Philippians 3:6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

What did Paul mean by faultless righteousness?

  • See Deuteronomy 17:2-5. Downvoted for asking trivial questions, with little to none prior research. Are your personal bibles not cross-referenced ?
    – Lucian
    Aug 20, 2020 at 1:05

1 Answer 1


The context is that Paul wants to affirm that he is no less a part of the Jewish tradition than other apostles who were the immediate followers of Jesus and the novelties he introduces (like, allowing the converted pagans to not circumcise), thus, are not conditioned by his disregard of this tradition, but by divine, theological reasons, by the very correct understanding of Jesus' true message.

Without, thus, understanding of Jesus as the "fulfillment of the Law" (Romans 10:4), in Whom the Law is already made lawfully null (Galatians 2:19) - for, in fact, it was engrained in the Law that it was to be made void in Christ - it was fully understandable and logical to persecute Christ and His followers, and indeed this persecution would have shown a religious zeal for defending the Jewish Law and tradition. Therefore, in a certain sense, this zeal is praiseworthy indeed, for it shows a devotion towards the traditions of the forefathers, which traditions are deemed to be a fountainhead of all goodness and decency, and moreover of a correct devotion to God that made Jews, in their own eyes at least, so different and superior over other nations. However, Paul also understands that this zeal of the Jews who could not grasp Jesus' mission and role, Jesus' universal Messiaship and His Lordship was not according to the right "knowledge" (Romans 10:2), that is to say, not according to the Holy Spirit, for only through Holy Spirit can one acknowledge the Godhead of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 12:3).

Therefore, Paul says here that persecuting the church was, in a way, praiseful as showing that Paul was yet ignorant of Christ's true mission and importance and therefore his reaction against Christ and His followers was ennobled by Paul's selfless love and devotion towards ancestral traditions deemed by him as fountainhead of goodness. However, when Paul got a knowledge of Christ after the vision in the road to Damascus, then he realized that his zeal was not according to "knowledge", i.e. according to a right conscience in Holy Spirit, then he realized that his zeal was mis-directed and henceforth he directed this zeal to the right cause - acknowledgement of Christ's universal Messiahship and His Divinity.

Thus, yes, Paul deems persecution of the Church as a righteous act if the Law is understood wrongly, as something perfect and thus static. For if Law is understood so, then those who change it are truly villains and enemies of perfection. But if the Law is understood correctly, as a dynamic and imperfect system that contains in itself a self-abolition in Christ, who is its Fulfillment and who truly is Perfect, then persecution of those who follow Christ and not the letter of Law is unlawful and ungodly.

To give an analogy: if I was taught from my childhood that Church's vision of the moon and planets as perfect spheres is divinely inspired and should be adhered to as a part of the correct religiosity, then my fight against Galileo Galilei, who opposes this vision, is righteous. However, when Galileo will show me in his telescope that there are mountains on moon, and moreover will explain that the astronomy held by Church has nothing to do with the inspired truth of the Bible but is an accidental tradition, then I am already a bad person persecuting Galileo.

  • Good answer. many thanks
    – Dottard
    Aug 19, 2020 at 21:41
  • @Dottard Thanks for the comment and the up-vote! "In accordance to the Law I died for the Law" is one of the beautiful theological formulations of Paul. Aug 19, 2020 at 21:59
  • That is a great answer to his question. I learned a few things reading it, Levan. Aug 20, 2020 at 5:13

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