The Religion Of Surpassing Worth
1. Christianity is the religion of surpassing worth.
a. I don’t mean that is the sense of some kind of comparison with other religions.
b. I am referring to the kind of religion it is.
c. Christianity is a system which glories in Christ Jesus and puts no confidence in the flesh (cf. 3b).
2. Paul had reason to apply this principle when he wrote our text, and we have opportunity clarify our understanding of the faith as we think through it.
1. “Because of the surpassing worth”
a. In the background there were some who thought they had reason for confidence in the flesh. (v. 4)
i. Paul’s mention of “the real circumcision” (v. 3) suggests that they thought they had some superiority on the basis of circumcision as a religious ordinance, and that they were seeking to require it of those who had become Christians.
ii. One possibility is that they were members of a synagogue who were conducting an outreach program directed toward the church.
iii. A more likely possibility, given the comparison that the apostle goes ahead to make, is that they were erring Christians who had been proselytes to Judaism before that, and pagans before that, and were now requiring others to make all the same stops.
(1) This was making it about themselves.
(2) Their own backgrounds and efforts were becoming the pattern, not what the Lord has done for us all.
b. Paul responds by observing that he had more reason to put that kind of confidence in the flesh than any of that group. (v. 4b-6)
i. “Circumcised on the eighth day” – not as an adult – which is what the law required of natural-born children of Abraham (Gen. 17:12).
ii. “Of the people of Israel” – not only a Jew religiously.
iii. “Of the tribe of Benjamin”– with a family and not just a circumcision.
iv. “A Hebrew of Hebrews” – born and raised in a household which preserved the native language.
v. “As to the law, a Pharisee” – the Jewish party which was committed to observing all the law and what had been said about it, not just to selected rules like circumcision.
vi. “As to zeal, a persecutor of the church” – the real conclusion for one who was dedicated to the tradition, more logical than trying to circumcise the church.
vii. “As to righteousness, under the law blameless” – having made painstaking efforts to adhere to the law’s demands.
c. “But,” the apostle says, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (v. 8)
i. Notice carefully that Paul is not merely talking down the value of Judaism.
ii. All these things were “gain” to him; they were assets that had value; they were respected by his countrymen and precious to him. As Fred Craddock put it, “Paul does not toss away junk to gain Christ; he tosses away that which was of tremendous value to him.” (Philippians, 58)
iii. His point is that he had now recognized such surpassing worth in Christ that all these things he formerly prized he now treated like rubbish.
2. Two kinds of religion that won’t do
a. That’s where the tremendous lesson of this passage comes out: it is the highest commendation of the matchless value of faith in Christ.
i. It isn’t just saying that Christ is of more value than the worst in your life, but that his worth far surpasses the best in your life.
ii. It isn’t merely calling for you to make painful sacrifices, but for us to regard Christ so highly that nothing seems like a sacrifice.
iii. It isn’t simply giving up the low and the base for something better, but giving up all claims if favor of obedient trust in him.
b. So one kind of religion that won’t do is that which finds Christianity just a better religion, and therefore attractive to anyone who is always on the lookout for the improvement of his station in life and of his prospects in the hereafter.
i. What Paul is talking about is the giving up of that search altogether because of the unique worth of Christ.
ii. A Christian understands that there will not be any opportunities to surpass what God has offered us once and for all in Christ.
iii. He or she is not on a path of self improvement or upward mobility, but of devotion to Christ.
c. The other kind of religion that won’t do is one in which everything about anyone’s past must be viewed as totally negative, a failure in every way.
i. Sometimes, of course, people do become Christians out of lives filled with confused choices, immoral actions, ruined relationships and troubled hearts.
ii. But it hadn’t been that way with Paul. As far as righteousness under the law was concerned, he says he was blameless. He hadn’t turned to Christ out of deep depression over flaws discovered in himself, but because of value discovered in Christ.
iii. Christianity is something more than a reaction to guilt.
3. “For the sake of Christ”
a. A person who is ruled by the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus treats everything else as loss “in order that [he] may gain Christ and be found in him.” (v. 8b, 9)
i. He can no longer in any way be content having a righteousness of his own that comes from the law.
ii. He must have the righteousness of God that comes through the faith of Christ.
iii. Being clothed with Christ is the only thing that will do for him.
b. The one who is moved by the surpassing worth of Christ counts all other assets as garbage so “that [he] may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (v. 10)
i. He longs above all else to know Christ – in the sense of becoming like him.
ii. Notice carefully the instructive order Paul uses: resurrection, sufferings, death (cf. 1:20, 21).
iii. Perhaps he has in mind the way of Christ which he had mentioned in Philipppians 2:5-10.
c. That individual whose life is given to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ counts every other gain as loss “that by any means possible [he] may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (v. 11)
i. Paul didn’t mean that he might not be raised up; he wrote in too many other places that we all will be.
ii. His point was that his hope was to be found a citizen of heaven and to have his lowly body transformed to be like Christ’s glorious body (v. 20, 21).
iii. He had a sense of security about him, but he also understood that he needed to press on toward the prize of the high calling, knowing that it is always appropriate for all of us to take heed lest we fall (1 Cor. 10:12).
1. One of our songs says:
“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands, I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
“I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause, I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame, I’d rather be true to His Holy Name
“Than to be the king of a vast domain Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything This world affords today.”
2. That’s what Christianity is about: the surpassing worth of Christ.
3. Christ is worthy of your taking this approach to life, too. Will you?