Philippians 3 is unique in that it serves as the Apostle Paul’s spiritual biography. We can observe his perspective on:
· His Past (verses 1-11)
· His Present (verses 12-16)
· His Future (verses 17-21)
What stands out is that he is not upset by things behind him, around him or before him. Nothing will rob him of his joy!
That’s why he begins the chapter by saying:
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
We might find there are many things in our lives that hinder our walks with God or rob us of our joy.
· It may be a bad experience or guilt from the past.
· It may be our current trials,
· Or it may be a fear of the future.
These things can rob us of what we possess as believers. Something Paul describes as great gain.
Held By the Past? (V1-11)
To warn the Philippian church about the danger of those who were trying to rob the believers of grace and bring them back under the law, he shares his background with them.
If anyone could come close to making the perfect candidate to earn a right standing before God and earn their way to heaven, it was Paul.
In verse 4, he lists four things that were his possession by birth, reasons he might boast of being of the spiritual elite.
Some may rest on the fact that they were born into a Christian home and have Christian parents, or were baptized as an infant, so they are safe, they are covered. Such is not the case. Been born into a Christian culture won’t save you, being ‘born again’ is the only thing that God will accept.
Romans 2:11 says there is no partiality with God. He judges an individual based upon their acceptance of Jesus and that alone.
Paul also goes on to list his religious efforts at pleasing God. Verses 5 & 6 show that pursuit even describing the zeal he had to persecute the church, thinking he was defending Judaism, and ultimately God. He could even say that ‘concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blamesless’. This shows Paul had achieved a high standard of righteousness, he was the best in the bunch.
If anyone could lay claim to pleasing God by law-keeping and the works of the flesh, it was Paul. Yet he goes on to say that this did nothing for him.
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
Paul made a profit and loss statement.
On one side he has the above mentioned items. Things most people would boast about. He was of the highest pedigree. Yet he considered these things dung compared to the other.
On the other side, one word: “Christ”!
Even though he was now suffering for the witness of Jesus, he did not count that as loss. He saw the Great Gain he had in Christ.
In other words. Everything that hinders a relationship with Jesus is dung. Our relationship with Jesus is what should come first and should be the reason for our present priorities and our future hope.
Before looking at those though, let’s consider what Paul means by saying “the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”. It’s evident his desire was to Know Him more (Verse 10). These words speak of intimacy. When we think back to the very beginning of the Bible we see that God desired relationship with man. It was God who sought out Adam & Eve in the garden, even after they had sinned. It was God who provided the covering. No other religion shows this level of intimacy.
One image of intimacy we get from scripture that we will come back to is that of the church being the ‘bride of Christ’.
This great Gain Paul had found in his relationship with God gave Paul new ambitions.
Pauls present priorities (v12-16)
The words that stand out to me in this section are from verses 13-14:
13…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
These words show the focus of Paul’s life. There were things in Pauls past that could have been weights to hold him back. But they became motives to speed him ahead.
“forgetting those things which are behind” does not suggest the impossible feat of erasing bad memories. It holds the idea of breaking the power of the past by living for the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past.
This can be an area of defeat for the Christian. Being held captive by the events of the past. Learn from Paul here. If you have sinned in your past, repent, make restitution, and then forget. God will:
“For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.” (Psa 103:11-13, NKJV)
So let’s endure to press forward not lean back. Another area some Christians can get distracted and discouraged is by focusing on the successes of the past, maybe when times seemed better. To focus too much on the past is really admitting present defeat. I would encourage you to look forward to what God is doing and what He is going to do. That is the perspective I want, and that is where determination comes in to the picture:
14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Using the image of an athlete in this section, Paul is suggesting that a person does not become a winning athlete by simply listening to lectures, watching other races, reading books, or cheering at the games.
You become a winner by being part of the race and pursuing victory.
And this is where we need to consider the prize. The great gain and future hope we have as believers.
Future Outlook (17-21)
This section shows us a contrast between earthly things and heavenly things, and we are told that we can have a different mindset or outlook as believers.
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Citizenship is important. When a baby was born in a roman colony like Philippi. (Roman citizens away from Rome). It was important that their name be registered in the legal records. It provided protection and identification. When we trust Christ for salvation, our names are written in the book of life. (See Phil 4:3). And so, we have this guarantee, which should excite us.
There is also a sense that we are not home here. We have some good examples in Hebrews 11 that remind us and encourage us with this outlook:
Because Abraham looked for a heavenly city, he was content to live in a tent. (Heb 11:13-16).
Because Moses looked for rewards in heaven, he was willing to forsake the treasures of earth (Heb 11:24-26).
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Heb 11:13, NKJV)
This should make us ask, what are we living for and what is our hope set in?
If our hope is set in this world, then the Bible is pretty clear that this world holds no security and that will become more evident the closer we get to the Return of Jesus.
But when Paul looked at his future in Jesus, we observe that it was one of Hope!
20b…from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body
Coming back to the idea of the imagery of the church being the ‘bride of Christ’, there is something special that goes with that. We are looking forward to the return of Jesus for us, something those in the world cannot say!
We know that Jesus has gone to prepare a room for us in His Father’s house. (John 14). We know that He is coming back for us so that we can be where He is. This is all Imagery of the ancient Jewish wedding ceremony and is intended to provide the Christian comfort… ‘a blessed hope’
John, who recorded these words of Jesus also wrote in 1 John 3:3:
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
This is the same imagery of the wedding preparations, of the bride purifying herself ready for her groom to come receive her. The fact that Jesus is returning for us is a powerful motive for dedicated, devoted living.
So as we do an inventory of our lives.
If we consider the PROFIT & LOSS illustration.
What things can we count as gain and what things are loss?
With the eternal mindset we can see the ‘great gain’ we have as believers, anticipating the blessings of the world to come.
So with that all said, let’s press toward the reason why Jesus has us here. To make Him KNOWN!