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Just By Faith Alone - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Philippians 3:1-11

  • 2004-09-05 AM
  • Just by Faith Alone
  • Sermons


Well I invite you to turn again to Philippians 3, as we continue to consider what is one of the greatest sections in all the Scripture.

If I were to ask you this morning, what is the greatest philosophical question that you have ever heard posed I wonder what your answer would be? You know there are many discussions from the world's greatest philosophers to the popular music of the day. Many are often trying to answer the world's most profound philosophical questions. Questions like, "why are we here, what's the point, what are we moving toward?" All of those are incredibly deep questions, all dealt with in the Word of God. But, I think that there is no question more profound that has ever been asked in the world, than the question that Job's friend Bildad raises in Job 25 verse 4. It's this: "How can a man be just or righteous before God?"

How can a man be just or righteous before God? There's the most compelling question. Because that question has in it, the reality of our own sinfulness. Each of us understands the depravity of our own hearts to some degree. And each of us understands what the Scripture records about the holiness of God, how He is exalted above all sin and too pure to behold any sin without judging it. We're aware that none of us could stand in the presence of God without being absolutely incinerated by His holiness. And so, the question is, "how can a man who is so sinful, be just or righteous before God?"

Throughout human history man has sought to answer that question in a variety of ways. But in the end all of the answers, all the potential answers boil down to only two. There are only two basic ways men seek to be right before God. One of them is by their own personal standing or efforts, or by human merit. Most of the people in our world are pursuing a path to be right before God based on their own efforts. The only other way is the one outlined in the New Testament and in all of Scripture. And that is by God's grace alone, through faith alone having God put into your account the righteousness of Someone else, The righteousness of Jesus Christ. The infinite merit of Jesus Christ put to your account.

Those are the only two ways, and in Philippians 3:1 through 11, Paul sets forth those two basic ways in the most stark contrast. This section develops in great detail the crucial issue of how a man is made just before God. And it describes these two diametrically opposed paths to righteousness before God. We're slowing unpacking what these eleven verses teach about this absolutely crucial doctrine. Let me read if for you again, you follow along, Philippians 3:1,

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The basic message of those verses is this: the Biblical doctrine of justification must remain throughout your entire Christian life the focus and center of everything. This is absolutely at the core of our faith. And in these eleven verses, Paul is going to lay out for us all of the great truths about this doctrine. He's going to touch on every central truth about the doctrine of justification, or what it means to be declared just before God.

We began last week by looking at two of the truths that are outlined in this passage. Let me remind you of them. The first truth we discovered is that justification is absolutely essential. Justification is absolutely essential. Notice verse 1, "Finally, my brethren" or for the rest of what I want to say my brethren, "rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me and it is a safeguard for you." In this verse, Paul tells us that justification is absolutely essential. It's essential first of all because it's a source of our joy. Notice he says "rejoice in the Lord." He purposefully links our joy, our praising of God, our singing to God, our lifting God up in our thoughts and words. He purposefully connects that to the truth of justification. It's because as we look back in Luke 10, and we saw Christ saying don't rejoice in the ministry that you had, don't rejoice in the fact that the demons are subject to your power, rejoice that your names are written in heaven. The source of our joy is the reality that we have been declared just before God and our names are literally written in God's book. It's absolutely essential because it's the source of our joy.

He also says it's absolutely essential because it's the constant focus of Scripture. He says, "To write the same things again is no trouble to me." Paul is saying listen, when I was there, when I first was there in Philippi ten years ago, and I gave you the truth of the Gospel and some of you responded. You remember the Philippian jailer, and Lydia, and others who responded, the servant girl who was bound by the demon. When you responded, this is the message you heard, but when I've come back to you, I've taught you again about this great truth. And now I'm going to do it yet one more time. Paul says it's the focus of my life and ministry; it's the focus of the Scripture. We noted last time that when Paul wants to explain the Gospel, when he wants to define what the Gospel is, you go to the book of Romans, and how does he define it. He defines the Gospel as justification. It's the Gospel.

And in 2 Corinthians 5, when Paul wants to tell us what is the essence of his ministries, he says listen if you boil my ministry down to one thing, here is what it is. I have been given the message of reconciliation, and here's that message. "God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." In other words, he says listen, the Gospel is Jesus Christ and justification and my message is Jesus Christ and justification. It's the constant focus of Scripture. So, it's absolutely essential because it's the source of our joy, it's the constant focus of Scripture. And in verse one he also says it's the safeguard of our eternity. He says it's safe for you. It's safe for you for me to tell you again. It's safe because I want to make sure you understand the Gospel. I want to make sure you embrace the Gospel. And I want to make sure that you're not led off by counterfeits. So, justification is absolutely essential.

Secondly, we noted last week he said justification is constantly under attack. Verse 2, "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;" Justification was immanently under attack in Philippi. And it came from the Judaizers, the first century enemies of justification by faith alone. We looked at a basic definition of who these people were. Essentially, they were devout Jews who believed in Jesus Christ as their Messiah, but they concluded that their own circumcision was part of their acceptance before God. And that before a Gentile could be saved, could be accepted before God, he too, had to undergo circumcision. So, Paul says look out for, beware, be on your guard against those who are the enemies of this crucial doctrine.

In the first century, justification by faith alone had one enemy, and that was the group of Judaizers. In our day there are dozens of groups who call themselves Christians, who pervert the simplicity of our gaining a right standing before God based solely on the grace of God, through the work of Christ and our faith in that work. They add something, even though it's something God has commanded, they add something to faith. And Paul says beware of the enemies. They're enemies of the Gospel.

That brings us to verse 3 and the third crucial truth about justification, where I want to pick up today. The third truth is this. Justification is the mark of all true Christians. It is the mark of all true Christians. Notice verse 3, "for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,"

Paul says we, obviously he's including himself, he's also including the Philippians. Now remember as we started our study, the Philippians are primarily Gentiles. Most of them have not been circumcised, and yet he says, "we" that is me and you Philippians who have not been circumcised are in reality, the true circumcision. What does he mean? Well, to understand the reference here, you really have to take a step back and ask yourself what was the original significance of the physical rite of circumcision. I mean, what was the point of surgically removing the foreskin of all Jewish male babies?

To really understand that you have to go back to the beginning, in Genesis 17 and we won't turn there, but in Genesis 17:9 through 11 God tells Abraham that he and all of his descendants are, his male descendants, are to be circumcised. And He says, here's the reason, "it's because it is a sign of the covenant between Me and you and your descendants." A sign of the covenant, a sign points to something. And this sign is like the covenant itself, it has both a physical aspect, a physical reality it points to, and a spiritual aspect, a spiritual lesson it intends to teach. Physically, throughout the Old and New Testaments, circumcision marked the physical descendants of Abraham. In fact, they're often called, Jewish people are often called the circumcision. It marks them as the physical descendants of Abraham.

But there was also a spiritual aspect to circumcision and you can see this hinted at even in the Old Testament. For example, as early as Moses, in Deuteronomy 30:6, Moses says, "the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul," In Jeremiah 4:4, the prophet Jeremiah says, "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem."

You see physically circumcision marked those who were the physical descendants of Abraham. But spiritually there was a symbolism in circumcision. It was meant to show a spiritual reality. In the case of Abraham, Romans 4:11 says, that it was meant to symbolize the fact that he had come to enjoy the righteousness from God given to him as a gift by faith. In fact, Paul calls it, in Romans 4:11, "the seal of that righteousness he received from God." So, in Abraham's case, it was the seal of the fact that he was now just before God based solely on the righteousness of One who would come later, Jesus Christ.

But to Abraham's descendants it pictured something similar but slightly different. Turn to Romans 2. Romans 2, what I want you to see here is that circumcision had a spiritual lesson to all of Abraham's descendants and it was this. That they were to be committed to love God and to obey His law they were to have hearts set apart from sin, set apart from the filth around them to God. Notice Romans 2:25, "For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law;" Now right away you notice that circumcision has something to do with keeping the law. "… but (verse 25) if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision."

In other words, if you are constantly breaking God's Law, then you have undone the value of your circumcision. That implies that in circumcision there was a spiritual truth symbolized. And that is that that person was set apart from their sin to observe the Law of God, to obey the Law of God, to love God with all their heart and soul and being. But by breaking the Law, they undid what the picture, the spiritual picture was supposed to be. Verse 26, "So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?"

Here's the point, being a physical descendant of Abraham and being physically circumcised didn't make you the true circumcision. In other words, it didn't mean that you were one who lived out the spiritual reality that circumcision was supposed to represent. And that is those cut apart from sin, to live unto God and to obey His Law and to love Him. True circumcision then when you go back to Philippians 3. True circumcision was being a true believer, being a true Christian. Paul makes that point in Romans 2:28 he goes on to say, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter;"

In other words, he's saying listen; there was a Spiritual reality that was pictured in the physical circumcision and for many who were physically circumcised that Spiritual reality never happened.

There's a very interesting reference in Colossians 2. Colossians 2 in verse 10 Paul says, "in Christ you have been made complete." And then in verse 11 he says this, "in Christ you (that is all Christians now, in Christ you) were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism,"

Here's Paul's point, the Spiritual reality that circumcision was supposed to represent has become for every true believer an actual reality. We no longer need circumcision. Circumcision pointed to a Spiritual reality of which now we enjoy the reality itself. And that is Christ has set us apart from sin, unto Himself, to love Him, to serve God, to obey His Law. So, when Paul says, again back in Philippians 3, when Paul says that the Judaizers were not the true circumcision, his point is they weren't true Christians at all. They claimed to be, but they weren't in Christ. Even though they believed that Jesus was who He claimed. Even though they believed that Christ had died for them, they were not just or righteous before God. They were orthodox in every way but this. They believed that their obedience to practice a ceremony that God Himself gave them was part, that their obedience to that rite was part of what gave them a right standing before God. And because they clung to that little bit of their obedience, earning their way to heaven, Paul says they're not Christians at all.

Now there's a grave warning here for all of us. Because the rest of our theology may be right, we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We may believe that He died for us. We may look to Him for salvation. We may work hard in His service, and guess what so did the Judaizers, all of those things. If a single thread of your hope of heaven is based on something you have done even if it's something God has commanded. If a single thread of your hope of heaven is based on absolutely anything but Christ and His perfect life and His sacrificial death, then you are not in Christ. That's what Paul says. The Judaizers were right on everything else, all they did was add circumcision to what made them right before God. And Paul says they're not even Christians at all.

How can you recognize if you've been justified? How can you know if at this very moment you enjoy a right standing before God? Well Paul goes on to tell us in verse 3. He gives us a definition of what it means to be a true Christian. To be truly circumcised in heart. This describes all of those who have been justified. Three characteristics, I want you to notice them briefly, the three characteristics of the true circumcision, or the true believers.

First of all, he says, the true circumcision worship in the Spirit of God. You can tell whether or not you're the real thing by how you worship, by how you worship. True Christians by definition are worshipers. Turn to John 4. You remember the encounter Christ had with the Samaritan woman. And he gets to the heart of the issue in verse 18, and He reminds her that her statement was a little misleading when she said I don't have a husband. He said well that's right, you've had five husbands, and the one that you're currently living with isn't your husband. She does what all people you're trying to share the Gospel with do and it gets a little uncomfortable she changes the subject. And she brings it to a theological issue; she says oh well, "I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Samaritans worship here, Jews worship in Jerusalem, what do you think? Verse 21,

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father." [In other words, listen, worship isn't about a place. Verse 22, you're even confused about the nature of salvation and how to be right with the God you're worshiping,] You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; [And notice this next phrase,] for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

We've been learning on Sunday night that God needs nothing from us. But God has decided to seek true worshipers. What do true worshipers do? That's all of us who are in Christ, how do we worship, verse 24, "God is a spirit, and those who worship Him worship Him in spirit"' [That is not just in external forms, but with their whole being, with their heart] and in truth." [according to His revealed Word.]

To be a Christian is to be a worshiper. But Paul, going back to Philippians 3, Paul adds a couple of ideas to that whole concept in Philippians 3, because he doesn't use the normal word for worship. He uses a word that's almost always translated to serve. It views the whole life as an act of worship and service. It was the word used in the Old Testament to describe what the priests did. They served in the tabernacle and in the temple. It's a word that says your whole life, like the priests, is to be an act of worship and service to God. In Hebrews 9: 14, it's used this way, "… the blood of Christ … [will] cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." From dead works describes your old life and now your new life is described as serving the living God. But probably the most famous reference where this term occurs is in Romans 12:1. "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."

Those English words "service of worship" translates the same word that's translated worship in Philippians 3:3. What Paul is saying in Romans 12:1 is that the whole life of a believer is to be a sacrifice of service and worship. So back in Philippians 3, what Paul is saying the same thing. He's saying your whole life, if you're in Christ, if you're justified; your whole life is to be one continuous act of serving worship. How can that be? Well he adds that it's only possible by or in the Spirit. You can worship this way only by the work and power of the Holy Spirit. That means if you're a Christian, your whole life is directed toward the worship and service of God, not by some external requirement, not by the fact that you're required to do it, but by the impulse of the Spirit.

Compare that with the Judaizers. Their worship was all about the externals. Their worship was all about rites and rituals and ceremonies and temple worship. True Christians aren't merely interested in the external, but in the heart. And the Holy Spirit alone can produce that kind of worship. Listen, if your whole life isn't lived as an act of worship and service to God, then Paul says you aren't a Christian. You aren't part of the true circumcision. You aren't part of those who are truly set apart by Christ to love Him and to obey His Law.

How can you know? Well Lloyd Jones in his commentary on this passage gives us a couple of tests to take, to know whether or not we are really worshiping God with our whole life. First of all, he says ask yourself is it a duty, or is it a is it a desire? Do you worship God? Is both your time here when we gather together as well as throughout the week as you live your life before God in worship to Him, is that something you do because Scripture demands that you do it, or is it something that is a delight and a desire? He says, is it forced, like we force our children in a sense to come, or are you led to worship by the Spirit? He says, is your worship free, or is it dependent on means? For example, do you need buildings and liturgies and moods and priests and other people to worship? Or is it something that the Holy Spirit of God working within you that frees you to worship; wherever you are and whatever circumstance?

Finally, he says, is your worship and your whole life characterized by two extreme attitudes, on the one hand the attitude of Hebrews 12:28, we worship and serve God with Godly fear? Do you find yourself fearing God because of His greatness, because of His might, because of His power? And then on the other extreme, he says do you have the mixture with that of what Paul calls in Romans 8, the spirit of adoption; whereby we cry Abba, Father? Do you find yourself sort of going back and forth between those two trying to balance them, this fear of God and yet on the other hand, Abba Papa? Test yourself, Lloyd Jones lays those out and says, if you fail that test, then you may not be a Christian at all. True Christians are worshipers by the Spirit of God.

But, you know, even those of us who know Christ and do live a life of worship, there's a temptation for us to allow the outward forms to become too important; as if that's what matters to God. For example, you may be sitting here this morning. You've come for corporate worship, perhaps you've simply gone through the motions of worshiping God. When we sang, you didn't sing from your heart to the Lord. When I prayed and led us all in prayer, you didn't pray along with me to the Lord, your mind was a thousand miles away. Maybe you have plans to give an offering this morning, but not from a cheerful, grateful heart, it's because it's required. Maybe when we read God's Word you didn't really listen eagerly to hear what God had to say. And right now, perhaps you're listening, but you're listening passively like you'll watch TV with no intention of doing anything about what you hear.

All of those are inadequate worship. During the week, when you read your Bible, do you read it simply to check another thing off your list? Oop, that's done, back in the drawer, move on to my next thing. True believers worship God by the Spirit. We are to worship with all of our spirit engaged by the Spirit of God.

There is a second characteristic of true Christians in Philippians 3, not only do we worship in the Spirit of God, but we glory in Christ Jesus. You can tell whether or not you're truly justified by who you boast about. This word glory is used in two diametrically opposed ways in the New Testament. On the one hand it means proud confidence in oneself, and on the other hand, it means humble confidence in God. We'll see in a moment a couple of different ways, a couple of different passages where it's used both ways. But it's really the second sense, of a humble boasting and confidence in God in Philippians 3. To glory in Christ, means to have your confidence in Christ and therefore to boast about Him, to brag about Him, to hold Him up as wonderful. Let me show you how Paul lays out these two kinds of boasting, these two kinds of glory. The word glory simply means to boast, really.

Turn to 1 Corinthians 1. First Corinthians 1:29, but before Paul gets there, he's talked about God having chosen the weak and the foolish and the base things, that's us. He's chosen us rather than the mighty and the strong and the powerful and the influential. Why, verse 29, "so that no man may boast before God."

You see, there's the one kind of boasting, proud confidence in who we are and what we've accomplished. God says, I'll have none of that, and so I've chosen the weak and the feeble and the frail so that doesn't happen. Verse 30,

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus … [I love that,] But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, [If you're going to boast, here's how it works.] "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST ONLY IN THE LORD."

Not in himself. That same contrast is found in Galatians 6. We looked at this passage a few weeks ago, Galatians 6:13. Paul says, "For those who are circumcised" now here he's not talking about all Jewish people, he's talking about the Judaizers who insist that circumcision is necessary for salvation, he says, "For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh."

There's that proud self confidence in who I am and what I've done, that's what the Judaizers wanted. Paul says that's not how true Christians think, verse 14, "But may it never be that I would boast.…" He says, I'll never boast in anything I am or anything I've done, the only boasting I'll ever do is "in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." You see what Paul is saying is that true Christians give all the credit for all they are and all they have to Jesus Christ and to His finished work.

The word "boast" is an interesting word, when we say that someone is a boaster, what do we mean? We mean that person really thinks he's wonderful and spends all of his time talking about himself, promoting himself. So, Paul says that true Christians, true believers are always boasting about Christ. They're always talking about Christ. They are always wanting someone else to hear how wonderful He is. True Christians are, can I put it this way, are intoxicated with Jesus Christ. We're just permeated by Him, that's all they want to talk about.

One evening in 1985, this whole this principle of boasting in Christ became clear to me. I was sitting, I still remember it. I was sitting in the front office of the Mackie Mortuary. It was a quiet evening, as it usually was in the mortuary. And I was reading Ephesians, and I sat down for the express purpose, and I remember praying before I started, "Lord I just feel like my Christianity and the Christianity of the people around me is so weak and so different than what I read about in the New Testament. What is the distinction, what is the difference, what made the difference in their lives that isn't in ours?"

And by God's providence I turned to the book of Ephesians, and I just started reading, and I hadn't read through the entire first chapter when the Holy Spirit as it were turned on the light and I saw it. For the first time, I realized that every verse was permeated with Jesus Christ. Those people, Paul and those people in the first century, lived for, were dominated by Jesus Christ. And yet in the circles I was familiar with, Christ was something you talked about when you needed to be saved, but after that you moved on. True Christians boast in Jesus Christ. True Christians are followers of Jesus Christ.

Do you ever find yourself just sort of generally talking about God? Well that's okay sometimes. There's nothing wrong with that; but the focus of our lives is on the person of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, you are a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ. Do you ever think about Christ? Do you ever talk about Him? If you had had opportunity to personally know the President of the United States, if he were a close friend, I can guarantee you one thing; you would find amazing subtle ways to bring that fact into almost every conversation. Well, we have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator, the Sustainer, the King of the universe. How in the world can we be ashamed to speak of Him? May God give us grace to boast about Christ and what He has done to everyone we know.

That brings us to a third characteristic just briefly, of those who've been justified. They put no confidence in the flesh. They put no confidence in the flesh. You can tell if you're in Christ by where you put your confidence. The word flesh is used a number of different ways in the New Testament, but here Paul defines it for us. Notice in verses 4 through 6, he says I might have confidence in the flesh, in fact I can have a lot of confidence in the flesh. And then he goes on in verses 5 and 6 to detail what he means by flesh. And if you look at that list, what he's saying is essentially anything human, anything I can take confidence in from race and family in which you were born to the religious works you've performed, everything in which human beings placed their trust apart from God and the cross of His Son.

You know we have a tendency don't we to put our confidence in the flesh, it's an innate tendency. Our children are born with it. Our children often express themselves as one of my daughters said, "I just want to be good enough for God." So do most people in our world, and you reach the end of life, and I've spoken to elderly people, and I've said, so tell me, what is your hope of heaven? What is it you're putting your stake of eternity on? And they'll say things like, well you know I've tried to live a good life, the confidence in the flesh. Paul says true Christians put no confidence in the flesh. To put confidence, it means to depend on, to rely on, to trust. We don't rely on or trust in or depend on anything we are or anything we've done.

To place one's trust, listen carefully to this. If you put your trust or confidence in anything other than Jesus Christ or in anything in addition to Jesus Christ, then you are not a true Christian at all. What keeps us from putting our confidence in ourselves as true Christians? Why is it that all true Christians are this way? It's because we understand that we absolutely contribute nothing to our right standing before God.

Recently, I had the opportunity to share the gospel with a worker that was at my house. And the circumstances were interesting because he started by telling me a story of what had recently happened to him. His name's Richard, and Richard told me that right after that large storm we had during the summer, some friends convinced him to go along with them on a rafting trip. Well, he had never been on a river that was raging like this one was raging as a result of the storm, and it was already a river that was rated I guess at a pretty high rating as those things go, and so, but he agreed. And he got on the raft, and he went out there, and they were having a good time.

It was quite rough, until they got to one part of the river, and it was so rough, that even those who were more seasoned couldn't properly handle the raft, and it capsized. And he was flailing and fighting through the water trying to gain some hold on something as he was being carried along by the rushing current, and the last thing he remembers is his head hurting terribly as it struck a rock and literally knocked him unconscious. The next thing he remembered is looking up into the face of someone who had drug him from the river and was doing CPR to bring him back to full breath and life. As Richard told me that story that day, he wasn't boasting about anything he did in that episode. Why? Because he knew he was unconscious. He didn't contribute at all to his rescue. There wasn't a single contribution he made.

The same is true for true Christians. We don't boast in the flesh because we understand that we didn't make a single contribution to our right standing before God. We were dead in trespasses and sins, unable to please God in any way. You see when a person comes to the place that he understands he can contribute nothing to his rescue from the wrath of God. When he understands that nothing he is and nothing he can do or will ever do will make him righteous before God, when he cries out to God, pleading with God to put the righteousness of someone else in his account instead of his own, he has learned what it means to put no confidence in the flesh.

Now why does Paul include this as a defining characteristic of a true Christian? It's because at its root this attitude of putting no confidence in who I am or what I've done is at the basis of justification. We'll look, in some point in the future at Romans 3 in detail, but I just want you to see one thing. Romans 3:21 to 26, Paul deals with justification, he lays it out, verse 24 he says, "being justified as a gift by His grace" there it is, it's all of grace. Notice verse 27 the logical conclusion of that reality.

Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Here's Paul's point. When you begin to understand that justification is, as the reformers called it "sola gratia," by grace alone, then you will not boast of anything because you'll understand that you made absolutely no contribution. You will put no confidence in who you are or what you've done. You'll put no confidence in anything human. You won't rely on yourself and what you've accomplished, instead you'll rely only and solely on Jesus Christ.

That's the message of Philippians 3:3. Justification is all of grace. We worship by the Spirit, We glory not in ourselves, but in Christ Jesus. And we don't put confidence in anything human but only in God. It's all of grace from beginning to end. It's the same message as Ephesians 2:8 and 9, "for by grace you have been saved not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast before God." Today, your reliance and confidence before God is either to some degree in who you are and what you've accomplished, or it is completely and totally in Jesus Christ. One way will take you to eternal hell. The other way will take you to the presence of God in the righteousness of His Own Son. True Christians worship God by the Spirit. They glory in Christ Jesus, and they put no confidence in the flesh. Does that describe you?

Let's pray together.

Father, search each of our hearts with the realities we've discussed today with this description, this picture of what a justified person looks like. Lord, I pray that You would help each of us to examine our hearts.

Thank you that we find our complete and full confidence not in ourselves and what we've done, but only in Christ. Lord, where do we start enumerating the gratitude, the blessing that we experience because of Christ and because we are righteous in Him.

Lord help us to lean on nothing else but Christ and Him alone. Help us to let go of every thread of hoping that we will be declared just in Your sight because of something we've done, even if it's something You've required. Lord, help us to see nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I come.

I pray in Jesus name, Amen.

Just by Faith Alone