Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In reading the Bible we should not take anything for granted. We should not take one sentence, or even a phrase or word, for granted, assuming that we understand it. If we take things for granted when reading the Bible, we shall deceive ourselves. In my reading of the Word I always exercise not to take anything for granted. In particular, I pay attention to those things which are rather puzzling. Before we go on to 4:1-4, I would like to point out some of the puzzling elements in 3:7-16.
In verse 7 Paul says, “But what things were gains to me, these I have counted loss on account of Christ.” What does Paul mean by gains and by loss? Furthermore, why does he speak of gains in the plural and loss in the singular?
In verse 8 Paul continues, “But surely I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them to be refuse that I may gain Christ.” Paul’s use of the word excellency is puzzling. What does he mean by this word? And what is “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ”? In reading this verse, many think of excellent knowledge rather than of the excellency of the knowledge. There is a great difference, however, between excellent knowledge and the excellency of the knowledge. In this verse Paul also speaks of suffering loss and counting certain things to be refuse. Why does he use the word refuse? Why does he not say, “I counted them to be nothing”? Furthermore, what is the difference between loss and refuse?
In verse 9 Paul says, “And be found in Him.” What does it mean to be found in Christ? Why does Paul not say “known in Christ” or “seen in Christ”? Why did he use the word found?
Verse 10 says, “To know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” We have pointed out that to know Christ means to experience Him and enjoy Him. Why does Paul not use the words enjoy and experience here? We also need to pay more attention to the expression “the power of His resurrection.” I do not believe that we yet have an adequate definition of this. We should also inquire about “the fellowship of His sufferings.” To what does this refer? Some may say that the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings denotes our participation in these sufferings. But what does Paul intend by the word fellowship here? Furthermore, why does he use the word conformed? We need to study carefully Paul’s word about being conformed to Christ’s death and solve the puzzle raised by this expression.
In verse 11 Paul continues, “If by any means I may attain to the out-resurrection from among the dead.” Paul’s use of the term out-resurrection is puzzling. Even the words by any means require careful consideration.
In verse 12 Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained or am already perfected, but I pursue, if also I may lay hold of that for which I also have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Why does Paul use the word obtained here instead of gained? Also what does he mean by laying hold of that for which he had been laid hold of by Christ Jesus? All these matters are puzzling.
In verses 13 and 14 Paul goes on to say, “Brothers, I do not yet reckon myself to have laid hold, but one thing— forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before, I pursue toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” What does Paul mean by the word reckon here? Also we need to ask how it is possible to forget the things behind. It seems we can forget things only when we do not want to forget them. But when we try to forget something, we remember it all the more. How then are we to understand Paul’s word about forgetting? Can we forget our national characteristics, when they are with us wherever we go? Paul’s expression “stretching forward” is also unique and worthy of close examination. What does it mean to stretch forward to the things which are before? We also need to ponder the goal and the prize in verse 14, not assuming that we have a full understanding of these two items. We also need to consider Paul’s word concerning the high calling. Why does he not speak of the calling from above or the calling from the heavens? Why does Paul say that the high calling of God is in Christ Jesus? Why does he not say that it is in Jesus Christ? In other words, why does he put the title Christ before the name Jesus? Surely the order is significant and meaningful. Moreover, why does Paul speak not of the high calling byGod, but of the high calling of God? Some may say that this is simply a matter of idiom. But this does not resolve the puzzle. In Greek Paul could have said it either way. There must be a reason he said of God here and not by God. If we ask questions such as these, we shall learn not to take things for granted in reading the Bible. As we read the Word, we need to realize how little we actually understand it.
Verse 15 continues, “Let us therefore, as many as are full grown, have this mind; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, this also God shall reveal to you.” Why does Paul use the term full grown? This expression signifies life, for anything that grows must be living. Although we may have some understanding of the expression “full grown,” it is still rather puzzling.
In verse 15 what does Paul mean by this mind and by otherwise minded? These simple words convey important concepts.
Finally, in verse 16 Paul says, “Only this, whereunto we have attained, by the same rule let us walk.” What is the meaning of only this and of whereunto we have attained? In this verse almost every phrase is a puzzle.
The Bible is God’s word; it is the divine breath, the breathing out of God Himself. Thus we should not read it the way we read a newspaper or magazine. Instead, we should not take anything for granted, but, by asking questions, earnestly seek out the meaning and significance of the words, phrases, and sentences of the Bible. If we pay attention to all the puzzling elements in 3:7-16, we shall receive more spiritual riches.
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