In Paul's epistles there is evidence of growth in knowledge. He wrote the
different epistles as they were given to him. He could not have written
Philippians when he wrote First Thessalonians, his first epistle. Nor
when he wrote any of the ones that he wrote before writing Philippians.
When he wrote Second Corinthians he knew something that he did not know
when he wrote the first epistle to that church. And, knowing more, his
attitude was different. It was always changing.
What he wrote at any particular time was right for that time, but some
of it had to be modified later, because of superior knowledge.
He advised severity in First Corinthians, but pleaded for tenderness and
graciousness toward the same person, when he wrote the second letter to
the same saints.
His knowledge had ripened to such an extent when he wrote Philippians,
that he said in that epistle, "But things which were gain to me, these I
have deemed a forfeit because of Christ. But, to be sure, I am also
deeming all to be a forfeit because of the superiority of the knowledge
of Christ Jesus my Lord, because of Whom I forfeited all, and am deeming
it to be refuse, that I should be gaining Christ, and may be found in
Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of law, but that which is
through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God for
faith; to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship
of His sufferings, confronting to His death, if somehow I should be
attaining to the resurrection out from among the dead", 3:7-11.
Paul was satisfied, apparently, with an organized church, when he wrote
his first letter to the Corinthians. But while writing his second letter
to them, he found that the different factions in the assembly had
brought in so many unbelievers that the saints could not carry out a
program of graciousness, such as he had in mind, and so he told them to
"come out". His program of graciousness included mercy and kindness to
the man who had been excluded. Since saying, "Come out", Paul has not
endorsed an organized church. Now he sees that the SAINTS constitute the
temple of God, and that the organization is worse than useless.
He has lost interest in judging. So when he wrote the Roman letter he
asked the saints to leave each one to his own Master, before Whom he
stands or falls. And he assured them that the Master is able to make a
person stand, even when we think he ought not to be allowed to stand.
In his early ministry Paul practiced baptism. But when he wrote the
first letter to the Corinthians he said this was no part of his service.
He baptized no more.
Those whose knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord is elementary, can find
joy in such things as an organized church, water baptism, "church
discipline", etc. Paul passed through that stage One by one he discarded
such things, as his knowledge of Christ increased. I can sympathize with
those who are living in these early stages of the development of
knowledge. I was there once.
In his fully developed stage of knowledge, Paul is not concerned with
elementary matters. He has not changed in doctrine. But in
administrative matters there is a great advance. His religion had once
been gain to him. It was an advantage to him that he was an Israelite,
until his second administration began, for during the early part of his
ministry the Israelite who was in the body, had an advantage over the
man of the nations, and lived in the ascendancy. Not until the two were
reconciled in one body, was there such a thing as equality in the
church, if a local assemble had any Israelites in it.
We have never been in the religion of Israel, but we have been in
"gentile religion". Many are still there--concerned with forms and
ceremonies, and organization, and with controlling their fellows. These
things are a gain to those saints whose knowledge is ot very much
But Paul had learned that there is to be nothing between the saint and
Christ--not even a religious ceremony or ordinance, however good that
might be in its place. I mean that potato peelings are good until you
peel them off and discover the potato. Then the peeling becomes refuse.
You throw it out the window. I remember that I had great joy when I
received water baptism. I would find no joy in it now, and I know that
it is no part of the developed ministry of Paul. There was a time when I
took part in organizing churches, and felt quite important in doing so.
Now I know that the church is an organism. I would not find joy in
serving on a presbytery. I once felt a great interest in forcing all
members of the church to "walk a chalk line", or be excluded. Now I
regard it as very antiquated, for, since the church is not supposed to
be an organization, God does not tell any group to control the life of
To gain Christ does not mean to become saved. It is to reach the
position that recognizes Him as sufficient, not only for salvation, but
also for every step of the journey. Then we repudiate everything that
seeks to regulate us and our faith and our conduct, and cling to Christ
alone. Thus we have gained Christ. We want to live such a life of
devotion to Him, that people will never speak of us as a good Baptist,
or Methodist, or Catholic, etc., but that they shall know that we
disdain every form and ceremony, and recognize ourself as only in
Christ. Thus we are found in Him.
When we have reached this superior knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord,
we do not seek the satisfaction of believing that the Lord is blessing
us because of something that we have done--some law that we have obeyed.
No, we are so much attached to Christ that we want Him to have all the
glory for every blessing that we receive, and are dissatisfied if anyone
even suggests that we are being blessed because
we have obeyed some law--not necessarily the Mosaic law, but ANY law, or
even any suggestion or exhortation. We want to obey every exhortation
that applies to us, but we do not want to feel that the Lord is paying
us to do it. We want all blessings to be in grace, and we want to
recognize that every ability to do service, and every satisfaction, is
that which is from God for faith. We want Christ to be ALL.
We are constantly seeking to know Him--to become better acquainted with
Him. We have no time for religion, for we are coming more and more to
To know the power of His resurrection is to know that justification for
all mankind is in the hand of God, and that He will attend to it, since
it is clear that Christ was given up because of our offenses, and was
roused again because of our justification. Thus we find supreme
satisfaction, and do not regret, thinking we have neglected to do
something which, if we had done it, might have assured the salvation of
To know the fellowship of His sufferings is to recognize that WE, not
HE, would have been nailed to the tree if we had gotten what we feel was
our just desert. This humbles us, and we share His sufferings, and have
fellowship with Him in them. Our sufferings consists of our humiliation
at remembering that HE died when it ought to have been US that died.
Conforming to His death means that we are to recognize what power put
Him to death, humanly speaking. It was a religious power. And to this
day, religion, both Jewish and Gentile, is AGAINST the Christ, to the
extent that it is FOR forms and ceremonies. Let us not be afraid to
incur the displeasure of such, if we must do so in living a life of
devotion to the Christ.
To attain to the resurrection out from among the dead, is to live the
heavenly life, in spirit, as far as possible. We can see that in heaven
we shall be as He is, full of love. We want to attain to that here. We
want to discard all hatred, anger selfishness, and every lack of love.
The superiority of the knowledge of Christ, I repeat, enables us to lay
aside those things that characterize immature saints, and to desire
nothing except Christ.