The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
February 19, 2012


1) Philippians 3:9-17 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 3:9-17
by Tom Edwards

We last closed with Paul speaking of his fleshly "credentials" if he wanted to excel in Judaism.  But since he had now come to Christ to find salvation in Him -- and not in the Law of Moses, which could not provide it -- Paul had a new goal.  Notice what he goes on to say about this in Philippians 3:9: "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith."  As we saw earlier, no one could be justified by the Law; and if one could, then Christ died needlessly (Gal. 2:16,21).  

True righteousness springs from one's faith in God.  So this kind of faith is one that must be responsive toward the Lord's righteous requirements -- and continually.  "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (Jms. 2:26).  "BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM" (Heb. 10:38).  Faith, therefore, is to be more than a mere belief.  For it is to be the basis for our way of life, governing our every thought and action.  

Paul certainly lived by faith -- diligently and righteously -- and gives a reason for that in Philippians 3:10,11: "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."   

What greater hope can a man have then to be able to live a quality life beyond the grave?  When Job was giving one of his replies to Zophar in Job 14:14, he rhetorically asked, "If a man dies will he live again?...."  Would not this be a question in the mind of many an atheist or agnostic today?

Different views have been held toward this.  Some folks, for example, believe in reincarnation, in which the soul is supposedly to come back to inhabit another body.  But the Bible says, "...it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Heb. 9:27).  Though there have been some exceptions to this when God manifested His power by resurrecting some people from the dead, during the Old and New Testament Periods, the general rule is that we are born, we live for a while, we die, and then we face the final judgment.  We can also point out that even in the case of those who were resurrected, they did not come back in some other body; but, rather, in their own.  The Jehovah Witnesses' view on life after death is that only the saved will exist in the hereafter, while all who are the lost will undergo a "total annihilation" of the soul and simply cease to be.  The Sadducees, however, did not believe that even the righteous would exist after death (Matt. 22:23).  But God's word shows that the saved, as well as the lost, will continue on after this earth life; but only the redeemed will enjoy the quality life of heaven.  So no one will ever cease to exist.  All who are, all who have ever been, and all who will ever be will continue throughout eternity.

Getting back to Job, he then followed his rhetorical question with a remark that well indicates his view concerning life after death.  He states, "All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes" (Job 14:14).  The reward of eternal life can make all of man's trials and challenges worthwhile. Consider, for instance, how Paul himself viewed his earthly hardships: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:16-18).  In 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, Paul refers to the human body as an "earthly tent" in which we groan and are burdened, while we long for an eternal dwelling in heaven.  Job declared that he was going to wait until his "change" had come, and this is what Paul is also talking about in these previous passages.  He also speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53: "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality."  It was this hope of the resurrection and receiving a glorified body that helped Paul to strive manfully onward to attain to this great transformation.  

There is much we can learn from the life of Paul, which we should also incorporate in our own lives (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1); such as in what he goes on to say: "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as 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" (Phil. 3:12-14).  

Paul knew that the only way one can have eternal life in the present is by promise.  For the Christian now has "the hope of eternal life" (Titus 1:2).  So there is that need to continually seek after it.  Consider, for instance, the following: "Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed" (Rom. 13:11). Or, as some other versions render this, "salvation is nearer to us now then when we FIRST believed."  "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9).  In 1 Peter 1:3-5,9, Peter speaks of the "living hope" the Christian has; of the obtaining of "an inheritance," which is "imperishable and...reserved in heaven"; of "a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time," and of an "obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."  So we can easily infer the need to persevere toward that wonderful goal of heaven so that it will eventually be our eternal home.

Is there a discrepancy between verses 12 and 15 of Philippians 3?  In the former, Paul acknowledges that he had not yet become "perfect" (teleioo); but in the latter he seems to imply the possibility of being so.  In verse 12, Paul means by "perfect" that he had not yet experienced all that God had for him.  Therefore, he pressed on to obtain it.  In verse 15, the term "perfect" (telios) is used in the sense of being "mature" or "complete."  In that regard, the Christian is to strive to be that way. Consider, for example, Hebrews 5:12-14: "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature [teleios], who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."  According to Matthew 5:43-48, the Christian is to also be "perfect" (teleios) in the sense of being impartial in his love for the world -- for this is how God is.  In Ephesians 4:13, Paul declares, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature [teleios] man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ."   The KJV renders "mature" as "perfect" in this verse.  Though some people view this passage to be speaking of heaven, it is obvious from verses 14 and 15, it is not.  For heaven will have no false teachers who would attempt to lead astray from the truth by their trickery, craftiness, and deceitful scheming.  But while on earth, we especially need to be mature in the faith so that we can discern between good and evil and not be led astray by the many false doctrines that abound.

The context also shows how this perfection or maturity is to be obtained -- through God's revelation, which also corresponds with 2 Timothy 3:16,17: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate [perfect, KJV], equipped for every good work."

As we have seen, being perfect or mature in Christ also denotes the idea of being "complete," which is how it is also seen in Colossians 1:28: "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete [perfect, KJV] in Christ."  Here, "complete" or "perfect" is from the same Greek word (teleios) as is used in Philippians 3:15 and defined by James Strong as "complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc....."

How thankful we should be for the word of God that helps us to be complete in Christ. The simple thing of obtaining God's word today in a language that the reader can understand has not always been the case.  It's been said that there was once a time when a Bible would cost an individual an entire year's wages.  And concerning God's word in the English language, this wasn't brought about until 1380, when John Wycliffe, who lived from 1320 to 1384, made an English version of the New Testament; and a couple years later, in 1382, did the same for the Old Testament.  It was the first English Bible.  He gathered together a group of men to travel across England taking these Bibles; while those in opposition disparagingly referred to these men as Lollards," which literally means "one who mumbles."  Wycliffe stood opposed to the Roman Catholic Church, and his influence caused an estimated half of England to join him.  Arundel, the "Archbishop of Canterbury," decreed that any person be jailed who read Wycliffe's Bible or his writings in the province in Canterbury (1408).  Six years later (1414), a law was passed that would cause all to lose their lands, cattle, goods, and their lives...from their heirs forever, if they read the Bible in English.   In 1428, Wycliffe's body was exhumed, his remains cremated, and the ashes scattered on the River Swift by order of "Pope Martin V," which has been referred to as "the most final of all posthumous attacks on John Wycliffe" (Wikipedia).   And to think that this was made on a man who simply wanted the people to have a Bible that they could read and understand in their own language.   So let us never take God's word for granted; but, rather, continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of it and to press on to eternal life, as the apostle Paul also did.  

We can truly admire Paul's perseverance.  Rather than allowing the past to drag him down, he set his sights on the goal of eternal life (as noted in Philippians 3:13,14).  This is good. For looking back can sometimes get us into trouble.  For instance, Jesus says, "...'No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'"  To try to make a straight furrow when farming, one must keep his eyes ahead of him.  Sometimes farmers have used a marker to do this.  The Christian has a "marker," too: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin" (Heb. 12:1-4).  Jesus not only shows us of the right way to live, but He also encourages us to do so by the life He set forth.  So when life becomes challenging for us (or difficult), we need to consider Jesus.  But, of course, we really need to think of Him all the time -- whether we are feeling down in the valley or high on the mountain top.  For Christ is our example for every situation or circumstance we are in.  

Not everyone, however, looks ahead as they should.  With just three words, Jesus warns of this in Luke 17:32.  He states, "Remember Lot's wife."  What do we remember about her?  What is the first thing that comes to your mind?  Is it not that she looked back; and, as a result, sinned against God and was turned into a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:26)?  It was a simple command, easy to understand and seemingly easy to obey: "...Do not look behind you..." (Gen. 19:17) --  but Lot's wife disobeyed.  

Some people -- rather than looking ahead -- become consumed by the things of the present time.  Jesus shows of this type of problem and its detriment in Luke 8:14: "And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity."  So, instead, we need to set our affections on things above (Col. 3:1-3) and keep determined to seek after God's kingdom first (Matt. 6:33), which implies that we allow His word -- above any other -- to govern us by our submission to it.

As Christians, there is a need for us to be continually striving toward the goal of eternal life and exhorting one another to do likewise.  Hebrews 6:1 urges, "Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity...."  And Paul exhorts Timothy to "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (1 Tim. 4:16).  

After speaking of those things he had going for him in his former life of Judaism, to be nothing but rubbish, in view of the future goal of eternal life in Jesus Christ that Paul was now striving for -- and exhorting others to do the same -- Paul then states in Philippians 3:16, "however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained."

The word "standard" is in italics -- so not in the original -- but it well expresses the meaning of this verse.  We need to continue living according to the standard of God's word.  The RSV renders this as, "Only let us hold true to what we have attained."  Of all the things that one could attain to in life, what could be more important than our knowledge of God's word and putting that word into practice?  Even in the secular realm, there is a great need for a common standard.  We especially realize this when we buy things by the ounce or by the pound, or by the foot or by the yard.  There needs to be a common standard so that an ounce, a pound, a foot, or a yard is always the same; and the consumers will not be cheated.  Industries, manufacturers, scientists, building designers, construction workers, bakers, peoples of various walks of life realize the need for a common standard of weights and measurements or else we'll be dealing with mass confusion and failure in output.  The assemblage of parts, without a common standard in measurements, can lead to the proverbial square peg in the round hole -- it just won't work.  And many things of our time require standards that are precisely accurate in order to function as they should.  

But while these standards of weights and measurements pertain to this temporary earth life, we need to be even more concerned with those standards of a spiritual nature that are not only essential for now -- but that which is the only standard that can lead to heaven itself.  Paul instructs, "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you" (2 Tim. 1:13,14).  Also, 2 Timothy 2:2: "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."  The "things" that Paul is referring to would be the teaching of God's word.  

There are some people today, however, who no longer believe that the Bible sets forth divine examples or patterns for us to follow, but look at what Paul goes on to say in the very next verse (Phil. 3:17): "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us."  Here, Paul uses both terms -- "example" and "pattern" -- as to what one is to observe and do.  So may it be that we will each do that as well --  to observe and follow the examples we are to carry out -- and so that we, too, as Paul declares, "...may be found in Him...having a righteousness...through faith," that we "may know Him and the power of His resurrection," which involves our "press[ing] on toward the goal" (Phil. 3:9-14).  


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* Mike Dubose who is continually undergoing cancer treatment.

* Roy Fenner who will be having stitches removed February 28th and should then also receive a pathological report.  He also has 3 other spots on his neck and one behind his ear that have been diagnosed as basal cell cancer (the most common type of skin cancer) to still be removed.  On February 27, Roy will also be receiving an injection in his eye, due to trouble that he has been having with it.

*  We have several of our own who are not able to be with us at church, due to their health: Geneve Wilson, Jean Calloway, and Cheryl Crews.  For about two months, Cheryl has had an infection in her head.  We also want to mention Shirley Young, who is often with us, but "accompanied" with the pain of fibromyalgia. 

* Let us also be remembering some of the elderly, such as Mozelle Robertson (Ken's mother) who at 91 years of age is still healing from wrist surgery; and Clifton Trimble whose health has been poor.

*  Let us also pray that Anthony Webb, Andrew Robertson, and Cheryl Anderson will be able to find new employment. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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