Pursuing God –Our Reasons (Part Three)

November 14, 2012

Continued from yesterday:

Some people say that Phil. 3:7-11 informs us that Paul’s main purpose in life was to know Christ. However, that is not what this passage teaches, even though it does reveal to us that Paul valued knowing Christ above all worldly achievements. For this passage additionally teaches us that Paul desired to share in Christ’s righteousness, power, and sufferings –so that he might attain eternal life– while the verses following, show that he was also highly concerned with achieving holiness, maturity, perfection, and correct doctrine. (v. 12-21) Moreover, he so deeply desired everyone else to live in these as well, that he was repeatedly warning them with tears. (v. 18)

We cannot take a few verses of God’s Word and make a whole doctrine out of it. We must balance Scripture with Scripture and interpret it by and against itself –not by what feels good or right, nor by what certain theologians teach. Some people are trying to teach us that Paul’s primary pursuit in life (and thus ours should be too) was to know Christ and that this desire of his sprang from no other motive than to enjoy Christ. No, this is called twisting the Truth.

Paul did want to know Christ. But was it a pursuit above other godly pursuits, or was it a goal balanced in with his other Spirit-led goals? And was his sole motive in knowing Christ that of enjoying Him? This sounds a bit like Calvinist jargon. But let’s test the validity of these “Truths” using Scripture.

Paul says in Rom. 1:5 that he received apostleship, for the sake of Christ’s name, to call people to the obedience that comes from faith. Hmmm… so Christ wants obedience and Paul says that he was commissioned to call others to this. Then, in verse 9 of the same chapter, we see Paul declaring that it is with his whole heart that he serves God, doing so by preaching the Gospel. So we see that his life’s pursuit is serving God –by preaching. And in verse 10 he speaks about praying –at all times– about having the opportunity to impart to others the Truth of the Gospel of Righteousness. (See v. 11-17)

In Rom. 15:20 Paul speaks again about his ambition of preaching the Gospel, calling his proclamation of the Gospel his “priestly duty” (v. 16) so that others might become sanctified and acceptable to God. (same verse) In 16:25-27 he says he proclaims this Gospel so that all nations might believe and obey Christ. This is a correct pursuit for all of us, for it is only through obedience that anyone comes to know Him. (1 John 2:3 & 3:6,24) Furthermore, through obedience to His Word, God’s love is made complete in us (2:5), we are kept in His love (John 15:10), and we prove our love for Him. (14:15) But, if we do not obey Him, we do not know Him (1 John 2:4) or love Him. (5:3) Nor do we possess Eternal Life. (2 Thes. 1:8,9) Therefore, every one of us must carry out His commands (1 John 5:2) –all of them (v. 3 // 2 John 1:6 // Matt. 19:17)– without spot or blame before Him (2 Peter 3:14), including the one about teaching throughout the world the Gospel of repentance, forgiveness, power, and obedience. (Matt. 28:20 // 1 Peter 1:2)

Back to Paul: He continuously spoke about his mission of trying to persuade men of the Truth. (2 Cor. 5:11) He speaks of the commission he was given on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:12) when Jesus said He was appointing him as a servant and a witness (v. 16), sending him (v. 17) to open eyes to the Truth so that they might be freed from Satan’s rule, be forgiven, and be sanctified in Christ. (v. 18) In 20:20,21 Paul states this same goal of his, and says in verse 24 that he considers his life worth nothing to him, “if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me –the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace.”

Does this sound like Paul’s primary pursuit in life was to know and enjoy Christ? Truly, his pursuit was much less self-centered and selfish than that! And because of those who would distort the Truth (Acts 20:29,30), he was warning everyone he could, day and night and with tears, to be on guard against deceptions. Does this sound like someone whose main concern is to pursue knowing Christ for his own enjoyment? Or does it sound like someone who pursues knowing Christ for the sake of Christ’s name, Kingdom, and others’ salvation? Certainly the latter. In fact, if we read in Rom. 9:1-3 that Paul had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish of heart” concerning his fellow Israelites who were not saved, almost wishing himself cursed if it could do any good toward their salvation, how can anyone not teach that all born-of-the-Spirit people are called to be whole-heartedly, fervently, and with all our strength and ability, proclaiming (as well as living) the Message of Truth everywhere and at all times?!

with love,

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