Flesh Cannot Build God's Church

by Wayne Barber

Much of what we are seeing that is being called "church growth" these days in my opinion is nothing more than glorified flesh.

The Apostle Paul was a man who had once been a very religious man and knew how to operate in his flesh. In Philippians 3, he addresses those who glory in their fleshly abilities. He calls them "dogs" in verse 2 and warns the believers of Philippi to watch out for them.

These were probably proselyte Jews who were instructing the young believers of Philippi to add law to grace. Listen to his stern words of warning: "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and (notice here what Paul says of the flesh and what it can do for God) put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh." In other words, if you want to brag on the flesh I would stand above all of you.

Then he gives his own pedigree as a religious man who once boasted of his flesh. Look at what he says: "Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless" (Phil. 3:5, 6). This last phrase is what I want to focus on: "as to righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless." The word for "blameless" is ámemptos. It means to stand before the Law without fault or defect.

Wayne BarberDo you mean, Paul, that you stood before the moral law of God "blameless"? Only one man stood before the moral law of God blameless, and that was Christ Himself. Then what law could Paul be speaking of? I think he is referring to the 613 commandments that the Pharisees came up with which they sought to obey.

If we can do it, then who needs God anymore? There had been a time that Paul boasted in himself and what he could do. Now, his boasting is only in what Christ can do through him. Look closely at Romans 15:18: "For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me." The word "presume" is the word tolmao. It means, as the KJV translates it, he would not "dare" speak of anything. He wouldn't open his mouth to speak of anything that he could do for God.

"For I will not presume to speak…." The word "speak" is the word laléo. While it does mean to speak, it has the root understanding of making a noise. Paul says he would not open his mouth to make a noise that would in anyway point to himself or his own ability to do anything. "For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me."

We are like conduits through whom God works His mighty works. We cannot do them ourselves. We can organize companies and excel in business and all the rest, but when it comes to growing a church, only God can grow His people. Only God can transform hearts. Only God can change a man's life from within.

Paul concludes with what God now can do through him as a yielded vessel: "Resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed." Paul had witnessed for himself the mighty power of God taking hold of his hearers' lives and transforming them. So Paul chose to remain silent about anything that he could do for God. Now, he only boasted of what God could do through him.