“More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s righteousness.”
“We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind.”
Under house arrest, Paul was free to pen this precious book of the Bible. Sometimes I wonder if house arrest is what it takes for us to accomplish God’s will – our busy lives have to be paused so we can really focus on what God has called us to. Certainly times of illness or breaks in schedule give us an occasion to pause and contemplate. Paul wrote this book as a “safeguard” (3:1) to his brothers and sisters. What was he trying to protect them from? False righteousness.
Full of zeal, few compared to the righteousness by the law that Paul had achieved. Yet he recognized that what was formerly viewed in his eyes and others as righteous was now disgusting to him and not true righteousness at all. Paradoxically, he saw that his loss of that perceived position of righteousness was truly a gain. Though we are in the new covenant, we have the same systems of righteousness today, seemingly unnoticed.
There is a danger today of ascribing holiness externally – what we wear, what we eat, how we serve the church. And while these outward signs done in accordance with God’s Word are evidence of fruit born in the lives of faithful followers of Christ, they are not our righteousness. This does not mean we cast off the wisdom in approaching decisions of dress, food and service as insignificant because they do not make us righteous. Rather, our hope is not in them and there is no pride we can have for making the supposedly “right” decisions.
The graphic image of righteous acts being likened to a menstrual rag is crude. The LORD does not mince words with us – He knows how futile the pursuit of righteousness apart from Him is and makes it plain that it does not come close to what He says is righteous. The price of blood for sins is also repulsive to us – the requirement seems so unnecessary and disgusting – slaughtering an animal for our iniquity. Until we catch a glimpse of the holiness of God. Sin is death. False righteousness is death, not life. It leads us away from a close relationship with God and instead into a dead religion.
Our lips can say the right words, we can outwardly manifest all of the “religiously correct” standards according to some, but still not understand what it means to be truly righteous. Until it is etched into our hearts that we truly do not contain any righteousness on our own, we are indeed far from righteousness. Maintaining that understanding is so very difficult, for we begin to see God working in us and can be deceived that it is actually us being righteous. In God’s economy, His righteousness would be imputed to the unholy. Completely undeserved, blemished lambs covered in His Holy blood. I am undone. Praise His Name.
Oh God – we kneel before you poor, destitute, having no righteousness of our own. We come before You recognizing that only You are truly righteous! Please help us to be like Paul – always cognizant that we are chief of sinners – and to live sold out for Your glory alone.