Pressing On (3/15/06)
Intro: Brethren, I do not regard myself has having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I. vs. 1
Paul begins this passage by reminding the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. Barclay says that Paul "sets down what we might call the indestructibility of Christian Joy." Further he says, "From one point of view it looked as if Christianity was a grim job. But in it and beyond it all there was joy." So the underlying mood behind what Paul is speaking to the Philippians about, is that there should be rejoicing in the Lord, something that Paul isn't afraid to mention on more than one occasion.
II. vs. 2-3
Albert Barnes in his commentary relates that the term dog is used to denote a person that is shameless, impudent, malignant, snarling, dissatisfied, and contentious, and is evidently so employed, which he believed was a doubtless reference to Judaizing teachers, and the idea is, that they were contentious, troublesome, dissatisfied and would produce disturbance. The evil workers would be the same people that Paul had characterized as dogs. And the false circumcision would be that which was practiced as if salvation depended on it, as opposed to it being a sign of the covenant with God. When Paul speaks about putting no confidence in the flesh, he is relating that we should not depend on circumcision for salvation, or any external rites and forms whatever - on any advantage of rank, or blood.
If anyone would have the right to have confidence in the flesh, living to a certain standard and upholding and conforming to the letter of the law, it would have been Paul.
III. vs. 4-6
In the first part of this chapter, Paul has just attached the Jewish teachers, insisting that Christians, not the Jews who are the truly circumcised and who are truly the covenant people, and who are truly in a special and unique relationship with God. He set out his credentials, so if the Jews were to argue that he did not know what it was to be a Jew, he could arguably stand on the facts that he had been circumcised on the eighth day, a commandment of God to Abraham in Genesis 17:12, a commandment that had been repeated as a permanent law of Israel. He was of the race of Israel, stressing the purity of his race and his descent. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, a tribe which had a special place in the aristocracy of Israel. A Hebrew of Hebrews he was called. Basically, Paul is stating that from birth, he was a God-fearing, Law-observing Jew; of a pure Jewish lineage and belonged to the most aristocratic tribe of Jews.
All of these things, his position, his lineage, his own moral standing in accord with Jewish law, he counted as loss.
IV. vs. 7-11
Paul renounces the dependence on his richness in all that pertained to moral character and to religion, esteeming them not as contributing to his salvation, but rather reliance on such things should be counted as loss. Even more than everything Paul had specified about his qualifications, he counted everything imaginable as loss, in light of the overwhelming value of knowing Jesus Christ. He counted them as rubbish, so that he could gain Christ and be found in Him. Paul goes on to say that he does not have a righteousness of his own which would have been derived from the law, but that righteousness was found in faith in Christ, a righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
In vs. 10 Paul wanted to know the power of his resurrection, or the proper influence which the fact of his resurrection should have on the mind. He wanted to know the fellowship of his sufferings. He did not desire to simply share in the hours and triumphs in heaven, but, regarding his whole work as glorious, he wished to be wholly conformed to that, and, as closely as possible, to be just like Christ. Paul was willing to suffer as Christ had suffered.
Paul describes all of these things: counting all as loss, a righteousness derived through faith in Christ which comes from God on the basis of faith, knowledge of Christ, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, in order that he may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Barnes relates that this phrase "the resurrection of the dead," might denote "the resurrection of the righteous as a most desirable object; and this might be secured by effort". A salvific picture.
V. vs. 12-16
There is a word that Paul keys in on a couple of times in this passage, perfect, both in vs. 12 and vs. 15. I was able to understand this passage a lot better myself with the help of reading through Barclay's commentary on the passage. The word is "teleios" and in Greek it has a variety of interrelated meanings. It signifies a kind of functional perfection, an adequacy for some given purpose. Some relevant meanings would be that this "perfection" means full-grown in contradistinction to undeveloped; for example, it is used of a full-grown man as opposed to an undeveloped youth. It is used to mean mature in mind, as opposed to one who is a beginner in a subject; it therefore means one who is qualified in a subject as opposed to a mere learner.
In vs. 12, Paul is saying that he is not by any means a complete Christian, but ever pressing on. In vs. 15, in the NASB, "perfect" can also mean "mature," which can be seen as an attitude of those who are "perfect."
In light of this being an ongoing thing, Paul says that he has not yet obtained it. The "it" he describes, being perfection or maturity in his faith. He says that the one thing he has laid a hold of, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, the prize being heaven and the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus being to live a life of faith and righteousness. We must always press on toward the goal, until the end, seeking to live by faith and a righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
(Sermon by Justin Pressly)
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