But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11
Becoming Like Christ
In the first section of Philippians 3, Paul encourages the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. He warns them against the “mutilators of the flesh” and reminds them that Christians are the true circumcised because of our relationship with God through Christ Jesus. Then he transitions to highlight his Benjamite background to make the point that our relationship with Christ far surpassed any human accomplishment or accolades. In today’s text, Paul focuses on the worthlessness of the Law and the value of Christ. In verse 7, he clarifies that he sacrificed everything, including his religious pedigree, and his personal accomplishments for Christ's sake. As a trained Pharisee, Paul's spiritual focus was centered on work-righteousness. He was taught to please God through obedience to the Law. However, he realized that the Law did not necessarily draw him closer to God. It was his relationship with Jesus Christ that reconciled him to God.
In verse 8, he amplifies the statement he made in verse 7. Paul wants to reiterate that he considers everything a loss when compared to the majesty of Jesus Christ. He is not saying that the things of the world and his accomplishments are intrinsically worthless. But compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, they really were nothing. In verse 9, Paul clarifies that the righteousness he inherited is from Christ and not his own. That is because “the foundation for his spiritual life was in what Jesus had done for him and not in what he had done, was doing, or would do for Jesus in the future.” He disowns his own righteousness as eagerly as other men disown their sins, and he highly esteems the righteousness which Christ has wrought out for us, which becomes ours by faith.” (Spurgeon)
In verses 10-11, Paul intimates his desire to know Jesus in ways that most people do not dare imagine. He begins by expressing a desire to know Jesus in the power of his resurrection. “For Paul, the resurrection was not simply a past event in history, however amazing. It was not simply something which had happened to Jesus, however important it was for him. It was a dynamic power which operated in the life of the individual Christian.” From Paul’s stated desire to know Jesus in the power of his resurrection, we can deduce three essential aspects of the resurrection. First, the resurrection underscores the importance of the life lived in the physical body. It was in the body that Christ rose, and it is this body which he sanctifies (1 Corinthians 6:13 ff.). Second, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, believers find the guarantee of the life to come (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:14 ff.). Our eschatological hope is that we shall also rise in glory as Jesus did. “Because he lives, we shall live also; his victory is our victory. Third, “it is the guarantee that in life and death and beyond death, the presence of the Risen Lord is always with us. It is proof that his promise to be with us always to the end of the world is true.”
Paul also states a desire to share the sufferings of Christ. This desire to suffer, like Christ, characterizes Paul’s Christology. In Philippians 1:21, he talked about dying as a gain. He rejoiced while in prison in Philippi. He was often beaten and harassed, yet he never lost his fervor to proclaim the name of Jesus. Paul believes that when Christian suffers, he or she is somehow sharing the very suffering of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; Galatians 6:17; Colossians 1:24). For him, “to suffer for the faith is not a penalty; it is a privilege, for thereby, we share the very work of Christ.” Paul closes this section with a dramatic statement that he wants to become like Christ in his death, that by any means possible, he may attain the resurrection from the dead. Keeping in mind that Paul was in prison while awaiting trial before Caesar, the language he uses is very dramatic. Become like Christ in his death implies enduring the agony of crucifixion. But it also suggests the victory of being raised like Christ—which is Paul’s ultimate goal. He wants to transition to glory to a hero’s welcome because he made himself a sacrificial offering to proclaim the name of Jesus.
Paul’s stated desire to know God in the intimacy of the Lord’s suffering may be challenging for some of us to digest. However, it reflects a profound desire to give Christ priority over all aspects of our lives. It is clear that Paul Damascus road experience has had an indelible impact on his faith. Paul has totally bought into the belief that intimate knowledge of Christ far surpassed any other experience or accomplishments on earth.
Knowing Christ, as Paul did, should be the goal and desire of every believer. Then we would not be tempted to use ministry as a way to promote self or for self-gain. There is much to the Christian experience we do not get to enjoy because we do not prioritize Christ over the things of this world. Most believers know about the power in the name of Jesus. Yet we struggle to let that power saturate our spirits and inform our thoughts and actions.
Paul so desperately wanted to attain to the resurrection from the dead. It would be a shame for us to practice the Christian faith and not achieve the resurrection from the dead. Our ultimate goal is to be caught up with Christ when he returns. Our life on earth is but a rehearsal for the experience we will have when we transition to glory.
Because Paul earnestly believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he longed for that resurrection experience for himself. The resurrection of Christ gives us the guarantee that we shall also be resurrected on the day of the Lord. It is confirmation that our labor for the Lord is not in vain, though works do not justify us. We rejoice in knowing that after death is the resurrection experience that is promised to all believers. On that day, we will be part of a heavenly army that will come to establish God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Glory be to God!
Blessed Lord, thank you for the assurance of resurrection promised to those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.