Paul’s Example

Paul’s Example

Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
–Philippians 3:7

In Philippians 3:4-11, Paul described how his attitude about good works changed after his conversion. First, look at Paul’s attitude about his good works before he was saved. He said, “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more” (v. 4). Paul was saying, “If anybody could be saved by their good works, surely it would be me.” Verse 5 says he was born a Jew and “circumcised the eighth day.” Not only that, he was “of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Both of Paul’s parents were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he was of the kingly tribe, the tribe of Benjamin. Paul was a true-blue Jew–“a Hebrew of Hebrews.” That was his pedigree.

Then Paul said, “As to the Law, a Pharisee.” Today we think of the Pharisees as villains, but the Pharisees were a sect of Jews who adhered to the Word of God. In a culture that was being destroyed by the hedonism of the Greeks and Romans, the Pharisees held the standards of God’s Word. Today, we would call them the far right.

Paul continued in verse 6, “As to zeal, a persecutor of the church.” Paul thought he was doing God’s work by stamping out Christianity. Then he added, “As to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” But Paul’s attitude toward his good works changed dramatically when he came face-to-face with Jesus Christ.

Notice how Paul’s attitude toward good works changed after his conversion: “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (v. 7). Paul realized that as long as he was clutching his good works as his ticket into heaven, he could not receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. He continued, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (v. 8). Most lexicographers say Paul used the word for human excrement here. He was saying, “My good works are like human excrement in the sight of God.” It’s all a matter of perspective when you compare the best you can do to the perfection God requires to enter heaven. Paul’s desire was to “be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (v. 9).

How are you going to approach God on judgment day? Do you want to stand before Him in your own righteousness? Or do you want to receive as a gift the righteousness that God offers through Jesus Christ? That’s the choice we must all face. And the message of the Bible is that none of us is good enough to come before God in our own righteousness.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Treasure or Trash?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2007.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.