I’ve often looked for a translation of the Bible that does not include chapter and verse divisions. Recently I found two. One was a KJV – the absence of chapter and verse divisions did not really make it more understandable. The other was the Message, which has chapter and paragraph divisions, but not verse divisions. I know that this is not a new translation (paraphrase, whatever – yes, I know the difference). I had read bits and pieces from the Message, but I had never read large sections. I decided to look into it. So far, I like it. My family read different passages from it one night. I particularly liked this passage from Philippians 3:
Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearancesâ€”knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know itâ€”even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trashâ€”along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificantâ€”dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christâ€”God’s righteousness.
I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.
I really liked this line: “I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christâ€”God’s righteousness.” I think Peterson really captures what Paul is saying in this passage.
What kind of righteousness do you want? Do you want the kind of righteousness that you can obtain from your credentials, your actions, your abilities? Or, do you want the kind of righteousness that only comes through grace (the gift of God), that is, God’s own righteousness? The real question is: Can you trust God for this kind of righteousness without trying to take things into your own hands?