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Pressing on Toward the Goal August 28, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Philippians 3:12-4:1.

Summary: Paul begins by stressing to the Philippians that he was not raised from the dead at his conversion, and he is still imperfect. He draws their attention and notes that while others view themselves as perfect, he does not view himself in that way. Instead, he strives to attain that heavenly state to which God has called him – as a Christian.

Now Paul notes that all Christians who are truly “grown men” should have this mind; then, if they are at fault on any point, God will reveal their error to them. They should strive to attain that heavenly state to which God has also called them.

Paul then exhorts the Philippians to vie with each other in imitating him. He has previously warned them about the Antinomian reactionists; now he warns them with much grief, as the Antinomians refuse to conform to the cross. The Antinomians will be condemned, and their liberty will degrade them. In contrast, the Philippians are citizens of a heavenly commonwealth. Moreover, Jesus Christ will transform their earthly bodies that are exposed to earthly passions, sufferings and indignities.

Paul concludes by exhorting the Philippians, who:

  • he has longed for
  • are the basis of his wearing a crown of victory at the return of Christ

to stand firm as Christians – given their heavenly citizenship and their anticipation of their bodily transformation at the return of Christ.

Thoughts: In this passage, Paul warns the Philippians against the Antinomians and their negative influences. Lightfoot offers some insights in his commentary on verses 13 and 18:

He is in fact protesting against the false security, the Antinomian recklessness, which others deduced from the doctrine of faith…The Antinomians, who refuse to conform to the cross (3:10; 2 Corinthians 1:5-6) and live a life of self-indulgence; compare 1 Corinthians 1:17.

I am definitely curious as to whether Antinomianism had begun to infiltrate the Philippian church at the time of the writing of this letter, or if Paul was warning the Philippians of future peril in that regard. Did the Antinomians themselves have the opportunity to read this letter from Paul? If so, how did they respond to his condemnation of their abuse of their liberty in Christ? I hope to meet at least some of the Antinomians in heaven and see how they avoided condemnation.

In verse 1, we see that Paul regards the Philippians as his victory wreath at the return of Christ. Lightfoot offers some insights on this point in his commentary:

The idea conveyed by stephanos is not dominion, but either (1) victory, or (2) festivity, as the wreath was worn both by the conqueror and by the holiday-maker. Without excluding the latter notion, the former seems to be prominent in this and in the parallel passage; for there, as here, the apostle refers in the context to the Lord’s coming. His converts will then be his wreath of victory, for it will appear that he “did not run or labor for nothing” (2:16), and he will receive the successful athlete’s reward; compare 1 Corinthians 9:25.

This verse reminds me of the 2004 Summer Olympics where olive wreaths were placed on the heads of the medalists. As believers, we should be mindful of the reasons for God placing a “wreath of victory” on our heads at the return of Christ. We must strive to speak and act in ways that will have an eternal impact. We must focus on eternal goals such as bringing glory to God and advancing His kingdom – instead of focusing on temporal matters. Though this is a rather lofty bar for us to clear, we must direct our lives to the time when we will finally clear it – with God’s help.

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