Experts and Efforts

10.21.22 Devo Image

“For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put 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; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”—Philippians 3:3–6 (NIV)

Why do people listen to expert opinions? Because they have greater understanding and experience. If you want a pizza recipe, would you listen to a Michelin star chef or a Michelin tire salesperson whose idea of pizza making is microwaving a Pizza Lunchables? 

Building off of the instructions he just gave to not listen to the “dogs” and to put no confidence in our own works in order to earn God’s favor, in this passage Paul plays the expert card. He shows that if anyone could rely on their own efforts and accomplishment to earn salvation, it would be him. 

Think of the most-holiest, upright model of morality you know. The fact is whoever you’re thinking of isn’t even close to what Paul was. He was . . . 

  • circumcised in accordance with Leviticus 12:3;
  • a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
  • a Benjamite, one of the most distinguished tribes of Israel;
  • a Hebrew of the Hebrews in a time where many Jews were ashamed of their Jewish heritage and tried to live and act as much like Greeks as they could; 
  • an ultra-religious Pharisee who followed the Mosaic Law to the letter and knew the Scriptures so well he could probably recite the Torah in his sleep;
  • as zealous and passionate as they came, even persecuting the Church to defend Judaism;
  • a man who superseded the standard of righteousness (based on the way the law was interpreted and taught at that time), which was accepted among the people of his day. 

To sum up, if anyone could lay claim to earning God’s favor by accomplishments, accolades, law keeping, and the works of the flesh, it was Paul. He was far more qualified than his Judaizing opponents were to make such a claim.

Friends, may this be a lesson to us when we become judgmental toward both nonbelievers and believers or when self-righteousness rears its ugly head. We are no better or more accomplished than the absolute worst and most wicked person out there. 

It’s important to remember that no matter what we do, who we are, or what we accomplish, God’s love for us isn’t based on what we do for Him, but on what Christ has done for us! In fact, apart from Jesus, we have nothing, are nothing, and can do nothing of actual moral good. Isaiah 64:6 (NIV) goes as far as to say that apart from Him, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” 

Nothing we could ever do would be enough to revive our dead spirit, cut away our sinful nature, and earn right standing with God. In the economy of eternity, we’re all inescapably trapped in spiritual and moral poverty. 

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life”—Titus 3:4–7 (NIV)

Pause: How would you describe your life before you put your faith in Christ?

Practice: Is there a person or group of people you have judgmentally written off, become calloused toward, or simply have given up on? This week, pray for them. Pray with the compassion of Jesus and ask the Lord to work in their heart and draw them to Himself, remembering that no one is beyond the salvation, grace, and mercy of God in Christ.

Pray: Father, help me have a proper view of myself. Help me to never become self-righteous. Instead, I pray I would walk in humility and compassion, that I would always remember that it’s by Christ alone I’m saved and it’s in Christ alone that my worth, inheritance, right standing, righteousness, hope, and confidence are found. Amen. 

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.