The Basis of Salvation

The Basis of our Salvation.

Phi. 3:1-6

“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.”

 

            The danger of self-deception is that we all think we are getting to heaven.  We look at others and see ourselves as no worse, perhaps even better.  If we live a good life, show compassion for people, love others, and attend church on Sunday, we believe we are good enough to get to heaven. We equate being religious with being righteous. 

For most of his life, Paul relied upon his good works and religious activities for salvation.  For Paul, salvation was based upon being a faithful Jew who upheld the rituals and obligations required by the Old Testament law and Jewish traditions.  From a Jewish standpoint, Paul was exemplary.  Anyone who looked closely at Paul would be impressed by his dedication to fulfilling all Jewish requirements.  In verses 5-6, he lists his credentials that would impress anyone.  He was a Jew of Jews. Anyone who knew Paul would affirm that regarding the righteousness of the Law, Paul was blameless. If there was anyone good enough, it was Paul.

            Throughout much of his life, Paul took pride in his self-righteousness and how good he was.  He compared himself to others and concluded that he was the epitome of a righteous Jew.  However, all this changed when he encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. In this encounter, he was confronted with the reality that being good is not good enough. No matter how faithful Paul was to the law, how vigilant he was in following the ritualistic requirements, and how passionate he was in maintaining the purity of the law, he was still a sinner who was unrighteous in the sight of God.  After his confrontation with Christ, he no longer viewed himself as righteous.  Instead, he would affirm that he was the worst sinner (1 Peter 1:15). 

            In this passage, Paul confronts us with our reliance on our goodness and religious activities.  All our spiritual and social activities become meaningless in our quest for salvation when it is not grounded in the person of Christ and surrendering ourselves to Christ and accepting the salvation He offers through faith.  But this faith is not mere intellectual assent to the teachings of the Bible.  Biblical faith is abandoning our self-rightness and becoming obedient to Christ.  It is to no longer look to ourselves and place our confidence in our knowledge and perspective.  It is to recognize instead that salvation comes only through Christ.  Genuine faith “puts no confidence in the flesh.”  In other words, we realize that not only are our actions corrupted by sin and sinful motives (Romans 3:11), but even our moral understanding and reasoning are distorted by sin.  Instead of conforming Scripture to our perspective, we need to conform our thoughts to the mind of God revealed in the pages of the Bible (Romans 12:1-2). 

For Paul, the proof of salvation is not in religious activities but in obedience to Christ.  In verse 2, Paul characterizes those living as he once lived as “evil workers.”  Instead of surrendering to Christ, they sought to justify themselves by their works and justify their disobedience to the law.  We do the same thing today. We have “said the prayer” but not surrendered to Christ. Tragically, while claiming to be followers of Jesus, we do not conform our lives to him.  Instead of surrendering our thoughts, actions, and attitudes to the teaching of scripture, we distort and reject the scriptures as the product of man rather than the words of God.  We are zealous in our self-righteousness but not zealous in our submission to Christ.

            Genuine faith does not glory in our works but glories only in the work of Christ.  Salvation is grounded in our willingness to accept that we are sinners by choice and by birth destined to judgment. Our only hope is to surrender our lives to Christ.  This is the truth that Paul discovered on the road to Damascus, and it changed not only his life but also his eternal destiny and it is the truth that we need to affirm in our lives if we are to spend eternity with Christ.

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