Wednesday, February 16, 2011

That I May Know Him (Phil. 3:7-11)

"I count all rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him"

7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 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 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; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In the early to mid-nineties, there was a lot of talk about mission statements. It seems that every company felt the need to come up with a short, snappy saying that described why it existed. Coca-cola said that their mission was to put a Coke product in the hands of every person on the planet. Pillsbury wanted to be the best food company in the world. Even churches and other non-profit organizations jumped on the “mission statement” bandwagon.

Mission statements seemed like a fad at first, but they have stuck. And this is not a bad thing. Each of us, as persons, would do well to sit down and come up with our own statement. Why are we here? What is our main purpose in living? What is the one thing that we strive to do above all else. In this passage, St. Paul gives his own “mission statement.”

When he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, St. Paul discovered that all of his hard work, all the impressive accomplishments that he had piled up, all the things he thought had earned favor with God, counted for nothing. As FF comments, “The experience of grace in Christ convinces Paul that salvation consists not in self-assertion and defense, but in humbly receiving forgivness and pardon...his supposed gain of Jewish pedigree and defense he esteems as loss and harm to himself, for if he brought it into account to make use of it, it would come between him and the pardon of God, the true and saving knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (51-52).

St. Paul counted as loss not only all his pre-Christian accomplishments, but everything...compared to knowing Christ. Nothing can be compared in importance or value to having a saving relationship with Christ. Riches, power, fame, talent, possessions...each of these should be thrown away if necessary to gain Christ (and even if we don’t totally throw them away, we must subordinate them far below Christ). St. Paul certainly gave them up in order to know Christ...and he didn’t regret it for a moment.

Toward the end of verse 8, St. Paul uses a very earthly word, which the NKJV translates as “rubbish.” The Greek word is skubala, and as FF points out, this word has the dual meaning of trash and excrement. The closest English word is “crap”, which of course would never make it into a respectable English translation (and rightly so). But St. Paul’s use of this word really highlights just how worthless everything else in this life is compared to knowing Christ.

Then St. Paul reveals his own “mission statement”, which he describes in a variety of ways: “that I may gain Christ,” that he may “be found in Him,” and “that I may know him.” Let’s take note of a couple of things St. Paul says as he lays out his goal for life.

First, he points out that his righteousness is not from the Law (note in passing that this is “THE Law,” that is, the Law of Moses. This is not a proof text for “salvation by faith alone.”). His righteousness is through faith (which, as we have stated before, always includes works).

Again, FF has some great things to say about this passage: “...God does not want our carefully drawn-up list of accomplishments; He wants our heart...What does God want from us? The Judaizers think he wants an impressive score; that it matters not how proud our hearts are before Him, so long as we have accumulated a store of good deeds and avoided the blame He seems to be ready to give. Inwardly they think Him to be a ‘hard man’...quick to condemn, a dangerous God against whom we can protect ourselves if only we keep the Law rigorously enough. St. Paul knows better. He knows that what God really wants is us; our love, the response of our penitent and broken hearts. He knows that God is not quick to blame, but is a gracious and good God, and the Lover of mankind” (52-53).

St. Paul wants to know Christ in his totality, including not only the power of his resurrection, but also the fellowship (Gk. koinonia, also “sharing”) in his sufferings. In other words, he doesn’t want just the “good” from Christ, but the “bad” too. This is radically different from the attitude of many so-called Christians today, who preach that life in Christ brings only good health and material blessing and never suffering. St. Paul even expresses a desire to be “conformed to him in his death”, that is, to give his life for the Gospel (and this wish would eventually be granted).

Note finally that St. Paul says, “if by some means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” St. Paul here uses the phrase “the resurrection from the dead” in the sense of the resurrection of those who have died in Christ. He does not doubt that there will be a resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15 if you don’t believe me). What he does doubt is whether or not he will be a part of the resurrection of the blessed. There is certainly no hint of “I know I’m saved” here! We’ll see more of this type of thinking in the next section.

1 comment:

James the Thickheaded said...

I remember the mission statement craze and being asked to deal with it on a vestry in my pre-orthodox days. No doubt part of my natural consternation in being charged with this sort of open-ended game played a role in moving me into the Orthodox Church where I was happy to see parish after parish website post the Nicene Creed under "Who We Are". Somethings really are that simple.