3 For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh–4 although I ONCE ALSO had confidence in the flesh…
What is Paul saying? He’s saying, you know those evil workers, I used to be one of them. Basically, here, he’s sharing his own salvation testimony.
4 …If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a • Pharisee ; 6 regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.
Before he met Christ, Paul thought he was living for God. After all, he was a Pharisee. He was a religious professional. He taught others about God at the local synagogue. That was his day job. He devoted his life for God. He used to take pride in his spiritual heritage. He was circumcised on the eighth day. He knew the value of Jewish traditions. He was zealous to the point that he persecuted and murdered people who did not adhere to his interpretation of Scripture. He was working hard for God. He staked his whole life in spreading his view of God and stamping out the Christians whom he labeled as heretics.
But his life took a dramatic turn in verse 7.
7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ…
On a dusty Damascus Road, the violent, self-righteous, proud Saul of Tarsus met a man named Jesus, and in an instant, he was born again, his blind eyes were opened, he was saved and his heart that was once filled with hatred and rage was changed. As a result, he became known as Paul the Apostle. After he met Christ, he could testify, you know the life I had before? Everything I valued, everything that seemed to be gain such as the bullet point accomplishments I added to my resume, it was all loss, it was filth, it was rubbish, garbage. What I used to value, it’s worthless to me now.
Why? How can he say that? How can he say that every single thing in life is like filth? He can say this in view of the SURPASSING value of knowing Christ. “Surpass” means to be beyond the limit, to transcend, to exceed. Value refers to how much something is worth. When you get a coupon for 50% off or you get a 2 for 1 deal, you are happy because you are getting more for your money. You’re getting good value considering how much money you’ve invested.
What we consider valuable is important. Most people value money. Having more money is better than having less money. But if you could place all the money in the world on one side of a scale and you put your spouse or your kids or your health on the other side of the scale, hopefully, you’d agree with me that there’s no contest. There is no comparison because of course your family and your health is infinitely more valuable than wealth.
Paul is making a comparison. And he is using strong language like filth or rubbish to make a point. This world and everything this world has to offer cannot hold a candle to the surpassing value of Jesus Christ. Jesus made a similar sort of comparison in the gospels. He said, before you become one of my disciples, you need to hate your father and mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and even your own life. When I first read this, I was confused. I thought we were supposed to love, even our enemies, but why does Jesus ask us to hate everyone who is dear to us? It’s because Jesus is making a comparison. Compared to your love for Jesus, your love for everyone else in your life is going to feel like hatred. Because the gap is so immense.
The SURPASSING value of knowing Christ. Your love for Jesus, you can’t put a price tag on it. It’s like winning the lottery, but even that is too low of an evaluation. Knowing Jesus surpasses our ability to put a value on it, it’s beyond human expression.
In the English language, our words fall miserably short. We throw around the word “love” in so many contexts. We say, we love our goldfish, we love ice cream, we love the Dodgers AND we use the same word when we say, we love our family and we love our God. The range and intensity of what that word “love” means is vast depending on the context. If the goldfish that I love dies and I flush it down the toilet, I might be sad, for about 2 seconds, as the fish is spinning down the bowl. But if someone in my family or a close friend whom I LOVE dies, it’s a whole another story. Because my love is so much greater in the latter.
Our words fall miserably short. Our vocabulary can’t even describe how valuable it is to know Christ so the best way to describe it is to say, think of all the people you love, that’s nothing compared to your love for Jesus. This doesn’t mean that your love for others is unimportant, but COMPARED to the SURPASSING value of knowing Jesus, it’s like filth, rubbish, garbage. That’s the best way to describe it.
It’s like going to a yard sale and somebody put an old, dusty violin out on the lawn and sold it for $10 bucks. Then, you go home and inside the sound hole, it says, “Made by Stradivarius.” And you take the violin to be appraised and it’s a priceless, handcrafted original by Stradivarius himself and this violin is worth millions. The original owner had no idea of the violin’s worth. If it were a dusty old violin that you paid $10 for, you wouldn’t sweat it if you accidentally dropped it and it cracked open. But if it is a Stradivarius, you would handle it with the utmost care.
What is Jesus worth to you? Do you treat him like he is a priceless treasure, like a Stradivarius, or do you treat him like he is a yard sale throwaway? Someone who is saved will say Amen along with Paul that knowing Christ is like discovering a treasure buried in a field. And upon discovering this treasure, in his joy, you are like the man who goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Or knowing Christ is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found that one priceless pearl he has been searching for his whole life, he went and sold everything he had, and bought i