For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:8b-11)
Good Friday looms and I can’t get Phil 3:8b-11 out of my mind. When Paul writes of having lost everything—absolutely everything—for the sake of Christ, he’s not playing around. He went from, by his own account, being a star on the rise among the Pharisees to one of the most hated men among the Jews of his time. Everywhere he went, he faced dramatic opposition, and was even stoned and left for dead (then he got back up and was preaching the next day—see Acts 14:19-20).
Paul went from persecuting Christians to planting churches. The Church’s greatest opponent became her strongest advocate.
What was it that motivated his single-minded pursuit of the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ? The power of the resurrection.
Paul wanted to know Christ and the power of the resurrection—which meant that he had to share in his suffering. Suffering that, if the resurrection weren’t real, would have been unbearable.
If the resurrection didn’t happen, what reason would Paul have had to turn his back on his promising career among the Pharisees?
If the resurrection didn’t happen, what reason would he have had to say, “I consider it all rubbish?”
If the resurrection didn’t happen, what reason would he have had to say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain?”
What reason would he have had to endure beatings, starvation, imprisonment, character assassination and ship wrecks?
Sometimes people wonder if a literal resurrection actually matters. Would we lose anything if Jesus was raised spiritually or just in the hearts of his followers, some ask. Paul’s testimony and Paul’s contention in the book of Philippians answers that with a resounding “Yes!”
If there were no real, physical resurrection from the dead, Paul would not have been able to endure any of this. No one would.
Without the resurrection, we lose everything. And all we have left is rubbish.