“Although I have confidence — even in the flesh! If anyone else think that he has confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eight day, a descendent of Israel, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee according to the Law, a persecutor of the church as to zeal; as to righteousness under the law, I am faultless! But whatever profit was mine, this I regard as forfeit because of Christ.”
As Paul recounts his Jewish qualifications, what strikes me is how often, as Christian pastors, we fall into arrogance as a result of our qualifications. No, we are usually not worried about bloodline in today’s world (unless we happen to be related to Billy Graham, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, etc…) but we do present ourselves often as having come from the right seminary, having attended the right church, having served on the right Presbytery committees, etc… How quickly we fall into the trap of desiring to be elevated amongst men.
In contrast to our sinfulness, Paul is not using his credentials to point to himself. Instead, he is using the credentials to point to Christ. Paul is essentially saying that if anyone thinks they have impressive credentials, that he can “one-up” them…but further, Paul still counts everything as loss compared to the work of Christ. Jesus is everything; our human works are nothing in and of themselves.
Think of it, as men we make monuments, but God raised the mountains. As men, we struggle to make it off of this rock we call earth, but God created the cosmos. As men, we create art; but God created the flower and the butterfly. As men, we might make sacrifices for one another; Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice to pay the debt of sin that is owed by all of His elect. Folks, Paul’s point is not only that there is no room for comparison…but it is also, why bother comparing? Everything, Paul says, he counts as loss or forfeit because of Christ.
Does that mean that training, education, seminary, or background is a bad thing? If God is using it for His glory, no, it is not a bad thing at all. If we are using it as a matter of pride and arrogance, it is a bad thing. If we are using it as a measure of personal standing, it is a bad thing as well. If we are not able to say, with the Apostle Paul, that I regard all things as forfeit because of Christ, then even the best credentials can be stumbling blocks. When a mechanic uses tools to repair an engine that is out of tune, one does not praise the tools. One praises the skill of the mechanic. God is the mechanic and we are the tools in his hands. We deserve no praise for he is the one doing the job. We are at his disposal…they key is to be ready for use.