“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8, NKJV).
In the last chapter, we read about the ultimate example of humility that we find in Christ. So, it is rather funny to find ourselves reading Paul’s list of accomplishments. It appears that some “believers” were trying to convince the church that salvation came through the cross and circumcision. What was Paul’s defense? “For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort” (verse 3).
Paul pulls out his resume, so to speak, to prove to the Philippians that he could, in fact, have confidence in his own effort “if anyone could.” Paul was:
- a pure-blooded Israeli.
- a Benjamite.
- a member of the Pharisees (“who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law”).
- a persecutor of the church.
- blameless in the sight of the law.
And what was Paul’s response to his lineage and accomplishments? “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done (verse 7). And, “…I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith” (verse 9). What a clear explanation of the Gospel! All of the good things I have done are nothing in comparison to Jesus’ blameless life and his sacrifice on the cross. How could I ever earn salvation? How could I ever place the burden of human requirements on top of that?
The second half of this chapter has long been a favorite for Christians everywhere. I was one of many to make verses 12-14 my life verses. I love how one version phrases verse 12: “…But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” I am always amazed when I think on how God called me out of darkness into a life He had planned for me. In chapter one, Paul told us that God started a good work in us and He will not quit until He sees that work accomplished. He called me out as His own with the end–my perfection in Christ–already in sight. He sees me as I am, but He also sees me as the spotless bride I will become.
And so we must pattern our lives after Paul and other mature believers. Not only should we act like the citizens of heaven we are, but we should also have the compassion that Paul had for unbelievers and those who are Christians in name only. They have missed the mark because they believe that all there is to life is life here on this earth. When he speaks of the lost as enemies of the cross, he does so with tears in his eyes.