THE LAW AND CHRIST
In order to know what the excellency of the knowledge of Christ is, we need to see that the main comparison in chapter three is between the law and Christ. Verse 5 says, "According to the law, a Pharisee" (Gk.). Verse 6 says, "According to zeal, persecuting the church; according to the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Gk.). In these two verses "according to" is used three times: according to the law, according to zeal, and according to righteousness in the law. In verses 7 and 8 Paul uses the words "on account of" three times: on account of Christ, on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, and on account of whom, referring to Christ. In verse 5 Paul says "according to the law," but in verse 7 he says "on account of Christ." Here we see the contrast between the law and Christ.
A second comparison is that between zeal for the law and the knowledge of Christ. The third comparison is that between the righteousness of the law and the righteousness which is of God by faith. The focal point of these comparisons, however, is the comparison between the law and Christ. The knowledge in verse 8 is not the knowledge of the law, but the knowledge of Christ. This knowledge has its excellency because Christ is excellent.
Do you still believe that the law is excellent? If you say no, I would ask you to compare the law of the Old Testament with the law of the Roman Empire. By this comparison the law of the Old Testament is excellent, for it excels Roman law. But if you compare the Old Testament law with Christ, it does not have any excellence.
THE EXCELLENCY OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST
Christ is the embodiment of God. All the fullness of the Godhead is embodied in Christ and dwells in Him. What could be more excellent than the fullness of the Godhead and Christ as the mystery of God? According to the New Testament, no one can know Christ adequately because He is so excellent. In Matthew 11:27 the Lord Jesus said, "No one knows the Son except the Father." Thus, it is impossible for us to know Christ fully; He surpasses all things and far transcends our comprehension. One day, however, the Lord brought His disciples to Caesarea Philippi and asked them to tell Him who people were saying that He was. They said, "Some, John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets" (Matt. 16:14). All these were nonsensical answers. Then the Lord asked His disciples, "But you, who do you say that I am?" (Matt. 16:15). Suddenly Peter responded, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). There is no comparison between the Son of the living God and Elijah or any of the other prophets. After Peter made his declaration regarding Christ, the Lord Jesus said to him, "You are blessed, Simon Bar-jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father Who is in the heavens" (Matt. 16:17). The Lord Jesus seemed to be saying, "Simon, you are a son of Jonah, the son of a man of flesh. Nevertheless, you have received a heavenly revelation. This did not come from flesh and blood, but from My Father in the heavens who has revealed it to you. I am not simply a Nazarene, the son of Mary. I am the Son of the living God." With Jesus the Nazarene there was no excellency, but with the Son of the living God there is excellency. None can compare with Him.
Although Peter received the revelation in Matthew 16, in Matthew 17 he acted foolishly on the Mount of Transfiguration. When Moses and Elijah appeared, Peter said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You are willing, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah" (Matt. 17:4). Peter’s word offended the heavens. Therefore, a voice from heaven said, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I delight; hear Him!" (Matt. 17:5). This voice seemed to be saying, "Peter, don’t suggest building three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for the Lord Jesus. Listen only to the Son of God." This voice was a shock to Peter. With the two other disciples, Peter fell on his face. But when they lifted up their eyes, "they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone" (Matt. 17:8). Jesus Christ, the embodiment of the fullness of God, is excellent. His excellence far surpasses that of Moses and Elijah.
(The Experience of Christ, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)