International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 15, 2010
Purpose: To celebrate the joy of knowing Christ and the power of the resurrection.
Scripture Text: Philippians 3:7-16 (NRSV)
(7)Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. (8)More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard 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 one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
(10)I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, (11)if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (12)Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (13)Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
(15Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. (16)Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
As I read the first few verses of this passage, Paul sounds more like a CEO or CFO of a major corporation. His talk of “profit” and “loss” as well as “gain” is terms we normally associate with company executives or financial experts.
It appears Paul had done what many do when faced with a decision, he has listed on one side all the things about his former life, and then listed on the other side all of those things about being a follower and an Apostle of Jesus Christ. In the verses preceding our text Paul gives a litany of his former life. In verse 5 of this chapter Paul made his claim for being considered righteous prior to being visited by Christ on the Damascus road. He was correctly circumcised on the eighth day, not as a proselyte, of the tribe of Benjamin, born of a wife, not a handmaiden, a Hebrew of Hebrews. Paul was a Pharisee, a keeper of the law. As for zeal, no one persecuted the early Christians with grater zeal than Paul. As far as the Law of Moses was concerned Paul was blameless, his righteousness was indeed earned. Paul's reason for sharing all of this is because there were those within the Philippian church that wanted new believers to go through the “mutilation” of adult circumcision.
It is from this point that we start today's text. Paul literally calls all of the above “dung”, which is the literal translation of the Greek. Paul has willingly gave up all those things above that made him righteous in the eyes of the law, and is now pursuing the example of Jesus Christ, and his righteousness is no longer based on his works or zeal, but rather on his faith. Paul’s righteousness comes from Christ and not from his own works, just as our salvation comes from our faith, by way of grace, our righteousness also comes by faith, not that we are ourselves are righteous, but our righteousness is a gift (grace) from God, through Jesus Christ.
Paul also recognizes that not only our righteousness comes as a gift, but also we receive through the resurrection of Christ the gift of resurrection power in our lives. Wesley called this obvious “sanctification” or more than “justification”. It is the resurrection power that enables us to be transformed as well as forgiven. Most of us are not strong enough to change our own lives concerning priorities, on our own; we have to rely on the same power that raised Christ from the grave, to transform our lives into something acceptable for God to rejoice over or fellowship with. Being conformed to Christ’s death, is to allow our old selves to die to the things that the world considers glorifying.
Paul goes from the loss and gain metaphor to that of an athlete or a runner, and then makes a statement that Wesley interprets as saying “there is a difference between one that is perfect and one that is perfected. The one is fitted for the race the other is ready to receive the prize.” Paul was in pursuit of that prize, and ready to receive it in glory, admitting he had not yet achieved it. He was not looking back over his life, but rather looking forward to a heavenly prize.
Paul's challenge to the Philippians was to join him in this race, be mature in your faith, and if there are things we disagree over, fine, but allow Christ to be the teacher, by drawing on His resurrection power in your life.