By Charles Welch
The Greek word translated "prize" is brabeion, and occurs in two
1 Cor. 9:24 Run all, but one receiveth the prize.
Phil. 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize.
(According to a mark, I press toward the prize, literally.)
The word prize is derived from brabeus, the judge at a public game who
assigns the prize. Brabeuo, to preside at the games, occurs in Colossians
3:15 where it is translated "rule" and katabrabeuo also found in
Colossians (2:18), means "to defraud or deprive of a prize, to so manage affairs
that the umpire shall pronounce against the contestant". In Colossians the
thought is not so much that of being cheated of the reward, but of failing to
attain unto the required standard. The atmosphere of 1 Corinthians 9:24 and of
Philippians 3:14 is that of the arena, and the race course. In the article
entitled the CROWN, we have shown that "prize" and "crown" are related,
as genus and species.
Philippians 3:10-14 reveals a series of steps toward the goal in view.
FIRST STEP "THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION"
When the Apostle cried, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection"
it is this aspect of resurrection that he has before him. He knew the historic
fact, he knew its fundamental character for all doctrine, he knew all preaching
and all faith was vain without it, but he also realized that there was a
personal and experimental side to the fact of resurrection that had a peculiar
bearing upon the great theme of the Philippian epistle. Let us follow the
Apostle in his quest.
(1) That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.
(2) The fellowship of His sufferings.
(3) Being made conformable unto His death.
(4) If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
It will be seen that this fourfold subdivision falls into an introversion.
A That 1 may know. Power. Resurrection Something to attain
B Fellowship of His sufferings Something to
endure in the
B Conformity to His death I process
A If by any means I might attain Resurrection The Consequence.
It is evident that the prayer "that I may know Him" speaks of a knowledge
that is deeper than either that which is historical or even doctrinal. A person
may be said "to know" when a subject has simply come within the sphere of his
perception, and where this aspect of knowledge is intended, the Greek word
oida is used, a word that is derived from eido to see, or perceive by
means of the senses. This knowledge, however, is not deep, it lies near the
surface of things. To know as represented by the word ginosko implies
insight, acquaintance and personal relationship. It is this word ginosko
that the Apostle uses in Philippians 3:10. Relation with the object is readily
seen in such passages as "Who knew no sin", "I had not known sin". The special
use of the word "know" in Matthew 1:25 and Luke 1:34 shows how intimate this
knowledge is considered to be. In Philippians 3:10 the Apostle was not seeking
fuller information about the Person or the History of Christ; he was not
concerned about the number of prophecies that were fulfilled by s advent, he
desired a closer, more intimate acquaintance, a personal relationship even
though it involved shame; he desired a fellowship and a conformity.
When the full meaning of knowledge is perceived, we can the better understand
how it is that it stands at the very dividing of the ways in Genesis three, and
will be the great and glorious possession of the redeemed in the ages to come (Isa.
11:9).This intimate, personal knowledge of Christ, if taken in. its widest
scope, is so vast, that like the love of Christ "it passeth knowledge". Here in
Philippians 3:10, the Apostle's desire is focussed upon one aspect of His great
work, "the power of His resurrection". Even so, we must remember that he has
given evidence in other epistles that he was acquainted with this mighty power.
He speaks of this in Ephesians 1:19; 3:7,20 and 6:10, in relation to believing,
ministry, answer to prayer, and Christian warfare, but here, in Philippians, he
has something more in view. He desires to attain unto the resurrection of the
dead (a term that awaits examination) and he perceives that this is only
possible by a descent with Christ, comparable in his limited degree, to the
great humiliation and exaltation of Philippians 2:6-11. The great Sacrifice
which the Saviour came to offer, and which underlies the whole plan of
salvation, was completely accomplished when He died "the just for the unjust".
For this purpose He had been born and to make this offering "a body had been
prepared Him". In this great act the believer can have no share. It was done
Moreover, in making this offering He laid down His life voluntarily, "no man
taketh it from ME" He declared. To this, however, man's wickedness and enmity
added the cross, the shame and the sufferings, and in these added aspects
of His great sacrificial work, the believer may have so fellowship. Christ is
said to have suffered "being tempted"; to have learned obedience by the things
which He "suffered"; of being reproached, to have suffered "without the gate"
(Heb. 2:18, 5:8, 13:12). Peter speaks of Christ suffering for us, and thereby
"leaving us an example", associating this suffering with that endured by the
believer who with a clear conscience takes unmerited evil patiently, and
actually telling him that in these things he can "follow His steps". It will be
found that this is which attaches to the sufferings of Christ in the the
believer can be a "partaker" the character N.T. In these sufferings (2 Cor.
1:5-7,1 Pet. 4:13).
The reader will expect a reference to the Apostle's statement that he filled up
"that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh" (Col. 1:24). It
should be noted that here the word is not pathema, but thlipsis
often rendered "tribulation" (Eph. 3:13, Rev. 7:14), and in many passages
associated with future glory as a consequence. The Apostle desired to have
"fellowship" with these sufferings of Christ, and because of this, he also
desired a deeper acquaintance with the power of His resurrection; without such
power, fellowship with Christ's sufferings would be suicidal.
SECOND STEP "THE OUT-RESURRECTION"
Resurrection is not only a blessed hope, it is inescapable. The unjust as well
as the just, they that have done good, and they that have done evil, those who
form the Body of Christ, and those who stand, before the Great White Throne,
each and every one of the seed of the woman, Jew or Gentile, must be raised from
the dead. The fact that the Apostle could preface his reference to resurrection
in Philippians 3:11 with an "if" after having expressed his complete surrender
to the grace of God in Christ, is of itself an indication that he is not
speaking of the fundamental doctrine of resurrection.
"If by any means I might attain unto". No ambiguity attaches to the original
here, the R.V. makes but one alteration, the exchange of "may" for "might". The
simple way of "put ting the condition" is attained by using the particle ei,
as in Philippians 1:22. In the passage before us ei is combined with the
adverb pos "how", and so means "if somehow". The word eipos occurs
but four times in the N.T. and in every case the contingency is very real, the
possibility of failure is stressed. The passages are:
"If by any means they might attain to Phenice" (Acts 27:12). "If by any means
now at length, I might have a prosperous journey" (Rom. 1:10).
"If by any means I may provoke to emulation" (Rom. 11:14).
"If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection" (Phil. 3:11).
The grafting of the Gentile, as a wild olive, failed to provoke Israel to
emulation. The attempt to reach Phenice, ended in shipwreck. The original
of Philippians 3:11 reads eipos katanteso eis, the original of Acts 27:12
reads eipos dunainto katantesantes eis. The differences are purely
grammatical, katanteso, and katantesantes being plural, and the
added word dunainto being the addition of the word meaning "be able".
The experiences of the Apostle recorded in Acts twenty seven and twenty-eight
must have left an indelible impression upon his mind, and as he penned the
words, "if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection", he knew,
that there was the possibility of failing to arrive, just as surely as the
venture to attain unto Phenice met with such disaster. In the verse following,
he emphasizes the fact that he had not "already attained" but that he "followed
after", still further adding "brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended".
Now it is certain that Paul could have entertained no doubt concerning his
standing in grace and his acceptance in the Beloved, his hope like an anchor was
sure, and if he used words that express contingency and uncertainty, then it is
morally certain that he was not speaking of the hope of the
believer. In verse 14, he reveals that his uncertainty was related to a "prize",
and this attitude of mind he had already exhibited in relation to the same theme
in 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:13. The "resurrection", therefore, that was the object
of the Apostle's desires here in Philippians 3:11, for which he suffered and was
willing to endure, must be something equivalent to "the first resurrection" of
Revelation 20:4-6, or the "better resurrection" of Hebrews 11:35. The words
"first" and "better" stand visible for all to read in the passages cited, but
neither the A.V. nor the R.V. use any such qualifying prefix in Philippians
3:11. The A.V. reads:
"If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead".
The R.V. reads:
"If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead",
but that is all the difference that there is between the two versions. The
reader will by this time be desirous of consulting the original, and to this we
accordingly turn. The Received Text reads ten exanastasin ton nekron "the
out-resurrection of or from the dead", the Critical Texts read ten
exanastasin ten ek nekron "the out-resurrection, that which is out
from dead ones". In order to appreciate the intention of the Apostle here, it
will be necessary to review the teaching of the N.T. on this great question of
resurrection. Two sects divided the religious beliefs of Israel into conflicting
camps, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Of the Sadducees it is written that they
say "there is no resurrection" (Matt. 22:23). When the Saviour challenged the
faith of Martha concerning the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, she replied
in the language of the common creed of the day, "I know that he shall rise again
. . . at the last day" (John 11:24). The simplest statement concerning the
resurrection is that given by the Apostle before Felix and the Sanhedrin, a
belief which Israel and the believer could share "and have hope towards God
which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the
dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15). Here in the words anastasin
nekron we have the most elementary form in which the resurrection of the
dead can be expressed, a form used by the Pharisees, and by Paul, by the sister
of Lazarus and by the common people, for the Apocrypha, written long before
Christ, contains the words anastasin eis zoen "a resurrection unto life".
It is, therefore, somewhat disconcerting to read in Mark 9:10 of the disciples
that they questioned one with another, "what the rising from the dead should
mean?" Are we to understand that the very disciples who had been selected to
witness the Transfiguration on the mountain, were not so mature in their faith
as an unconverted Pharisee? Did Martha outstrip the Apostles in this article of
faith? Once again, therefore, we must turn to the actual words as recorded in
the original before attempting a conclusion. The words that troubled the
disciples were those used by the Lord when He said, "till the Son of Man were
risen from the dead," ek nekron anaste, "risen OUT FROM dead
ones". It is the presence of this word ek that caused the questioning. It
was something additional to the common creed. It was this resurrection ek
nekron that declared Christ to be the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:4). The
first to rise out from the dead was Christ, as Paul testifies in Acts
"That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise out
from dead ones".
We now take one further step forward and discover a reference that is nearer to
the form found in Philippians three, tes anastaseos tes ek nekron
in Luke 20:35.
"But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the
resurrection that which is out from dead ones".
Here it will be observed that not only have we words similar to those used in
Philippians 3:11, but a similar context" accounted worthy to obtain". Believers
can be accounted worthy to obtain that age and the out-resurrection, they may be
accounted worthy to escape the dreadful things that are coming on the earth and
to stand before the Son of Man, they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His
name; and the persecutions which they endured were a manifest token of the
righteous judgment of God, that they may be counted worthy of the kingdom of
God, for which they suffered (Luke 20:35, 21:36, Acts 5:41, 2 Thess. 1:5).
The word "obtain" in Luke 20:35 is used by the Apostle in 2 Timothy 2:10, "that
they may also obtain that salvation which is with eternal glory", where the
context associates "suffering" with "reigning", and in Hebrews 11:35, "that they
might obtain a better resurrection" which is an obvious parallel with the "out
resurrection" of Philippians 3:11. While Paul was sure of the "hope" of his
calling, he could not be sure of attaining unto the "prize" of this same
calling, and associated with that prize is the special resurrection, the
out-resurrection and the desire for conformity unto the death of Christ, which
we have been considering.
In the verse following, the Apostle makes it very clear that this uncertainty is
legitimate, and one or two added words are employed in making this fact clear.
"Not as though I had already attained", ("not that I have already obtained" R.V.),
"either were already perfect" ("or am already made perfect" R.V.), "but I follow
after" ("but I press on" R.V.). "If that I may apprehend that for which also I
am apprehended of Christ Jesus" ("if so be that I may apprehend that for-which
also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus") (Phil. 3:12 R.V.). The A.V. repeating
the word "attain" in Philippians 3:12 gives a continuity to the Apostle's
argument, but as two very different words are employed katanto in verse
11, and lambano in verse 12, the R.V. is preferable. The change from
"attaining" to "obtaining" moreover, reveals a change in the Apostle's
objective. He sought first to "attain" to the out-resurrection, and then
subsequently to "obtain" the prize. This comes out clearly when we remember that
lambano "obtain" occurs in 1 Corinthians 9:24,25, "one receiveth
the prize", "they do it to obtain a corruptible crown".
It is, moreover, evident from the Apostle's language, that one who "obtained"
the prize, could be considered as "perfect". Here the Greek word teteleiomai
"I have been perfected" awaits the triumphant teteleka "I have
finished" of 2 Timothy 4:7, where once again we have the race course, the
conflict, and the crown. The reader will recognize that in both of these Greek
words, there is the common root tel which means that the "end" has been
reached, the race run. Telos "end" (Phil. 3:19) gives us teleo "to
reach an end, and finish" (2 Tim. 4:7); and so teleioo "to make perfect"
(Phil. 3:12), and teleios "perfect" (Phil. 3:15). The Apostle said, "I
follow after," and what he sought for was that he might "lay hold of" that for
which he had been "laid hold of" by Christ. Meanwhile his "confidence" in
Philippians one and his "diffidence" in Philippians three give us the two sides
of truth that present a perfect whole.
THE THIRD STEP. THE PRIZE ITSELF
The figure of a race, a conflict with
a crown or prize at the end is used by the Apostle in more places than one. If
this "prize" is something for which we have been apprehended by Christ, then if
for no other reason, than to please Him, we should get to know what it is and
how it may be obtained. While it is right for every believer to sing:
"Not for weight of glory, not for crown or palm,
Enter we the army, raise the warrior's psalm
But for love that claimeth, lives for whom He died",
it is also right for every believer to believe what God has said regarding "the
prize" that is attached to our "High Calling", as it is right that we should
understand the High Calling itself. When one has perceived the riches of grace
that characterize the calling of the Mystery, there is a temptation which is
very strong, to put out the hand to save the ark of God, and to deny the
possibility of "reward" in the Prison Epistles at all, lest by so doing the
character of unmerited grace should be impaired. While sympathizing with this
regard for grace, we must nevertheless resist it, for we have a higher regard
for "truth" of which grace is a part, and truth demands that we shall allow a
rightful place in the dispensation of the Mystery to the undiluted meaning of
"crown", "prize" and "reward".
Let us turn to the epistle to the Colossians, an epistle which stresses the fact
of the believer's "completeness" in Christ, and observe what it says concerning
this aspect of revealed truth.
First, in chapter two the Apostle gives a warning against that attitude of mind
that "beguiles of the reward".
"Let no man beguile you of your reward". The word that demands attention
here is katabrabeuo. Kata means "against", and brabeuo means to be
a judge or umpire, and so to assign the prize in a public game. Brabeuo
occurs in Colossians 3:15 where the peace of God is said to "act the umpire
(rule) in your hearts", a precious thought. Brabeion is a prize. It is
found in 1 Corinthians 9:24 and Philippians 3:14, "the prize of the high calling
of God in Christ Jesus". We are, therefore, not without guidance as to the
subject of this section. It has to do with the prize. Now Colossians, whilst
running very parallel with Ephesians, has much in its central section that bears
upon Philippians. Philippians is the epistle of the "prize" and the
"perfecting", and if we look at Colossians one we shall find under the idea of
being "presented" the two aspects of truth set forth by Ephesians and
Philippians.We shall distinguish between that which can never be lost, an that
which may be lost, and return to Colossians two with clearer views:
The first presentation.
"In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and
unreproveable in His sight"
The second presentation.
"Warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present
every man perfect in Christ Jesus"
The first presentation rests solely upon the finished work of Christ; the second
involves the idea which is found in the word "perfect", of pressing on to the
end. In the first no effort of our own could ever present us "holy"; in the
second we stand in need of "warning".
Satan does not waste his energies in attempting to deprive us of our acceptance
in the Beloved. "Your life is hid with Christ in God". Scripture nowhere says:
"Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take away thy life" but it
does say: "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown"
(Rev. 3:11). Satan was permitted to touch everything belonging to Job except his
The same is true of all the redeemed. There is a prize to be won, a crown to be
gained, but no man is crowned, except he strive lawfully. If, therefore, Satan
can turn the saint away from the fulness of Christ, and get him occupied with
other means and ways, be they ordinances, days, feasts, meats, drinks, false
humility, neglect of the body, unscriptural mediators, or any other thing save
"holding the Head", then the prize is lost, the saint dishonoured, and above all
the Saviour robbed, for what its a crown to us, but an added crown to Him?
"Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with
eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of
heart, fearing God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and
not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the
inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive
for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons" (Col.
"The reward of the inheritance". In this phrase is the key to the
Apostle's object in writing the epistle. The Colossian believers, being members
of the Body of Christ, were already potentially "seated together in heavenly
places in Christ"; already "accepted in the Beloved"; already sure of their
presentation, "holy and unblameable and unreproveable" in the sight of God.
Already the Apostle had said, "giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made
us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col. 1:12).
Words cannot make clearer the assured position of the believer nor the
completeness of this acceptance. Nevertheless, before the chapter is finished we
have found Paul "warning" and "teaching" that he may "present every man perfect
in Christ Jesus", and also at the close of the epistle we find Epaphras praying
for the selfsame thing (Col. 4:12). As it is evident that neither Paul nor
Epaphras have any doubt that what has already been written of the saints as to
standing in Colossians 1:12,13 and 22 remains unalterably true; it becomes
necessary to distinguish between the common "inheritance of the saints in
light", for which all believers have been made meet, and "the reward" attaching
to that inheritance, which was associated with individual faithfulness. That is
the "prize attached to the high calling" which, as in Philippians three, is
associated with "perfecting" (Col. 1:28, 4:12).
We must distinguish between that "holy, and unblameable, and unreproveable"
position which is ours because of the offering of "the body of His flesh through
death", and the possibility of being blamed and reproved for the things
done in service. If we "try the things that differ", we shall see that "hope" is
on a basis of pure unalloyed grace, which excludes all possibility of either
gain or loss, running or serving; and that the "prize" is on a basis of reward,
given only to those who strive lawfully. Knowing these distinctions we shall be
saved a multitude of vexations, and moreover not be found false witnesses of
God, for without doubt, He teaches us that membership of the One Body and
participation in its one hope is entirely outside the range of attainment on our
part. And with equal certainty He assures us that the prize of the high
calling, the reward of the inheritance, and the crown of
righteousness, fall within the category of attainment. True, nothing but grace
will avail, but it is grace used. The reason for the Apostle's assurance
that our life is hid with Christ in God, is that we might know that life
is not in question. He does not say in Colossians 2:18, let no man beguile you
of your life, or membership, or position: these are
never in question. But he does echo the words of another dispensation and
say, "take heed, that no man take your crown".
The word translated "wrong" in Colossians 3:25 is translated "hurt" in
Revelation, where it speaks of being "hurt of the second death". Reward or
forfeiture belong to both contexts. (See MILLENNIAL STUDIES.)
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 the Apostle enlarges upon this figure of the race and
the crown, supplementing his own inspired figures by the "ensamples" provided by
Israel in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:1-13). Grace is emphasized in the epistles
of Paul written before Acts twenty-eight as an examination of Galatians and
Romans will demonstrate. No single chapter repudiates the flesh and its efforts
more strongly than does 1 Corinthians, chapter one, yet the Apostle sees no
incongruity in stressing in the same epistle with equal emphasis the running of
a race, the fact that only one receives the prize, and the necessity for
discipline and temperance on the part of all who enter the lists, with the final
warning, that he himself could possibly become "disqualified" (adokimos 1
Cor. 9:27, not "castaway"), even as with many of Israel even though redeemed out
of Egypt the Lord was not "well pleased" (endokeo 1 Cor. 10:5).
In the last epistle Paul wrote, he speaks not only of the association of "crown"
and "running the race" in connection with himself, but applies the same
principles to "all that love His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8); at the same time he
distinguishes very clearly between the unalterable position of those who "died
with" Christ, as compared with the condition attached to "reigning with him" (2
Tim. 2:11-13). Life with Christ is one thing, reigning with Him is another.
We trust the passages which have been brought before our notice make it clear
that the doctrine of Prize, Crown and Reward is by no means absent
from the epistles of the Mystery. We can, therefore, return to the passage in
Philippians three, which speaks of the "prize of the high calling of God in
Christ Jesus", assured that we are examining a passage of Scripture that
applies with undiminished force to ourselves.
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things
which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of
God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3 :13,14).
"Forgetting . . . I press". What things did the Apostle wish to "forget"? What
things if remembered would hinder his running and spoil his chances for the
Prize? It cannot refer to the fact that Paul was once a Pharisee and an enemy of
the Gospel, for this is remembered with deep appreciation of grace in 1 Timothy
1:11-16, and urged upon the remembrance of Timothy himself in 2 Timothy 1:3;
3:10-14. In Hebrews twelve, in connecton with "running the race that is set
before us" the Apostle urged his readers to "lay aside every weight", which
turns us back to Hebrews six where he says, "leaving the word of the beginning
of Christ, let us go on unto perfection". The Hebrews were hindering their
ability to run the race that was set before them, and to go on unto perfection,
by clinging to the doctrines and practices of a dispensation that had passed.
So, even although the Philippians were called to salvation and the preaching
recorded in Acts sixteen, and referred to in Philippians 4:15, they must
nevertheless beware of bringing over from the Pentecostal dispensation which had
now fallen into abeyance, doctrines and practices which were once right and
proper, but now obsolete and hindrances. They must "forget the things which are
behind". For the Apostle himself, the things that were "behind" would embrace
all that he had counted loss for Christ's sake, and for each one of us, there
will be a similar and personal assessment that we alone can make. From the
prison where the Apostle was held on the Palatine Hill at Rome (Phil. 1:13) he
would hear the shouting and the cheering of the multitudes as they encouraged
their favourite charioteers in the circus maximus. Paul, though a
prisoner, was also a charioteer, he too had a "mark", he too "stretched himself
forward" as the racer did in the tests.
Clement of Rome, who is probably the same person as is mentioned in Philippians
4:3, associates the "prize" brabeion, with Paul's Apostolic career. "St
Paull (he says) gained the brabeion of endurance, having worn chains
seven times for Christ (probably an allusion to the seven rounds of the
racecourse before the final run up of the mark)." From this Greek word for
"prize" brabeion, some think the English "bravo" is ultimately derived.
Coming to the prize itself. Are we to understand the Apostle to teach:
(1) The prize, that is to say, the high calling of God?
(2) The prize, that is to say, the upward call?
(3) The prize which is attached to the high calling of God?
If the Apostle is allowed to speak for himself, then the prize brabeion
is equivalent with a crown, both words being used in
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and both words being used in connection with a race or a
conflict. Katabrabeuo is "to beguile of reward", A.V, "rob you of your
reward" R.V. (Col. 2:18), and ho brabeus was the judge who assigned the
prizes at the games, an umpire or an arbitrator. It is exceedingly difficult to
find support from any passage of Paul's epistles, to suppose that the prize was
itself the high calling. Just as "the reward of the inheritance" in Colossians
3:24, means the reward attached to an inheritance already assured by grace (Col.
1:12), so the prize of the high calling of God, means the prize which is
attached to the high calling already received and entered by grace.
There is, however, an objection to be considered here. The word translated
"high" is ano, an adverb, and as adverbs qualify must be a verb, and if
so, the passage means "the prize of the summons on high" and refers, say
some, to a special exemption from death granted to those who attain unto the
out-resurrection. While it is true that ano is an adverb, it is not true
that in Greek adverbs qualify verbs only, as can be demonstrated by the use of
this very word in Paul's writings. "Jerusalem which is above" (Gal. 4:26), uses
ano to qualify the noun Jerusalem; "seek those things which are
above" uses the phrase ta-ano "the above things", so Philippians 3:14
employs ano to qualify the noun "calling". Klesis is not a verb
and cannot be translated other than "a calling or vocation". It is used eleven
times in the N.T. and ten of the occurrences are found in Paul's epistles.
Ephesians 1:18; 4:1,4 and 2 Timothy 1:9 will indicate the way the word is used
by the Apostle.
It was Sir Robert Anderson who said, that those who translated Philippians 3:14
"the upward call", meaning a future "summons on high", rarely complete the
quotation. Paul does not say "the prize of the high calling of God", what
he says is "the prize of the high calling of God which is IN CHRIST JESUS".
The out-resurrection segregates the believer who has obtained the prize, but is
not itself the prize for which the Apostle was running. When at the last he
could say "finished", he then speaks not in generic terms of a "prize" but in
specific terms "a crown", which he also associates with "reigning together" in
the second chapter of the same epistle (2 Tim. two and four).
THE FOURTH STEP
"THE MARK" set before those who would be "perfect" (Phil. 3 :17-21).
The majority of commentators see no difficulty in the accepted translation of
Philippians 3:15, "let us therefore, as many as be perfect", or if they had any
problem, the difficulty is left unexpressed. Most take the word "perfect" here
to mean "mature" as contrasted with "babes" and immature, and in other contexts
this is quite true (Heb. 5:14). If, however, we look back to Philippians 3:12,
where the Apostle says of himself that he was not already "perfect" or "mature",
we shall have a difficulty in accepting the usual rendering of verse 15. If Paul
was not then "perfect" who among the Philippians or his readers down the ages
could hope to be? Further, it reflects upon the intelligence of the Apostle to
make him say in verse 12 that he was not "mature" yet at verse 15 to continue
his argument with the word "therefore" and assume that nevertheless both he and
others were at the same time "mature" or "perfect".
It is an axiom that requires no demonstration to prove that a thing cannot both
be, and not be, at one and the same time. Conybeare and Howson sense the
difficulty saying "the translation in the A.V. of teteleiomai (verse 12)
and teleioi by the same word, makes Paul seem to contradict himself" and
their way out of the difficulty is to translate verse 15 by "ripe in
understanding". This, however, only conceals the difficulty from the English
reader. Macknight is the only Commentator we have consulted who senses the
difficulty. He translates Philippians 3:15, "As many, therefore, as WISH To
BE perfect". Osoi oun teleioi contains no verb. The "be" is supplied
in the A.V. to make sense. If we must supply a verb, why not keep the unity of
the Apostle's argument? Why make him contradict himself within the space of
three verses? Why accuse him of using a term in two different meanings without
the slightest warning to the reader? "As many as would be", or who "wish to be
perfect", makes all clear and straightforward. All who would emulate the
Apostle's desire and eagerness, must emulate his "mind"; they must be "thus
minded" and we have only to go back to the opening of the great argument in
chapter two, to realize that the Apostle is turning back to the "mind that was
in Christ Jesus". The Received Text reads at verse 16:
"Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule,
let us mind the same thing".
The use in the A.V. of the word "attain" in Philippians 3:11,12 and 16 to
represent three different Greek words, has robbed the English reader of the
means to appreciate the transition of thought in the Apostle's argument. We have
already observed that in verse 12, the word should be "obtain", we now draw
attention to the original of verse 16, where phthano is the word
translated "attain". Dr. Bullinger's Concordance and Lexicon here says, "phthano,
to come or go before another, to be beforehand with, to overtake, outstrip; to
come first". It is this word that is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and
translated "prevent" which is from the Latin provenio "to come before".
The recognition of this Greek word "to outstrip", while it brings us closer to
the Apostle's language, makes the suggested translation offered by Lewin
untenable, "but whereunto we have outstript, walk in the same". While it is of
the very nature of a race that competitors should endeavour to outstrip others,
the race set before the believer would appear to the worldling as though the
prize was awarded to the last man in rather than the first.
The Great Example of chapter two, appeared at all points to be giving away
advantages. His humble follower Paul, pursued the prize while at the same
time counting all things loss. Whoever won a race, and "esteemed the
affairs of others, of far
more importance than his own" (Phil. 2:3)? In this competition there is no
thought of elbowing the weak brother out of the way, but rather of losing place
and pace while we pause to help him on to his feet. The Apostle exhorted the
runner to "lay aside every weight" yet at the same time revealed that the law of
Christ called upon every entrant "to bear one another's burdens". This somewhat
paradoxical state could obtain only in the realm of grace. The hymn. expresses
something of this quality when it says:
"Through darkness and defeat,
He won the mead and crown;
Trod all His foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down".
Some MSS. omit the words "by the same rule, let us mind the same thing". Others
omit the word "rule"; yet others omit "let us mind the same thing". Griesbach
simply cancels the whole passage, and many critics take it for granted that the
reference to the "rule" has crept in from Galatians 6:16, which is a gratuitous
piece of criticism. The "rule" kanon refers to "the white line by which
the course in the stadium was marked out, including the whole space between the
starting-place and the goal, and that those who ran out of that space did not
contend lawfully. The runners, in endeavouring to pass one another, were in
danger of going out of that space" (Hammon quoting Julius Pollux, A.D. 180-238).
Aqqilauses the word kanon in his Greek version of Job 38:5. The Apostle
taught the Ephesians that the spirit of wisdom and revelation was given "in the
acknowledgment" of Christ, so here in Philippians the Apostle says, "I follow
along the mark" kata skopon dioko, "and as many as would be perfect" and
obtain the prize, they too will "think this". There are other things, such as
the observance of one day above another, or the eating or not eating of certain
foods, in which there will be considerable differences of opinion, but provided
that all press on in the right spirit, God will reveal these things to such. We
are to be "strivers together" for the faith, but not strivers with one another
(Phil, 1:27, 2:3).
The Apostle has, by his exhortation, thrown the believer back upon the example
both of the Lord and of himself, he now proceeds to enforce the need for
observing this example both positively, "be followers together of me" and
negatively, "and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample" (Phil.
3:17). The words of verses 18 and 19 are a parenthesis, the whole passage being
constructed as follows:
A 17 Positive Be followers together of me . . . us for
B 17 Negative
Mark them which walk
B 18, 19 Negative
A 20, 21 Positive Our citizenship is in heaven . . . we
shall be changed.
Five things are enumerated by the Apostle when speaking of those whose example
was to be avoided.
(1) They were enemies of the cross of Christ (see Heb. 6:6, 10:29) .
(2) Their end was destruction (or
"Perdition" as Heb. 10:39).
(3) Their god was their belly (as Esau, Heb. 12:16).
(4) Their glory was in their shame.
(5) They minded earthly things.
It is impossible to believe that a church of so high a spiritual standard as
that of the Philippians could need a solemn warning
not to follow a worldly crowd, yet at first sight such a list as that given
above does not seem of possible application to a believer. Let us examine them a
little more closely, and start with the last named "who mind earthly things". It
will be conceded after a moment's thought, that the unsaved man of the world has
no option, he can mind nothing else.
Philippians 3:15-19 is a section complete in itself, and the word phroneo
"mind" occurs in it as follows:
A 3:15 As many as would be perfect (one thing, to hen verse
13) be thus minded
Otherwise (heteros) minded
A 3:16 Whereto . . . outstripped others . mind the same thing
B 3:19 Who
mind earthly things (ta epigelo).
It will be seen that those who mind earthly things are in correspondence with
those who think differently from the Apostle in his single-eyed effort to attain
the prize. "Earthly things" therefore need not mean things positively sinful,
that come in between the runner and his goal; "every weight" as Hebrews twelve
suggests. "Earthly things" are in the original
ta epigeia (Phil. 3:19). "Things on the earth" are ta epi tes ges
(Col. 3:2). "Earthly things" are spoken of in John 3:12, James 3:15, 1
Corinthians 15:40, 2 Corinthians 5:1 and in Philippians 2:10 and 3:19. In each
case, "earthly things" are set over against "heavenly", "from above" and
"celestial". Those who may have been persuaded that the "earth" not "heaven" is
the sphere of blessing for all the redeemed should heed this warning. "Our
citizenship is (huparchei) in heaven".
Those, therefore, who mind earthly things, are those who do not act in
accordance with their heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20) and whose example and
teaching will "beguile" them of their reward. This must be shunned by all who
seek the prize of the high calling.
The example of Abraham, as set out in Hebrews 11:8-16, who desired a better
country, "that is, an heavenly", can be added to that of the Apostle here. If
the last of the list of five things to avoid can describe those who are
believers, let us return to the head of the list and ponder again the dreadful
words, "the enemies of the cross of Christ". James declares that friendship with
the world makes one "the enemy of God" (Jas 4:4), but will it be denied that
such friendship is possible to a child of God? One may become an enemy in the
eyes of another by telling him unpalatable truth (Gal. 4:16), and enmity can be
exhibited and maintained by a middle wall of partition (Eph. 2:15). A believer
can, therefore, by adopting some attitude make himself an enemy of the truth for
which the cross of Christ stands.
To many, the cross of Christ is seen only is an evangelical light, the central
testimony to unsaved sinners. To those who see no further than this aspect of
the cross, those referred to in Philippians 3:18 cannot possibly be believers.
To those who have examined the place which the cross occupies in Paul's
testimony and have seen its essential message to the believer who is already
saved, the warnings of these verses will present no problem. We have
demonstrated the many ways in which the epistle to the Hebrews runs parallel
with that to the Philippians, and the only reference to the cross in that
epistle is found in Hebrews 12:2, in direct connection with "running the race
which is set before us". This is the last reference to the cross in the New
Testament, the earliest references (Matt. 10:38, 16:24) relate to the cross,
speak also of discipleship and future reward. Paul uses the doctrine of the
cross to counter the fleshly wisdom of the Corinthian believers (1 Cor. 1:17,18;
2:2), he teaches the Galatian believers that by the cross the world and its
boasting are repudiated (Gal. 5:11; 6:12,14), and that the emancipation of the
believer, together with the complete reconciliation of the One Body, are
accomplished by the cross of Christ (Eph. 2:16, Co1.1:20; 2:14).
Those who are "otherwise minded" and whose associations with the world and the
flesh run in opposition to the "one thing" that characterized the Apostle's
testimony, would be, though believers, "enemies" of all that the cross of Christ
stood for, and so become examples for the Philippians to shun.