Philippians 3:7
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
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(7) I counted loss . . .—Not merely worthless, but worse than worthless; because preventing the sense of spiritual need and helplessness which should bring to Christ, and so, while “gaining all the world,” tending to the “loss of his own soul.” St. Paul first applies this declaration to the Jewish privilege and dignity of which he had spoken. Then, not content with this, he extends it to “all things” which were his to sacrifice for Christ.

Php 3:7. But what things — Of this nature; were once reputed gain to me — Which I valued myself upon, and confided in for acceptance with God, supposing them to constitute a righteousness sufficient to justify me in his sight; those, ever since I was made acquainted with the truth as it is in Jesus, and embraced the gospel, I have accounted loss — Things of no value; things which ought to be readily foregone for Christ, in order that, placing all my dependance on him for justification, I might through him be accepted of God, and be saved. The word ζημια, here used by the apostle, and rendered loss, properly signifies loss incurred in trade: and especially that kind of loss which is sustained at sea in a storm, when goods are thrown overboard for the sake of saving the ship and the people on board: in which sense the word is used Acts 27:10; Acts 27:21. To understand the term thus, gives great force and beauty to the passage. It is as if the apostle said, In making the voyage of life, for the purpose of gaining salvation, I proposed to purchase it with my circumcision, and my care in observing the ritual and moral precepts of the law; and I put a great value on these things, on account of the gain or advantage I was to make by them. But when I became a Christian, I willingly threw them all overboard, as of no value in purchasing salvation. And this I did for the sake of gaining salvation through faith in Christ as my only Saviour.

3:1-11 Sincere Christians rejoice in Christ Jesus. The prophet calls the false prophets dumb dogs, Isa 56:10; to which the apostle seems to refer. Dogs, for their malice against faithful professors of the gospel of Christ, barking at them and biting them. They urged human works in opposition to the faith of Christ; but Paul calls them evil-workers. He calls them the concision; as they rent the church of Christ, and cut it to pieces. The work of religion is to no purpose, unless the heart is in it, and we must worship God in the strength and grace of the Divine Spirit. They rejoice in Christ Jesus, not in mere outward enjoyments and performances. Nor can we too earnestly guard against those who oppose or abuse the doctrine of free salvation. If the apostle would have gloried and trusted in the flesh, he had as much cause as any man. But the things which he counted gain while a Pharisee, and had reckoned up, those he counted loss for Christ. The apostle did not persuade them to do any thing but what he himself did; or to venture on any thing but that on which he himself ventured his never-dying soul. He deemed all these things to be but loss, compared with the knowledge of Christ, by faith in his person and salvation. He speaks of all worldly enjoyments and outward privileges which sought a place with Christ in his heart, or could pretend to any merit and desert, and counted them but loss; but it might be said, It is easy to say so; but what would he do when he came to the trial? He had suffered the loss of all for the privileges of a Christian. Nay, he not only counted them loss, but the vilest refuse, offals thrown to dogs; not only less valuable than Christ, but in the highest degree contemptible, when set up as against him. True knowledge of Christ alters and changes men, their judgments and manners, and makes them as if made again anew. The believer prefers Christ, knowing that it is better for us to be without all worldly riches, than without Christ and his word. Let us see what the apostle resolved to cleave to, and that was Christ and heaven. We are undone, without righteousness wherein to appear before God, for we are guilty. There is a righteousness provided for us in Jesus Christ, and it is a complete and perfect righteousness. None can have benefit by it, who trust in themselves. Faith is the appointed means of applying the saving benefit. It is by faith in Christ's blood. We are made conformable to Christ's death, when we die to sin, as he died for sin; and the world is crucified to us, and we to the world, by the cross of Christ. The apostle was willing to do or to suffer any thing, to attain the glorious resurrection of saints. This hope and prospect carried him through all difficulties in his work. He did not hope to attain it through his own merit and righteousness, but through the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ.But what things were gain to me - The advantages of birth, of education, and of external conformity to the law. "I thought these to be gain - that is, to be of vast advantage in the matter of salvation. I valued myself on these things, and supposed that I was rich in all that pertained to moral character and to religion." Perhaps, also, he refers to these things as laying the foundation of a hope of future advancement in honor and in wealth in this world. They commended him to the rulers of the nation; they opened before him a brilliant prospect of distinction; they made it certain that he could rise to posts of honor and of office, and could easily gratify all the aspirings of his ambition.

Those I counted loss - "I now regard them all as so much loss. They were really a disadvantage - a hindrance - an injury. I look upon them, not as gain or an advantage, but as an obstacle to my salvation." He had relied on them. He had been led by these things to an improper estimate of his own character, and he had been thus hindered from embracing the true religion. He says, therefore, that he now renounced all dependence on them; that he esteemed them not as contributing to his salvation, but, so far as any reliance should be placed on them, as in fact so much loss.

For Christ - Greek, "On account of Christ." That is, so far as Christ and his religion were concerned, they were to be regarded as worthless. In order to obtain salvation by him, it was necessary to renounce all dependence on these things.

7. gain—rather as Greek, "gains"; including all possible advantages of outward status, which he had heretofore enjoyed.

I counted—Greek, "I have counted for Christ's sake loss." He no longer uses the plural as in "gains"; for he counts them all but one great "loss" (Mt 16:26; Lu 9:25).

Having argued how he might have had as great a plea for confidence of his acceptance with God as any, if it would have held from the recited particulars, he now shows, how advantageous soever they had, in the judgment of others as well as himself, been reckoned to be, before he was effectually called, yet, since the scales fell off his eyes, that he could discern the truth, he was so far from accounting them profitable, that indeed he accounted them prejudicial; so far from an advantage, that they were a damage to him, looking for salvation by Christ alone, Matthew 21:31 Romans 9:30. They were but as pebbles that hide the Pearl of price, Matthew 13:46; as ciphers to this figure, that can make any thing valuable, therefore by Paul preferred to all before.

But what things were gain to me,.... As circumcision, and the observance of the ceremonial law, which he thought were necessary to salvation; and his natural and lineal descent from Abraham, which he supposed entitled him to the favour of God, and eternal life, as well as to outward privileges; and his being of that strict sect of religion, a Pharisee, which he doubted not, being brought up and continued in, would secure to him everlasting happiness; and his zeal in persecuting the church of Christ, in which he thought he did God good service, and merited heaven for himself; and his legal righteousness, which he fancied was perfect, and so justified him in the sight of God, and rendered him acceptable to him: for the apostle's meaning is, not only that these things were judged by him, while in an unconverted state, good in themselves, and in some respects useful, but that they were really gainful, and meritorious of happiness in another world. But being converted, he saw all those things in a different light, and had a different opinion of them:

those I counted loss for Christ; circumcision he saw was now abolished, and was nothing, and that the circumcision of the heart was the main thing; and that the other was so far from being useful and necessary to salvation, that it was hurtful, was a yoke of bondage, bound men over to keep the whole law, and made Christ of none effect to them; and the same opinion he had of the whole ceremonial law: as for natural descent, which he once valued and trusted in, he now rejected it, well knowing it signified not whether a man was a Greek, or a Jew, a Barbarian, or Scythian, provided he was but a believer in Christ, Colossians 3:11; and as for any outward form or sect of religion, he knew there was no salvation in it, nor in any other name but that of Christ, Acts 4:12; and he was so far from thinking, that on account of his zeal in persecuting the church he was deserving of heaven, that for that reason he was not worthy to be called an apostle of Christ; and as for his legal righteousness, he now saw it to be as filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6; that many things in it were really evil in themselves, such as his observance of the traditions of the elders, whereby the commands of God were transgressed, and his mad zeal in persecuting the followers of Christ; and other things, which had the appearance of good works, were not truly so, did not spring from love, were not done in faith, and with a view to the glory of God; and that the best of them were very imperfect, and exceeding blamable; yea, that if they had been perfect, they could not have been meritorious of eternal life, as he once thought them to be; he saw now they were of no use in justification and salvation; nay, that they were hurtful and pernicious, being trusted to, as keeping persons off from Christ, and his righteousness: wherefore, he gladly suffered the loss of all his legal righteousness, and renounced and disclaimed it, and all pretensions to justification and salvation by it, for the sake of Christ; of life and salvation by him, and in comparison of him; of the knowledge of him, and of his justifying righteousness, as the following verses show. Hence, what before he pleased himself much with, and promised himself much from, he could not now reflect upon with any pleasure and satisfaction of mind; which is the sense of this phrase with Jewish writers (x): so it is observed of a drunken man, when he comes to himself; and it is told him what he did when in liquor, he grieves at it, , "and counts all loss and not gain"; i.e. can take no pleasure in a reflection on it,

(x) Sepher Cosri, p. 3, sect. 16. fol. 152. 1.

But what things were {d} gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

(d) Which I considered as gain.

Php 3:7. Now, with the antithetic ἀλλά, the apostle comes again to his real standpoint, far transcending any πεποιθέναι ἐν σαρκί, and says: No! everything that was gain to me, etc.

ἅτινα] quaecunque, the category of the matters specified in Php 3:5-6. [157] The emphasis is to be placed on this word; comp. ταῦτα subsequently.

ἮΝ ΜΟΙ ΚΈΡΔΗ] is not the dative of opinion (Erasmus, Beza, and many others, including Heinrichs, Rheinwald, Hoelemann, Matthies, de Wette, Hofmann; comp. van Hengel, who takes κέρδη as lucra opinata); but such things were to the apostle in his pre-Christian state really gain (κατὰ σάρκα). By means of them he was within the old theocracy put upon a path which had already brought him repute and influence, and promised to him yet far greater honours, power, and wealth in the future; a career rich in gain was opened up to him. The plural κέρδη denotes the various advantages dependent on such things as have been mentioned. Frequently used also in the classical writers.

ΤΑῦΤΑ] emphatically: these very things.

διὰ τὸν Χ.] for the sake of Christ, who had become the highest interest of my life. Paul explains himself more particularly in Php 3:8-9, explanations which are not to be here anticipated.

ζημίαν] as harm, that is, as disadvantageous (the contrast to κέρδος; comp. Plat, de lucri cup. p. 226 E, Leg. viii. p. 835 B), because, namely, they had been impediments to the conversion to Christ, and that owing to the false moral judgment and confidence attaching to them. Comp. Form. Conc. p. 708; Calvin on Php 3:8. This one disadvantage he has seen in everything of which he is speaking; hence the plural is not again used here as previously in κέρδη. The ἭΓΗΜΑΙ (perfect), however, has occurred, and is an accomplished fact since his conversion, to which the apostle here glances back. On ἡγεῖσθαι ζημίαν, comp. Sturz, Lex. Xen. II. p. 454; Lucian, Lexiph. 24; on the relation of the singular to the plural κέρδη, Eur. Cycl. 311: πολλοῖσι κέρδη πονηρὰ ζημίαν ἠμείψατο.

[157] The later heretical enemies of the law appealed to this passage, in which also, in their view, the law was meant to be included. On the other hand, Chrysostom and his successors asserted that the law was meant only in comparison with Christ. Estius, however, justly observes: “non de ipsa lege loquitur, sed de justitia, quae in lege est.”


7. what things] The Greek might almost be paraphrased, “the kind or class of things which”; including anything and everything, as ground of reliance, other than Christ. So more fully, Php 3:8.

gain] Lit. and better, gains. The plural suggests the proud and jealous care with which the religionist would count over the items of his merit and hope. One by one he had found them, or had won them; each with its separate value in the eyes of the old self.

those] There is emphasis and deliberation in the pronoun.

I counted] Lit. and better, I have counted. The perfect tense indicates not only the decisive conviction, but its lifelong permanence.

loss] A singular noun. The separate and carefully counted gains are heaped now into one ruthless estimate of loss. From the new point of view, they all sink together.

He does not mean that he discovered his circumcision, ancestry, energy, diligence, exactness, to be in themselves evil things. But he found them evil in respect of his having used them to shut out the true Messiah from his obedience, faith, and love. As substitutes for Him they were not only worthless, but positive loss. Every day of reliance on them had been a day of delay and deprivation in regard of the supreme blessing.

Wyclif’s word here is “apeiryngis,” and just below “peirement”; i.e. impairings, losses.

for Christ] Lit. and better, on account of the Christ; because of the discovery of Jesus as the true Messiah, and of the true Messiah as no mere supreme supernatural Jewish Deliverer, but as Son of God, Lamb of God, Lord of Life. He cast away entirely all the old reliance, but, observe, for something infinitely more than equivalent.

Php 3:7. Ἅτινα, those things which) Referring to the things just now enumerated.—κέρδη, gains) A very comprehensive plural.—ἥγημαι, I counted) A most Christian profession respecting the past, present, and future; extending as far as the 14th verse.—διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν, for the sake of Christ) To these words are to be referred the words following in Php 3:8-9, ἵνα, κ.τ.λ., that, etc.—ζημίαν) loss.

Verse 7. - But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; literally, but such things as used to be gains to me, those I have counted as loss for Christ's sake. He used to regard these outward privileges, one by one, as so many items of gain; now he has learned to regard them, all in the aggregate, as so much loss because of Christ. They were loss because confidence in outward things tends to keep the soul from Christ. Τοῦ γὰρ ἡλίου φανέτος, says Chrysostom, προσκαθῆσθαι τῷ λύχνῳ ζημία. Philippians 3:7What things (ἅτινα)

The double relative classifies; things which came under the category of gain. Compare Galatians 4:24; Colossians 2:23.

Gain (κέρδη)

Lit., gains. So Rev., in margin, and better. The various items of privilege are regarded separately.

I counted loss (ἥγημαι ζημίαν)

Better, as Rev., have counted. The perfect tense implies that he still counts them as loss. See on Philippians 3:8. Notice the singular number loss, and the plural gains. The various gains are all counted as one loss.

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