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.
In these few words of Holy Scripture we have a personal confession of the apostle Paul. It was written to the church at Philippi—”For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (v. 3). In verses 4-6 Paul lists various things that most men would count desirous. Having these, he had every reason to be confident in the flesh. In verse 7, however, he informs us that he counted the things just mentioned loss for Christ.
In our text he broadens and intensifies that same confession. Not only have I counted those things as loss, but I continue to count all things as loss. All things have I counted as loss, not only for Christ, but for the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.
This confession is also intended for us, since it is part of Scripture. The “my Lord” must not be overlooked. We must read it in the very same form in which the Spirit of Christ elicited this confession from the heart of the apostle. We must consider it a necessary characteristic of our own heart and soul, with respect to the course and direction of our life in the midst of the world. Then we will see that only one thing is important, that we gain Christ, that only one thing is above all precious, the knowledge of Christ.
The excellency of this knowledge is expressed in its contents. The full name of Christ is used so that there can be no doubt as to the excellency of that knowledge. It expresses all His fullness, exhibits all His beauty, shows at once that there is nothing on earth to be desired above Him and besides Him.
We see this, first of all, in the name Jesus, which means Jehovah saves. It expresses all the realization of salvation. He is the central and personal revelation of Jehovah as the God of our salvation. Objectively, He redeems from the guilt of sin and reconciles us with Himself through the blood of the cross, thus making peace. Subjectively, He delivers us from the corruption of sin, cutting the shackles of death in which we are held, leading us into the everlasting liberty of perfect righteousness.
This name points to Him who makes us partakers of the highest good, namely life eternal and the fellowship of friendship with the ever blessed God. We now know the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that is rooted in the blessed consciousness that our sins are washed away and no longer witness against us. To know Jesus is to know Him in whom we possess the only comfort in life and death, light in darkness, joy in the midst of sorrow, life while we pass through the valley of the shadow of death. All of our salvation is expressed in that name.
We see this, secondly, in the name Christ, the Messiah, the anointed of God, the three-times blessed servant of Jehovah, Prophet, Priest, and King. He is God’s Prophet to us in that He speaks of God and glorifies Him. He is the Word, revealing the Father and making Him known in all the riches of His counsel of salvation. Through the Word we have knowledge of our redemption and deliverance.
He is also God’s Priest in our behalf. Over the whole house of God He is the perfect and eternal High Priest, accomplishing our salvation by sacrificing, atoning, reconciling, and entering into the heavenly sanctuary to abide there forever. He intercedes for the brethren, blessing them with all the riches of grace.
And He is God’s King over us. Having humbled Himself and having become obedient even unto the death of the cross, He is now highly exalted. He sits at the right hand of God, clothed with all power in heaven and on earth. As King He protects us from the onslaughts of the enemy, all nations being subject at His feet, to give us the victory. Nothing can stand in His way; He is King over all.
In this anointing we share, for we also are prophets, priests, and kings. We know, speak of, and glorify the Father. We sanctify the Lord God in our hearts and bring sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
The third name is Lord, for He is the One who possesses His people because He purchased them with the price of His precious blood in infinite love. He leveled to the ground, in our hearts, the throne of the prince of the world, so that He might establish His own dominion of grace in our inmost soul. He is responsible for us in life and death, now and in the day of judgment. His will is our will because He turned us by the gracious power of His Spirit, so that we no longer will to do the evil. Although Lord over all, He is more particularly my Lord. He is personally my Lord and your Lord, so it becomes the soul’s keenest delight to make this confession. For the excellency of this knowledge does Paul regard all things as loss, for it is more excellent than any of the things of this world.
This knowledge comes to expression not only in the name but also in its nature. It is not a mere intellectual conception, a mere image of the mind, or a cold assent to the truth concerning Him. No one would surrender all things and give them up gladly (name and position, treasures and pleasures, liberty and very life) for a mere intellectual, philosophical conception. There is no glory and joy, no excellency and comfort, in a head full of knowledge about Christ if the heart remains empty of His grace. There is no soul-redeeming virtue in knowing of and about Christ if we cannot say my Lord and my Savior.
This does not mean that intellectual knowledge is not necessary. We cannot truly know Him if we do not know about Him. Revelation of Him must fill our mind if it is to fill our heart. What we need is a spiritual knowledge of the heart. When we know Christ the fire of the love of God is kindled in our soul. We learn to cry out, “O God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” Then we despise our own righteousness, for it availeth nothing. Our souls are laid bare, so that we see the guilt of sin from which He redeems, the corruption of sin from which He delivers, the power of death from which He liberates, and the darkness of sin out of which He leads us into the light. Having that knowledge of salvation in Christ, we can say with Paul, my Lord. Your soul hungers and thirsts after righteousness, seeing Him as the fullness that fills your emptiness. You eat and drink Him by a true and living faith as the bread that satisfies your hunger and as the water that quenches the thirst of the soul (Ps. 42:1). Therefore, to know Christ and how He died for us on the cross, to have such a knowledge, is life eternal (John 17:3).
Thus far we have seen this knowledge from the viewpoint of its inherent excellency. But it is more excellent also when placed alongside of the things of this world, which Paul considers as loss. Applying this to Paul’s life, we see that his own righteousness, which was of the law, was blameless, but as far as gaining Christ is concerned, it availed nothing. This included his privileges as a Hebrew of the Hebrews, his own name, position, influence, even his own earthly life.
Applying this to our life, we see that all the pleasures and treasures of this world are a hindrance to and a disadvantage in gaining eternal life and Christ. We can add up all our fame and honor, as testified by the parable of the rich fool. These things are not bad in themselves, but only in so far as we put our trust in them.
Paul did not even regard what he lost as precious. In light of what he gained, what he had lost was regarded as dung. In comparison to the knowledge of Christ, they stunk and were as refuse.
In this light, what is it that can be considered as gain? Having the knowledge of Christ, we gain Christ Himself. He is all important. What shall a man profit if he gain the whole world and lose Christ? In Christ is eternal life. In the world is eternal damnation. What would one lose if for Christ he lost all else? In Christ we see resurrection unto life. After that there are pleasures forever more, in contrast to that which passes away. There are depths of grace never fathomed, riches of love never tasted, and heights of glory never climbed. That is why Paul can say to the church that all things, yea, doubtless, are as dung. In this light we see that we have only a beginning of that knowledge, but we grow day by day in grace and truth. Knowing Him in part, we desire to know Him in all His fullness. Having tasted of His glory, we are not satisfied until we have gained Him completely.
Therefore, we, as well as Paul, must let the world take their dross. From the heights of faith we too can truly evaluate all things of this present world. Then we can count them as loss and as dung, if only we gain Christ. The world shall perish with its goods, but we shall live in the eternal tabernacle of God because we have Christ. Such is the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.