Philippians Bible Study (To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain)

Philippians 3:1-11, Count Everything As Loss


We live in a world that has the need for resumes. If you are going to be a new job, you need a resume. In college they will teach you how to write a resume. A resume is nothing more than a list of achievements. It is a document that you had to someone to show all the things you have learned, all the experiences you have, and all the abilities you have mastered. In high school and college you are encouraged to accomplish certain activities and sign up for certain things so that you can put it on your resume. I have even seen advertisements from churches who are looking for a preacher to submit their resume to that congregation for consideration. We are world that revolves around your list of achievements. Not only this, but you are to accentuate your resume. One of my first jobs in high school was to work at a grocery store where I bagged the groceries. It was a good job. When I went on to my next job interview, my resume did not say, “bag boy.” Rather, it said, “customer service representative.” I am not a Bible hoarder. I am a fine Bible collector and aficionado. We put ourselves forward in the best possible light, listing all of our accomplishments.

This resume idea is not an American thing, but a human thing. The apostle Paul is dealing with people who are stuck in their list of accomplishments. In particular, these Christians have a very big feather in their cap of accomplishments. These people lived in Philippi. Philippi was a special city because it was a Roman colony. A Roman colony had rights and privileges that other cities in the Roman Empire did not have. If you lived in Philippi, you had the very same privileges afforded to you as if you lived in Rome itself. Philippi even had a nickname of “little Rome.” One of the benefits they enjoyed was being free from taxation. One of the powerful rights these people had was that they were Roman citizens. So Paul wants to remind them of something about their resume in regards to being a Christian.

Rejoice In The Lord, Not In Yourself (3:1-6)

Paul does not give an empty platitude: “Rejoice in the Lord.” The point of this paragraph is to rejoice in the Lord and not in yourself. Rejoice in the Lord, not in your achievements or your resume. Joy is in the Lord. Ground your life there, not elsewhere.

Now there are a group of Christians running around putting their confidence in the flesh during this time. They are Jewish Christians and they are teaching Gentile Christians that they need to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to belong in the kingdom (Acts 15:1,4). So Paul is going to write to them about this problem. It is not trouble for him to write to these Christians about these things and is going to keep them spiritually safe from this error.

In verse 2 Paul gives these troublemakers three descriptions: dogs, evildoers, and mutilators of the flesh. These people are not true followers of Christ. They put their hope and trust in what they have done, that is, circumcision (the works of the Law). Paul tells these Christians that these people are not the true people of God. They are not the true Israel. Paul says that they are the circumcision. Please note that he calls these Gentile Christians “the circumcision” even though they are physically uncircumcised. Paul is speaking about the circumcision of the heart (cf. Romans 2:28-29). Circumcision was the sign of the covenant for those who were the people of God. Paul says that this sign is not physical, but of the heart. What does it look like to be “the circumcision?” What does it look like to be the people of God? Just as these troublers were given a threefold description, so also we have a threefold description. We are the circumcision, “who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh” (3:3). We worship God the way he commands and desire to worship him the way he commands from the heart. We glory in Christ, not in ourselves or our achievements. We put no hope in ourselves at all. There is no hope in us.

What Paul is telling these Christians to do regarding their achievements is not theory for him. If we are going to bring out the resume, Paul has a lengthy, impressive resume. Paul’s list of accomplishments and achievements can beat anyone who wants to compare them. Whatever you think you have, Paul has more. Paul had every reason to rely upon the flesh and rely upon his resume. In verses 5-6 he gives his list of reasons for confidence in the flesh. The list that he presents may not mean much to our ears but meant everything in the life of Judaism. But you can appreciate verse 6 that his righteousness and his zeal were unmatched. So is Paul’s resume something that he will stand on for his faith? Listen to what he says about this in verses 7-11.

Counted As Loss (3:7-8)

Notice that Paul says that his resume does not matter. His list of achievements and accomplishments are nothing. Whatever gain that he has in the flesh is counted as loss. This is the Christian perspective. This is what it means to say that to live is Christ and to die is gain. But consider verse 8: “I count everything as loss.” It does not matter what we are talking about regarding who we are, it is all loss. It does not matter what your background is. It does not matter who your parents are. It does not matter what your career is. It does not matter how righteous you are. It does not matter how good you. It does not matter what you think you can put on the list before God. In fact, Paul says that he takes his list of accomplishments and flushes them down the toilet. He hauls them off to the trash can. He counts his resume is garbage and filth. This Greek word is sometimes used to speak of dung. Therefore the KJV and NET read that Paul counts his accomplishments as dung. Listen to verse 8. It does not matter what it is in his life, he will count it as loss and trash. EVERYTHING is counted as loss by Paul. He will see everything else as trash in this Christian perspective. Why?

The reason is that Christ is the great value. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The reason we count everything else as worthy of putting in the trash can is because there is nothing more valuable than knowing Christ. Knowing Christ is the highest value. The greatest treasure you can have is knowing Jesus. Jesus said this himself.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44 ESV)

In this short parable the person sells all that he has with joy because he desires the treasure that he found. Jesus is the treasure. Everything is counted as loss and is easily and quickly forfeited for the opportunity to know Christ. This is how we are to look at life. There is nothing more valuable and nothing of greater worth than knowing Christ. This is why we pray and read the scriptures. This is why we do not stay home and watch tv instead of worshiping together. This is why we throw work away for Christ. This is why we forfeit even family for Christ. Christ is the supreme treasure. We are not where we must be spiritually if we do not see the surpassing value of Christ! We may be failing in our actions to show this truth but we must recognize this truth. Christ is worth more than anything. He is so valuable that we will count everything else in our life as trash!

The Result of Counting Everything As Loss (3:8-11)

Then Paul states the results of counting everything as loss and pursuing Christ. There are three things he longs for: to gain Christ (3:8), found in Christ righteous (3:9), and to know Christ (3:10). First, Paul says that he counts all things as trash in order to gain Christ. This is the new life perspective for the Christian. Every decision we make must be under the calculation of whether this will cause us to gain Christ. Gaining Christ is everything. We want to be with Christ. We want to enjoy Christ.

Second, we want to be found in Christ righteous. But notice that the righteousness that Paul desires does not come from his own achievements. This is not a righteousness that comes from the law. This is not a righteousness that calls for people to look at Paul and his efforts. He wants to be found in Christ having been given a righteousness from him that comes through faith. Putting our trust in Christ is how we will be granted the declaration of righteous by God. This righteousness does not depend on me, but depends on faith. Resumes are not going to work before God. The day of judgment is going to be awful if we are going to try to rely upon ourselves and our works. Our achievements do not impress God. We cannot win the favor of God because we have done some good things. We must depend fully upon the grace of God. We want to depend solely upon Christ as the means for our righteousness. So we count everything as loss so that we can gain Christ.

Third, Paul wants to know Christ and the power of the resurrection. Paul says that he just wants to know Christ. Paul comes back to the point made in verse 8. The value of knowing Christ is far greater than anything else in life. One of the reasons Christ is so valuable is because we want to know the power of his resurrection. We want to experience this resurrection that Christ experienced. We are looking forward to the day when we can fully be with the Lord. But listen to the rest of verse 10. He also wants to share in his sufferings. If it means knowing Jesus, then I want to experience it. Paul wants to share in his sufferings, becoming like him in death, so that by any means possible he can attain the resurrection from the dead. I want to know Jesus, and everything that is entailed with knowing him: suffering and the resurrection. It all comes down to using any means possible to attain the resurrection of the dead. Our hope is fixed on the return of Jesus and the resurrection experienced when he returns.

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” This must be the new model for our thinking. This is the lens by which we look at life. We must war with our flesh and teach it that Christ is supremely more valuable than whatever we think is so important or useful. We must war with sin and understand that what we are longing for is Christ and the temptation we are facing will not satisfy. In today’s bulletin I put an article that will give practical help for changing our desires from the flesh to Christ. But this battle goes beyond sinful things. We must teach ourselves that Jesus is more delightful and more desirable than television, movies, entertainment, comfort, hobbies, rest, sleep, eating, work, family, or anything else that is not sinful but so often interferes with our pursuit and love for Jesus. What are we doing to pursue Christ? What are we throwing away from our lives for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus? What needs to be thrown away? What needs to be counted as loss?

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