Let’s continue our look at Philippians 3.
7 But everything that was a gain to me
So, what had Paul considered to be a gain?
That comes from vv. 5-6 prior. Look at the text.
5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; 6 regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.
Let’s break these down a bit.
- “Circumcised the eighth day” — the rite which introduced him to the outward covenant of Abraham had been performed exactly when ordained by the law. Not late in life like an adult convert, not a few days off because of travel or illness or lazy parents, but RIGHT ON TIME as required by the law.
- “Of the nation of Israel” — What Paul means here is that his genetic lineage was pure Israelite, and this was a point of pride for him. This statement infers that he knew this to be true and could factually demonstrate it through a genealogical trace. You could not be more Israelite than Paul.
- “Of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born Hebrews” — Moses called the tribe of Benjamin as “beloved of the Lord. The ancient temple was built in the tribe of Benjamin. The first king of Israel was chosen from the tribe of Benjamin. In fact, Paul (also called SAUL), was named after him! So Paul was not only pure Israelite, but he came from the most special and beloved tribe of all Israelites. This made him a “Hebrew of Hebrews.”
- “Regarding the law, a Pharisee” — Paul belonged to the sect of Jews which attached the highest level of importance to the most minute details of the law. He was one who went to the extreme among extremists, one of those initiated into the innermost secrets of the faith.
- “Regarding zeal, persecuting the church” — Paul was so full of zeal and enthusiasm for his Jewishness and the law that those who appeared to speak against the law of Moses by declaring the gospel were counted as his enemies, whom he hunted down with all his might, as we’ve seen through the book of Acts. In other words, Paul was so self-righteous that he sought to kill anyone who declared the righteousness of Jesus as the means to salvation.
- “Regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless” — He finishes by saying that he himself was as to every detail of the law, every little point of ritual, and every particular rubric, altogether blameless. This was no small thing to say, but it was true.
So ALL of these things, Paul says in v. 7, was a gain to him.
Think of it in modern business terms. Let’s pretend we’re in the business of righteousness. The more holy and moral and obedient we are, the more successful we are.
If righteousness were a business, Paul would be Google. Paul would be Apple. He would be the picture of how one could be right before God by his own effort, earning profit in doing right. Nobody had earned more in good works, nobody had better mechanisms for earning more profit. His bank account was full and earning compounded interest. He was loaded.
Next time, we’ll look at the surprising statement he makes immediately after this.
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.