Looking at the passage in Philippians in greater context aids in understanding what Paul is teaching us.
Beginning here in vs 4 Paul uses himself to illustrate a point; 'If there is any value in our family ties, ceremonies, religious works and performances, outward obedience to the law and rites, I have more room to boast than any of these false teachers.'
Php 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Paul was circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, persecuted the church, and with respect to the observance of the outward law, blameless.
Php 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Php 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
At one time Paul felt that all these things were necessary for acceptance with God, were necessary for righteousness and entitled him to the favor of God. When God revealed Christ to him, he saw all these things to be worthless. Christ is our sacrifice, our sanctification and our righteousness. He is the fulfillment of all these. That which was once everything to Paul became nothing; Christ became everthing (Col 3:11).
Php 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Paul counted everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. For His sake Paul lost everything in order that he may have Christ, the Redeemer.
1. Paul renounced not only the Jewish ceremonies, but worldly honor, reputation, substance, comforts and advantages.
2. He lost self-righteousness and gained Christ's righteousness.
3. He lost ceremonial bondage and gained freedom in Christ.
4. He lost false peace and gained true peace with God.
5. He lost pretended glory and gained eternal glory (1Co 1:30,31).
Php 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
Paul had one determined purpose, one desire, and sincere hope, which is threefold:
1. That he may win Christ and be found in Him, not trusting or having any self-achieved righteousness in works and deeds, but possessing genuine righteousness of God which comes through faith of Christ...holiness and perfect righteousness which Christ gives His own (Col 1:22)
2. That he may really know Him. He did know Him, but he wanted to become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him and His person; that he may come to know the power of His resurrection and the strength it gives to believers; that he may know and share Christ's sufferings as to be transformed continually into His likeness, dying daily to sin and self.
3. That he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Paul may be referring here to the resurrection of the body in the likeness of Christ in the great Day of the Lord. However (because of the next verse), I believe he is talking about a moral and spiritual resurrection that lifts us out of the death and darkness of the world and sin. The world, the flesh and all of this human life and death. In Christ there is real life, real love, real holiness. There is communion with God and perfect righteousness. That is what Paul wanted, by whatever means it pleased for God to bring him to that place, he wanted to be like Christ in attitude, spirit and heart.
Php 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Php 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
Php 3:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Clearly, from this passage Paul had not attained to perfect holiness, perfect knowledge, nor perfect happiness. Though sanctification is perfect in Christ, it was not yet perfected in Paul. We know in part, sin dwells in us, our faith is imperfect, but like Paul, we press on. Paul longed to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of him. Paul wanted what the Lord purposed and purchased for him on Calvary...to be like Him (Eph 1:3-6).
Php 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.