8.Nay more, I reckon. He means, that he continues to be of the same mind, because it often happens, that, transported with delight in new things, we forget everything else, and afterwards we regret it. Hence Paul, having said that he renounced all hinderances, that he might gain Christ, now adds, that he continues to be of this mind.
For the sake of the excellency of the knowledge He extols the gospel in opposition to all such notions as tend to beguile us. For there are many things that have an appearance of excellence, but the knowledge of Christ surpasses to such a degree everything else by its sublimity (183), that, as compared with it, there is nothing that is not contemptible. Let us, therefore, learn from this, what value we ought to set upon the knowledge of Christ alone. As to his calling him his Lord, he does this to express the intensity of his feeling.
For whom I have suffered the loss of all things He expresses more than he had done previously; at least he expresses himself with greater distinctness. It is a similitude taken from seamen, who, when urged on by danger of shipwreck, throw everything overboard, that, the ship being lightened, they may reach the harbour in safety. Paul, then, was prepared to lose everything that he had, rather than be deprived of Christ.
But it is asked, whether it is necessary for us to renounce riches, and honors, and nobility of descent, and even external righteousness, that we may become partakers of Christ, (Heb_3:14,) for all these things are gifts of God, which, in themselves, are not to be despised? I answer, that the Apostle does not speak here so much of the things themselves, as of the quality of them. It is, indeed, true, that the kingdom of heaven is like a precious pearl, for the purchase of which no one should hesitate to sell everything that he has (Mat_13:46.) There is, however, a difference between the substance of things and the quality. Paul did not reckon it necessary to disown connection with his own tribe and with the race of Abraham, and make himself an alien, that he might become a Christian, but to renounce dependence upon his descent. It was not befitting, that from being chaste he should become unchaste; that from being sober, he should become intemperate; and that from being respectable and honorable, he should become dissolute; but that he should divest himself of a false estimate of his own righteousness, and treat it with contempt. We, too, when treating of the righteousness of faith, do not contend against the substance of works, but against that quality with which the sophists invest them, inasmuch as they contend that men are justified by them. Paul, therefore, divested himself — not of works, but of that mistaken confidence in works, with which he had been puffed up.
As to riches and honors, when we have divested ourselves of attachment to them, we will be prepared, also, to renounce the things themselves, whenever the Lord will require this from us, and so it ought to be. It is not expressly necessary that you be a poor man, in order that you may be Christian; but if it please the Lord that it should be so, you ought to be prepared to endure poverty. In fine, it is not lawful for Christians to have anything apart from Christ. I consider as apart from Christ everything that is a hinderance in the way of Christ alone being our ground of glorying, and having an entire sway over us.
And I count them but refuse. Here he not merely by words, but also by realities, amplifies greatly what he had before stated. For those who cast their merchandise and other things into the sea, that they may escape in safety, do not, therefore, despise riches, but act as persons prepared rather to live in misery and want (184) than to be drowned along with their riches. They part with them, indeed, but it is with regret and with a sigh; and when they have escaped, they bewail the loss of them. Paul, however, declares, on the other hand, that he had not merely abandoned everything that he formerly reckoned precious, but that they were like dung, offensive to him, or were disesteemed like things that are thrown awayin contempt. Chrysostom renders the word—straws. Grammarians, however, are of opinion, that
σκύβαλον is employed as though it were
κυσίβαλον — what is thrown to dogs. (185) And certainly there is good reason why everything that is opposed to Christ should be offensive to us, inasmuch as it is an abomination in, the sight of God. (Luk_16:15.) There is good reason why it should be offensive to us also, on the ground of its being an unfounded imagination.
That I may gain Christ. By this expression he intimates that we cannot gain Christ otherwise than by losing everything that we have. For he would have us rich by his grace alone: he would have him alone be our entire blessedness. Now, in what way we must suffer the loss of all things, has been already stated — in such a manner that nothing will turn us aside from confidence in Christ alone. But if Paul, with such innocence and integrity of life, did not hesitate to reckon his own righteousness to be loss and dung, what mean those Pharisees of the present day, who, while covered over with every kind of wickedness, do nevertheless feel no shame in extolling their own merits in opposition to Christ?
(183)“ Par son excellence et hautesso;” — “ its excellence and loftiness.”
(184)Pierce adduces the two following instances of the same form of expression as made use of among the Romans— says, (Trucul. Act_2:0, sc 7, ver. 5,) when speaking of one that was chargeable with prodigality — “Qui bona sua pro stercore habet, foras jubet ferri ” (“ who counts his goods but dung, and orders them to be carried out of the house.” Thus, also, Apuleius, (Florid, c. 14,) speaks of Crates, when he turned Cynic: “ Rem familiarem a.bjicit velut onus sterootis, magis labori quant usui;” — (“ He casts away his goods as a heap of dung, that was more troublesome than useful.” — Ed.
(185) Such is the etymology given by Suidas,
τὸ τοῖς κυσὶ βαλλόμενον — “ is thrown to dogs.” — Ed.