Useful Bible Studies > Philippians Commentary > chapter 3

People who trust in themselves

Philippians 3:4

Many people wrongly imagine that they have the right to go to heaven, without a relationship with Christ. They might think that because of their religion, their family relationships or the country to which they belong. They might think it because they are rich, popular or important. Other people respect them, perhaps – so, they think that God should respect them too. They might believe it because they attend church, or because of their good manners or pleasant attitude. They might have that belief because of the good things that they have done.

Paul calls such ideas ‘reasons for confidence in the flesh’. By ‘confidence’, he means that people trust in these things, instead of Christ alone. The word ‘flesh’ really means the human body, and especially refers to its weakness. So Paul means that in reality, people are trusting in weak human ideas. They are acting as if something in this world gives them the right to tell God what to do. For such reasons, they demand that God should approve of them.

Paul himself had the strongest possible reasons to argue like that. He belonged to Israel, God’s own nation. He had carefully studied and obeyed God’s law. He was eager to please God in everything. These did not sound like human ideas. However, they are not the way that God has provided. We can only please God by faith (belief and trust) in him (Hebrews 11:6), and not by our own efforts (Romans 4:1-8). The only way to heaven and to know God the Father is through Christ (John 14:1-6). So we must put our trust in Christ, and in particular his death. When we do, we receive a right relationship with him, as God’s free gift to us (Romans 5:6-8). When God showed these things to Paul, his life changed completely (Acts 9:1-22).

Next part: Paul's religion before he trusted Christ (Philippians 3:5)


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© 2020, Keith Simons.