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The second chapter presents the graciousness of the Christian life, that forgets self in consideration for others, and walks according to the lowly mind set forth in Christ our Pattern. In this third chapter we see the energy of the Christian life that overcomes the dangers by which we are beset, forgets the things that are behind, and presses on to Christ our Object in the glory.
We need both grace and energy, for, as it has been pointed out, "Sometimes we see a want of energy where there is loveliness of character; or a great deal of energy, where there is a want of softness and consideration for others."
In the course of this chapter we are warned against certain dangers by which the enemy would seek to prevent believers from shining as lights in the world and holding forth the word of life, and so mar our testimony to Christ as we pass through a world that is in moral darkness and under the shadow of death.
In verses 2 and 3 we are warned against the evil works of those who were corrupting Christianity by judaising teaching. In verses 4 to 16 we are warned against confidence in religious flesh. In verses 17 to 21 we are warned against enemies of the cross of Christ within the Christian profession. That we may have the needed energy to overcome these dangers, the apostle presents Christ in the glory as our unfailing resource.
(V. 1). Before speaking of the special dangers to which we are exposed, Paul sets the Lord before us as the One in Whom we can rejoice. The apostle had been in prison four years and was about to be tried for his life. But, whatever his circumstances, however great the failure amongst the people of God, whatever the dangers he warns us against, his final exhortation is, "Rejoice in the Lord." The Lord is in the glory, the everlasting witness to God's infinite satisfaction in His work on the cross, and the One in Whom all the blessing that He has secured for believers is set forth. If He is in the glory, we shall be in the glory, in spite of all that we may have to pass through on the way, whether from trying circumstances, the failure of the saints or the power of the enemy: therefore let us "Rejoice in the Lord."
(Vv. 2, 3). Having directed our gaze to Jesus Christ as Lord to Whom every knee is going to bow, the apostle warns us against special dangers with which we are faced. We are to "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision." These three evils would seem to refer to judaising teachers within the Christian circle, who sought to mingle law and grace. This meant the setting aside of the gospel that grace proclaimed, and the re-instating of the flesh that the gospel set aside. Realising that this evil assails the foundation of all our blessing, Paul is unsparing in its condemnation. The dog is one that returns to his vomit and has no shame. To behave in a way that is manifestly evil, and refuse to acknowledge the evil, is to act without conscience or shame.
Moreover, these judaising teachers covered up evil works with a cloak of religion. Against such the Lord warned His disciples when He said, "Do not ye after their works." Such may have professed to be the circumcision, who have refused the flesh, but, in reality, by seeking to mingle law and grace, they were indulging religious flesh rather than cutting off the flesh. The apostle exposes such in terms of contempt.
In contrast to the system of these judaising teachers, Paul sets before us the outstanding characteristics of Christianity. In Christianity those who refuse the flesh - and thus form the true spiritual circumcision - "worship by the Spirit of God", and not in a round of religious ceremonies. They boast in Christ Jesus, and not in men and their works. They have no confidence in the flesh, but put their trust in the Lord.
There are indeed the lusts of the flesh which we are to judge, but here the apostle is warning us against the religion of the flesh. This is a far more subtle danger for Christians, for religious flesh has a fair appearance, whereas the lusts of the flesh are manifestly wrong, even to the natural man. One has said, "The flesh has a religion as well as lusts, but the flesh must have a religion that will not kill the flesh."
The apostle's words have, surely, a special warning for us in these last days, when this judaising teaching, which was such a danger to the primitive church, has developed into Christendom becoming a corrupt mixture of Judaism and Christianity. The result is that a vast profession has arisen in which forms and ceremonies have taken the place of worship by the Spirit; in which the works of men according to the law have set aside the work of Christ according to the gospel; and which appeals to man in the flesh, while raising no question of new birth or personal faith in Christ. Having formed itself after the Jewish pattern, Christendom has become an imitation Jewish camp, having the form of godliness but denying the power thereof. From this corruption, the apostle, in his other epistles, warns us to "turn away", and to go forth unto Christ "without the camp, bearing His reproach" ( 2Ti_3:5 ; Heb_13:13 ).
(Vv. 4-6). Paul proceeds to expose the worthless character of religious flesh by recalling his own life before his conversion. If there were any virtue in religious flesh, he would have had more ground for trusting the flesh than others, for he was pre-eminently, and sincerely, a religious man after the flesh. In his case the religious ordinances according to the law had been carried out - he had been circumcised on the eighth day. He was a Jew of the purest descent. As to his religious life, he belonged to the straightest sect - a Pharisee. None could question his sincerity and zeal, for, in seeking to maintain his religion, he had persecuted the church. As regards the righteousness that consisted in observing the outward law, he was blameless.
(V. 7). All these things were gain to him as a natural man, and would have given him a great place among men, but the moment he was brought to see Christ in glory, he discovered that, in spite of all his religious advantages, he was the chief of sinners, and had come short of the glory of God. Moreover, he saw that all blessing depended upon Christ and His work, with the result that henceforth the things that were gain to him as a natural man he counted loss for Christ. To trust any longer in the fact that he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and that, touching the righteousness which is in the law, he was blameless, would have been to set aside Christ's work by his own works, and to rejoice in himself rather than in Christ.
(Vv. 8, 9). Moreover, it was not only at the time of his conversion that he counted his works according to religious flesh to be loss, but throughout his career he continued to count them loss; for, while he could look back and say "I counted," he can also say in the present, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss." Moreover, it was not only the things of which he had been speaking that he counted loss, but "all things" in which the flesh might boast, and which would have given him a place in this world. Paul was a wellborn man, of good social standing, a citizen of Tarsus - no mean city. He was well educated, having been trained at the feet of Gamaliel. He was well known to Jewish leaders, and, under their authority, had acted in an official way; but the knowledge of Christ Jesus, of Whom he can speak as "my Lord," threw all these things into the shade. Such is the excellency of Christ that, compared with Him, all the things in which the flesh could boast were counted by the apostle as but "filth." Having come to this estimate of these things, he had no difficulty in letting them go, for who would object to leaving a dung hill behind?
In this deeply searching passage the apostle has been setting before us his own experience; but we do well to challenge our own hearts as to how far we have become followers of the apostle, in so entering into the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, our Lord, that, compared with Him, any worldly advantages that might give us a place among men are counted but filth to be left behind. Naturally we glory in anything that would distinguish us from our neighbours and bring honour to ourselves, whether it be birth, social position, wealth or intellect. One has said, "Whatever you are decking yourself out with - it may be with a knowledge of Scripture - it is glorying in the flesh. Ever so little a thing is enough to make us pleased with ourselves; what we should not notice in another is quite enough to raise our own importance" (J.N.D.).
Having, through the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, discovered the vanity of religious flesh and the things that are gain to us as natural men, and having Christ in the glory as his one Object, the apostle can freely express the desires of his heart as all being bound up with Christ, as he says:
"That I may win Christ";
"Be found in Him";
"That I may know Him";
That "I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus."
When the apostle says, "that I may win Christ," he is looking on to the end of the journey. He is running a race, and he sees that the goal is to be with Christ and like Christ in the glory. Christ down here is the pattern for the Christian life; Christ in the glory is our Object, the One to Whom we press on.
In that great day, the apostle can say he will "be found in Him." It will be seen, then, that every blessing that has been secured for the believer by His work on the cross is set forth "in Him" in the glory. This will mean that our righteousness, set forth in Him, will not be the righteousness that would result from our own works, but the righteousness which is the result of what God has done through Christ. Christ was delivered by God for our offences and was raised again for our justification. The believer comes into this blessing by faith: we are justified by faith.
(Vv. 10, 11). In the meantime, while pressing on to reach Christ, the apostle's desire is expressed by his words, "That I may know Him." We want to know Him in all His loveliness as set forth in His lowly grace and obedience even unto death; we want to know Him in the mighty power that is for us, as set forth in His resurrection; we want to know Him in glory as the One to Whom we are going to be conformed, and with Whom we shall be for ever. To know Him in His lowly grace as our Pattern will teach us how to live for Him; to know Him in the power of His resurrection will enable us to face death, if, like Paul, we are called to suffer death for His name's sake; and to know Him in the glory will keep us pressing on in spite of all opposition. The apostle's great desire was to reach Christ in the glory, and with this end in view he was prepared to be conformed to Christ's death - to die to all that to which Christ had died, even if it meant for him a martyr's death in order to reach the blessed condition of "the resurrection from among the dead" (N. Tr.).
(V. 12). Paul was still in the body, so he did not, and could not, claim that he had already obtained the prize of being with Christ and like Christ in the glory. Nevertheless, it was the end he had in view, and as he passed along his way he was seeking to grow in the apprehension of the glorious end for which he had been destined by the grace of Christ.
(Vv. 13, 14). If he had not yet attained the prize, neither did he claim to have apprehended in all its fulness the blessedness of the prize. But he could say, "One thing - forgetting the things behind, and stretching out to the things before, I pursue, looking towards the goal, for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus." Good for us, if we too could have such a vision of Christ in the glory and the reality of "those things which are before," that we should be led to forget the things that are behind. Paul not only counted them loss but he had forgotten them. We could not boast in something we had forgotten. As with every other spiritual blessing, our calling on high is set forth in Christ.
(Vv. 15-17). Having set before us the path he was pursuing through this world, the spirit in which he trod the path, and the glorious end to which it leads, he now exhorts as many as enjoy this full - or "perfect" - Christian experience to have the same mind. There may indeed be some who have as yet but little entered into this ripe Christian experience, but, even so, God can lead us on and reveal to us the blessedness of the mind that forgets the things that are behind and presses on to Christ in the glory. If, however, there are differences in spiritual attainment, there is no reason that we should not walk in the same steps. One may see further along the road than another, but this would not hinder such treading the same path and looking in the same direction.
We are exhorted, then, to be followers of the apostle in the path that he was treading, and, not only followers, but "followers together," having one mind and one object. With the lowly mind that forgets self, and with our eyes upon Christ in the glory, we shall be drawn together by one object.
We are to mark them which walk thus. It is not merely the profession we make, or the fair words we may utter, but the walk, which speaks of the life we live, that is of such value in the sight of God. Paul could say, "For me to live is Christ."
(Vv. 18, 19). We are then warned that, even in that early day, there were "many" professors amongst the people of God, whose walk was such that it proved them to be the enemies of the cross of Christ, and whose end would be destruction. So far from having the lowly mind that forgets the things that are behind and presses on to Christ in glory, they were wholly occupied with earthly things. If the apostle has to warn of such, it is with weeping. Already he has warned us against judaising teachers who appealed to religious flesh. Now he warns us against those who were seeking to turn Christianity into a merely civilising system in the effort to make a better and brighter world. Such were minding earthly things. Thus we are warned against the two evils that are rampant in these last days, one that uses Christianity to appeal to religious flesh, the other that would use it to improve the flesh. Both set aside Christ, His work, and the heavenly character of Christianity.
(Vv. 20, 21). In contrast to such, the apostle can say of believers that our associations are in heaven, "from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." At His coming these bodies of humiliation will be changed, and fashioned like unto His glorious body. This change will be effected by the power whereby Christ is able "to subdue all things unto Himself." Every power that is against us - whether the flesh within, the devil without, the world around, or even death itself - He is able to subdue. Thus the beginning of the journey was that we were brought to know something of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and the end will be that, in spite of every opposing power, we shall be with Him on high, and like Him, having a body of glory.
With this glorious hope before us, we may well challenge our hearts by asking the question of another, "Is CHRIST so simply, so singly the object of our souls, as to be the power of the displacement of all that we have clung to in the past; all that would entangle us, and make us turn our backs on the cross in the present; and all the schemes and expectations, the fears or anticipations of the future?"
In the second chapter of the epistle, we have the presentation of the lowly mind perfectly expressed in Christ, in His pathway from the glory to the cross, producing in the believer the grace of the Christian life.
In chapter three we have the presentation of Christ in the glory - the goal to which the Christian presses on - to impart to the believer the energy of the Christian life. In this Scripture the believer is viewed as leaving behind the world from which Christ is absent, and journeying on to that better world to which Christ has gone. He is seen travelling this heavenly path with his heart so engrossed by Christ in the glory, that he counts all things, in which the flesh glories, as dung and dross. His mind is so set on things above, that he forgets the things that are behind.
Such is the beautiful picture set before us, and exemplified in the apostle's life. It is for believers to walk as having his path as "an ensample" (17). Feebly we may answer to the pattern, but at least we can appreciate its beauty, and seek to know its blessedness.
1. The Secret of the Heavenly Path (Verse 1).
"Rejoice in the Lord" is the opening exhortation of the chapter. This discovers to us the secret of the path that is set before us. This is more than rejoicing in the blessings we have received, it is an exhortation to rejoice in the One through whom we have received them. Through the blessings we reach the Blesser, and discover that He is greater than all the blessings He bestows. It is the discovery of the attractiveness of the Blesser that sets the feet in the path that leads to the place where He has gone. The One in whom we rejoice is the One to whom we press on.
This exhortation, and the experience to which it leads, is very happily anticipated in the case of Peter, and the other disciples, in the incident of the great draught of fishes described in Luke 5 . There the disciples' feet were set in a path in which they left all to follow Christ, for, at the close, we read, "They forsook all and followed Him." What was it, however, that set their feet in this path? It was the discovery that Christ is greater than all the gifts that He gives. The Lord had just given the disciples the biggest catch of fishes that had ever fallen o their lot. Such an unexpected display of miraculous power discovers to Peter the glory of the Person of Christ, and makes him realize, in the presence of God, his own exceeding sinfulness. It does more, however, for it brings home to Peter the blessed truth that all this divine power is for him in grace, in spite of the fact that he is a man full of sin. Realizing his sinfulness, he says, "Depart from me" realizing the grace of Christ, he gets as near to Christ as ever he can. The result is that Christ becomes greater to Peter than the gifts that He gives, and he leaves behind the gifts - the draught of fishes - to follow the Giver. He forsook all, and followed Him."
We, too, if rejoicing in the Lord, would know a little more of following hard after the Lord. An unsatisfied heart will lead to restless feet. The joyless man is the listless man. The man of divine energy is the one who is rejoicing in the Lord. We oft-times hinder our joy in the Lord by seeking joy in ourselves, our brethren, our circumstances or our surroundings. Had Paul done so he might well have been cast down, for, as to his circumstances, he was in prison; as to the saints, all were seeking their own; and over some, who professed the Name of Christ, he has to weep. He rejoiced in One of whom it is written, "Thou art the Same," and "Thou remainest" - One who never changes and will never pass away.
To set this blessed Person before the saints was nothing new with the apostle: he had often ministered Christ. However, he says the same things ate safe things, and to minister Christ is not irksome to the servant of Christ. In another epistle the same apostle warns us against "itching ears" that seek for some new thing, and lead many to turn "from the truth ... unto fables" ( 2Ti_4:3 ; 2Ti_4:4 ).
2. The Hindrance to the Heavenly Path (Verse 2).
Before proceeding to set before us the Christian path, the apostle pauses to give a solemn warning against those who were seeking to bring into the Christian circle an earthly religion after the flesh. He says, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision." Here he alludes to Judaising teachers who were troubling the assemblies in Galatia and elsewhere.
This danger did not arise from the open opposition of corrupt Judaism to Christianity, but from a corrupting movement inside the Christian circle. Corruption from within is ever more dangerous, and more evil, than opposition from without. For this reason, doubtless, the apostle denounces in scathing terms these Judaising teachers. They were "dogs" acting in a shameless and conscienceless way they were "evil workers" actuated by malice. They are not owned as true Jews, but referred to in contempt as "the concision."
The apostle sees that the great effort of the enemy is to draw the Christians from the heavenly Christ, the heavenly calling, and the heavenly path, by involving them in an earthly religion through a corrupting movement within the Christian Assemblies.
This was not the opposition of those in Judaism advocating a return to the Jewish system - a danger to which the Hebrew believers were exposed, and to meet which, the Epistle to the Hebrews was written. This was an effort by those within the Christian circle to mix Judaism with Christianity, law with grace, and ordinances with the work of Christ. The success of such a movement would mean the entire loss of the heavenly character of Christianity. The subtlety of the snare lies in the fact that there is no suggestion to go back to Judaism, or give up 'Christianity. The suggestion is that Christianity should be made a little more attractive to the natural man by adding a little of Judaism.
How well the enemy knows that this must end in the loss of every vital truth in Christianity.
3. The Spiritual Character of Christianity (Verse 3).
Having denounced the corrupters of the truth, the apostle presents, in one short passage, an epitome of Christianity, which, if held in power, would deliver from the corruption. He says,
We are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and boast in Christ Jesus, and do not trust in flesh" (N.T.).
The true circumcision can only be found in the Christian circle, for circumcision is no longer "outward in the flesh," but "is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter" ( Rom_2:28 ; Rom_2:29 ). Moreover, Christian worship is in the Spirit, making everything of Christ, and refusing everything of the flesh.
Thus, in Christianity all is vital. There is a work of God in the heart and worship by the Spirit. It has a living Christ for its object, and utterly refuses the flesh. The corrupting movement, within the Christian circle, would set aside all that is vital while retaining the form of Christianity. It would substitute the profession of Christianity, by subscribing to creeds, and submitting to forms, for the true circumcision of the heart. It would establish an outward form of worship by means of buildings, music, vestments and ritual, in place of worship by the Spirit of God. Instead of having no confidence in the flesh, it would make every possible appeal to the flesh. It would end, as the apostle foretells in another epistle, in the corrupt Christendom of our day "having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." The Philippians were solemnly warned to beware of this corruption in its inception. We are warned to "turn away" from the corruption in its full development. (2 Tim. G: 5).
4. 'Things left Behind in Taking the Heavenly Path (Verses 4-8).
The apostle appeals to his own history in proof of the utter futility of the flesh in divine things. Does natural birth give any standing before God? Then Paul possessed this qualification in the highest degree, for was he not of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews? Is there any fit in ordinances? If so, in Paul's case, the ordinances had been duly observed. He was circumcised the eighth day, and the requirements of the law had been met with all the strictness of the Pharisee. Is there any gain in maintaining the traditions? If so, Paul, with the utmost zeal, had opposed the introduction of new light, by persecuting the church. Will man's righteousness avail before God? If so, Paul could lay claim to a righteousness beyond others, for, as touching the righteousness of the law, he was blameless.
What was it, then, that led Paul to count as loss the natural advantages of birth, the religion of ordinances, and the righteousness of man? He has one answer. He had seen Christ in the glory. From that moment he could say, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." On the way to Damascus he had the vision of Christ in the glory. He saw Christ - a living Man in the glory - and a company of people on earth united to the Man in the glory and journeying on their way to share His glory. Moreover he discovered that, with all his natural advantages, his religious observances, his religious zeal and blameless life, he had no link with Christ in the glory and no part in the heavenly company on earth. Further, not only the religion of the flesh left him apart from Christ, but could never secure for him any part in Christ, and most solemn of all, he discovered it was the very thing which made him the most deadly enemy of Christ, and His people, that the world has ever seen.
The religion of the flesh might, indeed, give him a great place before man, but he saw that to be united to Christ in the glory - to be of the company on earth who are travelling on to the great day when they will be like Christ and with Christ in life's eternal home - must be infinitely more blessed than to have a place, however great, in man's small world through man's short day. Thus it came to pass, that, from the moment the light from heaven shone into his dark soul, his choice was made, and all that was gain to him as a natural man, before men, was esteemed as loss on account of Christ in the glory.
Surrounded by the world of corrupt Christendom, we see, in our day, a vast profession, built up according to the religion of the flesh, which destroys all that is vital in Christianity. We see that those who are most zealous for this religion of the flesh secure for themselves a great place before men, and are high in the honours of this world. It is a religion that has its gain in this world. Those, however, who have heard the heavenly call, are well content to count as loss every form of religious flesh, with the worldly advantages it may secure, for they have seen a New Man in a New World - Christ in the glory.
Such was the experience of the Apostle Paul. From the start of his Christian career the glory of this world was dimmed by the light above the brightness of the sun, revealing to him Christ in the glory. Moreover, not only did he count all things loss at the start, but also, when thirty years have passed, he still counts "all things but loss." It may be comparatively easy in the freshness of first love to count all things but loss, but in the presence of natural claims, the allurements of the world, and the ever present snare of an earthly religion offering an easier path to the flesh, it is not always easy to continue counting all things loss. Paul, however, not only counted all loss in the past, but he continued to do so. "Yea, doubtless," he says, "I count all things but loss." Further, he not only counted them loss, but he suffered the loss of all things. It was not with him simply an estimate of things formed in his mind, but he suffered the actual loss of all things. Finally, in regard to the things of which he had suffered the loss, he says he counts them but dung. We may be sure that he cast no regretful looks at the things he had left behind, for who would regret leaving a heap of filth behind. Our difficulty is to reach a true estimate of the religion according to the flesh, and to see that human righteousnesses, in the sight of God, are but filthy rags.
5. The Motives that held Paul in the Heavenly Path (Verses 8-12).
Very blessedly the apostle passes from the things he had left behind to speak of the motives that energized him in pursuing the heavenly path.
First, he says, "that I may win Christ." He looked up and he saw Christ in the glory, and he looked on to the end of the journey when he would be with Christ and like Christ in the home of glory, and he says, as it were, "My one desire, in the course which I am pursuing, is to reach the goal - to win Christ."
Second, the apostle desires that he may "be found in Him." Paul does not infer that he is not already "in Him" before God, but outwardly, before men, he is still in a body of humiliation as the result of being connected with fallen man. When at last he wins Christ, and has a body of glory, it will be manifest that he is connected with Christ - in His line - and invested with a righteousness which is "of God," secured "through" Christ, and received by "faith" in Christ.
Third, the apostle says, "that I may know Him." For thirty years the apostle had known the Lord, but still he says, "that I may know Him." He is looking on to the time when he will be "face to face." Now, says he, "I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Then, too, he will realize the power of His resurrection. The power that was put forth in raising Christ from the dead, and setting Him at God's right hand in the heavenly places, is the exceeding greatness of the power that will set the believer with Christ in glory. To reach this end, Paul, who was in prison, might have to go through sufferings and death. Even so, for the apostle, suffering and death would be lightened by the knowledge that it would be fellowship with Christ in His sufferings, and conformity to His death. In the apostle's estimate, suffering, and a death of shame, were well worth the while if in any way he might arrive at the resurrection of the dead.
Fourth, the apostle says, "that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Paul had before him complete likeness to Christ in glory. This great blessing he did not yet possess, but he longed to "get possession of it" (N.T.). This was the perfection he had before him, and so owns that he is not "already perfect," but he pursued his path having the prize in view.
These, then, are the motives which held Paul in the heavenly path: "That I may win Christ"; "that I may be found in Him"; "that I may know Him"; and "that I may get possession of it (the prize), seeing that also I have been taken possession of by Christ Jesus" (N.T.).
6. The Christian Experience in the Path (Verses 13, 14).
For our encouragement the apostle sets before us the practical experience produced in his own soul by taking the path that leads to Christ in heaven.
First, he becomes a man of purpose with one object before his soul. He says, "One thing I do." How often the energy of the Christian life is wasted on many things. As with Martha of old, the Lord has to say to us, "thou art careful and troubled about many things." The Psalmist could say, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life" ( Psa_27:4 ). Paul with fuller meaning could take up this language, and say, "One thing I do."
Second, the apostle can speak of "forgetting those things which are behind." In thus speaking he does not refer to the world as such, or his sins, or the old man - things which are evil and, for faith, judged in the cross. He refers rather to things which, in their time and place, were excellent, and gain to him as a natural man - the whole Jewish system with its worldly advantages and religion according to the flesh - things the glory of which had become "no glory" by reason of the glory that excelleth ( 2Co_3:9-11 ).
Third, the apostle not only forgets the things that are behind, but he is "reaching forth unto those things which are before." This expresses the longing of a heart engrossed with an object that it reaches forth to possess.
Fourth, he says, "I pursue, looking towards the goal for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus" (3, 14, N.T.). His feet follow the longing of his hearty Thus through all the changing circumstances of time, in the face of all opposition of the enemy, and in spite of the failure o. God's people, he held on his way, looking to reach the goal and obtain the prize.
Such was the blessed experience of the apostle. His mind was set on things above; the affections of his heart reached out to the things before, and his feet pursued the path that leads to the heavenly goal. He looked beyond the failure of the saints and the ruin of the Church to "the calling on high." From the moment of his conversion he realized that he was "chosen out of the world," delivered "from the people and from the Gentiles" and called on high ( Joh_15:19 ; Act_26:17 ). This "calling on high" is set forth "in Christ Jesus." It is nothing less than full conformity to Christ where Christ is. It is not simply a "high calling" as stated in the Authorized Version, but "the calling on high." There is many a "high calling" on earth. It was a "high calling" to be an apostle by calling; yet how far short every calling on earth, however high, compared with being called on high called to heaven to be with Christ and like Christ.
7. The Exhortation to Others to Take the Path (Verses 15-17).
The apostle has sethjyuitgbee us his own experience - the proper Christian experience that flows from accepting the path that answers to the calling on high. Now he exhorts others to take the same path. Joining others with himself, he says, "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded."
When the perfection refers to conformity to Christ in glory (as in verse 12) the apostle admits that, while on the journey, he can never attain this perfection. If, however, it is a question of having a perfect object before the soul, he can speak of himself and others as being perfect, or full-grown spiritually. Let all such - all who have accepted the true position of the Christian as called out of the world, and earthly religion, in view of the calling on high - be thus minded with the apostle. This is the mind that forgets the things that are behind and reaches out to the things that are before. If in the details of the path there may be differences of judgment, God will make all plain. Nevertheless, let us see that we are travelling the same road "Let us walk in the same steps" (N.T.). Our view of the end of the road may vary according to the point in the road we have reached. Some with clearer vision may get a more distinct view of the end, but let us see that we are travelling to the same end by the same road. It is a path we can take in company with others, for, says the apostle, "Be imitators all together of me, brethren, and fix your eyes on those walking thus, as you have us for a model" (N.T.). We are each exhorted to take this heavenly road, and take knowledge of those who do likewise. We are to go on with those who are going on - having the apostle as a model.
8. Warning against those who refuse the Path (Verses 18, 19).
Already in Paul's day the Assembly had departed from her first love. The apostle warns the saints against those whose walk was a total denial of the heavenly calling. Alas, even in that day, there were "many" of whom he has to say, "many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ." They made a profession of Christianity - otherwise they would not be spoken of as "walking." Once they had given hope of better things - otherwise the apostle would hardly have wept over them; but their walk was such as to constitute them enemies of the cross of Christ. They allowed the things the cross condemned. They did not pose as enemies of Christ, but their walk denied the cross of Christ. They committed no sins that called for discipline, but their whole mind was set on earthly things. Their end was destruction.
9. The End of the Christian Path (Verses 20, 21).
In contrast to those of whom we are warned, the apostle shows us the mind of the Christian and the end of his journey. Instead of minding earthly things, our "commonwealth" is in heaven. The riches we share in common are in heaven. Our interests, our blessings, our gains are there. From thence we look for the Lord Jesus Christ, as Saviour, to take us there. As Saviour He will deliver us from this body of humiliation, and give us a body that will be fashioned like His own glorious body. This glorious end of the journey will be brought to pass by the power whereby he is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Such is the heavenly path and such the glorious end to which it leads. May we have the affection for Christ that takes it, and the grace to tread it, while looking for the Lord Jesus to complete it, by changing us into His own likeness.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Philippians 3". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent