I think that everyone should know how to use a concordance with a dictionary (herein just called a concordance) whether you own one or use one on the internet. I own a Strong’s but I typically use BlueLetterBible.com because I am too lazy to move the eight feet where my copy is. I believe that one of the most valuable tools you can have in your arsenal when studying the Bible is a concordance. Knowing how and when to use a concordance is so helpful that I am willing to say you are cheating yourself by not using one. I know that is a bold statement but it’s my website.
I do not recommend using a concordance all the time because you don’t always need to look up the definition of a word. However, we must always remember the Bible was not written in English and those translating it did the best they could. The Bible was written in Greek and Hebrew (more or less) so sometimes a word has a stronger meaning than was applied when translated to English. That does not necessarily mean the English translation you are using is wrong but it does not capture the full weight of the word.
Such is the case with Philippians 3:8 where Paul says “I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth.” To make sure we capture the context Paul is talking about all the things that he used to count as good to him and made him something special. He was a circumcised on the eighth day meaning his parents kept the law, he was a Hebrew of Hebrews meaning his line was pure, he was a Pharisee meaning he was righteous by their standards, and so on. By first century Jewish standards Paul had it going on and he could tell you about it. Paul now says that because he follows Christ he considered those things loss and filth. Paul is saying that he now knows what is right and true and that is righteousness comes by faith in Christ alone. This is a bold statement in and of itself and we might look at that at some point, but right now I want to take a closer look at how Paul views his former status in view of this revelation of justification by faith alone.
Paul calls the old things filth. The Greek word is skybalon and it usually translated filth, rubbish, trash, dung, or some variation thereof. These are all pretty good but when we look at the literal definition of skybalon it means; any refuse, as the excrement of animals, offscourings, rubbish, dregs. Just let that sink in for a minute. When compared to what we receive by faith in Christ what we “accomplished” or bring to the table on our own is like “the excrement of animals.” I cannot even think of a way to compare that to anything. That is the comparison you use when trying to contrast two things. I have animal excrements and Jesus has glory, righteousness, and power. Do you see the madness that is involved in thinking you can earn His love? What could you possibly offer to Him? You have nothing to offer Him. What could you bribe Him with? We come to Him and want to flaunt our animal excrement thinking He will pat us on the head and say “good job.” Are we insane?
Paul is even being more gentle than Isaiah was. Click here and read what the word ‘iddah means in Isaiah 64:6. This is what your “righteous” acts are compared to. How can we think that we can make God pleased with us when are best is ‘iddah or skybalon? If that is what are best is what is our worst? We do not get to God because we are good enough, and we do not stay in God because we are good enough. We have Christ and are in Him because He is good enough. He is more than enough. Jesus came to us when we sinners. He did not wait for you to get cleaned up because if He was going to wait for that He would still be waiting. God came down to us because He is love and love moves.
We have to shake off this idea that we can earn God’s love or blessings. He blesses because He wants to, He loves because He wants to, and He called you because He wants to. He does not need you but He chooses you. He says that one the drunk I want them. I want the prostitute, I want the liar, I want the crack head, I want the cheater, I want the adulter, I want the one thinks they are useless, I want the weak one, I want the slow one, I want my children. He does not wait for you to get good enough because you can’t be. He just wants you.
When we walk with Jesus for a while we start to think that we need to earn our keep. That somehow the love that saved us is not enough to sustain us but that is a lie. Yes as a child you have responsibilities, but those responsibilities do not make you a child they are yours because you are a child of God. Jesus says that we should be yoked to Him and that His burden is light. That means we are tied to Him and He will teach us how to do the work and that He will carry the weight. We just have to walk with Him in the same love that He gave to us, to begin with. So walk with Him and find peace.
Jesus promises to never leave you nor abandon you but that promise is conditional one one thing; that you accept Him and place your faith in Him. So put down your filth and all those things that you think make you a “good person” and trust in the One who has the goods.
Just a thought,