[1] There are some other “Justus” mentioned in Acts. They are not the same as the Justus mentioned here. Both the names Jesus and Justus were common names among Jewish people in the first century and as a result it is easy to conflate the various men with each other.

Colossians 1:5-6; Brief Thoughts

4… since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth,

The greatest evidence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is love. It is not miraculous works, gifts, or charisma. Love is the distinguishing mark of Christianity. The Spirit of Christ indwells the soul of every Christian and manifests His love in unfathomable measure, amidst the world that rejects such love (c.f. Eph. 1:13-14). So great is this identifying characteristic that Jesus says that the world will know His disciples by their love for one another (John 13:35). The first-century church models this kind of love by sharing all their material goods in common and giving to any that had need (Acts 2:43). In history, true Christians have been at the forefront of social programs to aid the poor and downcast. True Christianity is marked by love for others.

This distinctive character trait seems conspicuously absent from many church congregations in the modern western church. Perhaps this missing trait indicates that the Spirit of God does not dwell in the heart of many self-professed Christians in the west. If the reality is that there is a lack of Spirit-indwelled believers in the west, then the impotence of the church is not surprising. It is not surprising because it is not true Christianity. Yet, there is hope! There is hope for salvation. Christ has died and been resurrected and His Spirit is present and active. Belief in this truth transforms the soul of the believer, leading to love. This belief recognizes Jesus as Lord and thereby demands repentance from sin and obedience to His precepts. Surrender to Christ, trusting that what He accomplished through the cross and resurrection is sufficient to atone for sin.

If we want to see love abound in the hearts of the people in the western church, the western church must begin to preach the gospel truth. True belief in Jesus is the same as surrender to Him. He is Savior and Lord: the basic confession of Christianity. If He is Savior and Lord, then He must be obeyed. If He is obeyed, then love will abound.

Such great love for saints is motivated by the “hope laid up for [Christians] in heaven” (v.5a). There is a tremendous truth to which Christians cling. The reality that life does not end at death for believers. Indeed, for believers in Jesus Christ, life begins when this world ends. Life is “birthed” when the earth is done. In Revelation 21, Jesus proclaims, “I am making all things new” and “it is born” (Revelation 21:5 and 6).[i] Life begins in eternity! What tremendous hope: that believers await eternal life, the true and everlasting life!

It is this hope that gives Christians the ability to love deeply. Knowing that their actions here on this earth are preparation for the life to come, Christians labor to love well. Indeed, the concerns and troubles that hinder love are removed from one who pursues heavenly dwellings. If one’s actions on this earth influence one’s life in the next, then one’s work will be dedicated to doing what is good for the next life. Further, if a person recognizes that their treasure is being held for them in the next life, then they will not war over treasure in this life. If they do, then they do not know.

The Colossians heard of the hope of eternity from Epaphras when he preached the gospel to them (v.7). They heard the truth, assimilated it, and it affected every aspect of their life. Their lives have been changed by the message of The One True God who brings salvation to all who trust in Him. In verse six, Paul explains that the gospel bears fruit when it is understood. The gospel changes the soul. One who has been confronted by the gospel of Jesus Christ and has understood it cannot stay in the same condition that they were in before faith. Christians change. They do not remain willfully disobedient to God, for He works in their hearts and is faithful to complete the work He began (Philippians 1:6).

O Christian, your soul is changed when you believe. Love deeply. Surrender your obsession with the things of this world and labor to love well.

[i] Verse six is commonly translated “it is done.” The Greek word used is the word for “born,” indicating that a birth has occurred. In a sense, “done” is a good translation. Indeed, the work has been completed on earth and the uniting of heaven and earth is now a reality. However, in the context of this glorious scene of Revelation 21, Jesus is proclaiming that He “IS making all things new.” Heaven meets earth at the end of the Bible and ushers in eternity. Christians would do well to recognize that the end of Revelation marks the beginning of life, not the end.

 

Colossians 1:1; Brief Thoughts

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

Amidst a culture in which myriads of teachers are claiming to speak with Divine authority, Paul labors to explain that Jesus is the only Lord. Paul writes Colossians to a group of believers that are surrounded by teachers who would lead them into legalism by strictly imposing a variety of traditions upon the church. Paul’s answer to such legalistic nonsense is to write about the character and nature of Christ. So, Colossians stands as a book about Jesus in the hearts of those who believe. A book that tells the reader about Christ, and in doing so, about him or herself.

Religious people tend to gravitate towards rules and regulation. It is easier to engage a god who is managed by legislation than to live a life in intimate proximity to the God who does what He wants. So, the appeal of legalism is obvious. The appeal to confine God’s working to a prescribed set of traditional norms is obvious. The appeal of a God who submits to mankind’s methodologies and practices in order to approve of righteousness is obvious. The appeal is control. The god presented by legalism and some forms of traditionalism is a god that can be manipulated and follows our desired model of life. But that god, is not God.

Jesus is not controlled or manipulated by our desires and methodologies. He is much too big for that. This is why Paul spends the bulk of his letter to Colossians explaining the character and nature of Christ. The greater our understanding of Christ’s nature and character, the less we will rely on legalistic practices and traditions to attempt to control Him.

In verse 1-2 Paul begins his letter with the greeting common to his epistolary style. As usual, Paul identifies himself as “an apostle of Christ.” He is an apostle; one who has been sent. Paul’s authority and knowledge of Christ come from Christ. He has seen Christ and is now acting as a messenger on behalf of the Lord. Paul was not appointed by a committee, voted in by popular vote, or assigned this role by another apostle. Acts 9 and Galatians 1:11-2:10 describe Paul’s journey to apostleship. God appointed Paul. Indeed Paul was and is an apostle only “by the will of God.” The will of God is that which appointed and prepared Paul’s commission as an “apostle to the Gentiles,” (Rom. 11:13) and is that which maintains and sustains that current position.

It is a tremendous assurance to consider that one’s position in the work of the Kingdom of God is contingent on God’s will. A greater assurance cannot exist! God maintains the position of those whom He calls and places into position. Christians are placed in positions of service by the will of God. So it is with great confidence that Christians can rest content in their current position of service. It is also with great assurance that God is in control that Christians can submit to a lesser position or a time of wandering. The confidence of condition and the ability to be content rest solely in the understanding that God’s will both procures and secures our positions in His kingdom.

Consider that for a moment. Your value in the Kingdom of God is not contingent on your merit or ability, but on the will of God. It is not contingent on your striving, but on His power within you. Though you toil to minister the Gospel of Christ, you are empowered and strengthened by His power and His working within you. Your struggle is real and it is worked out in the context and protection of His will. You cannot break it.

Paul rarely writes these letters by himself. The letter to Colossians is no exception. Paul knows the value of community. When he writes to younger pastors, Titus and Timothy, he encourages them to appoint elders in the church to help in the ministry to the congregation. There is profound power in the community of the church. Paul knows the strength of a team. So it should be with the modern church.

 

Philippians 4:5-7; Brief Thoughts

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When a believer in Jesus Christ is appropriately rejoicing and living a lifestyle thereof, that believer will be extraordinarily gentle or reasonable. The word translated “reasonableness” in the ESV or “gentle” in the NASB, implies a gracious patience towards others.[i] Consider for a moment the example of Jesus in the gospel of John. Judas walks alongside Jesus for 3 years and Jesus tenderly and lovingly addresses him while simultaneously waiting for the day when Judas will betray Him. His patience is remarkable. His compassion and display of kindness amazing. Jesus never scolds Judas, never outcasts him, and never reproaches him. In His final moments with Judas, Jesus washes Judas’ feet and then explains that followers of Christ are to do the same (John 3:17). Followers of Christ are to serve the people who are going to bring about their demise. There is no greater measure of meekness than that of a believer who obeys Christ’s admonition to love others the way the Savior has loved His own.

Paul’s urging in verse 5 to “let your reasonableness be known to everyone,” (4:5) is founded on the simple phrase that follows it.[ii] If Christians really do believe that the Lord is nearby and is actively involved in the affairs and challenges that people face, then Christians can rest in the comfort of God’s sovereign activity and need not defend themselves. Resting in this profound comfort, Christians are uniquely suited to be gentle and reasonable. That characteristic is to be made known to everyone. The gracious kindness of believers ought to be obvious and pervasive to the surrounding world. Each and every person who comes in contact with a believer should be impressed upon with the reality of a life consumed by grace and gracious living, because “the Lord is near” (4:5).

Consider the power of this truth: that the Lord of all creation, the King of the universe, the Master and Sustainer of all things, is attentive to and involved in the life of the believer. With such an ally, what can overcome? It is in light of this great truth that Paul encourages us, “do not be anxious about anything” (v.6). Indeed, if God is present with His people even in the midst of suffering, then there is no need for anxiety about anything. When believers struggle with anxiety and worry over circumstance or suffering, they are to lean on the presence and comfort of God. The answer for a believer’s anxiety is knowing the living God. The closer a believer is to Christ, the less anxiety will attach to their hearts.

To be clear, anxiety is a deadly and exhausting opponent to anyone, including believers. It is a torment that is not answered so simply as: read your Bible and pray. For some anxiety must be addressed with all the tools God provides to overcome. It is in considering these which tools to use that one must be careful. If the tool leads you away from dependence on God’s character and sovereign work, then that tool will not be effective long-term. The tools to address anxiety are myriad. Confession, community, the study of the Word of God, prayer, singing and music, artistic expressions, and accountability are merely some of the tools afforded to Christians in the local church. These various tools must be motivated by a desire to know the Lord more deeply. In knowing Him fully, anxiousness will slowly become less prominent.

Paul focuses on the strongest tool given to Christians faced with anxiousness. He urges Christians to pray in the face of anxiousness. Take note the underlying characteristic of the prayers Paul encourages. He calls people to pray with thanksgiving. A spirit of gratitude must permeate Christian prayer. Contrary to logical sensibilities, Christian pray begins with thanksgiving. Supplication is made with thanksgiving for whatever the outcome may be. In this manner, Christians submit even their deepest needs to God and surrender their requests to His discretion and will. This is why knowing the character of God is so critical to a believer. The deeper the intimacy between the Christian and their Lord, the more confident and assured their prayers.

[i] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 748). New York: United Bible Societies.

[ii] The NASB separates the phrase, “The Lord is near” as its own sentence. As far as translation is concerned, it is probably best to make this phrase a stand-alone sentence. This way the reader will be responsible for discerning whether the sentence should be applied to the statements before, after, or both. It is best to leave this interpretive matter to the reader. Here I am reading this particular phrase as applying to the entire paragraph. It is my understanding that Paul is giving a foundational motive for the exhortations that surround this phrase.

Philippians 3:4-7; brief thoughts

…put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. 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.

It is a common tendency of humanity to place upon oneself accolades based on performance. Human beings are accustom to receiving praise for a job-well-done even when the performance offers no actual basis for pride. The accolade brings pride in self which, in turn, gives the person heightened confidence the next time they face a similar circumstance. Religious people are no different. Like every other sub-group of humanity, religious people seek accolades of success and self-righteousness based on their own efforts. Religious people place confidence in their own efforts to be holy and righteous. The Buddhist is confident in his efforts to empty himself. The Muslim in his efforts to submit to Allah. The Atheist in his efforts to know science and think rationally. The hedonist in his efforts towards pleasure. The acetic in his efforts to deny himself. Almost all religious groups derive their righteousness from their own efforts. There is one exception: followers of Christ.

The followers of Christ do not place their confidence for righteousness in their own efforts. In complete defiance of common beliefs, Christians do not derive their assurance from their own efforts, pedigree, or self-made affiliations. The confidence of eternity and assurance of righteousness are drawn entirely from the work and love of Jesus Christ. No matter how great a man is, his righteousness cannot exceed or even match the righteousness of Jesus Christ. There is no place for arrogance in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Christianity is a beggar’s religion: people who could not, persist in their inability. In turn: a God who can do all things, works his pleasure of holiness in the lives of those who believe in Him. Look again at chapter 1:6. God begins the work, continues the work, and accomplishes the work.

In an effort to explain that Christians draw their confidence from Christ and His life, Paul testifies to his own worldly successes. Paul had good reason to believe that he was capable of righteousness. He was the quinticential Jewish Pharisee. He had the pedigree of righteousness and he knew the law. He was so zealous for the law of God, that he persecuted those who tried to defy it. His religious education was obscenely advanced and exceeds most of our modern PhD’s programs. Paul’s education and pedigree would have most-likely made him one of the most prominent rabbis in his time, had it not been for Christ’s intervention.

When Christ interrupted Paul’s pious religious attempts at self-righteousness in Acts 9, all of Paul’s self-righteousness was exposed for what human attempts at righteousness are: waste. Paul’s pedigree was better than ours, his education was more extensive, his position more holy, his work more devoted and zealous, and his life exemplified near-perfect religious adherence. However, when placed before a holy God and a perfect Savior, all efforts of self-righteousness become vain. Paul calls them “loss” in verse 7. Any confidence placed in human efforts will fail in the face of the perfection of God. Humanity will not be acceptable to the perfect and Holy Judge of all things.

Consider for a moment what it means that Paul, this incredibly religious person, throws off all his religious accolades for the sake of confidence in Christ. This man had more reason to place confidence in his ability and religious faith than most every person. Yet, all efforts of self-righteousness were cast off in the face of a loving, perfect, just, and holy Savior. Knowing Christ and resting in the confidence of His love for those who believe, is the central confidence of Christianity. It is good to know that He is good and that we can trust Him!

The confidence of Christianity comes from knowing Christ. For it is in knowing Christ that Christians are granted victory over this world. Where is your confidence?