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Rev. Lance Lambert
There is a tremendous emphasis in the New Testament on going on . . . this is very largely overlooked in Christian Circles. We tend to think that conversion, being born again, our salvation is the end of the Law. That’s all that matters, to be saved, and it’s quite obvious that to be born again is fundamental and essential. If we’re not born again, we can’t start in the race, we cannot enter the family of God, we cannot belong to the household of faith, we cannot be a partaker of the commonwealth of Israel. But being saved is only the beginning, and to make the beginning the end is a catastrophe.
Some people go further and they feel that what is required is an experience of the Holy Spirit, and rather we call it the anointing of the Holy Spirit, or the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the empowering of the Holy Spirit, or whatever we like to call it, we feel that’s the end of the Law. And once you’ve had that experience of the Holy Spirit, you have arrived. There’s no more to be had. You have now come to the end of God’s purpose. His purpose is not only to save you, but to anoint you, and to empower you with the Holy Spirit.
There are others who feel it is necessary to have an experience of the Cross. It’s not only necessary to be saved, but we most know what it is to be crucified with Christ, and that is the end of the matter. That once we have laid down our lives for the Lord, we have arrived. We have now entered into a new dimension, and that’s the end of the Law, there is no more, that is it.
Some have got the idea that church work is the end of the Law. That once we have understood the real nature of the church, that all we have to do is pep the church up and that’s the end of the Law. That’s all that is required, that’s the end of salvation, that’s the end of the matter.
But all these things, all these experiences, are only the beginning. Obviously, to be born again is the very beginning. Every single one of these things, all of these other things are but a means to an end. Even our fellowship together, even our being brought up together, even our maintaining of the unity of the Spirit, is only a means to an end.
The Tragic Level of Shallowness in Christians
With sadness one may notice the tragic level of superficiality that there is among us who know and love the Lord. There is such a shallowness, such a characterless type of Christian Life, anemic, colorless, spineless. The affluence of our American society has had much to do with this. It has produced a kind of lukewarmness that is quite satisfied with outward things, satisfied with basically a superficial knowledge.
This is not the New Testament, it is not the whole council of God, it is not even the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. For once we begin to look at the words of God, especially in the letters written by Paul the Apostle, in connection with the fullness of Christ, in connections with pressing on into that fullness, we discover that there is a warning, after warning, after warning, don’t go back, don’t give up, don’t cast away your confidence, don’t settle down, go on, press on, move on, enter in, lay hold. You will find it everywhere.
There is no such thing in these letters as a kind of quiet passivity, a kind of well we’ve got it all, we don’t have to do anything, we’ll just sit still, we know it all, we have it all.
Consider the Words - Prize - Mark - Reward
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 "Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain (it). And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate (self-controlled) in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible (Crown). I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so I fight, not as one that beats the air: But I (discipline) keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (disqualified)."
This is very severe talk. There is a prize, there is a race to be run, there is a discipline to be exercised, and there is a possibility of being disqualified. This has nothing to do with salvation, but it has to do with the end of the Law, the inheritance, the goal of the Lord.
Colossians 2:18 "Let no man beguile (rob) you of your reward."
Philippians 3:14 "I press toward the mark (goal) for the prizeof the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
2 Timothy 4:7-8 "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me aCrown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love His appearing."
Paul has finished the course, he has fought the fight, and he has kept the faith. There is a race to be run and a course to be finished, there is a prize to be won, and apparently not everybody obtains the prize. Then there is the call to enter in, go on, lay hold, follow after, or press on.
Hebrews 4:1,11 "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
Hebrews 6:1 "Therefore leaving the (basic) principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection (fully grown)."
1 Timothy 6:12 "Fight the good fight of faith, lay holdon eternal life, whereunto you are also called."
Philippians 3:12,14-15,17 "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect (full grown): but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect (full grown), be thus minded: Brethren, be followers (imitators) together of me."
Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man (full grown), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Notice that Paul said for those of us who were full grown to be thus minded. He told the brethren to imitate him and by so doing they were to press on to lay hold of Christ Jesus. If we do not press on, if we do notenter into what the Lord has already won for us. If we do not lay holdof that which he has freely given us, we stand to lose very much indeed.
Look closely at these verses...
Philippians 3:7-17 "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung (rubbish),that I may win Christ, And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
"Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect (full grown): but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect (full grown), be thus minded: and if in anything you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, whereto we (who) have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark (pay attention to) them which walk so, as you have us for an example (pattern).
They are the most remarkable testimony in the Bible, certainly within the New Testament. Here we see into the heart of the Apostle Paul, and we understand something of his spiritual character, something of the Heavenly vision that in one sense obsessed him. From the moment God gave him that vision of the goal, of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, he couldn’t be the same. (Once Paul understood that God was selecting a Queen for King Jesus.) He was spoiled for anything less or anything other than God’s highest and God’s uttermost. It is a most remarkable testimony. Consider it for a few moments.
What Does Paul Mean “That I May Win Christ"?
What does Paul mean? Look at verse 8, “that I may win Christ" ... “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung (rubbish), that I may win Christ.” What is he talking about! You don’t win Christ through doing things! Christ is God’s unspeakable gift to us! We receive the Lord Jesus by faith. He is God’s gift to us, it is of faith, not of works. So why is Paul saying, “I suffer the loss of all things, that I may win Christ.” What can he be talking about? Does he mean that he doesn’t have Christ, does he mean that Christ isn’t living in him, does he mean that he is not in Christ now!
This letter was written after this Apostle had already written the Roman letter, the 1Corinthians letter, the 2Corinthians, the Galatians letter, the 1Thessalonians letter, the 2Thessalonians letter, and the letter to Philemon. If you have read all these letters, you would say, “This man definitely knows the Lord!” There’s no shadow of a doubt about it, this man knows the Lord! He is in Christ! He is joined to Christ, and Christ is dwelling in him. There’s no doubt about it.
He wrote all these letters before he wrote, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung (rubbish), that I may win Christ.” What is he talking about!!! With all that he has written in these letters, if he has not already won Christ, where does that leave us. Few of us have the knowledge of the Lord like Paul has.
Then Paul says in verse 12, “Not as though I had already attained.”What does he mean not that I had already attained? He said in chapter 12 of his second Corinthian letter that he was caught up to the third Heaven and heard things that it is not even lawful for a man to utter.
2 Corinthians 12:1-4 "It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."
This would represent some kind of attaining. He was caught up and heard things that he was forbidden to talk about or share, and yet he said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect (full grown).” Where would that leave us? Then again notice that he said in verse 13, “I count not myself to have apprehended.”
We know that when we are saved and born again we have received the Lord Jesus. And now we find that the Apostle Paul has written, not in his first moments of salvation, or in a month or two after he had found the Lord, but quite some time afterwards,when he had real experience and had been used by God in many marvelous ways, we find him talking like this. What does he mean!
The Out Resurrection
Then there is another quite extraordinary verse... in verse 11 he says, “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Now this is very interesting ... that “I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” But everybody is going to be raised from the dead! There is a general resurrection in Revelation of the good and the evil, everybody is going to be raised. Here is a very interesting thing, in the Greek it says literally, "If by any means I might attain unto the out resurrection from among the dead.” So this is apparently a special resurrection!
Here buried in the testimony of the Apostle Paul is a most remarkable statement, he says, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord... I count these things but dung (rubbish), that I may win Christ, And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness,” and then he goes on, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; If by any means I might attain unto this special resurrection!”
Apparently, this is not to do with salvation. It is something beyond salvation. It is the goal of salvation. It is the end of the Law, not the beginning. We find it in this marvelous verse fourteen, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
First of all, we have the “high calling of God.” We have been called with a tremendous calling. Everyone who is born of God, everyone who has been saved by the grace of God, everyone who has been delivered from the powers of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s dear Son has been called with a high calling, the high calling of God!
Now notice the Second thing, it is “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Not the high calling of God to do with Christ Jesus, or the high calling of God about Christ Jesus, “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” As if God is calling us to something in His Son, something to do with the status of His Son, something to do with the future of His Son, something to do with the destiny of the Messiah, He’s calling us into a partnership, into a sharing, something to do with His Son the Lord Jesus. “The high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Here is the Third thing, “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” So, there is a prize to be won, there is a race to be run, there is a fight to be fought, there is a course to be finished, there is a faith to be kept, there is a ministry to be fulfilled! It is to do with a prize, “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Now are you ready for the Fourth thing? “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” So the mark (goal) is the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
If this was only understood by the people of God,what a difference it would make to our Christian lives, to our entire mentality, to our concept. We have such small horizons. Wouldn’t it have been something if we had always understood this? Now we begin to understand! Apparently this winning of Christ is nothing to do with being saved, or being converted, or being born again, it is to do with something God has as an end of our salvation, something into which you and I have been saved, something over which God enforces to a new birth. Once we’re saved, once we’re born of God, once we belong to the Lord, then we have this prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. It is ours, and we have to press on! Now do you begin to get it? If we don’t count things but loss, if we don’t forget the things which are behind, if we don’t stretch forward to the things which are before, if we don’t lay hold on that for which also we were laid hold on by Christ Jesus, if we don’t press on, we’re going to lose the “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Now of course we have to ask ourselves, what is this? It has something to do with being filled with all the fullness of God. It has something to do with the width and the length and the height and the depth, to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.
Gaining Christ as Bridegroom!
It is to do with gaining, not Christ as Savior, but Christ as Bridegroom! It is not to do with gaining Christ as Savior, you don’t win Christ as Savior. He is given to you as Savior freely by the grace of God, so is Christ given to you as Bridegroom, but you have to go on, you have to grow up, you have to press on, you have to enter in, you have to lay hold on that for which also you were laid hold on. Why do you think the Lord Jesus saved you, why do you think He brought you to a new birth, why do you think He’s changed the whole course of your life, He laid hold on you! Christ Jesus took hold of you, so that you might be His Bride!
The width and the length and the height, and the depth, to know the love of Messiah which passes knowledge. That’s the goal, that’s the end of the law. That’s why the Bible ends with a marriage. That’s why in the very last chapters of the Bible, you suddenly find the Father bringing the Son, and the wife of the Son together in a Marriage Supper, in an eternal union! We’re only engaged at present. We’re not yet married. And as we all know, engagements can be broken off.
Let’s look again at Ephesians 4:13 “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a (full grown) perfect man (or woman), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:”
It is hard to understand within Christian circles, the idea that somehow or other, we can live careless lives as believers, though saved, though born again, we can live careless lives, and when we die, God is going to wave a kind of wand over us and all of a sudden, we become full grown saints. We can have been a total pain in the neck to everybody all through our miserable little lives, but evidently when we die, if we’re saved, then God is going to wave a wand over us and we’ll become perfect full-grown mature saints. It’s incredible! Even the Lord Jesus who was without sin was made perfect through the things He suffered, how much more you and I.
The Bride that the Lord Jesus is seeking, He doesn’t want some Hollywood type film star, beautiful to look at and nothing between the ears and nothing behind the eyes. But there’s some kind of idea well that’s just what the Lord does want. He wants a kind of beautiful bride, she mustn’t think because He’s going to do all the thinking, she mustn’t work because He’s going to do all the working, she mustn’t be anything, she’s just a dummy, she sits there beside Him looking pretty. Dressed magnificently! This is not what the Lord is looking for. He wants people who have stepped, the Father is looking for people who have stepped in the same footsteps as the lord Jesus. Who “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes.”
Revelation 14:4 "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes. These were redeemed [chosen] from among men [mankind, male and female], being the Firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
The term "virgins" when used symbolically in the Scriptures does not refer to the married state but rather to separation from the world. The term "virgins" as a symbol always has a good connotation, standing for those separated from the world.
2 Corinthians 11:2 "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."
People who have picked up their cross daily and followed in the footsteps of the Lamb. People who have been conformed to His image. They have studied and come to maturity, become full grown.
Matthew 10:38 "And he that takes not his cross, and follows after Me, is not worthy of Me."
2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly (accurately) dividing (understanding) the Word of truth."
We know ourselves that one would not marry a child to a full grown adult. What kind of wedding would it be, what kind of marriage would it be, what kind of household could they set up? Yet somehow in Christian Circles, we think that the full great multitude of kindergarten babies that people the kingdom of God are going to be married to the Lord Jesus forever. What kind of Bride is it going to be? It is impossible! Unless you and I are prepared for the discipline’s of the Holy Spirit, unless we are prepared for the school of the Holy Spirit, unless we are prepared to be led into deep and sometimes very difficult paths, unless we are prepared to have our understanding for the Lord extended and deepened, unless we are prepared to come to places where we learn how to overcome as He overcame, by the same Spirit, through the lying down of our lives, we can never come to the throne as His Bride.
God is looking for a Queen for the King!
One who has the same nature, who has the same likes, who has come to the same full growth, and who has the same maturity. She can be His helpmate, she can be His partner, she can be His compliment, she can share with Him in the ages of the ages to come.
That’s what Ephesians 4:13is referring to, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a (full grown) perfect man (or woman), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:”
Now we can begin to understand what has caught that amazing Jewish Apostle. Paul has seen something. The Holy Spirit has touched the eyes of his heart. He is no theologian, he is no sermon preacher, he is no mere Bible study giver. This man has caught a vision of the horizons of God. He has got a vision of the end of the Law. He has suddenly seen that this whole creation, this whole universe, and beyond it maybe other universes are dependent upon the Son finding a partner, so that together into the ages to come they may go to fulfill the will of God and to do the works of God.
I know it is a very common thing in Christian Circles, because we all get so weary and tired down here, to glory in those hymns that tell us we are going to lie on beds of flowery ease forever, and ever and ever. Evidently now we have to go to work and to war, but then as one old hymn says, then to rest forever. And we get the idea that we’re going to lie down on these lovely beds and have Angels come to give us tea or coffee, and all these kind of things. Oh, endless, endless, and endless rest with nothing to do except to sing. I have nothing against singing or praising the Lord. We owe it to the Lord to praise Him and thank Him for all eternity, but God is not like that. He wants to be praised and worshiped, and Heaven will be filled with the praises of the redeemed in the ages to come, but God wants to get on with the job. I don’t even know what the job is. But when He first created this Universe, and created this whole creation, even now in its fallen state, in its bondage to corruption, we see something of the original design of God. How marvelous this world is! How marvelous ecology is. How amazing its balance is. There is a universe in a drop of water, and there are countless universes beyond this universe, and somehow all of it was created by God. What is His purpose? Do you think that the Lord has exhausted Himself? Do you think He would say, well I can’t do anymore, I have done it all. I mean well, when they fell, they ruined it all and the only thing I can do is restore it. I can’t do anymore, I’ve exhausted the whole bag of tricks, there isn’t any more.
God is infinitely creative. And in one sense, He has held Himself up because this whole creation that He destined for His glory fell short because of man. And one day when somehow or other He brings the Bride and the Lamb together, then He will go on with the original thought. That’s why the prophets speak in terms, well they can only use human pictures, but they speak of trees clapping their hands. Have you ever seen trees clapping their hands? Valleys singing for joy and fields breaking into song. We have never seen an Ox and a Lion lying down together, actually sleeping with each other. Children playing with a Viper.
Isaiah 11:9 "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea."
Even though this refers to the Millennium, yet still, the ages that are to come beyond it, that Millennium is but the faintest picture of the New Earth wherein dwells righteousness.
Now the heart of this thing, the focal point is the obtaining of the Bride. That’s why when we come to the last part of the Bible, we see in the very last verses, Revelation 22:17 “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come.”
It’s a marvelous picture, as if the Holy Spirit has finally produced the Bride, and He says to the whole creation, “Come!”
Now, don’t you think that it would be a tragedy if God saved you, brought you to a new birth, and you threw away your place in that Bride through neglect. That is what a large number of us are in danger of doing. Throwing away our place, our part in the Bride. We are neglecting our so great Salvation. We are not laying hold on life eternal. We are not fighting the good fight of faith. We are not pressing on toward the goal. We are not entering in by faith. What would it be if finally we come to be with the Lord, and found ourselves in the kingdom, and find that we are not at the heart of what He’s doing.
That’s what caught the Apostle Paul. That’s whyonce he saw the goal, once he saw the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, he was never the same man again. He was caught by something so tremendous it spoiled him for anything secondary, anything less, anything poorer. He called it the Heavenly Vision. And in another testimony he said in, Acts 26:19 “O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the Heavenly vision:”
Let us all accept the call to enter in, go on, lay hold, follow after, press on toward the goal. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal the fullness of God’s Word and God’s heart to us.
The Goal God Has Set Before Us
Ephesians 3:3-10,14-19: By revelation He [God] made known unto me [Paul] the mystery . . . Whereby, when you read [this], you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men . . . That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister . . . that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God . . . that now . . . might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord . . . I [Paul] bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all Saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
The Bride of Christ