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Philippians 3:1-21

 

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

 

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh- though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

 

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. 
(ESV)

 

The Crucified Triumphs

Friday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity

20 June 2014

How often we hear the preaching of "'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace" (Jer 8:11). Paul came preaching not external peace but the peace of God that surpasses human understanding (Phil 4:7). He came preaching not external wisdom, but the cross of Christ that surpasses all human wisdom. He preached not the easy life, or the 'best life now,' but He came preaching death. Oh, not the death of others, as we see in other world religions. Instead, Paul proclaimed the death of the adherents themselves, but especially their God. Paul preached not a phony peace, but a peace that only comes from the testimony of the crucified Savior. This message has none of the easy attraction that people often desire to hear in their itching ears (2Ti 4:3). When the Crucified triumphs in His weakness, it is a miracle of God.

 

Remarkably, the proclamation of a crucified God triumphed in a world full of many other alternatives. The ancient world was full of spiritualities and philosophical schools that attracted their adherents, not unlike our present time. Some of these had every appearance of human wisdom, such as the Areopagus of Athens, whose members sat upon a rocky outcropping below the dazzling Acropolis discussing life's greatest questions, including religious questions. Paul himself addressed them, and they listened politely until he posited a belief in the resurrection of the flesh (Acts 17:16-34). This must have confirmed for him that only the foolishness of the cross could ever succeed in the world. The Areopagus, upon which I climbed a few years ago, is now a slippery and graffiti defaced rock like many another in Greece. The Crucified, whose sign was raised on another hill far away, has completely eclipsed the wisdom of the Areopagus, now remembered primarily because the emissary of the cross was foolish enough to proclaim the divine wisdom there. In the sign of the cross the Christ triumphs.

 

Paul might well have possessed human wisdom and expressed it in the most eloquent terms. He who was the apostle to the Gentiles, whose education was quite significant, both spiritually and philosophically, might well have boasted of such things (Phil 3:4-7). Such external wisdom was nothing in comparison to the humble preaching of the cross. In such simple testimony to Christ there is life.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"Paul said, 'And I, when I came to you, brothers,' (again he used the word 'brothers,' to diminish the harshness of the utterance) 'did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom' (1Co 2:1). 'Tell me, had you, Paul, chosen to come 'with excellence,' would you have been able?' 'I, indeed, had I chosen, would not have been able. But Christ, if He had chosen, was able. However, He would not, in order that He might render His victory more brilliant.' Therefore also in a previous passage, showing that it was His work which had been done, His will that the word should be preached in an unlearned manner, Paul said, 'Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom' (1Co 1:17). Infinitely greater, than Paul's willing this, is the fact that Christ willed it.

                            

"He said, 'My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom' (1Co 2:4). He said not 'the preaching,' but 'the testimony of God' (1Co 2:1) which word was itself sufficient to withhold him. For he went about preaching death. For this reason he added, 'For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified' (1Co 2:2). He meant to convey that he is altogether destitute of external wisdom; as indeed he was saying above, 'I did not come with lofty speech or wisdom.' Plainly, he might have possessed this. For he whose garments raised the dead and whose shadow expelled diseases, was capable of receiving eloquence. For eloquence is a thing which may be taught, but miracles transcend all art. He then who knows things beyond the reach of art, much more must he have had strength for lesser things. But Christ did not permit it; for it was not fitting. Therefore Paul rightly said, 'For I decided to know nothing (1Co 2:2), for I, too, for my part have the same will as Christ.'

 

"It seems that he speaks more harshly to the Corinthians than to any others, in order to repress their pride. Thus, the expression, 'I decided to know nothing,' was spoken in contrast to external wisdom. 'For I came not weaving syllogisms or sophisms, nor speaking to you anything else other than Christ crucified. My opponents indeed have ten thousand things to say, and concerning ten thousand things they speak, winding out long courses of words, framing arguments and syllogisms, compounding sophisms without end. But I came to you saying no other thing than "Christ was crucified," and all of them I overcame. This is a sign of the power of Him whom I preach, which no words can express.'" 

 

 John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 6.1
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, let me know nothing but You, the Crucified. Protect me from the world's wisdom, that I might testify to Your weakness. Help me to trust that Your proclamation will do what You say. Amen.

 

For Bart Day and Charles St-Onge and many other faithful preachers, who are celebrating the anniversary of their ordination, that they might continue to be a blessing to God's holy people

 

For President Dale Meyer and the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, that their work would be blessed by Christ the Crucified

 

For Geoff Krumwiede and Anastasia Murray as they are wed tomorrow, that they might reflect rightly the perfect relationship of Christ and His bride, the church
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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