Joy in our Spiritual Heritage


Prayer: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)!

Oh God, the only true God, let your name be magnified in all the earth.”  Thank you for our names, our identities different from all others, unique in the universe.  For we were specially made by you and for you.  We were remade in your spiritual image, oh Lord, and we are grateful for your life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  Help me understand today, in my uniqueness, that I am to serve you and glorify you through that service.  We love you, and we know that you love us. Amen.

Main Scripture:

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 3:4-6).

Associated Scriptures:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well (Psalm 139:13-14).

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4).

Correlative Quotes:

At first glance, it looks as though Paul was boasting about his achievements in verses 5-6. But he actually was doing the opposite, showing that human achievements, no matter how impressive, cannot earn salvation and eternal life with God.[1]

Paul is not saying that they are of no social, cultural, educational, or historical value. Instead, he is saying that they are of no value.[2] – John MacArthur

Paul had the best possible reputation as a Jewish rabbi. In birth and training, he far surpassed all of his friends. He was sincere too; his Jewish religion meant life and death to him. So sincere was he that he even persecuted those who differed with him When he met Christ, he considered all of his earthly and fleshly attainments mere rubbish![3] – Warren Wiersbe



In the previous study, we discussed heretics who altered the truth of the Gospel message for their own benefit or out of ignorance of the truth.  The most pronounced group of false teachers at the time of Paul we the Judaizers.  They believed that their good works for the honor of God should earn them their salvation.  This belief is the center of Paul’s disagreement with the phrase “confidence in the flesh.

Paul felt so strongly about the truth of the Gospel message that he was willing to challenge any of these false teachers to match his credentials.  If anyone should have “confidence in the flesh” it should have been Paul.  His achievements were widely known throughout Jewish communities in the Roman Empire.[4] – Matthew Henry

Romans 8:8-9 states that, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

To solidify his argument, Paul lists the reasons that he is qualified in his understanding of the Hebrew’s faith and its history and traditions.

1 Circumcised on the eighth day (vs. 4): Paul met all of the qualifications of being a Jew including following the commandment to be circumcised.

  1. 2. A pure Hebrew (vs. 5): of the stock of Israel. Paul was descended from the patriarch Israel, or Jacob; and, therefore, is able to trace his genealogy back as far as any Jew could. This would have separated him from the Samaritans who intermarried. This gave Paul all of the rights of a true Hebrew.
  2. A Faithful Hebrew (vs. 5): of the tribe of Benjamin. Paul is making the point with this statement that he is from one of the two tribes which remained aligned with God (the other being Judah) when the ten tribes of northern Israel revolted under Jeroboam. This allowed Paul to claim the honor of being a pure Jew and gave him as much right as anyone to boast.
  3. A Hebrew of Hebrews (vs. 5): both in action and by birth. He knew thoroughly both the Greek and Hebrew. Paul followed the customs of the people of God; a true Hebrew.
  4. A Pharisaic Hebrew (vs. 5): Concerning the Law a Pharisee. Paul was a member of the strictest sect among the Jews. They followed the Law of God and their own interpretations of the Law to the letter.
  5. A Zealous Hebrew (vs. 6): concerning zeal. This describes an eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of everything Hebrew.
  6. An Intimidating Hebrew (vs. 6): persecuting the church. Before his conversion, Paul was physically and mentally oppressing the Christians. This means that Paul systematically followed a program of oppression and harassment against his own people. He actually led the persecution and ultimately the death of Stephen.
  7. A Self-righteous Hebrew (vs. 6): As to righteousness which is in the Law found blameless. This means having its source in obedience to the law which was a combination of God’s Law and man’s interpretations of God’s Law.
  8. A “Perfect” Hebrew (vs. 6): blameless. Paul excelled in legalistic righteousness. He was faultless in his own eyes and in the eyes of those who trusted in faith by their works.

Summary Statement:

Once Paul was converted through salvation, he became a zealot for Christ.  He truly became a new creation in Christ.  He does not list his birth rite as a Hebrew and his accomplishments to brag about himself.  His wish is that people would see him as he is, unworthy of salvation.  He understood and preached that salvation was not by works but by grace through faith.  Paul’s conversion was the same miracle that we who have been saved experienced.  In understanding who we are and remembering our checkered past, we find joy in our new life in Christ.

Lesson within the Lesson:

What was Paul’s greatest concern for the Church at Philippi?

How did Paul us his own reputation and credentials as a Jew to make his point about his unworthiness?

How do we recognize spiritual fraud in society today?

What does it mean when we say use the whole word of God? (read Luke 4:4)

[1] Tyndale House Publishers, from The Life Application Commentary Series Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 by the Livingstone Corporation. Produced with permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

[2] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Copyright © Moody Press and John MacArthur, Jr., 1983-2007.

[3] from Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.

[4] Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All Rights reserved.