Philippians 3:8-11, Gaining Christ

For tonight, please read Philippians 3:1-11. I encourage you to re-read the entire letter before tonight to gain a better understanding of Paul’s teaching in this reading.

Paul’s Kenosis: (vv.7-11)

To understand Paul’s teaching, we need to go back to the hymn in Phil. 2:6-11. In vv.2-6, Paul lays out the spiritual privileges and benefits he has acquired based upon his birth, education, and personal achievement. Just as Christ was found in the perfect form or nature of God, so Paul says here and elsewhere (Acts 2:2-5, 2 Cor. 11:16-33) that he was the perfect member of the Jewish covenant with God. No one had a better resume for being a good Jew and being in God’s good graces than Paul.

However, like Christ, Paul does not regard these privileges as something to be taken advantage of or even something that ultimately leads to having a right relationship with God. Rather, in emptying or voiding himself (Gk. kenosis) of these privileges, Paul becomes a slave to Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:1) and becomes like him in his death, shares in his suffering, and knows the power of his resurrection. v.10. It is in this kenosis of his privileges, that Paul discovers that the true meaning of being a perfect member of God’s covenant people lies with being in Christ and thereby participating in his suffering, death, and resurrection.

Loss and Refuse (v.8)

In discussing his privileges, Paul writes “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse.” v.8. Paul’s use of these two words is instructive. First, the word for “loss” is ze’maian which is a business term meaning a financial loss or a financial penalty. As we looked at in the introduction, Paul refers to the Philippians as fellow workers in a business venture. Therefore, because Paul and they are in the gospel and grace business, then these types of privileges should be counted as a loss on the ledger sheet.

The second word Paul uses for his spiritual privileges is the term shybala. The root word is skubalon which is a compound word of kuon (“dog”) and ballo (“thrown”) which are the scraps/garbage/refuse that is fit only to be thrown to the scavaging dogs. In 3:1, Paul refers to those who hold such privileges in high regard as dogs. Therefore, Paul continues with the analogy that these privileges are those which are thrown to the dogs. And, Paul implies, what are table scraps compared to Christ Jesus?

Pisteos Christou: (v.9)

A final interesting turn of phrase in our reading is the phrase “pisteos Christou.” In verse 9, Paul writes: “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith Christ (pisteos Christou), the righteousness from God that depends upon faith.” In Greek, the italicized words do not contain a preposition and can be read that our righteousness depends upon either our “faith in Christ” or the “faithfulness of Christ.” We have looked at this issue before in our study of Romans and Galatians. The issue is whether Paul actually teaches Justification by Faith – that an individual is justified before God by having faith in Jesus Christ – or whether Paul is not writing about us and our faith at all, but God and his faithfulness through Jesus. Although these discussions can get into the theological weeds, it does help me (and hopefully all of us) to think through what role we have, if any, in obtaining the righteousness of God. Two good discussions of the issue are HERE and HERE. (This topic will not be on the final exam.😉)

Dinner is 6. Menu is a Low Country shrimp boil with an ice cream sundae bar. Please let us know if you are coming. Discussion about 7. Hope to see you here!

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (CEB)

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  1. Pingback: Philippians 3:12-16, Pursuing Christ – Ancient Anglican

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