In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (KJV). If we want a how-to guide for the way Paul follows Jesus, we can find a succinct version in the 3rd chapter of Philippians. This chapter is a bit unusual. Rather than speaking generally to his fellow believers or addressing a specific issue in the church, Paul gets real about his own walk of faith.
We break into the middle of the letter to the church in Philippi. Paul has been warning against “dogs, “evil workers,” and “the mutilation.” He gives a general principle that physical things like circumcision aren’t what determines whether or not you’re part of God’s chosen people. “We are the circumcision,” he writes, “who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:2-3). He then shifts to using himself as an example.
Though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Phil 3:4-6)
What a pedigree! Under the Old Covenant, Paul was as perfect as you could get. There was no stain on his Israelitish lineage. His parents kept the Law and had him circumcised. He became an elite leader in the Jewish community and an expert in the Law, which he kept to the letter. He even actively persecuted heretics.
Then, suddenly, Jesus Himself showed up and told Paul those weren’t heretics. The Messiah had come and Paul was fighting the next step in God’s plan. In response, Paul gave up power, prestige, and (parts of) the belief system he’d poured his entire life into to follow Jesus. And that’s an aspect of Paul’s life that we’re supposed to imitate. Read more