Friday, 3 February 2017
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… Philippians 3:8
Paul’s amazing statement here is an explanation and expansion of the previous verse. Taken together they read –
“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…”
The words “what things” of the previous verse was speaking of his great personal qualities of lineage and heritage, along with his special status within Israelite society. However, setting those things aside was not all that Paul considered “loss for Christ.” Rather, he continues on with “Yet indeed I also count all things loss.”
There was nothing that he had worked for or accomplished in his life that was of any value to him in relation to true satisfaction or boasting he now made in his Lord. When he met Christ, the most precious memory, and the most hoped-for goal, were alike considered as loss. His very being was converted from that which is earthly and carnal to that which is heavenly and spiritual. Nothing of this world mattered and was “loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
The word for “excellence” here is actually a verb. It indicates “the excelling knowledge.” In other words, whatever is of note is vastly outshined by knowing Christ. If one carries a dab of perfume into a perfume factory, what was considered a sweet and powerful smell will be lost in the overwhelming amount of fragrance which fills the building. If one were to have a flashlight on a path while walking in full sunshine, the light of the flashlight would not even be noticeable. If one were to be in a dry desert with but a drop of water left in the canteen, it would be forgotten if that person were to come upon a large flowing river of the purest water.
Paul is trying to describe that which cannot be fully described. The superlative nature of Christ and what He offers simply overwhelms anything that we could hold up as of value. In comparison to Him, it is nothing. For this reason, he continues with words of strength by saying, “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things.”
One would think of loss as a weakness, but when that loss is compared to what has been obtained in its place, it is the greatest Source of strength of all. No thing, and no accumulation of things – even to an exceedingly enormous amount of stuff – could ever compare to the infinite gain which is experienced in knowing Christ.
Understanding this, he then describes what all of his “gain” actually means in relation to knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. He says he counts “them as rubbish.” The word is skýbalon. It is only found here in the Bible, and it is believed to be a combination of the word “dog” and the word “throw.” In other words, all of his gain is that which is only worth throwing to the dogs, such as filthy refuse, table scraps, and the like. It is good for nothing and it simply discarded. Considering that he has called the Judaizers of verse 2 “dogs,” he is indicating that their teachings and the things they boast in are just that, refuse.
Instead of being pleased with these things and trusting in them, he has cast them away so that he “may gain Christ.” The play on words seems evident. He says the loss that he suffered from his supposed “gains” is a gain in and of itself. The treasure and honor of knowing Christ is of infinite value because it stems from the infinite Creator. Nothing else could compare to this, and so any loss is – by default – gain.
Life application: We live in this world and we can and should enjoy what this world provides, but we should never allow those things to have us. Rather, we are to have them, but only with a loose grasp of them. When the time is right, Christ will come and those things which we now possess will seem as the most useless and unimportant things imaginable. Let us not hold fast to this world as we pass through it.
Lord God, we are surrounded by our possessions which we have accumulated throughout our lives. But in the end, they are just temporary things which will all be gone at some point. And not the finest thing we possess is even a close comparison to our having and knowing Christ Jesus. If everything we had was represented by a single drop of perfume, what good would it be in the largest, most magnificent perfume factory? We would not even notice what we had thought was so wonderful. Help us to delight in the surpassing greatness of Christ, and not be consumed by the transitory world in which we live. Amen.