“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee.”
In verse 4 Paul made the point that when it comes to confidence in the flesh, he had an outstanding religious career. In this verse he delineated and documented his successes.
“Circumcised the eighth day”
Verses 5 and 6 catalog seven items Paul once thought were his assets. He believed that these things would impress God. When he met the Savior, he found they were liabilities. Here he set the ledger straight.
On one side of the ledger, he documented the seven so-called assets he thought would recommend him to God. On the other side was Jesus Christ. He traded all his assets for Jesus Christ. This was a radical about-face—an outstanding religionist turned Christian. It is probably more difficult for religionists to become Christians than it is for irreligious people. Belief in their legalism is too big a mountain for them to scale. Some think that because they have never murdered anyone or stolen anything (anything big, anyway), that must impress God somehow.
Item number one is “circumcised the eighth day.” His first asset of religion was when he was eight days old. Right off at the beginning of his life he was conferred with religion. The eighth day was the day stipulated by the Old Testament law for a young boy to be circumcised. Circumcision was the external sign of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 17), which shows attachment to God in covenantal relationship. Paul was circumcised within the prescriptions of the Old Testament. Both John the Baptist and Jesus were circumcised the eighth day (Luke 1:59; 2:21), just as the law demanded. Many people feel that they will stand tall in God’s sight if they just follow the rules of the Bible. The rite of religion is a mechanism. Mechanisms do not influence God. Confirmation, christening, baptism, the Lord’s supper in themselves do not impress God. It is the personal relationship with God that means something.
Many people to whom Paul wrote were Jewish converts. They were circumcised late in life. They were not circumcised on the eight day. Paul, in contrast to them, was circumcised on the prescribed day. Technically, Paul was more religious than they were.
Religious rites do not impress God; in fact, religion itself does not make an impression on God.
Approbation with God comes only through Jesus Christ. Only a vital relationship to God through Jesus Christ gets the attention of God.
Pride believes we impress God via something we do. It seeks to circumvent Jesus Christ. Trust is placed in a human mode of operation, not in divine provision. Do you believe your religion or spirituality impresses God? Do you rest on what you have done as over against what Jesus Christ has done for you to gain the approbation of God?