In this short article, based on a lecture by J N Darby entitled,32 p ‘This one thing’ – Collected Writings vol. 32 (Miscellaneous 1) page 347 , he goes over Paul’s experiences from his arrest on the Damascus road till his writing the epistle. He saw the Lord in glory, and at that point everything that he had trusted in was smashed.
- There are two ways in which we may look at the Christian. One is according to the counsels and thoughts of God (Hebrews – in respect to the grace Christ obtains for us as Priest on high)
- The other as walking in this world (Philippians – down here, and the energy and power of the Spirit of God working in him). Philippians is the book of experience, the Christian on earth.
We have to pass through the world, and there are difficulties in our path. As we walk in the power of God’s Spirit, we rise above these difficulties.
In Philippians, we have a person entirely above it all the troubles; one who can ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ (ch 4:4). Paul had been four years in prison at that time, which must have been very trying, as he could not engage in his missionary service. He could have reproached himself for going up to Jerusalem, but he remained positive saying, ‘I can rejoice in the Lord always’ (see Phil 4:4).
We know Paul’s early career. He used to have an earthly righteousness, and he boasted in it. He said, ‘touching the righteousness which was in the law, blameless’ (ch 3:6). But the Lord met him, and he discovered that all that had been gain to him had brought him into open enmity with God. All that Saul of Tarsus could clothe himself with outwardly, was utterly smashed, and he was left to dwell in darkness three days. During this, he discovered in his own soul what this terrible revelation meant.
Seeing Christ in glory resulted in his setting aside and putting away all that was of man. Whereas the first thing we need as sinners is ‘redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’ (Eph 1:7), with Saul of Tarsus it was different. His own righteousness had kept him away from God, and that had to be put away. The upright, honest, law-keeping Pharisee had been full of enmity against God. Now he learned the end of the first man, not just as a doctrine, but practically. The best man in the world (best as man goes) was the chief of sinners. Now he knew what redemption through the blood meant.
The law had required righteousness from man for God, but, nobody had attained it. So it does not say, ‘not having my own sins’, but ‘not having mine own righteousness’ (see ch 3:9). Paul saw that God would not accept him clothed in the human Adamic robe of his own righteousness..
He needed Christ who appeared to him on the way to Damascus and said, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth’ (Acts 9:5).’ He saw the Man in the glory – the rejected carpenter’s son. Paul was totally and entirely condemned. But he soon learned that Christ had taken the place of everything, and that everything he had counted gain was finished. He came to that ‘There is … now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1). The whole standing of the first man was judged in his soul; and another Man, Christ in glory, would now be for him.
When Paul was writing to the Philippians many years later, it was still a present reality to him – ‘I… do count them but dung’ (Phil 3:8). Right from his conversion, Paul was a man whose whole course and career were marked by one object before him. That object was Christ.
Having judged all that he was naturally, Paul was brought him face to face with all kinds of difficulties. An example of this was his death sentence. He was going to be tried for his life; but he had done with the old ‘Paul’. He no longer trusted in himself, but in God: in effect he says, ‘The God I know, has raised Christ from the dead, so I am not afraid of death or of anything that might come on the road; I can glory in it all.’
Have we had a revelation of Christ? Are we following Him? Is He our only object? As we follow, we are called to suffer in a small way for Christ’s sake. But as we go through the world of sin and sorrow that crucified Christ, we also learn what it is to suffer with Him. It may be a difficult road, and we might get distracted, but we get refreshment as we go: it is the road that He travelled.
A term used by some Christians is ‘higher life’. But in reality they are following the world. The Christian has no calling to anything down in this world. His calling is to a risen, glorified Christ – this is the only Christ. Christ down here is a pattern for our walk, but we cannot attain Christ down here. Attempting it only lowers the standard of holiness: instead of being ‘higher Christian life’, it is lower life. It is the hope of being like Him in glory in glorified bodies, that makes us purify ourselves even as He is pure (See 1 John 3:3). I may get to heaven now in spirit, and be happy there with Him, but I never attain to or win Him, until I am with Him in the glory. Then I shall have won Christ.
In these days, when people are giving up Christianity everywhere, it is well to know what Christianity is. Christianity is perfect peace, perfect reconciliation with God, perfected for ever before Him. Then as regards my path in this world, it is having our eye on Christ Himself in glory, with all our energy in following Him. In every step we take, we get to knowing Him better, and we become more like Him.
Of course, when it says, ‘as many as be perfect’ (ch 3:15), it does not mean being being perfect like Christ was, when He was down here. But in walking with Him up there, we become like Him down here. That is what is meant by being a perfect, or fully grown, Christian. He knows that all his debts have been paid, and in running the race, he says, ‘I have seen the excellency of Christ Jesus, my Lord, and it has set aside everything here. I have done with it all; I belong to another place, and no longer own this old man’.
Paul contrasts the Christian life with mere profession. Professors are ‘enemies of the cross of Christ’ (v.18). They carry the name of Christian, but go on with the world, not perceiving that Satan, its prince, is against Christ. The world is subject to Christ’s execution of judgment. It does not know HIm as Saviour.
As Christians, our conversation, or citizenship, commonwealth or relationships of life are in heaven (See ch. 3:20). Though we live, our relationships up there, because Christ is up there – He is our life. A Christian’s life is not here at all. Christ is there, and we await our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope, therefore, is not to die, for our Saviour to ‘ change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body’ (v. 23).
We are running the race towards the place where our standing is? Can we say with the apostle, ‘The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God’ (Gal 2:20)? We are in earthly Is circumstances, but are we living by them, or are we living to Him? Time presses on; His return is near. Each of us is to take up our cross and follow Him. May we have a conscious relationship with the One whom we love. We look for Him to come from heaven to change our vile bodies because they will not suit that place. May the Lord give us so to have our eyes set on Him in His love, and that we might know real deliverance from the power of sin and the world. The Lord fix our eyes on Him in steadiness and earnestness of heart, so that we may say with David, ‘My soul followeth hard after thee’ (Ps 63:8).
Summary by Sosthenes
 Note that it is not that Paul was smashed, as some have erroneously affirmed. It is what he could boast in according to flesh, and the whole system he relied upon.
 Paul says that he was going to be tried for his life, according to JND. That raises an interesting question as to what is meant, Was it:
- As a sinner, in the race, he is guilty and death is the consequence.
- As Paul, it would be the legal judgment for the murder of Stephen
- As having to do with sin, and the man who sinned, he was passing the death sentence on himself.