Philippians on Friday: Loss and Gain

Thanks again for reading this week’s Philippians on Friday!  Today we will continue in Chapter 3…

Philippians 3:7-8: 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,

PhilippiansChapter three began with the theme of justification by faith. Paul criticized the religious Jews of the day (by calling them the “concision”) who arrogantly trusted in their own works and strict adherence to the law rather than the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In our last devotion, we discussed how Paul made the case that if it were possible for a man to be justified by his own works, he of all people would qualify. No one was more devoted to the law and observing its ordinances than Paul. Yet he counted all those things loss. He realized that only by trusting in the Righteousness of Christ could we stand justified before God.

A New Valuation

In verse 7, Paul continues driving home this important concept. He tells the Philippians how he looks at things differently. Paul used to pride himself in his own righteousness. He used to esteem his own works so highly. But what was gain to him (his impressive pedigree and resume of righteous works) he now considers loss.  After his conversion, Paul realized that none of the things he previously trusted in made him righteous in the eyes of God.

Trusting in Jesus’ works, not our own, is what brings salvation. If salvation could be secured by observance of the Law, there would have been no need for Jesus’ great sacrifice. He died on the Cross because the Law was not able to truly make anyone righteous. Only by “putting on” the righteousness of Christ through obedience to the Gospel can we be justified.

It’s filth to Me

Paul’s language in this passage intensifies. He first describes trusting in the law as “loss.” But he goes on to Philippianstell the Philippians that what he formerly trusted is now “dung” to him.

Wow! He wasn’t just saying that trusting in one’s own righteousness is irrelevant or futile. He called it dung. It stinks! He said it is the epitome of filth. How ironic that what the Jews thought was righteous, Paul calls dung.

In essence, Paul was saying: I thought I was righteous because of all I did. But really it was not righteousness at all. In fact it was dung.

Isaiah concurred:

Isaiah 64:6: But we are all as an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;

Our own righteousness is not righteousness at all. There is none righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10) Only Christ is righteous. And only through Him can we be righteous.


Self-righteousness still stinks! It’s still dung. Few things are more putrid than the attitude and arrogance of a person who thinks they are righteous because of the long list of things they do or don’t do. It’s an egregious affront to our Savior to think we could be saved through our own righteousness. To think such a thing means the Cross was all for naught.

Self-righteousness stinks also because of the attitude it typically generates towards others.  When our faith is in Christ’s works, then our focus is on Him.  But when our faith is in our own works, our focus is upon ourselves.  A self-focus generally leads to a critical evaluation of others.  “Look what I have done” naturally leads to questioning others about what they have or have not done.  That attitude stinks.

Winning Christ

Paul won Christ!  He had trusted in the works of Law but even the best Jew of them all couldn’t measure up. So Paul let go of the past and reached forth unto Christ.  He laid aside his faith in the Law’s ability to make one righteous and trusted in the work of Christ on the Cross.  That is a winning strategy!

PhilippiansAs long as you trust in your own works, you will not win.  You will always come up short and fail to measure up to God’s demands.  Your enemy will always point out your shortcomings.  You’ll attempt to find some satisfaction in comparing yourself to others who aren’t doing as much as you are.  That’s no way to win.

Look to the Lamb!  He measured up to God’s highest demands.  Put your faith in Him and what He did. Put on His righteousness though water baptism in His Name.  You will find the true righteousness, peace, and joy that comes through winning Christ.

~Matthew Ball

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