Sermon: Christ’s Surpassing Worth (Philippians 3:1-11)

Christ’s Surpassing Worth

Philip. 3:1-11 (ESV)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

[2] Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.  [3] For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— [4] though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:  [5] circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;  [6] as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.  [7] But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  [8] Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  [9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— [10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  [11] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

This text is for all of us who have thought at times we were doing pretty well as a Christian.  This is a text for anyone who might think that they’ve arrived.  This text takes up the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the very doctrine that is being heavily attacked in our day.  SA is the doctrine that teaches us the truth of Christ’s atoning work for us.  He died on the cross bearing our sin so that His righteousness would become ours.

TT- Our righteousness is worthless and Christ’s righteousness is priceless.

The Apostle Paul learned this truth the way we all learn it, the hard way.  The school of hard knocks isn’t a fun and encouraging school to attend but it is usually where we learn the greatest lessons.  Through his encounter with Christ, he learned just how much he needed Jesus’ righteousness.  He also learned the worth of Christ.

1. Rejoice in the Lord (3:1)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Circumstances cannot be the reason we rejoice in the Lord.  The Philippian Church was poor and afflicted.  Their circumstances left them no cause for rejoicing.  Paul was sitting in prison not knowing the outcome.  He might be released or put to death.  His circumstances left him no reason to rejoice.  Whatever our circumstances are we must see this truth, whether they are good or bad we must never rejoice in them.  Don’t let good times or bad times rob Christ of His glory.  In good times we often, in our joy over our circumstances, forget to rejoice in the Lord.  In bad times we can be tempted to blame the Lord.  Always in every occasion rejoice in Christ.

2. Look Out for Those Who Would Have You Rejoice in Anything Else (3:2)

[2] Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.

The Jewish false teachers were on the hunt.  They were the ones who promoted Judaism and Christianity.  They were the ones who required a little Jesus and a little legalism mixed together.  The problem with this is you either have works or you have grace.  You cannot be justified based on both.  They were promoting legalistic grace, an oxymoron.  They were out to make converts after themselves.  They were out to have people rejoice in other things and not rejoice in Christ.  When righteousness is seen to be had by our own works and achievements then Jesus will not be made much of, even if it’s works plus Jesus.

These religious teachers were actually the opposite of what they were claiming to be.

The Apostle dealt with the issue of circumcision as a requirement for salvation on different fronts.  He never backed down even one time because he knew just how important it was to have grace rather than works.  Some may think that Paul is using very course language.  He is.  He wants everyone to get it.

Look out for the dogs- The Jews were used to calling all Gentiles dogs, mainly because the Gentiles were viewed as unclean.  Paul tells the church, which has the righteousness and purity of Christ, to watch out for these unclean Jewish false teachers who are the real dogs.

look out for the evildoers- These false teachers were teaching righteousness of the law.  In other words, they were teaching that salvation comes through Christ and keeping the Mosaic rituals and laws.  They were not promoting godliness.  In fact, in their attempts to add moralism to grace as a means to salvation, they were nullifying the work of Christ for their own work.  This made them the evildoers.

look out for those who mutilate the flesh.- Because the circumcision they promoted was to earn salvation, Paul basically told them that their form of circumcision was nothing more than mutilating the flesh.

Galatians 5:2-6 (ESV)

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.  [3] I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.  [4] You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.  [5] For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  [6] For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Paul is not saying that it’s wrong to be circumcised.  He’s saying it’s wrong to be circumcised thinking that through circumcision and keeping the law one will achieve the type of righteousness Christ has to offer.

Matthew 5:20 (ESV)

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

3. The Church is the True Jew (3:3)

[3] For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh

Paul declares that a true Jew is one who places no confidence in circumcision and or works of the law to achieve righteousness.

He shows that the Church worships by the Spirit of God and not through works.  The Church glories in Christ Jesus. The Church places no confidence in the flesh.

The bottom line for us is to stop thinking that we can somehow do something that will cause God to show kindness to us.  Everything we do to try to earn God’s favor only takes us further and further in the other direction.  The reason is because we do it apart from Jesus Christ.  To think we can earn salvation is to see our sin as only a minor setback and to see Jesus as only a minor Savior.  Our sin has placed such a great dividing wall between us and God that no amount of climbing will ever be able to scale it’s height.  Only Christ can achieve for us the righteousness God requires.

4. Paul’s Grave Miscalculation (3:4-6)

[4] though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:  [5] circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;  [6] as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.

Paul writes to the church in Philippi that if anyone should ever think that righteousness could achieved through circumcision and keeping the law, it should be me.  There was a time in Paul’s life when he was trying to gain God’s favor through his pedigree and through keeping the law.

Paul was the model law keeper. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:

Paul’s Pedigree-

You want to discuss circumcision, I was [5] circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, not only of the people of Israel but one of God’s favorite tribes, the tribe of Benjamin. The Tribe of Benjamin was loyal, elite, and produced the first King, King Saul.  Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was by his birth the purest of the pure in the eyes of Judaism.

Paul’s Accomplishments-

He kept the Law with much success.  as to the law, a Pharisee; He was the purest of the pure by birth and the purest of the pure by law keeping.  The Pharisees were a strict sect of the Jews that prided themselves in their ability to keep the Law.  Paul not only was found blameless under the law but was aggressive toward any and all who saw things differently, [6] as to zeal, a persecutor of the church.

If anyone was going to get in good with God by effort it would have been Paul.

Paul made one very big miscalculation…

He had no idea how evil his sins were and how righteous Christ is and how desperately he needed the righteousness Christ offers.

5. Christ’s Surpassing Worth (3:7-11)

[7] But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  [8] Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  [9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— [10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  [11] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

When I was a kid, I was given what many of you had been given.  I received awards, ribbons and trophies for various accomplishments in school.  When you’re a kid, they look good on your dresser or on a shelf.  You take pride in your achievements.  As you grow older however, the trophies get boxed up and placed in a closet somewhere.  Then they go to the attic and then to the trash.

This is similar to what Paul is telling us, except his is much worse.  He thought he was gaining when he was actually loosing.  His 401(K) was working backwards.  Rather than him adding money and his employer matching it, he was subtracting and his employer was matching his subtraction.  All of Paul’s efforts were futile because everything he did thinking it was adding righteousness to his account was really working to remove it.

Once he met Christ he saw all his trophies on his dresser and boxed them up and threw them in the dumpster because Christ’s worth was so much greater.

At the end of the day, Paul discovered who he really was.  He thought that he was some sort of saint, some super religious lawkeeper, but in reality all his works and all his righteousness was worthless.  It was like cotton candy in a thunderstorm…it all evaporated and he was left drenched holding a soggy stick.

He thought everything was working to build godly riches; however, it was working to build sinful loss.  Paul had made a terrible miscalculation and his gain column was really a loss column.

At this point we’re left wondering, what can one do to merit the righteousness God requires?  Paul was a good honest Pharisee and if he couldn’t be saved based on his righteousness than who can be saved?

The dilemma is this: God requires perfect righteousness.  No one has perfect righteousness.  God will not grade on a curve or overlook sin.  How do we get the righteousness God requires?

[9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

There it is!!!

A righteousness that comes not by working hard to keep the law but comes by faith in Christ.  Paul is so convinced that Christ is the answer to his dilemma that he keeps counting everything loss.

-[7] But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

[8] Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

-For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

The less he values his own righteousness the more of Christ’s he gets.  When we let go of any claim to being righteous in ourselves the more we can lay hold of Jesus Christ.

This Christ-given righteousness comes to the sinner as the sinner believes.

Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  [3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  [4] in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

The Apostle has discovered the truth.  No more would he work to earn salvation by keeping the law of God.  From here on out he would rest in the finished work of Christ.  Jesus who kept the law perfectly.  His righteousness is exactly the kind God requires.

Faith is the hand that reaches out to accept God’s free gift of salvation.  We believe that Jesus did everything He said He would do and we believe that His perfect work is what God requires.  We believe that it is given to us freely through faith.

This is what we believe to be justified and it is what we keep on believing on our way to glorification, or as Paul says,

— [10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  [11] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul had learned his lesson so well that he counted everything as rubbish…even his life.  Whatever he had to give up to lay hold of Christ he was willing to part with.

TT- Our righteousness is worthless and Christ’s righteousness is priceless.

What is it that you’re tempted to hold on to in order for God to accept you.  Do you think you can hold to your own righteousness and be accepted?  Are you willing to face God clothed in your righteousness?  Do you think yours will get you very far?  Paul discovered that his was worthless.  If Paul’s righteousness is worthless then there is a very good chance yours is too.

If we are to stand before God and not be ashamed we must be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Are you clothed in the righteousness of Christ today?  Have you stopped depending on your good works in order to be accepted by God?

Rev. 7:9-12 (ESV)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  [10] and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  [11] And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  [12] saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

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