Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church
During the month of December we took a break from our study in Philippians so we could focus on the birth of Christ. Today I’d like to return to our study in Philippians and we’ll be looking at Philippians 3:9-11.
Philippians 3:9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Let’s go back to verse eight for a moment. Paul says,
8 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
As we look at verses 9-11 we’re going to see what Paul means when he says, that I may gain Christ. When we trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior there are certain benefits we receive and Paul points out for us in verses 9-11 what they are.
First I want you to see that when Christ is gained the marvelous work of justification takes place in the life of a believer. Look at verse 9 again.
Philippians 3:9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
Paul states that he wants to be found in Him, he wants to be found in Christ. Paul knows that he can’t achieve righteousness on his own from the law. There’s a helpful passage in Galatians 3 that helps us understand Paul’s problem and ours. Look for a moment at Galatians 3:10-11.
Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith."
If you don’t keep everything written in the law you are cursed. That’s a huge problem isn’t it? It’s not possible to fully keep every part of the law. We are all sinners and we can all look back at our lives and see times when we have not obeyed God’s law. None of us has a spotless record. Not one of us is perfect. “As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;” says Romans 3:10.
All of us have sinned. We have all fallen short of God’s glory. Not one of us has lived a life of sinless perfection.
Paul understood that there was no way he could achieve the kind of perfection that God requires by keeping the law. Sure you could try to live a good and moral life and you may even find that others are impressed with your efforts but no matter how hard you try, your efforts will fall short every time.
Remember Paul’s own impressive list of credentials that we examined in our previous studies in Philippians? Look back for a moment at Philippians 3:4-6.
Philippians 3:4b…If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Paul says “I want to be found in Him, not having my own righteousness.” He understood his own efforts just didn’t cut it. His credentials, which may have been very impressive to others, didn’t impress God. They didn’t satisfy God’s requirements. J. Vernon McGee, who pastored the Church of the Open Door in downtown Los Angeles, from 1949 to 1970, and you may have heard his radio program, Through the Bible, once said…
“There are only two kinds of religion in the world … You can list every "ism," every cult, every religion in southern California under one category. They all say, "Do, do, do." Only Christianity says, "Done." Christ has done it all.” 1
Paul clearly understood that it was Christ who had done it all. He knew that he could not be found in Christ through his own righteousness. No, he understood that righteousness is from God through faith in Jesus Christ. God declares us righteous because of the work of Jesus Christ and the only way we are justified is through faith in Christ. We can’t work to earn our salvation. The only way to be right with God is by faith in Jesus Christ.
There’s an old song that goes something like this…I owed a debt I could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe. That’s how it is with all of us. We have all sinned and the wages of our sin is death. We cannot pay the debt that we owe to be right with God. But Jesus Christ paid the debt for us when He died on the cross and bore the penalty for our sins. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that God’s righteous requirements are met.
When we place our faith in Jesus Christ we are justified. One way justified has been explained is to say that “it’s just as if I’d never sinned”. That’s what God does for us through faith in Jesus Christ. When we gain Christ we are justified. We can stand before God someday knowing that if we are found in Christ, it’s as if we’d never sinned and we can have eternal life. Instead of eternal torment and punishment in Hell because of our sin, we can face a future in heaven because the death of Jesus Christ on the cross has justified us.
Commenting on verse 9, Warren Wiersbe says…
Righteousness was the great goal of Paul’s life when he was a Pharisee, but it was a self-righteousness, a works righteousness, that he never really could attain. But when Paul trusted Christ, he lost his own self-righteousness and gained the righteousness of Christ. The technical word for this transaction is imputation (read Rom. 4:1–8 carefully). It means “to put to one’s account.” Paul looked at his own record and discovered that he was spiritually bankrupt. He looked at Christ’s record and saw that He was perfect. When Paul trusted Christ, he saw God put Christ’s righteousness to his own account! More than that, Paul discovered that his sins had been put on Christ’s account on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). And God promised Paul that He would never write his sins against him anymore. What a fantastic experience of God’s grace! 2
Let’s look for a moment at Romans 4:1-8.
Romans 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."
What wonderful grace that God imputes righteousness to us by faith in Jesus Christ!
Dave Ramsey is a financial counselor who has a radio program and has written the best-selling book called, Total Money Makeover. I recently listened to his book in audio format and highly recommend it. He has some very good practical advise for getting rid of debt and getting into shape financially. One thing that is clear when you listen to him or read his materials is that it takes some effort and hard work to make that happen. He’s very critical of get rich quick schemes or trying to win the lottery. What works is being disciplined and working hard. That is how you achieve financial stability. If you want your finances in order, you’ll have to work at it.
That’s what many are doing spiritually. They think they have to work at it to be right with God. They are relying on their own efforts to earn salvation. They turn to false religions thinking that’s the answer.
Nothing you can do will earn you salvation. No matter how hard you work or how hard you try, your efforts won’t cut it. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. There is no other way. Righteousness comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin. He paid the debt we had no hope of repaying so that we stand justified before God.
When you gain Christ as Paul did, you are justified. Your sin is no longer counted against you and God credits you with righteousness. You can’t work your way into Heaven. You can’t work hard enough to merit salvation. You can’t be right with God by your own efforts. It’s by faith in Jesus Christ that God makes you righteous.
J.C. Ryle said…
Without justification it is impossible to have real peace. Conscience forbids it. Sin is a mountain between a man and God, and must be taken away. The sense of guilt lies heavy on the heart and must be removed. Unpardoned sin will murder peace. The true Christian knows all this well. His peace arises from a consciousness of his sins being forgiven, and his guilt being put away. … He has peace with God, because he is justified. 3
How wonderful it is to be justified when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. Justification is a marvelous work that takes place in the life of a believer. Commenting on justification, Erwin Lutzer has said,
The doctrine of justification is the foundation that supports all of the other benefits we receive from Christ.4
Now notice that Paul doesn’t stop with verse 9. He doesn’t have the attitude that “ok, I’m justified, now I can just live however I please”. He goes on in verse 10…
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
Paul’s passion was to know Christ. His drive and desire was to know Christ more deeply.
We talked about justification as we looked at verse 9. As we look at verse 10, let’s think about sanctification. Sanctification is the process of developing holiness.5 Sanctification is being set apart for God. It is living our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him. It is not optional for the believer but it is required.
1 Peter 1:15-16 says,
15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
Paul wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. The power of Christ’s resurrection gives victory over death. It also gives power in our lives on this earth. It gives power over temptation and sin.
Listen to Romans 6:4-6.
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
Knowing Christ and the power of the resurrection gives us power over sin. It enables us to live a holy life. We can’t do it on our own, but through Christ and the power of His resurrection we don’t need to be slaves to sin. That doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect but we won’t want to continue in sin as we know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
The story is told of a young girl who accepted Christ as her Savior and applied for membership in a local church. “Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your Life?” inquired an old deacon. “Yes, sir,” she replied. “Well, are you still a sinner?” “To tell you the truth, I feel I’m a greater sinner than ever.” “Then what real change have you experienced?” “I don’t quite know how to explain it,” she said, “except I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I am saved I’m a sinner running from sin!” she was received into the fellowship of the church, and she proved by her consistent life that she was truly converted.6
The more we know Christ and the power of His resurrection the more we’ll be running from sin. Closely tied into knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection is what Paul says in the end of verse 10.
…the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
The word here for fellowship is the Greek word, koinonia. We at times here on a Sunday night will have a koinonia where we gather downstairs after the service and share food and fellowship with each other. It’s an enjoyable time. Yet here Paul speaks of the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. It’s hardly the same thing as partaking of some good food and conversation with a brother or sister in Christ.
Paul is not talking about sharing in the actual suffering of Christ on the cross but he does desire to suffer for the sake of righteousness and we do know that there were many occasions when Paul did suffer for the cause of Christ. Listen to his words in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.
8 We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
George Whitefield said…
“Suffering times are a Christian's best-improving times.” 7
Think about the words in James 1:2-4.
James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Trials and testing of our faith produces patience, which works in our lives to perfect us and complete us. It’s often in the midst of suffering that God does a great work in our lives and brings great glory to Himself. The process of sanctification in our lives, the process of becoming holy, may involve suffering. We live in a fallen world that is hostile to Christ. As we know Him and the power of His resurrection and share in the fellowship of His suffering and are conformed to His death, we become more like Him. We are sanctified. Holiness is developed in our lives.
Justification comes first and then sanctification follows and then we have glorification to look forward to in heaven. Look again at verse 11.
11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
This verse has been a bit difficult to interpret and at first glance it could look like Paul is hoping to experience the resurrection but has some doubt about it. That doesn’t seem likely since there are other places where Paul strongly affirms his faith. I think it’s like one commentator puts it when he says…
…it is also possible to regard the clause as expressing expectation rather than doubt.8
Paul looked forward to the day when he would dwell forever with the Lord. Listen to his words in Romans 8:23.
23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
We live in a fallen world. We are afflicted with pain and suffering but there is coming a day when this will all pass away.
Revelation 21:4 says,
"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
When we who have trusted Christ are resurrected from the dead we have a wonderful future awaiting us. The future glory that awaits us is hard to fully comprehend. What a tremendous hope we have. What a wonderful future we have to enjoy. When life is difficult on this earth it’s a great encouragement to know the wonderful future God has in store for those who have faith in Christ.
This morning as we think about Paul’s words to us, I wonder if there is one who is here who has never been justified? You don’t have righteousness from God through faith in Christ. Maybe you’ve been trying to earn salvation or favor with God through your own efforts. You can be right with God today. If you’ll place your faith in Jesus Christ this morning, you can be forgiven of your sins and have eternal life.
For those of us who have faith in Christ and have been justified, I wonder if we have the same passion that Paul had to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering? We are at the start of a fresh new year. Let’s make 2005 a year to know Him more and more and to be more and more like Christ.
1 J. Vernon McGee, from The Best of Vernon McGee. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 4.
2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"–Jkt. (Php 3:7). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
3 J.C. Ryle in Foundations of Faith. Christianity Today, Vol. 35, no. 8.
4 Erwin W. Lutzer
5 The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter A. Elwell, Editor, (Harold Shaw Publ., Wheaton , IL; 1984), pp. 357-358
6 Our Daily Bread
7George Whitefield. Christian History, Issue 38
8 Expositors Bible Commentary