In the first part of Philippians chapter 3 (3:1-11), Paul’s recounts his former and present life. Before his encounter with Christ, Paul based his confidence in the “flesh.” But after his experience with the risen Lord, his life totally changed! He put his confidence in God. In this church, false teachers from the Jewish background had spread false ideas with potential to cause conflicts and divisions. They boasted on external aspects of identity rather than looking at their newfound identity and calling in Christ. Today, believers in Christ should be changed by this transformative message of the gospel. We should be ready to lose in order to gain.
- Paul’s Former Basis for Confidence in the Flesh–
- Circumcised on the Eight day– The false teachers (referred to as ‘dogs’) emphasized on the need of the Jewish rite of circumcision beside believing in Christ. Circumcision practice was usually celebrated among the Jewish people as a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:14). To the Jewish people, it was a mark of identity and belonging. Paul claims he can validly boast because he was circumcised in exact compliance with the law (Gen 17:12; Lev. 12:3; Lk 1:59). Gentiles were “uncircumcised”
- Of the people of Israel– Paul descended from the patriarch Jacob; and as an average Jew, he could trace his family lineage all the way to Abraham. He was a true member of God’s covenant people. He was not a Samaritan, proselyte, God-fearer or pagan…
- From the tribe of Benjamin– We know that Benjamin was the most favorite son of Jacob. Significantly, it was one of the remnant tribes that remained with Judah (also godly) and when the other ten tribes seceded (1 Kings 12:21).
- Hebrew of Hebrews– An expression expressing the superlative degree. Although born in a pagan country, Tarsus, his parents were Hebrews and so he was a true Jew with no ‘mixed blood’.
- Pharisee, regarding the law– the Pharisees were the strictest sect within Judaism, with legalistic interpretation of the law of Moses (Acts 23:6-9; 26:5). Paul was a well-trained Pharisee.
- Zealous Jew– Due to his devotion and zeal to safeguard the law and Judaism, Paul persecuted the church of Jesus Christ.
- In the eyes of the law– Legally, faultless and righteous. Paul’s former righteousness was obtained by observation of the law. He could pride over other the legal standing because in the eyes of the law he was by far better than any other Jews and Gentiles.
From what we have looked at, Paul had a strong basis to boast or to glory in his Jewish-related privileges. He could boast of his cultural identity (ethnicity), what he has done (merits) and what he has not done (to break the law). These are the things (confidence in the flesh) that the false teachers, Judaizers, promoted and boasted about. They boasted about
This may look distant to us, but the point is real. In most cases, are tempted to take rely/pride in our tribes (as regrouping points), connections, wealth, jobs, experience, politicians, families, birth/inherited privileges, education, etc. These are good things but can become ‘idols’ when we use them as yardsticks of everything. Going by these distinctions will not help the body of Christ; these looks at the outside and not the inside. It focuses on standards set by men and not by God.
- But Something Radical Happened…
Saul encountered Christ Jesus. In his Damascus road experience, he realized that he had all along been blind without knowing. He realized he had been attaching value on wrong things. He realized that he had been basing his life on a wrong foundation- “flesh.” He realized that his zeal was devoid of knowledge. He realized that he was so lost that he direly needed a bearing for a true salvation. he realized that he was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
When his eyes were opened, he realized that truth and life are not abstract concepts but a person.
And so, he had to scale down from the ladder that leaned on the “flesh” in order to climb up the right ladder that leans on “God.”
Entirely, his encounter with Jesus Christ transformed his mind, world view, and heart. The life of the new Paul was never the same again.
Have you had this encounter with Jesus?
III. What Did this Transformative Encounter Lead to?
Paul now considered what was formerly profit a LOSS. He literally began a journey of losing. Christianity is a journey of losing and gaining. He started detaching value from what is worthless and putting value on what is praiseworthy and eternal. He now wanted to glory/boast in Christ.
What was formerly an advantage was now a loss, for the sake of Christ (v.7, 8). He realized that the very things that led him by the nose like a bull were the very things that hindered him from coming to the true faith in Christ. Now they are a loss. He now considers them all a “rubbish” (refuse, what is thrown away as worthless, chaff, refuse of a table, or of slaughtered animals, and then filthy of any kind), he no longer depends on them. He no longer esteems rites (circumcision), ethnicity, or birth privileges. Instead, he now has an identity defined by his relationship with Christ.
In Philippi, the slave girl lost her demonic gift, reputation, and power to predict the future and to earn money out of it. The disciples gave up everything- houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, fields for Christ’s sake (Matt.19:29). For our behalf, Jesus gave up- his riches (2 Cor. 8:9), glory, joys of heaven to be a ‘man of sorrows’, immunity from temptation so as to be tempted, etc. (Phil 2:6-11). Many have lost friends, names, property, social exclusion, and abandonment.
Are there some things that you have lost as a result of your union with Christ? Can you be able to say:
I no longer live the life I used to live; sing the songs I used to sing; eat the food I used to eat; drinks what I used to drink. I am able to truly say: I no longer talk the way I used to talk; go to places I used to go; think the way I used to think; or do what I used to do…. Have we suffered loss/renounced/given up some behaviors, attitudes, shameful ways (2 Cor. 4:2), patterns of the past (2 Cor. 5:17)?
We always sing, ‘count your blessings’; perhaps it is also good to think of ‘counting our loses’
Paul lost all things, but he gained much more than he lost.
What is it that has happened since Christ come into your heart? Are there loses? Have you lost attachment to the ways of the world or people of the world? The problem we have today is that we have many Christians who are unwilling to lose attachment to the (things of the) world. What is it that was formerly dear that you’ve now considered to be rubbish, FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST.
IV. Things That Paul Wanted to gain (V. 8-11):
By losing “all” Paul did not want to remain empty. Rather, he wanted to be filled by God with worthy, valuable and eternal things. He wanted to receive what is true bread (Isa 55:1-2). He wanted his thirsty to be quenched once and for all (Jn 4:14).
So, what did he seek in exchange? Paul sought:
- To gain Christ– Christ was the treasure that apostle Paul sought. Christ is the all in all. Secondly, Paul wanted to be found in him-united with Christ.
- The righteousness of Christ (v.9; cf. Rom 3:21, 23,25) – Paul did not want self-righteousness but a form of righteousness that comes through faith in Christ.
- The knowledge of Christ (v8)- Paul confesses “I want to know Christ.” Although he had walked with Chrsit for about three decades, Paul still desired a continual intimate/personal relationship with God. To know God is to: know Jesus Christ, walk as Jesus did, and to obey his commands. He wanted to know of his love that surpasses all understanding (Eph 3:19).
- The power of his resurrection– Paul wanted to continue to know the power that raised Christ from the dead-the power that is now at work in us, the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; Col. 3:1). This is the same power that quickened us when we were death in our transgressions and sins; the power that brought us to salvation, sustaining us, the power that will present us before God.
- The fellowship of Christ-(v.10-11)- The fellowship of sharing in his suffering. Similar experience to the baptism experience. Paul desired to suffer like and with Christ so that hw will be overjoyed when is glory is revealed (1 Pet 4:13; Col 1:24). He had a proper perspective of the present pain versus the future gain.
- Becoming like him in his death- United with Christ in his death- 3:21. Baptism figure. Crucified with Christ… (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:29-30).
- Attain the resurrection from the death– Paul believed that the death would be raised (Acts 24:15; 26:6-8; Phil. 3:21) that he will attain this resurrection. He hopes for that glorious resurrection of those who died in the Lord.
Jesus as the single greatest treasure that is worth everything (Matt. 13:44-45)
If you have not lost anything then you have not gained anything.
Paul gained far more than he lost.
If you have not detached yourself from the world then you have not learned the secret of attachment to Christ.
“He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot