Phillipians 3:12 – 4:1

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Observation

  • Paul had not obtained complete righteousness in Christ.
  • Paul had not obtained perfection.
  • Paul continues to strive at making Christ’s righteousness his own.
  • Christ made Paul His own.
  • The reason Paul continues to strive for perfection is that Christ made Paul His own.
  • Paul uses the analogy of a runner to illustrate striving for the goal.
  • Like a runner, Paul does not look back at the ground covered but concentrates on the goal in front of him.
  • Paul presses for the goal.
  • The prize is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
  • Those who are mature in Christ should think in terms of pressing forward to the goal and forgetting the past.
  • If you think in ways other than pressing forward God will reveal to you that you should forget the past and press forward to the goal.
  • We are to hold to the truth.
  • We have attained truth.
  • Paul encouraged the Philippians to imitate him.
  • We are to keep our eyes on those who live by the example Paul set.
  • Many live as enemies of the cross and of Christ.
  • The ideas that many are enemies of Christ bring tears to Paul’s eyes.
  • Paul had told the Philippians frequently that there are many who are enemies of the cross and Christ.
  • The enemies of Christ will be destroyed.
  • The enemies’ of Christ gods are their bellies.
  • The enemies’ of Christ are proud of what they should be ashamed.
  • The enemies’ of Christ minds are on earthly things.
  • Our citizenship is in heaven.
  • We are waiting for our savior from heaven.
  • Our savior is the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus Christ will transform our bodies to be like His body.
  • Our body is lowly.
  • Christ’s body is glorious.
  • Jesus Christ will transform us by the same power that enables him to subject everything to himself.

Interpretation

Paul admits he has not attained perfection, but he presses on. Why? He presses on, not because of anything he has done, will do or can do. He presses on because of what Christ has done. Christ has made Paul His own. Christ did it. Paul had nothing to do with it. You see this over and over and over in Paul’s writings. It is always about what Christ has done. Our actions, ours good works, our good deeds are always a result of what Christ has done. Paul thinks of nothing but Christ – knows nothing but Christ – desires nothing but Christ – is occupied with nothing else than Christ.

What has Paul not obtain? We have already entered the kingdom of God. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, God has “raised us up with him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6) He has raised us, past tense. There is a sense in which we are already partaking with Christ in His glory and sitting in heavenly places. But there is another sense in which we are not sitting in the heavenly places. We have been made new creatures. It is by God grace he was remade us so we are now truly alive. But we have not seen His full glory. Like an infant, we have not obtained or matured to adulthood in this new life, so we must press on. And we can do so only by the grace of God.

In any journey we like to look back to see how far we have come. Paul here admonishes us not to look back at what we once were. Doing so may cause us to believe we have made sufficient progress, or we have done enough. We need to keep our eye, minds and hearts on the prize and the goal. We need to always remember what we have been called to. We have been called to perfection, a goal that we cannot obtain ourselves but must rely upon Christ. We must renounce everything and glory in Christ’s righteousness alone. We must prefer Christ to everything else. We need to aspire to participate in His sufferings, which lead us to resurrection.

Not all will be redeemed. They are as we once were enemies of Christ. The thought, that not everyone will be saved, brought tears to the eyes of the apostle. They remain the enemies of God. They worship a triune God. Their trinity is Me, Myself and I. They ask the question, “What is in my self-interest?” They have believed the capitalist world view, if everyone acts in their own self-interest, everything will be better. They are proud of how self-absorbed they actually are. “Look at what I have accomplished.” “I deserve the very best.” When Paul mentions these enemies he does not speak of open enemies but of impostors, those who use the gospel for their own selfish interests.

Paul is teaching here that nothing is of any value expect God and His kingdom. As such we should live a heavenly life here on earth in this life. The whole idea of resurrection and judgment is terrifying to those whom Christ has not redeemed. But it is a comfort to those whom Christ forgiven their sins. Paul intends to stir our hearts with the thought of what we shall be. We currently live in a fragile vessel that is subject to multiple infirmities. At the resurrection it is restored like Christ’s body pure and glorious. That should excite us every fiber within us.

There are those who scoff at the idea of resurrection now as in the first century. They will say, “Dead people stay dead.” True that is the nature order of things but praise God; everything is subject to Him, even death. When God says get up we will rise up again. If asked have I ever seen a dead person rise for the dead I will have to admit I have not. When asked why I believe the dead will rise with no evidence to support my thesis. I would say I believe the dead will rise because I believe God and God has said we will be resurrected.

Application

Stop and think for a moment what Christ has done. You were a sinner. You were in rebellion against God, the very one who made you, who gives you every good thing. You cursed Him. Yet while you were cursing Him, He made you His own. We did nothing to deserve His love. In fact, we were unlovable. It is only by His grace and mercy that He remade, regenerated, and rebirthed us that has caused us to have anything lovable in us. Once we realize that, how can we do anything other than praise Him? How can we do anything other than to press on to receive from Him the power of the resurrection?

Paul says, “Let those of us who are mature think this way.” We should bear with the ignorance of our weaker less mature brothers and sisters in Christ. We should forgive them. Paul was assured of his doctrine and yet he allowed those who could not yet receive and believe the doctrine time to make progress. He did not cease calling them brothers and sisters. He only cautioned them against flattering themselves in their ignorance.

When Paul mentions the enemies he does not speak of open enemies of the gospel but of impostors, those who use the gospel for their own selfish ambition. We should not be surprised that natural man serves his own ambition. Advertisers know we are basically selfish creatures. They attract us to their products with the promise of making us happier, and or wealthier.

The enemies of God do the same thing. They advertise God like a product. They blasphemy the name of God by make the self the focus. They promise that if you are in the will of God you will be healthy, happy, and wealthy. After all, these are good things and God only wants the best for you. They promise that God will help you fulfill you desires. And when men find out this is a lie they blame God for not fulfilling His promise. God never made that promise. In fact, we are promised that we will share in Christ’s suffering. (v10) We have been called to suffer. (1 Peter 2:18-21)

These enemies of God justify their lies by saying this is the only way to get people to church. But our commission is not to get people into church. Our commission is to preach the gospel. Our job is only to tell the truth. God will do everything else.

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