The Bible says in Philippians 3:8-9, “Yes 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, 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.” This is a very rich and beautiful part of scripture. Great things are said in these few verses. One of the great things is concerning righteousness.
Notice that according to Philippians 3:9 there are two kinds of righteousness. There is what Paul called “mine own righteousness,” and there is what he called “the righteousness which is of God.” There are many differences between these two types of righteousness. First of all there is a difference in quality. The righteousness of man is not righteousness at all. It is phony, it is fake, and it is flawed. Isaiah said, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”
The righteousness which comes from God is perfect. The righteousness which comes from God speaks of the essence of God’s nature: His holiness. The wonderful thing is that this righteousness of God can be imputed to a human being. It can be accredited to the account of someone. That’s the emphasis of Romans 3:21-22 that says, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.”
Human righteousness, otherwise known as self-righteousness, is attempted to be acquired through the keeping of the law. That’s its weakness and that’s its point of failure. The law is based upon the concept that one must obey every point, or else one is guilty of all. Jesus is the only one who has been tempted in all points, yet without sin. Notice that Paul said in Philippians 3:9, “not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law.”
If a human being cannot obtain righteousness through the keeping of the law, then how can it be obtained? The answer as to how this true and lasting righteousness is obtained is stated clearly twice in Philippians 3:8. It says, “That which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” In order to have the righteousness that you need to get into heaven, you must have the righteousness of Christ, and that righteousness becomes given to you freely through faith in Christ. Romans 4:3 says, “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” If you have this kind of righteousness, it was given to you freely by believing on Jesus.
Those of us who believe on Jesus, when we are judged, the books will be opened, and it will be seen that what is charged to our account is the righteousness of Christ. Even though we are sinners, we will be welcomed into heaven just as if we had not sinned. No wonder Paul said in Philippians 3:1, “Rejoice in the Lord,” and that he said in Philippians 3:3 that we “rejoice in Christ Jesus.” Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. We know that we are received by God, we are accepted by God, and we are blessed by God; not because we earn it, but because Jesus earned it for us.
Knowing that we have the righteousness of Christ credited to our account even though we did not earn it or deserve it, should have a great impact on how we view our relationship with God. It certainly should take away any fear of how He regards us when we fail. It should increase our confidence that He is always going to bless us and guide us and use us. It should help us to remember that we are totally dependent upon the unmerited favor of God, and we should spend less time seeking honor for ourselves or giving it to other human beings. Jesus should receive all of the praise, all of the honor, and all of the glory.
After salvation through faith in Christ, there are other spiritual things to look forward to in serving the Lord in this life. In that regards Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” Of course, Paul already knew Jesus in a spiritual way, but this is an expression of the fact that there is more to know about Christ. There is always a greater level of fellowship with Jesus that is possible. Paul said that he wanted to know Jesus and he also wanted to know “the power of his resurrection.” The word power means enabling. Jesus rose from the dead. That was a miracle. Jesus died on the cross, but unlike other people who have died, three days after His death, Jesus rose from the dead.
In order to be involved in the work of God in this world, we must have the power of God. We cannot do anything that glorifies God unless we have the power of God. Of course, we can always do things with the power of man and the efforts of man, but such work will never glorify God. What Paul knew was that the real work of God in this world could only be done with the power of God. Notice that Paul associated receiving such power with death and resurrection. Jesus died on the cross and then He was resurrected. In a similar way we must die to ourselves, if we are to do the work of God with the power of God. Beware of self-will. It will keep you from God’s power. Jesus said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone. But if it die, it bears much fruit.”
Paul wrote in Philippians 3:11-12, “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 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.” On the one hand there is our position in Christ. We who are sinners and have deserved a much worse fate, have been freely given a spiritual standing in God that will have eternal consequences to our benefit. We did nothing to earn this. Christ earned it for us by His perfect life and by His sacrifice for us on the cross. But what happens in this life is still greatly dependent upon our own actions. That’s what Paul is talking about in these verses.
The day will come when we will have our resurrected bodies. When that happens we will never sin again. We will be perfect. But it has not happened yet. In this regards Paul said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” No one has arrived. No one has gotten to where they need to be or where they could be. That’s one of the challenges of the Christian life that we face each day. There are no guarantees as far as our potential is concerned. Be careful or you might lose what you could have gained. Don’t take anything for granted. Make sure that you have the same attitude that Paul had and that you realize that you have not “already attained” that which God wants you to attain.
At the end of Philippians 3:12 Paul said, “If that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Part of this statement is conditional and part of it is not. The part that Christ has done is not conditional. It’s finished and completed. To apprehend means to take hold of, to acquire for one’s own. We who have been converted have been apprehended by Christ. We are His. We are safely in His fold. Now the question is: will we take hold of that which is set before us in this life? The emphasis here should not be so much on what you do, but what you become. If you become the believer you are capable of becoming, then you will do what is set before you to do.
In regards to the future Paul had a definite philosophy of not taking anything for granted, and of realizing that failure was possible unless the greatest diligence was taken. In regards to the past Paul also had a very definite philosophy, a philosophy that should be held by all believers. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”
Believing in Jesus for salvation gives the best basis of all for forgetting the past. If God has forgiven me for the mistakes of the past, then surely I can forgive myself. An important part of forgiveness is to no longer think about the errors that were committed. That’s what God does. He forgives and forgets. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” To forgive means to separate from. When He forgives us, God separates us from our sins. Once we are forgive, when God sees us, He does not see our sins. When God considers us, He does not consider our sins. This is possible because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
The best thing to do is to forget the past. Learn from the mistakes of the past, but then forget the mistakes. You can’t change the past, so don’t waste time thinking about it. You only have so much time. Time is precious. Don’t waste it on the past. The Bible says, “Forgetting those things which are behind.” Because of God and Christ we can forget the negative things of the past: our sins. But there are reasons to even forget the positive things of the past. Don’t rest on your laurels, or you may miss accomplishing other things that need to be done. There is no such thing as retirement from the work of God. You may change your emphasis or your area of responsibility, but if God has kept you here on the earth, He has kept you here for a reason. In order to make sure that you do not miss whatever opportunity God wishes to give you tomorrow, your focus needs to be on tomorrow and not on yesterday.
Paul said that he was focused on tomorrow. He said, “reaching forth unto those things which are before.” Jesus gave us some excellent advice about tomorrow. He told us not to worry about tomorrow. Paul adds to that advice and tells us to look forward to tomorrow. What plans can you make for tomorrow to find new ways and better ways to serve God? Look forward to tomorrow: to next week, next month, and next year. Make plans for how you can use the future to the glory of God.
As Paul looked forward, he looked even past tomorrow, all the way to the judgment. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul was obviously focused on the concept of Christian rewards. Being saved from the guilt of his sins was not enough for him. Paul knew that there were rewards to be gained or lost. He said, “I press toward the mark.” The word that is translated to press in this verse is often translated elsewhere as to pursue or to persecute. It means to diligently seek after. Some people have goals that they diligently seek after relating to what they can obtain in this life, but not Paul.
What are the rewards that Christians can win at the judgment? There are a couple of important clues in the New Testament as to what those rewards will be. In II Timothy 4:8 Paul said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” A crown is a symbol of power and authority. In Matthew 20:23 Jesus said, “To sit on my right hand and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” A position at the right hand or the left hand of Christ in His kingdom will be a position of power and authority. A strong warning about the possibility of losing rewards is given to Christians in First Corinthians 3:14-15 and says, “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” When we are in heaven, we will not be floating on clouds and playing harps. The infinite God undoubtedly will have a vast array of projects, opportunities, and challenges for His children to be involved in forever and ever. The nature of the responsibility that each person will be given will be directly related to the rewards that are gained or lost.
Paul expressed no fear of losing his salvation, but he did show great concern over the possibility of losing his rewards at the judgment. This motivated him greatly to do all that he could do in this life to take hold of that for which he had been taken hold of by Christ.
Copyright; 2001 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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