These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus 3:8)
There are only a couple of posts left in this Philippians 4:8 series that I am kicking off the blog with. And in this post, we’ll be fixing our minds on the idea of excellence. I have quoted Paul from Titus chapter three a little out of context, however, I believe I am on safe ground in applying it to the content of this post. In Titus 3, Paul is exhorting believers to be ready for all kinds of good works toward people, and goes on to remind them that all of us were at one point foolish and disobedient prior to the kindness of God being poured out on us, saving us not by our works, but by His mercy. And it’s after all of this that he sums it up saying, “these things are excellent.” The gospel of grace is indeed excellent and profitable for people.
That is the brief opening reflection, the excellence of the gospel of grace, “that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7) And now I want to take Paul’s statement and extend it to some other Biblical categories of excellence. We are told that if there is any excellence, we are to think on those things. So I have been on the lookout for any verses that say what is excellent. For the sake of space, I’ve only selected a few from many! And rest assured, these things are excellent and profitable for people.
1. The Excellence of God’s Power
As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him out; He is excellent in power… – Job 37:23
Think about the creating and sustaining power of God. Job 38 and 39 are a treasure chest in this regard. Written in the form of Hebrew poetry, with God asking question after question, these chapters reveal explicitly God’s power not just in creation, but in sustaining the ongoing process of nature as well. The earth is a wonderful home for us humans, but imagine the power involved in creating the universe with its heavenly bodies, laying the foundations of the earth, and setting the limits for the vast seas. Harsh elements of weather that can be hard for us to deal with and quickly overwhelm us, such as lighting, snow, hail, and freezing cold, which are just a few examples, are under the command of God. David echos the same in many psalms. Think of the massive ball of fire and energy that is our sun, and consider that it is much smaller than many other known stars. There are stars out there that make our sun look like a peanut. All this energy and power we find in the stars is staggering, and to consider that these were spoken into existence by the Creator is an awe-inspiring wonder!
2. The Excellence of God’s Wisdom
This also comes from the LORD of hosts; He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom. – Isaiah 28:29
Think about the infinite wisdom of God. A part of what it means to be created in the image of God is that we have minds. We have understanding and consciousness. Even though the physical life of man is but a vapor, the capabilities of the human mind are pretty impressive. Some people are endowed with particularly sharp minds. When the mind is being consistently used, and exercised, it’s capacity for remembering and increasing in knowledge is amazing. Were our physical bodies not to wear out with old age, and were the mind to remain sharp, you could go on learning for as long as you’re alive. Now consider the excellence of a mind that never learns a single thing. The self-existent One has an infinite mind with all knowledge eternally present before Him. With this wisdom God is declaring the end from the beginning, working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, and ordained Christ as the Lamb of God who would be our salvation before we even fell.
3. The Excellence of the Knowledge of Christ
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. – Phil. 3:8
“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.” (Jer. 9) Our very eternal life consists in the knowledge of Christ, and is therefore the most important thing we possess. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17)
One way to understand what Paul is saying is that if he had all manner of worldly riches; lived extravagantly with luxurious clothing, housing, food, entertainment, and even noble friendships every day of his life, if you add it all up but it is absent of the knowledge of Christ, he considers himself bankrupt, living in the negative. The word in the verse above that is translated as rubbish can also be translated as refuse, or dung. Dung. Let that sink in. That’s the stuff that we all put in the toilet to flush as far as possible away from us. I’m sitting here thinking, but I’m pretty sure there is nothing in my life I value less than dung. And that’s the comparison here. Take everything the world has to offer and stack it up next to Christ, and it amounts to the value of dung. The purpose here is not to say that everything in life is worthless, for Paul elsewhere says that it is God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). What’s in mind here is the way we value things. And nothing even compares to the knowledge of Christ.
4. The Excellence of Christ’s Name
[Jesus] having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:4
Think about the name of Jesus. When it comes to our Lord, His name is so important because it is more than just an identifier. In the Bible, God’s names always carry some kind of revelation of who He is. God’s very character and nature are unfolded to us in His names. In the process of time, our Emmanuel appeared, God with us. He was given the name Jesus. The name Jesus comes from the Hebrew name Yehoshua (Joshua). His name means “the LORD is salvation.” God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth (Gen 14:19), is the saving God! “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)