Paul's Loss and Gain
I. One of the most familiar persons in the New Testament, beside the Lord Himself, is the apostle Paul.
A. But before he came to be known as Paul, he was known as Saul of Tarsus.
1. Saul was a man with a noble heritage and a rich religious background.
2. And yet, in his infinite hunger for righteousness, he willingly gave up everything, and considered it all worthless so that he might gain Christ.
B. In Philippians chapter 3, we have a very powerful statement by the apostle Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) concerning what he thought about all his noble heritage and rich religious background.
1. Phil 3:4-11 – If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 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 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
C. I want us to take a few minutes together to carefully examine Paul’s wonderful statement found in these verses.
1. And I think it’s especially important to notice three things about what Paul said here.
a. First, we need to fully appreciate all the things in the apostle Paul’s life of which he could boast before he became of Christian.
b. Then, we I want us to see all that Paul was willing to give up, and why these things were no longer important to him.
c. And third, I want us to understand what Paul gained in return.
2. Finally, I would like for us to consider how all this applies to you and me.
II. Let’s begin by taking special notice of all the things the apostle Paul could boast about in his life before he became a disciple of Jesus Christ.
A. The first thing he mentions is that he could boast of his rich religious heritage.
1. Paul says he was, “circumcised the eight day” (v. 5) – something that was done to every Jewish male baby in keeping with the commandment God gave to Abraham.
a. Gen 17:10-12 – This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 … and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations…”
2. And so, the apostle Paul could boast of the fact that he was a Jew, and that his parents had him circumcised on the eighth day in keeping with the Covenant that God had made with Abraham, and in keeping with the Law of Moses.
B. But, Paul goes on to mention that he could also boast about his illustrious ancestry. There are three specific things he mentions here.
1. First, Paul says he was “of the stock of Israel.” (v. 5)
a. Simply being circumcised on the eighth day didn’t prove that he had the pure blood of Abraham flowing through his veins.
(1) His parents could have been Jewish proselytes – Gentiles who had converted to Judaism.
b. But in Paul’s case, his ancestry could be traced back to the patriarch Jacob, the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham.
c. Paul said he could boast of the fact that he had descended from the very pillars of the Jewish nation – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
2. Second, Paul says he was “of the tribe of Benjamin.” (v. 5)
a. Following the reign of Israel’s first three kings – Saul, David and Solomon – civil war broke out between the twelve tribes.
b. Ten of the twelve tribes broke away to form what was called the northern kingdom of Israel.
(1) These ten tribes quickly fell into apostasy and began practicing idolatry and other terrible sins that separated them from their God.
c. But two of the twelve tribes, that were called the southern kingdom of Judah, remained faithful to the Lord much longer.
(1) These two tribes were Judah and Benjamin.
d. And so, Paul wasn’t a descendant of one of the ten tribes that revolved, but from one of the two tribes that remained faithful to Jehovah – “the tribe of Benjamin.”
3. Third, in summary, Paul could simply boast of being a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” (v. 5)
a. The first person to be called a Hebrew in the Bible was Abraham. (Gen 14:13)
b. But in Paul’s day, Jews in Israel made a distinction between those who were called Grecians or Hellenists and the Hebrews.
(1) The Grecians or Hellenists were Greek-speaking Jews who, in some ways, had been influenced by the philosophies and lifestyle of the Greeks.
(2) The Hebrews, on the other hand, were Jews who prided themselves in their strict interpretation of, and faithfulness to, the Law of Moses.
c. And so, Paul wanted everyone to know that he could boast of being a “Hebrew of Hebrews” – another way of saying he was among the most faithful and zealous of God’s people, Israel.
C. In addition to his rich religious heritage and his illustrious ancestry, Paul could also boast of his religious party.
1. Paul said, “concerning the law, a Pharisee.” (v 5)
a. Among all the religious and political parties among the Jews in Paul’s day, the Pharisees were the most prominent and the most respected among the people, and were known for their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, as well as to the traditions of the Jewish fathers.
b. In fact, Saul was privileged to sit at the feet (or be taught by) perhaps the most respected Pharisee of all during that day – a man by the name of Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3)
(1) The word Pharisee means “separated” or “the separate ones” because they stood separate from the other prominent sect known as the Sadducees.
(a) The Sadducees controlled the Jewish Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court of the Jews), but they were not nearly as faithful to the Law of Moses as the Pharisees.
(b) In fact, the Sadducees denied such things as the resurrection from the dead, and rejected all books of the Old Testament (including the psalms and the prophets) and accepted only the five books of Moses.
2. And so, Paul could boast, that of all the religious and political parties and sects of the Jews, he was a Pharisee who had not only been taught by the great Gamaliel, but who strictly followed to the Law of Moses, as well as all the rabbinical teachings and laws believed to have been handed down from the fathers of the Jewish people.
D. In addition to all this, Paul said he could also boast of his devoted zeal.
1. He said, “concerning zeal, persecuting the church.” (v. 6)
a. Before he became known as Paul, Saul of Tarsus was one of the most zealous persecutors of the Lord’s church.
b. His notoriety was first seen by the fact that those who murdered Stephen by stoning, all laid their coats at the feet of young Saul of Tarsus. (Acts 7:58)
(1) Although there is no indication that he participated directly in the stoning of Stephen, the young Saul was already held in high esteem by those who did murder Stephen.
c. Very soon after the death of Stephen, persecution against Christians spread throughout the region – principally at the hands of this same Saul of Tarsus.
(1) Acts 8:3 – As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
d. As the disciples of the Lord were scattered by persecution into the nearby regions, they continued preaching the gospel of Christ and converting thousands.
e. And so, Saul rose once again to meet what he considered to be a threat to Judaism.
(1) Acts 9:1-2 – Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
f. Later, after Saul became a disciple of the Lord, and then became the apostle Paul, he wrote to the churches of Galatia about God’s marvelous grace in separating him to preach the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles.
(1) Gal 1:13-16 – For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…
2. Paul had not just been zealous for the cause of Judaism in his former days, he says he had been “exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers,” and therefore, had no problem persecuting to the death those who named the name of Jesus Christ.
a. No man could claim more zeal than Saul of Tarsus.
E. And perhaps greatest of all, Paul could boast of his devoted purity in keeping the Law of Moses.
1. He said, “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (v. 6)
a. Jews, like Saul, believed that righteousness came through law-keeping.
b. The Pharisees believed that by faithfully keeping the Law of Moses, and all the traditions of the fathers, they would be declared righteous before God, and merit or earn, salvation.
2. And so, Paul said when it came to law-keeping, he had been so devoted to the Law of Moses that no man could find fault in him – he was pure and “blameless.”
F. Look at that Paul could boast about in his former life as Saul of Tarsus. He could boast of things for which few if any others could boast. He could boast of:
1. His rich religious heritage.
2. His illustrious ancestry.
3. His religious party.
4. His devoted zeal.
5. And his purity in keeping the Law of Moses.
III. But now, Paul says all these things mean absolutely nothing to him.
A. He said, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Phil 3:7)
1. In fact, he even went so far as to say that he counted these things “as rubbish” (Phil 3:8)
a. He had not just transferred to the loss column all those things he once considered something to be gained, Paul actually thought of all these things as being absolutely useless – “rubbish.”
b. The word “rubbish,” (which is also translated “dung” in some versions) is a word often used to describe table scraps that are thrown out to the dogs.
c. As far as Paul was concerned, all the things in which he once prided himself, he now considers them to be completely worthless – something that can be thrown out to the dogs.
2. This is a remarkable thing for anyone to say – to renounce all the things most Jews would have loved to claim for themselves.
3. And yet, to Paul, they were something that was not only useless to him, but something he willingly discarded.
B. But why? Why was Paul willing to give up all these things? What was he hoping to gain?
1. He said, “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.” (Phil 3:7-8)
2. But what did Paul mean when said he gave up all these things, “for Christ,” or “for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” or “that I may gain Christ?”
IV. What was it that Paul gained?
A. Paul says he gave up all these things, “for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” (v. 8)
1. This “knowledge of Christ Jesus” is far more than simply becoming acquainted with His life, or understanding the teachings of Christ.
a. Far too many people know about Jesus, and know about His teachings, but they have never come to truly know Jesus Christ.
2. Gaining this “knowledge of Christ Jesus” means Paul sought to gain the moral attributes of Jesus Christ – to truly know Jesus Christ in an intimate way.
a. 2 Peter 1:5-8 – But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
b. Peter says, being fruitful in “the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” is to have all these Christ-like characteristics in us and abound in us.
(1) Faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.
(2) When these things are in us and abound, they make us so that we will “be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
B. Furthermore, Paul said he gave up all those things he once valued, and counted them as rubbish, so that he might, “gain Christ” (v. 8)
1. All his rich religious heritage and ancestry, and all his zeal and faithfulness to the Law meant nothing to him, as long as he could gain Christ.
2. Through his obedience to the gospel of Christ, Paul not only gained a Christ-like character, he also gained an intimate relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
a. He gained the justification and salvation that can only come through the blood of Jesus Christ.
C. Paul, goes on to say that he willingly gave up all those things he once counted as worthwhile, so that he might, “be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” (v. 9)
1. As a devout Jew, Paul once believed that he could obtain, or earn, righteousness by keeping the Law of Moses.
2. But now he knows that the righteousness which is from God is a righteousness that comes by faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ – not by meritorious law-keeping.
a. Rom 3:21-22 – But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.
3. You and I have an obligation as Christians to faithfully keep the teachings of Christ and the apostles – obedience is absolutely essential to our salvation.
a. No one will be saved in their willful disobedience.
b. But no matter how hard we strive to live according to the gospel of Christ, we still sin.
4. But, even though our obedience is absolutely essential, our justification before God is not based on how well we keep the Law of Christ, but by God’s grace through, or by means of, our faith in the blood of Jesus Christ to cleans us from every sin.
5. And it’s because we have faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, that we willingly and faithfully keep His Law.
D. And finally, Paul was willing to give up all his rich heritage and ancestry as a Hebrew of Hebrews, so that he might, “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (vs. 10-11)
1. Paul knew that his own eventual resurrection from death can only be accomplished by truly understanding the power behind the resurrection of Christ – a resurrection that proved beyond doubt that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God. (Rom 1:4)
2. He also knew that in order to eventually be resurrected from the dead, he not only needed to be so faithfully devoted to the Lord that he would willingly have share in the same suffering Jesus endured, but also by being conformed to the same spirit of unselfish love, meekness and submissiveness that Jesus showed in His death.
E. And so, Paul says he was more than willing to give up everything he once valued, so that he might:
1. Gain Christ.
2. Gain “the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
3. Gain “the righteousness of God” that comes by faith in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ.
4. And ultimately, gain the “resurrection from the dead.”
V. So, what should all this mean to us? How do we apply this wonderful statement of Paul to our own lives?
A. Ask yourself, what are the things in this world you consider important to you?
1. With some, it’s power and prestige and all the material possessions that come along with that.
a. Jesus repeatedly warned of this danger.
(1) In the parable of the sower, Jesus warned that the “deceitfulness of riches” chokes out the Word of God. (Matt 13:22)
(2) He also made it clear that a man cannot serve God and money, “for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” (Matt 6:24)
(3) And Jesus also warned of the futility of acquiring worldly possessions. He said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:19-21)
b. Do power and prestige and all the material possessions that come along with it stand between you and the Lord?
2. With others, it’s family and home.
a. But Jesus warned that we may someday have to make a choice between maintaining a relationship with our family and remaining faithful to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(1) Matt 10:34-38 – “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; 36 and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
b. Does your family, or loyalty to your family, stand between you and faithfully serving Jesus Christ?
3. With others, it’s the pleasures of this world.
a. The apostle John warned against loving the world and the things of this world.
(1) 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
b. Does all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh (adultery, fornication, and simply lusting after the flesh), or the lust of the eyes (a sense of materialistic covetousness), and the pride of life (arrogance and a sense of superiority) – stand between you and faithfully serving Jesus Christ?
4. And with others, self is more important than anything.
a. We live in a society that worships “self” – where we’re to be more concerned about our wants and our needs than those of others.
b. The apostle Paul certainly condemned this kind of self-centered lifestyle.
(1) 1 Cor 10:24 – Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being.
(2) Phil 2:3-4 – Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
(3) Phil 2:19-21 – But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.
(4) 2 Tim 3:1-2 – But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves…
c. Have you placed “self” first? Is serving “self” more important to you than serving the Lord Jesus Christ?
B. Regardless of how innocent or harmless we might see some of these things, they can all become a god to us – a god we hold up as being more important to us than God the Son.
1. They can all become a source of idolatry.
2. And they can all rob us of a home in heaven.
I. In his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10)
A. Make no mistake about it, you and I will both someday stand before Jesus Christ in judgment.
1. We will answer for the things we have done in this life – whether good or evil.
B. All the things we THOUGHT were important to us in life will matter nothing at all, including:
1. Power and prestige and all the material possessions that go along with it?
2. Family and home – especially if we’ve placed them above the God of heaven?
3. Worldly pleasure – lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and the pride of life?
4. Or having lived our life OUR way?
C. What WILL matter when we stand before Christ in judgment is whether or not we have:
1. “Gained Christ?”
2. Gained “the knowledge of Jesus Christ?”
3. Gained “the righteousness of God” that comes by faith in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ?”
4. So that you ultimately, can gain the “resurrection from the dead,” and a home in heaven?
D. What are you willing to lose so that you may gain Christ?