Philippians chapter 3

Paul speaks of the inestimable treasure of knowing Jesus Christ. He urges us to keep pressing on toward the goal to which God has called us. [UPDATED]

 


 

THE INESTIMABLE TREASURE OF KNOWING JESUS CHRIST

 

VERSE 1. Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not tiresome, but for you it is safe.

rejoice. For the believer, all of life can be seen as continually rejoicing.

Thanks to Jesus, our lives can be a festival of rejoicing. Rejoicing, or “making merry,” is not something we feel. It is not an emotional state to work ourselves into. Rather, it is something we DO.

Ephesians 5:19. speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord

Philippians 3:1. Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not tiresome, but for you it is safe.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Always rejoice. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.

 

VERSE 2. Beware of the dogs; beware of the evil workers; beware of the false circumcision.

the dogs. This was an insult.

the false circumcision. That is, the Judaizers. They insisted that, for salvation, Gentile Christians must also become Jews and obey the Law of the Old Testament.

 

VERSE 3. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh;

we are the circumcision. That is, Christians are the new circumcision.

 

VERSE 4. though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I yet more:

I yet more. Spiritually, Paul had lots of bragging rights:

  • born into Judaism
  • not a convert to Judaism
  • of the tribe of Benjamin
  • a Hebrew
  • a Pharisee

 

VERSE 5. circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;

 

VERSE 6. concerning zeal, persecuting the assembly; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.

 

VERSE 7. However, I consider those things that were gain to me as a loss for Christ.

I consider. To think through or reflect upon.

those things. That is, the things Paul listed in verse five: being born a Jew and not a convert to Judaism, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew and a Pharisee.

 

VERSE 8. Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Letter to the Philippians and from the entire Bible.

I consider everything as a loss. To consider means to reflect upon, to think through. Here Paul is sharing a thought-through, highly considered opinion, a “position” on the issue at hand.

count them nothing but refuse. That is, “I consider them rubbish.” That is, food scraps or dung. Those things that Paul used to think of as gain, he now thinks of as rubbish.

The Greek word there is “kerde.” It means food scraps and dung. All the treasures of Paul’s life prior to Christ are tossed out the window onto the dung-heap. Why?

for the excellency of. That is, for “the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Why are Paul’s former treasures so unimportant now? Now, Paul experiences a good, a surpassing good.

In our Christian life, there are certainly lots and lots of chances for improvement!

the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord. Now Paul knows Christ Jesus as Lord. Jesus Christ is so much greater than the things he used to treasure.

The treasures of Paul’s former life, compared to Jesus Christ, are like a pebble compared to a mountain of solid gold.

The word “know” does not mean an accumulation of facts, but rather an experiential knowledge, a present-tense continuous knowing. This is not just an accumulation of facts, but knowledge gained through experience.

nothing but refuse. Literally “garbage” or “human excrement.” Some translations use the word “rubbish.”

For thought: Have you lost anything for your faith?

 

VERSE 9. and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith,

and be found in him. The people who gain Jesus Christ are found in him. Christ is now IN the believer, and the believer is now in Christ. It is a mystical union.

It’s like putting a goldfish into a new aquarium. The goldfish is now in the water of the aquarium, and the water of the aquarium is now in the goldfish.

not having a righteousness of my own. Paul used to consider spiritual righteousness to have originated in the full obedience to the Law of Moses and its 613 commandments.

But now, Paul sees the Law as simply a tutor, a teacher that taught him of his own sinfulness and of his need for the Savior.

To sin is to violate God’s will for us. It harms our relationship with God. We all have missed the mark and sinned. Here are the verses we’ve found »

the law. The Laws of the Old Testament.

that which is through faith in Christ. The only righteousness that Paul values now is that which comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

VERSE 10. that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death,

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Letter to the Philippians and from the entire Bible.

NIV translationI want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

I want to know Christ. Do you want to know Jesus Christ?

The Greek word for “know” is gnosis. It means to know by experience.

Paul already knows Jesus Christ in an intellectual way; now he desires a deeper knowledge, an experiential knowledge.

Paul was not content with mere factual knowledge about Christ. He desired to actually know Christ by experience. How can you stir up your appetite for more experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ?

and the power of his resurrection. That same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead is now at work in the lives of us believers.

The Greek word for “power” is dynamos.  Think: dynamite!

It means the ability to overcome resistance. It may seem problematic to say that the same power is at work in our lives.

Sirach 46:4. Did not the sun go back by his hand? And didn’t one day become as two?

John 14:12. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (NIV translation).

Philippians 3:10. that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death,

The problem is not a lack of power. For most of us, it’s that we aren’t even plugged in.

That’s what was happening with the Sadducees. They paraded all their spiritual excellence. But the Lord Jesus told them they were in error because they did not know the Scriptures nor the POWER of God. Do you know the POWER of God? Read more »

the fellowship of his sufferings. That is, “the sharing of his sufferings.”

There is only one Savior. There is only Passion and Death and Resurrection that achieved our salvation.

Yet we can offer our sufferings as a love-offering, just like we can prayer or fasting.

Also, when we speak about Jesus Christ with other people, they might retaliate and make us suffer for it. People may react with anger or indifference; they might say we are narrow-minded or judgmental.

becoming like him in his death. The Greek word means “being conformed inwardly in one’s experience of something.”

That’s what happens when you see a good movie: it stirs you inwardly and you feel the joy or sorrow, victory or defeat, of the characters in the movie.

Similarly, our inner being becomes conformed to the death of the Christ, as we hear it, read it, meditate on it or see it in a movie.

For thought: What are your goals or aspirations or dreams for your faith?

2 Corinthians 4:2. So then death works in us, but life in you.

 

VERSE 11. if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

NIV translation: and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

by any means. That is, “somehow.” This is not an indication of doubt or uncertainty, but rather concern and involvement and hope.

Paul did not doubt the resurrection. He did not doubt his own destiny to be resurrected. But he does not know the exact steps involved.

When you flip a light switch, you know the light will come on. But you can’t explain it, at the level of quantum mechanics. In that sense, you know the light will turn on “somehow.” Your uncertainty about “how” does not mean uncertainty about whether it will happen or not.

 

PRESSING ON TOWARD THE GOAL

 

VERSE 12. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

Not that I have already obtained. Though Paul was a spiritual giant in the eyes of the believers in Philippi, he reminds them that he hasn’t even seen his own spiritual goals fulfilled yet.

He, the mighty apostle to the Gentile world, had not yet arrived at spiritual maturity.

In our own lives, our life and work within the Christian community will go much better if we acknowledge our own shortcomings and do not make unreasonable demands on others.

I press on. If your spiritual life seems to be going nowhere, it’s still worth pressing on.

If the spiritual life can be compared to a fight, then keep fighting the good fight. Don’t give up. Don’t loose the vision and settle for a stalemate.

Paul would say there’s no spiritual plateau that God’s grace can’t bring you beyond. Jesus Christ can and will supply the grace you need; all you have to do is cooperate with it.

For thought: How can you grow in maturity of faith?

 

VERSE 13. Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do: Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before,

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Letter to the Philippians and from the entire Bible.

This verse is referred to in a famous book on continuous prayer called The Way of a Pilgrim.

don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold. The believers in Philippi would have considered Paul a spiritual giant. But like them, Paul too was simply pressing on, still growing in the ways of Christian discipleship.

one thing I do. Just one thing. Paul doesn’t say, “These 40 things I dabble at.” Paul is obviously single-minded in his pursuit of Jesus Christ, of spiritual growth, of mystical experience, of growth in holiness, of zeal, of effectiveness in ministry.

Dr. R. A. Torrey:

“The Christian life should be like a sword with one point, not like a broom ending in many straws. Such a single purpose forgets the past, reaches toward the future, and presses on. There is no time or place for side issues, diversions to the right or to the left. There is no place for hands on the plow with eyes looking back. Paul was a one-track man, but you can go a long way on one track!”

Paul’s goal for his life is whatever Jesus Christ desires for his life. That is his one pursuit in life. He forgot his past, and he streched forward toward his goal. His goal was his calling in Jesus Christ.

Forgetting the things which are behind. Paul refused to be controlled by his past.

Like a runner, he would keep running toward the finish line. He left behind his past sins and his persecution of the Church. He didn’t let past failures guide him toward future failures.

Our human memory doesn’t forget most of own failures. We just can’t let them debilitate us.

stretching forward. Paul knew that he hadn’t met his goals yet. He didn’t fixate on the past, nor did he dwell on the glory days of yesteryear.

Instead, he stood firmly in the present, and he single-mindedly pressed on toward the future.

 

VERSE 14. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Letter to the Philippians and from the entire Bible.

NIV translation: I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I press on toward the goal. This is the one thing Paul does. In your own life, what are your goals for your Christian life?

for the prize. The winner of the Greek races received a wreath of leaves and sometimes a cash reward. But the Christian receives an award of ultimate glory.

the high calling. That is, “heavenward.” The Christian believer’s ultimate aspiration goes beyond this life into the realm of heaven, where Jesus Christ is found in all his fullness.

 

VERSE 15. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way. If in anything you think otherwise, God will also reveal that to you.

 

VERSE 16. Nevertheless, to the extent that we have already attained, let’s walk by the same rule. Let’s be of the same mind.

 

VERSE 17. Brothers, be imitators together of me, and note those who walk this way, even as you have us for an example.

be imitators … of me. That is, “Join together in following my example” (NIV translation).

Paul called Christians to follow him. This can be confusing, as we are left to wonder:

  • Am I a follower of Paul, or of the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Is Paul an intermediary between me and Jesus Christ?

1 Corinthians 1:12-13. Now I mean this, that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” and, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?

1 Corinthians 4:16. I beg you therefore, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 11:1. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (KJV translation).

Philippians 3:17. Brothers, be imitators together of me, and note those who walk this way, even as you have us for an example.

1 Thessalonians 1:6. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,

 

VERSE 18. For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ,

enemies of the cross of Christ. Paul might be alluding to the teachers of Gnosticism.

 

VERSE 19. whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who think about earthly things.

whose end is destruction. The false teachers were destined for destruction.

whose glory is in their shame. Instead of giving glory to God, the false teachers gave glory to themselves.

who think about earthly things. That is, their minds are occupied with earthly things. How can we get our mind more fully on Jesus Christ?

 

VERSE 20. For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Letter to the Philippians and from the entire Bible.

our citizenship is in heaven. We are pilgrims on this earth. It is a temporary sojourn, and not our real home.

It is commendable for Christians to be patriots of the earthly nation where they are citizens. But their true citizenship is in heaven, not in a specific nation. Christians can live and thrive in any culture, any nation, any language.

Hebrews 13:7. Remember your leaders, men who spoke to you the word of God, and considering the results of their conduct, imitate their faith.

Hebrews 11:13. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and embraced them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

1 Peter 2:11. Beloved, I beg you as foreigners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

we … wait for. The Greek word is hapekdechometha. It suggests anticipation and longing. A Christian longs for the triumphal return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

VERSE 21. who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself.

 


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Author: Todd Van Natta

I was given a great gift. It is to be passionate about Jesus Christ and the Bible and the spiritual life. I am a Christian believer. I believe in Jesus Christ. I’m in love with Jesus! I believe the Bible. I love the Bible. For decades, I've been reading it cover-to-cover, again and again and again. I’ve memorized a whole lot of Bible verses. Most of all, I want the Bible to help us fall more deeply in love with God the Father, with Jesus Christ, with other people, and with ourselves. And I've been reading the great writings from the entire Christian heritage for decades. At Explore the Faith, I share what I have discovered.

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