Philippians 3:1-11 Performance Issues

 Finally, my brothers,[a] rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God[b] and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,[c] blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Performance Issues

At my place of work we often focus on assessment.  Assessment tells us how well we are doing and sometimes highlights places that we can focus upon.  There is formative assessment which helps to shape who we are and there is summative assessment which ranks us compared to others.  The Bible gives us ways to assess ourselves.  We are being formed and so it is good to measure ourselves against God’s moral imperatives and make adjustments so that we become more holy in our living.  However, our summative assessment always gives us 100% if we have accepted Christ.  We have Jesus’ righteousness exchanged for us and so our grade can not change.  The problem with the church at Philippi is, like many today, it was influenced by the idea that our eternal worth is measured by how we perform not by what we have received.  Paul outlines how, if the Christian life is about performance, he had outperformed everyone.  However, the value of his own attempts at scoring well were nothing compared to the score he received by being associated with Christ.  Anything less that 100% is worthless in the face of a holy God.  Jesus’ 100% is worth everything, Paul’s performance is worth nothing.

So, do you measure your worth by what you do or by what you have received?  Are you anxious to do well or are you grateful that you are unconditionally accepted and forgiven?  It is with this attitude that we can rejoice like Paul rejoices.

So many Christians who have grown up in Fundamentalist churches are pulled between the joy of grace lavished upon us by God and guilt associated with performance reinforced from the pulpit.  My wife has just written a piece about this struggle at


we struggle with feelings of shame related to our performance.  Help us to see the wrong in us as opportunity to grow.  Help us to release our need to measure ourselves by performance.  Help us to rejoice in what Jesus has already attained for us.


  1. Why does Paul rejoice?
  2. What problem was going on surrounding circumcision?
  3. Why does Paul say the Philippians should not worry?
  4. What performance is linked with your identity (for example I feel emotionally tied to my performance as a teacher)?
  5. How could you assess yourself more accurately?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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