Letter of Joy–Philippians 3:1–11(the Greater Purpose of Life)

After a reminder to rejoice in God, Paul gives the Philippians a warning. There were people called Judaizers who believed Gentiles had to convert to Judaism—and adopt all their customs, such as circumcision—in order to be Christians. The Judaizers were trying to add to the gospel by creating a list of requirements for people to be saved. The core problem of the Judaizers was pride—they boasted about their status as Jews and thought everyone had to be like them to be saved. 

Paul would have none of it, so he pulls from his own life to show how the Judaizers’ claims were unfounded. Paul lists off his credibility at the beginning of this passage. But instead of bragging about himself, he considers everything he gained in life a loss. In addition to counting everything in his life as garbage, Paul doesn’t care if he suffers—he knows that following Jesus is worth any loss or pain or sorrow.

We can see a contrast in this passage. There’s the way the world wants us to live—selfishly—and the way of Christ. To have the same attitude as Paul describes directly contradicts the message of the world around us. But for Paul, giving up everything for Jesus is worth it. He presents a threefold purpose behind his life: (1) knowing Jesus, (2) being found in Christ and his righteousness, and (3) hoping in the future resurrection when Jesus returns.

Paul recognized the greater purpose of his life. He realized that knowing Jesus was greater than anything he could gain on earth—no social status, income bracket, or promotion could compare. He also hoped for the future resurrection of his body when Jesus returns. Instead of setting his eyes on the world around him, he chose to look to Jesus.

We constantly face the temptation to put ourselves before Jesus. Like the Judaizers, we can pridefully think that we can add to the gospel through programs or church attendance or political affiliations. But even if we were the most fantastic super Christians, it wouldn’t mean anything. What we obtain on this earth will pass away. But what we gain through Jesus—a relationship with the living God, status as a member of God’s family, and hope in that resurrection comes after death—will always remain true.

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