A Study of Philippians 3:8

“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 3:8)

Rejoice in the LORD!

Serve God in the spirit, through the Spirit; glory in Christ Jesus only and trust not in the flesh.

And oppose all who would deprive you of this rejoicing in the LORD; who glory in the flesh; who put their confidence in the righteousness which is of the law; who insist upon a mere mutilation of the flesh as a ground of righteousness before the Most High.

They are dogs; call them so.

Evil workers are they; do not hesitate to consider and to treat them as such.

And be not deceived by their claim of being the circumcision; their circumcision is a meaningless cutting of the flesh, a mere mutilation, and has no other value before God.

Reject their doctrine of righteousness by works, by the law, by outward forms and rites. Even if it would seem that you might claim a certain right to confide in the flesh, do it not. Are you circumcised the eighth day? Are you a Hebrew of the Hebrews, of the generations of the people of God, blameless according to the law and according to the standard of ecclesiastical rites, zealous in defending the doctrine that is delivered unto you from the fathers? Count it no gain as far as a basis of confidence is concerned, for all these things cannot constitute your righteousness before God.

If necessary you may lose all these things, and if it be but for Christ’s sake you lose nothing.

And you may, you ought to, count them, yea, and all other things with them, but refuse, if to possess them should prove a hindrance in the gaining of Christ!

For, one thing is important and just one thing: that you gain Christ!

And one thing is above all things precious, of incomparable value – the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus!


Do not miss the personal note. Fail not to read it in that very same form in which the Spirit of Christ elicited this confession from the heart of the apostle.

And so reading it, apply it as a criterion to the condition of your own heart and soul, to the course and direction of your life in the midst of the world; apply it by repeating the words of the apostle with the question in mind and heart: Are they still true if I put my I instead of Paul’s?

Not a dogmatic statement of the truth are these words. You cannot read instead: “Doubtless the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord is excellent, and well may one count all things but loss and dung for its possession.” Then you would miss the point. For, the text is a confession, a heart-cry.

And heart-cries are matters of experience.

Profoundly personal they are.

I count all things but loss! Can you say it? Can I?

I count them loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, my LORD! Is it true when you and I speak the words?

I have suffered the loss of all things; I count them but dung, refuse, things undesirable to have, better to throw away; and all this, that I may win Christ, that I may be found in Him, may know Him, that I by any means may attain to the resurrection from the dead….

Is it true for me, for you?

Is He my LORD?

And yours?

Knowing Him!

Jesus Christ, my LORD!

Wholly in accord with the intensity of his feelings and the keen joy of possessing this knowledge of Christ, so incomparably excellent to him that he gladly suffers the loss of all things for it, the apostle refers to Him as He stands revealed in all the preciousness of His person through His threefold name.

Jesus, Christ, LORD!

It is as if, now that he is speaking of the unspeakable blessedness, excellency, preciousness of the object of his knowledge, he would fain express all His fullness, exhibit all His beauty, show at once that there is nothing in all the earth to be desired above Him, beside Him; emphasize that it is but folly to compare ought with Him; explain why a man may lose all things for His sake and still count the loss a gain; fix the matter beyond all doubt that all things may be considered dung, no matter how precious, how dear, how beautiful, how desirable they appear, when and in as far as they would be a hindrance to us in gaining Him.

The excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, my LORD!

Jesus! The realization of God’s salvation!

The central, personal revelation of Jehovah as the God of our salvation, who redeems from the guilt of sin and reconciles us with Himself through the blood of the cross, blotting out the handwriting of sin against us, making peace; who delivers us from the corruption of sin, cutting the shackles of death in which we are held, opening our prison doors, leading us out into liberty; who makes us partakers of the highest good, the only good, life eternal, the fellowship of friendship with the ever Blessed; to know whom is to know the peace that passeth all understanding, the peace that is rooted in the blessed consciousness that our sins are washed away and that they witness no longer against us, and in the assurance that we are righteous before God; to know whom is to possess the only comfort in life and death, light in darkness, joy in the midst of sorrow, life while we pass through the valley of the shadow of death.

Christ! God’s Anointed!

God’s Prophet to us; God’s Priest in our behalf; God’s King over us. The thrice blessed Servant of Jehovah, who speaks of God and glorifies Him, reveals the Father and makes Him known in all the riches of the counsel of salvation; who is set over the whole House of God as the perfect and eternal High Priest, sacrificing, atoning, reconciling, entering into the heavenly sanctuary to abide, interceding for the brethren, blessing them with all the riches of grace; who battled alone and had the victory over the powers of darkness and, having become obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross, is highly exalted, seated at the right hand of God, clothed with all power in heaven and on earth to lead us on, to protect us against all the onslaughts of the enemy, to give us the victory; whose anointing we share, so that we also know, speak about, and glorify the Father, sanctify the LORD God in our hearts, and bring the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, fight the good fight in the midst of the world even unto the end, that no one take our crown!

Jesus! Christ! LORD!

My LORD – who possesses His people because He purchased them with the price of His infinite love; who leveled to the ground the throne of the prince of this world in our hearts, that He might establish His own dominion of grace in our inmost soul; who is responsible for us, in life and in death, now and in the day of judgment; whose will is our will, because He turned them by the gracious power of His spirit.

It is therefore the soul’s keenest delight to say: my LORD!

Excellency of knowledge!

Knowing Him!

Not of the excellency of Christ, but of the incomparable preciousness of the knowledge of Him is the apostle speaking.

For that knowledge the apostle is ready to lose all things. That knowledge is so dear to him that, in the light of it, all things appear to lose their value and are but refuse to him.

The knowledge of Him!

How evident it is that knowledge here is far more than an intellectual conception, than a mere image of the mind, a cold assent to the truth concerning Him. To know all about Him is still wholly different from knowing Him! Who would surrender all things and give them up gladly, his name and position, his treasures and his pleasures, his liberty and his very life, for a mere intellectual apprehension? What virtue is there in knowledge? What glory and what joy, what excellency and what comfort is there in a head full of knowledge about the Christ, if the heart remains empty of His grace?

What soul-redeeming virtue is there in saying: Jesus Christ, the Lord, if I cannot say: my LORD?

O, the knowledge about Christ is necessary, doubtless. How shall we know Him, if we do not know all about Him? The revelation of Him must fill our mind if He is to fill our heart. Our mind must apprehend Him if our soul is to appropriate Him. If we truly know Him we will never grow weary of learning more, and still more, always more about Him!

Yet, to know all about Him is still a far cry from knowing Him.

A learned man may know all about the ingredients of a splendid meal, so that he will be able minutely to determine the food value of every last bit of it, though a cancer of the stomach prevents him from partaking of it. Is there, then, not an ocean of difference between him and the poor beggar who knows nothing about vitamins, but whose hungry stomach relishes the food and readily digests it? Is the reading of a bit of the most beautiful poetry glorifying a mother’s love at all to be compared to the joy of pressing one’s own darling to the heart? Will a reading on honey cause us to taste its sweetness, or an exposition on the power of fire warm our home?

Neither will a complete knowledge about Christ satisfy our heart.

A learned theologian you may be, or a thoroughly instructed layman, so that you are able to instruct others in the knowledge about Christ, yet you may not know Him. Perhaps you wrote ably on the Incarnation and defended the two natures in unity of divine person; you published articles in the defense of the doctrine of vicarious atonement, and manifested that you were thoroughly schooled in all the questions of Christology; you explained, maybe a thousand times, the significance and power of the resurrection, the glory of His ascension and exaltation, the hope of His coming again to establish His Kingdom forever.

But what if you cannot say: my LORD?

What if the fire of the love of God in Him is not kindled in your soul? What if you never learned to cry out: O God, be merciful to me, a sinner? What if you never despised your own righteousness? What if you never saw the guilt of sin from which He redeems, the corruption of sin from which He delivers, the power of death from which He liberates, the darkness of sin out of which He leads into the light, the profundities of misery out of which He elevates the soul into the heights of Father’s glory? What if you never saw Him as the fullness that fills your emptiness, as the righteousness that justifies you, as the life that is your resurrection, as the Bread that satisfies your hunger, as the water of life that quenches the thirst of your soul, as your Redeemer and Deliverer?

Ah, then you never knew Him, even though you know all about Him! Then your soul remains dark and loves the darkness, though your intellectual eye caught the light!

Though you write expositions about the fire of His love, your soul’s hearth remains cold and dark.

For, this is to know Him, that your soul hungers and thirsts after righteousness and flees to Him for salvation; that you see His fullness and appropriate Him; that you eat and drink Him by a true and living faith!

Excellency of knowledge!

Knowing Him . . . that I may gain Him!

Such is, then, the longing of our heart, the aspiration of our soul, the direction of our life.

For, knowing Him I realize that in Him there are pleasures forevermore, there are treasures I never counted, depths of grace I never fathomed, riches of love I never tasted, heights of glory I never climbed, a fullness of joy I never experienced. Knowing Him I feel that I have only begun, that my knowledge of Him is only in part, that I have not yet attained or apprehended that for which I am apprehended of Him.

And knowing Him in part, I long to know Him in all His fullness!

Having a taste of Him, of His knowledge and wisdom, His righteousness and holiness, His peace and joy, His love and life eternal, I cannot rest until I shall see Him face to face!

And know as I am known!

That I may gain Christ!

The excellency of knowledge of Christ!

Of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, my LORD!

How foolish to evaluate anything at all as precious and desirable apart from Him, beside Him, in comparison with Him, or even in opposition to Him!

Yet, do we not often manifest this folly?

How many of us are able to take the words of the apostle on our own lips: “Yea, doubtless, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ”?

Tremendous heights of faith?

Yet, so it was with the apostle. All that was connected with his own righteousness which was of the law, his privileges as a Hebrew of the Hebrews, his name and position and influence, his fellowship with the brethren according to the flesh, his ecclesiastical standing-all had been counted but dung from the moment he had begun to taste the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. And still he counted all things refuse and was willing to lose all that pertained to his earthly life, yea, that life itself, that he might gain Christ.

Awful heights of faith?

Yet, how true an evaluation! For, what shall a man profit if he gain the whole world and lose Christ? Or what would he lose if for Christ he lost all?

O, let the world take its dross, if only I may gain Christ!

Know Him more and more! Till I see Him face to face!

Jesus Christ, my LORD!

Herman Hoeksema

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