Philippians 3

Some of the more familiar and inspiring verses of the New Testament are in this Chapter.  In this most personal of letters this, to me, is the most personal chapter.  Paul bares his soul warning the Philippians not to count on the things they do, but on the grace of God for salvation.

He begins by warning them against “those mutilators of the flesh”.  He is speaking here, of course, about circumcision but he is using it as a metaphor for merely human attempts to follow the dictates of the Law.  He claims that while it was formerly the Jews who could boast of God’s favor, it is now those who “worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh”.  He then sets out his qualifications under the law, and they are impressive.  A Jew, from a tribe which did not revolt.  A member of the sect most strict in following the law and a paragon among them.  A man so consumed with the righteousness of his cause that he persecuted the early church.  In this way he sets up his potential claims to righteous as greater than any of the Judaizers who may have been causing trouble in the Philippian church.

But now comes the twist.  Paul has abandoned all of his personal claims to righteousness and boldly says he is now relying only on the “righteousness that comes from God and is by Faith”.  It culminates with his ultimate statement of purpose, the reason why Paul is living his life.  Verse 10: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Paul’s intent is to live forever and he states he has abandoned everything he has, his possessions, his reputation, friendships, literally everything in order to pursue life in Christ. It is not his goal to know about Christ, the Greek verb he uses is one that means know as in the Corsicanian “I been knowin’”.  He wants to know Christ personally, as you would know a friend or family member.  Further, he considers all those things people may think of as good as things that are holding him back from attaining his goal. What others consider a gain he considers a loss.

In a rare Pauline bought of humility, no doubt brought on by the knowledge of perfection in the person of Christ, he notes that he is not perfect.  He has not yet achieved his goal, but he presses on for the prize.  He also says he has forgotten what is past.  This must have two meanings: 1) he forgets things that may be to his credit that are merely fleshly accomplishments, 2)  he forgets the wrongs he has done. Paul’s life as a persecutor of the church, the fact he had people killed in his quest to stamp out what he considered a the time to be heresy, must have weighed heavily on him.  Can you imagine having to deal with causing the death of people you would now gladly call brother or sister?

The city of Philippi was a Roman colony and as such, though the were in a foreign land, its people were Roman Citizens and its territory an extension of the City of Rome.  Paul reminds the Philippians that they are colonists of Heaven.  That it is there that their allegiance lies and not to merely earthly things.

Some Questions:

  1. What are we willing to give up to live eternally with Christ?
  2. Are their things in our past we need to forget in order to press on?
  3. Which is harder to forget, the good things we are proud of or the bad we are ashamed of?
  4. If we consider ourselves to be citizens of Heaven, do our lives bear out our claim?