Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 4 * BOOK 40
Philippians 3:4-16 – Part 2
Now coming out of verse 11 in the last lesson, Paul’s whole hope of everything is that out resurrection from among the dead. It’s amazing how that Paul’s tenure of speech has changed. In his early letters, he was expecting the Lord to come in his lifetime, he really was. In fact a lot of people accuse him of being against marriage and so forth back in I Corinthians chapter 7. Well it’s wasn’t that Paul was against marriage per say, but rather he thought the Lord was in such close proximity of coming, then why cumber it up with marriage responsibilities and so forth. Well I’m about getting to that place today myself. (as the audience laugh) Les says, now that’s got nothing to do with Iris. I’m talking about entering into marriage. Our television audience will love that one won’t they?
But anyway this was where Paul was looking, he just thought the Lord was coming any moment, but you see now by the time he writes Philippians and death is just around the corner, he doesn’t feel that way. So now he realizes that he will more than likely go through the valley of death, and will be waiting for that out resurrection from among the dead. Now verse 12.
“Not as though I had already attained, (in other words, you don’t immediately arrive) either were already perfect…”
The Christian life is not an instantaneous perfection, but rather we grow in Grace and knowledge. We begin our Christian life as a baby begins the physical life, and we feed on the milk of the Word, and then as we progress hopefully we get into the deeper things of Scripture and get to the meat of the Word. But it is a growth process from the beginning until the end, so that’s all Paul is saying here. He knew that even the great apostle that he was, he did not suddenly have it all. And of course after you study the writings of Paul and his life, we realize that his early letters of Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians did not have these deeper doctrines that we find in these later epistles.
I feel Paul picked up the deeper things while he was in prison in Caesarea, while most people would think those were wasted years for Paul. But I don’t think they were wasted at all, I think that while he was languishing there in prison waiting to go to Rome, the Holy Spirit unloaded all these truths on him, so that when he gets to that prison experience he’s ready to start unfolding these prison epistles. So looking at verse 12 again, Paul says, “he’s not already perfect.”
“…but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
Now let’s back up a few pages to the Book of Galatians chapter 1, and here is what I think Paul is making reference to in Philippians. In verse 14 we find that Paul was that religious Pharisees, keeping the tradition of the forefathers.
“But when it pleased God, (the Sovereign God who’s in control of every life) who separated me from my mother’s womb, (so God put the finger on Paul before he was ever born.) and called me by his grace.”
Saul of Tarsus didn’t deserve what he got. Saul of Tarsus didn’t deserve the preeminent apostleship that he was given, but it’s all of Grace. I was so thrilled last Sunday at our Church. We had a guest preacher and he used the Book of Philippians for his text, and as he opened his sermon, he said, “never forget that the one greatest man that ever lived other than Christ Himself was the apostle Paul.” When he said that I almost stood up and shouted. I know not many people feel that way about Paul, but he is by far the greatest man that ever lived. Moses was great, and Abraham but I don’t think any of them can hold a candle to this man. And how he suffered for the sake of the Gospel, but it all begin when the Lord had His finger on him even while he was still in the womb. Then verse 16 is what he was apprehended for.
“To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; (or Gentile or the non-Jewish world) immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; 17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, (the exact opposite direction from Jerusalem) and returned again unto Damascus.”
What does this all show us? That here was a man now that wasn’t going to be the apostle of Israel as the twelve were, but he’s going to be the apostle of the Gentile world. And that’s why I’m always hammering away at the authority of his apostleship. Let’s go back a little further to Acts chapter 9, and this will be another reference of how he was apprehended by Christ Himself. He was stopped in his tracks because God had something special for the man to accomplish.
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2. And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3. And as he journeyed, (a Sovereign God interrupted and intervened in the affairs of this man) he came near Damascus and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul why persecutest thou me?”
And for sake of time come all the way down to verse 10 where we find Ananias. a Jew living in the city of Damascus, and the Lord speaks to Ananias.
“Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth. 12. And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles,…”
And see, Saul never forgot that, and the farther he went in his ministry the more that was confirmed. Now on your way back to Philippians let’s stop in the Book of Romans chapter 11, and let’s read verse 13 to show you what I mean. This is a verse that Jerry had never seen until he saw it in our class many years ago, and told me to keep showing people this verse, because it makes all the difference in the world.
“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles,…”
Do you see how plain that is? Paul doesn’t include the twelve, because he is the apostle of the Gentiles, Peter and the twelve were the apostles of the Jews. (Galatians 2:9) Now let’s come on up to Romans chapter 16 for a moment. These are verses that again affirm his authority as the apostle for this Church Age, or this Age of Grace, or the age of the Gentile.
“Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, (secret) which was kept secret since the world (age) began.”
Or since Adam was created. This Gospel that Paul is preaching to the Gentiles was unheard of throughout all of human history. The Jews had no comprehension that God would save Gentiles without making them proselytes of Judaism. Over and over I have to make comment of the fact that this man was apprehended to be the apostle of the Gentile world.Remember the doctrines for this Age of Grace come only from Romans through Philemon. All the rest of Scripture is for us, we teach it, we believe, we trust it, but when it comes to basic doctrines for us today, you have to go to Romans through Philemon. You start dabbling in the rest and you’re going to get confused, and you start mixing these things and it just won’t make sense. But keep them separate and it all fits. Now back to Philippians chapter 3, and let’s look at verse 13.
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended;…”
Do you know what Paul is saying? “I didn’t have a thing to do with my being stricken on the road to Damascus. That wasn’t my doing. I wasn’t out there looking for God, but the Lord apprehended me.” And you know it’s the same way today. For a moment let’s look at John’s gospel chapter 3. And while you’re looking for that just stop and think, while Adam and Eve sinned and sewed fig leaves, did they go down the trail yelling Lord where are you? What did they do? They went and hid. They weren’t looking for God, He was the last one they wanted to see. Now look what John tells us. This is the Lord Himself speaking.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20. For everyone (the non believer whether they want to admit it or not) that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
Now that’s mankind’s state until the Light came in. This was Saul of Tarsus’ state. He wasn’t really seeking the Light, but rather he was trying to stamp out something that he thought was in contrariness to the Light, although he didn’t have the Light himself, but he also didn’t know he didn’t have the Light. His religion had no light, and it’s no different today. For the most part, people do not seek the Light of the Truth. Most people will say, “Leave me alone, I’m comfortable, I’m getting along just fine.” But one day they’re going to wish that somebody would have prevailed upon them, but nevertheless mankind does not apprehend the Light of their own volition.
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,…”
Can we really forget? No we can’t forget, but God can. See, when God forgave us, does He remember our past? No, that’s been wiped clean forever. Now we can still remember, it’s there, but we don’t have to let those past things control our present. In fact as I was looking over these Scriptures last night I couldn’t help but get the thought, this is almost psychology 101. How in the world can you be a happy productive person if you’re constantly wallowing in the sorrow of past mistakes?
That reminds me of an antidote I read years ago. This young man was working under this rather harsh taskmaster, and the boss was just really chewing him out one day, and the young man said, “Well boss tell me, why don’t you ever make mistakes?” The old boss looked at the young man and said, “Experience.” Well the young man said, “How did you get experience? “By making mistakes” the boss said. See that’s exactly the way it works. We’re going to make mistakes, and if we learn from them, hey that’s good psychology, that’s what mistakes are for, so that we learn from that experience. But to wallow in the sorrow and misgivings of past mistakes, hey you’ll never amount to a hill of beans. So the apostle Paul is right on when he says, “forgetting those things which are behind.”
Now don’t think for a minute that Paul forgot the horrible persecution that he brought on those Jewish believers. We know he did because he said, “I wasted the Church.” So it plagued the poor man all through his ministry, but he didn’t let it stop him from being a productive apostle. He did not let it drive him into a mental disarray. So he says, “forgetting those things which are behind.” You just simply can’t change things that have past, so there no use worrying or fretting about it. We all make mistakes, some of them greater than others, but you don’t correct them by stewing over them. You don’t change the situation. You go on and just learn from those mistakes, and that’s exactly what Paul is saying here.
“…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,”
Now when you come on into verse 14, like Paul does so often in these letters, what’s he alluding to? The Olympic races. So again he throws us the image of those runners going down the track.
“I press (leaning forward as far as possible to hit the finish line first. And that’s the analogy that Paul is drawing. There’s no lackadaisical running here, this is full speed ahead. ) toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
What greater prize could we work for. Now Paul’s not talking about working for salvation, as that’s impossible, but rather he’s talking about the rewards that will be waiting for him. Well we could go into I Corinthians chapter 3 and look at rewards but we won’t take time for that. I would like to at least finish this chapter, and we’ve got a lot of material in here yet. Now verse 15.
“Let us therefore,…”
Because of the picture that he has just drawn of the Olympic runners putting everything in their race. My goodness! We’ve got to look at some of these things, so let’s go back to I Corinthians chapter 9.
I Corinthians 9:24
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, (the race of your Christian life then) that ye may obtain. (the prize, the reward.)
We don’t know what it’s going to be, but we know that there’s going to be reward that we just can imagine, because of our running the Christian life. Now verse 25, and here’s another analogy to the Olympics.
I Corinthians 9:25a
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things…”
Now that word temperate is a key word for Christian living. Temperate means to maintain a balance. You don’t go flip flopping from way over here to way over there, but rather we maintain a balance. Even in their training they did not train so hard that they decimated their body, but on the other hand they weren’t so careless that they were out of shape either. So they played it temperately, and were ready when the race day came.
I Corinthians 9:25b-26a
“…Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; (usually the winner in the Olympics won just a leaf that was all dried up and was put between the pages of a book when they got home) but we an incorruptible. 26. I therefore so run,…”
Not for salvation, but rather for rewards. A lot of people don’t like that concept but that’s Pauline. Once we’re saved, we’re to run, we’re to work, we’re to strive, we’re to do everything we possibly can to win the prize in the high calling of Christ Jesus.
I Corinthians 9:26b-27
“…not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: (or shadow boxing I guess we’d call it) 27. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
Or put on the shelf like you would a cracked pot that could not be used for anything else. If they had a beautiful pot that a lot of work had gone into, but then discovered it had a crack in it, the owner would put those pots on a separate shelf to be sold as simply a vase to decorate. So that’s what Paul is saying, “I don’t want to end up on the shelf as a cracked pot,” and that should be our attitude also. Now back to Philippians chapter 3 again. Now verse 15 again.
“Let us therefore, (as believers) as many as be perfect, (maturity as a result of Christian growth) be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, (other than growing in our Grace and knowledge) God shall reveal even this unto you.” In other words, when we start having hang ups that are not in God’s good purposes, He’ll show them to us. Now verse 16.
“Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.”
Now all that is really saying is that once we’ve entered into a salvation experience, we’re a child of God, we’re a member of the Body of Christ, and we’re to be a testimony of His Grace. We’re not to be out there causing turmoil and dissension and so forth, but we walk by these same rule, and what are they? I maintain that Christianity is as practical as the day is long.