Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Giving It All Up
Paul the Apostle is dealing with a serious issue among his friends in Philippi. Some folks have come in among the disciples of Jesus there telling them that in order to be a better Christian, they need to be a good Jew: by getting circumcised and following the Mosaic Law. At issue is whether a person can improve on their standing with God by obedience to God?s Law.
On the surface it has some appeal. For those of us that love God, we want to be more like Him. His Law is a reflection of His character, so it stands to reason that following that Law would make us more like Him. The problem is two fold:
1. You can?t do it.
James 2:10 ?For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all.? Couple that with what Paul said in Romans 7:18 ?For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.?
2. Even if you could, it wouldn?t do you any good with God.
Gal. 2:16 ?know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.?
Another problem we face is that it feels good to accomplish things. While there?s nothing wrong with rejoicing in the character change that a Christian experiences?we have to fully realize that it is a partnership. The goodness comes from God through Jesus and is given to us as an undeserved gift. To get that gift we give up the ability to boast that our efforts have made God love us more.
The final problem is that the gift of God?s goodness through Jesus comes with a price. We have to give up relying on ourselves and we have to accept life in this new kingdom?a kingdom where bad things sometimes happen to good people.
But what we see today is that oddity?goodness and suffering?forges a deep fellowship with our Savior that is unparalleled.
The portion of Chapter 3 from verse 7 through 11 really hangs together as one unit and is a little hard to break apart. So first, let?s look at the structure as a whole.
The primary verse is Verse 10. This is the goal statement. What does Paul want? He wants to know Jesus. We?ll get more into what the ?knowing? looks like in a bit. But keep that in mind as we walk through this section.
7 ? 8
An important word in these verses occurs three times: ?consider?. The first is in verse 7. The tense in the Greek is in past perfect. This denotes a past-completed action with continuing results. In the other two times it is in the present tense, which indicates a continuing action.
Why is this important? Because Paul is saying that everything he counted on in his past as a good Jew is put aside. The Judaizers, as they were called, were telling the Philippians that they needed to adopt adherence to the Mosaic Law and be circumcised. In the preceding section (3:1-6) Paul outlined his own standing as a Jew: at the top of the heap. He has the pedigree (born a Jew, from good Jewish parents, and knowing his tribal heritage), the position (as a Pharisee), and the proof of performance (zeal for Judaism against the church and external obedience to the Law).
But Paul is saying all that?everything?he has considered loss?a past action with continuing results. ?Don?t go backwards? Paul is telling his Philippian friends. You have to turn your back on your own obedience to the Law, your own efforts to earn God?s favor?and you need to continually consider that as a loss.
Last time we talked about how the Spirit of God gives us the goodness of Jesus. To his Galatian friends, who faced this same problem with the Judaizers, Paul said: (Gal. 3:3) ?Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh??
The word ?loss? is also significant. Paul uses this word and also the synonym ?filth?, which means: ?garbage?, or ?dung?. The word loss can also mean ?damage?. Paul recognized that self-reliant righteousness is so worthless that it ought to be flushed down the toilet and can actually cause you damage. Why is that? Because of what we already talked about: you can?t earn God?s favor by obeying the Law, which you can?t really do consistently anyway. You only gain God?s favor by faith, trust, and reliance on what Jesus did for you. Going back to self-reliance means you no longer have Christ-reliance. This attitude, that we know better than God, is what got humanity in trouble in the first place in the Garden of Eden.
Paul goes on to say that not just his Jewishness, but absolutely everything is a loss when compared with the surpassing value of knowing Jesus. The word there means literally to ?hold something over.? Specifically here it refers to the excellence of something. Jesus is so good, so worthy, so incredible and powerful and loving?that nothing here on earth in this age can compare.
If you had all the money you could ever imagine, all the beauty, all the strength, all the power, all the intellectual capacity, all the physical might?and were popular beyond measure?none of it would be worth holding onto when compared to knowing Jesus. To have Jesus, to ?gain? Him as Paul says, is worth dropping everything you are holding onto. And not only that, but you grab Jesus, and He grabs you right back:
So Paul says that to gain Jesus means to let go of everything else. As that happens, Paul finds himself grabbed by Jesus. He uses the word ?found?. The Greek word here means: ?to find by inquiry, thought, examination, scrutiny, observation, hearing; to find out by practice and experience.? Jesus ?discovers? us in a way. I suppose it?s kind of like when you click on a web form and a whole hidden portion of the page comes alive. We were in a way ?hidden? from God in our sins. And even our attempts at living right went very wrong. But through the surpassing value of Jesus? death, burial and resurrection, we who were hidden are now found. And when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom physically on earth, we will be found to be perfect, just as He is perfect (1 John 3:2 ?we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.?)
But look at the state we are found in?not having goodness that comes from our obedience to the Law but one that comes from grabbing ahold of Jesus. Paul calls it faith. The idea is to trust and rely more on Jesus and not on your own abilities.
So what does this ?found? experience look like? Paul explains in the following verse:
This verse is one of the most significant in Philippians and in the entire New Testament. We tend to read the first part of it and stop there. Yes, I want the power. But we don?t hear the rest. Knowing Jesus means we experience the power of His resurrection?in that He died to suffer for our sins, and was resurrected to give us new, everlasting life?not just a quantity of life but a quality of life.
Psa. 16:11 ?You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.?
But knowing Him also means to have ?the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.? What does this mean?
I think it?s two-fold. On the one hand we are conformed to His death in that our sins and our sin nature have been nailed to the cross with Jesus.
Romans 6:5 ?For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin?s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin.?
That is both past and present?in that we will still deal with the zombie of our fleshly nature until we go to be with the Lord, even though all our sins have been forgiven?past, present, and future.
The second part of this is the fellowship that comes from suffering for Jesus. There is something that you can?t really know or experience until you suffer some sort of persecution for the cross. We tend to think that when people speak ill of us or do bad things to us because of our faith in Jesus that we are somehow weak or in the wrong. What you discover is the birthing of self-sacrificing, other-centered affection. It?s a willingness to be poured out on Christ?s behalf. In that experience is a sweet connection with the Lord that is powerful.
Paul ends up with sort of a strange aside:
It appears from the way this appears in English that Paul somehow doubts whether he will be saved. That?s not it. What he?s saying is that you will not attain to the resurrection of the dead without being conformed to the death of Christ?so unless you are willing to let go of this age and trust and rely on Jesus who died for your sins?and allow your sin nature to be crucified with Him?you won?t see His life.
Worked into this is a sort of ?already but not yet? concept. We are clean now, but we won?t really see the full extent of what Jesus did for us realized in our bodies until the future. People get really caught by this. They think that if someone has been cleansed from their sin that they should be perfect now. This leads us right back to legalism.
We need to understand that God is at work in us and He will complete the work of conforming us to His image. Paul describes it as going from glory to glory.
2Cor. 3:18 ?We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.?