There’s a thread of thought that ties together the different parts of God’s Word written by different authors. It’s a thread that always emphasizes the contrast between what God is willing to offer and what man in his own spirit is willing to ignore.
Here’s what God is willing to offer: Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” [NIV]
Here’s what man is often willing to ignore: “Romans 1:21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.” [NLT]
Not taking notice of God is not a neutral position at all. The Bible brings that contrast into clear focus with the daunting list of consequences of not accepting God’s offer and the outcome of choosing what man in his own spirit is willing to ignore “Romans 1:26…Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either.” [MSG]
NIV Philippians 3:7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Thankfully most of us would never have to say we’ve “lost all things” to gain Christ. It’s likely we weren’t as successful as Paul was at keeping the rules in our old life, either, but we were certainly trying. Many of us would say we just “went along to get along” confused about the relationship of success and righteousness. That same confusion that left us unsure what to put our faith in was there back in Paul’s day too. Was righteousness only about right behavior and obeying the right rules?
Paul came to consider his list of successes as “garbage” but it was that old confusion that became our “garbage.” Christ became the contrast that showed us this reality; trying to figure out what we could make of ourselves was “garbage” compared to what God had in mind for us; “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”