Daily Archives: 06/19/2019

Can you explain Philippians 3:14?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN PHILIPPIANS 3:14?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Philippians 3:14: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” What is the “mark?” The “prize?” The “high calling?”

Let us start at verse 1 and go through the entire chapter to get the context: “[1] Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. [2] Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. [3] For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. [4] Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: [5] Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; [6] Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. [7] But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”

Verses 1-6 are the Apostle Paul’s background as Saul of Tarsus, when he was a Pharisee in the Jews’ religion. Verse 7 is his conversion in Acts chapter 9. He came to realize all his “good works” were nothing but “dung!” His impressive accomplishments in religion could not save his soul from Hell! Just as they cannot deliver us from Hell and make us Christians, religious works cannot help us overcome sin and keep us Christians either!! It is all about Jesus Christ and what He did at Calvary! Herein—and herein alone—lies the victory!!

Keep reading in Philippians chapter 3: “[8] Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, [9] And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: [10] That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; [11] If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

From verse 8 onward, Paul reflects on his Christian life. He aims to “win Christ” (verse 8). The verse itself qualifies this as, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” This is not a lost person getting saved, but rather a saved person maturing in God’s knowledge. Go on to verse 12: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” In other words, the Christian asks, “Why did God save me? I want to capture that answer just like Jesus Christ seized me from Satan’s clutches!”

Even after 30 years of being a Christian, Paul himself had incomplete knowledge of grace living. Yes, he had greatly matured, but there was more growth to experience in his own Christian life. Even though he was an apostle, he was not sinless. He never erred in doctrine while functioning as an apostle—the Holy Spirit never let him make mistakes while writing Scripture or speaking God’s Word—but Paul certainly did not apply grace teaching to his own life 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Go look at his struggles with the Law in Romans chapter 7. He had forgotten the grace truths of chapter 6 and finally realized them again in chapter 8. Until the day he physically died and was taken up into Heaven, Paul battled with the flesh like the rest of us. Yet, he would not be discouraged or give up!

The Christian maturing in grace teaching will not return to the old mindset and lifestyle (works-religion). Even after three decades of being a Christian, Paul recognized his incomplete knowledge of grace living. Nevertheless, he was determined to move ahead in this thinking (progress) rather than return to the former mindset (regress).

Keep reading in Philippians chapter 3: “[12] Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. [13] Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, [14] I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. [16] Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.”

Verses 15 and 16—as well as verse 17 (which we have not yet read)—are Paul urging the Philippians (and us) to follow his pattern of moving forward in spiritual growth. Whatever aspects of Christian living we do not understand, we need to advance instead of go backward. We should walk in the spiritual light we have. God the Holy Spirit will use the Bible rightly divided to provide us with whatever light we lack. Using what we have discussed, we can now identify the goal, the prize, and the high calling.

Reread Philippians chapter 3: “[13] Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, [14] I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The “mark” is his goal, aim, ambition, or desire, as seen in verse 12: “…but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Paul wants to grow in God’s knowledge, that he may better understand why God saved him unto eternal life. He knows much grace doctrine, but in light of the totality, his spiritual eyesight is limited. His Christian life is not 100 percent grace-oriented because his flesh and the Law always pop up at some point (and that is true even of us).

The “winning Christ” (verse 8) is evidently “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” of verse 14. Again, this is not being saved unto eternal life (justification). This is sanctification. We do not “win” Christ as unsaved people; we “win” Him after we become Christians (after believing the Gospel of Grace—1 Corinthians 15:3-4). “Winning Christ” here is Christian living, not salvation of sins. This is the maturation process of a member of the Church the Body of Christ living in the Dispensation of Grace. We possess Christ when we trust Him as our personal Saviour, but grace living is applying that identity every day. As with justification, sanctification is entirely about Christ’s righteousness—not ours. It is not religion but grace! It is our identity in Christ, not our identity in Adam! It is Christ thinking and living in and through us! This is the “Christ” to be won!

Moreover, the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” is the heavenly vocation or job we have been given with the heavenly places in view. Father God has invited us members of the Body of Christ to walk a certain way—here is Christian or grace living. This can only happen in Christ. Our “in Christ” position (2 Corinthians 5:17) can become our “in Christ” practice. It is the prayerful application of grace teaching to daily life. It is the knowledge of Jesus Christ concerning the Dispensation of the Grace of God. That knowledge is all of Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. The more basic information is found in Romans through Galatians; the advanced teachings are Ephesians through 2 Thessalonians. Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are grace living with respect to local church ministry. Philippians is part of the advanced doctrine, encouragement to move away from the fundamentals and get into the deeper things.

By the way, pay attention to how Philippians chapter 3 ends. You can see the progression of some saints and the regression of others. Some Christians here have gone back to the Law system, self-living, ignoring grace: they mind earthly things in that they are carnal, fleshly, habitually dominated by sin (Romans chapter 7). The grace life that God Himself wants to live in and through us believers now, it anticipates the day when we (in glorified bodies) will be the expression of that life in the heavenly places throughout the endless ages to come.

“[17] Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. [18] (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: [19] Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) [20] For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: [21] Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”

Also see:
» What does it mean to “mind earthly things?”
» How do we not live after the flesh if we live in bodies of flesh?
» How did the Law kill Paul?