Sermon: The Righteousness that Depends on Faith (Philippians 3:1–11)
Deep down, all of us are terrified at the thought of being exposed for what we really are. This universal fear flows from a common source in human history at the Fall, where the first reaction of Adam and Eve to their original sin was to feel a sense of shame at their nakedness: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Gen. 3:7). Where in their innocence they were “naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25), in their guilt they immediately felt a sense of such deep shame that their first impulse was to cover up. And ever since Adam and Eve first sewed together those fig leaves to try to give themselves just a little bit of covering over their shame, every human being has understood this sense of fear at being exposed.
What we really need, though, is something much more powerful than a simple papering over of our shame. What we really need is to be clothed in a perfect righteousness that doesn’t simply mask our sin and guilt, but that exchanges them for a real righteousness that is bulletproof from condemnation. With that kind of righteousness, you could stand with confidence before the omniscient Judge of all the Earth.
It is this desperate need for righteousness that stands behind what Paul writes about how circumcision, specifically, and the entire Mosaic law, generally. At the most basic level, Philippians 3:1–11 addresses one key question: On the last day, will you depend on some kind of fig leaves to cover over your sin, or will you submit your pride to trust that Christ will give you his own, genuine righteousness through faith?