Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 2 2013 - Philippians 3:2-4:1 – One thing I do …

Paul appears almost to have completed his letter to the Philippians in 3:1. But in 3:2 he again takes up his pen (or recalls his amanuensis) to add further warnings and exhortations. Paul is concerned that the Philippians may be troubled by Judaisers – Jewish believers who will try to persuade the Gentile Christians that they must be circumcised and live in accordance with the Mosaic Law. Such people, says Paul, are placing confidence in the flesh – in what they are and in what they do. What is it that truly marks out the people of God? "We ... are the circumcision," says Paul, "we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).

Paul then recounts something of his own history. He had been a Pharisee. He had placed all his confidence and boasting in his Jewish heritage and in his own precise law keeping. But he has abandoned all of that. He now knows that Jesus, the Christ has come. A new era has dawned. God has intervened in human history in Jesus Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus marked the painful birthing of a new age; the age of salvation has dawned. The recognition that the crucified Jesus is risen from the dead and is Lord of all compelled Paul to abandon all that had been vital to him before so that he might "gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (3:8-9). The whole purpose of God for human history – indeed, for the entire cosmos – is bound up in Christ. Paul must have Christ, even though, to be joined with him means to share with him in the birth pangs of the kingdom – in Christ's sufferings that he might share in his resurrection (3:10).

There is, therefore a single focus and driving force to Paul's life. Paul wants "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection" (3:10). He's got his eye on the risen Christ and is pursing him with all the energy the Spirit of God supplies. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (3:12-14). He has cast aside his past life, dominated by a desire to keep every point of the Mosaic Law. He's now living a life centred in and shaped by the crucified and risen Christ. Paul wants to keep up with God. Living by the Law is just so "Yesterday."

And what is the goal that Paul is pursuing? "It's heaven", some may answer. "Doesn't Paul say that God has called him heavenward in Christ Jesus? Doesn't he tell the Philippians that their citizenship is in heaven?" But there is more to Paul's goal, more to his hope, more to his pursuing. He has his eye fixed upon the risen Christ; he wants to know the power of Christ's resurrection. He eagerly looks for the Saviour to return from heaven and to transform him and all his fellow believers so that their bodies will be like his glorious resurrection body. He looks for the day when the whole of creation will share in the glorious liberty of the children of God. And this is what he pursues. This is the one thing that drives him on. He longs that God's kingdom may come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Paul had a big vision that dominated and shaped his life and drove his mission. Nor does he consider this an idiosyncrasy, for he writes, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things... Join with others in following my example" (3:15, 17).

What do you have to leave behind to pursue Christ and his kingdom? In what ways do the priorities of your life need to be adjusted to align with Paul's "One thing I do..."?

Lord Jesus, you were single-minded and wholehearted in going to the cross for us; help us to have the same mind in following you and serving you.

Peter Misselbrook