July 14 – Philippians 3:1-11
Paul starts a new section here in chapter 3, returning to a familiar content point for many of his letters. Paul was frequently running in a specific heresy in the church proposed by folks we call the Judaizers. These people wanted to tack Jesus onto the Old Testament, and taught that Christians were required to keep all of the Old Testament laws, including circumcision) to warrant salvation. Paul vehemently opposed this false teaching (check out Galatians to see just how mad it made him). Here he warns the Philippians against it, but in a pretty unique way.
You’re maybe familiar with this passage and Paul’s listing out of his spiritual pedigree and accomplishments. He lists out all his awesomeness, then makes a really bold claim: it’s actually all worthless. While he’s speaking to the church in Philippi, he’s also speaking as if the Judaizers are overhearing. So for all the Pharisee, zealous, and law-abiding Jews who are listening in, he’s simultaneously telling them all the things they put confidence in are actually worthless too. There is an important teaching point for us here as well. While we don’t put stock in what tribe you’re from or whether you keep Jewish law, we definitely put confidence in our job title, college degrees, family history, the size of our bank account, our people skills, etc. You can also see this at work in how we think about others and how we dream about our future. We get shaky knees around famous people because we so value fame, or we think, “once I get that promotion, my friends will be so impressed with me.” And Paul is here to tell us it’s all worthless.
Why? Because Christ dwarfs all of it in value. Jesus is so incredibly glorious that every success we achieve and praise we receive is minuscule and trivial in comparison. Paul says here it’s all rubbish compared to knowing Christ (the Greek word for rubbish literally means “excrement”). Why does knowing Christ overshadow all these things? Because knowing Christ actually makes us righteous, which nothing else can do for us. Knowing Christ makes us holy before God, it’s the power or resurrection over the dead, and it secures us for eternity with the Father. No promotion, no award, no significant other can do that for you. If we really have our highest needs in mind then we’ll see that only Christ can supply for those needs.
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read Philippians 3:1-11 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• What does Paul say about all his accomplishments and privileges here?
• What does Paul say he gained by giving up these things?
• What are some things that you tend to put your confidence in? What could it look like to count those as loss for the sake of knowing Christ?
• What do you find convicting or challenging about this passage?
• What do you think this passage is telling us about Jesus and the way we relate to him?