Archive for November, 2020

Philippians 3:13b-14

In Philippians 3:13b-14 Paul gives us the secret to how we need to pursue our walk with Jesus as a Christ Follower. He gives us the singular answer. “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.” He doesn’t give us a list of things to do – just one thing. It begins with forgetting. We often let those things which are behind distract us, whether they be good things or bad things. Looking at what is in the past often keeps us from what God has for us in the future. We need to push the past aside and focus on the present and what God wants us to do right now.

It is a deception to live either in the past or in the future; God wants us to press on in the present, because the present is where eternity touches us now. Paul knew that a race is won only in the present moment, not in the past or in the future. And what does Paul teach us to do in the present moment? He tells us to press on. To focus and put our energy on moving forward toward the goal. The prize is the upward call of God. The prize is the call itself, not the benefits that come from the call or any other thing. The prize is being able to run the race at all, working with God as a partner to do the work of His kingdom.

Meyer explains “It is a high calling because it comes from above, from God; the conception of it has emanated from His heart. It is a high calling because it is worthy of God. It is a high calling because it is so much above the ideals of men…. And then this is a high calling because it summons us to where Christ sits at the right hand of God.” Clarke continues by reminding us that because it is such a glorious call, it is worth reaching forward for it. “The Greek word points out the strong exertions made in the race; every muscle and nerve is exerted, and he puts forth every particle of his strength in running. He was running for life, and running for his life.”

The critical thing to note here is that there is only one focus of the call God gives us – Jesus Christ. There are many things that pull on us for attention or focus, but our call is only in Jesus Christ and no where else. The legalists might say they followed the upward call of God, but they certainly didn’t do it in Christ Jesus; instead they did it in the efforts of their own flesh. Paul has one target in his life – to press on and live out the call God has made on his life. And we have that exact same situation in our life. We need to live for an audience of One – and pursue the call of that One – as Christ Followers we have nothing else that comes close to importance or priority. We must press on!

Philippians 3:12-13a

In Philippians 3:12-13a Paul continues in describing how he is willing to give up everything for the sake of Jesus. He focuses now on the future of his relationship with Christ. “Not that I have already lobtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Paul wrote from such spiritual maturity and purity that we might expect he believed that he had conquered all of life’s spiritual difficulties and saw himself as having arrived at near perfection. Yet here he assured us that is not the case at all. There was no perfectionist attitude in Paul.

Unfortunately today, many believe they have made it and give the image that their life is perfected, which is not the case. Spurgeon addressed this attitude with his writing: “But while the work of Christ for us is perfect, and it were presumption to think of adding to it, the work of the Holy Spirit in us is not perfect, it is continually carried on from day to day, and will need to be continued throughout the whole of our lives.” None of us has arrived. No one on this earth is perfected. So Paul tells us that he pressed on as there was no turning back for him. He was committed to the journey of becoming all that God wanted him to be.

Paul pressed on for what Jesus wanted. His effort was put forth to do God’s will, not his own. Paul expresses the idea that Jesus Christ had laid hold of him. Guzik explains “This is an important idea; yet sometimes Christians react to that idea by being passive. They suppose, “Jesus got a hold of me; so that is it now. I am a Christian and I am going to heaven.” Paul showed a different attitude; he was determined to lay hold for that for which Jesus had laid hold of him. So one should ask, “Why did Jesus lay hold of Paul?”

  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to make him a new man (Romans 6:4) – so Paul would lay hold of that and wanted to see the converting work of Jesus completely carried out in himself.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to conform him into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29) – so Paul would lay hold of that and wanted to see the nature of Jesus within himself.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to make him a witness (Acts 9:15) – so Paul would lay hold of both the experience of Jesus and to testify of that experience.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to make him an instrument in the conversion of others (Acts 9:15) – so Paul would lay hold of the work of bringing others to Jesus.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to bring him into suffering (Acts 9:16) – so Paul would lay hold of even that work of God in his life, wanting to know Jesus in the fellowship of His sufferings.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul that so that the Apostle might attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:11) – so Paul would lay hold of that heavenly hope.”

Paul knew that Christ Jesus had made him His own. It wasn’t about something Paul did, but what Jesus had done for all of us. Our option is whether or not we will receive what Jesus did and make it our own. Paul didn’t just passively receive and follow. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.” He knew it was an ongoing pursuit. Wuest explains “He wants to catch hold of it and pull it down, like a football player who not only wants to catch his man, but wants to pull him down and make him his own.” Paul wants to tackle God’s will for his life and to walk obediently in it. This isn’t a part time or partial pursuit but a complete and life altering one!

Philippians 3:8b-11

In Philippians 3:8b-11 Paul takes his message about how he views the things of this world calling it rubbish. That’s some strong language. Literally, Paul considered them as excrement – as dung; not only as worthless, but as offensive. “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish….”Clarke explains “The word [rubbish] means the vilest dross or refuse of any thing; the worst excrement. The word shows how utterly insignificant and unavailing, in point of salvation, the apostle esteemed every thing but the Gospel of Jesus.” Putting it mildly, Paul makes the point that his earthly stuff meant nothing to him.

So why was that true? What was the spiritual benefit of gaining Jesus Christ? “….in order that I may gain Christ 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….” The foundation for his spiritual life was in what Jesus had done for him and not in what he had done, was doing, or would do for Jesus in the future. Paul shows us the great difference between the legal relationship stressed by his opponents and his personal connection with Jesus Christ. The difference is between living and trusting in your own righteousness versus living and trusting in God’s righteousness given through faith in Christ.

Spurgeon writes “He disowns his own righteousness as eagerly as other men disown their sins, and he highly esteems the righteousness which Christ has wrought out for us, which becomes ours by faith.” It was all about the personal relationship Paul experienced with Jesus. “….that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Paul simply wanted to know Jesus. That was the simple plea of his heart. He wasn’t focused at all on himself, but only Jesus.

Guzik explains that “To know Jesus is not the same as knowing His historical life; it is not the same as knowing correct doctrines regarding Jesus; it is not the same as knowing His moral example, and it is not the same as knowing His great work on our behalf.

  • We can say that we know someone because we recognize him: because we can distinguish what is different about him compared to other people.
  • We can say that we know someone because we are acquainted with what he does; we know the baker because we get our bread from him.
  • We can say that we know someone because we actually converse with him; we are on speaking terms with that person.
  • We can say that we know someone because we spend time in his house and with his family.
  • We can say that we know someone because we have committed our life to him and live with him every day, sharing every circumstance as in a marriage.
  • Yet beyond all this, there is a way of knowing Jesus Christ that includes all of these yet goes beyond them.

Paul continues by being focused on the power of Jesus resurrection:

  • The power of His resurrection is an evidencing power. It is the evidence and seal that everything Jesus did and said was true.
  • The power of His resurrection is a justifying power. It is the receipt and proof that the sacrifice of the cross was accepted as payment in full.
  • The power of His resurrection is a life-giving power. It means that those who are connected with Jesus Christ receive the same resurrection life.
  • The power of His resurrection is a consoling and comforting power. It promises that our friends and loved ones who are dead in Christ live with Him.”

The goal that Paul had which was worth more than anything he had was the power of Jesus’ resurrection. That was what Paul wanted to attain!

Philippians 3:7-8a

In Philippians 3:7-8a Paul begins with one of his more famous and impactful statements in all of scripture: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” He rejects any confidence he has in the flesh. Wuest explains “The word ‘gain’ is plural in the Greek, namely, ‘gains.’… ‘Loss’ is singular. The various gains are all counted as one loss.” And Spurgeon continues “He was skilled in spiritual arithmetic, and very careful in his reckoning. He cast up his accounts with caution, and observed with a diligent eye his losses and his gains.” Paul knew the many things he had that were gains, but he was willing to throw them all aside to gain Jesus.

Paul counted all those things he had gained as loss, not because they were a loss by their very character, as much as he chose to regard them as loss. It wasn’t that they were harmful to Paul, but because these things were ways in which Paul sought to please God in the energies of the flesh. Before Paul became a Christian, he thought all these things made him a success in the effort to please God by works. Far too many even today believe that what they do is what pleases God. Salvation is not based on what we do, but who we are through Christ. We cannot possibly do enough to be saved on our own.

Paul reinforces that and makes clear the one thing that matters – knowing Jesus. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul did not only count his religious pedigree as a loss; he counted all things loss – but he counted them as a loss in view of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. It wasn’t so much that those things were worthless in themselves, but compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus, they really were nothing. Paul shows us how to put a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at the very center of the Christian’s life. He joyfully accepted the loss of all other things for the greatness of this personal relationship.

It is important to note that Paul had plenty he could count as gain for himself. He listed much of that in prior verses. For Paul, this wasn’t just an internal spiritual exercise. He had indeed suffered losing everything for Jesus. Spurgeon explains “After twenty years or more of experience Paul had an opportunity of revising his balance-sheet, and looking again at his estimates, and seeing whether or not his counting was correct. What was the issue of his latest search? How do matters stand at his last stocktaking? He exclaims with very special emphasis, ‘Yea doubtless; and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.’ ” Paul discovered that knowing Jesus was all that mattered then, and the same is true for us today!

Philippians 3:3-6

In Philippians 3:3-6 Paul tackles one area that the false teachers were spewing to the Philippians – questions around circumcision. Here he defines true circumcision. “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.” These Jewish legalists considered themselves the ones truly circumcised and right with God. But Paul declared that he and his followers were the true circumcision. Worshipping God in the Spirit is what defines true circumcision as opposed to the fleshly and legalistic worship these false teachers were doing.

Wuest explains “The word ‘worship’ is the translation of the Greek word referring to the service of Jehovah by His peculiar people, the Jews. A Jew would be scandalized by the application of this word to a Gentile.” Paul knew that he was more qualified to be justified by the keeping of the law than any of his present legalistic opponents were. The interesting thing is that usually those who have confidence in themselves and their legalistic approach are often the least qualified to actually have a positive outcome if it were true, which it is not. It’s funny how we deceive ourselves so completely and these false teachers were doing exactly that.

Paul launches into his credentials as to why he could have confidence in the flesh – he lists four things that were possessions of his by birth that would give him claim to a legalistic salvation. “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 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; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” So there were these facts related to his birth:

  1. Paul was circumcised the eighth day in accordance with the law
  2. Paul was of the stock of Israel, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and therefore an heir to God’s covenant with them.
  3. Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, a distinguished tribe. Benjamin was distinguished by the fact that it gave Israel her first king.
  4. Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. This contrasted him with the Jews who embraced Greek culture as it spread through the Mediterranean.

But in case that wasn’t enough, Paul goes on to list three things that were his by personal choice and conviction, all reasons why he might have confidence in the flesh.

  1. Paul was a Pharisee which were noted for their scrupulous devotion to the law of God.
  2. Paul was a persecutor of the church. Paul was not merely an intellectual opponent but an active fighter against the early church.
  3. Paul was blameless according to the standard of righteousness which was accepted among the men of his day – though this standard fell short of God’s holy standard.

So if anyone could please God by keeping the law and doing works of the flesh, it was Paul. He was the most qualified of all, yet fell far short of God’s standard. Thus he was a minister of salvation through Jesus Christ alone!

Philippians 3:1-2

In Philippians 3:1-2 Paul writes about legalism and how far the law is from God’s transition to grace for all through Christ. He starts with the word ‘finally’, which certainly doesn’t mean he’s almost done with the Philippians. “Finally, my brothers rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” Weust explains “Paul’s ‘finally’ here is not the ‘finally’ of the present day preacher. He has another ‘finally’ in Philippians 4:8. He does not mean by this that he is about to close the letter. The words translated by the word ‘finally’ are literally ‘as for the rest.’ ”

Paul begins by reminding the church fo the theme of his entire letter – to rejoice in all things. That rejoicing is not in circumstances or in situations, but in the Lord who works all things together for good. When we live in joy, it shows that we really do trust God whom we really believe is in control. When we believe this, it isn’t any surprise that we are then filled with joy. Meyer writes “It is a duty for us to cultivate this joy. We must steadfastly arrest any tendency to murmur and complain; to find fault with God’s dealings; or to seek to elicit sympathy. We must as much resist the temptation to depression and melancholy as we would to any form of sin.”

Paul assured the Philippians that he didn’t mind reminding them of the same things because it was for their safety. Paul lashes out when he writes “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” This was a harsh reference to the troublemaking legalists who attempted to deceive the Philippians. “Dogs” is exactly the term of contempt Jews would use against Gentiles. Paul turns the tables and uses it against the Jews who were disrupting the church. Paul said a lot by using this word against these Jewish-influenced legalists. They were evil and trying to convince the church that righteousness came through works, not faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul even went further when he writes that they were trying to ‘mutilate the flesh’. It is another harsh reference to the insistence of these Jewish legalists on requiring circumcision for Gentiles who wanted to become Christians. This was all done with the idea that someone must become a Jew first before they could become a Christian. Meyer explains “They did not deny that Jesus was the Messiah, or that His Gospel was the power of God unto salvation, but they insisted that the Gentile converts could only come to the fullness of Gospel privilege through the Law of Moses.” Paul is warning the church to avoid these false teachers and their lies about salvation.

Philippians 2:23-30

In Philippians 2:23-30 Paul wraps up this chapter by continuing to share his heart for the Philippian Christ Followers. He wants to come see them, not merely send Timothy. “I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.” He was clear that he wanted to come himself, but couldn’t at the time of his writing, and Timothy was the best available to come minister to them. Remember that the Corinthian church accused Paul of not coming to see them as he had planned, and he certainly didn’t want to have that happen again here.

It was Epaphroditus who had carried this letter to the Philippians. When he came back he fell ill while with Paul upon his return. “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.” They had a special relationship as Paul calls him:

  • Brother – which speaks of a relationship to be enjoyed
  • Worker – which speaks of the job to be done
  • Soldier – which speaks of the battle to be fought

Epaphroditus had a deep relationship with Paul and carried back support from the Philippian church which was a sacrifice.

Epaphroditus was extremely sick. “Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” God’s care for Epaphroditus also showed God’s mercy toward Paul. If Epaphroditus had died, Paul would have had sorrow upon sorrow because a valued brother, worker, and soldier for Christ was no longer on this earth. He would also have sorrow upon sorrow because Epaphroditus became sick when he came on behalf of the Philippians to minister to Paul’s material and spiritual needs while Paul was in prison in Rome.

Paul was eager to re-unite the Philippians with their beloved brother Epaphroditus, and reminded the Philippians to give him proper recognition when he returned. “I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.” And Paul explains the reasons why: “So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” The willingness to put the work of Christ first and his own personal safety and concern second displayed the servant heart of Epaphroditus. He was not content with good intentions but rather put his life on the line to make sure the job was done.

Philippians 2:17-22

In Philippians 2:17-22 Paul uses himself as an example of how to live in obedience. “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Paul seems to indicate that his execution might be coming soon. He’s in jail and expecting death, but even in his martyrdom, he wanted to rejoice with the Philippians. Paul wasn’t being morbid here, asking the Philippians to take joy in something as depressing as his death. Yet he did ask the Philippians to see his death as something that would bring glory to God. His life was going to be a sacrifice for Jesus, dead or alive, and he wanted it to be celebrated with joy.

He asks the Philippians to join in that joy. “Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” Again, we come to the consistent theme of Philippians: joy. But this is joy based not on circumstances (quite the opposite, really), but based in the fact of a life totally committed to Jesus Christ. “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.” This showed Paul’s true reliance upon the Lord. He wanted to see Timothy among the Philippians, but recognized that it would happen God’s way and in God’s timing. He was not interested in forcing something that was not God’s plan.

Paul didn’t expect problems from the Philippians, as if they were one of his problem churches. Instead, he expected that he would be encouraged by what Timothy would learn. This was a very different message from that he gave to the Corinthian church which was consumed by problems. Paul also knew that Timothy, who was his best partner in ministry, would show his pastor’s heart of caring and care for the people there. Paul was sending the best to minister to the church, and he assures them Timothy’s actions will be sincere and genuine. “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.”

Paul contrasts Timothy with other pastors he knows and even serves with – and none compare to Timothy. Everyone else has an agenda and it resolves around their own motivations and desires. That was not true of Timothy. He was focused on the interest of those he ministered to. “For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Paul is recognizing just how rare this kind of servant of the Lord truly is. All of us, even ministers of the gospel, struggle with sin and putting self on the throne of life and as the driver of ministry. Timothy was a unique minister who cared for people the way Jesus did. “But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.”

Philippians 2:14-16

In Philippians 2:14-16 Paul gives us some practical ways to obey his exhortation. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation….”.  Paul specifically used terms that were used to describe Israel’s complaining towards God during the Exodus, it is probably best to see the complaining and disputing as including their attitude towards God. Spurgeon gives three examples of things we must not murmur against:

  • The Providence of God
  • One another
  • The ungodly world

Note that Paul uses a very broad coverage here when he says “all things”, not some or even most, but rather all. That’s important to understand as it leaves no room for interpretation – we are to do everything without grumbling or dispute. Period. Why does it matter? Because through the display of a non-complaining, non grumbling, non disputing spirit, we show that we are true Christ Followers. We are walking in obedience to God’s commands. And it shows us then as blameless and innocent. When we live a life without grumbling and disputing, we are living in a way that stands out from the world around us.

We live in the midst of a world filled with crookedness that twists the truth in every direction. So we have a mission for living – to be a light in the midst of the darkness that is all around us. Paul was warning us not to be like the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, complaining and grumbling against God at every turn. He tells us to shine brightly as lights. “….among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” This is not an encouragement to do something; it is a simple statement of fact. Christians are lights in the world; the only question is, “How brightly do they shine?”

We are to fulfill our place as lights in the world:

  • Lights are used to make things evident.
  • Lights are used to guide.
  • Lights are used as a warning.
  • Lights are used to bring cheer.
  • Lights are used to make things safe.

Paul tells us how to get the power to shine as a light surrounded by darkness – to hold fast to the word of life. We need to hold onto God’s Word and stand strong to allow it to shine in us and through us. It’s a light that will never go out, and should be our focus as long as we have life!

Philippians 2:12-13

In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul exhorts the Philippians to work out their own salvation. He makes a connection between the obedience Jesus showed in following God’s plan, and what he expected of the Christ Followers at Philippi. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” The Philippian believers had a good track record of walking in obedience with God, but Paul reinforces how important it is that they continue.

Guzik explains “We know that Paul did not mean “work so as to earn your own salvation.” Such a statement would contradict the whole of Paul’s gospel. What Paul did mean is to call the Philippians to put forth real effort into their Christian lives. This is not to work their salvation in the sense of accomplishing it, but to work out their salvation – to see it evident in every area of their lives, to activate this salvation God freely gave them. There is a sense in which our salvation is complete, in the sense that Jesus has done a complete work for us. Still there is also a sense in which our salvation is incomplete, in that it is not yet a complete work in us.” Working out our salvation is not about earning it, but making it complete by activating it.

Spurgeon explained Therefore, “These words, as they stand in the New Testament, contain no exhortation to all men, but are directed to the people of God. They are not intended as an exhortation to the unconverted; they are, as we find them in the epistle, beyond all question addressed to those who are already saved through a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s writing here is to the believers only. And Muller further explains “The believer must finish, must carry to conclusion, must apply to its fullest consequences what is already given by God in principle… He must work out what God in His grace has worked in.” Paul tells us that this is personal – our own salvation – and we need to begin by working it out through caring for our own soul.

Paul gives us the reason why Christians must work out their salvation with fear and trembling – because God is working in them. Since God has done and is doing a work in us as Christians, we have a greater responsibility to work diligently with fear and trembling regarding our own salvation and walk with the Lord. God’s work in us increases our responsibility; it doesn’t lessen it in any way. God’s work in us extends to the transformation of our will, as well as changing our actions. And the motive that should drive us to work salvation out is to please God as it gives Him pleasure – it is pleasing to Him when we are walking in obedience and completing the salvation He freely gave us through Jesus Christ.

%d bloggers like this: