Philippians 3:4 … If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. ESV
Outwardly Paul looked to be as blameless as any man could be. According to what we have just read, both he and his parents did everything right. He was of the right lineage. He was rightly identified as being a Jew when he was only a week old. Growing up he sat under the right teachers, and once he became a man, he did the right thing by becoming a Pharisee. Paul did everything right, yet he wasn’t right. Deep down inside he knew that he was wrong.
Perhaps Paul was among the Pharisees who heard Jesus say – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27 ESV) Clothing and customs do not make a person right with God. To be right with God there must be a cleansing of the heart.
One day Paul was forced to come face to face with his spiritual inadequacy. The Bible says that Jesus confronted him with this statement – ‘It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ (Acts 26:14 ESV) A ‘goad’ (KJV – prick) was a sharp stick used to prod stubborn animals. Jesus liken Paul to a stubborn animal. Though Paul knew deep down inside that he was not right with God, he was resistant to let go of his old ways and to trust in Christ.
Apparently Christ’s words struck Paul very deeply and on that day something amazing happened. Paul suddenly stopped pretending that he could somehow make himself right with God and instead he put his faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus. Years later Paul wrote these words about his conversion.
Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— ESV
No longer did Paul try to earn righteousness through obedience to the law. The man who wanted more than anything else to be right with God realized that righteousness can come only by trusting Jesus.
What about you my friend? Do you believe that if you do enough of the right things you can somehow become righteous? If the most religious man who ever lived could not make himself right with God, neither can we. Righteousness can be ours only by putting our faith and trust in Christ. If you need help in your relationship with Christ, please contact me at: email@example.com