Power of the Gospel: Losing All To Gain Christ

In Philippians 3:5-6, Paul provided a concise synopsis of himself, essentially his resume as a Pharisee. It encompassed what was typical of any Hebrew male (circumcision), but also things peculiar to the religious elite (inordinate zeal and chastity). At one time, Paul found gratification and self-worth in this grandious and venerated role. In fact, he unequivocally affirmed his fleshly reliance upon and security in the system which empowered him as a Pharisee (v 4). But to the Philippians, Paul very candidly disowned and rejected all he formerly held dear. He wrote:

…what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…


Doing The Math

The apostle used accounting terms in verses 7-8. Twice Paul spoke of what was “gain” (Gr. kerdov) to him; three times he mentioned what was “loss” (Gr. zhmia); and then three times he gave a “count” (Gr. hgeomai) of the gains and losses.

His position as a Pharisee, and perhaps particularly as a former student of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), was profitable (gain) to him. It furnished him with prestige and recognition in the nation; also among the upper echelon of the religious class he enjoyed significant influence and leverage (Acts 9:1-2). As a religious leader of the Jews, Saul of Tarsus had undeniable clout and power; but concerning the personal qualities and acquired advantages which combined to endow him with such a rewarding standing, Paul willingly gave up on them, set them aside, counted them as loss.

A Complete About-Face

There was a very real loss suffered by Paul. He went from being a respected voice among his peers to being an affront and cause for provocation among the Jewish leaders. Paul exchanged ongoing prosperity for intermittent poverty. He traded being a staunch persecutor of the church for eventually becoming among the most heavily persecuted for the faith. He swapped exaltation for scorn; honour for criticism; accolades for derision and ridicule. What could cause an individual to make such a reversal?

Taking Out The Trash

Paul found the treasure hidden in a field; he discovered the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44-46). And thus, he gladly sold all he had to obtain it. Anything he formerly clung to, the things he found important, and which defined him as a Pharisee, as a Jew, as a person – all of this he counted loss so he could “…gain Christ…”

It is imperative to understand, these things were not just diminished in glory or slightly waned in relevance to Paul. He referred to his former life and all that it stemmed from as “rubbish” (NKJV) or “garbage” (NIV). The older translations are less tactful, with Darby reading “filth,” YLT “refuse,” KJV “dung,” and Wycliffe “drit [or as turds].” All that he formerly held in high regard now carried no value at all; they were detestable things, good for nothing but to be thrown aside and flushed away.

Paul counted all things “loss for Christ” so he “may gain Christ.”  He had to remove the focus from ego, pride, and self-sufficiency – he had to realize life was not about Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee, but about Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind. Jesus could do for Paul what he was unable to do for himself.

How About Us?

Have we counted all things loss for Christ? The rubbish in your life and my life is different from the rubbish Paul had to discard, but garbage is garbage. What things do we have which contribute to self-confidence and arrogance? Are we holding on to things which inevitably will keep us from gaining Christ? May we willingly and diligently set aside the things which ensnare us so we can receive the Lord Jesus who will set us free.

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