Weds 15th November Philippians 3:1-14
Meditation on Philippians 3:1-14
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul wants to encourage his readers and to warn his readers in order to point them to Christ.
He realises that repetition can sometimes be a vital step in our progress as Christians. He is not afraid to ‘write the same things to you again’. He sees it as a safeguard.
There are times when I need to listen again to something because I have missed part of what has been said or written.
So he encourages us to ‘rejoice in the Lord’. And so we should today. He is everything and has done everything for us to bring us into His family.
To rejoice in the Lord is to have joy or delight in Him.
Paul has already talked about the importance of rejoicing in the Lord – 1:18; 2:17-18 and he will come back to it in 4:4.
By rejoicing in the Lord we shouldn’t be sidetracked by the devil. Paul doesn’t mince his words about the devil and his characteristics.
‘Watch out for those dogs’ – dangerous people who will destroy your faith.
‘Watch out for those evildoers’ – those who would drag you down into the pit.
‘Watch out for those mutilators of the flesh’ – those for whom circumcision has no inner meaning but rather an outward appearance.
The true, inner meaning and significance of circumcision is only recognised by believers – as Paul says in his letter to the Romans. ‘…circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit not by the letter; and his praise is not from men but from God’. (Romans 2:28-29)
Paul has no confidence in the flesh. Rather, as he says in verse 3, ‘we who serve God by His Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus and who put no confidence in the flesh’.
- PAUL COULD BOAST OF HIS BACKGROUND Verses 4-6
What a list of credentials…
- circumcised on the eighth day – he was born a Jew; he wasn’t a convert to Judaism.
- an Israelite
- from the tribe of Benjamin – his Jewish roots were deep and without contention
- a Hebrew of Hebrews – in every aspect, through and through
- one who knew and practised the law – a true Pharisee
- zealous in the extreme – he persecuted Christians
- faultless in his observance and practice of the law
What a list. But…
- PAUL CHANGED HIS ALLEGIANCE WHEN HE MET THE LORD Verses 7-14
All his credentials were worthless when he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.
What a transformation.
All those things that were vital to him became as nothing compared to his new relationship with Christ.
Everything in his past life was set aside as his new life in Christ became his all-consuming passion.
He is scathing about his past life – ‘I consider them garbage’.
His new life is of ‘surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’. He is willing to ‘lose all things’ that he might know Christ.
Even as I type this, I realise what a challenge that is. I can’t undo my past and I thank God for my Christian upbringing – do I ‘know Christ’ better today than yesterday?
What does it mean to be ‘found in Christ’…my righteousness is not my own; it’s His righteousness which comes through faith in Him.
And this leads to a different life focus. Whereas before, Paul was proud of his religious past, now his priorities are changed…
- ‘I want to be found in Him’
- ‘I want to know Christ’
- ‘I want to know the power of His resurrection’ – this is life-giving power
- ‘I want to know what it means to share in His sufferings’ When he first met the Lord on the Damascus Road, the Lord said to Ananias to go and meet with Paul and say to him, ‘…I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’
It’s interesting to note that Paul mentions the resurrection first before he mentions suffering and death.
Isn’t this the wrong way round?
He is looking forward to his resurrection when he goes to be with the Lord. He has already stated that he longs to be with the Lord but he also wants to remain in the body (1:23-25).
What he is saying is that the journey to the resurrection may well involve suffering and death as it did for the Lord. Paul is ready to accept that and, as we know, he was subjected to all kinds of pain and suffering before his death.
- PAUL KNOWS THAT HE STILL HAS A JOURNEY TO MAKE Verses 12-14
The Christian life is like a race – not a sprint but a marathon.
He knows that he has not yet gained all that he has spoken about but he is getting there – ‘I press on to take hold of the that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.’ (verse 12)
He sets out on a deliberate course of action…
- forgetting what has gone
- pressing on (straining) for what is to come.
He finishes with a personal testimony – ‘I press on toward the goal’.
What is his goal? ‘to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus’.
What a glorious hope Paul has.
What a glorious hope we have as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Am I ready for God’s call heavenward?