The abundant life of the Christian in no way depends upon the believer’s own righteousness or religiosity; it depends, in every way, on the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s opening words in the third chapter of Philippians may not be as full of ire as the epistle of Galatians, but Paul is hopping mad. “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—” (Philippians 3:2–3, ESV).
He’s mad because, like the Galatians, the Philippian church had been infiltrated by some false teachers who tried to convince the new Christians that, if they really wanted to be spiritual, they needed to be circumcised according to Jewish ritual.
Why is it such a big deal to Paul? What could be so wrong with putting a few Jewish laws into the Christian faith? What made him mad enough to call such teachers “dogs” and “evildoers” and “those who mutilate the flesh”?
Here it is: If you can be convinced that you are not fully qualified as a Christian because you haven’t conformed to some external practice, fulfilled some religious rule or followed a religious custom, then the Gospel will lose all its power to you.
I’ve often put it this way. I love my wife. I’ve been married to her for nearly 35 years. We’re in a covenant, and we’re in love. But, imagine if I told my wife for 99 days in a row: “Honey, I love you, I’ll never leave you;” and then, on the 100th day I told her: “I don’t know – you might not be good enough for me, I might leave you unless you improve.”
Wouldn’t the 99 days of reassuring love be completely cancelled out by the one day of conditional affection? Wouldn’t she reinterpret all the “I love yous”? Wouldn’t she doubt every time I told her I loved her in the future?
One percent of law contaminates it all. A little leaven infects the whole thing.
Put no confidence in the flesh. Don’t listen at all to the evildoers who would tell you that your standing with God is conditional upon your righteousness or religious ritual. You are saved by grace and grace only. When you accept Christ, you are fully, totally, forever qualified. And that’s the Gospel!