Philippians 3:1-21

Key Verse: 3:10,11


            “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”


In chapter 2, Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to imitate the humility of Christ. In this chapter, he gave them a warning to watch out for those who put confidence in the flesh. Then Apostle Paul shares his personal testimony. The gist of his testimony is “I want to know Christ.” Knowing Christ was his life goal. May God bless us to know Christ and the power of his resurrection by having fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.




Look at verse 1. “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” The word “rejoice” is repeated in each chapter. 2:18 says, “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Here the source of joy does not come from the world but from the Lord. Jesus said in John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” When Paul remained in Jesus, he rejoiced in the Lord always. M. Hannah Shin in Prague overcame adverse human situation after the death of her husband and rejoiced in serving Czech ministry with joyful hearts. Hardship and sorrow did not take away her joy of loving Jesus. To live the life of faith is to learn how to rejoice in all circumstances. When we have a clear life purpose and love Jesus, we can rejoice always. Persecutions and hardship cannot deter our joy in the Lord. 


Look at verse 2. “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.” Paul harshly rebuked those who misled God’s flocks in the church calling them “dogs.” Paul uses a harsh word for those who were showing opposition to the gospel and hindering the genuine gospel faith of the Philippians. They did not understand the true meaning of circumcision. They said, “Unless you are circumcised like us, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) They said again, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:4b) They asked, “Are you circumcised?” If the answer was “No,” then they said to themselves, “Hmm. You are a dog.” They burdened the new believers with the heavy yoke of the law. They were like the old wineskins. They added something else as the requirement of salvation. They imposed their own law to the new Gentile Christians and brought confusion among young believers.  Paul called them “dogs” because they were mutilators of the flesh. They were bad influences to the growing young Christians. Paul wanted to protect his flocks from those men who did evil. In verse 3, Paul explains the true circumcision. He claims that the Philippians were the circumcision because they worshiped God from their hearts, glorified the name of Jesus and did not put confidence in the flesh. (3)


 In order to explain what was wrong with those who insisted circumcision, Paul gave them his own example. In the past he put confidence in the flesh. He mentions his own credentials as a Jew, rooted in his Jewish pedigree, privileges and attainments. In order to help his sheep, Paul shared his life testimony. Most of life testimonies start like this, “Part 1 I was lost in my dark life of sin.” But Paul’s life testimony starts like this, “Part 1-I was a legalistic young Pharisee.” Look at verses 4b-6. “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” Wow! What credentials Paul had. He was circumcised in the eighth day as a real Jew. From Benjamin’s line the first king of Israel, Soul, was born. In terms of legalistic standards of scrupulous external conformity to the law, he was peerless. His future had been very bright. No one can beat his credentials. In the past, he was proud and selfish. He sought human recognition and fame. In order to gain recognition from the religious authorities, he became a ringleader in persecuting the church of God. He thought that persecuting Christians was his service to God. He seemed to have everything outwardly. But he felt miserable inwardly. He confessed in Romans 7:24-25b, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!” We learn that Paul’s human confidence in the flesh did not save him from the power of death. Though he looked perfect according the written law, he was a sinner before.


Let’s listen to Paul’s conversion story.  Paul, a selfish proud young Pharisee, was on the road to arrest Christians with his own expense in Damascus. But Jesus arrested him. The Risen Jesus made a special appearance to Paul. Jesus did not punish Paul but embraced this enemy of God with redeeming love and forgave all his sins. Paul experienced the amazing grace of Jesus’ love. God opened his spiritual eyes to see who Jesus really was, as well as to see himself- a great sinner. Jesus not only saved him from his sins and death but also chose him to be the shepherd for the Gentiles. Therefore, Paul discovered both himself and his mission. He realized that his former way of life with human efforts was worthless and really despicable. After meeting Jesus, Paul’s purpose of life was completely changed, from that of a selfish man to that of a man in Christ. Paul’s new life in Jesus was not just preferable or a better alternative, it was the only way. To Paul, Jesus was all the world. In the past he grabbed everything he could to satisfy his self human ambition. Now, he consider everything rubbish in order to gain Christ. Christ became the center of his life.


Now let’s listen to part 2 of his life testimony. The title seems to be like this, “I want to know Christ.” Look at verses 7-8. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” What seemed to be profitable to him in the past hindered him to follow Jesus. Now he was able to give up everything for the sake of Christ. He was willing to consider everything rubbish for the sake of Christ. What a change it was. This means that Paul put confidence in Jesus alone. When we met Jesus, things we valued most became secondary. When we were young, we loved to collect baseball cards or trophies we won in a little league because those things seemed to be the most valuable things in the world. But when we grow up, we lose our interest in them because we discover more valuable things in the world. In the same way, when we know Jesus more and more, we love Jesus more and more until we consider everything rubbish. This does not mean that we have to toss everything to the garbage can. It means that we have a different life principle.  Many young men and women gave up their careers and promising future to follow Christ because of the surpassing greatness of Jesus. Hudson Taylor gave up his comfortable life in England and followed the life of Jesus to plant the gospel work in China. Mother Barry gave up her precious life in America and went to Korea to follow the life of Jesus teaching Bible to young Korean students. Jesus said in mark 8:35, “Forever whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Any loss for the gospel and Jesus is gain. This is not a loss at all. From Jesus’ point of view every loss for the sake of Christ is gain. We also find the Biblical truth that we cannot have both the world and Christ together. What we gain in this world can be lost and its value is relative. People in New Orleans lost everything due to the Hurricane Katrina. Their life-long wealth was wiped out in a moment. The worldly treasure has only a temporal value while the treasure Jesus gives has eternal value. What we gain in Christ will be kept in heaven. In that respect, Paul considered what he treasured most rubbish because he found Christ. Look at verse 9. “And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” “Being found” means to discover oneself in Jesus. Paul was most happy to discover himself in Jesus and to restore his image in Jesus. Paul knew that he could not gain Christ with his own human credentials. We cannot be right with God by keeping the law. We can be right with God by faith in Jesus alone.


Look at verse 10. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” This is the highlight of Paul’s personal testimony. Since conversion, Paul’s supreme life goal was to know Christ. It was not to know about Christ superficially. It was to know Christ completely. In the first place, Paul wanted to know the grace of Jesus. Paul said, “I want to know Christ.” Paul knew Christ so well. He wrote many books about Jesus in the Bible. Why did he need to know Christ more? Still, he wanted to know Christ. When he said, “I want to know Christ,” it meant, “I want to know his saving grace all the more.” Paul was a man who knew the grace of Jesus. Paul’s whole life was a life dedicated to know the grace of Jesus. Paul had hunger and thirst to know Jesus more. Many people are hungry and thirsty to know how to live longer and how to enjoy pleasures. They know what is going on around the world through the Internet news but most people do not know Christ. It is our mission to remember the grace of Jesus and invite our sheep to know the grace of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.


In the second place, Paul wanted to know the meaning of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. Paul’s love for Jesus was so great that he wanted to learn the main points of his teaching: his suffering, his death and his resurrection. Because Jesus died for the sins of the world, Paul was willing to participate in his suffering, becoming like him in his death. He discovered that the sufferings of Jesus preceded the resurrection. He found that suffering is a prelude of the coming power of resurrection. He was eager to have fellowships with Christ even in the prison. There will be no resurrection without death. Jesus’ death on the cross and his glorious resurrection are the core of the gospel. This is our life principle too. People want to enjoy glory but they do not like suffering. People want to receive God’s blessing but they do not like to take up the cross of mission. That’s not the way to know Christ. Peter, Jesus’ top disciple, did not like suffering and death. So he was fearful in death and ran away when Jesus died. But when he met the Risen Jesus at the beach and ate the breakfast cooked by Jesus, his spiritual eyes were opened and he began to have faith in Jesus. He became bold enough to encourage Christians who were under fiery persecutions, scattered all over Asia Minor to participate in the sufferings of Christ. When we commit sins, we become powerless to do anything. But when we love the cross of Jesus, we become strong, so strong that we are not afraid of any hardships or suffering. Sarah and Rebecca Oh went Korea and received spiritual training. They became powerful Bible teachers. When YDJ leaders met together last Friday, they insisted that they wanted to do more for Jesus. They said, “I want to know Christ more.”  Paul Lim has grown as a spiritual leader after he attended the European conference. The same is true to Tommy and David Park. Some HBF members wanted to know Christ and so they joined YDJ meeting. We see a great spiritual revival through YDJ leaders.


Look at verse 11. “…and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” What was Paul’s ultimate hope? Suffering is not a final product. It is a process. Without the resurrection from the dead suffering has no meaning. Paul’s ultimate hope was in the resurrection of the dead. Hope is a driving force for us to work hard. M. Moses suffered a lot driving his old Chevy Nova for 7 years. One missionary said, “I received grace when I saw him driving an old car.” But in reality M. Moses suffered. He drove this car because he had a future hope to drive a new car. Now his hope was realized when he bought Toyota Sienna.  Paul had a future hope in the Risen Jesus for himself and for all men. Because of this great hope, he gave up all his privileges and human ambition. He eagerly anticipated in the resurrection of the dead. He said in 1 Cor. 15:51, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” Paul believed that he would live with Jesus forever in the kingdom of God with his resurrected body. With this ultimate hope he was willing to endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ. His life was victorious and filled with joy because of his hope in the glorious resurrection of the dead. Suffering in Jesus was a great opportunity for him to know Christ because Christ suffered to save us from the power of sin and death. Paul wanted to taste everything Jesus tasted to obey the will of God. He has a right attitude towards suffering because he knew suffering built his character like Christ. In this way, Paul knew Christ very personally and became one of the most prolific missionaries in the Christian history. Let’s put hope in the power of resurrection from the dead.




In verses 12-14 Paul uses athletic imagery to explain what the Christian life is like. It is like a race or a battle. Look at verse 12. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul’s attitude to hold onto Christ Jesus was single-minded, like that of running so as to get the prize. Paul’s goal was Christ’s goal for him. We never think that we attained everything and then stop growing in Jesus. One boy scored good SAT scores and was praised by others for his high scores. Then he stopped studying in college. The saddest thing in our spiritual life is to stop growing.


As we know, Paul pioneered many churches through his three missionary journeys. Now he was in Roman prison waiting to be executed by the Emperor Nero. But he was not at all complacent, like a retired general who enjoys his leisure time by appearing occasionally in a T.V. as a war strategy commentator or by walking his dog. He did not dwell in his past achievements but pressed on forward. When I look back my spiritual life, I realized that I only gave my shortcomings and weaknesses to Jesus but Jesus endured me up to this point. By the grace of God I am what I am. In the fall semester, I would like to start again with empty mind. I would like to begin my mission life like a freshman in college with an eager expectation. I want to expect great things from God in this semester. Look at verses 13, 14. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” It is amazing to see Paul’s clear attitude to know Christ. He is still running, straining toward what is ahead. He is still pressing forward. He is like a quarterback in a football game who drives his team forward to victory. He is like an eagle flying in the sky with his awesome speed.  To Paul the race did not end until he reached to the heavenly shore. His goal line was not in the end zone but in heaven. His winning prize was not a championship ring but the crown of righteousness waiting for him in the kingdom of God. He was looking forward to meeting the king Jesus. Paul set his heart on things above. He put hope in the heavenly things like his heavenly citizenship and the transformation of his lowly bodies to the glorious bodies. In verse 15 he says, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” He wanted his followers to accept the cross of Jesus and his resurrection as their life principle. Some people abandoned the cross of Jesus and only pursued the earthy gains. Some people lived as the enemy of God by putting their hope in the earthly things. They lived double lives. Paul appealed them wit tears so that they could love Jesus and his cross again. I Cor. 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Only the cross of Jesus gives us power and strength to press on toward the goal.


In conclusion, Paul said in verse 17. “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” Paul tells the Philippians to follow his example. Paul was able to say this because he followed the example of Jesus. We must love the cross of Jesus and live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Let’s know Christ in sharing his suffering and the power of his resurrection. May God bless us to imitate the life of Christ by taking up the cross of mission. Let’s read the key verse 10.