Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week Paul continued in the theme of joy. He began chapter 2 telling the Christians at Philippi if they have experienced encouragement in Christ, comfort from Christ’s love, and shared in the Holy Spirit then “make my joy complete being like-minded and having the same love being one in spirit and of one mind. It was important to Paul for them to have the mind of Christ and to operate in unity and on one accord.
He again warns against selfish ambition and vainglory or vain conceit. Instead Paul encouraged the Philippians and us to “value others above yourselves”. Humility is the key and Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of humility that Christians should follow. As Paul addressed relationships, we were reminded that our relationships are horizontal and vertical. Horizontal relationships are with our everyday encounters with family, friends, coworkers and even strangers. Vertical relationships deal with our relationship with God. If the horizontal relationship is unbalanced, the vertical relationship is likely unbalance also.
Finally, we were reminded that God has given Jesus a name which is above every name. Names are important and throughout Scripture Jesus and God are referred to by many different names. Not only has Jesus been given a name above every name, but at that name everyone will confess that Jesus is also Lord.
Last week’s lesson connects to this week through the continuing themes of submission and love. We see in this week Paul addressing the proper attitude toward our accomplishments and again dealings with the idea of personal sacrifices for the cause of Christ. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title this week’s lesson “Renounce Everything for Christ”. Standard Commentary titles it “Press on in Christ”. The Scripture text comes from Philippians 3:7-14.
When this letter is written the city of Philippi is under Roman rule. Philippi is named in honor of King Phillip II of Macedon, who was the father of Alexander the Great (Boyd’s). Most of its citizens were Romans and they enjoy all the benefits of Roman citizenship. In this chapter Paul is likely thinking of his own eternal benefits. He mentions his earthly qualifications and concludes they are nothing but useless for his resurrection and the cause of Christ.
Keep in mind Paul is imprisoned when writing this letter. He is writing to express his joy to the Philippians partly because he wanted them to know of his joy in Christ. He also writes because the Philippians had heard of his imprisonment and suffering. Some people believed that an Apostle of Jesus Christ was not supposed to suffer. In other words, if you are suffering either your God is not real or you have committed some sin to cause your suffering. So after all of these years of service for Jesus Christ Paul is still dealing with credibility issues. His credibility is at stake and he writes to also set the record straight. Note the harsh description of his opponents in the first verses of this chapter. He is not suffering because of sin but because of his love for Jesus Christ.
Yet, even in prison Paul finds joy in Christ. It is one of his “prison epistles,” the others being Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon (Townsend). Throughout Philippians Paul exhorts the ideas of joy, affection, loyalty, and sharing. In this letter Paul helps us to understand that even when we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we respond. His example is to respond with trust, confidence, and joy in Christ.
What takes place in this passage:
In verses four through six (not is today’s text) Paul lists some of his Jewish bona fides. His Jewish qualifications cannot be questioned or disputed. His accomplishments, honors, reputation, and standing as a Jew were indisputable. He uses that esteem to make the point that any and all of his Jewish accomplishments were worthless in comparison to the value of knowing Jesus Christ. Paul is not concerned with his own righteousness but the righteousness of God based on faith. While imprisoned Paul acknowledges that nothing else really matters. He gladly counts all of his personal losses as nothing but dung for the cause of Jesus Christ. When Paul talks of sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ and becoming like him in his death so that he could attain resurrection of the dead, some commentaries speculate that he is probably talking about baptism (see Romans 6 and Colossians 2:11-15 (Townsend)).
Verses 12 through 14 is a reminder, a sort of “reality check” that Paul knows he has not arrived. Yet while it is a reality check, and he recognizes his situation and status, he also “doubles down” on his commitment to Christ. Paul gladly forgets, forfeits, and renounces all that he has accomplished looking forward to what lies ahead. This is how he presses forward to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Does it bring you joy? Mari Kondo’s method of organizing homes is known as the KonMari method, and consists of gathering together all of one’s belongings, one category at a time, and then keeping only those things that “spark joy” (Wikipedia). Does it bring you joy? In this text Paul found joy in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. No matter what joys, excitement, pleasures, troubles or problems Paul faced in life, what brought him joy was Jesus Christ. Of all of his accomplishments in life he would gladly count them as nothing but dung for the cause and knowledge of Jesus Christ. He was determined to forget the past and look forward to the future. Specifically, he would forget the past requirements of the Law such as circumcision and look forward to the prize of freedom and liberty in Christ.
Key Characters in the text:
Paul – When this text is written he is an old man, imprisoned and prepared for his death. He is an Apostle of Jesus Christ because he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The most prolific writer of New Testament books and martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Humble – not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive 2: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission.
Sacrifice – something of value offered as an act of worship or devotion to God.
Renounce – to give up, refuse, or resign usually by formal declaration
Themes in this Lesson:
- Only what you do for Christ will last
- What will you lose in order to gain
- Keep pressing – Don’t quit now
- Does it bring joy
1. Paul uses common if not harsh language in verse two. Who is he describing in this way?
2. Paul warned the Philippians against those who preached keeping the Jewish Law of circumcision and other requirements. What Jewish customs, traditions, rules, or laws should Christians keep today.
Paul sacrificed everything for Jesus Christ. This is how he pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. It’s easy to talk about sacrifice. It’s easy to say things like WWJD (what would Jesus Do). But real sacrifice is difficult. What are you willing to sacrifice when we have so much evidence of evil and corruption in our society? Are you willing to give up a weekend to march for justice? Are you willing to commit to financially supporting worthy justice organizations? What brings you joy?
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week’s lesson takes us back to the Old Testament. This time we look back about 700 years before Christ to Psalm 48. In Jerusalem, the writer helps us understand even if everything else changes, our love for God never should.