Grace Bible Church
Joy in the Lord, Not in Works – Philippians 3:8-11
(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 18, 2004
Joy in the Lord, Not in Works
Different interests are important to different people to differing degrees, but all of us have our lives marked by, if not controlled by, those interests that we deem to be the most important. Very commonly people become known for their particular trade or profession. We even commonly refer to a person and then add in what they do for a living as a source of further identification – i.e. there is so and so, he is a carpenter, auto mechanic, medical doctor, policeman, fireman, etc., or there is so and so, she runs her own business, or works for so and so, or is a “stay at home mom.” People are also commonly marked by the non-work activities in which they have a great interest. So is so is a sports fan (of various types), an outdoorsman, a hobbiest (of various kinds), a political activist, a musician, etc. There are also those that are known for their religious involvement. Such a man was the Paul.
Even before Paul became an Apostle, he was well known for his zeal in his religious beliefs. In Acts 22 when Paul begins to present his defense after being attacked in the temple, he presented as evidence that the high priest and all the Council of the elders could testify that he was zealous for God and had been a persecuter of the followers of Jesus. After his conversion to be a follower of Christ, his zeal for God only increased, except this time with the knowledge of how God actually wanted Paul to serve Him.
Now I realize that most people, even Christians, do not identify well with the Apostle Paul because he is thought of as a man who lived such a good and holy life that his example is not considered to be a realistic one for ordinary people to follow. That however is simply not true. Not only is Paul a wonderful example to model ourselves after, but it is realistic to believe that we can be like him. Paul was very specific in telling others to follow his example including the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:6), the Philippians (3:17), and the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 3:7,9). This was not a proud thing for him to say as if he was the perfect model, but rather that they were to follow his example even as he followed Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). The goal is to be like Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29), but Paul is a good example of how a mere mortal like ourselves is to do just that.
Part of our problem is that we tend to look at Paul at the end of his life and forget that it took many years of following after God for him to reach the mature level he was at when he was writing the Epistles during the last 10 years of his life. Paul learned to walk with God the same way we are to learn to walk with God – through the truth of the Bible and their application to daily life.
Another reason that most professing Christians have difficulty in following Paul’s example is that too many of them have other interests that out compete their desire to actually know and follow God. Too many professing Christians do not give much thought to what it really means to be saved from sin, and since it is enough for them to escape Hell, they just get on with life in this world. The tragedy is that, like Esau, they trade in what God has available to them for a mess of potage that only satisfies for the moment.
Paul deals with both of these issues in Philippians 3 as he gives insight into his own background and how it was less than the righteousness that God requires and how his mindset changed so that he was able to pursue all the wonderful aspects there are to knowing Jesus and following God.
Let us begin by reading Philippians 3:1-16 which will set the context for our study this morning of Philippians 3:8-11. 1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things [again] is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the [true] circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from [the] Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which [comes] from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained [it], or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of [it] yet; but one thing [I do]: forgetting what [lies] behind and reaching forward to what [lies] ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same [standard] to which we have attained.
Superiority of Christ to Heritage
Paul begins verse 8 with a string of Greek particles (allaV menounge kai / alla menounge kai) translated as “More than that” in the NAS, but a little more clearly translated as “Yet indeed also” (NKJV). This points back to what he had just said about his heritage. Paul had the right heritage as an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin who had been circumcised the 8th day according to the Mosaic Law. He had been born in Tarsus, which is outside of the country of Israel, but he resisted the pressures to become a hellenized Jew who would fit into the Greco-Roman world into which he was born. Instead, Paul became a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” referring to his diligence in keeping the laws and traditions of the Jews. He even had followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming a member of Judaism’s strictest sect, the Pharisees. His zeal was so strong for his religious convictions that he became a persecutor of the church because he viewed the followers of Jesus Christ as heretics that were a threat to Judaism. Paul was so successful at keeping the Law as followed by the traditions of the Pharisees that he would have been found blameless by them. Paul was successful in keeping the religion of his heritage. However, the religion of his heritage was wrong, so Paul counted his heritage as loss for the sake of Christ (vs. 7).
The Surpassing Value of Knowing Christ
Paul now goes on in verse 8 to speak of another reason that he counted “all things to be loss.” This was “in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [his] Lord.”
I believe that Paul’s statement about counting “all things to be loss” goes beyond his Jewish heritage and efforts to be righteous through obedience to the Law according to the traditions of the Pharisees, and also includes every sort of effort toward self righteousness that he had ever done before and after becoming a believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. His statement here places emphasis on how knowing Jesus Christ is of far surpassing value to anything else that could even be imagined and done.
Common among Jews who became Christians at the time and for Christians today is to become confused about the role good works play in our walk with God. Paul came to strong convictions on this and severely opposed those that tried to add any sort of self-righteous work to their faith in attaining salvation. That is the theme of the book of Galatians, and Paul clearly states that anyone professing such a false gospel was accursed. It also covers the idea that self-righteous actions make you more acceptable or pleasing to God after salvation. Paul recounts how he had to oppose Peter to his face for yielding to the pressures of the Judaizers and no longer eating with the Gentiles (Gal. 2:11f). No act of self-righteousness, whether it is in the effort to earn salvation, or in the effort to make yourself more pleasing to God after salvation is worth anything in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ. All acts of self-righteousness are to be counted as loss.
It is important to note that Paul states here that this is knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. It is not Jesus Christ the Lord, but Jesus Christ “my” Lord. There is no surpassing value in knowing Jesus Christ unless it is in the capacity of that personal relationship. In addition, the knowledge spoken of here is gnwsiV / gnôsis, the knowledge of personal experience, not just intellectual familiarity. To know Jesus Christ as your Lord is to have a personal relationship of experience with Him. It is to have Him as your Savior, your Advocate, your High Priest, and your eternal friend.
To know about Jesus the Lord is to be aware of some of the stories and claims about Jesus to one degree or another, but to never search out those claims for the truth and respond to that truth. It is to live a life based on your own wisdom according to your own decisions for your own purposes. It is to be without a savior who can redeem you from your sins, without a High Priest that will intercede for you with God; without a friend who will never forsake you; and without an advocate to represent you in God’s court room. To know about Jesus the Lord instead of knowing Jesus my Lord is to ultimately face Him as the judge who will condemn and sentence you to an eternity shut away from His presence.
It is because people do not view knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord as of being of surpassing value that they are not more serious in their walk with Him. To be content with salvation from Hell is to miss the point, the purpose and the pleasure of having Jesus as your savior. Salvation is from sin and all its horrible consequences, which of course includes escaping Hell as a result, but the point is that salvation breaks the bondage of sin. You no longer have to live in the misery that sin causes you and those around you. You can now pursue living in righteousness and all its benefits. The purpose of salvation is that you might be holy and blameless before God (Eph. 2:4) and have your character molded into Jesus’ image (Rom. 8:29). Having Jesus as savior includes all the pleasures incumbent to being freed from sin and becoming holy, as well as the personal experience of God’s love. No wonder Paul viewed knowing Jesus Christ as his Lord as surpassing in value to everything he had ever done himself.
Suffering Loss, but Gaining Christ
Paul goes on in verse 8 to recount that he had indeed suffered the loss of all these things, but that he counted them as rubbish in order that he might gain Christ. When Paul turned away from his self-righteousness to Christ Jesus, he lost all that he had worked for in becoming a Pharisee of high standing. They immediately viewed him as a dangerous traitor and enemy. Paul had only been a Christian a short time (many days) when the Jews were already plotting to do away with him (murder him) resulting in him having to leave Damascus by stealth (Acts 9:22f). Paul faced that the rest of his life.
In addition, it took a long time for Paul to become accepted by the Christian community because of his previous persecution of them. There was no instant recognition of what Paul would become as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul would eventually gain a good reputation within the church, but it would take years of being faithful and bold in ministry that was often dangerous for that to take place. A good reputation cannot be gained swiftly, but must be earned through consistent faithfulness over a period of time. And even after all this, Paul still had those who attacked his character. Recall from Chapter 1 that even while he wrote this Epistle, there were professing Christians that were seeking to cause him distress while imprisoned.
But all of these personal losses were fine with Paul because as he compared them with the gain that he had in Jesus Christ, he considered them to be rubbish. The word used here for “rubbish,” skubalon / skubalon, is a strong term for what was worthless and / or detestable and can also be translated as refuse, filth, or dung. All of the things Paul had once considered so worthy of his time and energy he now considered to be worthless refuse.
Perhaps this is one of the shortcomings with many professing Christians. Because they do not understand what they have been saved from (sin) and saved to (righteousness) (cf. Rom. 6), they continue to consider the things of this world worthwhile. But what good is gaining wealth, fame, or power? Everything a man can gain in this world is lost upon death. That is why Jesus directs us to store up our treasures in heaven instead of on earth (Mt. 6:19f). Yet, that is what too many professing Christians are after, the things of this world: accumulated wealth, positions of power, ease of life and recognition by others. Perhaps the rhetorical question Jesus asked in John 12:44 of the religious people of that time still needs to be asked, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the [one and] only God?” Paul valued God’s glory above all else, and so considered all else to be but rubbish in comparison with gaining Christ.
Found in Christ with the Righteousness of Faith
In verse 9, Paul explains the central reason for his view on life that caused him to view all his former accomplishments as rubbish. He wanted to be found in Christ “not having a righteousness of my own derived from [the] Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which [comes] from God on the basis of faith.” It was this truth that caused Paul to reject his heritage and former beliefs as a Pharisee. Righteousness in Christ through faith became the central theme in all of Paul’s writings. It is the central theme of true Christianity itself. Why such importance on this doctrine? Because believing it makes the difference between eternity in heaven and eternity in hell.
As a Pharisee, Paul had believed that righteousness before God could only be attained through diligence in keeping the Law of Moses. Because no man could actually keep the Law of Moses, the Pharisees had developed traditions by which they could fool themselves into believing that they were actually fulfilling the law. Unless they came to a realization of their self deceit and rejected it, they had no hope. For that reason Jesus was very direct with them and called them what they were, hypocrites. Hypocrites who loved the attention of men, so they prayed in public so they could receive the accolades of men instead of actually talking with God to receive from Him (Mt. 6:5f). Hypocrites who were quick to judge and condemn others, but never considered their own sin (Matt. 7:1-5). Hypocrites who carry out Old Testament laws such as tithing even to the fine detail of giving a tenth of their spices, but neglected the important aspects of the law such as justice, mercy and faithfulness (Mt. 23:23). Hypocrites who carefully practiced ceremonial washings so as not to become defiled, but whose hearts were already defiled by robbery and self-indulgence (Mt. 23:25). Hypocrites that would give public praise to God, but their hears were far from him (Mark 7:6).
When Paul finally realized the severe error of seeking to earn righteousness by keeping the law and that instead it was imputed by God on the basis of faith (Rom. 4:22-24), it radically changed his belief system and his life. All efforts of self-righteousness were then rejected and replaced by the true righteousness of faith in God’s work and promises given to us by His grace. Righteousness based on the law brings death, for as Paul says in Gal. 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” And no one except Jesus Christ has ever kept the whole law. The law was to be a schoolmaster to show us our inability to overcome our sin by our own means and to then cast ourselves upon the mercy of our great God and receive the grace of His promises (Gal. 3:24,25).
This great truth is the hallmark of Biblical Christianity. It is a truth that separates it from all other religions, because every other religion is ultimately about some means by which man appeases the wrath of its god and earns its favor. This is the truth that was lost in the church in the middle ages and was regained in the reformation. It is the truth for which Jon Hus was burned at the stake and for which Martin Luther staked his life just over a hundred years later. It is the truth that is at the core of the religious battles fought since that time between those that would enslave men to the yoke of religion and those that would free men to live by faith.
The tragedy is that even many people professing to be Christians have not yet learned the importance of this truth. Though they are not keeping the Mosaic Law, they are keeping a law of their own making in the effort to justify themselves before God. Like the Pharisees, they have made up their own rules by which they fool themselves into believing they are actually pleasing to God. But no form of self-righteousness whether sacraments of Catholicism, the liturgies of many main line denominations or the legalism of too many fundamentalists can make a person right with God. It matters not how much you go to church, what ministries you serve in, being outwardly separated from worldly practices or how diligent you are to tithe, unless you are trusting God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, you are not saved. Salvation is only by God’s grace through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8,9). Our salvation is given to us for the purpose of the glory of God, not the glory of man, and any effort to earn your salvation or the approval of God takes away from His glory in extending it to you by His grace. You can boast about anything you earn, but when you are given a gift you do not deserve, you can only glory in the giver.
Paul goes on in verse 10 to give additional reasons as to the importance of having a righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith and not by works of the law, and why he counted all his former heritage and works as loss for the sake of Christ.
The first is that he might know Jesus Christ his Lord. You cannot know Jesus Christ except on the basis of the righteousness of faith. You come to Him on His terms or not at all. This starts at salvation and continues on throughout the rest of your life and into eternity. Paul’s great desire was to know Jesus as deeply as was humanly possible. That should be true for every Christian. The essence of the knowledge Paul is talking about here is the experiential knowledge that only comes as two people live together. You learn the other person’s character through the experiences you share in common. You learn what they are like and how they will react in different situations. Your trust in them grows as they prove themselves to be steadfast and faithful even when you are afraid and unsure. You learn what pleases and displeases them as they react to your actions toward them and others. So it is in knowing Jesus Christ that as we walk with Him in daily life applying the truths revealed to us about Him in the Scriptures, that our personal experience with Him draws us ever closer in our relationship to Him. Our lives change as a result because our desire is to ever build and deepen that relationship.
Power of His Resurrection.
Paul is also specific in some of the ways that he wants to know Jesus. First, he wants to know the power of His resurrection. At first glance this might be taken to be a desire toward his own eventual resurrection, but Paul expresses that in verse 10, so this is something different. The power of Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest display of power possible. In conquering death, Jesus should He had absolute power in both they physical and spiritual realms. Paul’s hope of both salvation and sanctification were both tied up in Jesus’ resurrection. Paul’s personal identification with this is revealed both in Romans 6 and Galatians 2:20 in which Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” Paul was experiencing the power of Jesus’ resurrection as he daily lived by faith in the Son of God instead of in his own flesh. This was Christ living in and through him. That is the same way each of us who are Christians are privileged to live if we will so allow it. Too often we live in our own flesh by our own wisdom instead and thereby cut off our ability to live in the power of God. Too often we let our minds be occupied by the things here below instead of the things above (Col. 3:2) and instead of trusting the Lord, we lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5). However, as we do the opposite and seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness allowing Him to handle our daily needs instead of seeking those things ourselves (Mt. 6:33), we will be allowing ourselves to be controlled by the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and then will see Christ at work in our lives in the power of His resurrection even as Paul states here.
Fellowship of His Suffering
Paul also states something that is harder for us to consider. We prefer to have our lives not only peaceful, but without any pain and suffering if possible. Paul’s desire to know Christ was even greater than this normal human desire to avoid suffering. Why does Paul write this. For one thing, Jesus had told Paul that he would suffer for His namesake (Acts 9:16). But there is also the aspect of a deep fellowship with Christ that only those who suffer for Him can know. By this point in time when Paul is writing this letter to the Philippians, he has undergone deep suffering for the cause of Christ. Some of it is listed out in 2 Corinthians 11:23f and includes beatings, lashings, being stoned, all sorts of dangers, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, heat and cold. Paul, like the other Apostles before him (Acts 5:41) rejoiced to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s namesake. This is just what Jesus had said in Matthew 5:10-12 that we are blessed when we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness and that we should rejoice because our reward in heaven is great and so the prophets before us were also persecuted.
I have not suffered in any way such as Paul has, but I can tell you this from what little suffering I have undergone as Christ’s servant, there is an aspect to it that draws you closer to Him that could not exist from any other experience. There is a confidence and joy to know that you are on Christ’s team, because his enemies hate you just as they hate him. There is also a reliance on Him that is deeper than could be experienced in any other way and you see Him in action through you. Paul put it this way in 2 Cor. 12:10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The ultimate in this fellowship of suffering would be being conformed to His death. Remember that Paul knew that his imprisonment could easily result in him becoming a martyr. Paul was ready for that as well as to continue on for the sake of others. Paul viewed himself as the victor either way. His only concern was his service for Christ and bringing glory to his name.
Attaining the Resurrection from the Dead
Paul could seek this kind of fellowship with Christ because he was also confident of Jesus’ promises. He did not want to risk that which was the most important aspect of his existence for a false belief. Paul could not attain to the resurrection of the dead if he was relying on his past heritage and efforts at works of righteousness. On the other hand, being one of those that would be part of the resurrection of the dead to eternal life was assured as he trusted Jesus’ promises and received righteousness from God by His grace through faith alone apart from any works.
The same is true for every believer, and it is a gift that is offered for everyone that will believe and receive it. If you have not done so already, I implore you to yield your life to Jesus Christ today and begin a quest to know Him even as Paul knew Him. Do not be like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 who was more concerned about the things of this brief life than the things of the next. In doing so, he lost both eternal life in heaven, and a life with meaning and worth living in the present.
Sermon Study Sheets
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the term “righteousness” is used. Talk with your parents about what it means to be righteous before God and how you can attain that standing.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What are you known for? What information about your life is shared when you are being introduced? What interests take up a significant amount of your time, energy or finances? How does your relationship with Christ affect your interests and your reputation? Why did Paul consider knowing Jesus Christ superior to his heritage? What is the difference between being aware of Jesus Christ the Lord and knowing Jesus Christ your Lord? Which marks your relationship to Him? What does Jesus save you from? Explain. What difference does that make in how you live your life now? Are you willing to be like Paul and suffer the loss of all things that you might gain Christ? Why or why not? Why did Paul consider these things to be “rubbish”? How does the righteousness of faith differ from righteousness under the Law or self-righteousness? What effect did this truth have on Paul? On history? In your life? What does it mean to know Christ? Describe what this means in your own life. What does it mean to know the “power of His resurrection” and how can you know it? Why would Paul desire to know the “fellowship of His suffering” ? Do you want to know the same? Why or why not? What is your assurance that you will attain to the resurrection of the dead?
Sermon Notes – July 18, 2004
Joy in the Lord, Not in Works
The Superiority of Christ to Heritage (vs. 8a)
The Surpassing Value of Knowing Christ (vs. 8b)
Jesus Christ my Lord
gnwsiV / gnôsis
Suffering Loss, But Gaining Christ (vs. 8c)
Found in Christ with the Righteousness of Faith (vs. 9)
Hypocrisy of Self-Righteousness
The Effect of the Righteousness of Faith
Knowing Christ (vs. 10)
Power of His Resurrection (Gal. 2:20)
Fellowship of His Suffering
Attaining the Resurrection from the Dead
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