“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.”
Paul’s ambition centered around knowing Christ fully. He wanted to become Christ-centered in his spiritual life. To achieve that goal, he needed to do something both negatively and positively. Negatively, he viewed personal achievement in a special way. Positively, he held Christ in a unique fashion.
“And count them as rubbish”
The word “count” occurs twice in verse 8. This second use of the word “count” means that Paul came to another conclusion in addition to the first usage of the word. The first use of “count” in verse 8 was in the sense of displacement. He displaced human success with the excellence of knowing Christ. In this phrase, the word “count” means to evaluate human achievement negatively. It is one thing to place a great ideal before oneself; it is yet another to reject its competitor radically.
The word “rubbish” refers to human excrement. The term is in the plural. Human success is like a big pile of excrement. This is not extravagant language. Every standard of human success was viewed as so much excrement by Paul. He did not use abstruse language here! Human excrement has never been highly regarded by the human race! This is a very vivid portrayal of anything that attempts to compete with the knowledge of Christ.
Excrement is waste from the human body. The nutrients have been taken out and used by the body. All that remains is waste. Anything that takes away from the knowledge of Christ should be looked upon as waste.
“That I may gain Christ”
Paul was already a Christian. Why did he then need to “gain Christ?” This is not gaining Christ in salvation. This is gaining a greater valuation for Christ as a Christian. Paul was not satisfied with a mere acquaintance with Christ. He aimed to know the most wonderful person in the world better.
We could be worth billions of dollars, but, if we do not have Christ, it will not count for much either in time or in eternity. We will leave all our gadgets behind in eternity. However, there never will be a time when we do not know Christ personally. We may lose our father or mother or even a child, but there is never a time when we lose Christ. The worst thing that could happen to us cannot separate us from Christ:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35)
It is possible to advance spiritually far beyond our initial salvation.
Knowledge of the excellence of Christ as our consuming passion should be our central ambition.
We do not become a mature Christian until we become Christ-centered. We must reject all competition to that goal.
It is most difficult to hold Christ as the center of our lives if we have an active competitor with Him. If our success is as important as He is, He cannot become the principal person in our lives. Does Jesus Christ have a rival in your life? Are you honest enough to acknowledge it? Do you have enough courage to deal with it?