Thursday, May 29, 2014

Study of Philippians--3:12-16

Warnings about Perfectionism—3:12-16

1. Perfection is not attainable, but press on to fulfill your purpose—3:12

Moving on to a new paragraph, Paul speaks of his goal in light of his loss. It is clear that Paul is speaking with respect to his own faith and life. Although the new paragraph opening is somewhat ambiguous in the Greek text, it is not precisely clear how it related to what has gone before.[1] The sentence begins abruptly with ouch oti (lit. not that). It is a formula of a disclaimer (cf. John 6:46; 7:42; 2 Cor. 1:24; 3:5; 2 Thess. 3:9).[2] As one looks at the paragraph, it begins with a parallel pattern, as show by Silva:[3]

            A (12a)            I have not attained [lambano]
                        B (12b)            I pursue [dioko] that I may reach [katalambano]
            A (13a)            I do not reckon to have reached [katalambano]
                        B (13b-14)       I pursue [dioko] toward the goal

As one can see it is a contrasting negative/positive pattern. The question is to what do the negatives refer?  Let us look at the text:

The first negative reads: “Not that I have already obtained [it] or have already become perfect” (Phil 3:12). This is an emphatic disclaimer. The Greek text does not have the word it; the word it may be implied, but it is not stated. Obtained is a transitive verb with the object omitted.[4] The Greek word is lambano, meaning to take, take in hand, to receive, or seize. It should be pointed out that this is not the same word as found in verse 11, although the KJV translates it by the same English word (attain). The Greek word in verse 11 is katantao, meaning to arrive. The question is he has not received or seized what? It seems to me that the key to the answer is in the continuation of the phrase—or have already become perfect. The connector or makes these two phrases parallel and further defines what we have not obtained. What he has not received is perfection. The Greek word is teleioo,[5] which has a wide range of meanings: to be brought to completion, accomplished; finished, perfect, or to be fully developed.[6] Delling notes the word has the strong thought of totality.[7] The word has a threefold use in Scripture: (1) Positional perfection is what we have in Christ (Heb. 10:14). (2) Relative perfection, that is spiritual maturity (Phil 3:15; Col. 4:12), and is gained progressively. (3) Ultimate perfection that is attained at the resurrection. Silva notes that linguistically, the implied object is simply the out-resurrection.[8] The context here is that of glorification. It speaks of ultimate perfection of the body, soul, and spirit. But Paul denies that he has yet found its complete realization. IN PAUL there is clearly a tension between not having and having.

Many feel that this is an expression of caution to some at Philippi that claimed a superior state of sanctification, even a degree of perfection. However, Paul repudiates the idea of sinless perfection. As Lloyd-Jones correctly and strongly points: “There is no such thing as perfection in this life and world, it is impossible.”[9] He points out two errors that those who claim perfection make: (1) is incomplete examination of themselves.[10] (2) The error of setting too low a standard.[11] I would add a third: Legalism, which centers upon only outward actions, not internal cleansing and motives. Someone has defined legalism as the fleshly attitude which conforms to a code in order to glorify self.[12]

This negative is offset by the positive contrast—“but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12b). The word but denotes contrast, because he has not yet received its realization, he presses on. In considering this statement we cannot overlook what Paul said in Phil. 1:6. There are two aspects to find in these verses: First, God is working in you to reach His goal (cf. 1:6). Second, we see man’s part in reaching the goal. Paul therefore says “I press on” (3:12a). We must work in cooperation with the will of God to fulfill His will for us. The Greek word for press is dioko, meaning to put into action or motion, endeavor earnestly to acquire, to press on, or to pursue. O’Brien notes that the “present tense describes an ongoing pursuit that is clearly strenuous.[13] Pursuit of spiritual progress is a constant imperative in the Christian life.

So that” is ei kai in the Greek. There is some question as to how this should be viewed. Is it to be used idiomatically thereby indicating the reason why he presses on, or should it be used to indicate purpose, thus giving the purpose or goal for pressing on? O’Brien notes that both uses make good sense.[14] Kennedy comments that whichever way one chooses to see it, the sense remains the same.[15] However, if one takes it to indicate the reason, then Paul presses on because of the work or call of Christ upon his life.[16] If, however, one chooses to take it as purpose, it indicates he is endeavoring to carry out the purpose of Christ’s call.[17] I tend to view it as purpose.

Now Paul refers back to his conversion experience; “so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”  His aim or goal in service is to fulfill his calling. It also gives his motivation for his service. Here we find two forms of the same word (katalabo) which means to grasp, attain, to seize, or to lay hold of. The first is aorist active, indication that this is Paul’s action. The second is imperative aorist passive, indicating Paul had already received this action. Thus, the reason for his service is trying to attain or lay hold of the purpose in which the Lord took hold of him. This purpose was clearly revealed to him at his conversion as God’s ambassador to the Gentiles with the message of reconciliation (cf. Acts 9:15; 26:15-18, 2 Cor. 5:16-21). Part of laying hold of Christ is fulfilling His call; to be faithful because of Christ’s laying hold of him there on the road to Damascus

2. Perfectionism cannot be held, but one must press toward the goal—3:13-14

Again Paul expresses a negative. The Greek text is literally: “Brethren, I myself do not consider to have laid hold” (Phil. 3:13a).  I myself is emphatic in form and position, stressing it is Paul’s evaluation. Here the verb consider (logizomai) means to count, calculate, consider, to infer, conclude, or to presume. It indicates thinking something through to its logical conclusion. Paul’s obvious and logical conclusion is that he has not attained all that Christ has called him for. “Self-complacency was no feature of the apostle's character,notes Eadie.[18] 

He now expresses the result of his conclusion. “But one thing I [do]: forgetting what [lies] behind and reaching forward to what [lies] ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13b-14). It must be pointed out that the words one thing is a brief forceful interjection, suggesting “a singleness of purpose and concentration of effort.”[19] The object of the one thing is found not in the immediate clauses following, but the principle clause of verse 14—“I press toward.” The word indicates a pressing on for a purpose and not aimlessly. That is the one thing Paul does. The immediate clauses following the one thing are “circumstantial clauses of manner[20] (Phil 3:23b). They describe how or the manner in which the one thing is done. One could think of them as two sides to one coin. The first side is forgetting what is behind. The Greek word is epilanthanomai, meaning to be forgetful, or to disregard. “The present tense indicates that his forgetting is continuous and ceaseless[21] To that which is behind indicates that part of the process is past. It also seems to speak of the time between entering the race (conversion) and where he is now in his Christian life. The imagery that is used in this context is that of an athlete, or athletic contest. Gromacki comments: “No person can erase from his memory what has transpired before, but he can keep the past from controlling the present and the future….A believer thus must not permit the past to cause him depression or overconfidence in the present.”[22] The second side of this coin is “reaching forward to what is ahead.” The Greek word for reaching is epekteinomai meaning to stretch out, or to strain. It is a participle, followed by a dative of direction, which carries the idea of stretching out toward the goal. Many fail and fall because they do not keep their eye on the goal (cf. Hebrews 12:1-2). The goal is faithfulness in running the race until the end. Practical sanctification is not automatic. We must pursue it diligently by following the Lord (vv. 13-15; cf. Gal. 5:16; 2 Pet. 1:5-11).

It should be noticed that the goal is not the prize. The prize comes after reaching the goal. They are not the same. The prize comes after one has reached the goal. Here the prize is described as the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  This is not a reference to the rapture. Constable points out the reason: “The Rapture is not a reward. God will catch up
(rapture) into heaven every Christian regardless of how he or she has run the race (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:15-17).”[23] The imagery comes from the athletic games at the time of Paul. Hawthorne describes this:
In keeping with the vivid imagery drawn from the Greek games that pervades this section there is still another explanation of the 'upward call' that seems the most reasonable explanation of all. It sees in the expression tes ano kleseos ["the upward call"] an allusion to the fact that the Olympian games, which included foot-races, were organized and presided over by agonothetes, highly respected officers called Hellenodikai. 'After each event they had a herald announce the name of the victor, his father's name and his country, and the athlete or charioteer would come and receive a palm branch at their hands.'[24]
The prize is awarded at the Bema seat of Christ (1 Cor. 13:11-15). It is there that our practice for Christ will be tested, but not our position in Christ, and will be rewarded for the race we ran.

3. For now, be mature—3:15-16

Therefore” (Phil. 3:15) is a conjunction which connects the last sentences of this paragraph with the argument of the preceding sentences. It connects the facts with a call to action. Based upon what he just wrote, Paul now calls upon them to take two actions: “Let us, therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same [standard] to which we have attained” (Phil. 3:15-16). The two actions are set forth in our text by the words, “Let us.” It should be noted that both injunctions indicated by the words “let us” refers to the phrase, “as many as are perfect.” As noted above, this cannot refer to sinless perfection. Rather, there are two possibilities on how to understand this reference; some take it as irony reflecting the group of believers whose error Paul is addressing.[25] Others take it as a reference to Christian maturity, which is the common way he uses the word when applying to believers (1 Cor. 2:6; 14:30; Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:28; 4:12). Constable observes: “In verse 12 Paul used the same root word and claimed he was not perfect. Probably there he meant that he was not absolutely perfect or mature, and here he meant that he was relatively mature compared to the immature.”[26] I prefer the maturity view, but the debate rages on. Either way, the actions Paul calls upon them to take are the same. These two actions are:

  • To have the same mind (Phil. 3:15).
These exhortations are a call for the readers to join Paul in these actions.[27] The command is to have this attitude.  The word phroneo is a key significant word in this epistle, which means to think, to mind, to be of the same opinion. It is used twice here and found in Philippians 1:7; 2:2 (twice), 5; 3:19; 4:2, 10 (twice) along with the compound word in 2:3 (tapeinophrosyne; humility of mind). The key to the Christian life is the mind. We are to be “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This can only be done by the renewed transformed mind (Romans 12:1-2).

                                                THE MIND IN PHILIPPIANS        
Philippians 1:17
Confidence of mind
Philippians 2:2
Unity of mind
Purpose of mind
Philippians 2:3
Humility of mind
Philippians 2:5
Mind of Christ
Philippians 3:15
Attitude of Paul
Think otherwise
Philippians 3:19
Mind not earthly things
Philippians 4:2
Be like-minded
Philippians 4:10
Be mindful (twice)

One cannot help but think of Philippians 2:5 which has the same translation in our text: “have this attitude.” In Philippians 2:5 it is to have the attitude of Christ. Here in 3:15, which is based on 3:11-14, it is the attitude of Paul as an athlete that we are to emulate. “In this context it involves continually pursuing the same Christ-centered ambition Paul has.”[28] Paul is our example that we should follow (2 Thess. 7-9).

Then Paul adds a phrase that seems somewhat strange: “and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you” (Phil. 3:15b). However, it should be pointed out that the word and (kai) in this instance “is likely an adversative conjunction, emphasizing a fact that is surprising, but nevertheless true.”[29] The Greek suggests it is evident that some had this different mind or attitude.[30] It could have been the attitude of sinless perfection, or the attitude of legalism which was displayed outwardly, but not inwardly; although the cause is not identified. It was an attitude that was different than prescribed by Paul, whatever the cause. 
The correction comes by the enlightenment of God for, “Even this God will reveal to you.[31] There is little question that this phrase refers back to the last phrase. The verb will reveal describes God’s gracious work of enlightenment. Enlightenment is said in Scripture to be given by God the Father (Matthew 11:25; 16:17; Galatians 1:16; Philippians 3:15), Christ (Matthew 11:27; Galatians 1:12), and the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10; Ephesians 3:5). During this dispensation it more than likely refers to the work of the Holy Spirit. It should be noted that there is no doubt the idea of conviction indicated, since there is a wrong attitude to be corrected. It is the Spirit’s job to convict (cf. John 16:8-11).

  • To be consistent (Phil. 3:16)

In this concluding sentence of the paragraph he urges them to be consistent. “However, let us keep living to the same [standard] to which we have attained” (Phil. 3:16). In giving this admonition, Paul is including himself (let us). We are to live up to the standard of maturity we have attained. Interestingly, the verb stoicheo (translated living) means to keep in line. It is a military term for marching in rank and file. It is used in Galatians 5:25 and translated walk. The KJV keeps this translation of the word in this text: “let us walk by the same rule.” In Galatians 5, two words are translated walk. The first is in 5:16 where we find the word peripaeo which means to walk, to walk in the ordinary, our ordinary physical walk, in verse 5:25 stoicheo. Paul’s argument in Galatians is that we are to walk in the Spirit in our ordinary everyday life, and once we do so we are to keep in line with the Spirit. Paul employs the same argument here; we are to stay consistent with the maturity we have attained, and live up to that standard.

This paragraph could be summed up by these points:
                              The plan is progress, not perfection.
                              The past is done, forget it.
                              The future goal is ahead, reach for it.
                              The present standard, be consistent with it.

[1]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 149.
[2]  Ibid, 149.
[3]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 198. Also see O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 419.
[4]  This is not uncommon in the Greek language.
[5]  This is the only place where Paul uses this term, although other forms are used. O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 422.
[6]  Perschbacher, LEXICON, 404.
[7]  Delling, “teleiow,” (Kittle), THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, VII:84.
[8]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 200.
[9]  Lloyd-Jones, THE LIFE OF PEACE, 86.
[10]  Ibid, 87
[11]  Ibid, 88.
[12]  This is a note that I wrote in my Bible some years ago, but I do not remember its source.
[13]  O’Brien, INGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 424.
[14]  Ibid, 425
[15]  Kennedy, EGT: PHILIPPIANS, 3:456.
[16]  Silva views it as indicating reason, 201.
[17]  Baker sees it as purpose, 99.
[18]  Eadie, PHILIPPIANS, 3:13.
[19]  O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 427-428.
[20]  Ibid, 428.
[21] Ibid, 428.
[22]  Gromacki, STAND UNITED, 155.
[23]  Constable, PHILIPPIANS, 58.
[24]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 154.
[25]  Ibid, 156. For good arguments against taking it this way, see O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 435-436.
[26]  Constable, PHILIPPIANS, 59.
[27]  This is a hortatory subjunctive, and exhorts the writer and reader to take an action. See Wallace, BEYOND THE BASICS, 464.
[28]  O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 437.
[29]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 156.
[30]  Kennedy, EGT: PHILIPPIANS, 3:459.
[31]  This is my translation of the Greek text. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Throughts of Creation

Was reading an article on The Gospel of John [1:3-5] today. The author reminded us of three facts that Scripture teach on creation.  
    • The world had a beginning and is therefore not eternal.
    • The universe is utterly dependent on God, but He is not dependent on it.
    • God made the universe out of nothing, not out of preexistent material.

Source: MacLeod, David J., “The Creation of the Universe by the Word: John 1:3-5,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, April-June 2003, 188.

Sunday, May 11, 2014



This is another volume of the “Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis” series. Like the earlier work of Paul’s Letters the same helpful layout is found. It has the same basic features:
  1. Each chapter begins with an overview and ends with a summary of the chapter.  This aids the reader in knowing where the chapter is going.
  2. There are very usable charts within the chapters that are understandable.
  3. A selected bibliography at the end.
  4. He also has a glossary at the end for terms an average reader may not understand.

This volume on the General Letters is surprisingly over 100 pages larger than the one on Paul’s letters. This gives an indication of Bateman’s quality and quantity of his work. Of course, these general letters are Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, and Jude. This classification implies that Hebrews is not a Pauline letter.  

He opens his work on the “Genre of the General Letters” (Chapter 1). In this he gives the parts of the letters and shows that these writers follow the normal form of Ancient letters of the time. He shows how each letter follows the form. He also has an excellent section on professional writers which was greatly needed because of the low literary rates at the time, and pseudonymity. He notes that using professional amanuenses (writers) was normal at the time.

He then moves on to the “Background of the General Letters” (Chapter 2). In this chapter, he takes a look at the Greco-Roman world with special interest in the Judean-Roman relationship. He points out some of the implications for interpretation because of the relationship, which he says will vary from book to book. He does center upon wisdom (James), household codes (1 Peter), and rebellion (Jude), all of which speak to human experience rooted in the Greco-Roman world.

He now takes a look at the “Theology of the General Letters” (Chapter 3). He first presents the overview of the theology of the Bible is built on the strategic plan of Promise and Fulfillment. He sees the Old Testament presenting the Promise. The New Testament is the era of fulfillment of the promise. “The church period is a time in which God relates with all people through Jesus because God inaugurates His kingdom-redemption promises through him” (page 104). These letters indicate the kingdom portion of his program has been activated through Jews. It is fair to say he views the promise activated redemptively in the church, but complete promise fulfillment is in the millennial period. He is correct that the kingdom theme is evident in these letters representing it in the already/not yet viewpoint. He presents somewhat a dispensational view of eschatology. On a more practical aspect of theology he shows these letters center around a perseverance and conduct of the believer. He points to a strong ethic emphasis in these letters. He then moves to a Biblical theology of each letter to identify the main theme of each letter. To sum up it up, he sees the emphasis as:
  • Hebrews—Apostasy verses perseverance
  • Petrine Letters—Godliness in suffering
  • Johannine Letter—Relationship with God is determined by believing the truth.
  • James and Jude—Living wisely and impartially with other people.

Since this is a handbook on interpreting the text, Chapter 4 deals with “Preparing to Interpret the General Letters.” The first three important steps out of the seven he gives overall. They are:
  • Step 1: Initiate a Translation
  • Step 2: Identify Interpretive Issues
  • Step 3: Isolate Major Textual Problems
At this point he becomes more directed and detailed on Exegesis. He gives a step by step process and examples on how to do the process. This chapter would be of interest to those who are interested in the history of translation and manuscripts. He also spends time on how to use the Greek text. He points out some key reference works and programs to aid in this task.

Chapter 5 is on “Interpreting Passages in the General Letters.” Here he continues his points of interpretation started in the last chapter:
  • Step 4: Interpreting Structures
  • Step 5: Interpreting Style, Syntax, and Semantics
  • Step 6: Interpreting Greek Words
He talks and gives examples of finding structure, and points to main verbs of independent clauses and important connectors along with the how verbs or verbals of a dependent clause are vital to determine structure. He shows importance of style by using Hebrews 1:1-4; syntax by looking at 1 John; and semantics looking at 1 Peter. On interpreting Greek words he deals with some of the difficult words in Jude. He clearly shows that exegesis must be done with the Greek text.  

Chapter 6 takes up the subject “Communicating the General Letters.” He completes the step format in this chapter: His last three steps are:
  • Step 7: Communicating Exegetically
  • Step 8: Communicating the Central Idea
  • Step 9: Communicating Homiletically
He shows these steps by using 3 John. He clearly shows that proper communication of the text is built one step at a time. The process (preparation; interpretation; communication) is hard work, but it pays off in the transmission of the truth of each letter. Communication of the text must be built on the exegetical structure of the letter.

Chapter 7 is entitled “From Exegesis to Exposition of the General Letters.” In it he gives an exposition of Jude vv.5-7 and Hebrews 10:19-25. In each he works through the steps he has just given. In each passage he gives the Greek text; the critical issues of the text; the exegetical outline; and the exposition of the text.

Overall, this is an excellent handbook for the exegesis of the General Letters. I am disappointed in one aspect; he does not fully capture the important Jewish aspect of these letters.  However, I found it insightful and helpful guide. Anyone doing work on the General Letters must have this book. It is designed for Bible students, Pastors, and teachers. It would make a good textbook for the academic study of the General Letters or on the subject of exegesis.

I received this book free from Kregel Academic in exchange for the review. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions are my own.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014



As we come to verse 11, we must point out that this is a verse of much confusion and controversy. It is one of the most problematic verses in all Scripture. There are two things that confront us right away: It is conclusion to a long sentence that began in verse 8. Therefore our understanding must be consistent with the tone and subject of the sentence. Second, are the unique terms and language of the last phrase—“in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the death” (Phil 3:11). Or as the Greek text literally reads: “if in some way I may attain to the out-resurrection from the dead” (my translation). Therefore, let us start with the grammar of the text. One needs to observe:

  • In order that.” That this is one place I believe the NASB translators got it wrong. The Majority Greek text (as does the Nestle text) reads: “ei pos” meaning if someway or if by any means. This is not a purpose clause as suggested by the NASB. It is a conditional or contingency clause. In each use of the phrase (cf. Acts 27:12; Romans 1:10; 11:14) some doubt is expressed.[1] It expresses the possibility of failure. Some seem to downplay the idea of doubt and overplay the element of humility.[2] However, taking the doubt out of the idea does not seem to fit the context or the other uses of the phrase in the New Testament.
  • Attain” is the Greek word, katanteso, meaning to come to, arrive at, to reach something. It is used in the hope of reaching or in fact reaching a goal. It is often used in Acts for reaching a destination (cf. Acts 18:19, 24). Here in Philippians 3 it is in the subjunctive mood indicating probability, but not certainty. It is used in the same way and phrasing in Acts 27:12, “if somehow they could reach [attain, KJV] Phoenix, a harbor of Crete.” The context is the traveling of Paul to Rome. The ship he was traveling on had come to “a place called Fair Havens” (Acts 27:8), after some difficult sailing. However, because of the danger of winter and their location was not suitable for wintering, they reached a decision to sail on to Phoenix. This became their goal. However, it was never reached (cf. Acts 27:14-44). They did not attain their goal. Thus, the attainment is not automatic or assured. This reinforces the idea of the phrase ei pos as indicating doubt. When we taken the phrase together as a whole—if in some way I may attain—there are two elements reflected in it: First, a note of uncertainty or doubt and, second, a note of attainability. Therefore, these two elements must be included in our  understand and interpretation.
  • “Resurrection” is the Greek word, exanastasis, meaning out-resurrection. This word is unique to this passage; however it is not reflected in the English translations. It differs from the normal word for resurrection by the addition of ex, a preposition meaning out of or out from.[3] It is clear by using the term Paul does not mean a general resurrection of all the dead. Likewise, it clearly suggests it is for believers. Why does Paul use a different term from the preceding verse (3:10)?  Is the term different from the general term of resurrection? If so, how? If Paul had meant the ordinary meaning of resurrection, why does he not simply use it? That is exactly the interpretive problem. The answer is not an easy one.

Bible scholars have given us a wide verity of answers to these questions. It seems to me any correct interpretation here involves:
·         Some uncertainty is involved, as slight as it may be.
·         The element of attainability is indicated.
·         It must not throw any doubt on the reality of the resurrection in the end times. The truth of the resurrection is a certainty (cf. 1 Corinthians 15).
·         It must fit within the context of the passage.

Now there are a number of views as to the meaning of this passage. I classify them into two categories that these views fall in: (1) Spiritual or Sanctification view and (2) Eschatological views.

The Spiritual/Sanctification view holds that it is a participation in the believer’s spiritual resurrection of which one can participate now.[4] Vine says it is “not the physical resurrection, which is assured to all believers hereafter, but to the present life of identification with Christ in His resurrection.[5] Gomacki points out the corresponding phrase in Eph. 5:14: “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” He points out that since Philippians and Ephesians were written “at the same time, these two verses could easily be a commentary upon each other.”[6] This view may have some merit. However, I see some problems which make this view unlikely. They are:
  • While both are given in the context of sanctification, the tones of the two passages are somewhat different. In Philippians Paul is making an effort to know and conform to the death of Christ and the power of His resurrection. In Ephesians the verse is written to those who are not making this effort. In Ephesians the issue is their walk and it is a call to walk as wise, not unwise men. Since Paul is already walking as wise, it is hard to understand how the call to walk as wise is connected to the Philippian context.
  • In the Ephesians passage the normal word for resurrection is used. If the two verses are connected, why do we not find the same term (out-resurrection) in both verses? Paul must have had a purpose when he used this unique word.
  • There is ample evidence in Paul’s writing that the believer does participate in the resurrected life of Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-11; Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 3:1).

The main eschatological views are:

The First Resurrection View. This view holds that the passage refers to the resurrection of believers, either in the general resurrection or the first resurrection (dependent of their view of resurrection). Support for this view is found in two things:
  • The English translation does not distinguish between the two Greek words and translates them both as resurrection. No major translation of the Bible makes the distinction, although the word in Greek is distinguishable. Loh and Nida expresses the majority’s view when they tell translators: “There is no indication, however, that one should attach special meaning to the rare word.[7]
  • They hold that the particles ei pos (if by any means) does not express or suggest doubt. Loh and Nida says that while it “appears to suggest doubt or uncertainty in the apostle’s mind, but in reality what is expresses here is his sense of expectation and hope.[8]

Two things in response: First, just because the translators do not make a distinction does not mean it doesn’t exist. The Greek text clearly makes the distinction. What the student has to decide is if the distinction matters. It is our position that it does. “But as the two forms [exanastasis / anastasis] occur in such close propinquity it is probable that there is some significance in the change of the word.”[9] Second, to remove doubt from the meaning of the phrase ei pos, goes against the other uses of the phrase in the New Testament.

The Rapture View. This view holds that the out-resurrection is the rapture of the church, which affects the living believers, not just the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53).[10] Johnson gives four main arguments for it being the rapture:[11]
  • That Paul is speaking of something to attain, which he would do if the Rapture came during this lifetime. The rapture concerns the ones who are alive at His coming and underscores Paul’s element of expectation, while at the same time it may not happen. To this view the element of doubt is about living until the rapture.
  • This is supported by the particles ei pos. “While one cannot be in doubt about participation in the first resurrection [rapture], yet one can be in doubt about whether he will be alive at the time of the first resurrection [rapture].”[12] 
  • The rare word exanastasis. He looks to the papyri and sees the indication of the word meaning “rising up,” supporting the view of the rapture. He goes on to say:
But even if one did not press the meaning of the word, still a reason must be given for its use. It evidently is singled out for special significance in view of the use of anastasis in verse ten. If greater vividness is gained by the use of the word exanastasis, it would be fitting that it refer to the rapture of the church, for the most vivid feature of the resurrection to the believer during life on earth is certainly the catching up which will take place when the Lord returns.”[13]
  • He holds that the context upholds for this interpretation. He points out that the natural outcome of sanctification is glorification or full conformation to Christ. For support he points to the last two verses of the chapter (Phil. 3:20-21 which is consistent and must be considered in the interpretation of verse 11.

A Special Aspect of Resurrection View. This is subdivision of some who hold the rapture view. C.F. Baker says some view Paul as expressing “the ambition of pressing on toward the goal for the prize, think that he is speaking of ‘the Exanastasis’ as a group singled out from those who are resurrected, having attained a special place of honor or reward.”[14] Wilkin seems to have this view. Writing on Philippians 3:11 he makes the following points:[15]
  • Paul hoped for a greater gain than just a normal resurrection.
  • The condition of attaining it is conditional. He writes: “Faithfulness is required to attain it. To gain it one must live Christ's resurrection life experientially (3:10), must willingly share in His sufferings by accepting persecution and pain for his sake (3:10), and must conform himself to Jesus' death by laying down his life for others (3:10; cf. 1 John 3:16-18). Clearly more than faith in Christ is involved. We must ‘press on’ daily in our Christian experience if we hope to attain this prize (3:14).”[16]
  • This out-resurrection is a prize, not of a gift of grace.
  • The out-resurrection is a special reward which only faithful believers will receive.”[17] He goes on to point Hebrews 11:35 which refer to a better resurrection saying, “All believers will be resurrected, but there is a better one for those who endure.”[18]

My response to this is that I think that the rapture view is correct. I question the idea of a special or better resurrection of all those in the Rapture. Hebrews 11:35 refers not to an eternal resurrection, but temporary resurrection, such as that of 2 Kings 4. It was a resurrection that simply restored one to physical life. Vine is correct in saying: “The “better resurrection” primarily means better than the resurrection of those who have just been mentioned, who were raised from the dead to die again.”[19] It seems to be that the out-resurrection is not the prize in and of itself. Rather, the prize is gained at the judgment seat of Christ and speaks of rewards not from the out-resurrection. However, Baker’s observation is correct: “Sometimes it is easier to say what a statement does not mean than to declare what it does mean.”[20]

[1]  S. Lewis Johnson Jr., “The Out-Resurrection from the Dead,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, April 1963, 141.
[2]  Wuest, PHILIPPIANS, 94. Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 146.
[3]  Johnson, “The Out-Resurrection,” 139.
[4]  This view is held by Gormacki, Wiersbe, and Vine.
[6]  Gormacki, STAND UNITED, 152.
[8]  Ibid, 106.
[9]  J. Hugh Michael quoted by Johnson, “The Out-Resurrection,” 142.
[10]  Held by S. Lewis Johnson Jr. and John Walvoord.
[11]  Johnson, “The Out-Resurrection,” 144-145.
[12]  Ibid, 144.
[13]  Ibid, 145.
[15]  Wilkin, Bob, “Has this Passage Ever Brothered You? Philippians 3:11; Is Our Resurrection Certain?” GRACE IN FOCUS NEWSLETTER, 1987.
[16]  Ibid.
[17]  Ibid.
[18]  Ibid.
[19]  W.E. Vine, THE EPISTLE TO HEBREWS, Oliphants, London, 1965, 141.