Exegetical Paper Philippians 3:7-11
BIBL 301 Interpreting the Bible – Week 4
Instructor: Jason Rodenbeck
Week 4 – Philippians 3:7-11
In the Book of Acts, chapter 16, verses 11-40, Paul and his brothers in Christ began the church at Philippi on his second missionary journey. This church was the first established on the European continent. It is in the Book of Philippians that the author Paul was writing to all of the Christians at Philippi, thanking them for the gift they had sent to him. He was also writing to strengthen these believers by showing them that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone. This particular letter was written approximately A.D. 61, from Rome during Paul’s imprisonment there. In Paul’s letters, he teaches his readers to seek first the kingdom of God, even if it leads to great suffering and hardship. By the time Paul wrote this particular letter to the Philippians, he has undergone deep suffering for the cause of Christ. Some of the sufferings included beatings, lashings, being stoned, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, outdoor elements and other dangers. Paul, like the other Apostles before him rejoiced to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ's namesake. This is just what Jesus had said in Matthew 5:10-12 that we are blessed when we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness and that we should rejoice because our reward in heaven is great and so the prophets before us were also persecuted.
In his commentary on Philippians, Vincent Cheung states that Paul discovered that mere human credentials could never save anyone, since salvation is by grace through faith, and not by the works of the law. He could not depend on both grace and works for justification, since these two ways are mutually exclusive: "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6). Therefore, in order to depend on the sovereign grace of God, Paul has to renounce his human credentials. He has to count as "rubbish" (literally, "dung") all of his human merits, and all the things that he used to perceive as his valuable assets and achievements. He cannot consider his human credentials as merely insufficient; rather, he cannot regard them as giving him any credit at all, but as things that actually increase his debt to God. Thus he renounces them, and flings himself down at the feet of Christ in total helplessness and dependence on his mercy. 1
In Robert H. Mounce’s commentary, he takes a deeper look into Philippians 3:7- 8a, and finds that Paul believes that no earthly honor, or preferment, no mortal achievement, no wealth, social standing or earthly glory would the great apostle exchange for the knowledge of Christ. Paul’s statement, “The loss of all things” leaves us to wonder what all this might have included. Was his wife, or family, included in the things he lost? No one can say, but the haunting possibility exists. Whatever he lost for the sake of gaining Christ, Paul considered his status as a child of God far above and beyond any privilege he might have lost. 2 In verses 8b and 9, Paul makes a clear statement of justification by faith. Article 22 of the Belgic Confession states: For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely. Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God – for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified "by faith alone" or by faith "apart from works." However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us – for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our