This Biblical Christianity website encourages people to know and to live, God’s Word; thus enabling us to live now as God intended for us to live, and preparing us for eternal life in God’s kingdom.
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The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians from a Roman prison near the end of his life; he had faithfully served the Lord and His Church for about 25 years. He had come to the conclusion that the most important endeavor for Christians was to gain an ever increasing spiritual knowledge of Christ – see verses 15 & 17. But what is the difference between spiritual knowledge and application, with mere human knowledge or effort?
In the paragraph below, Paul mentions six "that I mays" that he hopes to accomplish while he is still present in a physical body. We may read and know what he is saying, but do we understand the spiritual significance and application of them? Below the paragraph we will attempt to evaluate and understand each of them in the order that they are presented.
PHILIPPIANS 3:7-21.... But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ's sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed one), and that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law's demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed one), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith. [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].
Paul begins his list of objectives by saying "in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed one)," by which we come to know that we have been crucified, buried and raised with Christ, in order that we may gain the ability to live, not by our own strength but by our new spiritual life in Christ (Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil. 2:13).
Next he states, "that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law's demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed one), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith."
Righteousness, like everything else, is not something we get or achieve on our own, but something we receive from Christ by faith in all that He accomplished and provided for us when He died for our sins and rose again. Trying to give or do something in order to be acceptable is the basis for all false religions; only the God of true Christianity died in the sinner’s place so that we can become acceptable unto God, not by what we can do, but by recognizing and accepting (with repentance) what He has already done for us!
Next he mentions the importance of knowing Christ more fully -- "that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]."
Only as we know and understand the full implications of Christ’ person and sacrifice in our behalf, are we able to exercise the faith required to receive or appropriate all that He has provided for us. This is the way that we grow spiritually or learn to substitute the ability that Christ gives for our own efforts. As we learn what Christ has provided, we begin to trust and rely upon Jesus living His life in and through us instead of trying to do it our self (Gal. 2:20).
Next he states the necessity of knowing Christ more fully in order to understand and appropriate the power of God for service -- "that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers]."
Did you ever wonder why Jesus never failed to accomplish what He declared? Jesus went through the same growing and learning process that each one of us has to go through. The writer of the book of Hebrews says it like this, "For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but one Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning" (Heb 4:15). Therefore, if we want to succeed as He did, then we must learn of Him in order to follow His perfect example. One of these perfect examples is found in the next or fifth section.
Here’s the objective we all hesitate to strive after -- "that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death."
Jesus our Lord and perfect example, never did anything on His own, nor without having approval from the Father. "I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord--but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders]. Even as I hear, I judge [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision], and My judgment is right (just, righteous), because I do not seek or consult My own will [I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose] but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me" (John 5:30).
Another words, Jesus came already crucified to the world and the flesh, He didn’t have to go through the process that we do of being delivered from sin – He was sinless and remained so; as such He had perfect communion with the Father and never failed. This is what I believe Paul had in mind with his fifth and sixth objective, to suffer death to his own desires, no matter what they might be, in order that he might live in perfect obedience and communion with Jesus, just as Jesus did with the Father.
Lastly, here’s the one we probably least understand and appreciate -- "that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]."
There is no better explanation of this process than the one Paul gives in the following passage.
ROMANS 6:1-11.... What shall we say [to all this]? Are we to remain in sin in order that God's grace (favor and mercy) may multiply and overflow? Certainly not! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer? Are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious [power] of the Father, so we too might [habitually] live and behave in newness of life. For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be [one with Him in sharing] His resurrection [by a new life lived for God].
6We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that [our] body [which is the instrument] of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. For when a man dies, he is freed (loosed, delivered) from [the power of] sin [among men]. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, because we know that Christ (the Anointed one), being once raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him. For by the death He died, He died to sin [ending His relation to it] once for all; and the life that He lives, He is living to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him]. Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus.
PHILIPPIANS 3:12-16.... Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward. So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also. Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.
What Paul hopes to attain in this life, but has not fully gained, is obviously the six objectives mentioned above, which he states, should be the objective of every prospectively spiritually mature Christian.
PHILIPPIANS 3:17-21.... Brethren, together follow my example and observe those who live after the pattern we have set for you. For there are many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, who walk (live) as enemies of the cross of Christ (the Anointed one). They are doomed and their fate is eternal misery (perdition); their god is their stomach (their appetites, their sensuality) and they glory in their shame, siding with earthly things and being of their party. But we are citizens of the state (commonwealth, homeland) which is in heaven, and from it also we earnestly and patiently await [the coming of] the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [as] Savior, Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself.
One of the primary portions of Scripture that explains the difference between spiritually and human effort is Galatians 2:19-21; "For I through the Law [under the operation of the curse of the Law] have [in Christ's death for me] myself died to the Law and all the Law's demands upon me, so that I may [Henceforth] live to and for God. I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. [Therefore, I do not treat God's gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous.]"
Those who are living by faith (trust and confidence in the finished work of Christ) have had the old fleshly nature crucified with Christ; which enables them to choose between either allowing Christ to live in and through them, or to live by the old nature and ability. This suggests the possibility of even true Christians living as an enemy of the cross of Christ by setting aside, invalidating, frustrating and nullifying the grace of God. When we attempt to serve God with our own strength and ability, we are refusing to allow Christ to live in and through us; therefore, we have nullified the cross of Christ and effectively become its enemy. To choose to allow Christ to live in us is our "reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship," this is true spirituality – not I but Christ!
COLOSSIANS 3:17.... And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him.
PHILIPPIANS 2:13.... [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.
ROMANS 12:1-2.... I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].