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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, March 9, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Philippians 3:2–12

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh— even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard 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 one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (NRSV)

Paul uses his own life experience to try to convey his understanding of Christian life and Christian hope. He was born a Jew into the tradition of the Pharisees, who were very committed to following holy scripture. After his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, Paul had become a strong advocate for Christianity. He writes with the zeal of a convert, using traditional Greek rhetorical styles of argumentation, creating sharp dualisms, such as flesh vs. spirit, law vs. faith. He calls his own past “rubbish”—a sharp, dualistic move that distances him from his own past. We must remember not to extrapolate his experience to the experience of all Jewish people.

Our understanding of Paul’s message hinges on the translation of “faith in Christ.” The NRSV footnotes that this can also be “the faith of Christ.” The King James Version uses the “faith of Christ,” and the New International Version uses the “faith of Christ” but footnotes that it can also be “the faithfulness of Christ.” These translations are all “correct” translations of the Greek. How we translate influences how we understand.

Is this scripture about Paul’s faith or about how Christ’s faithfulness changes Paul? Paul writes that Jesus has made Paul “his own.” Christ is faithful, and Christ has faith in Paul. To belong to Christ, to be loved by Jesus, this becomes the source of power that helps Paul carry on in his spiritual life. This is a great reminder that we, too, belong to God and are loved by God in Christ. Meditate on that simple yet powerful truth. Allow the experience to fill your heart and mind with love.

God of grace and God of power, fill me with your love, and help me to experience belonging to you. Let me be filled with so much love that I can’t help sharing that love with others. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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