The High Calling of God

by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of teaching about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. Hebrews 6:1-2 (LSB) 

Many years ago, my wife and I were members of the same church we belong to now, but it was much smaller back then and the leadership was completely different than it is now. It was also at a completely different location. We had been members there for several years when we got a new pastor. I was a deacon and a Bible teacher. On Wednesday evenings we had a meal at church followed by various Bible studies our Pastor wanted to do.  One thing he did for awhile was a “stump the pastor” question and answer time where we would ask him hard Biblical questions and he would try to answer them. One Wednesday we went and he stopped me on the way in and told me he had to go make a visit to the hospital and he wanted me to fill in for him in the “stump the pastor” thing.  Talk about terrifying… In any case, I agreed to do it. All went very well until right at the end. I was asked about disciples and discipleship. This was in the late 1990’s so it was before God had taken me through my radical turn around, but I had been studying this very thing for weeks just before this. I responded that all true believers are disciples. I was very surprised when an older man I did not know loudly interrupted me and said I was wrong. He said there were carnal Christians and there were disciples. I responded that what most people call carnal Christians are probably not really Christians at all, but were more than likely just religious unsaved people. It got quiet. The questions  ended. We were done. Later my pastor heard all about it and told me that I was right and did a good job. Three months later the company I worked for moved my job from OKC to Tulsa and so my wife and I sold our house and bought one in the Tulsa suburbs and moved there in early 2000. 18 months later I was recruited by a Hospital management corporation located in Lenexa, Kansas. Their offer was too good to turn down. I was to be their Database Administrator and would not have to work on Network stuff or P.C. stuff or Email stuff at all, just Database management. I took the job and we moved to the Kansas City area in September 2001 just a week or so before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I worked for them for over 20 years and retired in December 2021 after I turned 70. While we were in the K.C. area God did a huge amount of reconstruction In this heart. As a result of that I started this ministry and became a contributor to Christian Research Network.

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own which is from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God upon faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-12 (LSB) 

7 [Ἀλλʼ] ἅτινα ἦν μοι κέρδη, ταῦτα ἥγημαι διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν ζημίαν. 8 ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ ἡγοῦμαι πάντα ζημίαν εἶναι διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου, διʼ ὃν τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην, καὶ ἡγοῦμαι σκύβαλα , ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδήσω 9 καὶ εὑρεθῶ ἐν αὐτῷ, μὴ ἔχων ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐκ νόμου ἀλλὰ τὴν διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ, τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει, 10 τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ καὶ [τὴν] κοινωνίαν [τῶν] παθημάτων αὐτοῦ, συμμορφιζόμενος τῷ θανάτῳ αὐτοῦ, 11 εἴ πως καταντήσω εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν.
12 Οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβον ἢ ἤδη τετελείωμαι, διώκω δὲ εἰ καὶ καταλάβω, ἐφʼ ᾧ καὶ κατελήμφθην ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ]. Philippians 3:7-12 (NA28)

The words translated as “I have counted” in v7 is ηγημαι. In this context, Paul’s usage of ηγημαι here is “to esteem” or “to count” or “to consider” the value of something in contrast to something else. He has made a judgment call that in contrast to Christ, everything else is as nothing in value. In v8 he reiterates this by saying,  “I esteem (ηγουμαι) all things (παντα) to be loss (ζημιαν ειναι) on account of (δια) the (το) superiority (υπερεχον) of the (της) knowledge (γνωσεως) of Christ (χριστου) Jesus (ιησου) my Lord (του κυριου μου), through (δι) whom (ον) all things (τα παντα) I suffered loss (εζημιωθην), and (και) esteem them (ηγουμαι) to be dung (σκυβαλα) that (ινα) I should gain (κερδησω) Christ (χριστον)! We must never forget that Paul was formerly Saul the Pharisee. He was an up and coming Jewish religious leader. However, something has radically changed the man. He now sees all of the religiosity he had attained himself as σκυβαλα (dung) in comparison to being in Christ, to have Him as His Lord.

In v9 we see that the religiosity he had prior to being in Christ had attained to him a righteousness of his own making that comes from law keeping. However, in Christ, he had attained a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness (δικαιοσυνην) from God that depends on faith (πιστει). Think about this. This word δικαιοσυνην is justification before God based on the perfect righteousness of Christ not that which is imperfect that is the best anyone can do by attempting to earn it by keeping the law.

In v10-11 we see that the Christian has deep desire to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. He or she wants to be like Him. However, in v12 we see that even Paul knew that he had not obtained this yet, but he was driven to make it his own because Christ Jesus had made him His own. This should be our drive as well. We are called, no, we are commanded, in God’s Word to run the race with our eyes fixed on Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2) until we finally meet Him face to face.

13 Brothers, I do not consider myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way; and if in anything you think differently, God will reveal that also to you. 16 However, let us keep walking in step with the same standard to which we have attained.Philippians 3:13-16 (LSB) 

13 ἀδελφοί, ἐγὼ ἐμαυτὸν οὐ λογίζομαι κατειληφέναι· ἓν δέ, τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμενος, 14 κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. 15 Ὅσοι οὖν τέλειοι, τοῦτο φρονῶμεν· καὶ εἴ τι ἑτέρως φρονεῖτε, καὶ τοῦτο ὁ θεὸς ὑμῖν ἀποκαλύψει· 16 πλὴν εἰς ὃ ἐφθάσαμεν, τῷ αὐτῷ στοιχεῖν.Philippians 3:13-16 (NA28)

In these 4 verses Paul gives us the example for us to follow and through this, he shows us that this is the drive of the genuine Christian. We are called to pursue Christlikeness, to mature as Christians, but it must begin with the realization of our need for it. Have you ever known professing Christians whose focus was everywhere, but on this? Sure, as have I. They have their fire insurance and that is all they care about. However, the regenerate Christian knows innately that they are far from the perfection of Christ. Paul tells us to forget the past, both good and bad and replace that focus with one on what lies ahead, εμπροσθεν, straining forward, επεκτεινομενος. This is looking at the promises from God and stretching out with all one’s strength and effort to attain them. In other words, the focus of the Christian is not the temporal, but the eternal and what awaits him or her there in Christ.

He tells us that the mature, τελειοι , must think this way. These are the Christians who realize that they are not mature or perfect or complete, but are, indeed, far from it and it breaks their hearts and drives them to pursue it with their all. He promises us in v15 that when true believers stray from this focus, God will deal with them to draw them back to the pursuit. He disciplines us so we are commanded to hold true, στοιχειν, or conform to this pursuit and never give up.

The genuine Christian is a new creation, not someone who is simply religious or a rule keeper. No, he or she will be marked with a certain knowledge of his or her lack of righteousness and their dire need for it. They will pursue it by pursuing Christ to be Lord of all they are and all they do. This is the high calling of God, to the upward call of Christ to not be satisfied with what this world has to offer, but to see all that is gained outside of this pursuit of Christ as nothing but σκυβαλα.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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