Philippians 3:1-11Chapter 9: What really matters
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord, To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
"Knowing Christ is the basis and goal of the Christian life"
Aaron Burr once told a friend that when he was about nineteen years old, he had to make a decision between God and the world. So he went into the country for a week, where he could be alone to consider the matter. While there, he decided that he would never again trouble himself about his soul's salvation. From that time on, he threw himself recklessly into sin, sinking lower and lower into unrighteousness until his manhood was wasted away.
When Paul was a young Pharisee, he had to make a decision. He had to decide between Judaism and Jesus. Contrary to the decision Aaron Burr made, Paul made the right decision, one that pointed his whole life in the right direction. He decided to trust in Jesus Christ, Who graciously revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9).
Paul wrote to the Philippians because they were partners in the work of the gospel. Because they were partners, they needed to stand united and steadfast against false teachers. If they lacked either of these qualities, their partnership would fail. In Philippians 2 Paul stressed the need for unity and then described it as a like-mindedness that developed from lowly mindedness. In Philippians 3, Paul directed the Philippians' attention to the need to be steadfast.
he began by reminding the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1). This reminder included both a command and a cause. The command was simply, "Rejoice." The cause was their union with the Lord. "Rejoice" denotes a positive attitude of joy that comes from knowing Christ. Joy doesn't come from possessions but from a Person-- Jesus Christ. John C. Wheeler said, "Now that I know Christ, I'm happier when I am sad than I was before, when I was happy." That's an interesting way to look at happiness. We need to rejoice because we are related to Christ by faith.
Paul repeated something he had communicated before to his readers, something that was not irksome for him to repeat because it served as a safeguard for them. He told them again to "beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of concision" (verse 2). "Concision" meaning mutilation, was an obvious reference to circumcision. "Beware" means to pay attention to or to watch out for. The three terms "dogs." "evil workers." and "concision" describe the same people from slightly different perspectives. Most likely Paul was referring to the Judaizers, who attempted to impose Jewish laws and observances upon Christians.
After Paul referred to the Philippians' opponents as the mutilation, he identified Christians as the true "circumcision," the true people of God (verse 3). He described Christians' worship as spiritual, their joy as being in Jesus Christ and their confidence as not being in the flesh (verse 3). This last statement was crucial. The Judaizers' confidence was in the flesh. To gain acceptance with God, they depended upon what they did and on what had been done to them, namely circumcision. The Christians' confidence, by contrast, was in Jesus Christ and in what He had done at Calvary.
Numerous well-intentioned religious people today follow the same error that the Judaizers pursued. They believe religious works gain God's favor. However, the Bible teaches emphatically that salvation is God's gift, freely bestowed upon all who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. God saves sinners by grace and not according to their works (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5,6). If we depended upon our good deeds and religious observances to get us to Heaven, we would never get there. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
Paul Reviewed His Past
In order to show the Philippians that confidence in the flesh made no sense, Paul listed his "fleshly" accomplishments. He was not boasting; he was simply illustrating from his own experience the fallacy of trusting in the flesh. If anyone thought that he had a reason to trust in his flesh, Paul had more reasons (verse 3:4). Paul mentioned his pedigree and his personal achievements.
Paul's Pre-Conversion Religious Pedigree (verses 3:5.6)
Circumcised the eighth day= A Jew by birth, not a proselyte
Of the stock of Israel= Born into the chosen race
Of the tribe of Benjamin= Belonged to the highest aristocracy of Israel
An Hebrew of the Hebrews= son of Hebrew parents; continued to use the Hebrew language when many other Jews no longer did.
As touching the law, A Pharisee= belonged to the most orthodox party in Judaism
Concerning zeal, Persecuting the church= organized a program to oppress and hassle Christians
Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless= free from fault: the perspective of the Pharisees.
Someone has observed that pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it. Do you have the disease? Are you proud of your religious credentials or good deeds? Do you have "confidence in the flesh?" I syour pride keeping you from salvation or service? You need to answer these questions and learn from Paul's testimony in Philippians 3:4-10.
From Profits to Loss
Paul had it made, or did he? Actually, he had a problem. Judaism was keeping him from Jesus. Because of his achievements, he sensed no need of Christ's atonement. But on the road to Damascus he had to choose between Judaism and Jesus. What did he do? He chose Christ. All the credentials and deeds he had boasted about and that he had considered "gain," he counted "loss for Christ" (verse 7).
"Gain" is an accounting term for profits. If Paul were an accountant, he would have put his religious pedigree and personal accomplishments in the Profits column at one time. However, when Christ confronted him on the Damascus Road, he changed his outlook and considered them loss.
It is interesting that the word "gain" in verse 7 is plural, but "loss" is singular. Paul lumped all his "advantages" together into one loss. What had been considdered "profit" became "loss" for the sake of Christ.
Perhaps you need to do some accounting. Perhaps you need to change some things from the Profits column to the Loss column.
What had happened with Paul? Why did he change his outlook? Something dramatic happened to Paul when he believed on Jesus Christ as his Savior. He received a purpose in life. Let's find out what the purpose was as we read further in his letter to the Philippians.
Paul reinforced his earlier statement by writing that he continually counted "all things but loss" (verse 8). He had counted them as loss when he became saved, and he continued to view them as loss. His motivation for counting them loss was "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (verse 8). "Excellency" means surpassing greatness and refers to Paul's intimate communication with Jesus Christ. He counted all former religious credentials and deeds loss because of Jesus Christ, and he continued to consider them loss in order to know Christ. He even counted them as "dung" (verse 8), meaning refuse or rubbish. He no longer placed any value in them. He completely renounced them because he wanted to win Christ. The bottom line of Paul's financial statement had changed. What was gain before had become loss. Christ had become Paul's gain.
Paul also wanted to "be found in him" (verse 9). This seems to point to the time of the Lord's return for the Church. Paul anticipated being found in vital union with Christ at that time.
How does a person have a vital relationship with Christ? By having the right kind of righteousness (verse 9). What is the right kind of righteousness? How does a person possess it? Bible teachers agree that righteousness is the state of being in a morally pure relationship with God. However, before further defining the right kind of righteousness, we need to know what kind of righteousness is the wrong kind.
Paul wanted to be found in Christ not having his own righteousness (verse 9). That's the wrong kind. It results from human effort. Its source is the law, and it springs from doing the law.
Paul wanted to be found in Christ having "the righteousness which is of God" (verse 9). It comes from God as a gift. It is received by faith-- "through the faith of Christ" (verse9). Righteousness cannot be achieved, but it can be received by placing one's faith in Christ.
Paul revealed his ultimate goal. He counted all things loss for Christ that he might know him (verse 10). Paul was saved and united with Christ, but he wanted to experience and enjoy union with Christ more fully. He wanted to know Christ more fully.
Perhaps we can compare Paul's relationships with Christ to the husband- wife relationships at their wedding and throughout their marriage. At a wedding, a man becomes united with his wife. Throughout the marriage, they want to experience and enjoy this union more fully. They want it to be a growing relationship. This is what Paul wanted in his relationship with Christ.
Paul would come to know Christ more fully by knowing "the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings" (verse 10). Paul was referring to two related experiences. The power of Christ's resurrection was the same power that operated in Paul's life, enabling him to lead a new and God-honoring life. This new life wasn't trouble-free, though. As he tried to obey God, he suffered. He was a partner in the sufferings of Christ.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he was suffering imprisonment because of his relationship with Christ. But he suffered willingly, knowing that his sufferings reflected the kind of self-denial that Christ showed by dying on the cross (verse 10).
We come to know people better by walking in their shoes. As we experience what they experience, we understand them better. Paul wanted to experience living like Christ, suffering like Christ, and dying like Christ in order to know Christ better.
Coming to know Christ better after salvation is similar to coming to know your spouse better after the wedding. And you can never be happily married until you get a divorce from yourself. Someone has said that successful marriage demands a certain death to self. In the same way you can never come to know Christ until you die to selfish desires and ambitions.
Resurrection: A Bright Prospect
Paul was counting all things loss that he "might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (verse 11). He was referring to the future bodily resurrection, when the process of coming to know Christ will be completed. Paul would work toward this goal for the rest of his life. "If by any means" in verse 11 does not indicate that Paul entertained doubts concerning the reality of the resurrection. Most likely he was simply expressing uncertainty about the nature of his resurrection. Would he be raised from a martyr's death? His trial at the hands of the Romans could have led to his martyrdom or to his freedom. The outcome was uncertain.
It is said that Huxley was once on his way to a meeting of the British Association in Dublin but arrived late at the station. Hurriedly he jumped into a horse-drawn cart and ordered the driver, "drive fast!"
Away went the cart, jolting over the streets. After a while Huxley asked the driver, "do you know where you are going?"
Answering with a grin, the driver replied: "No, I don't know where I am going, but I'm driving very fast."
You may be driving very fast, but do you know where you are going in your Christian life? Do you know how to get there? Do you want to come to know Christ better? Paul's goal should be yours. Partners in the work of the gospel need to know Christ better progressively. As members of a local church get to know Christ well, their understanding of His will becomes clearer and their Christian bonds grow stronger. United together in the knowledge of Christ, they successfully withstand false teaching.
Knowing Christ is what really matters!