The "Surpassing Value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord"

As we come to the end of Lent, Paul’s soaring passage from Philippians 3:8-14 reminds us beautifully of the "surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (3:8). Paul, imprisoned as he writes to the Philippians, speaks of having "suffered the loss of all things"(3:8), something which he intends quite literally, I believe, as his conversion was the loss not only of a stable life, work and vocation, but of the honor and prestige that would have accrued to him as a Pharisee. Paul says he regards these "things" as "rubbish" (3:8), a word which I have previously indicated means something more like "excrement" in the Greek of Paul’s day. Paul intends this sharp contrast between worldly "things" and "knowing Christ" because, where the two conflict, it is essential that Christ take precedence. Paul’s goal, as that of all Christians, is the resurrection and the life of eternity with Christ.

Paul also uses the phrase, "if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (3:11), as he writes of his desire to "know Christ and the power of the resurrection" (3:10). Does Paul doubt his salvation in Christ? I do not think so, but Paul is aware that prior to the resurrection, while we are in the body, "we have not already obtained this" and have not "already reached the goal" (3:12). It is necessary to continue to grow in closeness to Christ, to continue on the path of righteousness. Paul reaches into the language of athletic imagery - so appropriate an image in the midst of March Madness as well as Lent - to make clear the strain and work and training involved in the Christian life: "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus" (3:13-14). This is the true glory for which we are training, in Lent, but also in every day, which is why we must keep pushing forward until that time when we are assured our rest will be eternal.

John W. Martens

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

John F. Kennedy’s austere brand of patriotism still shines.
John J. ConleySeptember 19, 2017
Pope Francis greets people as he arrives to visit the Shrine of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena, Colombia, on Sept. 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
A Colombian Jesuit reflects on the visit of Pope Francis to his country.
Esteban Morales Herrera, SJSeptember 19, 2017
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., right, talk while walking to a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington in July. Senate Republicans are planning a final, uphill push to erase President Barack Obama's health care law. But Democrats and their allies are going all-out to stop the drive. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
“The health of the American people is incredibly important...you just don’t railroad something through, something you’ve just whipped together in the last couple of weeks.”
Kevin ClarkeSeptember 19, 2017
The absurdity of "BoJack Horseman" offers an unrelenting, often devastating look into our own humanity.
Eve TushnetSeptember 19, 2017