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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"Our Citizenship Is In Heaven" -- Philippians 3:12-4:1

The Seventh in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Letter to the Philippians

Whatever we say about Paul and the importance of his doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, we must not overlook the fact that Paul is an eschatological thinker–his focus is always on the time of the end regardless of whatever real life issues he must deal with in his letters.  Even while Paul remains under house arrest in Rome awaiting the outcome of his trial before Caesar (Nero), Paul desires to know better the resurrection power of Jesus through which he will attain to the resurrection of his body at the end of the age.  Even as the Apostle exhorts the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution from without (Greco-Roman pagans) and from within (the Judaizers who had recently arrived in Philippi and were beginning to torment the church), Paul repeatedly tells the Philippians to do the things necessary to stand firm.  They are to be of one mind, one accord, and love one another, in light of the day of Christ Jesus (our Lord’s second advent).  While the theme of the entire Philippian letter can be summed up in one word, “rejoice,” Paul’s own joy in the midst of suffering is thoroughly grounded in his knowledge that Jesus directs all of human history to his appointed end (eschatology).  Whatever comes to pass serves to bring us closer to the day of “Christ Jesus.”  Yet, there is much to do until that day comes.  This requires that the Philippians stand firm in the face of persecution and as far as humanly possible put into practice those things which Paul has exhorted them to do, and all the while keep their eyes fixed on the finish line.

We are returning to our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and we have made our way as far as the second half of the third chapter (vv. 3:12-4:1).  As we saw last time, Paul warned the Philippians about  the presence of Judaizers in their congregation (3:2), identifying these men as enemies of the gospel.  Paul uses very strong language in this regard.  He calls these false teachers dogs, evil-doers, and mutilators of the flesh–men who boast about their own personal righteousness all the while speaking despairingly of those Gentile Christians who dare reject their heretical teaching.  

While we might be a bit dismayed that Paul would use such harsh language of others, Paul has skillfully demonstrated that it is the Judaizers who deserve the same derogatory names which they had been using of their opponents.  The Judaizers claim to be righteous through their good works, specifically circumcision, but they must realize that the very same Apostle Paul, whom they seem to despise, can put them all to shame when comes to claiming human merit before God.  If any circumcised Jew with a zeal to obey the law of God had grounds to boast, it was Paul.  Paul was a true Hebrew of Hebrews, a well trained Pharisee.  But after Jesus appeared to him while Paul was on his way to hunt down and arrest Christians in Damascus, Paul came to see that his own personal righteousness (which he describes as “blameless”) was really only so much “rubbish.”  Paul’s reflection upon being “found in him” (Jesus) and possessing a righteous not his own, which instead comes from God, and which justifies, requires a bit of qualification so as to make sure his words cannot be distorted by the Judaizers.  This was an ever-present threat as Paul knows all too well.

Once Paul has revealed his heartfelt desire to know Christ’s resurrection power and attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11), he must now clarify that this is something for which he longs–this is not something he’s already attained through his own accomplishments, even those things he has accomplished in his office as apostle.  The Judaizers may boast about their attainment of perfection in the flesh, but Paul will not even consider boasting about such things–even though he could.  Of course, there is the sense, as the author to the Book of Hebrews makes plain, that believers in Jesus are presently reckoned as perfect, as when he says in Hebrews 10:14, “for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”  In one sense our salvation is a settled matter and God regards us as perfected when we first believe in Jesus and are united to him, even as we begin the lifetime process of being sanctified as the sinful nature is progressively weakened.

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