When you keep a financial ledger, you have credits and you have debits. That is, you have gains and losses. Paul uses this analogy to illustrate an important point. First, he makes a list of gains, or at least what might be considered gains:
- Circumcised when he was eight days old, according to the Law
- An Israelite, from the tribe of Benjamin
- Couldn’t get more Hebrew
- A Pharisee, the strictest proponent of the Law
- A persecutor of the church, showing his devotion to Judaism
- Hyper-obedient to the Law
In terms of earning salvation, if that could be done, Paul was tier one. He would be on the recruitment video if works salvation was a thing. But here’s what he says about these gains:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. – Philippians 3:7
All of these things in the gain column, he lumped together into one and put it in the loss column. They weren’t, in fact, gains. If Christ is in your gain column, nothing else belongs there. Everything else is loss in comparison.
This is why “Christ plus” doesn’t work, the idea that in order to be saved, you need Christ plus baptism, or communion, or confession, or obedience. No, in terms of earning salvation, those are loss. If we rely on those, they are actually to our detriment. In order to be saved, one must acknowledge that he can do nothing to earn favor with God and that the only gain is Christ.
Baptism, communion, confession, obedience, worship, etc. are all the blessed results of a changed life of a saved man. They don’t in any way contribute salvation–they stem from salvation.
So, what’s in your gain column?