Chapter 3

In this chapter the apostle traces the path of the believer as in chapter 2 he traces the path of Christ.

Verse 1.—“To write the same thing.” He had written about the Lord Jesus being in the form of God, then about Him coming down and becoming obedient unto death. Now he is about to shew the path of the believer in following Christ. “The same thing” in the Christian as in Christ. How closely this associates our path with His? “To me indeed is not grevious”— as if it would be to some. People who are bent on self-seeking or taking their own way, do not care to hear about the narrow path of devotion and obedience to the Lord Jesus. The difference between the path of the Lord Jesus and our path is, that He came down from the bosom of the Father with His eye on the Cross, to judge evil and to shew God’s abhorrence of it. We begin by gazing on a Christ in glory, and learn to give up all down here to “win Christ”—or to have Him as our gain. In one sense we begin our course from the bosom of the Father also, for we are brought to God through Christ, and are folded to His bosom as His sons before we give up anything, or take a single step in the path of obedience. He makes us His sons and gives us the place of sons first: then He says, “My son, give Me thine heart.” It is not a word to a sinner, but to a son. It is an inversion of the Divine order to ask a sinner to give anything; he must be a receiver from God before he can be a giver. Once saved, and the love of God filling his heart, he must give Him back a little of his own. And what have we that we did not receive?

Verses 2, 3.—“Beware of dogs”—unconverted, religious Judaizers. They called the Gentiles dogs, and here the Holy Ghost brands them with that name. Dogs fed on offal, and that is the word used in verse 8, where the apostle is alluding to his former life as a Pharisee which he threw away and counted as offal, fit only for the dogs. All his former religion was fit only for the dogs. “Dogs” in our day are those who put ordinances, forms, and ceremonial religion in the place of Christ. “Without are dogs” (Rev. 22:15). They who have no place for Christ now, shall have no place in the coming glory. “Beware of evil workers: beware of the concision”— what names the Holy Ghost gives to those who would put their fleshly piety and empty forms in the place of Christ! Nothing is of any value in the estimation of heaven that does not spring from and lead to Christ. What a contrast to fleshly religion is verse 3! The flesh counts as nothing: Christ is everything: to Him the Spirit leads: in Him the soul rejoices, and through Him in the Spirit worship ascends to God the Father. Verses 4-6.—Here is a picture of Paul the Pharisee, the advanced religionist, the zealous persecutor. In his days, Phariseeism was the popular religion; in our days it is popular to be evangelical, and you may be so without having Christ. This ought to lead to self-examination. Paul was all that he was “ignorantly and in unbelief.” When he compared himself with others as a Pharisee, a man with a religion according to the flesh he could say, “I more.” He had advanced beyond them all (see Gal. 1:14), yet when his eyes were opened he saw himself to be “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Yes, the Holy Ghost caused this same man who describes himself as a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and touching the righteousness of the law blameless,” to tell us he is of sinners “the chief.” And you may be assured that what the Holy Ghost inspires him to write is true: He never speaks flippantly. People talk about being “sinners” often without believing or realising what it means, but Paul felt it. There is no contradiction between the two accounts; one shews him according to man’s standard, chief of the religion of the Pharisees, the pattern of fleshly religion; the other shews him as measured by God’s standard, and according to the estimate he formed of himself there, as “chief of sinners.” Surely this ought to make us search and examine ourselves in the presence of God, who seeth not as man seeth, but who looketh upon the heart. Oh, to be real and genuine in His sight! “I more.” He was the most advanced religionist of his time, at the very top of the tree, yet when he saw a risen Christ in glory, it was all gone like a dream. That sight, and that voice which spoke to him as he journeyed to Damascus, changed his estimate of it all. Henceforth his mark was Christ—“Christ for me,” and all else he counted offal and cast it to the dogs. As he says to the Galatians “It pleased God to reveal His Son in me” (Gal. 1:14). It was Christ in him that changed all around. Oh to have the heart full of that precious, living Christ! What lives ours would be!

Verses 7, 8.—Paul reckoned “gain” and “loss” differently from the world. Christ was his “gain”: everything that detracted from Christ or hindered from apprehending Christ, “loss.” It mattered not what it was, it must go, yea, it did go for Christ. “I have suffered the loss of all things”: that was a big thing to say. Was he sad? Nay, he rejoiced. He counted them all as “offal “for “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.” He had seen Him in glory, heard His voice, felt His touch and now he longed to know more of Him and to be with Him. What a power there is in the person of Christ to draw the heart and deaden it to all earthly things! “That I may win Christ”—that is have Christ for my gain.

Verses 9,10.—“And be found in Him.” Of course he was already in Him, as to his standing before God, but he would be found in Him only as His object. Noah built the ark, was saved by it, and dwelt in it, so would Paul in the face of all obstacles, difficulties, losses, be found in Christ, abiding in Him, making Christ his all, not merely his Saviour. “Christ Jesus my Lord,”—the one who owned him, and whose will he obeyed. Many nowadays speak well of Jesus as their Saviour, but when His claims as their owner and Lord are presented, they shy off. Love delights to own His claims as well as sing his praise. “That I may know Him.” Who knew Him better? Yet all Paul’s knowledge of Christ only whetted his appetite to know Him more. Oh how simple it all is! To have the heart for Christ, the eye fixed on Christ, the ear open to Christ, To have a living Christ as the object of the soul, to have to do with a living Christ day by day. To be knowing His love better and better. He has called us to know Himself, not His salvation or His heaven only, but Himself. Do we respond to that call better and better? Does it sound in our spirits, captivate our hearts, and make us more eager to know Him and be with Him?

“The power of His resurrection.” The same power that raised up the Lord Jesus from among the dead, has wrought in us, “we are raised rogether with Him.” That power still working in us (Eph. 3:20), is able to keep us following after and going on to know Christ. “The fellowship of His sufferings.” Putting our feet down where His feet trod. The same path below, the same glory above; full identification with Christ, no matter what it cost him, Paul would have it. “Being made comfortable unto His death.” He would be like his Master, even though it lead him to lose all—even life itself. Jesus became obedient unto death; He pursued the path of self-surrender though it led to the Cross, and Paul would joyfully follow Him.

Verse 11.—“If by any means I might attain.” There is no thought of hesitation as to whether he would reach it, but he meant no matter what road he might travel, or what he might lose to reach that Christ he had seen in glory. “Unto the out-resurrection, the one out from the dead ones.” There are two “outs” in the Greek here. There is a resurrection of the dead, and a resurrection from or “out of” the dead. The latter is what Paul refers to here, when the dead in Christ alone shall rise at His coming to the air (1 Thess. 4:16). This was his hope, as it is ours; nothing short of being in Christ, with Christ, and like Christ would satisfy him.

Verse 12.—“Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfected.” He had not yet reached the goal. It is the same word as is used of Christ in Heb. 2:9, “To make the Captain of their salvation perfect.” That He might be a perfectly sympathising Saviour with His suffering people. Paul had not yet been perfected, but he had set his heart on full identification with Christ, and if it cost him his life he would aim after it. “If that I may apprehend”—may grasp. It is a beautiful thought. Christ has grasped His people: He will never relax His grasp. Not one of them shall ever perish. He has grasped them all for glory at the end, and for suffering now. He Himself was a sufferer here, and it is the will of God that He should be up there the sympathising Head of a suffering people. If we suffer here, it shews we are grasping Him, being identified with Him here as well as there. “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17).

Verse 13.—“Forgetting…reaching forth.” He would not live on past battles, victories, experiences; the Lord will remember these. Be it ours to “reach forth,” to fix the eye steadfastly upon Christ up there, and tread steadily the path that He has marked out, with all the energy, all the devotion of the soul, nothing being allowed to turn us aside for one moment from pressing on to the goal. “One thing I do”—just one thing; to reach a glorified Christ.

Verse 14.—“I press toward the mark.” It is an evidence that grace has laid hold of a man when he lets the things of the world go by, and presses heavenward, Christward. It shews the Spirit of God is at work in him, lifting him upward, making Christ known to his soul.

“For the calling up on high.” Chosen in Christ before the world was; redeemed at the Cross; called, sealed, kept by the Holy Ghost, and the crowning day of all will be, when by His power the saints are raised and fashioned like unto Christ. The work was begun long ago, it goes on day by day, and He will finish it when Jesus comes.

Verse 15.—“Let as many as be perfect.” The perfection here is that of a person fitted to run a race. Perfection is used in Scripture with reference to an object placed before us, and our correspondence to that object. When God said to Abraham, “I am El Shaddai”—the all sufficient God, “be thou perfect.” It is as if He had said, “Leave all to me.” As long as he did not leave all to Him, he was not perfect. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Do as your Father in heaven does. In Hebrews, it is perfection as regards the conscience, like as if you look in a good looking glass you get a true representation of yourself. Here saints are seen in a race-course. “Let us therefore as many as are perfect be thus minded.” Let everything go that would interfere with your running; do not hesitate; let the eye be single. Saints in this condition, with Christ as their one object, the Word of God as their one guide, will not be long in seeing eye to eye. “God will reveal even this unto you.” “The meek will He teach His way.” The single eye makes the body full of light. Double motives and diverse objects divide and scatter saints: Christ and the Word draw and keep them together.

Verse 17.—“Brethren, be followers together of me.” How blessed when a servant of God feels so assured that he is in the path marked out in the Word of God, that he can exhort and encourage others to walk in identification with him. To be ensamples to the flock, so that younger ones coming on behind may imitate us (1 Thess. 1:6). How needful to follow Christ fully (1 Cor. 11:1) so that we do not cause others to err or stumble by our evil example.

Verse 19.—“For many walk.” Even among those who professed Christ’s Name. Their worldly ways made the apostle weep: they were a dishonour to that worthy Name. What rivers of tears he would shed if he were here now, over the ways of many who call Jesus their Saviour, but live like the world. “Who mind earthly things”; nothing that the world would esteem wrong, no glaring sins, but the mind set on “things below.” They were not delivered from the love of this present world. The words that follow are often applied to gluttons and drunkards, but they take in a much larger circle. All who “mind earthly things,” “are enemies of the Cross of Christ.” They may name His Name, and call themselves His, but they shew by what they love and what their minds are set upon, that they are of the earth. The lover of the world is “the enemy of God” (James 4:4). The true Christian has been delivered from it (Gal. 1:3), crucified to it (Gal.6:14), and lifted out of it to become a stranger and a pilgrim here. He wants no more of it than his Lord and Master had, but passes on to his own country, his own inheritance, and home in heaven. “Whose end is destruction”: solemn words. May worldly-minded professors weigh them, and allow themselves to be searched by them.

Verse 20.—“For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven.” We belong to another country: our home, inheritance, portion and riches are all there. Grasp as much as ever you can of that, think of it, set your mind upon it and say “It’s mine.” How wonderful that God should have taken us clean out from the present world, severed us from all that was once our boast down here, and given us a place and portion up there. This is God’s way of lifting up the hearts of His people heavenward. He has made them citizens, freemen up there, and there is their inheritance reserved and their home. Well may we sing—

“Heaven is my Fatherland,
Heaven is my Home.”

“We look for the Saviour.” Already He has come from heaven and by His work upon the Cross He bought us altogether, body and soul. Already we are saved—free from condemnation, and made meet for glory. But His work is not done yet. “We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus.” The same Saviour who in His death delivered us, Who in His risen life has been delivering and saving us all along from the sins and dangers of the way, will come again to emancipate us from the present world, and from bodies which are still subject to disease and death, in which the flesh still abides. He will come as “Saviour” to complete the work He began, to put the last grand touch of redemption to our bodies, fitting us at once and for ever to be in His immediate presence.

Verse 21.—“Who shall change the body of our humiliation.” Our bodies are the Lord’s even now, and are very dear to Him. The hairs of our head are all numbered. The dust of His saints who have fallen asleep, is precious in His sight. Not a whit will be forgotten—all belongs to Christ, and He will claim it. But meanwhile, we are left here part of a groaning creation, to learn how far down sin has dragged us. Our ransomed spirits would soar away, but the body like a chain drags us downward. We groan for the full deliverance. The Spirit within makes us sigh for the release. “We look for the Saviour.” What a moment that will be when He comes. The sleeping saints will be raised, the living changed. “Who shall change the body of our humiliation.” “Change” denotes an external work: “Fashion” an internal work. “Fashioned like to the body of His glory.” Everything will be according to Christ then. The glory will go right through us, transforming us in a moment. There are millions of His beloved ones’ bodies just now the prey of worms, as if He did not care for them. But the moment will come when He will redeem them from the power of the grave. Is He able to do this? Yes, He has power, and because He has the power, and will put it forth, He will change and fashion the bodies of His saints, making them radiant with His glory.