Verse of the Year (part 3)

The Sufficiency of Christ

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3: 7-11)

We have noted so far in the series that the central pillar of true Christian discipleship is knowing and treasuring Jesus.

If we take a step back and look at this verse in its wider context then we can see that true discipleship is intimately connected to our understanding of what Jesus has done for us through his death on the Cross. We cannot know or treasure Jesus in any meaningful way unless we are convinced that we are clothed in His righteousness.

This is what Paul means when he says:

“not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

The message of the gospel is not merely that we are forgiven. It is that righteousness is imputed to us. In other words, the good news is not simply that it is “as if we never sinned” (as wonderful as that is) but also “as if we have always obeyed.” This is what Paul believed and this is why he valued Christ above everything else.

If we are to know and enjoy Christ in our lives, we need to avoid legalism at all costs. We diminish the value of Christ in our own minds if we fall into the trap of thinking that we need something besides him to make our lives acceptable in God’s sight. If I trust in a combination of Christ’s work and my own moral performance, I am telling myself that Jesus is not that great a treasure. It means that we believe he is not able to save all on his own. This is an attitude that stems from idolatry, not from faith in God’s Word. It comes from a pride that asserts our importance rather than Christ’s sufficiency.

Jesus is all-sufficient. Through his death on the Cross, Jesus suffered the wrath that we deserved. Not only this, he satisfied the righteous requirements of the law on our behalf. He took our sin and guilt. He gave us his perfect obedience. God now looks upon all those who trust in Christ as if they have always kept the law perfectly.

Knowing Jesus is the greatest treasure we could ever have precisely because he is the all we need to be made right with God. If we have Christ we need nothing else. We are secure. In the words of Augustus M. Toplady:

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

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