But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.
Paul’s Past Gain is Really His Loss (v. 7)
- Whatever was in Paul’s credit column has now been moved to the debit column. All those years of preparation and commendation in gaining meritorious favor before God had become a hindrance rather than help in knowing God (see Jn. 5:39).
- The only thing that remains in Paul’s credit column is Christ.
- Note it is “for the sake of Christ” that Paul consciously rejects any notion of confidence in his prior achievements.
- Something so profound occurred in Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-9) that his entire value system was changed forever! The very things he valued the most became the least valuable compared to Christ. The expression “to live is Christ” rings true in every sense of the expression.
Paul Expands His Losses (v. 8)
- The verb tense changes from a decisive break from his past that has present implications (perfect tense, ἥγημαι, “[as a result of my past conversion] I now consider loss”) to the continual, on-going regard for everything henceforth (present tense, ἡγοῦμαι, “I [continue to] consider”). What Paul counted as loss at conversion, he repeatedly counts as loss again and again and again.
- Not only past achievements and blessings, but all the world offers cannot begin to compare with the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.” Anything in which Paul could be tempted to trust, apart from Christ, was absolutely and utterly worthless.
- A relationship with Jesus is not without its price, however. Jesus makes it clear that one cannot have both the world and Him (Mt. 6:24; 10:39; 13:44-45; 19:21; Lk. 9:62). To be clothed in the righteousness of Christ is to be stripped naked of all human pride and ambition that seeks to displace the work of the cross.
- The attitude Paul maintained toward “all things” is garbage or refuse, i.e., good for nothing (“rubbish,” σκύβαλα, used for excrement or spoiled food). Not only are “all things” worthless, they are abhorrent compared to an intimate relationship with Jesus, which more than compensated for the loss of everything.