Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and 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. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Have you ever put together your résumé? Is it up to date? A good résumé includes all the credentials that would be relevant to the vocational opportunity you’re pursuing. Educational background is important. So are pedigree, experience, and training you’ve received in your chosen field. You should also include some evidence of the strength of your personal integrity and provide good references who can vouch for your character. Hopefully, your qualifications are strong enough to enable you to get the job.
When it came to earthly spiritual credentials, perhaps no one had a stronger résumé than Paul. Pedigree? Paul had it in spades. He was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5). Experience? Yep. Paul had previous employment as a Pharisee, with specific expertise as a zealous persecutor. Character? Paul was able to declare himself completely righteous and blameless when it came to the law, which by the way he was one of the world’s foremost experts in the law as well. Paul says, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more” (Philippians 3:4). If a person could be overqualified to earn their way into God’s favor, Paul would be that person.
And all of it, Paul freely admits, means absolutely nothing without his faith in Jesus Christ.
He says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7). Wow. Whatever human achievements or qualities once put Paul in high standing among the religious elite, those things he now considers loss. “Indeed,” he says, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). It’s as if Paul tears up his résumé and replaces it with a simple picture of a cross. Paul continues in this vein, saying, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:8-9). The only credential I now need, says Paul, is faith in Jesus Christ.
There’s a great deal to be learned from Paul’s insistence that faith in Jesus alone is what will save him. We’re all tempted to believe we’re qualified, that somehow our résumé is good enough. We might be proud of our pedigree (perhaps having been raised in a Christian home) or grew up attending an excellent church. Maybe we attended a Christian school, or have some seminary education, or we might have years of ministry experience under our belts. We might even have developed strong character, or possibly we’re highly thought of by others in the community. Don’t be mistaken, these are all good things. It’s just that none of them will save us.
All of it, we must freely admit, means nothing if we don’t have faith in Jesus Christ.
The final two verses of this section contain a bit of a twist, one that you might not like at first glance. Paul desires his righteousness to depend on faith in Jesus so that he “may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Paul doesn’t just want to know Jesus, or benefit from the power of Jesus, he also wants to share in the sufferings of Jesus, even if that means death! Talk about credentials. I’m amazed at Paul’s willingness to suffer in order to be like Jesus. How good would that look on a résumé? And yet even that Paul counts as “loss” for the sake of Christ.
- Which part of your spiritual résumé are you most tempted to believe qualifies you for good standing with God? Is it your pedigree, your experience, your character, or something else?
- How much comfort do you gain from knowing that faith in Jesus is the only credential you need for salvation?
- Paul freely desires to “share in the sufferings of Jesus.” How about you?
Put together a written spiritual résumé, including your pedigree, experience, virtues and anything else about you that potentially could qualify you to earn your way into God’s favor. Once it’s finished, tear it up, or even burn it, and then spend some time thanking God for providing Jesus as the only credential needed to save you.