Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PAUL’S AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL THEOLOGY: Estimation”

Philippians 3.7-8

The Philippian church was started by Paul. It was the first church he started in what we now call Europe, just across the Aegean Sea to the West of what is now the country of Turkey. A Roman colony city, Philippi was in a poor region that had previously been a place of great wealth from mineral resources, but had been stripped to poverty by Roman occupation forces. The city was populated primarily by patriotic Roman citizens. Always close to his heart, the Philippian church members had been a model of Christian zeal and devotion, supporting Paul’s ministry more than any other known congregation. So, after Paul had been in Roman custody for a number of years and they were finally in a position to help, they sent Epaphroditus and much needed money to Paul in Rome.

It was probably from Epaphroditus that Paul heard the details of trouble brewing among the church members in Philippi. Not only was there a minor, but simmering, dissension that was subtly undermining the wonderful unity of the church, but also the threat of what we refer to as Judaizers, proud and arrogant men who made a great deal of their personal achievements in observing the Law of Moses. Such pride and arrogance, Paul knew, would devastate the church, even if they didn’t succumb to the heretical teachings of the Judaizers. Paul also knew, as we should understand, that pride is perhaps the single most destructive attitude that any church member can have. It is humility that is Christ like, not pride. And it is a humble people that God visits with the spiritual blessing of unity, not those who are proud. So Paul took on the threat of the Judaizers in such a way that he could, at one and the same time, counter their impending threat to the congregation as well as reinforce the need for humility among the church members. He did this by listing his own, shall we say, fleshly qualifications so that comparison could be made with whatever things the Judaizers might have bragged about. Philippians 3.5-6 records the seven points that Paul makes that would have enabled him to match credentials with anyone who thought their personal attainments would stand them in good stead with God. And, but for the five verses which follow, a case might have been made by a critic that Paul was bragging and attempting to upstage the Judaizers.

Philippians 3.7-11, however, dispels any notion that Paul was bragging. This passage, which we will begin studying today, shows what Paul believed about himself and, more importantly, what he believed about the Lord Jesus Christ. So, with your Bible turned to Philippians 3.1-11, stand and read along with me. You read along silently while I read aloud:

1      Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

2      Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

3      For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

4      Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

5      Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

6      Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

7      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.

Our text for this message is Philippians 3.7-8, which contains the first of four looks at what might be best described as Paul’s personal theology that we will be looking at over the next several weeks, Lord willing. The personal theology that we will look at today and for the next several weeks is more than just a theology. What we will see in our studies is more than what was in Paul’s head. We are going to see what was in his heart, what was in his soul, and what moved, drove and energized the man. If you want to study Philippians 3.7-11 on your own, let me help you with the four topics in Paul’s personal, autobiographical, theology that we find here. First, there is estimation. Paul’s estimation is followed by justification, and then sanctification, and ending with glorification. All four of these areas of Paul’s personal belief system are found in these five verses. At present we will limit ourselves to Paul’s estimation. Before we look at verses 7 and 8 in depth, let me warn you about something. Do not be surprised to find nothing in these two verses about sin. Paul spends no time here discovering to the Philippians his estimation of sin in general or sin in his own life. They already knew his stance concerning sin. He hated sin. He loathed sin. He despised sin. Because Paul loved God, he adopted God’s view of sin as the right view of sin. Sin, as a principle, is the cause of all that is tragic, all that is wasteful, all that is cruel, all that is ugly, all that is defiling, all that is hateful, and that all that is wrong with this world. However, since man, as originally created by God, was without sin, and since the Lord Jesus Christ was a man and He is without sin, and since saved men shall someday be without sin, it is possible in the right contexts to discuss man without discussing sin or the sins men commit. Such is what Paul does in these two verses when he discusses himself. Not that he is not a sinner, for he would never pretend to be sinless in this lifetime. However, having fully dealt with the subject of sin in other epistles, he is inspired of the Holy Spirit of God to not deal with sin here.

With that background properly laid, let us begin our study of Paul’s autobiographical theology, which concerns itself first with his estimation of certain things. My friend, your estimation of things, your valuation of things, tells a lot about you, who you are and what you are.

IN VERSE 7, WE SEE PAUL’S ESTIMATION OF THINGS FORMERLY

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”

In this verse Paul looks back. He looks back to the days when he was a strident young Pharisee, zealous for the Law of Moses and bent on acquiring the righteousness with supposedly comes from obedience to the Law. Back also to the days when he was contending with a young man named Stephen in the synagogue of the Libertines concerning a Nazarene named Jesus who had been condemned and crucified. Back to the time when he consented unto Stephen’s death by stoning for blasphemy, heresy and apostasy from the religion of his people, Judaism. And back to that day on the road to Damascus when he, a persecutor of Christians, was apprehended by the One he had despised and rejected, Acts 9.1-20:

1      And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

2      And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

3      And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

4      And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

5      And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

6      And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

7      And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

8      And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

9      And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

10     And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

11     And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

12     And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

13     Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

14     And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

15     But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

16     For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

17     And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

18     And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

19     And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

20     And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

My friends, when you have an encounter with the Son of God, whether it was something as dramatic as Saul of Tarsus being knocked off of a horse and being confronted by the Savior in a blinding light, or in a quiet room with no fanfare or tears, but with a quiet abandoning of sin, of self, and closing with the Savior by faith, you are not left the same if the encounter is real and genuine. As Paul looked back on his own conversion, as I look back on my own conversion, and as you look back on your conversion, you see that things changed. What things change? Many, many things change. Your status before God changes. Your longings and desires change. Your destiny changes. But what Paul brings to our attention is something that oftentimes is overlooked by folks these days. Your estimation of things changes:

Consider what most value: Verse 7 begins, “But what things were gain to me.” Think about what Paul wrote. What things were gain to Paul? What were the things that he had put much stock in? What were the things he had once valued? What were the things you once valued? You see, when Paul talks about his estimation of things, he is referring to his value system. His value system was altered at some point in time. What had been valuable to Paul? His circumcision on the eighth day. His Jewish blood. His tribal ancestry. His cultural environment. Those were the things he had as a result of the family he was born into and the environment he was raised in. Then there were other things, personal attainments. Being a Pharisee. Being a persecutor of the church. Being a righteous man according to the Law, insofar as any observer could tell. What did you used to value? Did looking cool used to be important to you? How about being accepted by your friends? Did you used to value your own morality, your own spirituality? How about athletic prowess or intelligence? How about artistic ability? How about cleverness and wit? Everyone, you see, used to have a set of values that moved them, that determined their courses of action, that made them what they were. Paul did, and so did you.

However, a genuinely saved person finds when looking back that estimations have changed. Again, verse 7 reads, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” Understand that Paul was not now antagonistic toward his heritage. However, he does now realize that that those things he had formerly valued had been wrongly esteemed by him. Being circumcised on the eighth day does you no good. There is no spiritual benefit from that. Neither does growing up in a Hebrew speaking home any more incline the sinner to God than growing up in any other home alienated from God. Are you from a traditional Irish home? Wonderful. You are aware that the Irish saved western civilization from extinction, are some of the best poets and bards on the planet, and have an amazing capacity for suffering under cruel taskmasters. Okay. Just recognize that your Irish heritage and culture affects your relationship with God not at all. The same goes for whatever you got from your heritage or have achieved since your birth. Insofar as your standing before God, it means nothing. More than just useless cargo on the ship of life, Paul described those things that had been gain to him before his conversion as “loss for Christ.” That means, Paul came to estimate the value of those things he had previously valued to be so worthless that it was in essence “loss,” or cargo over the side on account of Christ.[1] Look back on your conversion. As you considered your life and attainments back then, versus Christ, what did you conclude? If you did not conclude that all that other stuff was only good for tossing over the side in favor of Christ then you didn’t get saved. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews describes this point in time in the life of Moses, Hebrews 11.24-26a:

24     By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

25     Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

26     Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt

BUT THAT’S WHAT CHANGED IN PAUL’S ESTIMATION IN THE PAST. IN THE INTERVENING YEARS, NOTICE HOW HIS SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND MATURITY HAS FURTHER AFFECTED HIS ESTIMATION OF THINGS

Verse 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.”

First, Paul begins his revised estimation: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” My, how Paul’s estimation has changed over time. Formerly, Paul had counted that that had been gain to him as loss. However, now, after the passing of years spent walking with the Lord, he has revised his estimation to include “all things.” The more he sees the more he realizes that nothing is worth anything compared to his Savior. That is still not all. Not only has his estimation of that which is loss broadened, but his estimation of the Savior he closed with has magnified. In verse 7 it was “for Christ.” In verse 8 it is “for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”

But he is still not finished with his revised estimation. “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” My friend, it is one thing to place no value on what you have. It is quite another thing to actually suffer the loss of that which you say you do not value. Not only did Paul place no value on things he formerly prized, but he was also willing to give them up. Not only was he willing to give them up, he actually gave them up. Home. Culture. Heritage. Achievements. Recognition. Family. Friends. What things are you willing to give up for Christ? What things are you willing to lose? More than that, what things will you count as so much horse manure, as so much steer fertilizer, so that you might win Christ? But more. What things have you given up for loss for Christ?

Be mindful that you never read of Paul treating anyone in an unloving or unkind manner. He loved with Christ’s love. However, we see in our text that people were not his number one priority. His Savior was. Have you ever thought that Paul was what he was, partly, because of the way he estimated things and people? I mean, nothing in Paul’s priority of things came close to the Lord Jesus Christ in importance. Do you suppose that if you prized the knowledge of Jesus Christ your Lord as highly as Paul did that perhaps your life would be more like his than like yours presently is? Or could it be that your estimation of things formerly, or your estimation of things presently, has not changed all that much? Do you still prize what you prized before you were saved? Maybe something is wrong. Perhaps you have never really had an encounter with the One beside Whom nothing compares. After all, what does Second Corinthians 5.17 tell us? “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Let me close by pointing out that Paul is not suggesting that any Christian walk away from career or cherished loved ones. What he is pointing out the importance of being willing. Of course, should God call you to the mission field leaving loved ones behind becomes a requirement, but not because they are unloved or unimportant. Rather, because Christ is so much more important.



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), pages 556-557.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org