Philippians on Friday: Count it all Loss

Thanks again for reading this week’s, Philippians on Friday! In our last devotion we discussed Paul’s blistering condemnation of the Jews who trusted in their own works rather than the righteousness of Christ. This week’s passage is a continuation of that same theme:

Philippians 3:4-6:  Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

PhilippiansIn the proceeding verses, Paul called the Jew’s act of circumcision, simply the “concision.” He was pointing out the fallacy of thinking one can be righteous through the works of the flesh.

In today’s passage, Paul is saying if that were possible, then he of all people would qualify as righteous. If strict adherence to the Law could make one righteous, then Paul has us all beat!

…If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more…

What a Résumé!

Look at Paul’s résumé of good works:

  • Circumcised according to the law
  • A citizen of the nation of Israel
  • Of the tribe of Benjamin
  • A Hebrew of Hebrews
  • A Pharisee who was trained in the Law
  • Zealous for Judaism as demonstrated by his persecuting of the church
  • Blameless concerning his personal adherence to the Law

Do you realize what Paul is saying to the Philippians? No one could top Paul when it came to pointing to one’s own righteousness and good works. If one’s own righteousness made us holy in God’s eyes, then Paul would certainly qualify to stand justified before God. But look what Paul says:

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…

It’s About His Work Not Ours!

If a man’s own righteousness could save him, then Paul didn’t need Christ nor His Cross.  If confidence in one’s own works could justify, then Paul didn’t need a Damascus-road conversion.

Paul shares a joyous truth with the Philippians and each of us. We are saved by PhilippiansChrist’s work, not ours! We are saved by His righteousness, not ours. All our good works will never be enough to save us. We must have faith in Jesus Christ.  When we are born again of water and Spirit we are putting our faith in Jesus’ Death, Burial and Resurrection – We are trusting in what He has done!

Paul said, I count it all loss. What does that mean? All his attempts to be justified before God through his own works fell miserably short. Before his conversion it was gain to him – it was valuable to him. He trusted in those things.

But when He met Jesus Christ, his valuation of those things changed. What was valuable (gain) became loss. He counted those as dung – something utterly worthless and filthy.   He used to say, “Look what I have done!” Now he says, “Look what Christ has done!”

Holy living is our necessary response to Christ’s salvation, not our own attempt to earn it.

Paul was not boasting by listing his fleshly accomplieshments. He was actually doing just the opposite. Paul was showing the folly of trusting in human achievement. He was deliberately mentioning all his so-called accomplishments to show how that none of those things truly justified him in the eyes of God. He mentioned his accomplishments only to say:

If a man could be justified by his own works, then I would be considered justified.

But all those things that were feathers in my cap, I now count as loss. My confidence is in Jesus Christ. My righteousness is in Him.

Why a Loss?

Why did Paul consider his own righteousness as loss?

1 – It didn’t bring true justification

2 – It detracted from the power of the Cross and of faith in Jesus Christ

3 – It led to emphasizing the person rather than the Savior

4 – It bred hypocrisy and judgmentalism

5 – It actually lead Paul farther from God, not closer! (He persecuted the true church, not recognizing it was the Body of Christ)

Holy living is our necessary response to Christ’s salvation, not our own attempt to earn it.  If it were possible for a man’s own holiness to ever be sufficient, then Paul’s own righteousness certainly would have been sufficient.  But the apostle Paul trusted in “Nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”  And so should we.

~Matthew Ball

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