27th September 2018

Philippians: Week 8 (Thursday, September 27 2018)

 

Chapter 3: 7-16

 

The value of knowing Christ 3:7-11

v7 But all these things that I considered an advantage, I now consider to be worth nothing, because of Christ. v8 Not only those things. I consider all things to be worth nothing. What is far more valuable is to know Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have thrown everything else away. I consider it all like dirty rubbish. I want to know Christ. v9 I want to make my life one with his. I no longer trust that to obey the Law of Moses will make me right with God. I now have the goodness that God gives. I have it because I trust in Christ. v10 All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him from death. I want to share in his pain and troubles. And I want to become like him by sharing in his death. v11 In that way, I hope somehow to achieve the resurrection from among the dead people.

 

Verse 7 Paul had known the Jewish religion completely. But after Christ met him, Paul gave up the advantages of his religion as worth no more than bad debts.

Verse 8 Paul had not made a sudden decision that he was sorry about afterwards. He still thought in the same way. He emphasised that he now considered ‘everything else’ as without value. To know Christ was far more valuable. Benefits (such as home comforts, friendships, the honour that he might expect as a famous Pharisee) he now considered no more. They were like dirty rubbish thrown out for the dogs. To ‘know’ Christ Jesus meant more than knowledge of the facts about him. Paul meant a close personal friendship with Jesus. Paul usually wrote ‘our’ Lord. Here he said ‘my’ Lord. He was thinking how much Jesus now meant to him. ‘He loved me. And he died for my benefit’ (Galatians 2:20).

Verse 9 Paul did not possess any goodness of his own. A right relationship with God did not come by obeying the Law of Moses. It came as a gift from God that Paul accepted by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul looked forward to the day of judgement when he would be in Christ. He would be completely united with Christ in heaven.

Verse 10 His one aim was to ‘know’ Christ in this close way. He shows this in three ways:

1          ‘the power that raised him from death’. God has raised Jesus Christ from death. Also God raises the believer together with Christ, from spiritual death to new life (Ephesians 2:5). Paul wanted to live with the power of the risen Christ in his life.

2          To share in Christ’s pain and troubles. Pain and troubles can be spiritual, when we struggle against sin. They can also be the result of those who oppose the gospel. Paul suffered from the enemies of Christ and from the way that even Christians did not understand him. His travels also brought difficulties and dangers (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). Paul thought that his pain and troubles for Jesus were an honour. They were an honour because he was sharing in Christ’s work.

3          ‘by sharing in his death’. Of course, Christians will not all die in the same way as Christ did, on a cross. This verse does not mean that. It means that they must think of themselves as dead to sin (Romans 6:11). They must ‘die’ to their own desires. ‘The people who belong to Christ Jesus have destroyed the power of their old character’ (Galatians 5:24).

Verse 11 Paul’s hope that he would rise again after his death. Paul did not doubt that he would rise from among the dead people. He knew that nothing could ever separate him from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). As a believer, he already possessed eternal life. But there is a future resurrection in glory to which he looked forward. Probably, he was not sure when that would be. The word ‘somehow’ suggests that. The result of his trial was not certain. Nobody knew the day of Jesus’ return. Paul may have emphasised the final resurrection because of some false doctrine at Philippi. Some Christians said that the resurrection hope had already happened in the new birth. ‘They say that God has already caused all the dead people to become alive again. These men are confusing some Christians. So those Christians do not know what to believe’ (2 Timothy 2:18). Paul knew that he had a sure and perfect future in heaven with God.

 

Paul is running towards the end of the race 3:12-16

v12 I do not say that I have already become perfect. But I move on with determination to grasp that purpose for which Jesus Christ has grasped me. v13 My brothers and sisters, I do not think that I have already grasped it completely. But this one thing I do - I forget the past. And I reach out to what is in front. v14 I am running straight for the end of the race in order to gain the prize. The reward is God’s call in Jesus to the life above.

v15 All of us who are mature in spirit should think in this way. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you. v16 Meanwhile we must continue to keep the standard of behaviour that we have already reached.

 

Verse 12 Paul knew that he had not yet become perfect, that is, mature as a Christian. He would be like that at the final resurrection. When Christ ‘grasped’ Paul on the road to Damascus, he had a great purpose for Paul’s life (Acts 9:15-16). Paul was doing his best to ‘grasp’ and to carry out that purpose.

Verse 13 ‘My brothers and sisters’ emphasises what Paul is going to repeat. He does not want the Christians at Philippi to believe false doctrine. Some of the Christians in Philippi said that they were already perfect. They denied that people need discipline in the Christian life. But Paul himself had not completely succeeded in the work that Christ had given him to do. And Paul knew that. He had only one aim. He uses the picture of a runner in a race. The runner must not look behind him. So Paul must not look back to his life before he became a Christian. He must forget all his past failures and successes as an apostle. He must not allow them to affect what he thought or did now. He must not lose his courage or become satisfied with himself. A runner makes every effort to look ahead. And he runs straight towards the line at the end of the race. Paul was making every effort to become perfect, that is, mature as a Christian.

Verse 14 A runner who reached the line at the end of the race received a reward from the judge. The judge sat above the area of the race. After the race, the judge ‘called up’ the runner to receive his prize. Paul compares his call to come up to the life above to the judge’s call. Paul’s prize when he has finished his ‘race’ of faith will be perfect friendship with Christ. God will call him to enjoy the glory of heaven for ever.

Verse 15 Paul encourages the Christians at Philippi to follow him as a model. They should make the effort that he has described. He does so in a way that will not offend them. He speaks about ‘all of us’, and so he includes himself in the advice. Some of them may not agree with his point of view. But God will show those people that Paul was right.

Verse 16 Meanwhile, they should all guide their lives by the truths that they have understood so far.


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