Paul writes in Philippians 3: 4-7: “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

5] Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
[6] Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

7] But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”

 

*****

 

Of all the tribes of Israel, Benjamin’s the one that’s sort of like the favorite son.

 

Jordan explains, “In some families you have a black sheep or red-headed stepchild, but you’ve also got the favorite; the teacher’s pet—the one who is just tugging at your heart above all the others. That’s Benjamin.”

 

Benjamin was the youngest son of Joseph by his favorite wife Rachel. Israel’s first king, Saul, was of the tribe of Benjamin. After Solomon and the big kingdom split, the tribe of Benjamin aligned with the tribe of Judah to make up the southern kingdom that remained true to Jerusalem.

 

*****

 

In essence, Paul’s making the point, “I’m circumcised the eighth day, pureblood, the stock of Israel but also the tribe of Benjamin. I’ve got this special status of being a Boston Blueblood. I mean, I’m not just a homey; I got royal blood flowing through my veins. And we’re special.”

 

Jordan says, “It’s the same thing as back in John 1 when it says Jesus ‘came unto his own, and his own received him not.
[12] But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
[13] Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’

 

“That’s what Paul’s doing here. He’s saying, ‘I got the bloodline! I’ve got the prestige! I’ve got something to trust and brag about and have confidence in and to value and treasure. I treasure my heritage!’

 

“When he says he’s ‘a Hebrew of the Hebrews,’ what he’s saying is, ‘I’ve got the total dedication to the traditions and the customs. When you see me, you see what the Hebrew’s really meant to be. I got it all.’

 

“He stuck his little chest out with his religious fervor and said, ‘I’m satisfied and I’m confident and I treasure these things because they’re where my wealth is.’

 

“Then he moves on and he says, ‘It wasn’t just my pride of place and race, but I also had pride in my religion and my performance and my achievements. I was a Pharisee.’

 

“Now a Pharisee would be what we’d call today a ‘Bible-believing fundamentalist.’ They believed in everything the Bible said; they were literal Bible believers.

 

“The Sadducees, on the other hand, didn’t believe in the resurrection or angels. There’s an old saying preachers have said for generations: ‘The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection so they were sad, you see.’

 

“The Pharisees were the rock-hard fundamentalists and Paul stood before one court and said, ‘I’m a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.’ Being a Pharisee for him was a family tradition. Remember, he sat at the feet of Gamaliel!”

 

*****

 

As Paul reports to his Jewish peers in Acts 23:3, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”

 

Gamaliel, in Acts 5, is recognized as “a Pharisee, a doctor of the law (who) had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space.”

 

Jordan confirms, “Gamaliel is one of the leading theologians and rabbinical scholars. In fact, if you go to a Jewish temple today they still quote Gamaliel.

 

“Paul says, ‘I got my education and my degrees and my understanding from the leading rabbinical schools and scholars of the day. I got the sheepskins on the wall to prove it. I’m a Pharisee. As touching the law, I’m a right-wing fundamental Bible-believing guy, man. Concerning zeal…’

 

“Wouldn’t you want to know a guy’s zeal—what he could do? Paul says, ‘Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.’

 

“What he’s saying is, ‘I’ve got the rigor, the status and the standing, but I’ve also got the conviction that goes with it.’

 

“Isn’t it interesting how that harassing and persecuting others is a mark of religion?! I call it religious tyranny. It’s not just a mark of Judaism; it’s a mark of religion. Religion wants to convince everyone that what they’ve got is what’s right. We’re right because we’ve got God’s truth and we’re fighting for God’s honor because we’re IT!’ Religion does that.

 

“Some of you know that because you’ve been in organized religion and others of you have been in a religion of your own making. You made yourself God and worshipped him. But that’s really what religion does.

 

“When Paul says, ‘as touching the righteousness, which is in the law blameless,’ look back at the last verse in Deuteronomy 6. It says, ‘And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.’

 

“God says, ‘Here’s your righteousness if you DO the commandments.’ Paul’s talking about, ‘In the outward activity of my life, and the performing the duties in my life, and the things that I do, hey, when people looked at me there was no blemish on my record! They’re no flies on me when it came to this! I got it done!’

 

“Now, when you get down to there, you say, ‘Wow, this guy’s got some really good outstanding shining religious flesh!’

 

‘And you got to understand, when he’s describing that he’s talking about confidence in the flesh. How do you put confidence in the flesh? Paul says, ‘Be religious!’ That pride and self-satisfaction in your abilities, your resources, your thinking.

 

“Can I tell you that’s why people don’t like the gospel? That’s why people don’t like the Word of God. The Bible is negative toward us. It says, ‘What you treasure won’t work. What you put your value in, what you count gain, is really loss!’

 

“The Bible says, ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ Try as you will, claim what you want to claim, perform as best you can, but you’ll always come short of the standard that God sets. Now if you’re always coming short, how do you feel about the guy setting the standards?

 

You know, it’s, ‘Is He really being fair?’ You see that’s where Paul was. He had all the religion and was satisfied with it.”