“Pedigrees Are For Dogs, Not Christians!” 02/02/14 PM, Sharon OPC
Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
My Dad used to raise dogs. Shi-Tzu's, mostly. When you’re trying to sell puppies, usually the better the pedigree, the better the price you can get for them. Soon after my wife and I were married, while we were living in
Naples, we bought a Samoyed puppy. A Samoyed looks a lot like a Husky, only it’s pure white and has a little longer hair. Our puppy, Marco, was a beautiful dog whose pedigree included the fact that both his mother and his father were purebred Samoyed show dog champions. We used to tell
everybody about this because a fine pedigree is something that people generally tend to be proud of.
Well, people have pedigrees too. Your pedigree is your genealogy, your line of descent, your lineage. No matter what your pedigree is, most people are generally rather proud of it.
If you or your parents or grandparents came from Europe, you probably make that known to others from time to time. Perhaps there’s royal blood in your veins, or perhaps there’s a famous personage in your ancestry.
Jeannie, for example, traces her lineage back to Captain Cook, the
explorer who discovered the Hawaiian Islands. My ancestors come from
Holland in the Netherlands. I’ve told you about one of my ancestors, Captain Harm Boer, who was also a seaman, lost at sea while shipping goods to
China from the Netherlands.
Perhaps you’re proud to be from Jamaica, or Puerto Rico, or Trinidad, or
Germany, or New York, or Texas, or even, if you’re fortunate enough – Iowa!
Maybe you take pride in the fact that you’re a “Yankee,” or maybe you’re
a Southern “cracker,” born right here in Florida. I tell people that I’m a Yankee by birth, but I’m a Southerner by the grace of God!
All of us, if we look hard enough, can usually find something interesting in our pedigree to be proud of.
Some people even put these things on the back of their cars on bumper stickers: “I’m Proud to Be Polish!” “If You Ain’t Dutch, You Ain’t Much!” “Black Is Beautiful!” “I’m Proud to Be Hispanic!”
Or they might put a picture of the flag of their home country on their bumper or rear window. Perhaps, in this time of increasing world problems and lack of freedom in many countries, you’re proud to be an American.
Well, Paul is a prime example of a well-pedigreed person, religiously
Paul was “circumcised the 8th day.” Paul was “of the circumcision.”
The fact that he was circumcised placed him among the elite of the earth
in his day. But even more importantly, he was circumcised on the 8th day! That was a tremendous distinction to the Jews. Ishmaelites couldn’t be circumcised until they were 13 years of age. Converts to Judaism couldn’t
be circumcised until they entered into the synagogue. But Paul was circumcised on the 8th day after he was born!
Paul was also born of parents who were both of the proper religious stock. He was born “of the people of Israel.” The KJV reads, “of the stock
of Israel.” That meant that there were no proselytes in his ancestry.
He was a purebred Jew, through and through! He was not only from the line of Abraham…He was not only from the line of Isaac…He was of the very line of Jacob himself, later named, Israel! He was in the “elect race!” He was in that race chosen by God in the OT to be His special people.
And even more, Paul was “of the tribe of Benjamin.” Benjamin was a tribe with a proud history. They were the tribe that gave Israel its first king. They were the only tribe that didn’t desert Judah, David’s tribe, during David’s rule. They were the tribe who joined together with the Levites and with
Judah to rebuild the temple in Ezra’s day. The holy city of Jerusalem stood within the boundaries of Benjamin’s inheritance in Israel. Queen Esther and noble Mordecai came from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was a very distinguished tribe with an excellent pedigree all by itself. The Benjamites were some of the most valiant warriors in the OT army of God. And Paul was “of the tribe of Benjamin.”
Now you might think that there could be no more plumes that Paul could possibly add to his cap. How could he top what he’d listed as his credentials so far?
And yet he does. Paul was not only circumcised the 8th day, of the people of
Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, but – listen to this – Paul was “a Hebrew
That was the tallest and fanciest feather of all in Paul’s cap. All the descendants of Jacob, or Israel, could be called “Israelites,” but not all of them could be called, “Hebrews.” Only those who retained the Hebrew
language and customs of their forefathers merited the name, “Hebrew.” Paul’s parents lived in the foreign country of Asia Minor, but they hung onto their language and customs and they sent their son all the way to Jerusalem to be trained at the feet of the greatest teacher of the world at that time, the esteemed Rabbi Gamaliel!
This was expensive, of course, but after all, Paul was the cream of the cream. If anyone had his foot in the door of heaven, it was Paul. He was a man with an impeccable pedigree and a brilliant mind. Not only that, he was a man filled with religious zeal. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, a man who followed the Pharisaic laws of legalistic righteousness to the letter. He was one of those who carefully tithed, not only his general income, but he even went so far as to tithe the herbs of mint and dill in his garden!
And yet, with all that, by God’s grace, Paul finally came to realize that the more you make of your pedigree, the less you make of Christ.
From such an exalted position, the Pharisees could never sing, “Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling.”
No, their hands were full. They could show God all their fine pedigrees!
They could never sing, “Naked come to Thee for dress. Helpless look to Thee
for grace.” No, they were clothed with dignity and honor and self-righteousness. They thought that God should be proud to have them as part of His Kingdom!
But one day, Paul was struck to the ground by the glory of Jesus Christ Himself, and by God’s grace, he came to realize that he and his entire pedigree were nothing more than worthless rags in God’s sight.
What’s true of Paul is also true of each one of you. The more you make of your pedigree, the less you make of Christ.
It’s very easy, even for us as Christians, to get caught up in ourselves. “I’m a native born American.” “I went to a fine and distinguished college.” “I got
excellent marks in school.” “I was born into a wonderful Christian home with Christian parents and grandparents.” “I went to Christian schools my whole life.”
It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the most important fact of our lives is whether or not we know Jesus Christ and are joined to Him in covenant. The more you stand on tippy-toes, exalting your own heritage and your own achievements, the less you make of Christ.
It’s all too common for people to think of their pedigree as almost a ladder up to heaven.
Sometimes we as Reformed Christians also tend to take pride in the fact that we’re more orthodox than a lot of other religions and a lot of other denominations. After all, we’re members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
We’re Protestants, not Roman Catholics. We hold to the Bible alone, not the
Bible, plus tradition, plus the Pope. We’re Calvinist, not Lutheran or Arminian. We hold to the sovereignty of God and the Five Points of Calvinism. We’re Presbyterian, not Baptist. We hold to Presbyterian church
government where we’re ruled by a multiple number of elders and where we can appeal to broader church courts in cases of disagreement. And we baptize infants of believing parents as Acts 2:38 instructs, when it says, “The promises are for you and your children.”
And we’re not just any old Presbyterians. We’re Orthodox Presbyterians. We hold to the Westminster Standards. We refuse to reinterpret Scripture to allow for homosexuality and abortion and women in office and evolution and lots of other beliefs that the more “liberal” Presbyterian churches hold.
Now that’s all fine and good. We should believe those things. We should
be orthodox, Presbyterian, Reformed, Calvinist, Protestant Christians.
But if we’re truly orthodox in our understanding of Scripture, then we must also believe that all of our religious knowledge is only worthless dung when it comes to climbing that ladder to heaven. If we think our orthodoxy and solid Biblical knowledge are going to make us one bit more acceptable to God than the knowledge of other Christians, we’re greatly mistaken.
What makes us acceptable to God is not our great knowledge, or our
religious heritage and ancestry. What makes us acceptable to God is the
righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.
Paul says, in Philippians 3:7-11, “7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish [literally, Paul uses the Greek word, “skubala” or “dung”], that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and
is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his
resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Knowing Christ, having faith in Christ, trusting in the righteousness of Christ alone – that’s the only way to “attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Your religious heritage and your knowledge are good things, of course. They’re great blessings. But none of those are things that you gave yourself.
Your entire pedigree, religious or otherwise, is given to you as a gift of God’s
grace. If you know Christ and trust in Him, it’s only because God chose to give you these things, by His mercy and grace.
The more you make of your pedigree or your upbringing or your knowledge, the less you make of Christ. And the less you make of those things, the more you make of Christ and His grace. People that think that they deserve something from God because they’re special in some way, don’t fully appreciate the grace of God.
Beware of falling into the same trap as the Pharisees.
They thought that they were better than others.
It was the Pharisee, remember, who prayed loudly on the street corner,
saying, “I thank you Lord that I am not like other men.”
The Pharisees thought that they were much more worthy of Jesus’
attention than the adulterous woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears because she knew how sinful and how undeserving she was. She was so thankful for the fact that Jesus set His love upon her, a guilty sinner, that she couldn’t contain her gratitude. But regarding the attitude of the Pharisees, Jesus said, in Luke 7:47, “Whosoever is forgiven little, loves little.”
The Pharisees had little love for Jesus Christ because they thought that they didn’t really need much forgiveness from Jesus Christ. They thought that they deserved to go to heaven.
But it’s those who know their utter unworthiness to receive God’s grace –
it’s those who know that they don’t deserve anything from God but His eternal wrath in Hell – it’s such people who will love and serve and worship God most zealously. Whosoever is forgiven much, loves much!
If we’re going to boast in our knowledge, let’s boast in the knowledge that Christ has cleansed our guilty, sin laden souls. If we’re going to boast in our pedigree or our genealogy, let’s boast in the fact that we’ve been adopted by free grace into the very family of God! Let’s boast about the grace of God and the love of God and the mercy of God!
Paul said, “Let him that boasts, boast in the Lord!”