Philippians 3:7-11 is a powerful text because it discusses what it means to know Christ. Jesus said in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” To know Jesus in a relational way (rather than simply knowing about Him) is to possess life in its richest, most abundant sense. Therefore, knowing Jesus is paramount. The question then follows—what does it mean to know Jesus? That’s what Paul discusses in our text.
To set the context, he has been talking to the disciples at Philippi about the dangers of Judaizers and the heresy of their teachings. The essence of what they were saying was that a connection with Jesus was not enough—disciples also needed to be connected to Abraham, Moses, and essentially the complete Jewish tradition. Paul dismisses that by making the point that no one was more immersed in Jewish heritage than he had been (v. 4-7; Galatians 1:14), and he gladly left all of it behind (in an elitist sense) for Christ (v. 7). Paul didn’t quit being Jewish, stop loving Israel, or have his appreciation for old covenant promises and prophecies diminish, but he no longer based his being and identity on them. They were no longer central to his status. All of that now came through Christ.
He moves to an even larger sphere in v. 8 with his “what is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” What exactly does Paul have in mind here? We don’t know and it really doesn’t matter because we do know that whatever it was—it was “garbage” compared to knowing Christ.
Is that the way we feel?
My guess is that most of us could do with a good taking out of the trash. We occupy many roles in our lives—spouses, parents, employees, students, etc. It’s a real temptation to derive our status from them. Paul wanted nothing to do with any of that. He saw himself in the way he introduced himself and Timothy— “servants of Christ Jesus.” Nothing was in competition for that. Everything fit underneath that or it was tossed out. There’s real power to be found when we start to think of ourselves in such terms. To know Christ is to find our central identity in Him.