Philippians 3:7-11 How does a man obtain eternal blessings and glory?
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 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, 9 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, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
The apostle Paul has found a better way to attain righteousness which is by way of faith in Christ. He contrasts righteousness by way of the Law and by faith in Christ. Righteousness by way of the Law was a deception, a righteousness founded on man’s fleshly achievements esteemed and accepted by this world. Paul realised the way of true righteousness must be pursued single-mindedly apart from the form righteousness pitched by the world. Hence, Paul counted gained (as the esteemed Pharisee) as likened to rubbish in God’s kingdom. He resolved to shed off the desire of all things worldly as the agenda of the Spirit and the flesh can never co-exist in a believer. Therefore, in order to obtain the riches and glory in Christ, he must change the way he values things.
Righteousness through faith in Christ, in nutshell is expressed in a lifestyle empowered by Christ’s resurrection and motivated by Christ’s passion to love God and to love people. Today’s devotion teaches us to be singleminded in pursuit of Christ-likeness which is way of eternal blessing and glory.
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…
Paul again stresses on the antithetic stance of the Jews against the Lordship of Christ, which is his grounds for renouncing his identity as a Pharisee. One cannot at the same time adopt two stands that are diametrically opposed. Although, the Jewish community regarded the Pharisees in high standing, Paul resolves to recant his heritage as a Pharisee. Paul has invested much of his lifetime into building his stature in the Law, which he now counts its privileges as rubbish (worthless) and as an abomination in his pursuit of Christ.
Paul expands his rejection of things gained as a Pharisee to include everything that he owns and enjoys. Paul says, “I count all things to be loss…” to mean that he is continually shedding the desires of the flesh and for earthly things. He finds social status, power and earthly pleasures pale in comparison to the value that is found in Christ: in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Knowing that earthly things are always antithetic to the heavenly things, Paul cannot embrace the things of Christ without first recognising the worthlessness of earthly things and count them as rubbish. The treasures that come from knowing Christ include the blessing of the Spirit (Christ-likenes) and the glorious inheritance in heaven.
…so that I may gain Christ, 9 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,
This Paul does, so that he may gain Christ’s virtues and likeness, which is far more valuable than the status of a Pharisee. Paul no longer finds any value in the “righteousness” (or glory) of a Pharisee as recognized by the Jewish community: not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law. The Jews endeavour to fortify their “righteousness” by observing rituals and putting up a religious facet. In doing so, they expressed their independence of God’s judgment and mercy. God’s righteousness (as opposed to the Jew’s own righteousness) comes only through faith in Christ, as God has never at any time promised righteousness for the believers of the Old Covenant. Paul also says in Romans, “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). Faith in Christ is the God-appointed means through which God’s righteousness is obtained. The question: What does faith in Christ involved? It involves acknowledging Christ as Lord and Saviour. How then does one know that he has obtained righteousness? It is when one begins to live out the righteous nature and vision of Christ through his life.
…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul proceeds to describe how he would live out the righteousness that comes through faith. A person of righteous faith will identify himself with Christ by adopting His vision and manner of life: to know Him. Paul goes on to elaborate what it means to know him, which involves knowing the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (passion), being conformed to His death.
In knowing the power of His resurrection, Paul specifically refers to power that transcends the limitations of his fleshly nature. In experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection, Paul is able to do things that he could never do before; to preach the gospel and break the bondage of poverty and sickness; to overcome the fleshly nature of sin.
Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15:35-42: as there are different living things with different kinds of bodies; as there are different celestial bodies each with their unique glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, for every man, God rewards a unique resurrection body and glory according to his deeds. Hence, Paul desires a kind of resurrection body and glory that Christ has attained.
In knowing the fellowship of His sufferings, Paul desires to possess the very passion that drove Christ to give His life at the cross: being conformed to His death. The original Greek word for suffering: pathema can also be interpreted as passion. The passion of Christ was what motivated Him to lay down his right to live for the salvation of humanity. In experiencing fellowship with the passion of Christ, Paul is able to put the interests of others before his own, to know God’s word and obey Him daily and to fulfill the call of disciple making.
Righteousness by faith in a nutshell refers to adopting Christ’s manner of life, His passion for humanity which culminates in resurrection: I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Paul hopes to attain the Christ kind of resurrection that belongs only to those who give their lives unreservedly for the gospel.
We can never realize the infinite worth in Christ until we put earthly things in their correct place.
Paul explains what it means by having a righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith; by adopting Christ’s vision and His manner of life. Christ’s vision is to make disciples after His likeness. Christ, before His ascension commanded His disciples,
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20.
Therefore, the vision of the believer is to put on the likeness of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit and to teach others to do the same. The focus of the disciple is on BEING as opposed to what he does as a profession. However, disciples of Christ will time and again be tested as to the true posture of their hearts towards God. Our hearts should be continually drawn to the attractiveness of Christ’s glory and not to earthly riches, social status or the cares of life. Earthly riches and social standing are better served as mere resources to do good and our hearts must never be drawn to its allure. Earthly riches and social status are not blessings per se or rewards of righteousness but are resources given to do the work of the Kingdom.
Earthly wealth and the social status are like rubbish when compared to the glory of Christ, and the blessings of the Spirit.
Wealth and fame cannot satisfy man’s emptiness. Those who are drawn to earthly things find themselves embroiled by it and they can no longer enjoy the simplicity of life. Their perception of people and the way they relate to others start to change. Instead of using wealth as a means to bless others, it becomes a means to enrich and honor themselves. On the other hand, the fruit of the Spirit brings everlasting peace and joy to the one who possesses them. In whatever circumstances, in riches or in poverty, the Spirit enables him to live life to the full. The gifts of the Spirit empower him to become a blessing to the world, in bringing miracles of healing and salvation to all.
Blessings and salvation are by-products of a life fully given to kingdom’s purposes.
The believer’s vision is not to get saved and enjoy life, but to be like Christ; to attain the resurrection with the same glory that Christ has. In fact, blessings and salvation are but by-products of a life trained on the likeness of Christ. Many churchgoers in the pursuit of blessings and salvation relegated God as a means to acquiring these things. As a result, many of them did not obtain what they desired and went away disappointed. As the believer pursue Christ-likeness and adopt His vision on earth, he will not only be saved, but receive a resurrection like Christ’s. All believers will be resurrected, but not all will attain the glory that Christ possesses. Jesus, nearing the end of His earthly ministry prayed for His disciples, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me.” (John 17:24). In this prayer, Jesus asked the Father to resurrect His disciples with the same glory that He was about to receive. The resurrection body represents the glory and reward that God will give to those who love Him and do His will.
- What are the things in your life that hinders you from reading God’s word and doing His will? They are usually the first thing you think about every morning and the last thing you think about before you sleep. Reorder your desires and put God as the first place in your life. Matthew 6:33 carries a promise that if we obey God in all things, he will take care of our concerns.
- Do you have a desire to accomplish God’s call and attain a resurrection like that of Christ’s? If the answer is no, perhaps you could do some research on the believer’s heavenly inheritance and the glory of Christ. If your answer is yes, ask God for His Spiritual gifts and anointing to do His will.
Dear Lord, I confess that you are the first love of my life. No one on earth has sacrificed his life for me like you did. I am grateful for your love and will give my life as an instrument to do your will. Help me reorder my desire and passions so that I may desire your Spirit above all else. Strengthen me to persevere and attain the resurrection like yours. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.