“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;”
We have examined four accomplishments Paul imagined at one time commended him to God. Now we turn to his fifth boast before God.
“concerning the law, a Pharisee”
There were two wings of religious leaders in Judaism: the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. That is why they were “sad, you see”!!! The descendants of the Sadducees are the liberal religionists of our day.
The Pharisees were sticklers for religion. Their religion was orthodox but rigidly so. No group transcended their self-righteousness. They were the ultimate legalists. They had a rule for everything.
These two groups were rivals for dominance in Judaism. Paul knew this. He even used this understanding of their rivalry to rescue his hide as he stood in court:
“But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!’” (Acts 23:6)
Paul took advantage of a long-standing debate between these two groups. A raging debate ensued from Paul’s statement:
“And when he said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.” (Acts 23:7,8)
Paul came out of orthodoxy. He came from a conservative theological background. He knew legalism to the core. He understood its fallacies and weaknesses.
The phrase “concerning the law” means according to the norms or standards of law. When it came to the laws of Judaism, Paul kept them religiously. He was confident in his religious regulations. This man was confident in his race (Israel), family tree (Benjamin), his patriotism (Hebrew of Hebrews). Here he was confident in his religion.
Religion is a false basis of confidence because it rests upon the accomplishment of man. A Pharisee went to the synagogue three times a day and prayed seven times a day. Christianity rests upon the achievements of Christ. No one is ever right with God by logging a tremendous amount of time in religion. Religion attacks the grace principle as religionists did Paul.
Confidence in religion displaces dependence upon God’s grace.
Are you working hard to gain God’s acceptance? It is a futile exercise. The only person who can earn God’s approval is Jesus Christ. We are positionally acceptable to God in Christ (Ephesians 1-3). We already have God’s approval. We can rest in that.