STUDY 10: PHILIPPIANS 3:7 – 4:1

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

Now that Paul has discarded confidence in his own religious credentials his sole focus is Jesus Christ.

Look again at how he expresses this new focus, this new trust:

Verse 7: He considers his own credentials ‘loss for the sake of Christ’.

Verse 8: He considers ‘everything’ a loss ‘compared with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’.

Verse 8: He ‘has lost all things’ for the sake of Christ.

Verse 8: He considers them rubbish so that he may gain Christ.

Verse 9: He considers them rubbish so that he can be found in Christ, with a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ.

Verse 10: He wants to know Christ.

Verse 10: He wants to know the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Verse 10: He wants to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

How greatly his focus and his desire have changed. Instead of exalting himself, he now aligns himself with Christ and his death. (Note that this is what he urged us to do in 2:1 – 8.) Instead of self-confidence there is faith in Christ alone. Instead of pride there is humility. His own spiritual résumé has been replaced by Christ. Christ is all that matters. Christ is all he needs to know.

Consider/discuss these questions:
Jesus commanded self-denial in Matthew 16:24, 25. In what way is denial of self expressed by Paul in Philippians 3:7 – 9?

 

Paul encouraged the Roman Christians to relate to God ‘according to the Spirit’, not ‘according to flesh’. How are these two ways of relating to God evident in Philippians 3:4 – 9?

 

In 2Corinthians 5:7 Paul stated that ‘we live by faith not by sight’. How was Paul’s previous dependence on his personal religious credentials ‘walking by sight’ and his new trust in Christ alone ‘walking by faith’?

 

How do these three perspectives help you to have a right attitude to your own list of merit or demerit?

 

A. DID PAUL HAVE DOUBTS?

When we read verse 11 it seems, on face value of the words, that Paul is uncertain. It sounds like Paul has some doubts about whether or not he will ‘attain to the resurrection from the dead.’

But we know from other things Paul wrote that he had absolute confidence in Christ’s power to save and to keep saved. So any interpretation of verse 11 that suggests Paul had doubts about his salvation cannot be correct.

Check these verses. How do they express Paul’s strong confidence in the work of Christ?
Philippians 1:6

Philippians 1:21 – 23

 

Romans 4:16

1Corinthians 15:20 – 23

 

2Corinthians 1:19 – 22

 

Ephesians 1:13, 14

 

1Thessalonians 4:13 – 18

 

2Timothy 1:12

 

What, then, are we supposed to do with 3:11 where the NIV reads ‘and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead’?

In the Greek there are two words that can be translated variously. Verse 11 begins with the connective ei. This word is often translated ‘if’ in English texts. However, it is not the ‘if’ of uncertainty. Its meaning is more like our English ‘since’. (There is another ‘if’ – ean – which refers to uncertainty.)

When Satan tempted Jesus, he introduced two of his temptations with the words ‘If you are the Son of God ...’. The ‘if’ used is ei – meaning ‘since’. Since you are the Son of God ... .

The other word is the word pos. The NIV translates it as ‘somehow’. The KJV has ‘by any means’. Both of these point to uncertainty. But the word can also mean ‘by this means’, or ‘the way that’, or something similarly definite.

Consider these verses where the word is used:

‘See how the lilies of the field grow ...’ (Matthew 6:28).

Mark 2:26, in the Greek, begins with pos, which the NIV omits, simply making a statement of fact.

‘Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man’ (Mark 5:16).

‘Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”’

‘Barnabas ... told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord ... and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus’ (Acts 9:27).

‘Be careful, then, how you live ...’ (Ephesians 5:15).

Paul’s meaning in verse eleven, would therefore be something like ‘and so, by this means (that is by trusting in Christ instead of his own perceived goodness) attain the resurrection from the dead'. In other words, Paul now realises, with great awe, joy and confidence, that his eternal destiny depends on Christ alone. By this means, and only by this means, he will be part of the resurrection of the dead.

It is really an amazing thing, this crediting of the righteousness of Christ to those who believe in him. It is as if Paul is shaking his head at the utter unexpectedness and undeservedness of it all. It seems like one of those ‘too good to be true stories’, but it actually is true. Although he knows and understands and teaches it so well, he is still overwhelmed by it. His ‘somehow’ (NIV) is not the ‘somehow’ of uncertainty, but the ‘somehow’ of sheer amazement and infinite gratitude. It’s like when something stupendous has happened, and we say ‘I can’t believe it! I just can’t believe it!’ but we actually do believe it because there it is, undeniably real, right before our eyes.

Such is God’s gift to us of the righteousness of his Son - it will never be ‘ordinary’, it will always be amazing! If it ever becomes ‘ordinary’, if it ever ceases to amaze us, if we ever begin to think that we deserve it or that God owes it to us, then I suggest that we have never really understood it, and that we have also never really understood our own personal spiritual destitution and disqualification.

 

B. PAUL’S PERSPECTIVE AND ATTITUDE

Paul is very much aware that there are some impacts of the salvation granted in Christ that are already in place, and there are other aspects of this salvation that are not yet in place.

How do the following verses reveal this already/not yet tension?
About knowing Christ? (Philippians 3:8 - 1Corinthians 13:12):

 

About the resurrection from the dead (Ephesians 2:1 – 6 - Philippians 3:20b, 21):

 

About death (Colossians 3:3 – Philippians 1:20 – 23):

 

About sharing Christ’s suffering (1Peter 3:18 – Philippians 1:29):

 

About being perfect (Hebrews 10:14 – Romans 7:13 – 25):

 

Although Paul now knows Christ, having met him on the Damascus Road, he also knows that there is always more about Christ to know. Our perception of Christ will not be complete until we see him in the fullness of his power, majesty and glory on the last day.

Although Paul, in Christ, is already raised to new life in Christ, and seated in Christ in the heavenly realms, yet he still waits for the day of Christ’s return when he will experience physical resurrection, and receive a new body like the glorious resurrected body of Christ.

Although Paul has by faith been united to the death of Christ, yet he knows that he still has to experience physical death.

Although Christ’s suffering has released Paul from suffering the wrath and the judgement of God and alienation from God, yet he still experiences the kinds of suffering common to all humans, and, in addition, he experiences suffering that is incurred because of his allegiance to Christ and his commitment to the mission of Christ.

Although he knows with absolute confidence that in Christ God reckons him to be perfect because of the righteousness of Christ credited to him, yet he knows that in himself he is far from perfect.

So Paul is very careful to make sure that his Philippian readers don’t get the idea that he has exchanged one list of perceived personal religious credentials for another list of perceived personal religious credentials. He is not bragging about himself. His rejoicing is not focused on himself: it is all to do with Christ. It is Christ, not himself, in whom Paul’s confidence is placed. In Christ, everything achieved by the death of Christ is granted to him as sheer gift. Secure. Eternal. Unshakeable.

He himself, while trusting completely in this finished work of Christ, knows that he is still on a journey of increasing knowledge and understanding and increasing growth towards Christ-likeness. He presses towards this goal. He is at the same time totally confident in Christ and his salvation, and humble about himself.

Jesus Christ has taken hold of him (verse 12) for salvation, for eternal life in heaven. Nothing can change that. But Paul does not believe that this relieves him of the need to live a godly life. On the contrary, it is the supreme motivation to pursue godliness. The grand spiritual truth of what we are in Christ is to be reflected and expressed in the way we live, as we have seen earlier in Philippians 2:12 & 13: God is at work in saving us, therefore we should work that salvation out in our lives.

List the phrases in Philippians 3:12 – 14 that express the strength of Paul’s commitment to live a life appropriate for one who knows Jesus Christ and his gift of righteousness.

 

 

 

 

 

Paul has put aside, forgotten, and deliberately keeps on forgetting, all that he used to place his confidence in. Instead of that focus on his own perceived credentials he now has one goal, one focus, one motivating influence: Christ and the salvation that is found in Christ alone. Christ (and the salvation that is his in Christ) is always in his mind. Christ is always in his focus. Christ beckons him on. Christ enables him. The same Christ who has claimed him for his own is always before him: his goal, his high calling, his ultimate prize, his eternal reward.

Study these verses. What connection do they make between our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that we have in him?
Genesis 15:1

Exodus 15:2

Psalm 18:2

Psalm 27:1

Jeremiah 23:6

John 17:3

1John 5:12

1John 5:20

Jesus is the salvation that he gives. And that is all Paul wants. For that certain joy that is ahead – the joy of seeing Jesus in all his glory – Paul presses on. Despite the suffering. Despite his own imperfections. Despite his past. God has called him heavenwards in Christ. And that is enough.

 

C. PAUL’S COMMANDS

Make a list of Paul’s instructions in Philippians 3:15 – 4:1. What does he mean by these commands?

 

 

 

 

 

 

C.1 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things – 3:15
Here Paul instructs us to have the same view of our own religious credentials and of Christ and his gift of righteousness as he himself has. Also included in this is the deliberate life-long pursuit of knowing Christ and becoming like Christ. Paul fully expects that God will bring his readers to this same perspective.

C.2 Let us live up to what we have already attained – 3:16
Our lives should be appropriate to the knowledge and understanding that God has already given us. The more we understand who Jesus is and what he has done for us, the more impact that truth should have on the way we think and the way we live. As our knowledge of Christ grows, so should our trust and obedience grow.

C.3 Join with others in following my example – 3:17
C.4 Take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you – 3:17
Paul here refers to his previous interaction with the Philippians – he has already shown them by his personal example how to live as Christ’s followers, and he has already given them/taught them the ‘pattern’ of Christian life. They are to live according to that example and that pattern. The reason he instructs them to ‘take note’ of those who do live according to that pattern is that, sadly for Paul, there are those who do not do so.

What does Paul say, and how does he feel, about these people? 3:18, 19

 

 

 

It seems that Paul is talking about people who are part of the physical church. They associate with the believers. But the way they live brings Paul to tears. His description of them indicates a very strong probability that have never really believed in either Christ or his cross. Paul’s description of them is quite damning:

They live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their destiny is destruction.
Their god is their stomach.
Their glory is in their shame.
Their mind is on earthly things.

In contrast, what does Paul say about himself and all genuine believers? 3:20

 

 

 

In your opinion, are the people in verses 18 and 19 followers of Christ or unbelievers? Explain your answer.

 

 

How does the truth in verse 21 motivate you to live your life for Jesus rather than for self?

 

 

 

Verse 20 and 21 contain a confident statement about the return of Jesus Christ, his sovereign power and control of all things, and the transformation that he will bring about to our ‘lowly bodies’. This undeniable and surpassing power and authority of Christ, and the promises he has made to those who believe in him, give added weight to Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians, and us, to ‘stand firm’ (4:1).

 

C.5 That is how you should stand firm in the Lord (4:1) (or, literally, in this way stand firm ...)
Paul has ceased to give any saving significance to his personal religious credentials. He trusts solely in Jesus Christ and his righteousness (3:1 – 9). With this assured salvation behind him and undergirding him he deliberately lives his life not only with this in mind, but also with the end-goal in mind (3:10 – 14, 20, 21). The assurance of a guaranteed present salvation in Christ and a guaranteed future salvation with Christ define, motivate and enable a life lived to the glory of God.

So Paul brings this section of his letter to a close with a further expression of his love for the Philippian believers, and a strong command - ‘in this way stand firm in the Lord’ (4:1).

Questions:
How does Paul express his feelings/thoughts towards the Philippians in 4:1?

 

Suggest why he uses these terms to refer to them:

 

 

How would you feel is your pastor referred to you as ‘my joy and crown’?

 

 

Is there any way in which you could alter your life and service in your church so that your pastor, and more importantly, Jesus Christ your Lord, would say this about you? Or, do you not really care whether you bring joy to the heart of Jesus?

 

How do you reconcile Paul’s command to ‘rejoice in the Lord’ (3:1) with the joy Paul feels about the Philippian believers?

 

 

What does it mean for you personally to ‘stand firm in the Lord’?