Philippians 3:12
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
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(12) Not as though . . .—The tenses are here varied. Not as though I ever yet attained, or have been already made perfect. To “attain,” or receive (probably the prize, see Philippians 3:14), is a single act; “to be perfected” a continuous process. Clearly St. Paul has no belief, either in any indefectible grasp of salvation, or in any attainment of full spiritual perfection on this side of the grave. We may note our Lord’s use of the word “to be perfected” to signify His death (Luke 13:32), and a similar application of the word to Him in Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9; also the use of the words “made perfect” to signify the condition of the glorified (Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:23).

If that I may apprehend that for which also I am (rather, was) apprehended of Christ Jesus.—The metaphor throughout is of the race, in which he, like an eager runner, stretches out continually to “grasp” the prize. But (following out the same line of thought as in Philippians 3:7-8) he is unwilling to lay too much stress on his own exertions, and so breaks in on the metaphor, by the remembrance that he himself was once grasped, at his conversion, by the saving hand of Christ, and so only put in a condition to grasp the prize. The exact translation of the words which we render “that for which,” &c., is doubtful. Our version supplies an object after the verb “apprehend,” whereas the cognate verb “attained” is used absolutely; and the expression as it here stands is rather cumbrous. Perhaps it would be simpler to render “inasmuch as” or “seeing that” (as in Romans 5:12; 2Corinthians 5:4). The hope to apprehend rests on the knowledge that he had been apprehended by One “out of whose hand no man could pluck” him.



Php 3:12.

‘I was laid hold of by Jesus Christ.’ That is how Paul thinks of what we call his conversion. He would never have ‘turned’ unless a hand had been laid upon him. A strong loving grasp had gripped him in the midst of his career of persecution, and all that he had done was to yield to the grip, and not to wriggle out of it. The strong expression suggests, as it seems to me, the suddenness of the incident. Possibly impressions may have been working underground, ever since the martyrdom of Stephen, which were undermining his convictions, and the very insanity of his zeal may have been due to an uneasy consciousness that the ground was yielding beneath his feet. That may have been so, but, whether it were so or not, the crisis came like a bolt out of the blue, and he was checked in full career, as if a voice had spoken to the sea in its wildest storm, and frozen its waves into immobility.

There is suggested in the word, too, distinctly, our Lord’s personal action in the matter. No doubt, the fact of His supernatural appearance gives emphasis to the phrase here. But every Christian man and woman has been, as truly as ever Paul was, laid hold of by the personal action of Jesus Christ. He is present in His Word, and, by multitudes of inward impulses and outward providences, He is putting out a gentle and a firm hand, and laying it upon the shoulders of all of us. Have we yielded? Have we resisted, when we were laid hold of? Did we try to get away? Did we plant our feet and say, ‘I will not be drawn,’ or did we simply neglect the pressure? If we have yielded, my text tells us what we have to do next. For that hand is laid upon a man for a purpose, and that purpose is not secured by the hand being laid upon him, unless he, in his turn, will put out a hand and grasp. Our activity is needed; that activity will not be put forth without very distinct effort, and that effort has to be life-long, because our grasp at the best is incomplete. So then, we have here, first of all, to consider--

I. What Christ has laid His grip on us for.

Now, the immediate result of that grasp, when it is yielded to, is the sense of the removal of guilt, forgiveness of sins, acceptance with God. But these, the immediate results, are by no means the whole results, although a great many of us live as if we thought that the only thing that Christianity is meant to do to us is that it bars the gates of some future hell, and brings to us the message of forgiveness. We cannot think too nobly or too loftily of that gift of forgiveness, the initial gift that is laid in every Christian man’s hands, but we may think too exclusively of it, and a great many of us do think of it as if it were all that was to be given. A painter has to clear away the old paint off a door, or a wall, before he lays on the new. The initial gift that comes from being laid hold of by Jesus Christ is the burning off of the old coat of paint. But that is only the preliminary to the laying on of the new. A man away in the backwoods will spend a couple of years after he has got his bit of land in felling and burning the trees, and rooting out and destroying the weeds. But is that what he got the clearing for? That is only a preliminary to sowing the seed. My friend! If Jesus Christ has laid hold of you, and you have let Him keep hold of you, it is not only that you may be forgiven, not only that you may sun yourself in the light of God’s countenance, and feel that a new blessed relation is set up between you and Him, but there are great purposes lying at the back of that, of which all that is only the preliminary and the preparation.

Conversion. Yes; but what is the good of turning a man round unless he goes in the direction in which his face is turned? And so here the Apostle having for years lived in the light of that great thought, that God was reconciled in Jesus Christ, and that he was God’s friend, discerns far beyond that, in dim perspective, towering high above the land in the front, the snowy sunlit summits of a great range to which he has yet to climb, and says, ‘I press on to lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Jesus Christ.’

And what was that? On the road to Damascus Paul was only told one thing, that Christ had grasped him and drawn him to Himself in order that He might make him a chosen vessel to bear the Word far hence amongst the Gentiles. The bearing of His conversion upon Paul himself was never mentioned. The bearing of His conversion on the world was the only subject that Jesus spoke of at first. But here Paul has nothing to say about his world-wide mission. He does not think of himself as being called to be an Apostle, but as being summoned to be a Christian. And so, forgetting for the time all the glorious and yet burdensome obligations which were laid upon him, and the discharge of which was the very life of his life, he thinks only of what affects his own character, the perfecting of which he regards as being the one thing for which he was ‘laid hold of by Christ Jesus.’ The purpose is twofold. No Christian man is made a Christian only in order that he may secure his own salvation; there is the world to think of. No Christian man is made a Christian only in order that he may be Christ’s instrument for carrying the Word to other people; there is himself to think of. And these two phases of the purpose for which Jesus Christ lays hold upon us are very hard to unite in practice, giving to each its due place and prominence, and they are often separated, to the detriment of both the one that is attended to, and the one that is neglected. The monastic life has not produced the noblest Christians; and there are pitfalls lying in the path of every man who, like me, has for his profession to preach the Gospel, which, if they are fallen into, the inward life is utterly wrecked.

The two sides of Christ’s purpose have, in our practice, to be held together, but for the present I only wish to say a word or two about that which, as I have indicated, is but one hemisphere of the completed orb, and that is our personal culture and growth in the divine life. What did Christ lay hold of me for? Paul answers the question very strikingly and beautifully in a previous verse. Here is his conception of the purpose, ‘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.’ That is what you were forgiven for; that is what you have ‘passed from death unto life’ for; that is what you have come into the sweet fellowship of God, and can think of Him as your Friend and Helper for.

Let us take the clauses seriatim , and say a word about each of them. ‘That I may know Him.’ Ah! there is a great deal more in Jesus Christ than a man sees when he first sees Him through his tears and his fears, and apprehends Him as the Saviour of his soul, and the sacrifice on whom the burden and the guilt of his sins were laid. We must begin there, as I believe. But woe to us if we stop there. There is far more in Christ than that; although all that is in Him is included in that, yet you have to dig deep before you find all that is included in it. You have to live with Him day by day, and year by year, and to learn to know Him as we learn to know husbands and wives, by continual intercourse, by continual experience of a sweet and unfailing love, by many a sacred hour of interchange of affection and reception of gifts and counsels. It is only thus that we learn to know what Jesus Christ is. When He lays hold of us, He comes like the angel that came to Peter in the prison in the dark and awoke him out of his sleep and said ‘Rise! and follow me.’ It is only when we get out into the street, and have been with Him for awhile, and the daylight begins to stream in, that we see clearly the face of our Deliverer, and know Him for all that He is. This knowledge is not the sort of knowledge that you can get by thinking, or out of a book. It is the knowledge of experience. It is the knowledge of love, it is the knowledge of union, and it is in order that we may know Christ that He lays his hand upon us.

‘The power of His Resurrection.’ Now, by that I understand a similar knowledge, by experience, of the risen life of Jesus Christ flowing into us, and filling our hearts and minds with its own power. The risen life of Jesus is the nourishment and strengthening and blessing and life of a Christian. Our daily experience ought to be that there comes, wavelet by wavelet, that silent, gentle, and yet omnipotent influx into our empty hearts, the very life of Christ Himself.

I know that this generation says that that is mysticism. I do not know whether it is mysticism or not. I am sure it is truth; and I do not understand Christianity at all, unless there is that kind of mysticism, perfectly wholesome and good, in it. You will never know Jesus Christ until you know Him as pouring into your hearts the power of an endless life, His own life. Christ for us by all means,--Christ’s death the basis of our hope, but Christ in us, and Christ’s life as the true gift to His Church. Have you got that? Do you know the power of His Resurrection?

‘The fellowship of His sufferings.’ Has Paul made a mistake, and deserted the chronological order? Why does he put the ‘fellowship of the sufferings’ after the ‘power of the Resurrection’? For this plain reason, that if we get Christ’s life into our hearts, in the measure in which we get it we shall bear a similar relation to the world which He bore to it, and in our measure will ‘fill up that which is behind in the sufferings of Christ,’ and will understand how true it is that ‘if they hate Me they will hate you also.’ Brethren, the test of us who have the life of Christ in our hearts is that we shall, in some measure, suffer with Him, because ‘as He is, so are we, in this world,’ and because we must in that case look upon the world, its sins and its sorrows, with something of the sad gaze with which He looked across the valley to the Temple sparkling in the morning light, and wept over it. So if we know the power of His Resurrection we shall know the fellowship of His sufferings.

And then Paul goes on, in his definition of the purpose for which Christ lays hold upon men, apparently to say the same thing over again, only in the opposite order, ‘that I may be conformable to His death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.’ Both of these clauses, I think, refer to the future, to the actual dying of the body, and the actual future resurrection of the same. And the thought is this, that if here, through our earthly lives, we have been recipients of the risen life of Jesus Christ, and so have stood to the world in our degree as He stood to it, then when the moment of death comes to us, we shall, in so far, have our departure shaped after His as that we shall be able to say, ‘Into Thy hands I commit my spirit,’ and die willingly, and at last shall be partakers of that blessed Resurrection unto life eternal which closes the vista of our earthly history. Stephen’s death was conformed to Christ’s in outward fashion, in so far as it echoed the Master’s prayer, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,’ and in so far as it echoed the Master’s last words, with the significant alteration that, whilst Jesus commended His spirit to the Father, the first martyr commended his to Jesus Christ.

These, then, are the purposes for which Christ laid His hand upon us, that we might know Him, the power of His Resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death yet by attaining the resurrection of the dead.

II. Notice, again, our laying hold because we have been laid hold of.

Christ’s laying hold of me, blessed and powerful as it is, does not of itself secure that I shall reach the end which He had in view in His arresting of me. What more is wanted? My effort. ‘I follow after if I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended.’ Now, notice, in the one case, the Apostle speaks of himself, not as passive, but certainly not as active. ‘I was laid hold of.’ What did he do? As I have said, he simply yielded to the grasp. But ‘I may lay hold of’ conveys the idea of personal effort; and so these two expressions, ‘I was apprehended,’ and ‘I apprehend,’ suggest this consideration, that, for the initial blessings of the Christian life, forgiveness, acceptance, the sense of God’s favour, and of reconciliation with him, nothing is needed but the simple faith that yields itself altogether to the grasp of Christ’s hand, but that for my possessing what Christ means that I should possess when He lays His hand on me, there is needed not only faith but effort. I have to put out my hand and tighten my fingers round the thing, if I would make it my own, and keep it.

So--faith, to begin with, and work based on faith, to go on with. It is because a man is sure that Jesus Christ has laid His hand upon him, and meant something when He did it, that he fights on with all his might to realise Christ’s purpose, and to get and keep the thing which Christ meant him to have. There is stimulus in the thought, I was laid hold of by Him for a purpose. There is all the difference between striving, however eagerly, however nobly, however strenuously, however constantly, after self-improvement, by one’s own effort only, and striving after it because one knows that he is therein fulfilling the purpose for which Jesus Christ drew him to Himself.

And if that be so, then the nature of the thing to be laid hold of determines what we are to do to lay hold of it. And since to know Christ, and the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, is the aim and end of our conversion, the way to secure it must be keeping in continual touch with Jesus by meditating upon Him, by holding many a moment of still, sacred, sweet communion with Him, by carefully avoiding whatever might come between us and our knowledge of Him, and the influx of His life into us, and by yielding ourselves, day by day, to the continual influence of His divine grace upon us and by the discipline which shall make our inward natures more and more capable of receiving more and more of that dear Lord. These being the things to do, in regard to the inward life, there must be effort too, in regard to the outward; for we must, if we are to lay hold of that for which we are laid hold of by Jesus Christ, bring all the outward life under the dominion of this inward impulse, and when the flood pours into our hearts we must, by many a sluice and trench, guide it into every corner of the field, that all may be irrigated. The first thing they do when they are going to sow rice in an Eastern field is to flood it, and then they cast in the seed, and it germinates. Flood your lives with Christ, and then sow the seed and you will get a crop.

III. Lastly, the text suggests the incompleteness of our grasp.

‘I follow that,’ says Paul, ‘if that I may apprehend.’ This letter was written far on in his career, in the time of his imprisonment in Rome, which all but ended his ministerial activity; and was many years after that day on the road to Damascus. And yet, matured Christian and exercised Apostle as he was, with all that past behind him, he says, ‘I follow after, that I may apprehend.’ Ah, brother, our experience must be incomplete, for we have an infinite aim set before us, and there is no end to the possibilities of plunging deeper and deeper and deeper into the knowledge of Christ, and having larger and larger and larger draughts of the fulness of His life. We have only been like goldseekers, who have contented themselves as yet with washing the precious grains out of the gravel of the river. There are great reefs filled with the ore that we have not touched. Thank God for the necessary incompleteness of our ‘apprehending.’ It is the very salt of life. To have realised our aims, to have fulfilled our ideals, to have sucked dry the cluster of the grapes is the death of aspiration, of hope, of blessedness; and to have the distance beckoning, and all experience ‘an arch, wherethro’ gleams the untravelled world to which we move,’ is the secret of perpetual youth and energy.

Because incomplete, our experience should be progressive; and that is a truth that needs hammering into Christian people to-day. About how many of us can it be said that our light ‘shineth more and more unto the noonday.’ Alas! about an enormous number of us it must be said, ‘When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you.’ All our churches have many grown babies, and cases of arrested development--people that ought to be living on strong meat, and are unable to masticate or digest it, and by their own fault have still need of the milk of infancy. There is an old fable about a strange animal that fastened itself to the keel of sailing ships, and by some uncanny power was able to arrest them in mid-ocean, though the winds were filling all their sails. There is a remora, as they called it, of that sort adhering to a great many Christian people, and keeping them fixed on one spot, instead of ‘following after, if that they may apprehend.’

Dear friends--and especially you younger Christians--Christ has laid hold of you. Well and good! that is the beginning. He has laid hold of you for an end. That end will not be reached without your effort, and that effort must be perpetual. It is a life-long task. Ay! and even up yonder the apprehending will be incomplete. Like those mathematical lines that ever approximate to a point which they never reach, we shall through Eternity be, as it were, rising, in ascending and ever-closer drawing spirals, to that great Throne, and to Him that sits upon it. So that, striking out the humble ‘may’ from our text, the rest of it describes the progressive blessedness of the endless life in the heavens, as truly as it does the progressive duty of the Christian life here, and the glorified flock that follows the Lamb in the heavenly pastures may each say: I follow after in order to apprehend that ‘for which,’ long ago and down amidst the dim shadows of earth, ‘I was apprehended of Christ Jesus.’

Php 3:12. Not as though I had already attained Ουχ οτι ηδη ελαβον, literally, not that I have already received, namely, the blessings which I am in pursuit of, even that complete knowledge of Christ, of the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, and conformity to his death just mentioned; either were already perfect Τετελειωμαι, perfected, completed: or had finished my course of duty and sufferings. It appears from Php 3:15, that there is a difference between one that is τελειος, perfect, and one that is perfected; the one is fitted for the race, the other has finished the race, and is ready to receive the prize. But I follow after Διωκω, I pursue, what is still before me. The apostle changes his allusion from a voyage to a race, which he continues through the two next verses. That I may apprehend that perfect holiness, that entire conformity to the will of God, for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus — Appearing to me in the way to Damascus, (Acts 26:14,) whose condescending hand graciously laid hold on me when I was proceeding in my mad career of persecuting him and his followers, and in the extraordinary manner of which you have often heard, brought me to engage in running that very different race which I am now pursuing.

3:12-21 This simple dependence and earnestness of soul, were not mentioned as if the apostle had gained the prize, or were already made perfect in the Saviour's likeness. He forgot the things which were behind, so as not to be content with past labours or present measures of grace. He reached forth, stretched himself forward towards his point; expressions showing great concern to become more and more like unto Christ. He who runs a race, must never stop short of the end, but press forward as fast as he can; so those who have heaven in their view, must still press forward to it, in holy desires and hopes, and constant endeavours. Eternal life is the gift of God, but it is in Christ Jesus; through his hand it must come to us, as it is procured for us by him. There is no getting to heaven as our home, but by Christ as our Way. True believers, in seeking this assurance, as well as to glorify him, will seek more nearly to resemble his sufferings and death, by dying to sin, and by crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts. In these things there is a great difference among real Christians, but all know something of them. Believers make Christ all in all, and set their hearts upon another world. If they differ from one another, and are not of the same judgment in lesser matters, yet they must not judge one another; while they all meet now in Christ, and hope to meet shortly in heaven. Let them join in all the great things in which they are agreed, and wait for further light as to lesser things wherein they differ. The enemies of the cross of Christ mind nothing but their sensual appetites. Sin is the sinner's shame, especially when gloried in. The way of those who mind earthly things, may seem pleasant, but death and hell are at the end of it. If we choose their way, we shall share their end. The life of a Christian is in heaven, where his Head and his home are, and where he hopes to be shortly; he sets his affections upon things above; and where his heart is, there will his conversation be. There is glory kept for the bodies of the saints, in which they will appear at the resurrection. Then the body will be made glorious; not only raised again to life, but raised to great advantage. Observe the power by which this change will be wrought. May we be always prepared for the coming of our Judge; looking to have our vile bodies changed by his Almighty power, and applying to him daily to new-create our souls unto holiness; to deliver us from our enemies, and to employ our bodies and souls as instruments of righteousness in his service.Not as though I had already attained - This verse and the two following are full of allusions to the Grecian races. "The word rendered 'attained' signifies, to have arrived at the goal and won the prize, but without having as yet received it" - The Pictorial Bible. The meaning here is, I do not pretend to have attained to what I wish or hope to be. He had indeed been converted; he had been raised up from the death of sin; he had been imbued with spiritual life and peace; but there was a glorious object before him which he had not yet received. There was to be a kind of resurrection which he had not arrived at. It is possible that Paul here may have had his eye on an error which prevailed to some extent in the early church, that "the resurrection was already past" 2 Timothy 2:18, by which the faith of some had been perverted. How far this error had spread, or on what it was founded, is not now known; but it is possible that it might have found advocates extensively in the churches. Paul says, however, that he entertained no such opinion. He looked forward to a resurrection which had not yet occurred. He anticipated it as a glorious event yet to come, and he purposed to secure it by every effort which he could make.

Either were already perfect - This is a distinct assertion of the apostle Paul that he did not regard himself as a perfect man. He had not reached that state where he was free from sin. It is not indeed a declaration that no one was perfect, or that no one could be in this life but it is a declaration that he did not regard himself as having attained to it. Yet who can urge better claims to having attained perfection than Paul could have done? Who has surpassed him in love, and zeal, and self-denial, and true devotedness to the service of the Redeemer? Who has more elevated views of God, and of the plan of salvation? Who prays more, or lives nearer to God than he did? That must be extraordinary piety which surpasses that of the apostle Paul; and he who lays claim to a degree of holiness which even Paul did not pretend to, gives little evidence that he has any true knowledge of himself, or has ever been imbued with the true humility which the gospel produces.

It should be observed, however, that many critics, as Bloomfield, Koppe, Rosenmuller, Robinson (Lexicon), Clarke, the editor of The Pictorial Bible, and others, suppose the word used here - τελειόω teleioō - not to refer to moral or Christian perfection, but to be an allusion to the games that were celebrated in Greece, and to mean that he had not completed his course and arrived at the goal, so as to receive the prize. According to this, the sense would be, that he had not yet received the crown which he aspired after as the result of his efforts in this life. It is of importance to understand precisely what he meant by the declaration here; and, in order to this, it will be proper to look at the meaning of the word elsewhere in the New Testament. The word properly means, to complete, to make perfect, so as to be full, or so that nothing shall be wanting. In the New Testament it is used in the following places, and is translated in the following manner: It is rendered "fulfilled" in Luke 2:23; John 19:28; "perfect," and "perfected," in Luke 13:32; John 17:23; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 3:12; Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 7:19; Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:23; James 2:22; 1 John 2:5; 1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:17-18; "finish," and "finished," John 5:36; Acts 20:24; and "consecrated," Hebrews 7:28.

In one case Acts 20:24, it is applied to a race or course that is run - "That I might finish my course with joy;" but this is the only instance, unless it be in the case before us. The proper sense of the word is that of bringing to an end, or rendering complete, so that nothing shall be wanting. The idea of Paul evidently is, that he had not yet attained that which would be the completion of his hopes. There was something which he was striving after, which he had not obtained, and which was needful to render him perfect, or complete. He lacked now what he hoped yet to attain to; and that which he lacked may refer to all those things which were wanting in his character and condition then, which he expected to secure in the resurrection. What he would then obtain, would be - perfect freedom from sin, deliverance from trials and temptations, victory over the grave, and the possession of immortal life.

As those things were needful in order to the completion of his happiness, we may suppose that he referred to them now, when he says that he was not yet "perfect." This word, therefore, while it will embrace an allusion to moral character, need not be understood of that only, but may include all those things which were necessary to be observed in order to his complete felicity. Though there may be, therefore, an allusion in the passage to the Grecian foot-races, yet still it would teach that he did not regard himself as in any sense perfect in all respects, there were things wanting to render his character and condition complete, or what he desired they might ultimately be. The same is true of all Christians now. We are imperfect in our moral and religious character, in our joys, in our condition. Our state here is far different from that which will exist in heaven; and no Christian can say, anymore than Paul could, that he has obtained that which is requisite to the completion or perfection of his character and condition. He looks for something brighter and purer in the world beyond the grave. Though, therefore, there may be - as I think the connection and phraseology seem to demand - a reference to the Grecian games, yet the sense of the passage is not materially varied. It was still a struggle for the crown of perfection - a crown which the apostle says he had not yet obtained.

But I follow after - I pursue the object, striving to obtain it. The prize was seen in the distance, and he diligently sought to obtain it. There is a reference here to the Grecian races, and the meaning is, "I steadily pursue my course;" compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:24.

If that I may apprehend - If I may obtain, or reach, the heavenly prize. There was a glorious object in view, and he made most strenuous exertions to obtain it. The idea in the word "apprehend" is that of taking hold of, or of seizing suddenly and with eagerness; and, since there is no doubt of its being used in an allusion to the Grecian foot-races, it is not improbable that there is a reference to the laying hold of the pole or post which marked the goal, by the racer who had outstripped the other competitors, and who, by that act, might claim the victory and the reward.

That for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus - By Christ Jesus. The idea is, that he had been called into the service of the Lord Jesus, with a view to the obtaining of an important object. He recognized:

(1) the fact that the Lord Jesus had, as it were, laid hold on him, or seized him with eagerness or suddenness, for so the word used here - κατελήμφθην katelēmphthēn - means (compare Mark 9:18; John 8:3-4; John 12:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:4; and,

(2) the fact that the Lord Jesus had laid hold on him, with a view to his obtaining the prize. He had done it in order that he might obtain the crown of life, that he might serve him faithfully here, and then be rewarded in heaven.

We may learn, from this:

(1) That Christians are seized, or laid hold on, when they are converted, by the power of Christ, to be employed in his service.

(2) that there is an object or purpose which he has in view. He designs that they shall obtain a glorious prize, and he "apprehends" them with reference to its attainment.

(3) that the fact that Christ has called us into his service with reference to such an object, and designs to bestow the crown upon us, need not and should not dampen our exertions, or diminish our zeal. It should rather, as in the case of Paul, excite our ardor, and urge us forward. We should seek diligently to gain that, for the securing of which, Christ has called us into his service. The fact that he has thus arrested us in our mad career of sin; that he has by his grace constrained us to enter into his service, and that he contemplates the bestowment upon us of the immortal crown, should be the highest motive for effort. The true Christian, then, who feels that heaven is to be his home, and who believes that Christ means to bestow it upon him, will make the most strenuous efforts to obtain it. The prize is so beautiful and glorious, that he will exert every power of body and soul that it may be his. The belief, therefore, that God means to save us, is one of the highest incentives to effort in the cause of religion.

12. Translate, "Not that I," &c. (I do not wish to be understood as saying that, &c.).

attained—"obtained," namely, a perfect knowledge of Christ, and of the power of His death, and fellowship of His sufferings, and a conformity to His death.

either were already perfect—"or am already perfected," that is, crowned with the garland of victory, my course completed, and perfection absolutely reached. The image is that of a race course throughout. See 1Co 9:24; Heb 12:23. See Trench [Greek Synonyms of the New Testament].

I follow after—"I press on."

apprehend … apprehended—"If so be that I may lay hold on that (namely, the prize, Php 3:14) for which also I was laid hold on by Christ" (namely, at my conversion, So 1:4; 1Co 13:12).

Jesus—omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Paul was close to "apprehending" the prize (2Ti 4:7, 8). Christ the Author, is also the Finisher of His people's "race."

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: by an elegant anticipation and correction, lest any should conclude from what he had written, as if he were now arrived at the height he aimed at in the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, and a full and perfect stature in that body, or almost at the very pitch, he doth here make a modest confession of his not attainment, (whatever false apostles might pretend to), 2 Corinthians 10:12 12:6,7; but of his earnest desire and utmost endeavour to be raised to the complete holiness he was designed to,

in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:6.

But I follow after; he did pursue with all vigour, as those labouring in the agonistics, with all his might and main, not desponding of obtaining the goal, 1 Corinthians 9:26, with 2 Corinthians 4:8; with groanings and longings after utmost perfection, 2 Corinthians 5:4,6,7 2 Peter 3:12; as those perfected in glory, Hebrews 12:23.

If that I may apprehend that; if that, or whether that, (not as intimating any uncertainty, but his more earnest contending for holiness in the Christian race), I may lay hold on that attainment to be as holy as men shall be at the resurrection.

For which; even as, or for which, ( as we render it well so, Philippians 4:10), i.e. for which end, or for this purpose, to be perfectly sanctified and glorified at the resurrection.

I am apprehended of Christ Jesus; he was at his effectual calling laid hold on by Christ, being found in whom, he was striving after perfection. This apprehended is a metaphor borrowed from those that run in a race, one taking hold of another to draw him after to win the prize as well as himself. He eyed Christ having taken him into his hand, as one that would not suffer him to be plucked out by any opposers, John 10:28. He knew that Christ, having brought him nigh unto God, and undertook to work such a measure of holiness in him, one day would completely glorify him, so that, whatever he passed through, nothing should be lost, John 6:39.

Not as though I had already attained,.... Or "received"; he had received much grace out of the fulness of it in Christ; he had received the gift of righteousness, the forgiveness of his sins, and the adoption of children; he had attained to a lively hope of the incorruptible inheritance, and had received a right unto it, and had a meetness for it; but as yet he had not received the thing itself, nor was he come to the end of his race, and so had not received the crown of righteousness laid up for him; he had not yet attained to perfect knowledge, nor perfect holiness, nor perfect happiness: wherefore he adds,

either were already perfect; he was perfect in comparison of others, that were in a lower class of grace, experience, and knowledge, in which sense the word is used in Philippians 3:15, and in 1 Corinthians 2:6; he was so, as perfection intends sincerity, uprightness, and integrity; the root of the matter, the truth of grace was in him; his faith was unfeigned, his love was without dissimulation, his hope was without hypocrisy, his conversation in the world was in godly simplicity, and his preaching and his whole conduct in his ministry were of sincerity, and in the sight of God: he was perfect as a new creature with respect to parts, having Christ formed in him, and all the parts of the new man, though not as to degrees; this new man not being as yet grown up to a perfect man, or to its full growth, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; he was perfect with respect to justification, being perfectly justified from all things, by the righteousness of Christ, but not with respect to sanctification; and though his sanctification was perfect in Christ, yet not in himself; his knowledge was imperfect, something was wanting in his faith, and sin dwelt in him, of which he sometimes grievously complained: now this he says, lest he should be thought to arrogate that to himself, which he had not:

but I follow after; Christ the forerunner, after perfect knowledge of him, perfect holiness from him, and perfect happiness with him: the metaphor is taken from runners in a race, who pursue it with eagerness, press forward with all might and main, to get up to the mark, in order to receive the prize; accordingly the Syriac version renders it, , "I run", and so the Arabic: the apostle's sense is, that though he had not yet reached the mark, he pressed forward towards it, he had it in view, he stretched and exerted himself, and followed up very closely to it, in hope of enjoying the prize:

if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus; he was apprehended of Christ, when he met him in his way to Damascus, stopped him in his journey, laid him prostrate on the ground, and laid hold on him as his own, challenged and claimed his interest in him, Acts 9:3, as one that the Father had given him, and he had purchased by his blood; he entered into him, and took possession of him, and took up his residence in him, having dispossessed the strong man armed, and ever since held him as his own; and he apprehended, or laid hold on him, to bring him as he had engaged to do, to a participation of grace here, and glory hereafter; that he might know him himself, and make him known to others; that he might be made like unto him, have communion with him, and everlastingly enjoy him: and these things the apostle pursued after with great vehemence, that he might apprehend them, and be in full possession of them; and which he did, in the way and manner hereafter described.

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am {l} apprehended of Christ Jesus.

(l) For we run only as far forth as we are laid hold on by Christ, that is, as God gives us strength, and shows us the way.

Php 3:12. Οὐχ ὅτι] By this I do not mean to say that, etc. See on 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 3:5; John 6:46. Aken, Lehre v. Temp. u. Mod. p. 91 ff. He might encounter such a misconception on the part of his opponents; but “in summo fervore sobrietatem spiritualem non dimittit apostolus,” Bengel.

ἤδη ἔλαβον] that I have already grasped it. The object is not named by Paul, but left to be understood of itself from the context. The latter represents a prize-runner, who at the goal of the σταδιοδρομία grasps the βραβεῖον (Php 3:14). This βραβεῖον typifies the bliss of the Messiah’s kingdom (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 4:7-8), which therefore, and that as βραβεῖον, is here to be conceived as the object, the attainment of which is denied to have already taken place. And accordingly, ἔλαβον is to be explained of the having attained in ideal anticipation, in which the individual is as sure and certain of the future attainment of the βραβεῖον, as if it were already an accomplished fact. What therefore Paul here denies of himself is the same imagination with which he reproaches the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:8 (see in loc). The reference to the βραβεῖον (so Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Bengel, Heinrichs, Rilliet, and others) is not proleptic;[164] on the contrary, it is suggested by the idea of the race just introduced in Php 3:12, and is prepared for by the preceding καταντήσω εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τ. νεκρ., in which the Messianic ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑ makes its appearance, and the grasping of the ΒΡΑΒΕῖΟΝ is realized; hence it is so accordant with the context that all other references are excluded. Accordingly, we must neither supply metam generally (Beza, comp. Ewald); nor τὴν ἀνάστασιν (Rheinwald); nor ΤῸΝ ΧΡΙΣΤΌΝ (Theodoret; comp. Weiss); nor moral perfection (Hoelemann, following Ambrosiaster and others); nor the right of resurrection (Grotius); nor even “the knowledge of Christ which appropriates, imitates, and strives to follow Him” (de Wette; comp. Ambrosiaster, Calvin, Vatablus, van Hengel, Wiesinger); nor yet the καταντᾶν of Php 3:11 (Matthies).

Ἢ ἬΔΗ ΤΕΤΕΛΕΊΩΜΑΙ] or—in order to express without a figure that which had been figuratively denoted by ἤδη ἔλαβονwere already perfected.[165] For only the ethically perfected Christian, who has entirely become and is (observe the perfect) what he was intended to become and be, would be able to say with truth that he had already grasped the βραβεῖον, however infallibly certain might be to him, looking at his inward moral frame of life, the future ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑ. He who is not yet perfect has still always to run after it; see the sequel. The words ἢ ἤδη δεδικαίωμαι, introduced in considerable authorities before , form a correct gloss, when understood in an ethical sense. For instances of τελειοῦσθαι—which is not, with Hofmann, to be here taken in the indefinite generality of being ready—in the sense of spiritual perfection (comp. Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 12:23), see Ast, Lex. Plat. III. p. 369; comp. Philo, Alleg. p. 74 C, where the βραβεῖα are adjudged to the soul, when it is perfected. To be at the goal (Hammond, Wolf, Loesner, Heinrichs, Flatt, Rilliet, and others), is a sense, which τετελ. might have, according to the context. In opposition to it, however, we may urge, not that the figure of the race-contest only comes in distinctly in the sequel, for it is already introduced in Php 3:12, but that Paul would thus have expressed himself quite tautologically, and that ΤΈΛΕΙΟΙ in Php 3:15 is correlative with ΤΕΤΕΛΕΊΩΜΑΙ.

] but I pursue it, i.e. I strive after it with strenuous running; see Php 3:14. The idea of urgent haste is conveyed (Abresch, ad Aesch. Sept. 90; Blomfield, Gloss. Pers. 86). The δέ has the force of an ἈΛΛΆ in the sense of on the other hand; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 95, and comp. on Ephesians 4:15. We must understand τὸ βραβεῖον as object to διώκω, just as in the case of ἜΛΑΒΟΝ and ΚΑΤΑΛΆΒΩ; hence ΔΙΏΚΩ is not to be taken absolutely (Rilliet; comp. Rheinwald, de Wette, Hofmann), although this in itself would be linguistically admissible (in opposition to van Hengel), see on Php 3:14. Phavorinus: διώκειν ἐνίοτε τὸ ἁπλῶς κατὰ σπουδὴν ἐλαύνειν;. also Eustathius, ad Il. xxiii. 344.

εἰ καὶ καταλάβω] This ΕἸ is, as in ΕἼ ΠΩς, Php 3:11, deliberative: if I also, etc., the idea of σκοπεῖν or some similar word being before his mind; the compound ΚΑΤΑΛΆΒΩ is more (in opposition to Weiss) than ἜΛΑΒΟΝ, and denotes the apprehension which takes possession; comp. on Romans 9:30, 1 Corinthians 9:24, where we have the same progression from ΛΑΜΒ. to ΚΑΤΑΛΑΜΒ.; Herod, ix. 58: ΔΙΩΚΤΈΟΙ ΕἸΣῚ Ἐς Ὃ ΚΑΤΑΛΑΜΦΘΈΝΤΕς; and ΚΑΊ implies: I not merely grasp (ἔλαβον), but also actually apprehend.[166]

ἐφʼ ᾧ καὶ κατελήφθην ὑπὸ Χ.] Comp. Plat. Tim. p. 38 D: ὅθεν καταλαμβάνουσί τε καὶ καταλαμβάνονται, 1 Corinthians 13:12 : ἘΠΙΓΝΏΣΟΜΑΙ ΚΑΘῺς ΚΑῚ ἘΠΕΓΝΏΣΘΗΝ, Ignatius, Romans 8 : ΘΕΛΉΣΑΤΕ, ἽΝΑ ΚΑῚ ὙΜΕῖς ΘΕΛΗΘῆΤΕ, Trall. 5: πολλὰ γὰρ ἡμῖν λείπει, ἵνα Θεοῦ μὴ λειπώμεθα: because I was also apprehended by Christ. This is the determining ground of the διώκω, and of the thought thereto annexed, ΕἸ ΚΑῚ ΚΑΤΑΛΆΒΩ. Theophylact (comp. Chrysostom and Theodoret) aptly remarks: ΔΕΙΚΝῪς, ὍΤΙ ὈΦΕΊΛΗ ἘΣΤῚ ΤῸ ΠΡᾶΓΜΑ, ΦΗΣΊ· ΔΙΌΤΙ ΚΑῚ ΚΑΤΕΛΉΦΘ. ὙΠῸ Χ. Otherwise, in fact, this having been apprehended would not have been responded to on my part.[167] Respecting ἐφʼ ᾧ, on the ground of this, that, i.e. propterea quod, see on Romans 5:12; 2 Corinthians 5:4. The interpretation: for which, on which behalf (Oecumenius, Beza, Grotius, Rheinwald, Rilliet, Weiss, and others), just as in Php 4:10, is indeed linguistically correct and simple; but it assigns the conversion of Paul, not to the general object which it had (Galatians 1:16), but to a personal object. In this case, moreover, Rilliet, de Wette, Wiesinger supply τοῦτο previously, which is not in accordance with the objectless ἜΛΑΒΟΝ. More artificial are the explanations: whereunto, in the sense of obligation (Hoelemann); under which condition (Matthies); in so far as (Castalio, Ewald); in the presupposition, that (Baur); which is certain from the fact, that (subjective ground of knowledge; so Ernesti, Urspr. d. Sünde, II. p. 217). According to Hofmann, Paul desires to give the reason why, and for what purpose, he contemplates an apprehension. But thus the reference of ἐφʼ ᾧ κ.τ.λ. would be limited to et ΕἸ Κ. ΚΑΤΑΛΆΒΩ, although the positive leading thought has been introduced in ΔΙΏΚΩ ΔΈ. ἘΦʼ ᾯ Κ.Τ.Λ. serves this leading thought along with that of its accessory definition εἰ κ. καταλάβω.

καί] also, subjoins to the active καταλάβω the ingeniously corresponding passive relation ΚΑΤΕΛΉΦΘΗΝ. And by ΚΑΤΕΛΉΦΘ. Paul expresses what at his conversion he experienced from Christ (hence the aorist); there is no need for suggesting the idea, foreign to the context, of an apprehended fugitive (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Theodoret, and others, including Flatt and van Hengel). The fact that at that time Christ laid hold of him on his pre-Christian career, and took him into His power and gracious guidance as His own, is vividly illustrated by the figure, to which the context gave occasion, κατελήφθ. ὑπὸ Χ.

[164] As also Hofmann objects, who finds the notion of the verb alone sufficient for expressing what is to be negatived, but yet likewise ultimately comes to eternal life as a supplement; for that which is not yet attained is one and the same with that which is one day to be attained.

[165] This being perfected is not the result of the ἔλαβον (Wiesinger, Weiss), but the moral condition of him who can say ἔλαβον. Note that is used, and not καί; καί might have been taken as annexing the result.

2 Timothy 4:7 does not conflict with our passage, but is the confession at the end of the course, “exemplum accipientis jam jamque,” Bengel.

[167] Paul is conscious that, being apprehended by Christ, he may not and cannot do otherwise. Comp. Bengel: quoniam; sensus virtutis Christi accendit Christianum.

Php 3:12-14. Protest, that in what he had said in Php 3:7-11 he had not expressed the fanciful idea of a Christian perfection already attained; but that, on the contrary, his efforts are still ever directed forward towards that aim—whereby a mirror for self-contemplation is held up before the Philippians in respect to the moral conceit which disturbed their unity (Php 2:2-4), in order to stir them up to a like humility and diligence as a condition of Christian perfection (Php 3:15).


12–16. On the other hand, his spiritual condition is one of progress, not perfection

12. Not as though &c.] This reserve, so emphatic and solemn, appears to be suggested by the fact, brought out more fully below (Php 3:18-19), of the presence of a false teaching which represented the Christian as already in such a sense arrived at his goal as to be lifted beyond responsibility, duty, and progress. No, says St Paul; he has indeed “gained Christ,” and is “found in Him, having the righteousness of God”; he “knows” his Lord, and His power; but none the less he is still called to humble himself, to recollect that the process of grace is never complete below, and that from one point of view its coming completion is always linked with the saint’s faithful watching and prayer, the keeping open of the “eyes ever toward the Lord” (Psalm 25:15).

attained] Better, received, or, with R.V., obtained; for the verb is not the same as that in Php 3:11. (It is the same as that in Revelation 3:11.) The thought of “the crown” is probably to be supplied. See below, on Php 3:14.—R.V. renders, rather more lit., “Not that I have already attained.” But the construction of A.V. well represents the Greek.—Some documents here add “or have been already justified”; but the evidence is decisive against this insertion.

were already perfect] Better, have been already perfected. The process was incomplete which was to develope his being for the life of glory, in which “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:3; cp. Romans 8:29); a promise implying that we are never so here, completely. Cp. the Greek of Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; in which the holy “transformation” is presented as a process, advancing to its ideal, not yet arrived there. And see further below, on Php 3:15.

The Greek verb, and its kindred noun, were used technically in later ecclesiastical Greek of the death of martyrs (and of monks, in a remarkable passage of Chrysostom, Hom. xiv. on 1 Tim), viewed as specially glorious and glorified saints. But no such limitation appears in Scripture. In Hebrews 12:23 the reference plainly is to the whole company of the holy departed: who have entered, as they left the body, on the heavenly rest, the eternal close of the state of discipline. Cp. Wis 4:13; “he [the just man], in short (season) perfected, fulfilled long times.”

I follow after] R.V., I press on. The thought of the race, with its goal and crown, is before him. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 5:7; 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1.

if that I may] Better, if indeed I may. On this language of contingency, see note above on Php 3:11.

apprehend] i.e., grasp. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:24. All the English versions before 1611 have “comprehend” here. Both verbs now bear meanings which tend to mislead the reader here. The Greek verb is that rendered “receive,” or “obtain,” just above, only in a stronger (compound) form. He thinks of the promised crown, till in thought he not merely “receives” but “grasps” it, with astonished joy.

that for which also &c.] The Greek may be rendered grammatically either (a) thus, or (b) “inasmuch as I was even &c.” Usage in St Paul (Romans 5:12; 2 Corinthians 5:4) is in favour of (b); context is rather for (a), which is adopted by Ellicott, and Alford, and in R.V. (text; margin gives (b)). Lightfoot does not speak decidedly. We recommend (a) for reasons difficult to explain without fuller discussion of the Greek than can be offered here.—The meaning will thus be that he presses on to grasp the crown, with the animating thought that Christ, in the hour of conversion, grasped him with the express purpose in view that he, through the path of faith and obedience, might be glorified at last. Cp. Romans 8:30; where we see the “call” as the sure antecedent not to justification only but to glory; but antecedent in such a way as powerfully to cheer and strengthen the suffering saint in the path of the cross, not to leave him for a moment to fatalistic inaction. The rendering (b) gives a meaning not far distant from this, though less distinctly.

Christ Jesus] Read, with the documentary evidence, Christ.

Php 3:12. Οὐχʼ ὅτι, not that, not as though) In his highest fervour, the apostle does not let go his spiritual sobriety.—ἔλαβον, I had received [attained]) the prize.—τετελείωμαι) τέλειος and τετελειωμένος differ. The former is applied to the man fully fit for running, Php 3:15-16; the latter to him who is nearest to the prize, at the very point of receiving [attaining] it.[44]—καὶ καταλάβω) Καὶ, even, is intensive; for καταλαμβάνω, to apprehend (comprehendere), is more than λαμβάνω, to take hold of (prehendere): λαμβάνειν, to take hold of, is done at the moment when the last step has been made; καταλαμβάνειν, to apprehend, is done when the man is in full possession. There is an example of one “on the very point of receiving” [attaining] at 2 Timothy 4:7-8 [Psalm 73:23; Psalm 73:28].—ἐφʼ ᾧ, since [but Engl. Vers. that for which]) The perception of the power of Christ influences the Christian.—καὶ κατελήφθην, I have been also apprehended) by a heavenly calling, Php 3:14; Acts [Acts 9:6] Acts 26:14; Acts 26:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14. Christ, the author and finisher [consummator], when He consummated His own ‘race’ of faith, also consummates His people, Hebrews 12:2; where the very appellation, ἀρχηγοῦ, prince (author), implies His relation to His followers. Καὶ, also, is again intensive, so that the force of the first aorist [“I am apprehended”] may be observed denoting the present state of the apostle.

[44] Τέλειος means often not absolutely perfect, but one having attained the full limit of stature, strength, etc., which constitute the man’s τέλος, opposed to νεοι or παῖδες, youths or children. See 1 Corinthians 2:6. So Paul here, ver. 15, claims to be τέλειος, fully established in the things of God, no longer a babe in Christ. Yet in ver. 12 he denies that he is as yet τετελειωμένος (a race-course expression), i.e. crowned with the garland of victory, his course completed, and perfection absolutely reached. See Trench Syn.—ED.

Verse 12. - Not as though I had already. attained, either were already perfect; the R.V. renders this clause more accurately, not that (1. do not say that) I have already obtained. The verb is not the same with that translated "attain" in ver. 11; it means to get, to win a prize, as in 1 Corinthians 9:24. The tense is aorist: "I say not that I did at once win the prize;" that is, at the time of his conversion. Compare the tenses used in ver. 8, "I suffered the loss of all things;" and ver. 12, "I was apprehended;" which both refer to the same time. The prize was gained in a moment; it needs the continued effort of a lifetime. St. Paul proceeds, using now the perfect tense, "Nor have I been already made perfect." He has not even now reached perfection; he is still working out his own salvation. There may be here a delicate allusion to the spiritual pride which seems to have disturbed the unity of the Philippians (see Philippians 2:2-4). But I follow after; rather, I pursue, I press on. If that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. The words rendered "for which" (ἐφ ῷ) will admit three different interpretations:

(1) that of A.V., which implies the ellipse of the antecedent "that;"

(2) that given in the margin of R.V., "seeing that;" and

(3) that of the R.V., "for which," for which purpose (that is, that I may press on and persevere) I was also apprehended by Christ Jesus. All these translations are possible, and all give a good sense. Perhaps

(2) best suits the context, "I press on to lay hold o[the prize, because Christ first laid hold of me." The grace of the Lord Jesus furnishes the highest motive; it is the Christian's bounden duty to press on always in the Christian race, because Christ first called him. Philippians 3:12Not as though (οὐχ ὅτι)

Lit., not that, as Rev. By this I do not mean to say that. For similar usage, see John 7:22; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 4:17.

Had attained - were perfect (ἔλαβον - τετελείωμαι)

Rev., have attained, am made perfect. There is a change of tenses which may be intentional; the aorist attained pointing to the definite period of his conversion, the perfect, am made perfect, referring to his present state. Neither when I became Christ's did I attain, nor, up to this time, have I been perfected. With attained supply the prize from Philippians 3:14. Rev., am made perfect, is preferable, as preserving the passive form of the verb.

I follow after (διώκω)

Rev., better, press on. The A.V. gives the sense of chasing; whereas the apostle's meaning is the pressing toward a fixed point. The continuous present would be better, I am pressing.

May apprehend (καταλάβω)

American Rev., lay hold on. Neither A.V. nor Rev. give the force of καὶ also; if I may also apprehend as well as pursue. For the verb, see on John 1:5.

For which also I am apprehended

Rev., correctly, was apprehended. American Rev., laid hold on. Paul's meaning is, "I would grasp that for which Christ grasped me. Paul's conversion was literally of the nature of a seizure. That for which Christ laid hold of him was indeed his mission to the Gentiles, but it was also his personal salvation, and it is of this that the context treats. Some render, seeing that also I was apprehended. Rev., in margin.

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