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Paul's Epistle to the Philippians Part 3: In Quest of a Goal: Faith versus Works
In Philippians chapter 1 Paul's purpose for writing this epistle is made evident where he had received correspondence from them, and writes in return to inform them of his testimony before Caesar in the Praetorium at Rome, and the result of that testimony in the spread of the message of the gospel. He sees this as a positive development whether or not those who were discussing his testimony were authentically receptive, or were merely doing so out of contention. So Paul's testimony must have caused quite a stir among those who heard it. In respect of this, Paul had concluded, in part, “that in every way, whether in pretext or in truth, Christ is declared, and in this I rejoice.”
Then, on account of the trial of the faith, Paul encouraged his readers to conduct themselves worthily of the Gospel, and doing so would help them to withstand the opposition without fear. Building on that concept in Philippians chapter 2, Paul further exhorted his readers to have love for one another and to serve one another, following after the model which was continually made by Christ Himself. With that, Paul assured them that if they eagerly did all of the things which the Gospel required of them, which is basically inclusive of keeping the commandments of Christ and caring for one another, that they would be assured preservation in this world, as Paul had also said, remaining “perfect and with unmixed blood, blameless children of Yahweh in the midst of a race crooked and perverted - among whom you appear as luminaries in the Society”.
Yahshua Christ had said that “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”, but apart from that statement, Christ had told those listening to Him at the Sermon on the Mount, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” It is certainly evident that Paul's message had a moral significance. However the moral significance does not diminish the plain racial meaning of Paul's message: for there is no disparity between reality in the Creation of God, and truth in the Word of God. If the children of Israel had not committed sins such as were described in Jeremiah chapter 2, then there would be no sin which could not be washed, nor pleasant plants sprouting strange slips. To be handed over to the enemies of God is a punishment for sin. Abstaining from sin, the children of Israel, who are also the people of Christ, hope to maintain their inheritance as a separate people, and above all other peoples (compare Exodus 19:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:9). Because the laws of God are inherent within the spirit of the Adamic man, because they are written on the hearts of the children of Israel, there is no true moral integrity without racial integrity. While men may at times be enticed by sin, there is only one race which upholds basic morality and the rule of law in the world. Where all other races can appear to do so, they have only had those standards imposed on them by the White race, and would be very different if they had not had the imposition.
Here Paul of Tarsus commences by writing a conclusion to this relatively short epistle. However he makes a digression, encouraging the Philippians even further, and subsequently this epistle has two conclusions. The first begins here, and the other begins with verse 8 of chapter 4, which also contains a similar statement: “For what remains, brethren...”, meaning what remains of whatever Paul had felt that he needed to address. So we commence with Philippians chapter 3:
1 For what remains, my brethren, rejoice in the Prince. To write these same things to you is not troublesome for me, and assuring for you.
As we had seen in chapter 1 of this epistle, Paul of Tarsus has considered the possibility that he may be executed for his testimony before Caesar, yet he remained optimistic and encouraged the Philippians to rejoice. While we have seen that Paul faced execution for his testimony of the Gospel, we have not explained why. We did, however, make such an explanation in our presentation of Acts chapter 16 which we made here in October of 2013. In that chapter of Acts, we see that Paul had expelled a demon from a woman who was a slave in Philippi, of all places. Because of the demon the woman was able to prognosticate, making great profits for her masters. Upon Paul's expelling the demon, we read: “19 And her masters seeing her, because the hope of their business departed, taking Paul and Silas they dragged them into the market before the rulers, 20 and bringing them to the chief magistrates they said 'These men agitate our city, being Judaeans, 21 and they declare customs which are not lawful for us to receive nor to do, being Romans!'”
Now these men in Philippi did not know that Paul was actually a Roman citizen, but we see in Acts chapters 22 and 25 that after his arrest Paul made an appeal to Caesar, and he was able to do so because he was a Roman citizen. Otherwise, either of the Roman governors of Judaea, Felix or Festus, could have turned Paul over to the designs of the Jews who had wanted to slay him while he was in their custody. So we see that Paul's Christian profession was unlawful for Romans to accept, and since Paul was a Roman citizen, it was unlawful for him to hold or profess such beliefs as well. Religion in Rome was regulated by both law and culture, although cults such as Judaism were officially tolerated so long as they were not openly practiced by Romans. For that reason, some early Christians also struggled vainly to have Christianity accepted as a form of Judaism, so that it would be officially tolerated, rather than being openly persecuted. Of course, other early Christians properly explained that Judaism was a corruption of Christianity. While our explanation of the acceptable religious attitude of Romans was much lengthier in our aforementioned presentation of Acts chapter 16, here in summary we shall only say that to declare Christ as King and Savior was an act of sedition against the emperor Nero, who was himself declared to have been a god and a savior of the Roman people.
Here in closing, Paul turns to warning the Philippians:
2 Watch for dogs, watch for evil workers, watch for the concision, 3 for we are the circumcision, who in spirit are serving Yahweh, and boasting in Christ Yahshua, and not trusting in flesh.
The parallelism is a rhetorical device used commonly in Scripture, where the same object or idea is described consecutively in different ways. As Paul uses them here these three descriptions: dogs, evil workers, and the concision, describe those who are outside of the Covenants of God but who would seek to corrupt the people of God, and the terms are inclusive of but not necessarily limited to the people now known as Jews. Those who are cut in the flesh, whom Paul disparagingly refers to as the concision here, are not the true circumcision of God. They reject Christ and seek to establish their own righteousness by the works of their own hands, teaching other men to do the same. But Christ had told them, as it is recorded in John chapter 5: “46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” So while they were the concision, they certainly did not believe Moses, and neither were they the actual people of God.
We can understand who the dogs of Scripture are from Matthew chapter 15, where Yahshua Christ Himself had referred to the Canaanite woman as a dog, as opposed to His Own people, whom He referred to as sheep. But we can also determine from Psalm 22 who the dogs are, where in a prophecy of the trials of the Christ we read: “16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet…. 20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.” Likewise Christ had warned “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs...”
Now this is not the only use of the dog as an allegory in Scripture, but the Gospel is quite clear, that those who opposed Christ were not His sheep, and here in this rather notable Messianic prophecy we find that they are described as dogs, and that their power is the power of the dog. While the Roman soldiers may have been consigned to do the deed, and they were not necessarily Roman, they were merely following orders, and doing so on behalf of the Edomite Jews who were ultimately responsible for the acts. His blood is on them and their children. The Edomite Jews, themselves being related to the Canaanites, were the dogs who had encompassed the Messiah, and who continually sought to corrupt the new Christian creed.
Where Paul said that “we are the circumcision”, he made the assertion that Christians are the true circumcision of God, meaning that Israelite Christians are the authentic people of the Old Testament God. They had circumcised their hearts, they had accepted the Gospel of Christ, and properly, they sought to establish the law by keeping His commandments. This is the true circumcision, which is of the heart and not of the foreskin. We see this in Deuteronomy chapter 10: “12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? 14 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” Likewise, there is a similar appeal in Jeremiah chapter 4: “4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”
More importantly, in Deuteronomy chapter 30, after the children of Israel are warned of the consequences of their disobedience to God, we read this: “1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; [the fulfillment of this is found in the spread of Christianity, where the real descendants of the ancient Israelites who were driven away many centuries before Christ had returned to Yahweh their God in Christ] 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. [This scattering had happened long before there were ever any so-called Jews. We still await the ultimate regathering, as Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, for example.] 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”
Both here and throughout his epistles, Paul was teaching the very fulfillment of this prophecy found in Deuteronomy chapter 30, understanding that in Christ this circumcision of the heart is fulfilled. When the true children of Israel return to Yahweh their God in Christ, then Yahweh circumcises their hearts as well as the hearts of their children, to love Him that they may live. But as for the Jews, Christ said, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me”, and they will never believe Him because they are not His sheep, as He had told them in John chapter 10. The true children of Israel accepted the Gospel of Christ, and they are the true circumcision of God. The falling away of more recent times is another matter entirely.
While circumcision of the foreskin was a sign, that Christian men should uphold the law of God, it was meaningless unless they upheld the law. For the concision, for the Jew who is without Christ, the circumcision is vain. For many centuries Jews were seen as the accursed people that they are, the enemies of God who were driven into all nations to be a curse and a taunt and a reproach. That is how Christians should continue to see Jews. Simply because Jews maintain their false identity by adopting the form of the Old Testament Israelites in circumcision, does not meant that they are the substance of the people of God. People always seem to be easily deceived by this distraction, that they perceive the form of a thing, and neglect to consider the substance.
4 Though I have also trusted in flesh; if anyone else supposes to have trusted in flesh, I more: 5 a circumcision on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. By law: a Pharisee. 6 By zeal: persecuting the assembly. By righteousness that is in law: being blameless.
Of course, Paul is not insinuating that he was blameless as if being without sin, but that he had followed after the righteousness of the law, and, ostensibly, offered the appropriate sacrifices as propitiations for his sin according to the requirements of the law. Here Paul informs us that he is of the tribe of Benjamin, and he was certainly not an Edomite Jew, whom he described as “vessels of destruction” in Romans chapter 9. Where Paul said that he was “by law a Pharisee”, he means to inform his readers that he had kept the precepts of the law according to the teachings of the Pharisees, which was the accepted orthodoxy among the Judaeans of his time. Of course, we learn from Christ Himself in the gospel that the Pharisees had emphasized the form of the law, and neglected the substance.
From Matthew chapter 23: “23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
Modern denominational Christians perceive that Paul's rejection of any reliance in the flesh means that anyone of any sort could somehow claim to be a Christian, that there are no longer any national or racial boundaries, and therefore anyone may be deemed righteous and acceptable by God, and in that manner anyone may place themselves under a New Covenant which was never made for them. Nothing is further from the truth, and no man can place himself into the covenants of God by his own actions. If one thinks that a man can somehow save himself by his own actions, that idea represents a trust in the flesh which Paul rejects here.
Here, Paul is not rejecting the flesh itself. Rather, he is rejecting a trust in the flesh as an establishment of righteousness on the part of men. But he nevertheless recognized Israel both according to the flesh, and as twelve tribes, which can refer to nothing other than the fleshly families of the people of Israel. Paul's recognition of Israel according to the flesh applied to the people of Judaea (Romans 9), where there were both Israelites and Edomites, so by doing so Paul had discounted the Edomites, and that recognition had also extended to the people of the nations of anciently dispersed Israel, as Paul explained in Romans chapter 4 and 1 Corinthians chapter 10. Right to the end, Paul's plain profession continued to be that the hope of the Gospel was for the twelve tribes of Israel, as he had explicitly stated in Acts chapter 26.
In the Old Testament, we find that the ancient children of Israel had also trusted in the flesh, but were considered to be in the wrong for having done so. This is evident in Micah chapter 3, where we read: “9 Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. 10 They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. 11 The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.” This reflects the appropriate scope of what Paul had meant by trusting in the flesh.
As Micah depicts the situation in ancient Israel, they trusted in flesh, and they thought that they could do whatever they desired simply because they were Israelites, and they said “Is not the Lord among us? None evil can come upon us.” So they sinned and they sacrificed, and they sinned more and they sacrificed, and they continued to sin and sacrifice. But in Isaiah chapter 1 Yahweh expressed his exasperation with their behavior and He said “11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?” The Israelites thought that they could sin and sacrifice all they wanted, and that because the Lord was with them, no evil could come upon them. In response to this attitude among the people, Yahweh did not spare them because they were His people, but rather He sent them off into punishment because they were His people, demanding that they return to Him in obedience. The works of men, the works of the flesh, could not save men from their sin. The flesh of men, that they were the children of the promises, could not save them from their punishment for sin. Subsequently, that call to obedience for the children of Israel is the offering of the Gospel of Christ, and therefore Paul of Tarsus frequently referred to the obedience found in the acceptance of Gospel. To return to Yahweh in Christ, no sacrifice for sin is required, but to depart from sin itself. Likewise, here in this epistle he advised the Philippians to “Do all things apart from murmuring and disputing”, which is also an exhortation to obedience.
In this same manner, we see in the closing verses of Paul's epistle to the Romans that they were being commended for their obedience: “19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly…. 25 Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Likewise Paul had told the Corinthians that they should be “in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
So the exhortation to Christians not to trust in the flesh has nothing to do with the race of the people of God's design: for Christ Himself had professed that He came only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and the New Covenant was made only with the house of Israel, and the house of Judah. Rather, the exhortation not to trust in the flesh is for those same people Israel alone, that to be deemed righteous as Christians, men should seek to keep the commandments of Christ as well as having their faith in the promises of God, rather than putting their faith in the works of their own hands. As for the other races, Paul tells the Corinthians, who were also descendants of the ancient Israelites, the same thing that Yahweh had spoken through Isaiah the prophet to the ancient Israelites: “Come out from the midst of them and be separated … do not be joined to the impure, and I will admit you” (2 Corinthians 6:17) White and darkness have no agreement in Christ.
Yahweh God established a Creation, a nation and society of people designed to operate under His law. We read in a Messianic prophecy in Isaiah chapter 43: “1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” These things were never said of any other people. By the time of Christ, the descendants of these people Israel, in their many dispersions, had already come to inherit and to dominate the old Adamic society in accordance with the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, as Paul had explained in Romans chapter 4. If we believe that God created man, we must believe the Word of that same God in reference to the purpose and behavior of man. There were reasons why, as it says in Psalm 147, “19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. 20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.” In Jeremiah chapter 31, after we read that Yahweh would make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, we also read: “After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people”, speaking of those same Israelites. With this it is evident that only the children of Israel have the opportunity and ability to keep the commandments of Christ, because only they have those laws written on their hearts, even though there are times when they fail and they transgress those laws. The other races and nations were never given the laws of God for good reason, and the children of Israel were commanded to remain separate from them. The election of Israel results in the general disregard of the other races and nations, although certain people of the nations closely related to Israel had the opportunity to join themselves to Israel. Others, however, were expressly forbidden. The concept of race and nation, the concept of a people separate from and placed above all other peoples, is part of the Creation of God which is explained in His Word. Therefore there can be no true morality without the maintenance of racial integrity. To deny that fact is to deny that God understands His Own Creation.
[Where there are no White people, or promises of reward for cooperation and compliance from White people, the non-White nations quickly degenerate into chaos and depravity. To make a negro or a chinaman abide by the laws of God is sort of like inserting a floppy disk into a bucket of stones. The software simply cannot run on that hardware.]
As he had discussed using Epaphroditos as an example in Philippians chapter 1, here Paul speaks of his own sacrifice on behalf of the Gospel, but he also uses that sacrifice as an example of his having abandoned any reliance on the flesh for his perception of righteousness:
7 The things [B, D, and the MT have “But the things”; the text follows P46, א, A, and 0282] that were gain to me, these I have regarded as loss on account of the Anointed.
Among the Pharisees of Judaea in his time, Paul was rapidly becoming a man of note, as it is evident in the Book of Acts where it is described that he had achieved an office whereby he began the persecution of heretics, which is how early Christians were portrayed. In his epistle to the Galatians he professed that he “had advanced in Judaism beyond many contemporaries within my race, being a more excessive emulator of the traditions of my fathers.” But after his experience on the Road to Damascus, where Paul had learned of the true nature of the Christ, he gave up his comfortable position and his status in Judaea. He gave these things up “on account of the Anointed”, which is a reference to his ministry to the dispersed nations of the children of Israel. Paul had denied his former life so that he could serve his people, as Christ had said in the Gospel, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” And in this regard he continues:
8 But then indeed I also regard all things to be loss on account of the prevailing of the knowledge of Christ Yahshua my Prince, on account of whom I have suffered loss of all things - and regard them refuse [A and the MT have “to be refuse”; the text follows א, B, and D], that I would gain Christ 9 and would be found in Him, not having my righteousness that is from law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, that righteousness of Yahweh by the faith,
The King James version has dung rather than refuse, but the Greek word describes any trash or rubbish. [Imagine that, those bad King James translators used a naughty word when they could have used a nicer one.] Paul would “gain Christ” by denying his former life, abandoning the error of the Judaeans, and doing the will of Christ, going so far as considering his former life to be trash in comparison to the promises in Christ. As Christ had said in the Gospel, recorded in Matthew chapter 10: “38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Paul, having abandoned his worldly life of error, expresses the hope of having found new and eternal life in Christ. He had told the Corinthians in his second epistle to them that “… we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Here Paul extends his understanding of the concept of trusting in the flesh into the perception of righteousness that comes from the law. Since all men sin and fall short of the glory of God, this righteous from the law of which Paul speaks is not attained through the keeping of the law, but through the perception of satisfying the requirements of the law in rituals in order propitiate ones sins. Christ being the propitiation for the sins of the children of Israel, there is no longer any propitiation for sin by the rituals of the law, as he explains at length in his epistle to the Hebrews as well as in both Romans and Galatians. So here Paul expresses the understanding that being found in Christ, he would not have his righteousness from the law.
Paul had explained in great length in his epistle to the Galatians, and particularly in chapter 2 of that epistle, that the works of the law, meaning the rituals and ceremonial ordinances of the law, were done away with in Christ. So Paul had written in Galatians chapter 3 that “If a law had been given having the ability to produce life, indeed justification would have been from of law. But the writing has enclosed all under sin, in order that the promise, from the faith of Yahshua Christ, would be given to those who are believing. But before the faith was to come we had been guarded under law, being enclosed to the faith destined to be revealed. So the law has been our tutor for Christ, in order that from faith we would be deemed righteous.” For that same reason the apostle John said in his first epistle that “I write these things to you in order that you do not sin. And if one should sin, we have an Advocate with the Father: the righteous Yahshua Christ. And He is a propitiation on behalf of our sins.” So Paul says concerning that same Advocate:
10 to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
When the children of Israel transgressed the law to the point where Yahweh deemed them worthy of death, they were described as having made a covenant with death. So we read in Isaiah chapter 28, in another Messianic prophecy: “15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: 16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. 17 Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. 18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.” Likewise, concerning the iniquity of Ephraim, Yahweh had spoken in Hosea: “14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” The children of Israel consider themselves dead with Christ because they were under penalty of death, and Christ died on their behalf so that they may live.
Therefore discussing this same topic, comparing the righteousness which is of the rituals of the law to the righteousness which is of the faith in Christ, Paul said in Romans chapter 6 “1 Now what may we say? Shall we continue in sin that favor would be greater? 2 Certainly not! We who have died in sin, how still can we live in it? 3 Or are you ignorant that as long as we are immersed in Christ Yahshua, into His death we are immersed? 4 So we were buried with Him through immersion into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the honor of the Father, so then we in newness of life should walk. 5 Therefore if united we have become in the likeness of His death, then also shall we be of His resurrection; 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body would be left void of sin, that no longer are we in bondage to sin. 7 Therefore, dying one is judged worthy apart from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we also will live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer lords over Him.” Of course the Romans, being descended from those same Israelites, were also included in the statement Paul made in this passage concerning “we who have died in sin”, and since where there is no law, there is no transgression, the Romans must have been descendants of those same ancient Israelites who had made a covenant with death, or Paul's words would not even have applied to them.
Where Paul discusses the “fellowship of the sufferings”, he is not merely referring to the sufferings of Christ. Rather, he is referring to the sufferings which Christians faced because they chose to follow Christ. In this manner Paul had written in 1 Corinthians chapter 1: “5 Because just as the sufferings of the Anointed are abundant to us, in that manner through the Anointed our encouragement is also abundant. 6 Now, whether we are afflicted on behalf of your encouragement and preservation, or if we are encouraged on behalf of your encouragement which is being produced in the endurance of the same sufferings by which we are also affected, 7 then our hope for you is steadfast, knowing that just as you are partners of the sufferings, in that manner also of the encouragement. 8 For we do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which happened in Asia, because we were exceedingly oppressed, beyond ability, consequently for us to despair even of living. 9 Yet we had within ourselves that sentence of death in order that we would rely not upon ourselves, but upon Yahweh who raises the dead; 10 who from so great a death has protected us, and will protect; in whom we trust because also still He will protect; 11 you also cooperating on our behalf in prayers in order that from many persons, the gift to us would be thanksgiving by many on our behalf.” Christ had warned about the sufferings that Christians would undergo, and they did. However as the apostle James had written, “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God”, and Paul certainly valued the rewards in Christ to be far above those offered by the world.
However even then he was too humble to assert that he was worthy of having attained the promise in Christ for himself, and he says:
11 if somehow I may attain to the resurrection from among the dead.
Paul had already expressed confidence that if he died, his spirit would be with Christ, which is evident both here in Philippians chapter 1, especially in verse 23, and also in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 where he had written that “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Likewise in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 Paul was confident enough to say that “22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Paul spoke similarly in Romans chapter 5 where among other things he wrote concerning the transgression of Adam compared with the sacrifice of Christ and he concluded: “18 So then, as that one transgression is for all men for a sentence of condemnation, in this manner then through one decision of judgment for all men is for a judgment of life.”
But here Paul expressed hesitation, that he was not so confident that he would be found worthy of the resurrection of the dead. This is not to recant everything which he had said previously concerning this topic. But rather, his uncertainty seems only to reflect a certain humility, that it is Yahweh God who has granted the gift of life to man, and therefore man should strive to please God rather than take that gift for granted. Much the same humility was expressed by John the Baptist, the very blood cousin of Yahshua, where he spoke concerning Him and said “the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose.” Elsewhere in the Gospel, Christ speaking of the Resurrection spoke of “they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead”, as it is recorded in Luke chapter 20. In this humility, pious Christians reject the self-righteous attitude of those Old Testament Israelites who said “Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.” Therefore Paul also professes:
12 Not that I have already received [P46 and D interpolate “or I am already justified”], or I am already perfected, but I pursue if also I may obtain, on the condition that I also have been obtained by Christ Yahshua [B and D want “Yahshua”].
The phrase ἐφ᾽ ᾧ, from the preposition ἐπί (Strong's # 1909) and the relative pronoun, is rendered here as “on the condition that”, where the King James Version has only “that for which”. The definition is given in a specific example by Liddell & Scott at ἐπί B. III. 3., for which one may also see Thayer, ἐπί B. 2. δ. (p. 233 col. A).
Paul refuses to claim his own perfection, as we may also read in Job chapter 9, in the words attributed to Job: “20 If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” Paul was confident of the faith in Christ and the promises which were made to the Adamic race, and more specifically to the seed of Abraham. However Paul was humble and would therefore refrain from justifying himself, or declaring his own perfection. As it says in the Wisdom of Sirach, chapter 7: “5 justify not thyself before the Lord; and boast not of thy wisdom before the king.”
Not trusting in the flesh, Christians should seek to please God in the manner which Christ Himself had transmitted in the Gospel, where he had said, as it is recorded in John chapter 15: “9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.” For this same reason, Paul had told the Thessalonians, in chapter 4 of his first epistle to them: “1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.”
This is a Christian paradox: denying that righteousness is acquired by the works of ones hands, while at the same time understanding that faith without works is dead.
On the one hand, Christians should not be confident in the flesh, that they shall attain to the resurrection of the dead by the works of their own hands, in the rituals and ceremonies of the law, as Paul described in Galatians chapter 2: “16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Note that Paul said “we have believed iun Jesus”. Men may believe in Jesus, but the faith of Jesus Christ is what Jesus Himself believed.
Nor should Christians be confident in their genealogy alone, that they shall attain to the resurrection of the dead simply because they are of the seed of Israel. For that same error the ancient Israelites were punished, as we have seen in Micah. Even though the promise is that all Israel shall be saved, here Paul himself refused to express confidence in his own resurrection. As David prayed in the 143rd Psalm: “O Lord, attend to my prayer: hearken to my supplication in thy truth; hear me in thy righteousness. 2 And enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.”
But on the other hand, Christians should walk by faith, knowing that, as Paul had said in Romans chapter 4, “16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all”, and of course the faith of Abraham was the belief that Abraham had concerning his seed and the inheritance of the promises of God. Likewise, Abraham was justified by God because without being required to do so, Abraham had nevertheless obeyed Yahweh, as we may read in Genesis chapter 26: “5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
Furthermore, in spite of the humility which Paul exhibits here, the Scripture tells us the identity of who are those “obtained by Christ”. In John chapter 15 we read: “14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.” However there is nowhere in the Gospel that the apostles were actually called servants by Christ. Therefore to understand the reference to them as His servants, one must resort to the Word of God in the Old Testament, where it says in Isaiah chapter 41 “8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.” There it also says in Isaiah chapter 44: “1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen.” When the children of Israel, who are Yahweh's servant race, are obedient to the Gospel of Christ, they become the friends of God, as Abraham also was, because it is they alone who are the chosen of God.
Therefore while Paul set an example here by refusing to display confidence in the flesh, that alone does not nullify the promises of God. As Paul had said in 1 Corinthians chapter 1: “27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.”
The ultimate lesson seems to be this: that man does not determine for himself what is righteous. Only God determines what is righteous. Man can only determine what is righteous by the Word of God. Therefore, when a young man referred to Christ as a “good Master”, as it is recorded in three of the Gospels, “Jesus said unto him,” as we may read in Luke chapter 18 (Luke 18:18-19), “Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.” So not even Christ Himself, while He was in the flesh, would accept the acknowledgment of men that He was good. Yahweh God says in Isaiah, of the children of Israel, in Isaiah chapter 45: “I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.” Then He says likewise in Isaiah chapter 57: “12 I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.” So Yahweh declares men to be righteous apart from their works, which are of no profit to them.
But that does not mean that there are not works by which men may profit, since the apostle James warns us, that “faith without works is dead”. Men must simply distinguish between their own works, and the works which Christ expects of them when they elect to follow Him. In this manner, Paul continues:
13 Brethren, I myself do not reckon to have obtained but one thing: forgetting the things past [literally “behind”] and reaching out to the things ahead [literally or “in front”].
Here Paul refers to his having abandoned his past life in pursuit of the advancement of the Gospel of Christ, and he makes an admission of his motive:
14 In quest of a goal [literally “After a goal”] I give chase for the prize of the calling of Yahweh above, in Christ Yahshua [P46 wants “in Christ Yahshua”; D has “in Prince Yahshua Christ”; the text follows P16, א A, B, I, and the MT].
But that motive is not based upon personal greed. Rather, as Christ Himself had explained in the Gospel, to whom much is given, much shall be expected. In this explanation, in Matthew chapter 25 Christ leaves us with a parable, an analogy, using servants and money as His example: “14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Christ did not make this analogy so that we become stock-traders or bankers (as we can imagine that the Jews would interpret it). But rather, it is God which gives gifts to men, and some of us have the ability to acquire wealth, while others may acquire knowledge, and others some artful skill that may be put to good use. Whatever gift we have, we should use for the benefit of our brethren, and in that manner we do not our own works – works by which we benefit ourselves, but rather we do the works of God, works by which we serve our brethren and our community. So a man like Paul, who had no wealth but who had been gifted with great knowledge in Scripture and in the profane literature, understood that he had no choice but to seek the goal as he described it, since the alternative was to be like that unprofitable servant who had no reward at the coming of his master.
The works of the rituals of the law lead to self-righteousness, where man imagines that he can save himself by the works of his hands. But the works of the faith in Christ lead to the edification of the Body of Christ. As Paul had told the Philippians at the beginning of chapter 2 of this epistle, that they should each consider the things, or perhaps the needs, of one another, and that they should do all things without murmuring and disputing, in order to assure their mutual preservation, the apostle Peter had said in chapter 4 of his first epistle: “9 Be hospitable to one another without murmuring. 10 Each just as he has received a gift for themselves, administering that same thing as good stewards of the manifold favor of Yahweh. 11 If one speaks, as the sayings of Yahweh; if one serves, as from of the power which Yahweh provides, in order that in all things Yahweh is honored through Yahshua Christ, for whom is the honor and sovereignty for the eternal ages, truly.”
In this understanding, the paradox of faith as opposed to works is resolved. Christians in quest of a goal seek to serve one another, and store up treasure in heaven. The result is the edification of the Body of Christ and the mutual benefit of all by the principle of individual sacrifice, which is the foremost example of Christ.