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Ephesians and Philippians

Jan 30, 2022 | Hunter Flinchbaugh

Christ Alone


  • In life, there are just some things that don’t belong together.  One of the most common things I hear about when people are saying that two things don’t belong together is that pineapple does not belong on pizza.  
    • Sadly all of those people are wrong, pineapple absolutely belongs on pizza.   I love pineapple on pizza.  I just made some enemies, but that’s okay, I still love you.
  • But, I tried to come up with some things that no one would argue would be terrible together, and here are some of the terrible combinations we came up with.
    • Waffles and Pasta sauce
    • Pickles and chocolate
    • Chocolate chip cookies and ranch dressing
    • Peanut butter and mayo
  • Now I hope that didn’t upset your stomach too much, and I’m sure some of you are wondering why I’m trying to make you feel repulsed on a Sunday morning.  
    • Well, today we’re continuing in Philippians and  Paul starts Philippians chapter 3 by addressing a repulsive combination that he saw in the church of his day.
  • Philippians 3:1-3 says:
    • So we’re faced with this repulsive combination right here.  Salvation is only possible by faith in Jesus AND circumcision.  Well, that seems so weird to us.  How did this even come up?  To get this, we have to understand a little about the formation of the early church.
    • One of those big issues they thought about was, “Does a gentile have to become a Jew FIRST and then become a Christian?”
      • The people who said yes to this were called Judiazers and one of the most important things they pushed was that gentiles who convert to Christianity must first be circumcised as a Jew so they are following the Mosiac law, then they can accept Jesus and become Christians.
    • The Judaizers are not happy about this and so they make it their mission to follow around Paul and other teachers like him and try to get new gentile believers to think they must follow the whole Mosaic law to be saved.
    • 1 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.  2 Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort,
    • While Jesus was still on earth teaching his ministry was primarily to the Jews,  after all, Jesus was a Jew and one of his main missions was to reclaim the lost sheep of Israel.  But Jesus makes it very clear to his followers that they are supposed to share the Gospel, the message of Jesus and his saving grace, with all people when he says, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” in Acts 1:8.  This is where the idea starts to form that Paul mentions in Romans 1:16 that salvation is for ALL who believe in Jesus, first to the Jew and then to the gentile.  Jesus shared his gospel first to the Jews and then, from the Jews, the message spreads to all people.  Well, this gave the early church a few things to think about.
    • Well that idea is hotly debated for a while and a council of Christian leaders in the early church is held in Jerusalem to figure out what God wants the church to do.  And basically, they agree that Gentiles do not need to become Jews before becoming Christians, namely, they do not need to be circumcised to become Christians, believe in Jesus, and be saved.  This is decided because the only thing that saves us from our sins, from the things we do wrong, is Jesus and his death on the cross and resurrection back to life three days later.  There is nothing we can do to earn that salvation, there is nothing we can do that is good enough to make up for our sins.  Only Jesus can take care of that.  And by saying that we must believe in Jesus AND do something else, is cheapening the sacrifice of Jesus.  We are then saying that Jesus’ sacrifice ALONE was not enough to save, but it was. End of story.
  • And so Paul reaches out to the Philippians here and says, “there are evil, terrible, dogs who are trying to tell you that your works, that your actions do something to save you.  That’s a false gospel where your whole hope and trust is NOT in Jesus.  It's in yourself AND Jesus.  We only have faith in the work of Jesus, not our own work.
  • Paul goes into this idea more in verses 4-6:
    • Paul starts this by saying, “If anyone could consider themselves righteous enough, it’s me.  Look at all I’ve done!”
      • His parents followed the law with him from the beginning even when Paul had no control over what happened to him.  He comes from a pureblooded line of Hebrews, he doesn’t have any gentile blood inside him.
        • He’s from the tribe of Benjamin, which means his Jewish patriarch is one of Jacob’s two favorite sons born from Jacob’s favorite wife.  He’s not just a Jew, but a highly favored Jew.
      • Beyond his heritage, Paul was a Pharisee.  He was an expert on Jewish law and all things Old Testament.  He studied under some of the most prolific teachers of his time and was set up to be one of those great teachers in due time.  Paul didn’t just have the pedigree but he put in the work to be righteous in his everyday life.
      • And if that wasn’t enough, when this sect of Jews comes up saying that Jesus of Nazareth is God and the Jewish leaders say, “THAT IS BLASPHEMY!”  Paul is so sincere in his beliefs that he actively participates in the punishment, persecution, and destruction of these heretics!
        • The English Standard Version translates Paul as saying here that he is a “Hebrew of Hebrews”  meaning he is the cream of the crop, the best of the best, some might attain his greatness, but no one will surpass it.  If anyone has a reason to trust in their own works, it’s Paul.  This all comes across as Paul just bragging and building himself up, but when you read the next verses, it puts everything into perspective.
      • And so he goes through his accomplishments.
    • 4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!  5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
  • Verses 7-11:
    • After all that bragging, after calling himself a HEBREW OF HEBREWS, Paul says, all of that is garbage.  It’s completely useless.
      • The fact of the matter is that Paul, after encountering Jesus Christ, realized that all of his perfect pedigree, all of his hard work and studying, and all of his zeal against people he perceived to be wrong could not save him from the wrongs he had committed or wanted to commit in his heart.  
        • He realized the only thing that could save him from his sins was the gospel of Jesus Christ.  That gospel is simply this.  God loved the world so much that he sent his Son as Jesus Christ to live a perfect life, die a perfect death, and beat death by raising back to life three days later.  And whoever believes in Jesus and the work he did will be saved.
      • But why?  Paul was saying if anyone can consider himself righteous by their own actions it’s himself.
    • 7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
  • Now, we’ve only cleared half of chapter 3 at this point and we still have to cover the second half of chapter 3 and chapter 4, and I know this transition seems like a turn out of nowhere and it kind of is because Paul is no longer talking about simply the gospel, but rather what we do after we receive the gospel.  This is important to acknowledge this or we’re going to misinterpret Paul’s very next statement.  A little spoiler, Paul is going to talk about how he hasn’t reached perfection yet. And if we think he has not shifted topics slightly, we will think he is saying, he has not reached a perfect understanding of what the gospel is and that is NOT what he is saying.  He is very sure of the gospel and what that means, just like I was sure of the gospel moments ago when I explained it to all of you and you can be sure of it too.
    • Paul is saying, the gospel fixes the surface-level corruption of us all.  Now that we know how to fix that corruption, we can begin to look at deeper things.  And so let’s look at those deeper things together.
    • What Paul has done is addressed the surface issue of all people so now we can move deeper.
  • Verses 12-14
    • With the gospel properly presented, Paul now moves on to perfection and how he has not yet attained this perfection that Jesus is calling him to.  Well, what is that perfection?  What is the goal we’re supposed to chase after here?
      • The only perfect thing is God, and that makes the only perfect person, Jesus.  The goal that we are supposed to strive toward is being more like Jesus in our character and actions.  We couldn’t even imagine making strides toward this without putting our faith in Jesus because the sin we deal with as people inherently corrupts us.  We can’t be like Jesus because Jesus was not corrupted by sin, has never sinned, and will never sin.  But Jesus’ death on the cross happened so that he could pay the price of our sins which is death.  When our sins were paid for, we could be forgiven by God so that our sins would no longer separate us from a relationship with him and we could start to try to improve to be more like him.  And the more we are like Jesus, the more people see we are sincere about our belief in Jesus, making them more likely to understand and take interest in everything Jesus is about.
    • So, Paul has not achieved being perfect like Jesus at the time he wrote Philippians.  I have not achieved being perfect like Jesus.  None of us have achieved being perfect like Jesus.  The fact of the matter is that none of us will until we go to be with Jesus and exist in a place where sin is no more.  But Paul still encourages us and is saying God is calling us to be more like Jesus now in our lives every day.
      • This does not literally mean forgetting the past like some kind of amnesiac.  But it does mean not holding our past sins that have been paid for and forgiven by Jesus Christ against ourselves.  It means that we allow ourselves to be forgiven and then we chose not to take that forgiveness for granted, making every moment of every day an opportunity to obey God and make Him known to those around us.  Make Jesus, his character, and his actions the target for ourselves every day.
      • And he says you can start doing that by forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.
    • 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
  • As we move into Philippians chapter 4, Paul continues along with some of these deeper concepts.  He has moved on from our goal of aiming for perfection to mentioning privileges that are provided to us by God and then some final advice to help us in our Christian lives
  • Philippians 4 verses 4 through 9 says
    • 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

  • Now I said that the first part of this is privileges given to us by God and the second part is some final advice for our Christian lives.  Let me explain that a little because, honestly, this is all advice that Paul is giving us.
    • The advice in verses 8 and 9, for the most part, can be done by anyone and in some way, it will help them be a better person.  Anyone can focus on truth, noble things, right over wrong, etc., and just by occupying your mind with good things, it will change your outlook on things.  But the advice Paul gives us in verses 4 through 7 is exclusive to those who put their faith in Jesus Christ.
      • These are privileges afforded to the followers of Christ so that they can make it through life and its hardships and still move closer to God.
      • You can not rejoice in a Lord that you do not have faith in, especially when the blessings associated with that Lord is exclusively dependent on your faith in him
      • We are only afforded the opportunity to present our anxieties to God with prayer and thanksgiving because we put our faith in him.
      • We only receive the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds if we first put our faith in the God who gives that peace.
    • He’s saying all of this will help us, but there is a difference is how these help us.
  • This brings us back to what we talked about at the beginning of chapter 3 and the most important point I can make.  Everything Paul talks about hinges upon knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and putting your faith in Jesus because of that gospel.
    • God sent Jesus Christ to earth as God in the flesh to live perfectly, completely apart from sin just so he could eventually die as punishment for my sins, for your sins, so that we wouldn’t suffer that punishment, but could instead experience true life with God forever.  The only way to access that is by having our sins forgiven by putting our faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for us.
      • From that point forward we are to grow each day to be more like Christ in our character in our actions.
      • From that point forward we get to rejoice in God, pray to him for help with our issues in life, and receive his peace to deal with all things in life.
      • But none of that matters and none of that is possible if we do not first put our faith in Jesus.
    • Let’s sum the gospel up one more time in a way many if not all of you have heard before.  John 3:16 -  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
  • But, how do we do that?  This is what you do. First, you talk to God and you admit that you have done wrong in your life and you can not save yourself from that sin.  Second, you tell God that you believe in Jesus Christ and how he died and rose again so that if you believe in him, your sins will be forgiven.  Then, you confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life and commit to living according to his will and not your own.  That is how we are saved.
    • Here’s what we’re going to do,  we’re going to open the altars up for people to respond.  We’re going to play some music and if you want to put your faith in Jesus, come up here, close your eyes, and start that process of admitting your sins to God, telling God you believe in Jesus, and committing to live your life for Jesus.
      • If you need to pray about anything feel free to come up and pray.  If you would like someone to pray with you, Pastor Kristin and I are available for that.  I’m going to pray and then if you need to go feel free to head out quietly and if you want to respond head on up to the altar. Let’s pray
    • As you do this, you need to understand that the way that you say it does not matter.  What matters is that you mean it.  You don’t need to have the right words to say.  All that matters is the sincerity in your heart as you’re talking to God.  God sees that sincerity and he welcomes that with open arms.

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