“All those things I once regarded as benefits, I know now were really detriments concerning salvation through Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss for the priceless privilege of knowing Jesus my Lord. For Him I have laid aside all else and regard former advantages as garbage in order that I may win Christ and be actually united with Him. I know I possessed no legal righteousness of my own (as derived from the Law) but now have the righteousness originating in Christ, founded upon faith.” (paraphrased)
In verses 4-6, Paul lists his credentials—his catalog of merits. But he realizes his track record has virtually become an indictment. All the things he once considers to be advantages actually hinder him and become stumbling blocks on the road to salvation in Christ. Paul knows things he once placed on the credit side of his ledger really belong on the debt side. As a Believer, he now categorically denies anyone can rely on past achievements as the basis of righteousness before God. He recognizes the only thing worth pursuing is his relationship with Jesus Christ.
As Paul looks back over three decades of apostolic ministry, his hindsight is crystal clear. He adds up his merits, only to compare them with garbage. Furthermore, Paul now regards past carnal attainments as having negative value. When he meets Christ on the way to Damascus, it means the renunciation of all that he has prized up to that time. No aspect of his comprehensive religious training prepares him for his encounter with the risen Jesus. Paul now disregards his status as a Pharisee. All reliance upon his birth, circumcision, heritage and race he views as useless.
When Paul surrenders to Christ on the Damascus Road, he asks Jesus two foundational questions: “Who are you, Lord?” and “What will you have me do?” (Acts 9:5-6). After Jesus answers the first question (“I am Jesus”), Paul spends the rest of his life attempting to answer the second question. God’s will for his life is now his specific focus. Paul loves the One who blinds him that day, experiencing clarity of vision only as God removes the scales from his eyes (9:18). Paul’s heart-cry is, “That I may know Him,” loving and serving the One who gave His life for him on the cross. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live…yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
“To be found in Him” means moving forward progressively and continuously in one’s walk with Jesus. True righteousness before God is not gained through observance of the law, but is freely granted as a gift of grace. It is neither a learned salvation nor an earned salvation. It is obtained by mercy, not attained by works.
Education, titles, position, social standing, wealth, and church attendance—all can be hindrances if relied upon for salvation. We are required to renounce all dependence upon personal merits and achievements. They are worthless compared to the excellency of knowing and serving Jesus. We must be willing to sacrifice everything for our personal relationship with Christ.
People often trust in secular advantages as alleged proof of God’s favor upon their lives. Paul’s list of personal attributes should serve as a warning against religious bigotry. Every Believer must trust solely in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for salvation. Two thousand years after Paul writes these words, the cost of true discipleship remains the same. “Whoever does not forsake all cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).
COMPENSATION – STUDY QUESTIONS
1. Paul feels that all of his past achievements:
A. were vital to his mission
B. gave him greater status than the other apostles
C. were worthless
D. had incredible value
E. none of the above
2. In verse 9, Paul writes concerning the value of:
3. In Galatians 2:21, what does Paul say is impossible to attain by keeping the law?
COMPENSATION – REFLECTION
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES
1. Paul had a tremendous education considering the era in which he lived. As married couple, which one of you has more education? Discuss how educational achievements help or hinder marital life.
2. Paul states he has willingly lost everything in order to know Christ (3:8). What things have you and your spouse sacrificed in order to have a stronger relationship with Jesus?
3. Have you or your mate had to sacrifice relationships with unbelieving relatives? Discuss how they react differently toward you as a Christian couple.
ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS
1. Paul had a tremendous education considering the era in which he lived. List everyplace you have attended school or college. Write a paragraph concerning how educational achievements help or hinder your personal life.
2. Paul states he has willingly lost everything in order to know Christ (3:8). What things have you sacrificed in order to have a stronger relationship with Jesus?
3. Have you had to sacrifice relationships with unbelieving relatives because of your relationship with Christ? If so, write a paragraph concerning how they now react differently toward you as a Christian.