That I May Win Christ
January 21st, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
THAT I MAY WIN CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-21-90 10:50 a.m.
Welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share the hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of our blessed, precious First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled To Win Christ.
Preaching from the third chapter of the letter of Paul to the church at Philippi, and I speak of the message as exegetical, an exegesis of these words. And you will have to listen with your mind and your head as well as with your heart. Starting at the second part of verse 4, in chapter 3 of Philippians:
If any one 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, a 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 dung, that I may win Christ.
[Philippians 3: 4-8]
We are not to think, ever, that our true faith is to be characterized by wild, unbridled fanaticism; blind faith commitment. We are rather told in the Word of God to consider, to calculate, to ponder, to judge, to count the cost. For example, in the fourteenth chapter of the Third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, our Lord says to those who were thinking of following Him, you need to consider the commitment:
For what man building a tower, does not first judge whether he has what it would take to complete it?
Otherwise, when he starts and cannot finish, they will ridicule him and laugh at him, make fun of him.
Or what man, going to war, if he has ten thousand and his opponent has twenty thousand, does not consider that and first make peace afar off?
So Paul here in this text, says we are to consider and count the cost of our discipleship to the Lord. And he uses a word here, hēgeomai, to count, three different times in this short passage [Philippians 3:7, 8].
First, he uses it in the perfect tense, hēgēmai, having done it and forever. He speaks of what he has given up, what he has lost, in order to become a disciple of Christ. He speaks of his change from Saul the rabbi, the pride of the School of Gamaliel, the scion of the Sanhedrin, to Paul, the preacher of Christ. And he says it in this word, “for what things were gain,” it is in the King James, plural, kerdē, hatina kerdē, all the gains that were to me, those I have counted, and still count, hēgēmai, perfect tense, I count zēmia, loss for Christ [Philippians 3:7]. Then he speaks of some of those things that were tremendous pearls of price and facets of nobility in his life that he gave up, that he counts loss, that he might kerdē, that he might kerdainō, that he might win Christ [Philippians 3:8].
So he starts, “Circumcised the eighth day” [Philippians 3:5]. He was not a proselyte, nor was he a child of neglect on the part of his parents. In keeping meticulously with the law he was “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel,” Israel, he was not of the Midianites. He was not of the Edomites. He was not of the proselytes. His generations go back to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob—Israel, “of the stock of Israel” [Philippians 3:5].
“Of the tribe of Benjamin.” Benjamin was the son of the beloved wife of Jacob, Rachel. Out of that tribe was the first king of Israel, and this is the tribe Benjamin, that with Judah, formed the Southern Kingdom, “of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews” [Philippians 3:5]. Out of all the families of the earth God chose this family through whom His Word and nature and presence are revealed. And he was a faithful scion of that family of God, “a Hebrew of Hebrews.”
“Touching the law, a Pharisee” [Philippians 3:5]. And every meticulous detail of the law, keeping it, faithful to it. “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church” [Philippians 3:6]. He was an enemy of heresy, and sought to eradicate it out from among his people. “Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” [Philippians 3:6]. In the Torah and in the Talmud, all those endless, endless tenets and commandments of the law, he obeyed them faithfully, meticulously.
He puts all of that on one side. He was a noble son of Israel. Then on the other side, he puts one, he puts the Lord. And his word for all the rest of it, zēmia, is also singular, “all of that is loss in order that he might win Christ” [Philippians 3:7-8]. He speaks of these as disadvantages, all these wonderful things that made him acceptable to the Sanhedrin and to his nation and to his people; all of those were disadvantages that kept him away from Christ. And he counted them as zēmia: as loss, loss, in order that he might win Christ [Philippians 3:8].
Let me apply that to us. How things in which we could boast, the advantages that providence has brought to us in life, can be tragic disadvantages, losses, because they keep us away from our Lord. Here’s one: a man who boasts of his goodness, of his character. He is a fine, upright, honest man; and he doesn’t need the Lord! He is sufficient in himself. All of the accouterments and all of the attendants and all of the facets of nobility of life and honesty of purpose and dedication of soul, he has them. And those wonderful advantages keep him away from the Lord; they are disadvantages.
Or think again, a man who is successful. He is the president of his bank or he is the head of his corporation. Or he is a learned and gifted professor. He is a successful politician. He rises among his people; he is a marvelous leader, and he doesn’t need the Lord. The world acclaims him and that’s sufficient for him; he doesn’t need God and he doesn’t need Christ.
Or take just once again, a people who are dedicated to their religious faith. As you know, I just returned from Israel. That whole world over there: the Jewish nation, dedicated to Judaism; and that vast Muslim population, dedicated to Mohommedanism. Their very dedication is a disadvantage. It keeps them away from Christ. It’s tragic.
And that’s what Paul says about all of those things in which he could rejoice. The advantages that were bestowed upon him by the providences of heredity, and the people to whom he belonged, and the type of life to which he had given himself, all of those things he looked upon as great disadvantages; they are loss in order that he might win Christ [Philippians 3:7]. Then he uses the word in the present tense, hēgoumai, “yea doubtless, and I hēgoumai,” present tense, “I do now count,” and continuously, “all things loss for the excellency of knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” [Philippians 3:8].
You know, it’s interesting to hear a man after he has given himself in a great dedication; it’s interesting to hear a man describe how he feels about it now. This is twenty-five years after Paul met the Lord on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-6]. And after twenty-five years, what do you think about it now? In the beginning, it can be easy to be enthusiastic about a commitment. But after the passing of the years and the years, so many times our dedication wanes. “What of this Paul in your life; having given yourself to Christ? And now, after the quarter of a century, what do you think of it?”
Yesterday, yesterday afternoon, I performed a wedding ceremony for a sweet couple in our church who had been married twenty-five years, the exact length of time when Paul was writing this, after he was converted. They had been married twenty-five years. And they came to me and said, “We just want you to marry us again. We want to repeat our vows.” So I stood there in front of them. And there he is, married to that same woman for twenty-five years, and he wants to do it forever. Great idea! Great idea! Don’t you wish every man could be like that? Have a wife like that? Have a home like that? Have a marriage like that? Good to start off, how wonderful to continue it.
And that’s what Paul is saying here. He had given up everything for the Lord. And now, what does he think of it? Then, he answers with fire and with force and with vigor: “Yea doubtless, I count.” Now that “Yea doubtless,” is a whole bunch of words in the Greek language. Alla, ye, men, “indeed,” oun “therefore,” ge, “at least,” kai, “even,” now all of those words translated “yea doubtless” [Philippians 3:8]. He has committed himself to it, and after twenty-five years, he is more fiercely dedicated to the Lord than when he first began, “Yea doubtless, I hēgeumai.” And then, lest he in the list had omitted something, he says ta panta, “everything…” “Not just these that I have just named, but everything,” ta panta: “everything.” “I count all things,” zēmia, “loss for the excellency, to huperechon,” the sublime knowledge, the celestial knowledge, the heavenly knowledge “of Jesus my Lord” [Philippians 3:8].
How could he describe it like that? Because it comes from God. It’s a knowledge revealed from heaven by the Holy Spirit Himself. Do you remember what our Lord said to Simon Peter when he avowed the messiahship of Jesus? [Matthew 16:15-16]. Jesus said to Simon, “Simon, flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but from My Father which is from heaven” [Matthew 16:17]. That’s what Paul is talking about, the huperechon, the celestial sublimity of the knowledge that has come to us through Jesus Christ our Lord [Philippians 3:8]. It doesn’t come to you through school. It doesn’t come to us through a learned professor. It doesn’t come to us because of research, of technical advancement, or scientific achievement. It comes to us from God. God reveals it to us! He affirms it by the Holy Spirit in our hearts [1 Corinthians 2:13].
May I turn aside here for just a minute to describe that kind of knowledge, that heavenly knowledge, that huperechon, the excellencies, translated here, “knowledge of Christ?” [Philippians 3:8]. There is some knowledge that puffs up—pride, smarter than anybody else, more learned than anybody else, more scholastically advanced than anybody else, pride of learning, pride of scholarship, pride of intellectual achievement—there is some knowledge that puffs up, that makes the soul and spirit full of pride. This knowledge humbles. The more you know the humbler you are, bowing the head in the presence of the great God and our Savior, the Lord Jesus. This kind of knowledge, huperechon, celestial knowledge, it humbles you, it bows you in the presence of God.
Look again: this kind of knowledge is so different from knowledge that degrades. I cannot believe what has happened to America. The slush and the refuse and the dirt and the filth, our printing presses with their pornographic, lustful, endless pervasive pourings out upon our people. Television and radio, great God! The knowledge, the things that are poured out that degrade the human spirit, that debase the human mind, that bring lust to the heart; but this kind of knowledge exalts, cleanses, purifies: it’s a heavenly knowledge! It lifts up family and soul and heart and life, nations, people. It’s a heavenly knowledge. It’s huperechon [Philippians 3:8].
Look again: some knowledge leads to violence, to war, to murder. Great God, when I think of what could happen when nations face nations in bitterness and hatred. O Lord, in the prayer a moment ago: thanking God for what is happening in East Europe. How wonderful to get away from the knowledge of war; like that song these black people say, “I ain’t gonna learn war no more.” That kind of knowledge can destroy humanity; but this knowledge saves. Not knowledge of destruction, but knowledge of salvation [Philippians 3:8]. Wonderful! To come to know Jesus is the most precious of all of the blessings that could pervade and characterize human life.
We must hasten; he uses this word hegēomai once more. He kind of sums up the whole past and present and future. And he says, “for whom, concerning our Lord, I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” [Philippians 3:8], that I may win Christ.
Let us go visit this apostle in the Praetorian prison. Not in the Mamartine prison of a later day, when he was brought to execution. But now a prisoner: Paul, the prisoner of Christ, he is in chains, and he’s in the Praetorian prison, guarded by those Roman soldiers [Philippians 1:13]. And we look at him. He’s lost everything, lost everything. He’s in penury; he’s in want. He’s denied and outcast by his countrymen. There’s not anything that he could ever aspire to but has been denied to him. He is a prisoner. And in poverty, there he is in chains, in the Praetorian prison in Rome [Philippians 1:13].
“He has,” he speaks, “He has suffered the loss of all things” [Philippians 3:8]. In 2 Corinthians, he names many of those sufferings:
Five times received I forty stripes save one.
Thrice beaten with rods, once I was stoned; thrice in shipwrecks,
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils of my countrymen, perils of the heathen, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils by the sea, perils among false brethren;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
[2 Corinthians 11:24-27]
All of those things—he uses the word “have I suffered” [Philippians 3:8]. Paul what are you thinking? What do you think of it? In the exalted position in which you once were, renowned and accepted; a scion, literally, of the Sanhedrin and of your nation and people, and now look at the things that you have suffered. What do you think? And he replies, “All of those things, all of them, that were pearls of price to me and nobility of life and work for me, all of them, I do,” and there is his word count, “I count them but skubala,” skubala, translated here “dung,” refuse, filth, “in order that I might win Christ” [Philippians 3:8].
There are those who think that word skubala is a contraction of skunai and ballō, what is thrown to the dogs, what is thrown to the dogs. He could not have said it more forcefully: “Everything, whatever has exalted and presented me in favor with the world or with my countrymen, these I count but skubala, that I might win Christ” [Philippians 3:8]. Isn’t that a remarkable sentence? The sufferings through which he had been plunged in his life were nothing compared to what Jesus means to him.
I read of a martyr who answered, “I am in this dungeon with six of my companions. But it is the Paradise of God as we sing the praises of our Lord all day long in the dark.” Imagine that! This damp, dark dungeon is a paradise, because Jesus is mine. He is here. Think of that! Samuel Rutherford of Scotland said, “They have consigned me to a dungeon, it is nothing comparable to the preciousness of Christ. He has made this an antechamber for the King’s choir.” Think of that!
I read the testimony of a missionary from New Guinea. They had captured him. Put him a prisoner in a thatched hut. Outside, they were boiling a cauldron of water in which to plunge him and to eat him. They were savage cannibals. Somehow in the darkness of the night, he escaped through that hut, and climbed up in a high tree. And the savages, when they found that he was gone, lighted their torches and searched throughout the jungle, seeking to find him—he, up there in that tall tree, watching them with their torches. And in his return to America, and in his testimony, he said:
I wish I could go back and be up there in that tall tree. Even though those savages were searching for me with their lighted torches, I wish I could go back and be in that tall tree.
God was so close to me. Jesus was so real to me.
I tell you, it is wunderbar, God’s wunderbar. “It is wonderful.” Wonderful, that I may win Christ, that I may have Him [Philippians 3:8]—the greatest gift and the greatest knowledge and the greatest presence in human experience.
Sir James Simpson, who discovered chloroform—by the way, until 1847 when he made that discovery, all of these operations were without any anesthetics. Can you imagine the hurt of humanity without an anesthetic? He discovered chloroform. He was a great, famous scientist and upon an occasion in Scotland, when the scientists of the world got together to do him honor, one of them stood up and asked him, “Sir James, what do you say is the greatest discovery you ever made?”
Tears filled the eyes of that great scientific man—achiever, discoverer—and he replied, “The greatest discovery I ever made in my life was when I learned that Jesus died for me [1 Corinthians 15:3]; that He saved me and saved me forever” [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. There is no knowledge like it, there is no commitment like it, there is no experience like it, there is no pilgrimage like it.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean upon His name.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
O 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.
[“My Hope Is Built,” Edward Mote]
And in the great throng in this sanctuary, in the balcony round, down a stairway; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, God has spoken to me and I am standing in His presence today giving my heart and life to the Lord” [Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8]. A family you, a couple you, just one somebody you, make the decision now and a thousand times welcome while we stand and while we sing.