That We Might Win Christ
June 2nd, 1957 @ 10:50 AM
THAT WE MIGHT WIN CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6/2/57 10:50 a.m.
You’re listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas at its 11:00 morning worship hour. This is the pastor bringing the morning message from the third chapter of the Book of Philippians from the fourth through the eighth verses – Philippians 3:4-8:
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ.
Sometimes, many are persuaded that religion is a matter of fanaticism. It’s a matter of momentary, swept-away enthusiasm. But in no case, some think, would religion be a matter of logic, of cool calculation, of addition and subtraction, of pondering, of thought.
Real religion is just the opposite of what so many people think. There is in real and true religion hardly anything that the world calls blind fanaticism. There is absolutely nothing in real and true religion of being swept away by a momentary enthusiasm, wild imaginations, feverish excitement. Honest and true and real religion can always be subject to scrutiny, to pondering, to thought. And the more one would give himself honestly to such an appraisal of the faith of our Lord, the more would it be honestly and truly persuaded of its superlative worth and its celestial revelation.
For example, the Lord Jesus Himself, when the people were crowding Him on every side and the multitudes following fast and hard after Him, He turned around and said count the cost: "What man, when he builds a tower, will not first sit down and see whether he is able to complete it before he starts the structure? What man," He says, "if he is a king and goes to war, does not first sit down, and ponder and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to go against him with twenty thousand?" [from Luke 14:28, 31]. So, He said, count the cost. Add it up and see whether or not you want to be a follower of Christ.
Now, Paul is doing that identical thing here in my text. Three times – beside further along in the third chapter – three times does he use a mercantile word: "count" – account, adding up, subtracting his gains and his losses, putting one against the other. What he’s doing here is like a merchant man, like a mercantile man, like a man running a business downtown, and he takes stock and inventory, and he adds up and he compares and he sees how his business stands, whether it’s good or whether it’s bad.
That’s the identical thing Paul is doing here about Christ. On one side, he puts his losses. On the other side, he puts his gains. And he adds them together and sees how it fares with him and his soul. So, let’s go with Paul. Let’s stand by his side. Let’s add up the things that he adds. Let’s subtract the things that he subtracts. Let’s look at his gains. Let’s look at his losses. Let’s see what he says.
Now, first, he uses that word in the past tense: "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ" [Philippians 3:7]. And by using that past tense, he refers to the day when he turned aside from that self-chosen, ambitious way that he was following – when he turned aside and became a Christian, when he was no longer Saul of Tarsus, the pride of the school of Gamaliel, but when he became Paul, the poor preacher of Jesus Christ [Acts 22:1-21].
So, he’s going to the past now, looking to the past. "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ" [Philippians 3:7] going back there to the day when he made the great decision and gave up his own life that he might follow Jesus [Galatians 2:20].
What about that? What about that? What were the things that he gave up, and what were the things that he gained then when he became a Christian?
Well, he lists them here. But what things were gain? Now, you have that translated singular. Kerdē is plural. "But what things were gains to me" back there before he became a Christian, he ponders each one of them and he lists each one of them. From the fourth through the sixth verses there, he names them. He catalogs them – those things that were kerdē, "gains," to him.
And when he thinks of them, they once were the apples of his eye. They once were pearls of price. They once were the occasion of his boastings in the Lord. They were the patent of his nobility. They were the heraldry of his present prospects and the noble future that awaited him.
What were those things that were gains to him back there before he became a Christian? Well, he lists them here very deliberately and one by one: ad seriatum, catalogs them.
"Circumcised the eighth day" [Philippians 3:5]: that is, he wasn’t the son of a proselyte nor was he a proselyte himself, but he was a son of religious parents who did not neglect their parental duty.
Second, "of the stock of Israel" [from Philippians 3:5]: not a descendant of the Gibeonites or of some other proselyte, but he could trace his genealogy clear back to Jacob himself.
"Of the tribe of Benjamin" [from Philippians 3:5]: Benjamin was the son of Rachel, the beloved [Genesis 29:18-20; 35:16-18]. Benjamin gave the first king, Saul, to Israel [1 Samuel 9:15-17]. Benjamin was with Judah when the kingdom was divided [1 Kings 12:21].
"An Hebrew of the Hebrews" [Philippians 3:5]: of God’s chosen people. Of God’s select race, he was one of the purest.
"As touching the law, a Pharisee" [Philippians 3:5]: the strictest of all of the sects of those who were committed to the Law of Moses.
"Concerning zeal, persecuting the church" [Philippians 3:6]: he had a righteousness and a zeal for God that knew no brooking. Heresy was to be stamped out and the Law of Moses to be upheld [Acts 9:1-2, 26:9-11].
"Touching righteousness which is in the law, blameless" [Philippians 3:6]: as a Pharisee, every jot, every tittle, every precept, every commandment – just keeping it according to the most rigorous traditions of the Pharisees.
These things Paul puts down on one side as those things that once were gains to him – things to boast of, things to be proud of. Like Paul says in the third chapter of Romans: "Of what advantage is it to be a Jew? Much every way" [from Romans 3:1-2]. These are the gains.
Then he says: "But these things that are gains to me, those I counted loss" [Philippians 3:7] – zēmia, singular. Puts them all together on this side – all of them together: "I counted them a loss for Christ."
On the other side, just one item – just one thing in the catalog. On this side, the Lord Jesus Christ; on the other side, all of these things of which he once did boast. Then he says: "All of these things of which once I did boast, I count them now a loss that I might have Christ" [Philippians 3:7].
What Paul means is not that to be a Jew was a loss, to be of the stock of Benjamin was a loss, to be a Hebrew of the Hebrews was a loss. But what he means is this: that he now looks upon those favored inheritances and those favorite advantages that once were his – he now looks upon them as being disadvantages because they led him to reject Christ. They led him away from the Lord. They blinded his eyes as scales, and they veiled his heart from the true faith in the Lord Jesus.
Anything that keeps you from the simple trust and faith in the Lord is a disadvantage. It is a loss. If a man boasts of his character and the nobility of his moral life and that keeps him away from Christ, then his very character and the nobility of his life is a loss.
A boy sat down at a table in a home where I was a guest – a young fellow about seventeen years old. And as we broke bread together, I said to the lad, I said, "Fellow, are you a Christian?"
And the boy looked back straight at me and said, "No, sir. I am no Christian. I am a lost sinner."
Oh, how easy it is to talk to a man who will look the pastor in the eye and say honestly and truthfully, "Pastor, I am a sinner." But my trouble is I don’t find those men. When I talk to a man, seated by him in the airplane, when I meet him on the street, to me and to the world, he is a fine, upright, moral citizen, and he’s going to heaven in his own strength and in his own goodness. I say that very character and that very strength and that very goodness is a disadvantage. It takes him away from Christ.
We have to be like the apostle Paul who looks upon all of those things of which he would boast and of which he would glory – he looks upon them as losses, as disadvantages, and he gives them up that he might have Christ. "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ" [Philippians 3:7].
How many are there among us who look upon pride of place? And who themselves, if you were to invite them, would you come down that aisle and stand by my side, and, before this congregation, confess your faith in the Lord Jesus? Would you humbly, as a suppliant, bow down before God and confess yourself a lost sinner? Would you ask God for the portent of your sins, and would you be baptized in obedience to the great command of the Lord? [Matthew 28:19-20]
And the man rises in his dignity, and he rises in his reputation, and he rises in his business place in the sun, and he says, "It is inconceivable that I would walk down that aisle and, before those people, confess myself a sinner and importune the mercies of God and be baptized. If I belong to any religious faith," this proud citizen says, "I will belong to one with great show and with beautiful vestments and with beautiful adorning and garments. And when I am baptized, I will be beautifully christened at a font." Ah, how God despises the show and the ceremony and the ostentation of the man and hides away the true fact that we are sinners and we must bow before the Lord, and we must humble ourselves before God, and we must cast off all of these prideful things, and poor and naked and lost sinners ask God to give us Jesus in our hearts and to save us from our sins! [Luke 7:37-50, 18:9-14]
That’s what he meant when he said, "All of those things of which I was proud, these I now count disadvantages – I now count them losses, that I might have Christ" [from Philippians 3:7]. That’s the accounting as you look to the past when he became a Christian, when he was converted.
Now, look at him. What about the present? What about the now? "Paul, that might be sufficient for the years ago in enthusiasm and in first venturing out in the faith of the Lord. Maybe you felt that way then, but we’d like to know how do you count it now after five and twenty years following Christ? How do you add it up now? How is it with you now, Paul? After you’ve been a Christian twenty years, how is it now?"
And Paul replies, "Look, yea doubtless" [from Philippians 3:8]. That is the strangest construction in the Greek language that I ever read in my life. There are five little separate Greek particles. That doesn’t mean anything to you for me to say "Greek particle," and I haven’t time to explain it if I could.
In the Greek language there, there are five Greek particles there that make the most deep-souled affirmation that the apostle could say. You have it translated: "Yea, doubtless, and I do count all things . . . " [Philippians 3:8]
Look at these particles: Alla men oun ge kai, then he starts off. "Alla men oun ge kai" before he says it. But how would you translate those particles?
Well, you could translate them "even so," "therefore," "doubtless," "yea, "verily," "amen." Five of them: you have it translated "yea, doubtless." Five of them there: "Yea, verily," "without doubt," "absolutely, positively," "amen," "yea, doubtless."
"And I" – then he’s present tense: "And I do count right now all things" [Philippians 3:8]. He doesn’t list them like he did up here again, but, lest he might have omitted one that meant something to him – that stood between him and the Lord – he just includes it. "Yea, doubtless, everything, everything I count a loss for the excellency" – huperechon – "the superlative merit, the marvelous, celestial word for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" [from Philippians 3:8]. As he looks at it now – he he makes inventory now, he takes stock now – there are these things that he gives up now that separate between him and Christ: gives them up – losses, disadvantages.
And on the other side is "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" [Philippians 3:8]. And he emphasizes that excellency: "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." What is that "excellency"? The "excellency" – the superlative, celestial worth and merit of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Well, it’s the most wonderful, superlative, celestial, heavenly knowledge in the world, the knowledge of Christ. It will save us. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent" [John 17:3]. It’s the most excellent knowledge because it saves us. It carries us to heaven. It opens the doors of glory. It is the most excellent knowledge because it brings us into communion with God.
I may know the rocks and the stars and physics and science and chemistry, but these are barren subjects unless I know the God who made them and created them. What fellowship can a man have with a rock? What fellowship can a man have with a star? What communion can a man have with physics or chemistry? But, oh, what communion and what fellowship, heavenly and divine, can a man have with God our Maker and our Savior!
The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord [Philippians 3:8]. It is an eternal knowledge. Oh, so much of what we learn now will be of no account in the world that is to come! So much of what we stuff our heads with will be trivial and meaningless in this age that is to come.
Could I be facetious here for a moment? I don’t mean to cast any reflection on what we learned in school, but, being a graduation time, this came into my head when I was thinking through this. I was taught so many things in the long years I went to school: for example, algebra and geometry and trigonometry. I am now seven and forty years of age, and I have never yet had one occasion in my life to use one single instance of anything I ever learned in my two years of algebra, my year of geometry, and my year of trigonometry. I think of that boy who, at the end of the class season, Potmeyer, wrote in his algebra book: "In case of fire, throw this in."
But, oh, I say those things facetiously not casting aspersion upon what we can learn at the feet of a science teacher or at the feet of a philosopher or at the feet of those who teach in school and in college. We ought to sit at their feet and learn ideas, and I’m glad. You should and you will and have.
But, by comparison, I say, by comparison, what a man could learn in science or in art or in literature or in philosophy is in no wise to be compared with the queen of all of the sciences and the most heavenly of all of the knowledge: the knowledge of the excellency of the love and saving power of Jesus Christ. It is a knowledge that is taught by the divine teacher God Himself. "Flesh and blood have not revealed this unto thee," said our Lord, "but My Father which is in heaven" [Matthew 16:17]. It is a learning. It is a science you can never learn at the feet of a man who teaches or through years of research, but it is a knowledge that comes to those who are quickened by the Holy Spirit of God and whose hearts are taught of the Lord.
And, oh, this excellent knowledge: "And I count everything but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" [Philippians 3:8]. This knowledge: how different from the knowledge of the world. So much of the knowledge of the world puffs up and makes one proud and egotistical and supercilious and superior. There are no superiors like the intellectual superiors who disdain and look in condescension on all of the hoi polloi and the am haaretz that are around them – no superciliousness like intellectual superiority.
This knowledge humbles. The more a man knows of God, the less will he esteem himself [John 3:30]. This knowledge is so different. So much of what a man can learn in this life beclouds his mind and darkens his heart and compromises his soul.
Young people, let me tell you something. I have come to a very deep and definite persuasion of a thing that once I didn’t know. I used to think that anything that was we ought to see and we ought to know. It’s a fact of life. It’s a part of living. Therefore, if it is, I am at liberty to learn it and to know it and to see it.
Young people, that is a fallacy of Satan himself. There are lots of knowledges you ought not to learn [Matthew 10:16; 1 Corinthians 14:20]. There are lots of facts you ought not to know. There are lots of things you ought not to see [Psalm 101:30]. There are many things you ought not to hear.
Yesterday, in a certain group, some of those men were passing around a little printed leaf about that big. It was one of those pornographic, all-colored, sexual, dirty things. And one would read it, one would read it, another would read it, and laugh and enjoy its salacious sentences.
And when it came my turn where I could pick it up, I put my hand behind my back and I turned my face and I busied myself with something else. What it was, I do not know. What it was, I had no right to know! There are some things, there are some knowledges, there are some things that dirty a man’s soul and cloud the man’s heart and compromise a man’s life [Psalm 101:3; 1 Corinthians 6:18]. Young men, I don’t think you ought to go to some places, and I don’t think you ought to see some things, and I don’t think you ought to listen to others.
But this knowledge – this is the excellency of all of the knowledges in the earth [John 17:3; Philippians 3:8]. It sanctifies. It purifies. It edifies. It exalts. It ennobles. It makes a man like God this knowledge, this knowledge, and it blesses forever. Wherever it touches, there does it bless. In the home, in childhood, in old age, in sickness, in sorrow, in need, in death, in business, in the church – wherever this knowledge, there does it bless and sanctify.
"All of these things," says Paul, "that were gains to me, these I count losses for the excellency of this knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" [from Philippians 3:7-8]. Then, he uses that same mercantile term again, and he adds up the whole sum of his life past, present, and future – all of it. He lumps it all together now, and he says, "For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ" [Philippians 3:8].
And you have it translated "win." He stays with his mercantile figure. He never leaves it. The Greek word there is "that I may gain – that I may gain Christ."
Now, you look at this man. He’s in the prison in Rome, and we’re going in to visit him. He’s an old man now, and he’s suffered so much. And so we say to this old man who suffered so much, "Paul, Paul, for Christ you have lost so much. You’ve lost your friends. You’ve lost your nation. You’ve lost your nationality. Even your own home and people look upon you as an outcast. Paul, you have not even the necessity for the commonest necessities of life. Paul, how poor and how much you have suffered. Paul, how is it with you? What do you think?"
And he says, "It is true. I have suffered the loss of all things [Philippians 3:8]. It’s all gone. Life’s gone. Youth’s gone. Money’s gone. Health’s gone. Liberty’s gone. Friends gone. I have suffered the loss of all things."
"Then, how do you reckon it, Paul? How do you sum it up now?"
And he uses a word that’s a most unusual word: "I count them" – everything, all of it – "I count it as skubala, skubala" [Philippians 3:8]. I did my best to find where that word came from. And the best I can find is this: there is a phrase in the Greek language that is es kunas ballo – es kunas ballo, "what is thrown to the dogs" – es kunas ballo. And doubtless this word skubalon is a contraction of "what is worthless, what is thrown away, what is thrown out to the dogs."
"I count these things" – all that the world has to offer: its pomp, its power, its pageantry, its heraldry, its wealth, its appraisal, its applause – everything in this world, "I count it as skubala, a thing that is going to the dogs, that I may gain Christ" [from Philippians 3:8].
It’s the same idea as if a man had filled his ship full of treasures – filled his ship full of marvelous merchandise – and out there on the stormy sea in the gale and in the terrible and tragic hour, to save his soul and to gain life, he, with his own hands, throws overboard everything that he’d counted precious. It is nothing now. It’s a disadvantage. It’s a weight. It’s a millstone. It’s dragging me down. Throw it away! Cast it overboard in order that we might have our life. That’s the same idea Paul uses here. "All of these things, I count them to be thrown away as refuse – not wanted, to be got rid of – that I might have Christ" [from Philippians 3:8].
Oh, this unusual man Paul. To him, to him, that he might win Christ, that he might have Christ, that he might gain Christ – to him, it was like a runner reaching out toward the crown in the Olympian race except this crown that he reaches out for is the Lord Himself. It’s salvation. It’s heaven. It’s glory. It’s God. And to this man Paul, any loss is a blessed loss if it’s given up for Christ.
Gregory of Nazianzus [329-390 CE] was one of the great fathers of the early Christian church. And he, one time, said, "I am glad I was an Athenian philosopher. I am proud," he said, "that I was trained in the schools of Athens, for," he said, "now I have the privilege of giving up my philosophy that I might have Christ." Oh, what a noble sentiment: give it up for Christ.
If a man were in a business that dishonored God and he gave it up and has starved, he has gained. He’s gained. If a man is employed in a place that compromises his life and he gives up his job and doesn’t have another, he has gained having Christ. Anything we give up for Christ is no loss. It’s a gain. Queen Victoria [Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom, 1819-1901], one time, said, "Oh, that I could lay my crown at His blessed feet."
For to Paul, if we don’t have Christ, if we don’t have the Lord, we have lost – lost everything: lost our souls, lost our lives, lost our destiny, lost our heaven, lost our country and home that is to come. If a man doesn’t have Christ, of all men, he is poor and wretched and blind and in need [from Revelation 3:17].
To be lost – oh, my brother, what is it to die without Christ, to live without Christ, to be judged without Christ: a lost, lost soul, just waiting to be damned [Mark 8:34-38; Luke 16:19-31]. O God, that we might have Christ!
How many there are that are members of the church who do not have Christ [Matthew 7:21-23]. They tell you, "I was christened when I was an unconscious infant, and I am a member of the church." It is as though they put the pall of some covering over their corpse of a soul: not alive, not quickened in Him [Colossians 2:13].
What is it to be found like Adam, shivering under the trees in the Garden of Eden, covered with his own self-righteousness with his apron of fig leaves? [Genesis 3:7-8] O Lord, that we might be found standing under the Tree of Life dressed in the robes of the righteousness of Christ, my Savior [Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 22:1-2].
I may be in the church, but if I have not Christ, I am lost. I may have been christened when I was a child, but if I have not Christ, I am lost. I may have been baptized by sprinkling when I was an infant, but if I have not Christ, I am lost. I may be a member of this church, but if I have not Christ, I am lost. I may be the most acceptable and the most philanthropic of all of the citizens of my community, but if I have not Christ, I am lost [Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 5:11-13].
There is only one gift of God to heaven and that is the Lord Jesus Christ [John 14:6; 1 John 5:11-13]. That’s the reason Paul said, "What things were gain to me, these I counted loss for Christ. And I count all things but lost . . . that I may have Him" [from Philippians 3:7-8].
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When He with trumpet sound –
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
["Solid Rock," by Edward Mote, c.1834]
That I might win Christ [Philippians 3:8].
You who have listened on the radio – out there sitting in a chair, driving through in a car, maybe lying-abed sick – today, would you turn aside from all of the blandishments and embellishments and rewards of this world and look to Jesus? Would you turn aside from your own righteousness and look by faith to Him who alone is able to clothe us in pardoning power and to give us garments that are clean and white [Revelation 19:8], washed in the blood of the Son of God?
And in the great host of people who are here this morning, this sacred and blessed and precious hour, somebody you, never have placed your faith in Jesus, would you turn aside from all other pursuits and reach out after Him? Would you today? A family here to put their lives with us in this blessed and precious ministry – while we sing this song, from this balcony around, down these stairwells, would you come and stand by me? From every side, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Pastor, I give you my hand. I have given my heart to God." In faith and in trust, looking to Jesus, would you come? Counting all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord that we might have Him – have Him now, have Him in death, have the life from His gracious hands in the world that is yet to come. Would you in faith taking Him while we stand and while we sing?
THAT I MAY WIN CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. We are not to think that our faith is characterized by wild fanaticism, blind faith commitment – we are told in the Word to count the cost
1. Jesus says to consider the commitment (Luke 14:28-31)
2. So Paul here in the text says we are to count the cost of our discipleship
a. Uses hegeomai, "to count", three times in passage
II. Perfect tense, hegemai – calculation of the past(Philippians 3:7)
A. What he chose to give up, his losses, to become a Christian
1. The change from Saul the rabbi, pride of Gamaliel, scion of the Sanhedrin, to Paul, the preacher of Christ
B. Hatinakerde – the gains, privileges he had, badges of his nobility(Philippians 3:5-6)
1. Circumcised the eighth day
2. Of the stock of Israel
3. Of the tribe of Benjamin
4. A Hebrew of the Hebrews
5. A Pharisee
6. Zealous – an enemy of heresy
7. Blameless in obedience to the law
C. The gains he now considers zemia, a loss – that he might win Christ
1. Those things disadvantages because they kept him away from Christ
III. Hegoumai, present tense and continuously – calculation of the present
A. Interesting to hear a man describe how he feels now after having given himself in a great dedication
1. After 25 years, how does Paul view his commitment?
B. His answer an exclamation of emphatic affirmation
1. Sums up the whole, ta panta, "everything"
C. "For the excellency of the knowledge of Christ"
1. Tohuperechon – the sublime, celestial, heavenly knowledge of Jesus
2. A knowledge revealed from heaven by the Holy Spirit Himself (Matthew 16:17)
3. So different from the knowledge of the world
a. Some knowledge puffs up; this knowledge humbles
b. Some knowledge degrades the mind, soul; this knowledge sanctifies
c. Some knowledge is used for destruction; this knowledge is salvation
IV. His life estimate, past, present and future(Philippians 3:8b)
A. Visit the apostle in the praetorian prison, in chains
1. He has suffered the loss of all things(2 Corinthians 11:24-27)
2. Counts everything as skubala, "dung, refuse"
B. In Paul’s estimationâ€¦
1. To gain Christ – like an Olympian runner reaching out to gain the crown
2. Whatever loss for Christ is a blessed loss
a. Gregory of Nanziansus
b. Giving up business, place, position, job for Christ
c. Queen Victoria
3. If you have not Christ, all things in the world are vain
4. Having Christ, we have all things