Summary: Year C. Fifth Sunday in Lent April 1st , 2001

Year C. Fifth Sunday in Lent

April 1st , 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Philippians 3: 4b -14

Title: “Knowing Christ vs. Knowing About Christ.”

A few verses above in chapter three verses two and three, Paul admonished the Philippians to “beware of the dogs…evil-workers…mutilation!” Remember that Jews called Gentiles “dogs”- referring to their disgusting behavior in violation of the Law, now Paul calls the Judaizers by the same name, referring to their insistence that Gentiles become Jews before becoming Christians. Paul is condemning an attitude rather than people. It was an attitude he once had, but has now abandoned in favor of Christ. He no longer believes or acts as if he can please God by his own powers or deeds.

In verses three and four, the dichotomy between flesh and spirit appears. “Flesh,” human power without God, when applied to Gentile situations usually refers to their ignoring sins of the body. When applied to Jewish situations, as here, it refers to too much emphasis on externals, such as physical circumcision. Paul was circumcised in the flesh and it did him little good, since he persecuted the Church in the name of righteousness. He, like all Christians, who are metaphorically “circumcised,” is now marked with the sign of he Spirit. He now sees things clearly. His attitudes are consistent with Christ’s. His values are in the right order and his actions and sufferings are in union with the Lord. He enjoys a right relationship with God, all the while admitting that it is an ever-growing one, one pressing on to completion.

In this portion of the letter Paul engages in a little autobiographical diversion to give the Philippians an few pointers on how he deals with his own past in the light of Christ and how he deals with suffering and opposition. It comes down to a personal application and appropriation; just as Christ as image of God emptied himself of divine prerogatives and took the form of a servant, so Paul, who once was a circumcised Jew, proud of his status before God as his special, chosen son, emptied himself of that status, now counting it as disposable rubbish, to become a servant also. And just as Christ was in the end elevated, so Paul presses on to the high goal of being perfected in Christ. Paul can say in chapter three verse seventeen, “Join in imitating me” because he is imitating Christ.

In verse eight, “I consider everything as a loss,” When in chapter two verse five, Paul taught that the Christian should have the mind, mind-set, attitude that was in Jesus Christ, he was referring to the “eternal attitude.” However, having the same attitude as Jesus, human, Christ, divine, makes the vision more clear. The vision has parameters that, without Christ, it would not have. It would be a very general vision and perhaps not too helpful as a guide on earth. However, in Christ, the vision has a certain shape, if we can use such a term. Specifically, Paul is referring to all he formerly held dear and sacred, especially his religion. That is all changed now since he met Christ. He sees things differently and now counts really everything as inconsequential unless it pertains to and advances the cause of Christ. Paul has no identity outside of, apart from Christ. He has been grafted onto Christ.

Because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord: Paul does not mean “knowing about” Christ Jesus. He means knowing in the personal sense. This is surprising because he never really met the historical Jesus. The most that could have happened was that he might have heard him speak, although he never mentions such. Yet, he claims a personal knowledge of him. This is the same kind of personal knowledge open to all Christians, although Paul’s would be deeper because of Christ’s appearance to him on the road to Damascus. This “knowledge” changed his whole outlook, perspective, attitude. It revealed the true value of everything, which turns out to be “not much” compared to Christ. In fact, he uses the word “rubbish,” not in the sense of anyone’s or anything’s intrinsic value, but in the sense that it can all be thrown away like rubbish.

In verse nine, “not having any righteousness of my own,” Despite his impeccable Jewish credentials Paul recognizes that his relationship with God is not earned, deserved or acquired. It is given, freely and undeservedly by faith in Christ. Since it is an invisible gift one must trust that it has been given. Once trusted then the effects of the gift start to show.

In verse ten, “to know him and the power of his resurrection,” The first felt effect of faith in Christ is a personal knowledge of him. This is felt by a change in outlook, perspective, attitude. One does not see a different world but sees the world differently. What was formerly important, no longer is. What one would tend to postpone- apologies, personal reforms, love- becomes urgent. One’s priorities become rearranged. The power of his resurrection is felt in an ability to rise above the superficial, the seemingly impossible and both deepen and broaden one’s experience of life and reality. Christ who has risen above all that now lives in the Christian and makes available that power to the Christian.

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