Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Faithfulness of Messiah

That I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. (Philippians 3:8-9)
Paul puts no “confidence in the flesh,” that is, in who he is by birth or what he has accomplished. In fact, he considers everything in his life as “loss” so that he might “gain” Jesus as his Messiah, to know Him and Lord and be “found in Him.”

To be found in the Lord Jesus means to belong to Him. In Ephesians, Paul tells believers that we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). That is, God accepts us because of His Beloved Son. When God looks at us, He sees Jesus, and when He looks at Jesus, He finds us. God is thoroughly delighted about that. So is Paul, and to him it is worth everything.

Paul no longer seeks a “righteousness” of his own, that is, a right relationship with God that is based on anything he is in himself or what he has done. He has given up looking for it by keeping the law of Moses, which turned out to be a disaster for him. Outwardly, he seemed to being keeping it well, but in his heart of hearts, he knew he was a mess. In Romans 7:7-24, he describes the desperation of that experience and how he ended up by crying out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (v. 24). And then of course, in the next verse, he rejoices in the answer: “I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

What Paul has found that is so incomparable is a relationship with God that is based on the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus. The NKJV says, “through faith in Christ,” but I think the better reading is “through the faithfulness of Christ.” The word “of” gives us a more literal rendering of the Greek text, and the Greek word pisteos, often translated “faith,” can just as well be taken here as “faithfulness.” A number of translations support this reading, including the Common English Bible, The Expanded Bible, N. T Wright’s Kingdom New Testament and Stern’s Jewish New Testament.

Now, it is quite true that we are counted as righteous before God through faith in Jesus the Messiah, but that is possible only because He has Himself been found faithful to God. Israel, through whom God wanted to bless all the nations of the earth, had proved unfaithful. But where Israel failed, Jesus her Messiah succeeded. Paul has already shown us in Philippians 2:5-11 what that faithfulness of Messiah looked like, how the Lord Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross, and how God therefore gave Him the name that is above every other name and dominion over everything in heaven and earth.

Paul discovered, much to his surprise — and relief — that it is not about him. It is not even about the law. It is about Jesus, whom God has made both Lord and Messiah. In Him, we are now dead to the law (Romans 7:4) and it has no more power, no more say over us. Jesus nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). It is not circumcision or any other aspect of law-keeping that demonstrates this right relationship with God, but faith in Jesus the Messiah.

In Him, we are also now dead to sin. It too has no more power and no more say over us. In his letter to the Jesus believers at Rome, Paul speaks of
knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:6-11)
That is how Paul, as he writes to the believers at Philippi, now reckons himself. What he values far above all else is the living relationship with God that has been won for us by the faithfulness of Messiah.

Focus Questions
  1. How did a law-based relationship with God turn into such a desperate situation for Paul?
  2. Why is the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah such a relief for Paul?
  3. How much of your relationship with God have you considered to be based on your own performance?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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