What a Bargain!
So what has trusting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior cost you? This is a fair question that is becoming more relevant in our country with each passing day. And this should not surprise us. Our Lord said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). Jesus wasn’t kidding, and Paul understood this. Indeed, no one understood our Lord as well as the Apostle Paul, for no one lived in such close imitation of our Lord as he did.
The Judaizers, those who were demanding that the Gentiles who had trusted Christ by saving faith should submit to the law, liked to display their credentials to impress their Gentile listeners. The Judaizers said in effect, “Of course we have faith in Christ, but we are also circumcised, eat right, and dress right. You must become like one of us if you shall truly be saved.” So Paul raised them by listing his credentials as a Jew: Circumcised on the eighth day, an Israelite, of the tribe of Benjamin no less, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to observance of the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the Church, and as to righteousness under the law blameless. No other Jew’s credentials could compare to his.
But Paul lists these credentials not to compete with his adversaries but to show them what those credentials were compared to knowing Christ by faith; in a word, loss, rubbish, even filth. These worthless things got in the way, for they made him think that he was righteous when he was anything but. And please understand: It was not that he was a self-righteous zealot blinded by hate that was his sin, though that was bad enough. No. His sin was relying on his own works to be righteous before God, a total impossibility for anyone. Paul came to understand on that road to Damascus that salvation was by grace when he encountered the very One he was persecuting—because that One then saved him by his grace!
And so all that mattered to Paul any more was knowing the Christ who had covered his worthless “righteousness” with his own righteousness. All of his credentials he gladly threw on the dung pile, and chose the role of persecuted over persecutor. He bartered a life of ease for a life of suffering, a life of living for a life of dying, and all the while hoping that in doing so, he could be like him in his death—SO THAT he might know him and experience the power of his resurrection. Paul thought he bargained well. Have you?