Friday, September 08, 2017

Philippians 3:12

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. (Philippians 3:12, ESV)
Paul hasn't arrived.

It is quite possible that Paul has been in the Gospel Ministry for nearly 30 years at this point. And yet he still isn't there yet. He still isn't finished. God isn't done working on him. He has not attained a measure of "done-ness."

If Paul the Apostle takes this attitude to knowing Christ more... if 30-years-in-ministry-Paul takes this attitude to ongoing growth in the knowledge of Jesus Christ... How much more ought we?

So, what does Paul do? He presses on. He keeps at it. He keeps going forward.

D.A. Carson, in his commentary on Philippians, titled Basics for Believers, discusses Paul's continual pressing forward in his knowledge of Jesus by saying,
“Christians should never be satisfied with yesterday’s grace. It is a shocking thing for Christians to have to admit that they have grown little in their knowledge of Jesus Christ.” 
Notice that as Paul is continuing to press on to make Christ his own, it still isn't because he is seeking to earn or obtain a righteousness. In fact, he acknowledges that Christ has already handled that: Paul belongs to Christ.

You might say that his endeavors are now all about expanding his own understanding of what has already been done for him.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Philippians 3:11

that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11, ESV)
"that by any means possible" does not mean that Paul is unsure what will bring him to the resurrection, it just means that Paul does not know how he will get there. Maybe he will attain the resurrection of the dead after he has died. Maybe he will be killed for his faith. But Paul doesn't know whether or not Christ will return before his own end. Maybe he will attain the resurrection of the dead when he is "taken up" like he talks about with the Thessalonian Christians.

What Paul is sure of is that he will make it to the end. He will endure. And what his end looks like is less important to Paul than the surety that he will keep at it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Philippians 3:10

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:10, ESV)
This verse captures the essence of Paul's life.

Paul wants to know Christ. He wants to know what it is like to be filled with the same power that raised Christ from the dead and is now working in him. He wants to participate in the sufferings of Christ. And he ultimately wants to die in obedience to God the Father, the way Christ did.

One way to define Spiritual Growth is to define it as increasing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Living a more righteous life simply flows from this: it is a result of spiritual growth, not the growth itself.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Philippians 3:9

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— (Philippians 3:9, ESV)
This was truly how it always was. Righteousness had always come through faith. Paul evidences this in Romans when he discusses how Abraham... who, before the Law and before he was circumcised, had righteousness credited to him because he simply believed God. (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6)

Paul wants nothing more than to have this righteousness and to help other to see this. He wants to liberate them from the bondage of attempting to earn our own righteousness. He desires to teach and preach the good news of the gospel to the world.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Philippians 3:8

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 (Philippians 3:8, ESV)
Here we find the essence of genuine salvation: "knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

For the opportunity to know Christ, Paul suffers loss. He doesn't just want to know who Christ is, he wants to enter into Christ's life. He wants to experience what Christ experienced. All of those things that Paul would have, at one time, considered to be of value, he now considers them to be rubbish (or dung). He does this to gain Christ.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Philippians 3:7

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7, ESV)
All of those things, all of that effort, all of that sacrifice, all of that diligence, all of that zeal... not simply worthless, but an actual negative when it comes to the cross.

It isn't that the things Paul had done were bad things, though some of them were, it is that this righteousness by the Law actually worked against Paul's faith in the true messiah. That confidence in the life he had lived did no good, but only harm, in the ways of the Cross.

This is quite possibly because the way of the Cross is a way that realizes that we have nothing in and of ourselves to offer to Christ. The way of the Cross is a way that realizes that we cannot obtain, we cannot reach the righteousness that truly saves.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Philippians 3:6

as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:6, ESV)
Paul continues in mounting his evidence that if confidence in the flesh were to be had... he would out do any of the others that might be preaching the necessity of these things. He does this by now saying that he wasn't just a dull, humdrum follower of the Law. He was all-in! He was full of that righteous energy  to do what the Law prescribes. This zeal was so extensive that he worked to fight against those who stood against it. As to the Law itself, there wasn't one point he had missed: he was blameless.

In other words, if there was a righteousness to be earned under the Law, he could have done it.

This means that when he teaches these Christians to abandon the righteousness that can be earned under the law, it isn't because of his own self-preservation. It isn't because he is lacking in an area. It isn't because he wouldn't measure up to the standard.

He wants to make sure they understand that he has been on the other side of this argument.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Philippians 3:5

circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; (Philippians 3:5, ESV)
Paul wasn't just circumcised... he was circumcised on the eighth day, just like the Law prescribes. He is also a Jew by birth, and he knows his lineage: he is of the tribe of Benjamin. He is "a Hebrew of Hebrews!"

The Pharisees had taken apart the Law, command by command, and sought to understand this Law. For example, if the Law says to not work on the Sabbath, the Pharisees had sought to understand what exactly work is! This many steps is work, but if you only take this many steps it isn't. Moving this many pieces of wood into the fire is OK, but if you move this many, you have entered into work.

Paul was one of these guys.

If there was confidence in the flesh to be had... he would win.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Philippians 3:4

though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: (Philippians 3:4, ESV)
Some have put their confidence in the flesh. Paul has abandoned this, but to make sure that nobody thinks that this lack of confidence in the flesh is because of shortcomings in Paul's history, he is going to lay that to rest. If there is anyone that could have confidence in the flesh, it is Paul.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Philippians 3:3

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— (Philippians 3:3, ESV)
A little explaining is in order here:

When Paul traveled throughout the Roman Empire, he would quite often head into the Jewish communities first. Many times preaching and teaching at a Jewish Synagogue. And there would be Jewish converts to Christianity, but for them, it would many times be incorporated into their pre-existing beliefs.

Lest we be too quick to judge, consider first of all that Christ was truly a fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Christ was, in reality, the messiah that they had all been waiting for. So, it would only make sense, at first glance, that nothing of their religious practices should change. I mean, why would it?  Should we not continue to obey the Ten Commandments? Were there not important aspects of the Law that should continue to be obeyed?

Consider, as well, there were always Jewish Proselytes: There were always those who had heard the truths of the Word of God and had believed them. And all of these converts to the Jewish belief system would become, in a sense, Jews. Circumcision was sort of the key word that encompassed all of the changes that needed to be made to become a Jew. (Can you blame them for emphasizing this?!?)

But now Paul is teaching that circumcision doesn't need to be done. He is teaching, in fact, that the true people of the circumcision, were not necessarily those who had been circumcised in the flesh, but those who were now worshiping the true and living God, by the Spirit of God, in the person of Jesus Christ.

The important aspect of this passage is that Paul is teaching us not to put confidence in the flesh. The real issue was that many were putting all of their assurance of their faith in what HAD been done. We still struggle with this today. There are many who are convinced of their own salvation because of what they have done. They have prayed a prayer. They have gone to church. They have been baptized. Sometimes it is really thin... whether it is because their parents went to a certain church or simply because they aren't from another religion... Their confidence is still in the flesh because their confidence is because they have done all of the steps that they think needs to be done.

On the flip side to this is one who has put all of their confidence, not in what they have done, but in what Christ has done. This confidence takes the form of ongoing worship of Jesus Christ.

Where is your confidence? Are you convinced of your own salvation because of a checklist of items that you have come to believe are the necessities of salvation?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Philippians 3:2

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. (Philippians 3:2, ESV)
Dogs and evildoers... Sounds harsh, but who is he talking about? We will find out over the next few verses, but there is a little play on words here that is a hint... "... those who mutilate the flesh" is very similar (in the Greek) to the phrasing for one getting circumcised.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Philippians 3:1

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 
(Philippians 3:1, ESV)
"Finally..." not meaning that this is near the end of his letter, but that these are his final thoughts. Once again, he comes back to joy. "Rejoice in the Lord." he says.

What he is about to talk about, is nothing new to the Philippians, but he wants to make sure they don't tune him out... what comes next is something they could, and maybe should, hear again and again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Philippians 2:30

for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (Philippians 2:30, ESV)
This is why they ought to honor Epaphroditus. His obedience nearly led to his death, and he did this on their behalf. What more could be said? Paul simply wants them to know the price that Epaphroditus nearly paid... the price he was willing to pay... on behalf of the entire Philippian Christian Community. They all could not come, but one came for them.