Philippians 3:7-14

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 1, 2000


Thirty years before the writing of this letter to the Philippian church, a man named Saul had been on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission from the high priest.  He was going to hunt down more of those “Christians” and have them arrested, maybe even put to death.

Up to that time, Saul had lived an incredible life.  He had it all.  He was a Jew among Jews.  He was at the head of his class as a Pharisee.  As far as people could see, Saul was perfect.

But Saul met someone on the road to Damascus.  Saul met Jesus.  He would be changed forever.  We know him by his other name, Paul, the one who wrote this letter.

:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

gainkerdos – gain, advantage

losszemia – damage, loss

countedhegeomai to lead; to consider, deem, account, think; a belief resting not on one’s inner feeling or sentiment, but on the due consideration of external grounds, and the weighing and comparing of facts; a deliberate and careful judgment

When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, nothing else seemed to matter anymore.  All the things that he was so proud of in his life were worthless.  Everything that he thought might impress God seemed empty.

:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:

excellencyhuperecho – to have or hold over one; to stand out, rise above, overtop; be superior in rank, authority, power; to excel, to be superior, better than, to surpass


Still excellent?

When Paul first came to the Lord, he counted those things he was proud in as “loss”.  But now, thirty years later, he counts and is still counting ALL THINGS as loss compared to knowing Jesus.
Remember that movie (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) where the two teenagers keep saying to each other through the whole movie, “Excellent!”?
Can you say that about knowing Jesus, that it has been the most “excellent” thing you’ve ever known?

:8  for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

I have suffered losszemioo – to affect with damage, do damage to; to sustain damage, to receive injury, suffer loss

dungskubalon – any refuse, as the excrement of animals, offscourings, rubbish, dregs; of things worthless and detestable; manure

Back in Philippinas 3:3, Paul writes,

(Phil 3:3 NLT)  For we who worship God in the Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us.

This is what’s behind the phrase “have no confidence in the flesh” in verse 3.  Paul had been trusting in what a great Jewish guy he was, but now he counts it all as manure.

I may winkerdaino – to gain, acquire, to get gain; of gain arising from shunning or escaping from evil (where we say “to spare one’s self”, “be spared”)


Trusting only in Jesus.

God doesn’t want us trusting in anything but in Jesus.
Elvis was apparently fond of wearing lots of gold jewelry from various religions.  When someone asked him why he wore things from so many different beliefs, he said something like, “Just coverin’ all my bases.  Uh-huh”
Wrong attitude.
A ship on her way to Australia met with a very terrible storm and sprang a leak. As evils seldom come alone, a little while after another tempest assailed her. There happened to be a gentleman of the most nervous temperament aboard, whose garrulous tongue and important air began to alarm all the passengers. When the storm came on, the captain, who knew what mischief might be done by a suspicious and talkative individual, managed to get near him, intending to quiet him. The gentleman, addressing the captain, said in a tone of alarm, “What an awful storm! I am afraid we shall go to the bottom, for I hear the leak is very bad.”
“Well,” said the captain, “as you seem to know it and perhaps the others do not, you had better not mention it to anyone, lest you should frighten the passengers or dispirit my men. Perhaps as it is a very bad case, you would lend us your valuable help, and then we may possibly get through it. Would you have the goodness to stand here and hold hard on this rope? Do not leave it, but pull as hard as ever you can till I tell you to let it go.”
So our friend clenched his teeth, and put his feet firmly down, and kept on holding this rope with all his might, till he earnestly wished for a substitute. The storm abated, the ship was safe, and our friend was released from his rope-holding. He expected a deputation would bring him the thanks of all the passengers, but they were evidently unconscious of his merits, and even the captain did not seem very grateful.
So our hero, in a roundabout style, hinted that such valuable services as his, having saved the vessel, ought to be rewarded at least with some few words of acknowledgment. He was shocked to hear the captain say, “What? You think you saved the vessel? Why, I gave you that rope to hold to keep you busy, that you might not be in such a feverish state of alarm.”
This becomes a picture of how much self-righteous men contribute to their own salvation apart from Christ. They think they can certainly save themselves, and there they stand holding the rope with their clenched teeth and their feet tightly fixed, while they are really doing no more than our friend, who was similarly fooled. If ever you get to heaven, you will find that everything you did toward your own salvation, apart from the Lord Jesus, was about as useful as holding the rope; that, in fact, the safety of the soul lies somewhere else and not in you; and that what is wanted with you is just to get out of the way and let Christ come in and magnify his grace.

          Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

:9 And be found in him,


Abraham Lincoln was walking into town one day when he was overtaken by a man in a wagon going in the same direction.  Lincoln hailed him and asked, “Will you have the goodness to take my overcoat to town for me?”

“With pleasure,” responded the stranger, “but how will you get it again?” “Oh, very easily; I intend to remain in it!”

Mr. Lincoln’s humor aside, his idea for a ride roughly parallels what happens when we trust Christ as Savior.  When we trust Jesus to give us His righteousness, we are “clothed” with Him.

Never see yourself outside of Jesus Christ.

All that God has for you or will ever do for you is in Him, by Him, through Him, and for Him.


William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army) once said:  “When I got the poor of London on my heart and caught a vision of what Jesus Christ, the reigning Lord, could do with those people, though I knew there were many with greater training, greater wisdom, greater intelligence, greater power than William Booth, I was determined that the living Christ would have all of William Booth that there was.”

I desire more and more of Jesus.

Someone says, “I need more love.” no, you need more of Jesus.

Someone says, “I need more joy.” no, you need more of Jesus.

:9  not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

When we accept Christ, we are trusting that He will make us right with God through His death on the cross.

When Jesus died on the cross, God put on Jesus the punishment that was meant for me.  Jesus paid the entire price for my sins.  But God also took the righteousness of Jesus and gave it to me.  And exchange of my sin for His righteousness.

But if I am trusting in my own good deeds, in my own “righteousness”, then the picture is that when I get to stand before God, that’s what I’ll be clothed in, my own deeds.  Isaiah says that our own “righteousness” is as filthy rags:

(Isa 64:6 KJV)  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.


The Beggar’s Rags

A beggar lived near the king’s palace. One day he saw a proclamation posted outside the palace gate. The king was giving a great dinner. Anyone dressed in royal garments was invited to the party.  The beggar went on his way. He looked at the rags he was wearing and sighed. Surely only kings and their families wore royal robes, he thought.  Slowly an idea crept into his mind. The audacity of it made him tremble. Would he dare?  He made his way back to the palace. He approached the guard at the gate. “Please,sire, I would like to speak to the king.”  “Wait here,” the guard replied.  In a few minutes, he was back. “His majesty will see you,” he said, and led the beggar in.   “You wish to see me?” asked the king.  “Yes, your majesty. I want so much to attend the banquet, but I have no royal robes to wear. Please, sir, if I may be so bold, may I have one of your old garments so that I, too, may come to the banquet?”  The beggar shook so hard that he could not see the faint smile that was on the king’s face.  “You have been wise in coming to me,” the king said. He called to his son, the young prince. “Take this man to your room and array him in some of your clothes.”  The prince did as he was told and soon the beggar was standing before a mirror, clothed in garments that he had never dared hope for.  “You are now eligible to attend the king’s banquet tomorrow night,” said the prince. “But even more important, you will never need any other clothes. These garments will last forever.”  The beggar dropped to his knees. “Oh, thank you,” he cried. But as he started to leave, he looked back at his pile of dirty rags on the floor. He hesitated. What if the prince was wrong? What if he would need his old clothes again. Quickly he gathered them up.  The banquet was far greater than he had ever imagined, but he could not enjoy himself as he should. He had made a small bundle of his old rags and it kept falling off his lap. The food was passed quickly and the beggar missed some of the greatest delicacies.  Time proved that the prince was aright. The clothes lasted forever. Still the poor beggar grew fonder and fonder of his old rags.  As time passed people seemed to forget the royal robes he was wearing. They saw only the little bundle of filthy rags that he clung to wherever he went. They even spoke of him as the old man with the rags.  One day as he lay dying, the king visited him. The beggar saw the sad look on the king’s face when he looked at the small bundle of rags by the bed. Suddenly the beggar remembered the prince’s words and he realized that his bundle of rags had cost him a lifetime of true royalty. He wept bitterly at his folly.  And the king wept with him.

We have been invited into a royal family—the family of God. To feast at God’s dinner table, all we have to do is shed our old rags and put on the “new clothes” of faith which is provided by God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  But we cannot hold onto our old rags. When we put our faith in Christ, we must let go of the sin in our life, and our old ways of living. Those things must be discarded if we are to experience true royalty and abundant life in Christ. “Behold, the old is passed away; the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Edited from More Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice.  Copyright 1995 by Youth Specialties, Inc.

:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

We like the sound of the “power of his resurrection”, but it all goes hand in hand with the “fellowship of his sufferings” and being conformed “unto his death”.

The resurrected life always follows the crucified life.

being made conformablesummorphoo – to be conformed to, receive the same form as

:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

attainkatantao – to come to, arrive; to come to a place over against, opposite another; metaph. to attain to a thing

(Phil 3:11 NASB)  in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect:

attainedlambano – to take; to take with the hand, lay hold of, any person or thing in order to use it; to take to one’s self, lay hold upon, take possession of, i.e. to appropriate to one’s self; to receive (what is given), to gain, get, obtain, to get back

perfectteleioo – to make perfect, complete; to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end; to complete (perfect)

Paul is simply saying that he hasn’t “arrived”.  He’s not perfect.  Not yet.

:12  but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

follow afterdioko – to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after; to press on: figuratively of one who in a race runs swiftly to reach the goal; to persecute; without the idea of hostility, to run after, follow after: someone; metaph., to pursue; to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavour to acquire

(NAS)  I press on


Keep moving

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
      Will Rogers
Columnist Herb Caen wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.  It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning a lion wakes up.  It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Don’t just run to live, run to win.  Paul wrote,
(1 Cor 9:24-25 NLT)  Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. {25} All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.
Peter had let the Lord down.  He was supposed to be the “Rock”, yet when the soldiers arrested Jesus, Peter ran like the rest of the disciples.  And to make it worse, he went on to deny the Lord three times that night.  Jesus had called Peter to follow Him, and Jesus had promised to make Peter a fisher of men.  But Peter had failed, so Peter went back to fishing for fish.  He and his pals had fished all night without catching any fish.  Then Jesus showed up.  After they all ate breakfast together, Jesus pulled Peter aside …
(John 21:15-17 KJV)  So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. {16} He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. {17} He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

What was Jesus doing with Peter?  He was reminding Peter that He still loved him.  He was reminding Peter that he needed to go back and fish for men.  He was reminding Peter to get back to the race that He had called him for.

apprehend … apprehendedkatalambano to lay hold of; to lay hold of so as to make one’s own, to obtain, attain to, to make one’s own, to take into one’s self, appropriate; to seize upon, take possession of; in a good sense, of Christ by his holy power and influence laying hold of the human mind and will, in order to prompt and govern it

When the Lord saved me, He had a purpose and a plan for my life. Paul says he’s pressing on to take hold of what Jesus has for him.

He has works for me to do while I’m here on this earth.
(Eph 2:10 KJV)  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
He has a future for me in heaven forever.

:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

to have apprehendedkatalambano – to lay hold of; to lay hold of so as to make one’s own, to obtain, attain to, to make one’s own, to take into one’s self, appropriate; to seize upon, take possession of; in a good sense, of Christ by his holy power and influence laying hold of the human mind and will, in order to prompt and govern it

forgettingepilanthanomai – to forget; neglecting, no longer caring for; forgotten, given over to oblivion, i.e. uncared for

reaching forthepekteinomai – to stretch out to or towards; to stretch (one’s self) forward to


Don’t look back

I think that sometimes we are just too caught up in the past.
For some, the past is the “good old days”.  We can talk for hours about how God used to work in our lives.
For others, the past is filled with terror.  We are so hurt by what has happened to us that we can’t move on in life.
I don’t think it’s bad that we deal with our past, but if we’re not careful, we’ll get swallowed up in the past and never take the time to live in the present.

When Cortez landed at Vera Cruz in 1519 to begin his conquest of Mexico with small force of 700 men, he purposely set fire to his fleet of 11 ships.  His men on the shore watched their only means of retreat sinking to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.  With no means of retreat, there was only one direction to move, forward into the Mexican interior to meet whatever might come their way.  In paying the price for being Christ’s disciple, you too must purposefully destroy all avenues of retreat.  Resolve that whatever the price for being His follower, you will have to pay it.

    Walter Henricksen, Disciples Are Made—Not Born

:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

markskopos – an observer, a watchman; the distant mark looked at, the goal or end one has in view. It’s the tape at the end of the race.

the prizebrabeion – the award to the victor in the games, a prize; metaph. of the heavenly reward for Christian character


 Move forward

Set your sights on Jesus and move forward.
One morning a couple of cowpunchers went out on the range to bring in a wild steer from the mountains.  They took along with them one of those shaggy little gray donkeys—a burro.  Now a big three-year old steer that’s been running loose in the timber is a tough customer to handle.  Nevertheless, these cowboys had a technique for handling this steer.  They got a rope on the steer and then they tied him neck and neck, right up close, to the burro and let them go.
At first, the burro had a bad time.  The steer threw him all over the place. He banged him against trees, rocks, into bushes. Time after time they both went down.  But there was one great difference between the burro and the steer. The burro had an idea.  He wanted to go home. And no matter how often the steer threw him every time the burro got to his feet he took a step nearer the corral.  This went on and on.  After about a week, the burro showed up at the corral.  He had with him the tamest and sorriest-looking steer you ever saw.
Sometimes we feel like that poor burro, being tied to such difficult times.  But we need to be like that burro and keep getting back up and taking another step home.
Press on.  Keep moving.  Keep moving forward.