"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." (Philippians 3:8-11)
There is no doubt that the Apostle Paul was proud of his Jewish heritage. To be a member of God’s Chosen nation one must be born into it, one must be of the seed of Abraham. Paul was an Israelite by birth and born into the family of Benjamin. He was a devout Hebrew of the Hebrews and obedient to the Law of Moses. So much so Paul was a leader and a member of the Pharisee sect. The Jew believed that the way to receive God’s salvation was in complete obedience to the law and Paul was zealous in that endeavor. On his way to Damascus to persecute the members of the way, followers of Jesus, he was confronted by Jesus and called into the ministry of the gospel. (Acts 9:1-19) Until then Paul’s faith was built upon his heritage, his Jewish citizenship, his status as a Pharisee, and the righteousness found in the obedience to the Law of Moses. After coming face to face with the Lord Jesus Paul knew that all these things were but rubbish.
The Apostle Paul counts all the things that he did to gain saving righteousness as a loss in comparison to knowing Jesus in a personal relationship. I have often marveled that how could anyone who has met Jesus not see that they in comparison they fall way short of His glory. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) We tend to gauge ourselves against others to judge our position in the faith. Sometimes we can give ourselves a little pat on the back but then who is our comparison? To enter into the Kingdom of God we must be perfectly righteous. This is the standard set forth by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) Not one of us, not any man, on our own power, will achieve entry into the Kingdom of God without the righteousness of Jesus. Paul knew that all his efforts of the past to gain righteousness were loss and his only hope was to stand in the light of his Lord and Savior.
In the light of the Excellency of Jesus Paul fell in humble submission as the Apostle Thomas when he saw the nail prints and the scare of the trusted spear on His Lord Jesus. "Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28) For a personal relationship with Jesus Paul was willing to count all things of the past as lost. No longer were they important to him in comparison to the majesty of the Lord. Paul’s past in light of the Lord was rubbish and no longer had value to him, as the value of gaining Christ is far greater than any the world has to offer. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:45-46)
There is nothing in this world that we can take to the next that will be with us in the next, except our relationship with Jesus. "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." (Philippians 3:7) We can as the rich young ruler hang onto the baggage of this world and lose it all in the end. (Luke 18:18-23) Or we can release ourselves from its chains and find freedom in the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him on the narrow path to His Kingdom.
We seek to be found in Christ, having Him live spiritually through us, as life is in the spirit not in the flesh. When the body dies the spirit lives on and to be found in Him we are to have His Spirit living in us. We are saved by God’s grace through faith, (Ephesians 2:8) this is the security of our hope. "Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one." (John 18:9) Man cannot live in righteousness in his own stead or by obedience to the law, as we are all born into sin and we all will stumble along the path. Our hope is to be perfectly found in Him that God will see us in His righteousness. "For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:3) We are found in Him as members of His body in submission to the Word of His command. In this, we are sanctified and formed to our Redeemer. This is the process of our life here that we can accomplish through Him the good work which God has prepared for us to do. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
Paul counted all things a loss in the surpassing value of knowing Christ. (Philippians 3:8) Knowing Christ is more than head knowledge of Him but is a heartfelt love for Him as our Redeemer. While we were yet lost in the bondage of our sin He sacrificed Himself on the cross that we could be freed from the bondage of our sin. To know Him is not only knowledge of our redemption through Him but being brought to the Redeemer Himself. By knowing Him we know the power of His resurrection. He was delivered over because of our transgressions and resurrected because of our justification. "He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification." (Romans 4:25) That we also will be raised up with Him spiritually because we are found in Him. "Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12) The Divine Spirit which raised Jesus from the grave is that same spirit that will raise us from spiritual death now and in the hereafter shall raise our bodies from death. "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11) Life comes from the Spirit that lives within.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to have fellowship in His sufferings. We are to identify with Him in His sufferings and in His death. Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23) Whether it be the cross of service or the cross of persecution or death, we are to bear that cross and follow Him, we are to follow His example. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." (Colossians 1:24)
The Apostle Paul closes in humility that he may attain to the resurrection of the dead. Paul seeks to attain at the end of his journey, at the end of the race set before him, to be resurrected as His Lord who is faithful and true and promised that He would give eternal life to His own. To gain Christ we find the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. We gain His righteousness through our faith in Christ, we know Him and the power of His resurrection, that through Him we may attain the resurrection from the dead. Life is all about Jesus and there is none other, as the Apostle Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life." (John 6:68)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick