Study 6: Where is our Confidence?
Sermon Date: February 5, 2016
Reading: Philippians 3: 1-11
Paul warns the Philippians to watch out for people who have come into the church and are saying that new Christians should be circumcised in order for them to become real Christians. Paul ridicules these “men who do evil” and their false confidence in circumcision making them acceptable to God and says circumcision of the flesh is unnecessary because Christians are already circumcised in their hearts which are set aside for God.
Paul lists ways in which, before his conversion, he more than most would be seen as worthy to stand before God. He had confidence from birth being circumcised on the eighth day, he is of the people of Israel from the tribe of Benjamin and he was a Hebrew. Being a Pharisee he observed the Law and persecuted the church and as far as ‘legalistic righteousness’ was concerned he was faultless. These things he used to regard as profit, as bringing him confidence, but after coming into relationship with Jesus Christ he describes these things as loss in comparison to the confidence he has in knowing Him. Righteousness for Paul now comes not from the Law but through faith in Christ and as such he wants to know Him more, to share in both His suffering and resurrected life.
Who and what gives you confidence?
Talk this through with each other and see if there are many similarities.
Questions: (see Helpful Hints at the end of this section)
Read verses one and two and consider what challenges to your faith you face today and what safeguards you have in place to help you remain confident in your faith.
In what ways can we remind others and ourselves that our confidence does not come from material wealth, status and other worldly achievements but from knowing Jesus?
Read verse seven, what do you think is the main point being made here?
In verse eight Paul speaks of the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” In what ways do you know or experience Christ Jesus in your life?
What do you think of the notion of suffering for Christ that Paul speaks about in verse 10?
Play the worship song “All I once held dear” and then reflect on the message that is contained within the lyrics.
You may wish to share your thoughts.
Share one way in which Christ has given you confidence in your life.
Conclude this time of collective reflection with a time of prayer for each other and for the witness of the church.
Helpful Hints for discussion questions:
1 Writing “Finally” at the start of this section does not mean that Paul is going to close the letter it means “for the rest” of the letter and it is here Paul introduces a new section. He wants to safeguard the Christians in Philippi against false teachings. This is so important to Paul that three times Paul warns against false teachers calling them “dogs” (a term the Jews used for the Gentiles), “those men who do evil” (religious people who do good works to show how good they are rather than to glorify God), “those mutilators of flesh” (the word “circumcision” literally means mutilation). These false teachers who are called by bible scholars “Judaizers” are trying to mix the Law and Grace. Whereas Paul teaches that it is only through faith and God’s Grace that we can enter into His Kingdom. Many people today, like scientists and the media challenge what is seen as our simple faith often believing there must be more to it than we profess.
2 Circumstances and people can rob us of our joy but so can things and this is what Paul focuses on in Philippians 3. It is easy for us to get wrapped up in “things,” not only physical things like a beautiful home, a nice car, fine clothes, good looks, things that we can see and touch but also intangible “things” such as status, reputation, achievements etc: things which give confidence to many people. “Things” either intangible or tangible are not necessarily bad in themselves but Jesus warns us that our lives do not consist in the wealth of things we possess. “15Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke12:15)
3 The key word in Philippians 3:1-11 is “count” in verse 7 - translated as “consider” in the NIV bible). In Greek two different words are used but each have similar interpretations, to evaluate, to assess. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In his life before Christ, Paul gained his confidence from “things” he counted as worthy such as his heritage. However, all the things that he counted as being valuable became worthless in comparison to being in relationship with Christ.
4 Knowledge of Christ is much more than knowledge about Christ. To know Christ means to have a personal relationship with Him and it is by deepening our relationship and trust in Him that our confidence in Him grows. So often we can read about a subject or watch it on TV but it is only through experience or walking in another mans shoes that you can really understand what it is like. For example, we can say that the desert is hot but until you experience that heat you will never truly understand it. The same is true of our relationships, it is only by being in relationship with Christ that we can hope to get to know and trust in Him more.
5 It is understandable that Paul wishes to attain resurrection from the dead but quite another thing to understand why he would want to share in Christ’s suffering. Paul had been a persecutor of Christians but he also learned what it meant to be persecuted. He was happy to take up His Cross because he knew he was walking in newness of life and every painful step was worth it.