An Incomparable Trade

August 16th, 2023 – Wednesday Afternoon

“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 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him 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.” ~Philippians 3:8-11

Last time we looked at Paul’s valuation of Christ over the things he once cherished as significant; in doing so, we were challenged to rethink our own priorities and “valuables”. Paul’s status and education set him head and shoulders above most, if not all, of the Judaizers who were threatening the Church in Philippi, but Paul cast away his advantage in favor of knowing Christ and being known by Him.

In our passage today, Paul takes it to the next (and final) level: It is not only his Jewish education, learnedness, and heritage that is not worthy of comparison to Christ, but also EVERY other thing. Nothing compares to Him and nothing can compete with Him. In fact, Paul makes it clear that everything else must be absolutely and totally abandoned (counted as excrement, rubbish, dung, etc.) in order to gain Christ and His identity. Paul, who happily and eagerly exchanged the righteousness of the law for the better and perfect righteousness of Christ “which is from God by faith”, makes it abundantly clear that this abandonment of everything else is, by definition, accompanied by an absolute and total embrace of the death, resurrection, and suffering of Christ.

The last part of this passage is perhaps the hardest to take because it seems to put the burden of the situation on us; Paul’s words “if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead” is really just “in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead”. This statement is hard for us to bear because it is possible we have always thought that once we believe in Jesus, our way is smooth sailing, we have our ticket to heaven, and there is nothing more to be done. Yet, the race is not truly run if it isn’t finished, is it? It is not enough to start believing in Jesus if we are not going to finish believing Him as well (by the grace of God, of course); Paul understood this reality and in the following verses he hammers this point home. For now, though, it is important to note that he understood the cost of knowing Christ and gladly gave everything up in this life in view of the hope of the resurrection.

How about you and I? Are we content with our righteousness or do we understand our need for His? Are we focused on the temporary pain of suffering and loss or on the eternal joy of salvation, resurrection, and the knowledge of Christ?

Paul was no fool; he understood the pleasures, promotions, and pride of this life, but he traded all of it for that which is eternal and exceedingly, abundantly better.