The Philippian letter begins with Paul’s statement, “For to me to live is Christ”, and then goes on to express his ambition to know the Lord more and more, with his determination to pursue that knowledge as a coveted prize. If we desire to know what is meant by gaining Christ, we have to turn to Romans 8:29 where we find that God’s intention is that we should be conformed to the image of His Son. This being conformed is gaining Christ, this is the prize; it involves an attaining unto the fullness of Christ in moral perfection, which is to be the glory in which God’s sons will be manifested. It is simply this, that to come to be morally and spiritually one with Christ in His place of exaltation is the goal and prize of the Christian life. We do well to keep in view this glorious end, “the manifestation of the sons of God”.
When Paul spoke of gaining Christ and of reaching out for the prize, he was expressing his earnest longing to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. This is something which is the issue of salvation, it is God’s end in salvation, but it is clearly something which needs to be pursued. It is plain that we do not have to win salvation, and we certainly do not have to suffer the loss of all things to be saved. We are saved by faith, not by works; salvation is not a prize to be won, not something for which we must reach forward, but a present, a free gift. Beyond this, however, Paul wrote that he counted all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. If the power of the same Spirit is working in us, this will surely produce the same effect of making us realize how little is the worth of everything else compared with the great prize of Christ.
It is interesting to compare Mark 10 with Philippians 3, as each passage tells of a young man and his momentous decision. The two men were very similar in many respects; they were both rich rulers, men of high standing socially, intellectually, morally and religiously among their own people. Of the one it had to be said “One thing thou lackest”, while the other could affirm “One thing I do”. The nameless young man turned away from Christ; he did so sorrowfully but nevertheless he did it, and the reason was that he was not prepared to part with his great possessions. Paul had great possessions also, but they lost all their attractiveness in the light of the vision which he had of Christ; to him it was the alternative of earthly prizes or the one great heavenly prize, and he gladly made his choice of the latter.