“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.“
Paul had all the reasons to have confidence in his flesh. Let’s look at them one by one.
Circumcised on the eighth day
Paul was circumcised in compliance with the law. The law required that circumcision should be performed on the 8th day (Genesis 17:12).
Of the people of Israel
Paul could trace back his existence descending from Jacob.
Of the tribe of Benjamin
The tribe of Benjamin was one of two tribes, along with Judah, to maintain their allegiance to God.
A Hebrew of Hebrews
He was a Hebrew by both parents and had no affiliation with the Gentiles. Paul had every Hebrew advantage in his time
As to the law, a Pharisee
The Pharisees had strict adherence to the law through traditions
As to zeal, a persecutor of the church
Paul says he showed the highest degree of zeal possible that he was a persecutor of those who had departed and embraced other beliefs.
As to righteousness under the law, blameless
Paul states that he did all that could be done to obtain salvation through the observance of the law. It was a common practice of which people believed they could be saved.
“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…”
Related Post: The Greatness of Humility
Paul had every reason to trust in the flesh. He had a family history and social status that would be easy to put his trust in, knowledge of the Bible that rivaled the Pharisees, religiousness in his beliefs as a persecutor and a high morality due to his righteousness under the law. Paul could have simply had a dependence on these factors thinking them to be advantageous to his life. However, he renounced these things and all things so that his dependence would be in Christ alone.
While highly esteemed family history, social status, knowledge of the Bible, devotion to Christian activities, and an upright moral lifestyle are not vain when stewarded appropriately, it lacks in comparison to relationship with Christ.
Is your dependence in your own work or in the completed work of Christ? Is your boast in Christ alone or are you boasting in the Creator’s blessings meant for His glory? May our prayer be that we would fully rely on faith in the work of Christ and not that of our own works but that our works would be compelled by His grace and Spirit.