Philippians 3:7, 8
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.…
No one of the early Christians was favored with richer religious endowments or with higher rank than those enjoyed by St. Paul, and no one was called to make more heavy social and ecclesiastical sacrifices in entering the Church. Yet the apostle regarded his former wealth of privileges as so much loss because it was a hindrance to his receiving true wealth in Christ, and the winning of Christ as not simply a balance of profit, but as wholly a gain; so that, though in the eyes of the world he had made an astounding sacrifice, in his own estimation he had made no sacrifice at all, but had got a pure and simple advantage from the exchange.
I. RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES MAY BECOME RELIGIOUS HINDRANCES. In their origin and primary purpose, of course, they could not be so, or they would never be privileges. But changing circumstances and abuse of them may make them of more harm than good. A pure Jewish birth, Pharisaism, and the Law were once all good. But in St. Paul's day and in relation to Christianity they became positively injurious. So now a man's position and education in religion may be converted into a hindrance to his real Christian life.
1. We may be satisfied with these privileges and so not care to go on to the higher blessings. The self-complacent Pharisee does not ask for and therefore misses the grace which the penitent publican seeks and therefore finds. The religious possessions of the former result in his poverty, the poverty of the latter in his wealth.
2. We may be prejudiced by the nature of these privileges or by our experience of them. An imperfect religion is in itself better than no religion, but it becomes worse when it prejudices us against a higher faith.
II. THE GREATEST RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES ARE OF NO USE WITHOUT CHRIST. St. Paul courts them as "but dung." To be born of Christian parents, to be educated in Christian truths, to be associated in Christian fellowship, and to be zealous in Christian work, - all these things will count as nothing for our soul's profit if we do not know, trust, love, and follow Christ. It is true that they who have not an opportunity of knowing Christ may be benefited by other religious aids. But when Christ is accessible a higher standard is set before us, and to live in the beggarly elements is worse than foolish - it is fatal.
III. WE MAY HAVE TO MAKE GREAT SACRIFICES IN ORDER TO RECEIVE CHRIST. We may have to give up worldly position, pleasant social connections, etc. We shall have to renounce all our Pharisaic righteousness. That structure which we have been building with so much care and admiring so devoutly must be razed to the ground. Let us count the cost.
IV. TO GAIN CHRIST IS SO PROFITABLE THAT THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS ELSE COUNTS AS NOTHING IN COMPARISON. It is not simply that the scale dips. It is that the weight on the other side is not felt; nay, that the value of the things given up is converted into its opposite, because they hindered the reception of Christ. In the great equation, all earthly things that stayed us from seeking Christ are lumped together and a minus sign affixed to the whole. If we have truly won Christ at the greatest cost we are conscious of no sacrifice. It is all infinite gain. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.