The word of the day is “gain.” In our reading of Philippians 3:8-19, St. Paul states, “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…” (3:8). But this lofty statement begins in the middle of the Apostle’s thought.
Paul has railed against the Judaizers who are promoting circumcision to bind believers to the Mosaic Law. Like them, he says he once entrusted his salvation to his circumcision and obedience to the Law of Moses. He lists his credentials as a “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” a Pharisee who excelled in the righteousness of the Law.
To Lose and To Gain
He thought that these “works of the flesh” were for the “gain” of his salvation. But no, he found that they all were “loss.” Compared to Christ’s superior knowledge, his efforts to please God were like table scraps (Strong’s ‘#4657, 229). He had trusted in his own piety, but now it is only fit to be thrown to the dogs (vs. 8). Now, His righteousness is not his own. It is Christ’s. Paul has not earned it. But He has received it by grace.
What, then, does it mean to “gain Christ”? To have Christ is to have everything needed for salvation and even more. As St. Porphyrios says, “In Christ, there is everything–all that is beautiful, all that is healthy… all the gifts of the Spirit… all happiness (Porphyrios 2005, 176-77).
The Gain of Knowing Christ
To “gain Christ” is to know Him as the source of all these blessings. And to “know Him” is to share in His sufferings. It is to become like Him in His death. And it is finally to have the hope of sharing in His rising from the dead (vs. 10).
Knowing Christ is everything. St. Porphyrios said, “If you don’t have Christ and if you don’t occupy yourself with holy matters, you will certainly be filled with melancholy and evil” (Porphyrios 2005, 177). So we might consider today, what are the things that we must count as “loss” so that we might “gain” Christ by knowing Him?
Porphyrios, St. 2005. Wounded by Love: the Life and the Wisdom of Saint Porphyrios. Translated by John Raffan. Limni, Evia, Greece: Denise Harvey, Publisher.