Brethren Archive
Philippians iii.

Paul a Pattern Saint.

by Thomas Neatby


I.  PAUL was a model Christian. I think he is the only man presented in the Word as a pattern. "That in me first, Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting " (1 Tim. i. 16). Paul was the first (or chief) of sinners (1 Tim. i. 15). He was a pattern in his conversion, and also in his walk. "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. xi. 1).
Saul of Tarsus was a typical man. What a marvellous conversion was his! He was the chief of sinners. Was he a drunkard then? No. Was he a liar? No. Was he an unclean person? No, not a bit; but as "touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil. iii. 5). You have not met his like in all your travels. He was a model man after the flesh. He was of noble birth, had a grand education at the feet of Gamaliel, was a distinguished man, and, I daresay, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. But what made him the chief of sinners? He had vowed to blot out the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ from under heaven; this was what constituted him the chief of sinners. God's greatest enemy must be the chief of sinners, and Saul was that. God does not esteem guilt according to the human standard, and the man who most opposes God in His choicest work, that man is of sinners, the chief.
God loved His Son, and the Son dwelt in the bosom of the Father, but He came forth from the bosom of the Father down to this sinful world, became Man and went about doing good. He was finally rejected by His creatures, Jews and Gentiles, and was nailed upon a cross, His crucifiers mockingly saying that God might take Him if He found any pleasure in Him (Matt, xxvii. 43). God has now raised and exalted His blessed Son. Jesus has "sat down on the right hand' of the Majesty on high" (Heb. i. 3). But He was not sitting there whilst Stephen was being stoned. Jesus was seen by Stephen "standing on the right hand of God" (Acts vii. 55). And Saul was consenting unto Stephen's death. The clothes were laid down at Saul's feet. He was chairman of that bloody scene.
Now follow Saul a little further. He was on his way to Damascus, and was approaching the city. His prey was "them that call on the Name of the Lord Jesus." They had committed no other crime, but they called on the Lord's Name. Saul's commission was to bring them to prison; this was the purpose to which he applied his great talents. To Saul's utter amazement, the Lord appeared to him in the way. You would not be more surprised to see a person, whom you knew to be dead for twenty years, walk in at that door, than Saul was surprised to see Jesus that day. He verily believed the story that Jesus was stolen out of the tomb; he believed it with all his heart. Saul cried out, "Who art Thou, Lord?" and he receives the answer, "I am Jesus, Whom thou persecutest" (Acts ix. 5). And now what will become of Saul? If a man find his enemy, will he let him go? Of course he will not? Jesus has found his enemy. Saul lies prostrate on the ground, and Jesus looks on him with those eyes that are as a flame of fire. Those eyes can look right through Saul's pocket, and can see the documents inside. There is no need of evidence. Oh, the magnificence of grace! Thank God, the words are not "depart from Me ye cursed." It might have been so, and even Saul of Tarsus could not have said why it should not be. Jesus speaks words of compassion and pity. He gives a message of salvation to that very wicked man. Paul was made a minister and a witness of the things that he had seen. What had he seen? He had seen Christ in glory, and that is the substance of his witness, till his head rolls on the scaffold at Rome. The Son of God had won his heart. "The Son of God Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." No wonder that Jesus won his heart.
The apostle tells us here in verse 8, that he had "suffered the loss of all things." Yes, he says he had counted them all "as dung," and then it was not much that he lost. The moment he counted them as dung, he was glad to be quit of them. He has now got "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord," and he is glad to lose everything that belongs to the old creation. That light which is welcome to you in a dark cellar is not much in the light of the sun. If you hold a lighted candle to the sun, the light of the candle goes out as it were, because of the more exceeding light. Paul had seen Christ in the glory, and for the "excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord," he suffers the loss of all things. The heart and soul of Christianity is Christ from first to last. Paul had found a personal Saviour; One to lead him through all this troubled world; to be with him in every difficulty and sorrow; to be with him in life, or in death if it comes; to be with him forever. "Christ Jesus MY Lord." "Oh, the joy of Paul's heart! He had found a personal friend, a "friend that sticketh closer than a brother." When all forsook him, Christ stood by him. He had found in Christ his all in all.
II. THE Apostle, expresses his desire "That I may win Christ, and be found in Him" (verses 8 and 9). What does this mean, "to be found in Him"—in Him? Up till that day when Saul was going to Damascus, he was not "in Him." He was in the first Adam, in the nature in which he was born. He had been educated, but that did not make a new man of him. His education might make him a better man among men, but he was still in the old Adam, and of course the fruit is according to the nature of the tree. Nicodemus, another Pharisee, comes to Jesus and says, in effect, "You are a great Teacher come from God, and we know it because of the mighty works that you do. I have come to be taught. You are a great Teacher, and now here I am, ready for you to teach me." What does the Lord Jesus say? "Ye must be born again." You must bring me a new man; I cannot teach the old one. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh, and will not do for God. God does not reform people; He does not mend the old Adam; He brings in a new man. God speaks of the first man and the second. Was there no man between Adam and Christ? I thought Cain was the second man? Yes, Cain is the second man from Adam, for Adam begat a son in his own image. But there is no new man till Christ comes. The Second Man is the Lord from heaven, and Paul wants to be in that Man. "In Him" there is no condemnation. In Him, the soul is highly favoured and blessed. "I am in Christ" (Eph. i. 2), and all that belongs to Christ belongs to me. The Father sees me in His Son, and loves me with the same love with which He loves the Son. It is a fact. As I stand before you here this afternoon, I know I am loved by God as He loves His Son. Nothing to me, but all glory to God. The blood of Jesus Christ stands between me and a lost hell! Thank God! I am now "in Christ." In Christ, I am clothed with a perfect, Divine righteousness which is of God. "Not having on mine own righteousness" (verse 9).
There are three acts of Divine righteousness that I would call your attention to for a moment. The Lord Jesus willingly, of His Own love, presented Himself before God to do His will. No one compelled Him; He was the "free-will offering." It would not have been righteous to put my sins upon an unwilling substitute. But the Son of God, the Maker of heaven and earth, deigns to come and suffer in my stead. Was it a righteous thing for God to treat the Lord Jesus Christ just as He would have treated me in my sins? Heaven and hell say that it was; and any upright man knows that it was righteous of God to do so. There is another act of Divine righteousness, and it is at Joseph's tomb. It was righteous of God to raise his Son from that tomb and take Him up to the glory. Christ had borne all that was due to the sinner because of his sins; He had magnified the law and borne its curse; He had satisfied all God's righteous claims, and glorified God on the earth. Was it not a righteous thing for God to raise His Son and say, "Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy foot-stool." Yes, undoubtedly it was. Now, I ask you to look at another act of that same righteousness. I was a sinner; Christ has borne my sins, and God has raised Him from the dead. Is it not a righteous thing for God to forgive me now? The Devil cannot say it is not righteous; and any upright creature that ever came out of God's hand owns that it is righteous. The sentence has fallen upon a willing Victim; the mighty work of redemption has been accomplished to the glory of God, and it is a righteous thing for God to forgive any sinner that believes in Jesus.
And then Christ is everything; both Lord and Christ. Now everything comes by Christ; everything is measured and judged of by Christ. And so the whole of Paul's life is summed up in this, "one thing I do" (verse 13). Other people may do many things, but "this one thing I do." They may have many irons in the fire, I have one—"this one thing I do"—"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (verse 14). This "high calling" should be rendered, "calling on high." The words " high calling" may mean a noble or honourable calling, they may mean a very worldly calling; but the words here should properly be, "calling on high," where Christ is. "I press toward the mark." This is a word painting of a man running a race. He is bent forward, reaching forward, running toward the mark. If he would look to the right or left, and especially if he looked back, he would lose steps. He forgets all but the mark, and he rushes onward with breathless energy to the mark for the prize. What is the mark? It is Christ in glory. He has apprehended me, but I have not apprehended Him yet. So, on I go, for I must apprehend Him, and after I have seized Him, I shall have the prize. And what is the prize? It is still only, eternally, CHRIST. To reach Christ in the glory, and to possess Christ in the glory forever and ever.






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