ONLY CHRIST BEING ACCEPTABLE TO GOD
Paul’s intention in verses 2 and 3 is to lay the foundation so that in the following verses we may know how to experience Christ. Paul belittled religion to the uttermost, calling the religionists dogs and making light of all natural goodness. If we have Paul’s vision, we shall hate our love, our patience, our humility, our niceness, our kindness, and our goodness. I doubt that very many of us have such a practice. Thus, we need the revelation that everything apart from Christ is evil, even the best things. These things are evil because they are a form of rebellion against God’s will and against God’s economy. God wants us to live out Christ, but we want to live out something else. This is rebellion. We need to see that nothing but Christ Himself is acceptable to God. If we see this, we shall boast in Christ, not in any good works.
HAVING NO TRUST IN THE FLESH
In verse 3 Paul also says that we have no trust in the flesh. Many Christians think that to trust in the flesh means to trust in the fallen human nature. But this is not the meaning of flesh here. In this chapter Paul said that he had reason to trust in the flesh. He goes on to say that he was circumcised on the eighth day, that he was of the race of Israel, that he was of the tribe of Benjamin, that he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, that according to the law he was a Pharisee, that according to zeal he persecuted the church, and that according to the righteousness of the law he was blameless. All these things were aspects of Paul’s flesh. However, probably you have never regarded such things as the flesh. We think that the flesh includes only evil things, but not good things. Nevertheless, the honorable, lovable, and superior aspects of our natural being are still the flesh. All that Paul did according to the law and according to zeal was flesh and of the flesh. His righteousness according to the law was also flesh. All the seven characteristics listed by Paul in these verses are aspects of the flesh because they all are natural and are neither of Christ nor of the Spirit of God. Anything natural, whether it is good or evil, is the flesh. The Jews trusted in their flesh, trusting in what they were by their natural birth. But we Christians should not trust in anything we have by our natural birth, for anything of our natural birth is part of the flesh.
In order to experience Christ, we need to see that everything we do must be by the Spirit of God, in Christ, and with no trust in the flesh. The flesh denotes all that we are by our natural birth. Both natural foolishness and natural wisdom are of the flesh. Do not think that foolishness is of the flesh and that wisdom is necessarily of the Spirit. As long as it is natural, wisdom is just as fleshly as foolishness. I repeat, in Philippians 3 Paul did not list any negative aspect of the flesh. Everything he mentioned was very good. This indicates that his concept of the flesh was vastly different from ours. To Paul, whatever he was by his natural birth was the flesh. We should not have any trust in our natural being. As long as we have trust in our natural being, we are through with the experience of Christ.
COUNTING THINGS LOSS THAT ONCE WERE GAIN
In order to experience Christ, we must learn to count as loss things that were once a gain to us. We need to count every gain as loss for Christ. There is no comparison between any gain and Christ. If you make such a comparison, you will count everything as loss. The reason we regarded certain things as gain in the past was that we did not know Christ. But once our eyes were opened to see Christ, we realized how foolish it was to keep those other things. Because Paul had this vision, he could say, "But the things that were gain to me, those I counted loss on account of Christ" (3:7, Gk.).
Only by worshipping by the Spirit of God, by boasting in Christ Jesus, and by not having any trust in our flesh can we be acceptable to God. These three things are basic for the experience of Christ. If we see these things, we shall spontaneously count all things loss for Christ. We shall not treasure them any more. We shall realize that even the best worship of God is the barking of a dog if it is done without the Spirit of God. Even the best things apart from Christ are evil works in the eyes of God. This includes our love, our humility, and our patience. We also need to see that God has no interest in our flesh. If we see this, we shall have no trust in the flesh. If we have the vision regarding these three things, a good foundation will be laid for the experience of Christ.
(The Experience of Christ, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)