I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Jesus, Our Highest Value
Patrick Henry, one of the founding father's of the United States, who is famous for saying "Give me Liberty, or give me death!" also uttered something else quite profound that most people don't know about. He once said:
"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them a single shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed."
Patrick Henry knew what truly matters in life and he wanted to pass that on to his children before he died. He valued Christ and the eternity that He offers every believer over that which most people treasure on this earth that won't last. It's all going to perish one day, leaving those who prize it above all other things with nothing but ashes.
Another person who understood that fact is the Apostle Paul. In Philippians 3 we see him using his own story to draw the Philippian's minds back to Christ. He points out how he emptied himself for the sake of Christ He has re-evaluated what he sees is of the most worth in life and finds the ultimate thing is his knowledge of the Lord and his relationship with Him.
Let us look at this passage and find out the great Apostle's reasoning and see how his beliefs should apply to all those who love the Lord and are anticipating His return.
However, before we do this, let's give a quick overview of the book of Philippians and put this passage in context.
I. Overview of Philippians
Philippians is one of Paul's 4 prison epistles, written during his first imprisonment in Rome between 61-63 A.D. The church at Philippi had sent a gift to the Apostle, so he writes them back thanking them for it. He also uses this occasion to comfort them concerning his problem of being a prisoner. He further informs them of his plans to send Timothy soon and to give to them the reason why he felt it necessary to send Epaphroditus back to them. Another reason he wrote this epistle is that there may have been a problem going on with two women in Philippi since Paul had something to say about them in his writing.
Throughout the book there is a recurring theme of joy. Five times in this short letter we see the Greek world for joy and the verb "to rejoice" occurs 11 times. It is because of this that many have called this Paul's 'epistle of joy.' And the main theme is 'rejoice in the Lord.'
Specifically, Jesus is our joy and the more that our minds are conformed to His image, the greater the joy becomes an ingrained part of our lives, despite the circumstances that surround us. That joy, which finds its source in God, gives us the strength to live out our lives day by day.
With these things in mind, let us look at chapter 3 of this letter more in depth. As we said in this chapter, he uses his own situation as an example of how all believers should be prioritizing their lives.
Many people who call themselves Christians rely upon certain worldly assets by which they judge their standing before God and therefore, make these assets their priorities. They include their family heritage, their social status, their zeal for God, and their moral lifestyle.
Let us examine each of these assets which the Apostle Paul himself had but gave them up as sources of pride and as priorities when he relinquished his life to Jesus Christ
II. Family Heritage
The first asset that Paul mentions is his family heritage. Many people, because they were born in an influential family, take a lot of pride in this. Everywhere you go, there are rich and well-known families that have a lot of power in the society in which they live. And some even think that God places the same value on their heritage that they do. He doesn't.
Paul, before he was saved, was one of those who had an impeccable heritage for which he had been proud.
He begins this section by a transition. He uses the word translated by many Bible versions as 'finally.' It is not the end of his epistle. There are 44 verses remaining. However, he is taking the theme of rejoicing and adding, for the first time the words 'in the Lord.' This indicates the sphere in which every believer rejoices. It isn't based upon circumstances. Paul himself was in prison and from a human perspective he had little to rejoice about. However, this rejoicing isn't based upon what's happening to us. It is rather based upon the unchanging relationship all Christians have with the Lord.
He tells the believers in Philippi:
"Finally brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you." (1).
Paul knew that we often forget and need to be reminded of the standing that we have in Christ. Especially since there were some evil men or false teachers, that were trying to lead them astray. And so he reminding them as a safeguard so they wouldn't succumb to these so-called teachers.
These men were, more than likely Judaizers. Judaizers are Christians who taught that it was necessary to adopt Jewish customs and practices, especially those found in the Law of Moses, to be saved. The term is derived from the Greek word Ἰουδαΐζειν (Ioudaizein), used once in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 2:14), when Paul publicly challenges Peter for compelling gentile converts to Christianity to "judaize"
In verse 2 he describes the Judaizers. And it isn't pleasant. He states:
"Beware of the dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh..."
Dogs, in Paul's day, were not cute little furry house pets. They, rather, were wild and filthy scavengers that roamed the streets. The Jews often called the Gentiles dogs. The Apostle is using it now for these Jewish men who claimed to be teaching the truth of God.
The Apostle not only calls these false teachers dogs and evil workers but also the 'false circumcision.' Those who know the Old Testament know that circumcision was a symbol of the covenant that God made with Abraham. Every Jewish male was to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth.
Even today, like Jewish identity itself, circumcision carries a dual significance, both ethnic and religious. It is the Jewish male’s quintessential sign of ethnic belonging and biological lineage. Though only a small percentage of Jews today consider themselves believers in any traditional sense, nearly every Jewish male undergoes circumcision.
Circumcision itself, as given by God, wasn't the problem. It was relying on that for salvation and not Christ alone. And it might also have included how they did it as well. The term false circumcision is a different Word from the term for circumcision. Circumcision means to 'cut around.' This term means to cut down or off. It means 'to mutilate.' Like the prophets of Baal and other pagans who cut and mutilated their bodies as a ritual to appease the gods, these Judaizers were, most likely, doing something that was forbidden in the Old Testament Law. So they took the physical symbol of a spiritual truth and made it a mutilation of the flesh.
Paul goes on to say that: "We are the true circumcision." He knew that the true people of God possess, not merely a symbol of a need for a clean heart. They actually possess a clean heart, given to them by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
The great Apostle then gives the first characteristic of a true Christian. They worship in the spirit of God. By worship Paul means 'to render respectful spiritual service.' In other words, worship is done by what you do for God Monday through Saturday and not just the things done in church on Sunday. It is serving others in God's name. Many scholars think that the word 'spirit here is not referring to the Holy spirit and therefore shouldn't be capitalized. It tells us that true worship comes from the heart.
He goes on to say that the believer glories in Christ Jesus. The word here means to 'boast with exultant joy.' A true believer doesn't boast in himself or in the flesh at all. He gives all the glory to Jesus for what he or she accomplishes. (2-3).
Their confidence is not in their own flesh, their own abilities but in the power of Christ.
It is here that Paul uses his own credentials to show that he had every reason, humanly speaking, to have relied upon his heritage and family lineage, if indeed they meant something for eternity, which they don't. Jewish people placed their confidence in circumcision, being descendants of Abraham and performing ceremonies and duties from the Law of Moses.
The Apostle knew that these things performed by the flesh couldn't save him. The flesh itself is sinful and incapable of doing anything to please God. So his family heritage wouldn't be of any eternal use. Even being what he called a Hebrew of the Hebrews was inadequate. This is being born to Hebrew parents and even maintaining the Hebrew tradition and language while living in a pagan city.
This is true today as well of people born into 'Christian' households whose parents took them to church every time the doors opened, including Bible studies on Wednesday nights. These same people may have been confirmed, baptized and may confess their sins on a regular basis. All of these things are worthless if you don't have Christ. People can do good deeds and appear to perform miracles. They can do all of this and be just as lost as any other sinner on the day of judgment.
These are the people who will say to the Jesus:
'LORD, LORD, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?
And Christ will say to them:
"I never knew you! Depart from me you evildoers!"
Paul gladly gave up relying on his family heritage for the sake of knowing Christ. This brings us to the second asset that the Apostle had. Paul had social status.
III. Social Status
A second worldly asset is social status. Not only did Paul call himself a Hebrew of Hebrews, he was a Pharisee. This gave him much status in the world. The Pharisees were the legalistic fundamentalists of the Jewish faith. Their desire to follow the Law and apply the Old Testament Scriptures directly to life led to a complex system of traditions and works-righteousness.
Before his conversion, Paul was a well-respected rabbi that had a lot of power in the Pharisaic world. After his conversion, he became hated, hunted and later had a price on his head. People wanted him dead.
Paul, while defending his ministry in II Corinthians 11:23-29, gives this description of his life after Christ:
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
And if he had it all to do over again, he wouldn't hesitate to do so. To know Christ is so much greater than any social status that he could ever have imagined
IV. Zeal for God
The next asset that we learn about Paul is that he was zealous for God. If biblical knowledge and religious activity, including killing the supposed enemies of God, are what it takes to get in the Lord's favor, then Paul had it made. As a Pharisee he knew the Scriptures and did all he could to follow God's precepts, as he understood them
In today's day, many say that as long as you're sincere then God will accept you. However, you can be sincere, while at the same time, sincerely wrong. Paul was so caught up in his religion that he missed the one person to whom the whole Old Testament was pointing. That person was the Lord Jesus Christ. Until the Apostle found Jesus, no amount of religious zeal would ever make him right with a holy God.
Not only that but his zeal lead him to persecute and kill the very people that God was reconciling to himself.
Mankind is very religious today as well, and always has been. There are literally thousands of different religions in this world. But not one of them will reconcile a person to God apart from Jesus Christ.
V. A Moral Lifestyle
A third asset of the Apostle was a moral lifestyle. Paul outwardly kept the standards of the law so that anyone who looked at him could not accuse him of violation. That doesn't mean that he was sinless. The law provided a means of atoning for sins. If he sinned he offered the proper sacrifices so that he could be right with God. Paul was meticulous in practicing the law's regulations. But that didn't take care of the inner man. Inwardly he was a sinful and self-righteous person, far from the Lord. He wasn't like an Old Testament saint. He was a proud legalist. And because of this, he was as lost as any Gentile, whom he despised, before his encounter with the Lord Jesus.
Today, as well, there are a lot of people whom the world would consider good men and women. But their heart, apart from salvation by Christ, is proud and hardened. Society may see them as good. God sees them as lost and dead in sin.
Paul was part of that group until he encountered the one person that makes life worth living, and eternity sure. Jesus changed his life forever. And he was willing to give up all for Him.
It was Jim Eliot who said:
"He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
And Paul was no fool.
VI. Christ, the Answer to the Wasted Life
Well, we have several more verses in this chapter and we could probably make another study of the rest. However, let me summarize what he's saying because it is all a part of what Paul is trying to tell us about our lives and how we should give them totally to Jesus Christ without reservation.
What the Apostle Paul had before he met Christ is what pastor David Platt calls "the many activities of the wasted life." Which is basically how he described it.
As Paul tells us about it, he see his life in accounting terms. Everything before Jesus he put in the loss column. Everything after Him is gain. And he counts all things as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus His Lord.
Also, as we stated, he literally suffered the loss of these things. On top of all of this, in the end, he gave up his physical life for Christ as well.
However, in verse 8 we see that the great apostle saw all of these things as 'rubbish.' The Greek word skubalon here can be translated as garbage, waste, or even as manure. He counts them all as a total wasted part of his life so that he may, as he tells us:
"Be found in Him, not having righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God. That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain the resurrection of the dead." (9-11).
Though he hasn't yet attained what he wants, Paul will forget about the past, whether the good things he has accomplished, on the one hand, or things he did that he failed at on the other. Because he desired to press on to be perfect or complete in his striving to be like Jesus Christ. It now had become a prize to be gotten and a goal to be achieved (12-14).
Paul then tells his readers that those who are mature should have the same goals and attitude as he did. And, if they don't, then God would reveal that to them. He left it to God to deal with those who didn't have the obvious goal that every believer should want- to be like Christ.
Until they reach this point, every believer should live up to the holiness they have already attained. And they should follow the example of Paul and others whom they have witnessed (15-17).
He spends the next few verses warning the believers about the enemies of Christ who don't walk properly and whose minds are on earthly things. They didn't want to pursue Christlikeness. (18-19).
And Paul ends this section by reminding us that this world with all of its concerns and which is destined to end, is not our true home. He tells us:
"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has, even to subject all things to Himself." (20-21).
If all of this is true, why should we place so much value on that which is temporary, and not on what Christ has to offer us, which is eternal?
In conclusion I'd like to give to you this story, once told by German theologian Helmut Thielicke. He states that:
I once heard of a child who was raising a frightful cry because he had shoved his hand into the opening of a very expensive Chinese vase and then couldn't pull it out again. Parents and neighbors tugged with might and main on the child's arm, with the poor creature howling out loud all the while. Finally there was nothing left to do but to break the beautiful, expensive vase. And then as the mournful heap of shards lay there, it became clear why the child had been so hopelessly stuck. His little fist grasped a paltry penny which he spied in the bottom of the vase and which he, in his childish ignorance, would not let go."
My question to all of us today is: "What are we holding onto, from this earth that we place more value on than Christ? In the end, it is truly all worthless. Keep it, and you lose everything. Give it up and take the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Its your choice. Choose wisely!
© 2020 Jeff Shirley