In this passage, the Apostle Paul recounts his religious heritage - then he states it was all worthless when compared to knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Having the righteousness of God credited to his account through his faith in Jesus was worth more than anything this world could ever offer. Paul knew that when he stood before the Lord to give account on the day of judgment, God was not going to be impressed by his achievements or how zealous he was as a Pharisee. He had already fallen short of God's glory, and he needed the Saviour to save him.
Philippians 3:10-12 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
What was the most important thing in light of eternity was not what Paul had done, but what the Lord Jesus Christ had done to save him - and that Paul knew Jesus as his Saviour.
Paul sought to walk close with Him each day - that I may know Him.
He desired to have the same power at work in his life that raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, the power (dunamis - where we get our word "dynamite") of the Holy Spirit working in and through him - the power of His resurrection.
He wanted to share in Christ's sufferings (Romans 8:17), to identify with his Lord, and to have and know God's comfort and strength in his trials - the fellowship of His sufferings.
He sought to die to himself daily and do the Lord's will for his life - being made conformable unto His death.
Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul chose to put the past out of mind, chose to not dwell upon his past achievements (which amounted to nothing in light of eternity) or past failures (which were repented of and forgiven) - he was not going to live looking backwards, but forwards. He would focus on God's will for him now, to look ahead to those things which God had planned out for him, those good works which God had already ordained for him to do. As a spiritual athlete, he was going to stretch out and reach for those things which God had in front of him.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
He was going to press toward, pursue, the mark - the goal, the prize - that the Lord had for those who were faithful in their service to Him. That was his high calling.
The word for high means "upward or on the top," from a root word meaning "opposite." He was going to rise above this world, climb upward, and live opposed to the course of this world. That was the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The hardest course is to swim against the stream, to go upwards rather than downwards - but that is what God has called him, and us, to do.
Psalms 18:16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
Psalms 18:48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
The Lord reached down from above and saved Paul, then lifted him up above his enemies and troubles.
Proverbs 15:24 The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.
Then God expected Paul to live above this world, spiritually-speaking - live above and opposite to the course of this world. That is the wise course. The first few chapters of 1 Corinthians compare the wisdom of this world with God's wisdom, the wisdom found in God's Word.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
One of the verses of Stepping In The Light catches this thought:
Trying to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Upward, still upward, we follow our Guide;
When we shall see Him, “the King in His beauty,”
Happy, how happy, our place at His side.
Ecclesiastes is a book in the Bible that gives the perspective of life from an earthward view. The phrase under the sun is used 29 times in the book.
Ecclesiastes 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Solomon's conclusion: life lived under the sun is vanity and vexation of spirit. It is interesting to note that this phrase is used seven times in this book, telling us that life lived apart from the wisdom and perspective of God is completely vain - it is empty, fruitless, meaningless! I can attest to that - when I backslide and focus on this world or look at things in my life from the perspective of the world, it is vain, spiritually dry and unsatisfying, and it vexes my soul.
We are to live our lives from the perspective of eternity - from God's viewpoint.
Colossians 3:1-3 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
The word for above here is the same underlying word as high in Philippians 3:14. Living our lives with our affections and minds on things above is our high calling. We are to live above this world! Not to be focussed on or enamored with what this world has to offer us - it will all pass away.
1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
We are not to live the way the wisdom of this world dictates, from a worldly perspective:
James 3:13-16 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
We are to live with God's perspective, applying the wisdom from above - the wisdom that enables us to live above this world:
James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
One final passage to cap off this study. It contains a familiar verse, but I want you to think about one of the phrases in it:
Isaiah 40:28-31 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Mount up means "to ascend, intransitively (be high) or actively (mount)." Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines mount as "To rise on high; to ascend... to climb; to get upon an elevated place."
Are you rising above? Are you following God's high calling on your life? Are you walking - better yet, living - on higher ground?
(Words by Johnson Oatman, Jr.)
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.
I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till Heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Written October 6th/08
(Preached October 4th/08)
Four part series: Our Calling In Christ
Part One - The Hope Of Your Calling
Our Hope In Christ (Follow up study)
Part Two - The High Calling
Part Three - The Holy Calling
Part Four - The Heavenly Calling