Useful Bible Studies > Philippians Commentary > chapter 3

Paul’s religion before he trusted Christ

Philippians 3:5

If we trust in ourselves – our good qualities and deeds – in order to gain a right relationship with God, we will fail. That is because we must trust in God – in Christ, and his death for us.

Before Paul became a Christian, he was actually trusting in himself. However, Paul did not realise that fact at the time. Rather, he understood, correctly, that God had given him certain advantages in life. Paul also considered that he had used those opportunities well. Probably, he thought that he already had a right relationship with God. If not, he believed that he could achieve it by his efforts.

In Philippians 3:5, Paul tells us about some of those advantages. Paul was Jewish, in other words, he belonged to Israel, God’s special nation, which came from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He therefore benefitted from God’s covenant with (God’s promises to) those men (for example Genesis 28:13-14). As God had commanded Abraham, Paul received circumcision (a minor operation on the male sex part) at 8 days old (Genesis chapter 17). These are real advantages, as Paul insists in Romans 3:1-2.

In Israel, there are 12 tribes or family groups. Many Jews do not know which tribe they belong to. Paul belonged to Israel’s smallest tribe, Benjamin, from which Israel’s first king, King Saul, had come (1 Samuel 10:20-24).

In the Jewish religion at the time of Paul, there were two major groups: the Sadducees and the Pharisees (Acts 23:8). Paul belonged to the Pharisees, the group that believed and obeyed God’s law more strictly (Acts 23:6). So even before Paul became a Christian, he already believed the Old Testament (all the Books of the Bible that existed before Christ’s birth).

Next part: Paul's eager attitudes before he trusted Christ (Philippians 3:6)


Please use the links at the top of the page to find our other articles in this series. You can download all our articles if you go to the download page for our free 1000+ page course book.


© 2020, Keith Simons.