William Trew, Cardiff
3b. Chapter Three, verses 4-21
CHRIST THE PURSUIT OF AN ARDENT LIFE
We have already suggested that our chapter is divided into four paragraphs, and were occupied with the first of these (vv. 1-3) in the previous paper. We now consider the remainder of the chapter.
2. Christ our Position before God, Gained
vv. 4-9 That I may gain Christ', v. 8, R.v. The standpoint from which the apostle views these things here is that Christ is a blessing to be won at a price. We know that this is not the whole truth. In other passages of the Scriptures, Christ (and eternal blessing in Him) is the bestowal of sovereign, matchless grace. Here Paul is speaking from his own personal viewpoint and telling of what it costs him to 'gain Christ'. He enumerates his qualifications as a natural man, to trust in which is to have 'confidence in the flesh'. Saul of Tarsus had looked into the mirror of human esteem and had seen himself reflected there, clothed upon with a sevenfold dignity, before which he preened himself with pride of heart and conceit of mind. Covenant Dignity - 'Circumcized the eighth day'.
Racial Dignity - 'Of the stock of Israel'.
Tribal Dignity - 'Of the tribe of Benjamin'. Son of the
well-loved Rachel, not of the bondwoman. Ancestral Dignity - 'An Hebrew of the Hebrews'. Religions Dignity - 'A Pharisee'.
Dignity of Fanaticism - 'Concerning zeal, persecuting'. Moral Dignity - 'Blameless'.
Possessing such qualifications the highest places of influence that his nation could offer him were within his reach. 'But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ . . . for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him', vv. 7-9.
3. Christ the Prized Portion of Eager Hearts
vv. 10-16 The realizing of the intention of God for our present Christian experience is spoken of still as a prize to be won at a price. We should remember this when thinking of verse 11. That this is not the whole truth is indisputably clear. In view of 'that day', the apostle was supremely confident. Hence we read, 'Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you', 2 Cor. 4. 14. Thus assured in face of possible death and willing to be 'absent from the body' and 'at home with the Lord', r.v., yet he earnestly desired rather to be 'clothed upon with our house which is from heaven'. He enjoyed certainty based upon the fact that 'he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit', 2 Cor. 5. 5.
But in Philippians chapter three, the apostle is looking at it from his own side. He sees the Lord Jesus in glory at the right hand of God, and taking full account of the path of suffering that led Him to the throne, he is willing to follow Him, whatever the cost. 'I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord', v. 8, j.n.d. Paul had looked into the mirror of Calvary, and had seen himself reflected in a way which filled his soul with loathing and disgust. Turning away from that sight, he had turned his eyes upon a sight of surpassing beauty and extreme loveliness. His whole vision was henceforth filled with Christ in glory; his heart was His, exclusively and for ever. In the presence of such glory, beauty and worth, the world had no attraction and had nothing to give. To know Him, to be like Him and with Him where He is, was so surpassingly excellent, that anything would be loss that delayed him, or that would burden his steps. The adoring contemplation of Christ in His amazing condescension of selfless service even unto death, develops in us Christian graciousness and selfless love, ch. 2. The adoring contemplation of Christ in glory draws the affections away from earth to heaven, and stimulates our spiritual energies to pursue eagerly, ardently, untiringly and with fleet steps the practical realization of all that God desires us to become in conformity to His Son, ch. 3.
'That I may know him': not Jesus on earth, but the Lord in heaven. For in Him there are ever fresh discoveries of glory and worthiness to be made. And this will be our delightful employment eternally. 'The power of his resurrection': it was this that changed craven, trembling disciples into devoted followers and willing martyrs, and it is the fact that He is risen that still provides the power to make us superior to all the power of the enemy, and will strengthen us to endure to the end. 'The fellowship of his sufferings', who was and is still 'cast away indeed as worthless by men', 1 Pet. 2. 4, j.n.d., and who gives us the privilege of sharing His rejection. 'Being made conformable unto his death': ready to die in the name of Him who was obedient unto death, if that is in the will of God for him. 'If by any means . . .': there is no suggestion of uncertainty in his voice as he dictates the words. He sees every step of the way that his Lord has taken, and hears Him say, 'If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be', John 12. 26. The call finds a response in Paul's heart, and he says 'I am willing to take every step whatever the cost'. His great longing is to be absolutely like Christ. He would not have them suppose that he thought he had attained to that perfectly. Nor could he, until at last perfected. But it was the ideal before him, towards which he strained mightily, using up every reserve of spiritual energy and moral strength, in order to attain it, however costly.
4. Christ our Prospect of Glory
vv. 17-21 It is not Paul the Apostle who has thus been speaking to our hearts, but Paul the Christian, bondslave of Jesus Christ. His character, as he has described it, is Christian character; his exercises and desires are Christian exercises and desires. He is the pattern for us, as he tells us in verse 17. His treasure is in heaven, and, therefore, he is utterly detached from earth. His eyes are upon the goal before him, and, forgetting the things that are behind, he reaches forth to the things that are before. In this he is our example. Many were walking otherwise whilst professing they were Christ's; nevertheless, they were 'enemies of the cross of Christ' by which all who are His have been cut off from the present evil course of things, and are now linked with heaven. 'Our citizenship', v. 20 R.v., is there, and we hasten onward to our city-home. The Lord from heaven will come, according to His promise, to complete in us His saving work and to change 'the body of our humiliation', R.v. Our body of flesh and blood is the clothing that best suits our present humble sphere, but it is not suitable raiment for that exalted sphere which is our eternal home. Soon we shall be transfigured into His likeness, with bodies of glory like unto His. For Him we look; our hearts arc eager to see Him, to be with Him and like Him.
'The Spirit and the bride say, Come.'
'Even so, come, Lord Jesus.'
To be concluded with 'Christ the Power of a Victorious Life'.