“PAUL’S AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL THEOLOGY: GLORIFICATION”
This will be our final look at the personal autobiographical theology of the Apostle Paul. In this final segment of Paul’s personal theology we are dealing with the subject of glorification. But as with the previous three portions of Paul’s theology, we are looking at a personal theology that is profoundly different than any theology any of you have ever been exposed to. Let me provide some background and then explain. In Philippians 3.1-6, we see the Apostle Paul warning his readers of a potential problem that he anticipated rearing its ugly head at some point. Judaizers, who would lay out their credentials before the people and then strive to lure primarily Gentile Christians and the small number of Jewish Christians in Philippi into bondage to the Law of Moses, which God had never intended to govern the lives of Gentiles in the first place. Notice all of Paul’s particulars which he could have bragged about if he had been of a mind to:
1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
However, Paul did not brag about those things which he listed to his readers. Oh, at one time he had bragged about those things. But something happened to Paul. He encountered a believer in Jerusalem named Stephen who had forcefully presented the claims of Jesus to be the Christ of God, and had even watched that man die for his Savior. Then, some weeks later, on his way to Damascus to persecute others like Stephen, he saw a heavenly vision of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was in connection with his exposure to the gospel and to the glorified person of Jesus Christ that Paul began to revise his estimation of things. What prompted him to flee to Christ for salvation from his sins, even though he had been one who seemed to be blameless, having the righteousness which is of the Law? He weighed in the balance those things that he had thought to be gain unto him versus this glorious Savior that he had seen, that Stephen had died for, and that scripture described to him. His estimation was that he had rather have Jesus Christ than anything, Philippians 3.7:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”
And even after decades of suffering and serving the Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul weighed in the balance those things he had previously thought to be gain to him versus his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, it may surprise some of you to be told that Paul’s estimation of Christ had radically changed. However, not like you would imagine. Not like it is with those who used to attend church every Sunday, and who used to attempt to bring folks to Christ, and who used to tithe, and who used to resist sinful impulses. No, with Paul it was different. You see, after many years of life for Christ, and love for Christ, and service to Christ, if anything, for Paul the balance was even more tipped in Christ’s favor, Philippians 3.8:
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
Do you see something unusual with Paul’s estimations, both when he was saved and years later? How very personal it was. How very Christ-centered. Not like the estimation of many, is it? You see, with many the estimation was heaven versus Hell, sin versus righteousness. It was not your fault, particularly, that is just how the gospel was presented to you. However, the gospel was presented wrongly to you. For Paul, the gospel is all about Jesus Christ versus whatever else could be considered, even your best. Justification is the next portion of Paul’s personal theology we find, Philippians 3.9:
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Again, notice how very Christ-centered Paul is. Not some plan of salvation. Not some prayer. Not something that you do to find yourself justified in the sight of God. The faith of Christ is faith in Christ, by which means Paul was given the righteousness which is of God by faith. Want to be saved from your sins? Want to possess the righteousness of God? Then you must come to Jesus Christ, God’s Son. It is a personal encounter with the Savior that results in the salvation of the sinner’s soul, and nothing else will do.
After the event called justification, which is the decree whereby God pronounces sinners righteous who come to Jesus Christ by faith, comes this process called sanctification. And again, we find that Paul’s sanctification, like everything else in his personal theology, is geared to knowing his precious Savior. Read Philippians 3.10 with me and notice that in this one verse reference is made to the Lord Jesus four times:
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
Is your Christian life anything like the Apostle Paul’s? Not that you or I would produce the kind of results in our lives that we read about related to his life, for he was a choice vessel. I refer to the personal nature of his Christian life, the essence of it. Everything about his Christianity, its initiation and its consolidation, was Jesus, Jesus, always the Lord Jesus. How dramatically different was Paul’s Christianity than the cheap fraud that is packaged as the real thing and foisted on an unsuspecting public. And how wicked are those men who pose as soul winners who deceive people by convincing them they have been introduced to a faith which is essentially Christless, that substitutes the ignorant repeating of a few sentences for faith in the Savior.
Now we come to the end of it all, glorification. My text for this message is Philippians 3.11. Shall we stand and read that single verse together?
“If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
There are three things I would like to point out to you to wrap up our study of Paul’s personal autobiographical theology:
First, THERE IS PAUL’S PERSPECTIVE
It is very important to be careful about the perspective from which Paul writes as he presents to his readers his personal autobiographical theology. As with everything else related to a proper understanding of any passage in God’s Word, we must be careful to interpret what Paul wrote in light of the context in which he wrote it.
First, be mindful that the Apostle Paul is not writing from the perspective of a Gentile Christian. Perhaps we too often, in our study of the Bible, forget what I have so oftentimes told this church, but have not told you of late, that Paul was not a westerner and what he wrote is not western literature. The Apostle Paul was a man of the oriental world, of the Middle East. So, he did not see anything about his life as being compartmentalized and isolated, one thing from another, as we westerners, and particularly we who are Americans, do. To a man who was convinced that God was the sovereign ruler of the universe Who knew the end from the beginning, everything was recognized to be connected.
Of course, this would mean that Paul was writing from the perspective of a Jewish Christian. Remember, this whole autobiographical section began with the strongest assertion that could possibly be made that the Apostle Paul was in every sense of the word Jewish. Therefore, what he wrote in this verse was written in a way that no Gentile would ever write it. Keep that in mind as we continue.
Second, THERE IS PAUL’S PURSUIT
Please be careful to drag what has been pointed out in my first point, about Paul’s perspective, into this second point. I am not compartmentalizing here, but laying a foundation and building on top of it.
It is from Paul’s perspective as a Jewish Christian that the initial phrase of the verse is best understood. The phrase “If by any means I might attain” seems terribly weak to many contemporary Christians. How in the world could a man who was saved and knew it quibble so about whether or not he was going to realize this final attainment? Again, this is a question that arises to a westerner that might not be considered by the oriental mind, since the oriental mind does not seek or see a disconnect between the present and the future. Of course, the present leads to the future, except in the minds of to many westerners. Allow me to illustrate: It is typical of western type thinking to imagine that a person could trust Jesus Christ as his savior, have all his past sins forgiven and his future eternal home assured, but then continue to live like the Devil in the present. This is not possible in the Bible, where we read Hebrews 12.14: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” As well, remember what Paul has already written, in Philippians 1.6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Yet throughout western Christianity evangelicals of all stripes think you can live like the Devil, never go to church, never serve God, and still be assured of heaven when you die. Such a mindset of spiritual compartmentalization would never be considered by the Apostle Paul, because the Apostle Paul was not a 21st century American evangelical.
Back to the first century and the Jewish Christian named Paul. Is his statement weak? Is Paul quibbling when he writes, “If by any means I might attain”? I maintain the Apostle Paul is not quibbling with this statement. Rather, he is writing as a Jewish person would speak and is tying his future attainment to his present life. That is, he is the opposite of compartmentalizing his life, separating his present life from his future life. He sees everything in his life, both present and future, as being connected. This is something professing Christians in our day are consciously quite reluctant to do. So many desperately cling to their “once saved always saved” mentality and terminology. Am I suggesting that genuinely saved Christians are not held in Christ’s grip all the way to heaven? Not at all. My convictions about the security of the believer are strong. However, I am persuaded that the terminology “once saved always saved” too easily lends itself to the type of compartmentalization so common in western thinking that isolates the past from the present from the future, so that there is no meaningful connection between the three. Thus, so many who claim they are heaven-bound can only do so when they compartmentalize their lives to such an extent that they have no appreciable concern when their present life is in no way a Christian’s life, because they enjoy a false sense of security in their erroneous conviction that they are still guaranteed a place in heaven. Such professing Christians greatly fear the connection that Paul reveals must exist between any future attainment of heaven with any present knowing of and living for Christ, any current experience of the power of His resurrection, any right now fellowship of His sufferings, and any recent experience of being made conformable to His death. However, that is precisely what the apostle’s “If by any means I might attain” is actually dependent on. He is not questioning whether or not he will attain. However, he is in doubt concerning what those specific experiences that lead to it might be. Will he die in a few days, or will Caesar release him? Paul’s only equivocations, if you want to call it that, have to do with his uncertainty concerning his experiences in his immediate future. Concerning his ultimate destiny, he has no doubts.
This is because Paul’s pursuit is for that which cannot be fully achieved and realized in this lifetime. Here is where you and I learn a lesson, because Paul knew something you and I would do well to understand. There is something that connects the moment of conversion with the moment of glorification. Put simply, it is the Christian life. And if the Christian’s life is not a Christian’s life there can be no real assurance of attainment. Amen? You will not know for sure that you are going to get there. Do you doubt what I say? Are you in doubt that is what Paul means? Turn to some passages with me:
First John 2.3: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”
First Corinthians 6.9-10: 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Romans 8.14: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
Hebrews 12.14: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
If you live a thoroughly compartmentalized life, and see no real connection between this present life you are living and your eternal destiny, these four passages will have little impact on you when you are living in sin. However, the oriental mindset, which recognizes the proper and real connection of the present to the future, results in these four passages being thoroughly disturbing and troublesome to the spirit of any real Christian who is committing sin. You might wonder, What connects my present to my future destination in eternity? The correct answer that most westerners ignore? You are what connects your present to your future. If your future is to be in heaven with Christ, then your present will be, must be, a Christian present and not an unsaved one.
Finally, THERE IS PAUL’S PICTURE
Here is where the full impact of Paul writing from the perspective of a Jewish Christian and not a Gentile Christian is realized.
What Paul was shooting for, what he wanted to realize, what was his place of arrival, is what theologians refer to as glorification. Paul’s terminology here is “the resurrection of the dead.” But it is important to take note of an interesting word used here that is used nowhere else in the Bible.
The regular word in the New Testament for resurrection is the word anastasiV which means resurrection, or to rise up. The preposition ana refers to being in the midst of and the word stasiV refers to the condition of being in a certain position. So, anastasiV means to stand in the midst of, with the picture being everyone fallen down with one raised back up, resurrection.
What Paul had always aspired for as a Jewish man, and wrongly had confidence of achieving as a Pharisee, was the resurrection of the dead, a future time when he thought God would raise up all the Jewish people. But that was before he had been introduced to Jesus Christ.
Though the regular word in the New Testament for resurrection is the word anastasiV, that is not the word Paul uses here. Here he uses a word that he may very well have made up himself, pronounced exanastasiV. By adding the preposition ek, meaning out, to the regular word for resurrection, Paul is indicating that he is now looking forward to something different than he had anticipated as an unsaved Jewish man. He no longer anticipated being raised from the dead with everyone else. He now expects to be raised up separately, which means Paul was looking forward to the Rapture.
But again, let us ask ourselves on what basis did Paul look forward to attaining this out-resurrection from the dead? On what basis did Paul expect to be Raptured? “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead,” looks back to verse 10. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable unto his death.” In other words, Paul’s present Christian activity for Jesus Christ, his surrender, his suffering, and his service, was what convinced him he would be Raptured. He placed no reliance on some supposed sinner’s prayer prayed decades ago.
Christian? This exposition is for you. On what basis do you have confidence that when the dead in Christ shall rise and those of us who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet Him in the air you will be among us? Something that occurred decades ago, but which there has been no evidence of since then? Is that what gives you confidence? It shouldn’t. Excuse me, but forget your commentary reading, your Bible college training, and your radio and television Bible teachers. Look at what the Apostle Paul wrote. There are a great many people who went forward and “got saved,” who were then baptized, who then joined a church, who then served God for a while, and who may even have gone to Bible college and seminary.
The question is if you know the power of Christ’s resurrection now? Do you know the fellowship of His suffering now? Are you made conformable to His death now? Or do you miss church whenever you have something better to do, hawk your wares and call it ministry, forgo reading your Bible, praying, and witnessing, and provide just enough of the veneer of superficial Christianity to salve your conscience?
May I suggest to you that if all you have is a conversion experience in the past, and the hope of the resurrection in the future, with no real life lived for Christ in between that connects the two; you are in for a rude awakening.
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