Communion in Object

Philippians 3:12.

We desire to call attention to this scripture as an exemplification of entire oneness between the Lord and His servant as to the object of his calling. If we give the words of another translation this will be still more apparent: "Not that I have already obtained [the prize], or am already perfected; but I pursue, if also I may get possession [of it], seeing that also I have been taken possession of by Christ Jesus." Thus, as the simplest reader will perceive, the apostle's mind was energetically set upon the very end that Christ had in view in "taking possession" of His servant; and towards this goal he daily bent his diligent steps. It was, as we may say, his one business with which through grace he suffered no interference.

Let us then first ascertain what this goal was, or what was the end proposed. It is clear from verse 11 that it was conformity to Christ in glory; because the resurrection from among the dead, at which Paul by any means hoped to arrive, points out the time when this conformity will be accomplished, when even the bodies of our humiliation will be fashioned like unto His glorious body. (v. 21.) With the end Christ had before Him in apprehending Paul, agrees the purpose of God as stated by the apostle in another epistle: "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Rom. 8:29.) Nothing less than this was before the mind of God when He chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. And unless this be perceived, it is impossible to enter into the full truth of Christianity; as otherwise it could not be understood that the first man, who is of the earth earthy, has been entirely displaced by the Second Man who is "out" of heaven.

It should also be observed that communion with God in His purpose in our calling is the secret of all spiritual energy and growth. It was so with Paul in this chapter. He is seen as literally absorbed in his object - in the prize of his calling on high of God in Christ Jesus; and, as he says in another place, he could not see (other things) for the glory of the light which had shone into his soul. Christ glorified - his pattern and object - the One to whom he was to be conformed, possessed his soul, ravished his heart, and thus made him oblivious of every counter-attraction wherewith Satan might seek to allure him into any other path. We consequently see him as one running a race (for he is under the spell of the mighty attractions of Christ in glory), with his eyes fixed upon the prize, and every muscle of his spiritual being strained in his constant and diligent pursuit. If then we would be like Paul in this, in his concentration and devotedness to his object, it can only be so with us, in our measure, when we are on the line of God's purpose; when, that is, our hearts are set upon what He has purposed for His people. The reason of so much defection is, indeed, simply that so many fail to perceive, or decline to accept, what God has revealed as His end in their calling.

But there are, as this chapter abundantly teaches, conditions for entering upon this blessed path. The first of these is, as may be deduced from verse 3, deliverance known and enjoyed. We gather from the context that there were teachers who opposed the heavenly calling, as there have been in every age of the Church; and against these Judaizers - "dogs" - Paul was compelled to utter a solemn note of warning. Not they, he reminds the Philippians, but "we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." And this describes in a most striking way those who are living in the enjoyment of true deliverance - those (not to go further) who have been made free, by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, from the law of sin and death. For until this is reached - and the pathway to it is exhibited in Romans 7 - these characteristics would not apply. Then, and then only, in the full sense of this scripture, are we able to worship "by" (this is probably the accurate reading) the Spirit, to make our boast in Christ Jesus, and to have no confidence in the flesh. It is the blessed heavenly circle where the glory of God and of Christ floods the scene, where everything is according to it, and where all are energised by the Holy Ghost; and into this sphere it is not possible to enter, even by faith, until deliverance has been apprehended and experimentally known in power in the soul.

Another condition, as witnessed in the apostle, is that Christ is the absorbing and exclusive object. We do not mean that God's purpose cannot be known where this condition is not fulfilled. It may be; but it is still true that there will not be communion with Him as to it where Christ does not possess the heart and dominate the affections. For be it ever remembered that it is through the affections that Christ gets in any of us His true place of absolute supremacy. He has His rights and His claims, and these in a certain way may be acknowledged; but it is not until He enshrines Himself in our hearts that we count the things which were gain to us loss for Christ; that the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord outweighs every other consideration, and surpasses every other attraction. In this connection, too, it should be remarked that this state of soul has to be maintained. It was so with Paul, for twenty-eight years have to be interposed between verses 7 and 8. We thus learn that Christ had the same (even if we might not say an enlarged) place in the apostle's. heart after twenty-eight years of service and travel through the wilderness. We need therefore to keep ourselves from idols all along the path if we are to continue to have Christ as our sole and satisfying object.

We may, perhaps, also direct attention to the example of the apostle in verse 10. If it may be so presented, he ever went forward, and was daunted by no difficulties. The goal was so glorious that he had been made willing to encounter any possible suffering in order to reach it. Each clause of the verse should be much pondered; and it is very blessed to note that it commences with - "that I may know Him." But did he not already know Him? it may be enquired. Surely he already knew Him; but the knowledge of Christ is infinite, and every bit of intimacy which He vouchsafes to us does but intensify the desire to know Him ever more fully. We shall grow in the knowledge of Himself throughout eternity. But why does "the power of His resurrection" follow? Because it is that which detaches us from this scene and brings us to His side in the place where He is, where only He can be now known. If, however, we are under the power of His resurrection we shall be willing for the fellowship of His sufferings, and even to be made conformable to His death; to die, like Stephen, as martyrs in the prospect of that glorious day when we shall, at His coming, be called out of our graves, and when we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Finally, it may be added that when the soul is thus entranced with Christ, and thus in communion with God's purpose, the back will be turned upon "those things which are behind," earthly things, and the face will be in the full light of "those things which are before," heavenly things. Moreover, the attention of the soul is concentrated upon the prize of the heavenly calling, and all its energies, inwrought by the Holy Spirit, are expressed in pressing towards the mark for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus. Herein, it is scarcely needful to remark, lies the secret of having our minds upon things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; or, to use the language of this chapter, of having our conversation (all our interests - the interests of the spiritual life) in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: "who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself." If, however, we, beloved reader, would attain to this state of soul, we must be in communion with the purpose of God for His people.