(Phil. 3:7-12) “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (9) And be found in him, 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: (10) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (11) If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (12) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
After detailing a foundational basis for personal boasting, the Apostle Paul dismisses these personal qualifications as being contrary to him. Why is that? Well, if boasting in personal achievements and qualifications is an individual’s desire, that desire is easily met in the boasting thereof. The problem is that one can never satisfy this desire because he will always need new achievements to boast of. He will always be seeking his own glory.
But the Apostle Paul went a step further in his dismissal of personal boasting. Not only is it an endless pursuit; personal boasting leaves one at a deficit in relation to Jesus Christ. That is, what attention we draw to ourselves as we seek the praise of men takes attention away from Christ as the rightful recipient of praise. Paul is saying that, to seek one’s own glory is to deny Christ’s glory.
Jesus Christ is the Life of every child of God (Gal. 2:20; compare Col. 3:4). That is, He lives in us, and we live by Him. He has not sanctified our old life; but, has sanctified us to a New Life; wherein, He is preeminent. It is expected then that all our desires are satisfied in Him alone. This is expressed in our text. Paul goes on to note four things that are to be desired more than personal achievements:
To Win Christ (Phil. 3:8)
What does it mean to “win Christ”? Paul has just said he counted his personal accomplishments as absolutely nothing in relation to Christ. He certainly does not expect to do anything in his own strength or power in order to be saved. In fact, Paul was already saved and secured when he wrote these verses. No, “wining Christ” does not indicate any effort or hope of being saved.
Remember that Paul is speaking of something he desired more than could be achieved by personal efforts. The desire to “win Christ” is something Paul experienced since his regeneration. It is the God-given desire for the reward of the Prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). Paul’s living, breathing desire was to be united with Christ; to become One with Him; to behold His Glory and Power through experiential knowledge, as the Object of his love.
To Be Found in Christ (Phil. 3:9)
What a wonderful prospect this is! Paul’s desire here is to be searched and found in Christ! Wherein, he has acknowledged his own deficit in relation to personal accomplishments, describing his very best gains as a loss for Christ; that is, in relation to his Position and Practice in Christ. He here expresses the desire that all his actions have their origin in Christ; walking even as He walked (1 Jn. 2:6).
Paul’s desire was that his testimony bear witness to others, and to himself, that he was not depending upon his personal achievements or righteousness for salvation; but, upon the Righteousness of Christ. Neither did his own genealogy avail him of any special privilege (Phil. 3:5). No, Paul’s boast was not about who he was; but, about Who Christ Is. Paul’s desire was that his reliance on Christ would be the more evident, so that his attitude, actions, and attire would point others to Christ.
To Know Christ (Phil. 3:10)
This is another statement that people misuse and twist as they mishandle the Word of God. It is sometimes taught that Paul herein expresses an ignorance as to Christ; that Paul as yet did not have a relationship with Christ; that he did not know the Lord. Doesn’t it seem odd that Paul met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), and yet herein says he desired to get to “know” Christ?
Such a foolish interpretation of Scripture leaves many nominal Christians in darkness; whereas, the Truth is indeed a glorious Light to the Saint. What did Paul mean that he desired to “know” Christ? The Greek word translated “know’” means to know by experience. Paul was already saved, and he knew it; but, he was not satisfied with knowing about Christ. No, Paul gladly suffered the loss of all things and counted them but dung, desiring to experience Christ. This speaks of Oneness of Christ’s Love (Jn.17: 23-24).
To Apprehend Christ (Phil. 3:12)
The word “apprehend” is often used to describe the action of a policeman taking someone into custody. This usage of the word tends to obscure its significance here. To apprehend something, or someone, simply means to lay hold of; to seize; that is, so to restrain. Paul says, that more than personal achievements that he counted as loss, he desired to apprehend (or seize) Christ; that is, to cleave to Him.
But, Paul reveals a very important thing here; that he had also been apprehended (or seized) by Jesus Christ. The imagery here is reminiscent to two individuals who have grabbed hold of one another, refusing to release their grips. Paul knew that the Lord had seized him in such a way that his life was forever changed. His desire then was to apprehend Christ as he had been apprehended; to seize as he had been seized.
Dismissing personal boasting as trivial, the Apostle Paul acknowledges that the only lasting pursuit is the pursuit of Christ. Christ is the Source of the Christian’s Joy; and only in Him will we have any lasting Reward, for He is our Reward. May Christ be your heart’s desire, and so seek Him with your life. Then your life will have purpose, as you seek to love the One Who loves you.