Whatever Happens, Value Christ Over Commas

Philippians 3:3-7


Abigail Disney is the granddaughter of Roy Disney, who was Walt Disney’s brother. She was raised amid the wealth and fame of her family in North Hollywood. Now she has some very controversial things to say about rich people. Speaking recently at an event hosted by millionaires, she said that one of the hallmark characteristics of billionaires is seeing whose plane is biggest. She was pretty cynical and said that money does odd things to people.

She said the more money her parents got, the more they were afraid of interacting with others who weren’t like them. They had more to lose. They didn’t know who they could trust. People wanted them for their fame and fortune, not for their friendship. They had to have special entrances and exits everywhere, a private plane, a private bar. 

And then she said that at a certain point for rich people, life becomes all about commas.

The world is waiting to see who the first trillionaire will be. He or she will have four commas. 

For some people, life is simply an accumulation of commas, which could all be erased at any moment.

Our message today is very simple—Christ is better than all the commas in the world! It’s not the comma, but Christ, that makes for a fulfilling life. With that, let’s resume our study of Philippians by going to Philippians 2:2-7:


Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

Now, notice all these commas: 

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.


We’ve come to the section in the letter to the Philippians in which Paul warns his readers against the Judiazers. Who were these people? These people simply bedeviled the apostle Paul, and he spent a great deal of his ministry attacking them. From his first epistle, which I believe was Galatians, to one of his last, the book of Titus, Paul battled these people, whom he called the “circumcision group.” We call them the Judiazers.

The Lexham Bible Dictionary says: 

The English word ‘Judiazer’ connotes the practice of imposing Jewish religious and social customs on others.

The narrative of Acts suggests that church elders in Jerusalem did not begin to understand that God’s plan was transcending the Jew/Gentile divide until after Peter witnessed the Holy Spirit’s work in Cornelius’ home. The Jerusalem Council met around ad 49 to discuss whether Gentile believers must follow Jewish religious customs (Acts 15:1–29). Even after the council determined that Gentile Christians need not practice the Mosaic law, elitist Judaizers apparently continued to require law-observance for all Christians, whether Jew or Gentile. Paul charges that such a view distorts the gospel (Gal 1:6–7).

Some Christian Judaizers (e.g., many of Paul’s opponents; the Jewish teachers of Acts 15:1) imposed the requirements of the Mosaic Law—primarily but not exclusively circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and dietary laws—on Gentile Christians, insisting that salvation, or being a member of the people of God, rested on obedience to the Mosaic law.

In other words, the dispensation of the Lord’s plan of redemption was now entering a new phase. Now Jesus was creating His church, and it transcended Judaism. That was hard for some of the Jewish believers in the first century to realize. It took time even for the apostles to understand what God was doing. God had created a church, and the membership requirement was simply repentance and faith—not Jewish ritual. Some of the Jewish people who were drawn to Christ couldn’t understand how Gentiles could bypass Jewish ritual and enter directly into the Kingdom. So they were preaching that in order to follow Christ, one had to also embrace Jewish practices.

Not so, said Paul! In several of his letters, his strongest language addressed this.

1. What Paul Said

Here in Philippians, Paul says, “If anyone on this earth could have been saved by keeping the external demands of the Jewish system and the Mosaic Law, it is me.” Look at verse 3 and following:

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:

And he lists seven elements of his Jewish resume, separated by commas:

  1. Circumcised on the eighth day [of my life, as prescribed by the Law for male Jewish babies]
  2. Of the people of Israel
  3. Of the tribe of Benjamin, which was the beloved tribe and the tribe of origin for Israel’s first king, for whom Paul was named as Saul of Tarsus
  4. A Hebrew of Hebrews. In other words, Paul said, I am of pure Jewish stock. My parents were fully Jewish with no other blood mingled in their lineage.
  5. In regard to the law, a Pharisee, which was a strict denomination among the Jews, one known for its conservative approach to the Old Testament. 
  6. As for zeal, persecuting the church. In other words, if you Judiazers want to twist the church around, I have even better credentials. I was determined to destroy it altogether. 
  7. As for righteousness based on the law, faultless. This doesn’t mean Paul thought that he was sinless, but that he scrupulously kept the rules about Sabbath observance, dietary laws, and ritual cleanliness.

Paul said, “If anyone would have been able to obtain salvation through Judaism, it was me.” 

It reminds me very much of Martin Luther, who as a young man entered a monastery and tried his very best to be so perfect as a monk that he could be saved by his good works. He said, “I was a good monk, and I kept the rules of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers at the monastery who knew me would bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work.”

His life was saved when he realized we are saved by grace through faith.

Both Paul and Luther lived centuries ago. You may ask what any of that has to do with life today, and I would say a great deal. There are many churches, denominations, branches, and varieties of Christianity in which people believe they can be right with God and have eternal life by keeping various rituals or living an outwardly good life.

The America Worldview Inventory 2020 Survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University studied people who identified themselves as Christian. The researchers asked people what religion they held, and if the person said, “I’m a Christian,” then they were asked on what basis they expected to go to Heaven.

  • 52% of U.S. self-identified Christians expect to experience salvation on the basis of good works.
  • 48% believe they experience salvation on the basis of their confession of sin and faith in Christ.

The president of Arizona Christian University, Len Munsil, said that the “lack of understanding of basic Christian theology is stunning…. It’s a wake-up call for the church.”

This was essentially what Paul was fighting. 

But now, let’s go on to verse 7:  But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

Before Paul met Christ, these were the things he was proudest off. His self-regard and self-confidence were based on all these assets and accomplishments. He was proud of his Jewish pedigree, and his strict lifestyle, and his zealous work ethic, and his outward success. But somehow the moment he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, those things seemed like rubbish, like loss, compared to what he had just discovered.

Notice the word whatever. That includes the seven virtues Paul has just listed along with what? Along with everything else in all of life.

The word gains is the same word Paul used in Philippians 1:21, when he said, if you’ll remember: To live is Christos (Christ). To die is kerdos (gain). It was a financial term having to do with profit. We all like profit. If you get an unexpected bonus at work, or you have a healthy gain on an investment, or you get a huge raise, or you inherit a sum of money, you’re excited about that. It is gain, profit.

But Paul had changed the way he thought. He said, “I now consider….” The word consider indicates mental processing, logical thinking. 

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

His point is this—all there is in the world is worthless compared to knowing Christ. We cannot find a life worth living through commas. We cannot accumulate enough good works or rituals or wealth or fame to have a fulfilling life. We cannot acquire enough merit points, bank accounts, personal jets, or media appearances to really satisfy us.

Whatever gains to us are loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as our Lord.

2. What Spurgeon Said

I wish I could say things as Charles Spurgeon did. God gave him an imagination and a vocabulary that never stopped. Here is what he wrote about this in his autobiography:

My Christ is more precious to me than anything my fellow-creatures have. I see some who live in palaces, sit on thrones, wear crowns, and feast on dainties. I have heard of Alexanders, Napoleons, and Caesars; but I envy them not, for Christ is more precious to me than all earthly dominion. 

I see others with great riches. They are afraid of losing what they have, yet they are groaning after more. They have many cares through their wealth, and they must leave it all one day; but Christ is better than all earthly riches. Shall I give up Christ for gold? No, for Christ is more precious to me than wealth could ever be.

Some men have noble minds; they long for knowledge, they toil that they may measure the earth, survey the heavens, read the lore of the ancients, dissolve minerals, but Christ is better to me than learning.

Others pant for fame. I shall be forgotten, save by the few whose steps I have guided in the path to Heaven; but I weep not at that, for Christ is more precious to me than fame.

He is more precious than anything I myself have.

If I have a home and fireside and feel a comfort in them, yet, if called to suffer banishment, I have a better home. If I have relatives, mother and father and faithful friends; these I value and rightly too. ‘Tis a bitter pang to lose them. But Christ is better than relatives or friends. He is my Husband, my Brother, the One who loves me.

I have health, and that is a precious jewel. Take it away and pleasures lose their gloss, but my Jesus is mine still, and He is better than health, yes, better than life itself.  

When I consider the glory of His nature, the excellence of His character, the greatness of His offices, the richness of His gifts, surely He is indeed precious…. To know that Christ is precious, to feel it in truth, is everything.

3. What Jesus Said

What the apostle Paul and Charles Spurgeon are saying here was taught by Jesus Himself in embryonic form in His parables of the kingdom. He devoted two very brief parables to this.

In Matthew 13:44, He said, “The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field.”

This very thing has happened many times with the discovery of gold or precious minerals or diamonds beneath the earth. Some years ago in Zambia, a prospector was out hunting. He shot an antelope and as he investigated the fallen animal he saw some classic signs of copper ore in the rock next to the animal. He kept the discovery to himself, but began a frantic effort to acquire the land, and it later became one of the largest copper mines in Africa. 

Jesus was saying in Matthew 13, I am the only true and lasting treasure you will ever find or ever need, and it’s worth everything else to follow Me.

In the next verse, He said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45).


One of the richest men in the world is Philip Ng of Singapore, who is a billionaire. He recently spoke to Fox News, and this is what he said, “I was always in search for a better life, a better purpose, a better me, a better everything. I was just looking at all the wrong things, but when I realized then is no better me or better things without Jesus.  Then it all snapped into place…. I treasure my (faith in Christ) more than anything, so I just wish for everyone to have that peace and joy. It sure beats a lot of money and material things you may have.”

There’s an old song that says,

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
Don’t worry about how many commas you accumulate in life. It’s not commas that take us to heaven, but the explanation point of Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul put it: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.