power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his
sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death; if by
any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the
dead. (The R.S.V. reads, that if possible I may attain).
Rotherham (1872): if, by any means, I may advance into the
out-resurrection—that from among (the) dead.
Darby: if any way I arrive at the resurrection from among
New World: to see if I may by any means attain to the
earlier resurrection from the dead.
There must be very few versions which indicate any difference between the word rendered "resurrection" in verse 10 and in verse 11. In the former case the Greek word is anastasis (UP-STANDING), while in the latter case it is exanastasis (OUT-UP-STANDING), which word only occurs here.
What is the difference? For many years this latter word troubled me; most of this chapter troubled me. If only I had then possessed Dr. Young's "Concise Critical Comments" upon the Scriptures, I should have rejoiced. Here are his notes on verse 11, "if any how. . . . upstanding out of the dead—in its fullest extent and blessing; a spiritual resurrection is here meant (as in John 5:25), as the apostle could not possibly doubt whether he should partake in the general up rising."
Dr. Young's exegesis beautifully suits the meaning of the greater part of the chapter. But very few have grasped this important fact. Many have been misled into thinking that Paul is alluding to a special resurrection from physical death, to be "attained" only by a few, either through effort or qualification of some kind. But would it be good for us to know that we were to attain a higher glory than most saints could reach? Such an expectation would invariably lead to a selfish attitude. Those that think they have "attained" always tend to look down on their less fortunate brethren. The Body of Christ is one whole. If we are genuine, healthy members of it, We shall wish the health of all other members, and discern, or recognize, the complete Body (1. Cor. 11:29). But we shall never wish any member to be in any way inferior, any more than we would ever wish one part of our physical body to become superior to the other parts.
Excluding verse 11, anyone reading the entire chapter carefully will find that it is only concerned with the present life of the believer. Even in verse 20, Paul is not so much looking forward to a future resurrection, as awaiting a Saviour.
Each verse expresses the vehement ardour of Paul to attain to a certain condition. He is alive for one object. He has flung aside all confidence in the flesh as a Hebrew descended from Hebrews, and is pressing onwards so that he may get hold of something vastly superior. He stretches out in front goal-wards, and wishes others to imitate his example.
Paul wishes us, here and now, in spirit, to attain to a resurrection life, on earth. Quite a few times in his writings has Paul said the same, or almost the same. Thus, Rom. 6:4, "even as Christ was roused from among dead ones. . . . thus we also, in newness of life, should go on walking." Rom. 6:13, "but present yourselves to God, as if living ones from among dead ones." 2. Cor. 4:11, "For we, the living, are ever being given up unto death, because of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." 1. Tim. 6:12, "Be getting hold of (that) eonian life, unto which you were called." See also verse 19.
It is just as well that Paul made no claim to have reached spiritual resurrection. For then we should have felt we could never "imitate" his example. We should have been discouraged.
It is very probable, however, that those closest to him recognized that he had attained the prize he had been pursuing. Later on he was to write, with some confidence, that he had kept the faith, and would receive the wreath of righteousness (2. Tim. 4:7-8).
What always distresses the humblest saint is that be feels himself full of pride. Whereas the person who is full of pride invariably thinks he is the humblest of men.
The words in verse 11, "If by any means, if possibly, if somehow, I may attain to the resurrection. . . ." look very tempting, very alluring. They seem to hint that here there is something which we can do, some height we can climb, some deeper truth we can learn, so that we may reach an "earlier" or better resurrection than others. Yet in the three other occurrences of the expression. in Greek (ei pOs; Acts 27:12; Rom. 1:10; 11:14) the possibility of the event happening does not depend upon the ability or knowledge of the person concerned.
The word "attain" (katantaO) means to draw up along side, or arrive at. It is not only used of reaching a place, town, or harbour, but of attaining unto the unity of the faith (Eph.4:13). So it can refer to a spiritual goal.
If Paul was seeking to attain to a spiritual resurrection, it must have been something ecstatic, something extremely uplifting. This would be quite in harmony with Col. 3:1-5. "If then, you were roused together with the Christ, be seeking the things above (anO, UP), where the Christ is, in God's right (hand) sitting: Be disposed to the things above (anO), not to the things on the earth. For you died, and your life has been hid together with the Christ in God."
The UP-STANDING (ana-stasis) will undoubtedly be for us all a wonderful ecstasy. Not only because we shall then be free from the slavery of corruption and possess the freedom—of the glory of the children of God, but because we shall have the ecstasy of beholding God in the face of Jesus Christ. Why then should not the OUT-UP-STANDING (ex-ana-stasis), if we succeed in attaining thereto in our present life, also be a kind of ecstasy?
Like ourselves, the Greeks could use a word like "stand" not only in its physical sense, but in a metaphysical sense. The old English word understand is used in the latter sense. Our mind stands under, looks up, and comprehends. To withstand is to stand against, either physically or with the spirit; to resist. Apostacy is a Greek word, meaning a standing from or away.
In the New Testament OUT-UP-STAND occurs three times as a verb. Acts 15:5, "Yet some of those from the sect of the Pharisees, having been believing, rise up, saying that, 'It is obligatory to be circumcising them, besides charging them to go on keeping the law of Moses.'" Rotherham puts it as they "stood forth." Evidently their demonstration was somewhat forceful. They stood up and they stood out distinctly from the rest. Mark 12:19 and Luke 20:28 refer to the "raising up" of seed to a brother deceased. Literally, "causing to stand up out."
In the Greek Old Testament OUT-UP-STAND occurs about thirty times, of raising up seed, rising up to meet anyone, standing up from one's place, or from the throne, rising up out of sleep, the rising up of violence or tumult. In no case is there any direct reference to resurrection of the dead from death.
OUT-STAND occurs as a verb in the New Testament about seventeen times, with the meaning "amaze." But actually it means more than amazement. The thought is rather to stupefy, dumbfound, so that one cannot believe his senses. Twice the A.V. (1611) renders by "be beside oneself" (Mark 3:21; 2. Cor. 5:13). That comes close to the literal sense of an ecstasy. When the blind deaf and dumb man was cured (Matt. 12:22) the throngs nearly went out of their minds with astonishment. That some of the Corinthians apparently thought Paul was out of his mind is not astonishing (2. Cor. 5:13). He must have seemed "beside himself," perhaps so excessively amazed by the revelations he had received that he did not appear to be sane.
In the Greek Old Testament this word occurs over sixty times, with the same meaning—utter bewilderment, accompanied by shock, which temporarily upsets one, making him feet, or making others feel, that he is not quite "all there."
Enough has been said to shew that it is not unreasonable to reckon the "out-resurrection" of Phil. 3:11 in the sense given to it by Dr. Robert Young, "a spiritual resurrection." This is much easier to believe than the opposite view, such as that of "The Berean Expositor" of London. Its view is that Paul was in no doubt about a resurrection of dead saints, but was in doubt about attaining the prize, which could only be got by "labour." The out-resurrection is for those who "work out their own salvation. . . . . if by any means they may attain unto this added bliss." The resurrection could be brought nearer, by means of this "special resurrection," by "departing to be with Christ," which would be "a better resurrection" (Heb. 11:35), and "a prize to be won." Only those who had been "perfected" could attain to this out-resurrection. "By entering your name as one who is going to run for this prize, you have professed before your fellow believers to have already outstript the majority of them." Paul said the time of his departure was at hand, and his desire was apparently granted. He knew there was a possibility of his departing and being with Christ. If he could do this, he would not need to fall asleep and wait till the day of resurrection for the Church as a whole. Very truly this writer admits that none can ever say he is "already perfected," Very truly he says that it might not be good for us to know how far along the road we had got, in case we fell. This is quite in accord with our own opinion that Paul might have" attained," without being conscious of the fact. In fact, if this "out-resurrection" was intended to be attained by any of the saints, surely Paul must have been the first to attain it. If he failed, surely no other could hope to succeed.
"The prize forms no integral part of the unity of the Spirit, but the 'one hope' does." But, we might ask, would not the existence of such a prize as an earlier and better resurrection tend to split the unity of the Spirit among the saints as we know them? Anyone who thinks or sees himself as "perfect" or mature cannot possibly be so in reality. Anyone who is encouraged to think he has outstript the majority of believers can only be very immature. That is not the way of true humility.
Paul states categorically that those who are Christ's will be made alive "in His presence" or parousia (1. Cor. 15:23), which may cover a period of time. Again, he states that those surviving unto the presence of the Lord will not at all outstrip those who are put to repose, but the whole will at the same time be snatched away in clouds, unto it meeting (literally an away-meeting) of the Lord, unto air (1. Thess. 4:15-17).
What we are unable to accept is the theory that Paul in Phil. 3:11 added a correction of the teaching he had received from the Lord. If some will be able to attain a short cut by departing to be with Christ, and thus bringing resurrection nearer, the very important revelations found in 1. Thess. 4 and 1. Cor. 15 must have been defective and misleading.
The discoverer of this theory, however, is not at all assured regarding it. He finds the passage in Phil. 3 "deep and difficult." So it was to us once, and we can sympathise. He seems rather diffident about his discovery, which was due to the fact that he rejects I. Thess. 4 as giving the expectation of the Church, and was obliged to fall back upon Phil. 3, where he found his "short cut" resurrection for those who become "perfected."
Some have thought that those broken or drummed to death on the wheel of torture (Heb. ll:35) will attain a resurrection better than the life they had lived on earth. Others think it will be better than the deliverance they might have obtained had they renounced their faith. But as Alford queries, why does the writer of Hebrews not say that they refused the deliverance so that they might encounter a better deliverance? Alford suggests that the better resurrection was one superior to that obtained by the sons of the women referred to, which sons would have to die again.
Paul obtained the confidence that he would remain with the saints for some time (Phil. 1:25) for their benefit. Therefore would he strive for the next best thing to his strong desire, of verse 23. He would spend the rest of his days on earth as far as possible on resurrection ground, alive to God but dead to the world and its flimsy attractions, getting to know the power of Christ's resurrection. Anyone who realizes the great power of Christ's resurrection, and its effects, will naturally come to live, more or less, upon resurrection ground in his or her daily life.
Until the Church attains the goal described in Phil. 3:20-21, its spiritual goal ought to be that described in verses 10 and 11, which is the logical result of Paul's gospel and ministry. This goal is not to be reached by chance. Paul was not running merely so that he might beat others in the race. He was pursuing so that he might attain the goal. This demands concentration on one single object. We cannot attain in this life to a state of spiritual resurrection without consecrating ourselves entirely to Him who grasped us for this very purpose.
ALEXANDER THOMSON. Last updated 29.12.2005