Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire in 320 A.D. However, Licinius, who controlled the Eastern half of the empire, broke allegiance with the West and continued to suppress Christianity.There is nothing we have that could ever be worth denying the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing, not even our lives. Do you know why even our life is not worth denying Christ? Listen to the last line of that story again: The forty died together that day. The one who gave up his faith for a warm bath also died. We’re going to die. Whether it’s today, or tomorrow, or a hundred years from now, there will come a day when these bodies will cease to function. Then what? Today’s lesson is about putting the things of this world in perspective compared to knowing Christ.
When Licinius demanded that every soldier under his command sacrifice to the Roman gods, the forty Christian men of the “Thundering Legion” refused. Their general, Lysias, had them whipped, torn with hooks, and then imprisoned in chains. When they still refused to bow down and give up their worship of God, he ordered them stripped of their clothing and left in the middle of a frozen lake until they relented.
A warm bath was poured for any who would give up their convictions. The men prayed together that their number would not be broken. However, as it grew dark, one could not bear the cold any longer and ran to the warm bath.
One of the guards who had watched the forty brave soldiers sing to Christ became angry that one would give in to Lysias’s orders. His anger turned to conviction, and then his conviction turned to faith. He tore off his clothes and ran out on the icy lake, fulfilling their promise to be “forty brave soldiers for Christ!”
The forty died together that day. The one who gave up his faith for a warm bath also died.
Philippians 3:7-11—But 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 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.
The story about that Roman soldier should serve as an inspiration for us. He saw the genuine faith of those men who were freezing to death in a pond. He saw that they were willing to give everything they had—including their very life—rather than give up Christ. And that is the message Paul is trying to get across to these Philippian believers—and to us—in the passage we’re going to look at today.
Verses 7-8. But 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. When we look back on our lives, look back at the things we did before we got saved—when we think about all the years we spent doing things we shouldn’t have been doing, what’s the word we use to describe what we did with those years? Starts with a ‘w’? Wasted. “All those years I wasted.” And it is a waste! But we do all those things because before we know Christ, who do we love more than anybody else in the whole wide world? Yeah, ourselves.
But thing is, all the years that Paul spent before he met Christ, he was doing just the opposite. He was doing “religious” things. Things people would call “good.” He was devoting his entire life to the OT Law. Memorizing all the commandments and rituals and offerings. Arresting Christians, spending every waking moment memorizing all the things that the Pharisees had added to that Law, trying to conform himself to that Law. And what good was it? Here he says, “Compared to knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord—it was all a waste!” Paul is continuing his rebuke of the Judaizers—the false teachers who came in behind him and tried to tell these Gentiles that not only did they have to believe in Jesus, but they also had to keep the OT Law in order to be saved. But Paul says here that if anybody could have been saved by keeping the Law, it would have been Paul himself.
He lists his credentials that these guys would have said made Paul worthy of being saved, in verses 5-6. Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. If anybody deserved to be saved, it was Paul. He had all his ducks in a row, all the boxes checked off. But in verse 7, what word does he use to describe all those years he spent trying to make himself worthy of salvation? Loss! And what was that word that started with a ‘w’? Wasted! Everything that was associated with those years—wasted. Loss for Christ.
Look at what he says in verse 8, that I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. The NASB says, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. In other words, once he met the risen Christ, he realized that everything he thought was getting him closer to Heaven was actually going toward his condemnation. He says kinda the same thing in Romans 2:27 (NLT)—In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will be much better off than you Jews who are circumcised and know so much about God’s law but don’t obey it. In other words, people know what is right and what is wrong, even those who have never heard the phrase “Thou shalt not kill.” But the one who hears even more of what is right and wrong—they learn that it’s not just “Don’t kill anybody,” that if you hate someone you have committed murder—if they go and hate someone, they will be judged far more harshly than the one who does not know that hatred is murder.
He’s saying, “Don’t go comparing yourselves to those people. Because the very law they want you to keep—they can't even keep it themselves. In fact, if they want to talk about keeping the Law—tell them to come talk to me! I'll show them what it means to keep the Law!” Now, think about this: if Paul considers his years studying the Law and doing those things found in the Law, if he considers that “waste”—how much more should we consider the years we spent doing all kinds of ungodly and sinful and wicked things? When we think about all the years we spent drinking and drugs and all kinds of other wickedness, we realize it’s no wonder John Newton wrote “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a...”—what?—“that saved a wretch like me!” He didn’t say “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wonderful person like me.”
Now, the rest of verse 8. 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. Whether you have a KJV that says, dung or another version that says rubbish, either one is acceptable, the Greek means both. There is another Greek word that literally means “dung.” I have suffered the loss of all things. Paul wrote this during a time when Christians in the Roman Empire were losing their homes, their property, their businesses, simply for declaring Jesus Christ is Lord. And I like how he kinda weaves a bunch of different themes together in this one passage. He talks about how he had the praises of men when he was Saul the Pharisee. He lost all that in order to follow Christ. Galatians 6:14—God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. And because he has lost everything, he can sympathize with these Roman citizens who have either lost everything or are in danger of losing everything, and can encourage them to say, “Go ahead, take it all! I'm gonna follow Christ!” And he also lets us know that anything we own is rubbish. With the divisions and the bickering and backbiting that was going on in this church, they were probably not likely to give up their possessions very easily lest they lose their prestige in the community. But Paul encourages them to count anything they own as “rubbish.” Dead weight. Dung.
I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. The world’s riches and the praise of men on one hand. Christ on the other. Which is more important? You can either turn your back on Christ to have the praises of the world; or you can turn your back on the world in order to gain Christ. Can’t have both. James 4:4—Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Not a lot of wiggle room there. 1st John 2:15—Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. And of course, Jesus’ warning in Matthew 16:26—“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” And yet there are people who will hear the truth, read the truth, know the truth—and still turn their back on Christ for a few years of chasing things that will burn up and will actually count toward their condemnation. And for those people, when it comes to their eternity—well, if this were a hospital, the doctor would say, “The prognosis isn't good.”
Hebrews 6:4-6—It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance. This is NOT talking about losing your salvation!!! What he is saying is, once that person has heard the truth, read the truth, known the truth—if they go back to their old vomit, they're gone for good. And if they turn away from Christ, they will not find another Savior. Hebrews 10:26-30—For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? And to rephrase what Paul says here, they will endure losing Christ, and count Him as rubbish, so that they may gain the world. The world’s riches and the praise of men. Christ. Which is more important? But Paul tells these Philippians in the first chapter, to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). While we are in this world, we are to live Christ. And when we die—we’ll be with Him! It’s a win-win!
Verse 9. ...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. Is there such a thing as “self-righteousness”? Oh yeah. We can do good things. Quote-unquote “good” things. But does that make us good? Apart from Christ, how many of us are good in God’s eyes? Romans 3:10-12—"There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God…There is none who does good, no, not one." Look at the numbers Paul uses in Romans 3: None...no, not one...none...none...none...none, no not one. Matthew 19:16-17—Now behold, one came and said to Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”
We can try and keep the Ten Commandments. But what did we say the operative word in that sentence is? TRY. That is our own righteousness, which is of the Law. And that’s the righteousness we have when we think we are “good enough” to be saved. “I’ve never killed anybody. I've never robbed a bank.” We go and find the most despicable example of human refuse we can think of and we say, “Well, I'm not as bad as this guy!” What’s the problem with that? You're not comparing apples to oranges—you're comparing apples to apples and both of the apples are rotten!
The scribes and Pharisees had a righteousness. They knew the OT—from Genesis to Malachi—they knew the Law, they kept every jot and tittle of the Law, they kept every little teeny-tiny aspect of the Law—except one. They knew what the Law said—they didn’t know what it meant. Over and over again, Jesus said, “This is what the Law means here. This is what the Law means there. In fact, the whole Law hangs on these two commandments!” And they said, “No thanks. We've got our own ideas about what it means.” We do not want to be found with the righteousness of the Law, because the righteousness of the Law says that in order to be righteous in God’s eyes, we must keep that Law perfectly, never messing up ever even once. Oops. How are we saved? By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But these Judaizers were coming through and saying, “You're saved by Christ if you keep the Law.” No. We are saved by Christ because He kept the Law.
We no longer have our own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. The righteousness which is from God by what? Faith! Now, who is the object of our faith? Christ! If we think we are saved by trying to keep the Law, who are we putting our faith in? Ourselves. Whose righteousness do we possess? Our own. How would we describe our own righteousness? Isaiah 64:6—But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. But if we are trusting in Christ, we have His righteousness, which makes us the righteousness of God. 2nd Corinthians 5:21—He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And if we are the righteousness of God, are we then righteous in His eyes? Does that righteousness come about from good works? No. Where does it come from? God. By what? Faith! See how easy that is?
Verse 10. ...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. We’re not going to get through this whole thing, but let’s get started. That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection. Why was Jesus raised from the dead? We could spend a year on 1st Corinthians 15. And we just might some time. 1st Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is at least as important as His death. In fact, Paul says it is the gospel.
1st Corinthians 15:1-5—Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
If we are to believe the gospel, we must believe the whole thing. And that includes the resurrection. We must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We also must believe He was raised from the dead. Romans 10:9-10—If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Any presentation of the gospel must include the resurrection. Because it is by His resurrection that He has shown us that we have hope in more than just this world we live in. In fact, Paul says in that 1st Corinthians 15:16-20, For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But… If there is a word I like more than ‘therefore’ it is the word ‘but’. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. We’ll talk more about firstfruits and the resurrection next time.
Jesus Christ is Lord.