Friday, January 18, 2013

An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday January 20, 2013

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(Nothing is more important than knowing CHRIST)
(Philippians 3)

The Apostle Paul was the first great Christian missionary and theologian, after the example of JESUS CHRIST of course. He was born and raised in Tarsus of Cilicia, as Gaius Julius Paulus, the son of a Roman citizen, under the strictest of Jewish tradition and Judaism. He went on to become the first man to clearly show the distinction between Judaism and the Gospel of CHRIST JESUS. He presented Christianity as the universal religion for all mankind, and clearly showed that it was not just a tiny little spin-off of Judaism, that had been formed expressly for the benefit of Jews.
In his lifetime, Paul became widely known as the apostle of the Gentiles. He solved, once and for all time, the issues that arose concerning the problems people had with Christianity, and the biblical and non-biblical traditions of the Jewish law. While the other apostles, with maybe the exception of Peter, continued on with a practical attitude toward the law and Judaism, oftentimes not seeing far into principle, Paul, on the other hand, preached that the issue was very much different than Judaism. He insisted that the doctrine he preached concerning CHRIST was defined by the cross. In other words, Paul keenly felt that one either had to choose “Pharisaism”, or JESUS, or, quite literally, “Law” or “Love, as the ultimate revelation of GOD.
All of Paul’s known letters bear traces of the Hellenistic background from whence he came, and he most certainly obtained many of his Greek ideas through the medium of Judaeo-Greek, or, Hellenistic literature. In fact, a careful study of his letters gives us some idea of this societal element in his early life, due to his Jewish birth. They suggest Paul’s own youthful attitude toward the importance and responsibility of being born Jewish.
In Philippians 3, Paul sought to exhort, or, urge with a strong appeal, that the church at Philippi would continue to rejoice in the LORD. He also warned of the work of the Judaizers, calling them “dogs” and “mutilators of the flesh” (a reference to circumcision), who continued to preach that one must become a Jew through circumcision, before they could be saved. Paul, however, had spent a lot of time preaching to the infant church that they should place no confidence in the flesh. In fact, Christians should place no confidence in their own effort at all, but instead, must only boast of their faith in what JESUS has done for them.
The Christian must worship GOD in the SPIRIT, and thereby, experience a spiritual “circumcision of the heart” that can only come by “knowing GOD”. Paul said that if anyone could have confidence in their own background and training, he could. He once held in high regard, his boyhood studies under the great first-century scholar, Gamaliel, at the famous “School of Hillel” in Rome. He himself, as a pure-breed Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, had been circumcised when he was eight days old. He had also been a member of the Pharisees, who demanded the strictest adherence to Jewish tradition and the Mosaic Law. But now he had experienced the priceless gain of knowing JESUS CHRIST, and everything else suddenly seems worthless by comparison. Before getting to know CHRIST, Paul placed all of his value on the things that he had achieved in the past, but now, he understood clearly that his future of eternal life with GOD can only be realized through his belief and confidence in what JESUS has achieved.
And so, like Paul, all Christians must press ahead toward the highest goal that a man can ever achieve in this life. It is a goal that can never be achieved through human effort, but rather, has already been achieved through the vicarious sacrifice of CHRIST. However, a man will never accept the free gift of salvation in his heart (the gain), unless he first, become willing to remove his love for the things of this world from his heart (the loss).
From the original Greek, the phrase translated “becoming like HIM”, that is used in verse 21 of this passage, is “symmorphizomenos” (sim-morph-i-zo-me-nos) and it means “being conformed inwardly through one’s experiences”. The Christian must continue to work toward the day when they can be all that CHRIST died for us to be, and all that GOD wants us to be, and that is, more like HIM, and, totally with HIM. And it is a change that can only occur, first, inwardly, so that it can then be manifested outwardly, so as to have a positive, GODly effect on the lives of those whom we will be coming in contact with in the future.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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