A CLEAR PICTURE OF THE FLESH
In Philippians 3:4-6 Paul presents a clear picture of the flesh. After saying that he had reason to trust in the flesh, Paul proceeds to list seven aspects of the flesh: being circumcised the eighth day, being of the stock of Israel, being of the tribe of Benjamin, being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, being a Pharisee as concerning the law, being a zealous persecutor of the church, and being blameless according to the righteousness of the law. We may think that the flesh is something bad. These seven items, however, are not bad. Paul was circumcised on the eighth day. Certainly this was very good. He was born of the stock of Israel, not of pagans. Moreover, he was of the tribe of Benjamin, not of Reuben or Simeon. In the Bible Benjamin is dear, precious, and lovable. Paul was also a Hebrew of the Hebrews. According to the law of God, he was a Pharisee, and according to zeal for God, he persecuted the church. Paul was not indifferent towards God, but loved Him, lived for Him, and even persecuted the church for Him. Finally, according to the righteousness which is in the law, he was blameless. He was perfect, complete, and without defect. Nevertheless, all these items are aspects of the flesh. In fact, they are the constituents of the flesh. Apart from Paul’s words in Philippians, we would not consider such things as part of the flesh. But the flesh includes everything natural, whether bad or good. This is the meaning of the flesh in the Bible.
As long as something issues from our natural being, it is of the flesh. If we know this, we are blessed, for we shall not have any trust in ourselves. Rather, we shall reject ourselves utterly. But after we reject ourselves, we shall enjoy Christ as the wonderful, heavenly leftovers. Do not try to adjust yourself. As flesh, we simply cannot be adjusted. Instead of adjusting ourselves, we should repudiate ourselves. If we do this, we shall experience Christ with full enjoyment, enjoying Him in all we do and say.
COUNTING ALL THINGS LOSS AND AS DUNG
After giving us the definition of the flesh in verses 4 through 6, Paul says in verse 7, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss on account of Christ" (Gk.). Surely things such as circumcision, being of the stock of Israel, and being of the tribe of Benjamin were a gain to Paul. But if he had kept all these things, there would have been no room in him for Christ. For example, if a bottle is filled with dirt, there is no room for air to get in. First the dirt must be emptied out and then the air will fill it. Likewise, if we still hold on to certain good aspects of the flesh, there will be no room in us for Christ. Therefore, on account of Christ, Paul counted as loss all the aspects of the flesh.
In verse 8 Paul says, "But surely I also count all things loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them dung, that I may gain Christ" (Gk.). Paul seemed to be saying, "I have already counted as loss seven items on account of Christ. Now I also count all things in the whole universe as loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ." In this universe there is such an excellency as the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.
In this verse Paul says that he counts all things dung on account of Christ. According to the usage of the Greek word in ancient times, the word translated dung refers to dog food. It can also be rendered as refuse, garbage, trash. In the eyes of such a seeker after Christ as Paul, everything else was dog food, refuse, trash. The dogs mentioned in verse 2 feed on the dog food spoken of in verse 8. But we feed on Christ, the food of the children of God.
(The Experience of Christ, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)