As believers we understand that our salvation is based completely on what Jesus did on the cross. Our confidence is in Him, not in our own efforts. “We put no confidence in the flesh” to attain or sustain salvation (v.3). When it comes to being saved, all we can bring to the table is need — a desperate need for a Savior. Any human effort or attempts to qualify for salvation are useless and powerless to save.
If anyone had reason to brag about his religious credentials, it was Paul (v.4-6). But here he admits that his Jewish pedigree and his rule-keeping, which he called “a righteousness of my own” (v.9), amounted to nothing. He testified that salvation is found only in a faithful response to Jesus, who suffered and died on the cross and rose from the dead (v.10). God’s plan of salvation does not involve trying to be a better person or trying to do better things — it is about knowing Jesus and trusting in His power to save. Indeed, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Having established this great truth, Paul makes two applications of it. First, if our salvation is based on what Jesus accomplished on the cross when He shed His blood to cover our sins, then we can let go of our past mistakes. They are forgiven and we are free! We can stop focusing on the regrets we see in the rear-view mirror and get excited about what lies ahead! In Christ you can get past your past and look forward to what God will help you become (v.12-14).
The second application Paul made was specific to a false teaching prevalent in his day. There was a group of teachers known as “Judaizers”, Jewish Christians who had the mistaken idea that all non-Jewish Christians should follow the Old Testament ceremonial laws, especially (for men) circumcision. Paul revealed his disdain for these teachers, referring to them as “dogs” (v.2). He had strong feelings about them, and rightfully so. They were confusing the church and polluting the gospel by adding behavioral requirements to the grace of God. As absurd as it sounds, they expected non-Jewish men to “mutilate” their bodies through circumcision as either a prerequisite or a proof of saving faith (v.2). In verses 20-21 Paul assured the believers who were being pressured by the Judaizers that there was only one bodily change they needed to be concerned with: in heaven, Jesus will completely transform our earthly bodies into glorious resurrected bodies! For eternity we will enjoy ageless, pain-free, immortal bodies as we fellowship with our Savior!
Because of what Christ has done for you, look forward to that day, and live this day with gospel confidence. Onward and upward with Jesus (v.14)!!