Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 3:7-11 Paul gives us the way to experience Christ. In verses 12 through 14 Paul applies to himself the things presented in verses 7 through 11. In verse 12 he 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.” The Greek word rendered perfected also means “completed or matured in life.” Paul’s meaning here is that he was still growing, for he did not regard himself as one who had reached maturity. If Paul needed to say that he had not already obtained or was not already perfected, even though he had so much growth in life and so much experience of Christ, how much more should we have such an attitude about ourselves!
In verse 12 Paul says, “I pursue, if also I may lay hold of that for which I also have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” The Greek word translated “lay hold of” may also be rendered “gain, grasp, or get possession of.” It may even be rendered “seize.” For simplicity, in this message we shall use the word gain. Paul aspired to gain that for which he had been gained by Christ Jesus. At the time of his conversion Paul was gained by Christ. Christ had gained Paul with the intention that Paul would gain Him.
Not many Christians speak of their conversion in the way Paul spoke of his. Have you ever heard anyone say that at the time he was converted Christ gained him so that he might gain Christ? We need to realize that Christ has gained us that we might gain Him. Then we need to use Paul’s expression to uplift our conversation about conversion. Christ gained us not merely for the sake of forgiveness, redemption, salvation, or heaven. I repeat, He gained us for the definite purpose that we might gain Him.
Do you realize that you have been gained by Christ? At the time of your conversion, Christ laid hold of you, seized you, grasped you. When you were converted to Christ, He took full possession of you. Now it is impossible for you to escape His grasp. The Lord holds the whole earth in His hands. How do you expect to be able to run away from Him? The Lord is very patient; He is not easily offended or angered. Sometimes Christians misrepresent the Lord Jesus and give others the impression that He will immediately become angry if they do something wrong. However, the Lord may bear with you quite a long time without becoming angry with you. He is not troubled by your attempts to escape from Him. He knows that once He has gained you, you cannot get away.
When we first called on the name of the Lord Jesus for our salvation, we were “hooked” by the Lord. It is a very important matter to call on the Lord, for when we call on Him, we are gained by Him. Once the Lord has gained us, there is no escaping from Him. Some have testified that they tried to get away from the Lord for many years, but eventually had to return to Him.
The Lord has taken possession of us so that we might take possession of Him. This was His purpose in grasping us. Christ wants us to gain Him. The Lord’s aim in His salvation is to seize us that we might take full possession of Him. Not even when Paul was writing to the Philippians did he regard himself as having gained Christ in a full way. Rather, he was still pursuing Christ in order to gain Him.
In Philippians 3 Paul uses three Greek words that are rendered gained, obtained, and laid hold of. The meaning of these words is very close, for to obtain is to gain, and to gain is to lay hold of. The strongest of these expressions is lay hold of. Christ has laid hold of us that we might lay hold of Him. He has gained us that we might gain Him. Thus, the Christian life is a life of gaining Christ. How much have you gained of Christ? This is a crucial question. We grow in life by gaining Christ. The degree to which we have gained Christ is the degree to which we have grown with Christ. We all need to gain Christ in order to grow in life. Spiritual growth is measured by how much we have gained of Christ.
I hope that the saints will use 3:12 to improve their vocabulary concerning conversion and salvation. According to this verse, conversion means that Christ gains a person so that this person may gain Him. Gaining Christ is a lifelong matter. Day by day our goal should be to gain Him. Even during his imprisonment, Paul was pursuing Christ in order to gain Him.
Paul’s use of the little word if in verse 12 indicates that he was not certain about his growth in life. It is right to be sure of our salvation, but not to be certain of our growth in life. If we have the assurance that we have grown in life to an advanced degree, we probably have not grown to that extent. We should join Paul in saying, “If also I may lay hold....”
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.” Even though Paul had experienced and gained Christ tremendously, he did not consider that he had experienced Him in full or gained Him to the uttermost. For this reason he was still advancing toward the goal—the gaining of Christ to the fullest extent.
In verse 13 Paul speaks of forgetting the things behind. In order to gain Christ to the fullest extent, Paul not only forsook his experience in Judaism but also refused to dwell on his past experiences of Christ and be limited by them. To dwell on our past experiences, no matter how real they may have been, frustrates our further pursuing after Christ.
In verse 13 Paul tells us that he was stretching forward to the things which are before. He knew that Christ is unsearchably rich, that there is a vast territory of His riches to be possessed. He was stretching forward to gain these riches and to advance further into this territory.
Paul was pursuing toward the goal for the prize. Christ is both the goal and the prize. The goal is the fullest enjoyment and gain of Christ, and the prize is the uttermost enjoyment of Christ in the millennial kingdom as a reward to the victorious runners of the New Testament race. In order to reach the goal for the prize, Paul was exercised to forget the things which are behind and to stretch forward to the things which are before. This is the way to gain Christ by pursuing Him.
Even though Paul was a matured saint and a very experienced apostle, he tells us that he had not already obtained and had not yet been perfected. He did not regard himself as one who had obtained the full enjoyment of Christ or the full maturity in life. He, of course, had obtained the common salvation by the common faith (1 Tim. 1:14-16), but he was still pursuing Christ in order to gain Him. Furthermore, Paul was also seeking Christ in order to have the extra portion of resurrection. In order to have this portion of resurrection, called the out-resurrection, we must pursue, run the race, and finish our course triumphantly.
Like Paul, we have been regenerated, but we are not yet perfected, or matured, in life. At the time of our conversion, we were gained by Christ so that we may gain Him. Now as those who have not yet obtained and who have not yet been perfected, we are pursuing Christ.
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