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Paul said that he counted old ”things” loss for Christ, and rubbish or dung – Phil. 3:7-8

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What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ – for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as RUBBISH / Phil. 3:7-8, KJV

In order to understand which ”things” he was talking about, we must of course read the context. The subject of this chapter concerns the issue of Jewish circumcision which is an example of a ceremonial law within the Law of Moses. The Bible tells us that the Law of Moses started with the time of Moses and it lasted until the time of Jesus (Gal. 3:19). Before and after this period man on earth was certainly not supposed to be lawless, and even today we are expected to live according to the Spirit instead of the flesh. Paul tells us in Romans 6 and 8 that if we live according to the flesh we will die and if we live according to the Spirit we will live. That is a condition for salvation – that we must make sure to abide in Christ.

In Phil. 3 Paul is giving serious instructions to the Philippians. He also explains that those who are the ”circumcision” (being circumcised in heart) are those who worship God in the Spirit. (I’ve chosen NKJV here in order to use a more simple language.):

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, (NKJV)

Paul further explains that he himself has a background as a Jew under the law, and he thoroughly believed in the idea of circumcision in order to be obedient to the Law of Moses. He is talking about the circumcision which is in the flesh, rather than in the heart. When it comes to the law of Moses, Paul considered himself blameless – as in doing everything to keep all the multiple regulations down to the smallest detail and MORE.

4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

However, Jesus explained that the problem with the pharisees was that they were hypocrites and that they did NOT have a clean INSIDE despite their zeal to be obedient to their scriptures. In fact, they lived in lawlessness because they had unclean hearts! We are not under the law if we are led by the Spirit:

Matt. 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)

Matt. 23:3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.—13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.—  —25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Gal. 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Paul compares the status he had as a pharisee under the law of Moses, and which often included works ”to be seen by men”, with the new life in Christ which is not about being seen by men at all but about having a pure heart and by loving our neighbor as yourself. (We are not able to have a pure heart if we still sin. ) Paul gave up his own esteemed life (in the eyes of men) in order to be a servant of Christ, and that means that he also gave up earthly power and instead became an often despised christian. He thought his new life as a christian was well worth it, and he compared his old life – as a highly regarded pharisee – as nothing but dung. ”Loss of all things” could also include other worldly things, which amount to nothing in comparison with the pearl he found in Jesus:

7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

Naturally it was not the Law of Moses that was considered rubbish because God wouldn’t make any bad laws for us during any time. Being obedient to God is never considered rubbish! As a pharisee, Paul didn’t realize that the Law of Moses would pass away, to be replaced with an era where the Holy Spirit is our ruler and Jesus Christ the King. Paul discovered that the new life in Christ was not about obeying the ceremonial Jewish laws any more (as before) but about having faith in Jesus! The righteousness which is from God includes the possibility to be cleansed from our sins in the blood of Jesus who died for our sins, and that happens upon our repentance and our FAITH in Jesus Christ. Repentance means that we confess our sins and make a decision to be servants of Jesus, leading to our new birth. Paul is clear that we are not able to serve two masters and still be saved. The Law of Moses is in our past, but this doesn’t mean that we have no laws to follow. It’s still a sin to murder, steal, commit adultery and lie. It’s still a sin to deny Jesus, to refuse to forgive a brother and to take the mark of the beast. We still risk the wrath of God if we combine obedience with disobedience and refuse to repent. :

 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

The subject concerns the resurrection from the death, and that is what Paul has in mind when he says that he is not already ”perfected”. Not even Jesus Christ was ”perfected” until after his glorification. We are able to live morally perfect here on earth, but the truth is of course that we have often chosen to be disobedient to God. Paul presses forward in holiness to reach the prize.

11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected (”perfect”, KJV); but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul refers to ”us, as many as are perfect”, and he encourages the Philippians to walk by the same rule and being of the same mind.

15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature (”perfect”, KJV), have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Paul also said:

Phil 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain

and Paul made it very clear to the Galatians that it was nothing but wrong to suggest that circumcision (or other ceremonial laws) is a requirement for salvation. Paul was certainly not angry at the Galatians because they continued to teach the importance of avoiding murder, adultery, theft and lies, but about reverting back to the Law of Moses with the ceremonial laws. Being obedient to God by treating our neighbors as we would like to be treated ourselves, is not a sin and nothing to be mad about. If the Galatians were under the impression that circumcision still applied, then also the rest of the 613 still applied. If that is the case, Jesus Christ died in vain. We are saved by faith and not by the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was to apply until the seed would come which is Jesus, but this doesn’t mean that we have no sets of laws to follow today. We are expected to live according to the Spirit, and if we believe in Jesus Christ, we love him and obey him.

Gal. 3:1  O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.—7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.— 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The IMPUTED righteousness of CHRIST – is not Biblical

And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it [believing God] was IMPUTED UNTO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS: and he was called the Friend of God. James. 2:23 

hypocriteThe word ”imputed” comes from the Greek word ”logizomai” (Strong’s 3049) which could be translated as ”reckon, count, charge with; reason, decide, conclude; think or suppose”. Notice that it doesn’t mean ”transfer”, but rather ”reckoned” or ”counted as”.

The word is found 41 times in the New Testament, and 4 of those times the word is translated as ”impute” in the KJV.  Rom 4:6-11 and  22-24 have the same Greek word (logizomai) as in James 2:23, and it doesn’t mean ”transfer” there either. These verses use the same word even if they are translated differently:

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it [believing God] was counted unto him for righteousness. Rom. 4:3

Even as Abraham believed God, and it [believing God] was accounted to him for righteousness. Gal. 3:6

And therefore it [faith] was imputed to him for righteousness. Rom. 4:22

CountedRom 2:26, Rom 4:3, Rom 4:5, Rom 9:8, Reckoned = Luk 22:37, Rom 4:4, Rom 4:9-10 and Rom 6:11, Rom 8:18, Accounted = Rom 8:36, Gal 3:6

We are asked to be righteous just like Jesus is righteous  

This doesn’t mean that the only means to get saved is to have lived a life free of sins just like Jesus did, but neither is the promise”If you only believe in Jesus, he will confirm you as righteous even if you’re not”. First we must be cleansed in the blood of Jesus – upon repentance – and then the idea is to be led by the Spirit and not by the flesh, which no one else will do for us. We are not able to go piggybacking on Jesus.

1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.7 Little children, let no man deceive you: HE THAT DOETH RIGHTEOUSNESS IS RIGHTEOUS, EVEN AS HE IS RIGHTEOUS.8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

God’s wrath is still upon us if we sin, and if we are under God’s wrath we are not saved.

John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (NASB)

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Romans 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

Jesus righteousness cannot be transferred/injected into us and we are not righteous unless we LIVE righteously

Our righteousness does not depend on being injected another person’s righteousness, but our righteousness depends on how we live our lives.  

Jesus lived a perfect life (always being obedient to God the Father) and died on the cross for us, and in THAT WAY he is our righteousness. Had Jesus not lived an obedient life for us, he could not have been our righteousness, because the atonement wouldn’t have been perfect. He is NOT our righteousness because he has transferred his righteousness into us (and neither did he literally take our sins on himself as in some kind of an exchange) to make us righteous in position despite that we still live in sin. It’s important to understand that Jesus did NOT obey our moral obligations for us and instead of us!  The Bible talks about imputed righteousness but NEVER the imputed righteousness ”of Christ.  We can read about the righteousness of GOD throughout the Bible (and that Jesus is righteous), but the idea that God looks upon us and sees the righteousness of Christ in us (or the blood of Jesus) instead of our sin, will result in a license to sin. When God looked at the churches in Revelation, he DID notice their sins and asked them to repent.

We are not justified by the works of the law but by God’s grace, so to say that we need perfect obedience to the Torah to be credited to our account in order to be justified is justification by works instead of justification by grace/mercy. God cannot declare the guilty to be innocent – like in a forensic justification – as that would be a lie, but God can PARDON the guilty and he does so if the guilty person repents from his sins.

Abraham is given as an example when it comes to being righteous/justified through faith, because he was counted as righteous BEFORE the law of Moses started to apply. Not all who have Abraham as a forefather are the children of Abraham and saved, but only those who are spiritually circumcised (in their hearts) and BELIEVE the way he did – and he showed his faith with some amazing deeds (work). Those who WALK as he did and obey God as he did (which is something we DO) are circumcised in heart and the true children of Abraham. We do not deserve salvation by anything we do (or believe) but faith without deeds is dead.  We can read ”blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin”, which shows that all people apparently don’t have sin – namely those whom the Lord do not impute sin. Who are they? They are the ones who have confessed their sins, repented and who walk with Jesus. So when we read ”God imputeth righteousness without works”, it means the works of the law (the Torah and the 613 laws in it), and naturally God wouldn’t impute righteousness to Abraham if he only sat under a tree and ”believed” without showing his faith by OBEDIENCE. Not obedience to the law of Moses (which didn’t exist at the time) but obedience to GOD.

When it comes to Rom. 4:6, it doesn’t say that a person is especially appreciated and blessed if he doesn’t have any works to show up at all and that he only has ”faith alone”. If that were true, it would mean that the less works we have, the more blessed we are and the better it is. No, Paul’s point is to get the jews to understand that they are not saved due to being born Jews and/or for obeying the Torah (613 laws), but a person is blessed/saved if he repents from his sins, believes in Jesus and through this procedure becomes cleansed from his sins. Those are blessed whose trespasses are FORGIVEN, because then God will not impute sin to them. Does this wonderful promise only apply to the Jews? No, Paul wants them to understand that also the uncircumcised (the gentiles) have his promise which is by faith and not by law. Notice how many times we can read about ”circumcision”, so this is what is in focus (the ceremonial law) because the Jews were so concerned about it.

Rom. 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.—20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

James doesn’t contradict what Paul is saying. James says that Abraham was justified BY WORKS, and not faith alone. Are we perhaps teaching salvation by works if we choose to quote James?

James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. 

Paul is not disappointed with the Galatians for their suggestion that it’s still necessary to obey the ten commandments faith alone 3

In the letter to the Galatians, the reason for Paul’s objection to Galatians’s attitude is NOT because they wanted to return to silly old laws such as the ten commandments – just like ”Do not kill, steal, lie or commit adultery”. Why would he be disappointed or upset about that? Those commandments have been in use ever since the days of Adam, and they never cease to apply. No, Paul was disappointed with their teaching that circumcision – which is a ceremonial law in the Torah – was still necessary for salvation. The ceremonial laws are not necessary for salvation, but the law of love certainly is (and the ten commandments provide details of how the law of love works). Paul makes a different between the works of the law (Torah), and the obedience of the holy Spirit.  The Torah was our  schoolmaster to keep us in order  until the arrival of Jesus – after Jesus death the holy Spirit took over as our guide – and we’re supposed to have the law of love in our hearts. We will never be ”free” from the requirement to love God and our neighbor as ourselves, and as long we are slaves to sin (obey sin) we are definitely not free.

Acts. 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

Gal. 3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.— 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.—22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Paul makes it clear that sinning = spiritual death (also for christians).

Gal. 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

The significance of having our faith ”imputed” as righteousness, is that God forgives us our transgressions and treats us as though we have never sinned. This means that our sins disappears (without taking a detour in the body of Jesus) and God doesn’t have to LIE to declare us not guilty.  We are 100% cleansed when we are forgiven and free from our sins, but it doesn’t say ”once cleansed always cleansed”. If we become dirty once again, we’re back at square one.

2 Cor. 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.filthy pig

2 Pet. 2: 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.