In Part 1, we saw the “things” Paul was living for before he knew Christ neither satisfied him nor gave him acceptance with God. He had to lose his “religion” to find salvation. He explains in this section there are only two kinds of righteousness—works righteousness and faith righteousness—and only faith righteousness is acceptable to God. Let’s take a closer look.
Faith Righteousness (Phil. 3:7–11)
When Paul met Jesus Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9), he trusted Him and became a child of God. It was an instantaneous miracle of the grace of God, the kind that still takes place today whenever sinners will admit their need and turn to the Savior by faith. When Paul met Christ, he realized how futile his good works were and how sinful his claims of righteousness were. A wonderful transaction took place. Paul lost some things, but he gained much more than he lost!
1. Paul’s losses (v. 7)
But whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
He lost whatever was gain to him personally apart from God. Certainly, Paul had a great reputation as a scholar (Acts 26:24) and a religious leader. He was proud of his Jewish heritage and his religious achievements. All of these things were valuable to him; he could profit from them. He certainly had many friends who admired his zeal. But he measured these treasures against what Jesus Christ had to offer, and he realized all he held dear was really nothing but “rubbish” compared to what he had in Christ. His own earthly treasures brought glory to him personally, but they did not bring glory to God. They were gain to him only, and as such, were selfish.
This does not mean Paul discredited his rich heritage as an orthodox Jew. As you read his letters and follow his ministry in the Book of Acts, you see how he valued both his Jewish blood and his Roman citizenship. Becoming a Christian did not make him less a Jew. In fact, it made him a completed Jew, a true child of Abraham both spiritually and physically (Gal. 3:6–9). Nor did he lower his standards of morality because he saw the shallowness of pharisaical religion. He accepted the higher standard of living—conformity to Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:1–2). When a person becomes a Christian, God takes away the bad, but He also takes the good and makes it better.
2. Paul’s gains (vv. 8–11)
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Again, we are reminded of Jim Elliot’s words: “He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” This is what Paul experienced: he lost his religion and his reputation, but gained far more than he lost.
The knowledge of Christ (v. 8). This means much more than knowledge about Christ because Paul had that kind of historical information before he was saved. To “know Christ” means to have a personal relationship with Him through faith. It is this experience that Jesus mentions in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” You and I know about many people, even people who lived centuries ago, but we know personally very few. “Christianity is Christ.” Salvation is knowing Him in a personal way.
The righteousness of Christ (v. 9). Righteousness was the great goal of Paul’s life when he was a Pharisee, but it was a self-righteousness, a works righteousness, that he never really could attain. But when Paul trusted Christ, he lost his own self-righteousness and gained the righteousness of Christ. The technical word for this transaction is imputation (Rom. 4:1–8). It means “to put to one’s account.” Paul looked at his own record and discovered he was spiritually bankrupt. He looked at Christ’s record and saw He was perfect. When Paul trusted Christ, he saw God put Christ’s righteousness to his own account! More than that, Paul discovered his sins had been put on Christ’s account on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). God promised Paul that He would never write his sins against him anymore. What a fantastic experience of God’s grace!
Romans 9:30–10:13 is a parallel passage and we ought to read it carefully. What Paul says about the nation Israel was true in his own life before he was saved. It is true in the lives of many religious people today too; they refuse to abandon their own righteousness, so they might receive the free gift of the righteousness of Christ. Many religious people will not even admit they need any righteousness. Like Saul of Tarsus, they are measuring themselves by themselves, or by the standards of the Ten Commandments, and they fail to see the inwardness of sin. Paul had to give up his religion to receive righteousness, but he did not consider it a sacrifice.
The fellowship of Christ (vv. 10–11). When he became a Christian, it was not the end for Paul, but the beginning. His experience with Christ was so tremendous that it transformed his life and this experience continued in the years to follow. It was a personal experience as Paul walked with Christ, prayed, obeyed His will, and sought to glorify His name. When he was living under the Law, all Paul had was a set of rules. But now he had a Friend, a Master, a constant Companion! It was also a powerful experience as the resurrection power of Christ went to work in Paul’s life. “Christ lives in me!” (Gal. 2:20). Read Ephesians 1:15–23 and 3:13–21 for Paul’s estimate of the resurrection power of Christ and what it can do in your life today.
It was also a painful experience (“the fellowship of His sufferings”). Paul knew it was a privilege to suffer for Christ (Phil. 1:29–30). In fact, suffering had been a part of his experience from the very beginning (Acts 9:16). As we grow in our knowledge of Christ and our experience of His power, we come under the attack of the enemy. Paul had been a persecutor at one time, but he learned what it means to be persecuted. And it was worth it! For walking with Christ was also a practical experience (“becoming like Him in his death”). Paul lived for Christ because he died to self (Rom. 6); he took up his cross daily and followed Him. The result of this death was a spiritual resurrection (3:11) that caused Paul to walk “in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Paul summarizes this whole experience in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Yes, Paul gained far more than he lost. In fact, the gains were so thrilling that Paul considered all other “things” nothing but rubbish in comparison! No wonder he had joy—his life did not depend on the cheap “things” of the world, but on the eternal values found in Christ. Paul had the “spiritual mind” and looked at the “things” of earth from heaven’s point of view. People who live for “things” are never really happy because they must constantly protect their treasures and worry lest they lose their value. Not so with the believer who has the spiritual mind; his treasures in Christ can never be stolen and they never lose their value.
Maybe now is a good time for you to become an accountant and evaluate in your life the “things” that matter most to you.