by Mike Ratliff
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)
The doctrine of imputation is under severe attack in our day. Those who have made the mistake of seeking a peace with those who desire to change or do away with this doctrine have erred egregiously. This doctrine must never be negotiated. Why? The changes certain people desire to make to this doctrine would change our justification from being according to faith alone to a combination of faith and works. According to Galatians 5:3, this would make us obligated to keep the whole law, which none of us can do. Only our Lord Jesus Christ kept the commandments perfectly, therefore, His righteousness is imputed to those who trust in His obedience to be justified.
What has this got to do with treasure and dung? Carefully read the excerpt from our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, which I placed at the top of this post. Those who are resting in Christ’s righteousness are also the ones fully aware of their inability to earn or deserve this gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:1-10). This is why we must teach the doctrine of imputation to the sheep of the Lord’s hand. They must understand that they possess a gift of incredible value in light of which they must see that this life is simply the training ground for the believer not the goal.
Those things that God gives us in this life are blessings, but what we must learn to see and live by is the truth that all we have in this life is nothing in comparison to what awaits us in glory. Therefore, we should live and minister accordingly. We must do all we do with our eternity in mind. The word translated in this passage as “treasures” is θησαυρους, which describes “wealth.” In this context, it would refer to the accumulation of the things the world values. Our Lord tells us to not put our focus on accumulating the world’s goods in this life, but instead, put it on what has eternal value. If we ignore this and pursue what the world values, including things like fame, recognition, et cetera, then we will make compromises in the truth in order to please the world so we will continue in our accumulation of our earthly treasures.
The doctrine of imputation is vital to true Christianity. If it is compromised then it opens the door to doctrines of demons which teach believers heretical things like a lack of the world’s goods or perceived “blessings” from God in this area means that we are not working hard enough to please God. We have fallen down on the job of keeping the whole law of God so we are being punished. This causes people to place their treasure in what can be seen in the here and now rather than trusting in the promises of God and seeing the truth through eyes of faith.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7 ESV)
7 αλλα ατινα ην μοι κερδη ταυτα ηγημαι δια τον χριστον ζημιαν (Philippians 3:7 WHNU)
The gain (κερδη) Paul was referring to in this passage is the advancements he had made as Saul of Tarsus in the Jewish religious system as a Pharisee. This Greek word, κερδη, refers to gain such as money, lucre, or treasure, but Paul used it here to refer to his own earthly glory in the Jewish religious system. The word counted is the Greek word ηγημαι. In this verse’s rendering it is translated usually as if it took place in the past, but the actual grammar structure here is present tense, infinitive mood, and passive voice. This describes continuous or repeated action without any reference to when the action takes place. I believe Paul is not telling us to simply look at all of the world’s goods we have and then for Christ’s sake we count it all as loss (ζημιαν). Instead, we have our answer in the words δια τον χριστον, which are “because of the Christ.” The word δια is a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act. It could have been translated as “through” for instance. However, in this case we are to learn that the counting or considering of earthly gain as loss or detriment is because of Christ Himself and His work in us to change us or conform us unto Himself.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11 ESV)
8αλλα μενουνγε και ηγουμαι παντα ζημιαν ειναι δια το υπερεχον της γνωσεως χριστου ιησου του κυριου μου δι ον τα παντα εζημιωθην και ηγουμαι σκυβαλα ινα χριστον κερδησω 9και ευρεθω εν αυτω μη εχων εμην δικαιοσυνην την εκ νομου αλλα την δια πιστεως χριστου την εκ θεου δικαιοσυνην επι τη πιστει 10του γνωναι αυτον και την δυναμιν της αναστασεως αυτου και κοινωνιαν παθηματων αυτου συμμορφιζομενος τω θανατω αυτου 11ει πως καταντησω εις την εξαναστασιν την εκ νεκρων (Philippians 3:8-11 WHNU)
Here we see the result of the work of God in the heart of His people. They value the gift of their salvation through Jesus Christ higher than everything else to the point that they understand that these worldly things are only distractions and detriments in their spiritual growth. In fact, this view is so extreme that they learn to count them as rubbish (σκυβαλα). This word is pronounced as “skubala.” This word describes worthless things or stuff. It is refuse, dung, garbage, or rubbish. Dung seems very appropriate here in this contrast.
This is how we must view our earthly treasure in contrast with the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. Paul tells us here that his disinheritance because of becoming a Christian was as if someone had taken away his σκυβαλα. Think of it. To be found having the righteousness of Christ through God’s imputation of it after persecuting the church and participating in the martyrdom of Stephen is a radical thing. It is beyond anything the unregenerate can comprehend. Even those in Christ become confused at times when they focus on the wrong things.
Where is your treasure my brethren? Are you gathering it here on this earth with your money and property and fame and reputation in the world or do you see all of that is merely God providing you with what you need here in order to serve Him according to His will where He puts you? If our treasure is in heaven as our Lord commands then we are able to do this only through the working of God in our hearts to view all gain here in this life as σκυβαλα in comparison to what we possess in Christ.
In late August and early September this year, God took something away from me, at least for a while. I had a reoccurrence of seizures that I thought were from my distant past. This changed many things in my life and took away my ability to drive. It changed how I looked at my life. I thought I was doing okay as a believer up to that point, but after God humbled me I saw things very differently. My hold or grasp on things in this world in which I was valuing are seen now as σκυβαλα in comparison with what I have in Christ. I am in Christ because God imputed my Lord’s righteousness to me as He justified me by faith. Christ is my all in all. God’s truth is all that matters. There can be no compromises. This has caused many people to view this ministry and me in a very bad light. However, it is God and His truth that has value not my standing in these people’s eyes. Because I count all of this as σκυβαλα I am laying up my treasure in Heaven as I obey my Lord instead of buckling under the pressure from those who want to silence me and all of my fellow apologists and defenders of the faith who do the same thing.
What counts is our standing before God and our obedience to His will in all things. When we walk before the face of God in this then we have no problem valuing what the world has to offer as nothing more than σκυβαλα while seeing where our real treasure is and that we received this salvation by the grace of God through the faith He gave us not according to any merit on our part. Where is your treasure my brethren?
Soli Deo Gloria!