Philippians 3: Stanly Community Church

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1 What does it really mean to become a Christian? The Bible presents faith in Jesus Christ as the complete exchange of our human efforts to gain eternal life for God s gracious salvation through His Son. Genuine Christianity, therefore, produces a view of life that sees a relationship with God through Christ as the only thing worth pursuing. Once a person repents of sin and places their faith in the atoning death of Christ and His resurrection as the means of their righteousness before God, then there is but one goal: to build on that righteousness a life of faithful service to God. And the believer has the assurance that God is at work in them to achieve this (Phil. 2:13). The Lord s apostle, Paul, had this in mind as he wrote his letter to the Church in Philippi. Convinced of their genuine faith, he emphasized the need for the believer s sanctification. Regardless of any hardships that would result from their faithfulness, he wanted them to know that giving up everything else to gain Christ is well worth it. God had chosen to make Paul a prime example of a redeemed human being set apart to serve Him. And as the apostle continues his letter, he shares his spiritual journey from an unrighteous, religious zealot (3:1-7) to a righteous man of faith in Christ. In 3:8-11, he explains the great exchange of his own efforts to gain righteousness for the righteousness that God provides through faith. He notes the surpassing value of Christ, the surpassing righteousness of faith, and the surpassing goal of eternal life. 1

2 The Great Exchange (3:8-11) The Surpassing Value of Christ (v.8) After recounting the self-righteous life he had abandoned to follow Christ, Paul said in the preceding verse, what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ (v. 7). Until he followed Christ, Paul had trusted entirely in his religious heritage as a Jew (3:4-6). But when God drew him to faith in Christ, he realized that his prior efforts to obtain and maintain eternal life had been in vain. They were of absolutely no value whatsoever in gaining true righteousness. When God revealed to Paul the truth regarding eternal life in His kingdom, the soon-to-be apostle was glad to forsake everything to gain what was of true value. He had been zealous for his religion, but now he was eager to be zealous for Christ. That meant totally discounting his former religious pursuits and relinquishing any supposed benefits. Now he could also say, Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord (v. 8a). Not only did Paul view his prior religious experience as a useless attempt to gain eternal life, but he also saw everything in this world as utterly inferior to the benefit of a personal relationship with his heavenly Master. After all, what more is there to gain than the blessedness of eternal life in fellowship with our Creator? Once we understand the excellence (Gr. huperecho; i.e. that which rises above all else) of Christ, then everything else pales in comparison. 2

3 That is not to say that things in this life are not to be enjoyed and appreciated within the context of God s will and with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-4). However, the believer must keep everything in perspective. And if we are true believers, then nothing is more important to us than our relationship with Christ and our service to Him. When that is the case, we, like Paul, are willing to suffer the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that [we] may gain Christ (v. 8b). The word, rubbish (Gr. skubalon), refers to things worthless and detestable, and it can be translated as dung or manure. In other words, Paul is saying that, compared to Christ, everything else is not even desirable. In other words, you see all self-righteousness as a worthless. The word, gain, emphasizes value as in a credit on an accounting ledger. To know Christ is like having an astronomical amount applied to your account with God which wipes out the debt of sin a debt which our self-righteousness could not even begin to erase! The believer will, without hesitation, always see the surpassing value of Christ. If you do not see Him in that light, then you do not belong to Him. The Surpassing Righteousness of Faith (v. 9) A true Christian has that view of the Lord because they are righteous in His sight. That is, they have a relationship in good standing with God because of the righteousness that Christ provides for us which infinitely surpasses self-righteousness. The offence of sin has been dealt with and removed, and the believer fully appreciates what Christ has done to make this possible. 3

4 Our self-righteous attempts to please God or obtain some form of eternal life are useless. We are incapable of rising above our sin and the judgment of God that we deserve (Rom. 3:23). Even a fastidious Jew such as Paul had no chance of gaining eternal life based on his own efforts. So Paul says in verse nine that we must be found in [Christ], not having [our] own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. What does he mean? Well, to be found in Christ means to be unified with the Lord Jesus Christ through our faith in Him. It means to be identified by God as one who humbly follows Christ. Such a person realizes that they have nothing to offer God that will acquit them on Judgment Day -- they have no personal righteousness. They could not keep God s law His standard of righteousness and they realize their un-payable debt of sin. So they trust completely in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to provide a right standing before God. Christ s death on the cross was accepted by God as sufficient punishment for our sins based on His law. Christ both fulfilled the law s righteous requirements for us and suffered the law s penalty of death for sinners (Matt. 5:17-20). And His resurrection confirms that God accepts Christ s sacrifice and provides resurrection life for the believer through Him. 4

5 Therefore, the righteousness which is from God by faith is a right relationship with Him that only He can provide through Christ. It has nothing to do with our own efforts. It is by faith and not by works, and it infinitely surpasses any vain, self-righteous attempts to gain eternal life. The Surpassing Goal of Eternal Life (vv ) And eternal, resurrection life in Christ is the goal of the believer. To know God in the fullness of that relationship is what all Christians should want. It is not enough to simply not face any punishment for our sins. That is the empty hope of man s self-righteousness, but faith in Christ produces eternal life. And eternal life is to know God in a loving relationship both now and forever (Jn. 17:3). As Paul says, he wanted to know [Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (vv ). This describes the hope of every believer as they wait for the completion of their salvation in glory. While God redeems us and sanctifies us, we are yet to be glorified and experience the fullness of the eternal life Christ provides for us. However, we are experiencing eternal life now, and we are to mature in that life as we serve the Lord here in this world. 5

6 That is what Paul pressed toward (3:14). He wanted to have a deeper relationship with His Lord while he served Him. He knew that He served a living Savior who wanted fellowship with him, and to know Him in intimate fellowship had become his greatest desire. Although he wanted to be in heaven in the Lord s presence (1:21-26), the apostle still nurtured his relationship with Christ while he waited for that day. Paul also wanted to know the power of His resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is the clearest display of His power over all things. It shows His authority over the physical and spiritual aspects of our humanity His ability to redeem us from sin and its consequence of death. Paul desired to realize the fullness of life that Christ has provided as demonstrated in the resurrection. The apostle likewise wanted to know the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. In other words, Paul wanted to live in the reality of His union with Christ for the purpose of God s kingdom. As Jesus suffered and even died to fulfill His purpose in the kingdom, so Paul wanted to share in the greater purpose by giving His life in service to God. Suffering is a given for the believer as we serve the Lord (2 Tim. 3:12), and we must daily be willing to die if necessary to accomplish His will (Lk. 9:23). We must deny ourselves and following Christ in faithfully representing God s kingdom. That is what following Him really means. 6

7 When Paul says, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead, he does not mean that there was a possibility that he would not be resurrected and enter glory. A believer can never lose their salvation. They are chosen, called, justified and glorified by God (Rom. 8:30). And, as Paul has reiterated in this letter, they are sanctified for service by the Lord as well. Paul is simply talking about the means by which God would end his earthly life thus initializing the final phase of resurrection glory. All believers, both in heaven and on earth, wait for that day which we commonly refer to as the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-17). Paul anticipated suffering and even death, but he also anticipated to live in the fullness of eternal life with Christ in a resurrected, glorified state. That is eternal life in full the goal of the believer which should surpass all other pursuits in this life. If you have become a Christian, then you have exchanged the empty life of self-righteous pursuits for the surpassing value of Christ, the surpassing righteousness of faith, and the surpassing goal of eternal life. That is what Paul is saying to the Church, and that attitude toward Christ will keep us faithful as we serve Him. Is knowing Jesus Christ the ultimate objective of your life? Do you consider Christ your greatest asset and everything else to be nothing but a liability? If so, then you are truly a Christian, and your life will be one of devoted service to the Lord. 7