Today’s post examine’s Paul’s letter to the Philippians about how righteousness is through Jesus Christ. Here are some of my past studies in the book of Philippians in case you missed them:
- An Introduction to the Book of Philippians
- Paul’s Greeting, Gratitude, and Group Focus (Phil 1:1-11)
- A Leader Rejoices When His Cause Advances (Phil 1:12-18)
- Paul’s Life for Christ (Phil 1:19-26)
- Leaders Lead and Live in an Ethical Way (Phil 1:27-30)
- Leaders Focus on Others (Phil 2:1-4)
- Have the Same Attitude as Christ (Phil 2:5-11)
- Leaders Shine Brightly for Christ (Phil 2:12-18)
- Christian Leaders Have Confidence in Christ (Phil 3:1-6)
Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis
A. Summary of Past Studies
Last week we studied Phil 3:1-6 in which Paul told the Philippians to watch out for the dogs, those mutilators, who teach that you have to be circumcised in order to be saved. Then, we looked at out how circumcision was something done inside of us—a change of heart—not just an outward appearance. Then, to emphasize the work that Christ had done, Paul shared his heritage and work saying that all of that was pointless because of Christ. Today we will examine what it is about Christ and how we are found righteous in him.
B. Text of Phil 3:7-11
7But, whatever I considered a gain for myself I have now considered a loss because of Christ. 8Indeed, more than that I consider it all a loss on account of the surpassingly great knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. I gave up everything because of Christ, and consider everything as garbage, in order that I might gain Christ 9and be found in him not by having my own righteousness from the Law, but my righteousness by the faithfulness of Christ, righteousness from God based on faith, 10in order to know him, mostly the power of his resurrection and participation in his suffering, by means of sharing in his death 11if possible, I might reach resurrection from the dead.
C. Introduction and Joke
A young girl was in her elementary school class when her teacher began teaching about mammals and wales. The teacher said that because mammals have small throats they cannot swallow large animals. The little girl raised her hand and said, “But the Bible says that Jonah–a man–was swallowed by a whale.” The teacher responded, “Well, a man is a large animal, so it is unlikely that a whale could have swallowed Jonah.” The little girl persisted, “Well, the Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. I believe it. But, how can I be sure?” The teacher smiled and replied, “Well, when you get to heaven you can ask Jonah if it really happened.” The girl, becoming frustrated with the teacher replied, “Okay, when I get to heaven I will ask Jonah. But, if Jonah is not in heaven, then I will let you ask him!”
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS BASED ON FAITH (3:7-9)
“7But, whatever I considered a gain for myself I have now considered a loss because of Christ. 8Indeed, more than that I consider it all a loss on account of the surpassingly great knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. I gave up everything because of Christ, and consider everything as garbage, in order that I might gain Christ 9and be found in him not by having my own righteousness from the Law, but my righteousness by the faithfulness of Christ, righteousness from God based on faith,”
A. Worthless Because of Christ (v. 7)
“But, whatever I considered a gain for myself I have now considered a loss because of Christ.”
1. [Ἀλλʼ] ἅτινα ἦν μοι κέρδη, — But, whatever I considered a gain for myself
a) ἦν – I considered
This is an extensive perfect tense. This type of perfect tense “may be used to emphasize the completed action of a past action or process from which a present state emerges” (Wallace, Greek Grammar). This action has occurred in the past yet yields current results.
b) κέρδη – a gain
The “gain” Paul refers to here is what he had already described in Phil 3:5-6. Specifically, that he was circumcised on the eighth day (3:5), a citizen of Israel (3:5), a member of the tribe of Benjamin (3:5), a real Hebrew (3:5), a keeper of the law of Pharisees (3:5), persecutor of the church (3:6), and someone who obeyed the Law without fault (3:6).
c) μοι – for myself
2. ταῦτα ἥγημαι διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν ζημίαν. – I have now considered a loss because of Christ.
a) ταῦτα – [left untranslated]
This demonstrative pronoun refers to the ἅτινα – “whatever” earlier in the verse. Further, this demonstrative pronoun, ταῦτα, refers to the gains Paul had just listed in Phil 2:5-6.
b) ἥγημαι – I have now considered
c) ζημίαν – a loss
This word was used in commercial settings where a disadvantage took the form of “loss” or “damage” regarding money or material goods (O’Brien, Philippians, 385). In a moral or spiritual sense it meant disadvantage. All those gains were one big loss to Paul.
A good illustration of this is an employee that works for a company for 20 years. Every year that company paid him company stock as a benefit of his work there. However, after 20 years the company suddenly goes bankrupt and that employees loses the stock he had in that company. While the employee had received a “gain” every year for 20 years, all of a sudden it was gone in one big “loss.”
d) διὰ — because of
The preposition, διὰ when in the accusative case can mean “on account of” or “because of.” It is used here to convey the idea that Christ is the decisive difference.
B. Compared to Christ All Is Worthless (v. 8)
“8Indeed, more than that I consider it all a loss on account of the surpassingly great knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. I gave up everything because of Christ, and consider everything as garbage, in order that I might gain Christ”
1. ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ ἡγοῦμαι πάντα ζημίαν εἶναι διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου, — Indeed, more than that I consider it all a loss on account of the surpassingly great knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.
a) ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ — Indeed, more than that
b) ἡγοῦμαι πάντα ζημίαν εἶναι – I consider it all a loss
(1) ἡγοῦμαι – I consider
This is either a progressive or customary present. As progressive, this involves a continuous action (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 518). As a customary, this involves an action that regularly occurs or describes an ongoing state (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 518). Both of these uses show that Paul has arrived at a position about his past and he still holds that position.
The verb here has been used in Phil 3:7 and is used twice in Phil 3:8. Paul is emphasizing that he had thought about this with considerable effort.
(2) ζημίαν εἶναι – a loss
“Gregory Nazianzen, a foremost father of the Christian Church, rejoiced that he was well versed in the Athenian philosophy. Why do you think he rejoiced in that? Because he had to give it all up when he became a Christian, and, said he, ‘I thank God that I had a philosophy to throw away.’ He counted it no loss, but a gain, to be a loser of such learned lumber when he found a Savior. That grand old Ignatius, one of the earliest of the church fathers, said, ‘Give me burning, give me hanging, give me all the torments of hell; if I may but get my Savior, I would fain be content to bear them all as a price.’ The saints of Christ have given Christ their all, and when they have given all, they have felt that they were the richer for their poverty, the happier for their sorrows; and when they have been in solitude for Christ, they have felt that they have had good company, for he has been with them to be their strength and their joy” (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Philippians, ed. Elliot Ritzema, Spurgeon Commentary Series [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014], 94).
c) διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου, — on account of the surpassingly great knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord
This clause likely references Paul’s conversion on the Damascus road (Acts 9) where Paul met Jesus and drastically turned his life from persecuting Christians to being Jesus’ servant helping to spread the church.
“By the knowledge thus acquired, we ought not only to be stimulated to worship God, but also aroused and elevated to the hope of future life” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1, 75).
This idea of “knowledge” is controlled by Old Testament ideas of knowledge. For example, God’s knowledge and election of his people (Exod 33:12, 17; Amos 3:2). Another, people’s knoeldge of him and love for him (Jer 31:34; Hosea 4:1, 6; 6:6).
By knowledge Paul means a close and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
2. διʼ ὃν τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην, — I gave up everything because of Christ,
a) τὰ πάντα – everything
O’Brien notes that in addition to the seven things Paul listed in Phil 3:5-6, he likely had his property confiscated, and lost his family inheritance, lost his status in Judaism (O’Brien, Philippians, 389-390).
c) διʼ– because of
Same preposition used here as was used in Phil 3:7 when Paul wrote, “I now consider it all a loss because of Christ”
3. καὶ ἡγοῦμαι σκύβαλα, — and consider everything as garbage,
As if to have said it once was not enough, Paul again repeats it for emphasis.
The Greek word, σκυβαλα, means dung, garbage as an excrement or food gone bad. It is worthlessness and filth. This is the only time this word is used in the New Testament.
However, I don’t think Paul is saying that worldly achievements are necessarily bad. What I do believe he is saying is that Jewish heritage and works as a Jew are worthless. Those things that he used to use to gain merit before God are worthless when compared to the work of Jesus.
4. ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδήσω – in order that I might gain Christ.
a) ἵνα – in order that (“so that” in NLT)
This is an adverbial subordinate conjunction of purpose related to ἐζημιώθην (“I gave up”). As a result of knowing Christ, Paul discounted everything else. He counted it all as garbage “in order that” Paul could gain Christ.
b) κερδήσω – I might gain
As an aorist subjunctive used in a “purpose-result” manner (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 473-474), this suggests that someday he looks forward to that day of being with Christ.
“The apostle came to know Christ when he was converted. He desires to know Christ more, for he wants this personal relationship with the Lord to depend. Similarly it could be said that Paul had already gained Christ on the Damascus road. His ambition is to gain Christ perfectly, a goal that will be fully realized only at the end. But as he continues to estimate earthly things at their true value, with this ambition in full view, so he gains Christ day by day in an ever-deepening relationship” (O’Brien, Philippians, 391).
C. JUSTIFICATION – Righteousness through Faith in Christ (v. 9)
“9and be found in him not by having my own righteousness from the Law, but my righteousness by the faithfulness of Christ, righteousness from God based on faith,”
1. καὶ εὑρεθῶ ἐν αὐτῷ, — and be found in him
This clause is connected to the “in order that I might gain Christ” in the previous verse (specifically, it is related to the verb κερδήσω).
“The passive verb, ‘found in him,’ often has the meaning of ‘prove to be’ or ‘be present.’ It takes the perspective of a divine investigation of one’s relationships. At the great day of judgment, Paul wanted to be found in Christ” (Melick, Philippians, 133).
2. μὴ ἔχων ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐκ νόμου ἀλλὰ τὴν διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ, — not by having my own righteousness from the Law, but my righteousness by the faithfulness of Christ
a) μὴ ἔχων ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐκ νόμου – not by having my own righteousness from the Law,
This was grounded in Paul’s heritage and works of Phil 3:5-6. Yet, righteousness never as based on the Law (Gal 3:2-9).
b) ἀλλὰ τὴν διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ, — but by righteousness by the faithfulness of Christ
Basis or Grounds: The basis and grounds for Paul’s righteousness is Christ.
“For when the sun hath appeared, it is loss to sit by a candle: so that the loss comes by comparison, by the superiority of the other. You see that Paul makes a comparison from superiority, not from diversity of kind; for that which is superior, is superior to somewhat of like nature to itself” (John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Philippians,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. W. C. Cotton and John Albert Broadus, vol. 13, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889], 235).
(1) πίστεως Χριστοῦ, — faithfulness in Christ
These two words have been a hotly debated for years. In my opinion this construction can be translated in two ways.
Subjective, “the faith of Christ” or “faithfulness of Christ.” In this construction the genitive substantive functions “semantically as the subject of the verbal idea implicit in the head noun” (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 113). Here “Christ” is the subject of the verbal idea of “faith” or “faithfulness. Commentators and grammarians that take this view are Wallace, Greek Grammar (114-116); O’Brien, Philippians, 389-399. Translations that take the subjective view, “faith of Christ” (KJV); “faithfulness of Christ” (NET).
Objective, “faith in Christ.” In this construction the genitive substantive “functions semantically as the direct object of the verbal idea implicit in the head noun” (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 116). Here “Christ” would be the direct object of the verbal idea in the word “faith.” Other examples might be Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:22; Eph 3:12. Commentators and grammarians that take this view are Vincent, Word Studies in the NT, 447; Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT). Translations that reflect the objective view are “faith in Christ” (ESV).
(2) Against Docetism
Docetism was one of the heresies surrounding the early church (the other was Arianism). Doceticism taught that Jesus was God, but only seemed to be man. In this view, Jesus’ suffering and death were only appearances. In other words, they denied the humanity of Jesus but affirmed his deity (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999], 203-204).
In favor of the subjective view, Wallace writes, “if the subjective gen view is correct, these texts (whether πιστις is translated ‘faith’ or ‘faithfulness’) argue against “an implicitly docetic Christology [http://www.earlychristianhistory.info/docet.html].” Further, the faith/faithfulness of Christ is not a denial of faith in Christ as a Pauline concept (for the idea is expressed in many of the same contexts, only with the verb πεστεύω [rather than the noun), but implies that the object of faith is a worthy object, for he himself is faithful” (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 116).
3. τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει, — righteousness from God based on faith
a) δικαιοσύνην – righteousness
The righteousness described earlier in this verse was a works based righteousness based on Paul’s own moral achievement, gained by obeying the Law correctly, and thereby providing Paul with a legal claim to God as a righteous man. However, this second use of righteousness describes the righteousness that comes from God. Instead of a legal claim to God (as was the first use), this is a relationship with God. As O’Brien puts it, “The righteousness that comes from God is God’s way of putting people right with himself” (O’Brien, Philippians, 396).
b) ἐκ θεοῦ — from God
Origin: The origin of Paul’s righteousness is from God. God is the source of his righteousness.
c) ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει, — based on faith
Means: The way that Paul became righteous was by faith.
This man’s answering response.
d) Righteousness Through Faith – Paul’s Magnum Opus
Following are some of the clearest passages in Paul’s letters that communicate a person’s righteousness and salvation is through faith.
“This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’” (Rom 1:17, NLT)
“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” (Rom 3:22, NLT)
“So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.” (Rom 3:28, NLT)
“There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” (Rom 3:30–31, NLT)
“Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith.” (Rom 4:9, NLT)
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Rom 5:1–2, NLT)
“What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place.” (Rom 9:30, NLT)
“For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.” (Rom 10:3–4, NLT)
“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” (Gal 2:16, NLT)
“So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.” (Gal 3:9, NLT)
“So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’” (Gal 3:11, NLT)
“Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:24–26, NLT)
This righteousness that Paul now has is from God (ἐκ θεου) (this is origin), it is based on Christ (δια πιστεως χριστου) (this is basis or grounds), and it is by faith (ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει) (this is means).
III. RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD BY SHARING IN CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS AND DEATH (3:10-11)
“10in order to know him, mostly the power of his resurrection and participation in his suffering, by means of sharing in his death 11if possible, I might reach resurrection from the dead.”
A. SANCTIFICATION – Know and Experience Christ (v. 10)
“10in order to know him, mostly the power of his resurrection and participation in his suffering, by means of sharing in his death”
1. τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ καὶ [τὴν] κοινωνίαν [τῶν] παθημάτων αὐτοῦ, — in order to know him, mostly the power of his resurrection and participation in his suffering
a) [τὴν] κοινωνίαν [τῶν] παθημάτων αὐτοῦ, — participation in his suffering
“We should offer myrrh to the Lord, by the hardness of our lives; that, as He suffered in the body many hardships for our sake, so we also should suffer some inconveniences for His sake” ~ Albert Magnus (Elliot Ritzema and Rebecca Brant, eds., 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Medieval Church, Pastorum Series [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013]).
“Suffering is an essential part of spiritual growth. It is often used in believers’ lives to bring them to spiritual maturity. . . Knowning Christ in one’s daily experience often means suffering for the sake of Christ. This of course leads to spiritual growth” (Stanley Toussaint, “Suffering in Acts and the Paulie Epistles,” in Why, O God?, edited by Larry Waters and Roy Zuck [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011], 192).
This suffering was predicted in “And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16, NLT). That suffering was lived out as Paul has shared, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” (Phil 1:29, NLT) and “Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (2 Cor 4:10, NLT).
“Those that deny themselves for Christ’s sake can well endure the pains of nature in virtue of the strength they receive in their souls. The love of God, that is stronger than death, is able not only to repress sinful desires, but also to assuage those feelings of pain that arise from sense and nature” ~ Hugh of St. Victor (Ritzema and Brant, eds., 300 Quotations for Preachers).
2. συμμορφιζόμενος τῷ θανάτῳ αὐτοῦ, — by means of sharing in his death
a) συμμορφιζόμενος – by means of sharing
This is a participle of means related to γνῶναι.
b) τῷ θανάτῳ αὐτοῦ, — in his death
“These sufferings were not Christ’s substitutionary sufferings on the cross. Paul knew that those could not be shared. But he did desire to participate with Christ, since he was one of His, in suffering for the sake of righteousness” (Lightner, “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, 661).
“Christ suffered for His beloved; should we wonder then that He has left us His example, in order that we endure patiently ourselves all things for our own salvation? He is God and we are His creatures; He is the Lord and we are His servants; He is the master of the world and we are insignificant mortals; He has need of nothing, we are destitute of all; He has suffered, why should we not suffer likewise, especially when suffering is for us a purification?” ~ John Huss (Ritzema and Brant, eds., 300 Quotations for Preachers).
3. Three Things Paul Wanted
Paul wanted first to know Christ, he also wanted to experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead, and lastly Paul wanted to suffer with him. However, those has a purpose which he explains in Phil 3:11.
B. GLORIFICATION – Resurrection from the Dead (v. 11)
“11if possible, I might reach resurrection from the dead.”
1. εἴ πως καταντήσω εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν. – if possible, I might/hope to reach resurrection from the dead.
a) καταντήσω – I might/hope
This is likely a aorist subjunctive verb, but could be an future indicative. If indicative, it is a first class conditional statement. If subjunctive, it is a mixed condition.
b) εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν – to reach resurrection
Paul wanted to experience the three things of Phil 3:10 with the hopes that he would experience resurrection from the dead.
The Greek word ἐξανάστασιν is used only once in the New Testament and “means a partial resurrection out from among other corpses, literally an ‘out-resurrection.’ But why did Paul say he wanted somehow, to attain to the (out-) resurrection from the dead? Did he doubt he would be raised from the dead? Hardly. Perhaps he was using this word to refer to the Rapture, thus expressing the hope that the Lord would return during his lifetime” (Lightner, “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, 661.
c) τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν. – from the dead
2. Paul’s Way of Life
Phil 3:10-11 are “hardly the vocational vision of how to maximize the benefits of life. This is an approach to calling lived as an offering, not sought as a spiritual right. This is the call that follows in joy but also in suffering, in hope but also in doubt, in satisfaction but also in waiting” (Mark Labberton, Called (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014, 167).
IV. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
Instead of me providing a conclusion and application for this post, I would like to hear from you. What did you learn in this post? How do you plan to apply what you learned to your life?