If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.
I. PAUL'S AIM. How can that future rising be attained at all by man's effort in time?
1. Paul has been speaking of a spiritual fellowship with Christ's sufferings and death and rising, and then as a direct result he passes to this, from which we infer that the resurrection in the future is the result of man's spiritual life in the present. Men fancy that the future glory of the risen Christian is by a kind of miracle suddenly added beyond the grave. Paul regards it as a glory daily growing now, to be manifested then. It is an outgrowth of fellowship with Christ, and its blessedness will be greater or less according to the perfection of that fellowship.
2. In what manner was this Christian life a constant attainment of the resurrection? The "power of Christ's resurrection" is the influence in the soul which renders its life a gradual growth towards the rising glory of man.
(1) The risen Christ is the pledge of a risen life. Christ did not rise merely to prove our immortality; if that were all its meaning it would only deepen man's fear. We do not want immortality unless we know that our life, throwing off its sins, shall rise upwards to God. Rising to God Christ showed that man is accepted by the Father, rising in the human, He showed how, through Him, human life should rise into life Divine.
(2) The rising of Christ is a power to elevate life. We have fellowship not with the past, but with the living Jesus: we are moulded by the power not only of a dying Saviour, but of the living friend. He carries our sympathies upwards with Himself to God and the spiritual world.
(3) Hence arises the gradual attainment of the resurrection, every experience of our risen life makes us feel the necessity of the future; yet every experience is an actual attaining of that future.
II. PAUL'S ENDEAVOUR. The necessity of this agonizing endeavour arises from two facts.
1. The difficulty of accomplishing it. This is so —
(1) Because our souls are subject to the influences of three great worlds.
(a) By its fascinations this old earth appeals to our hearts, and seems by many arms to bind us to itself as our home.
(b) The dark world of unbelief and indifference awakening the carnal nature renders the Christian life an inevitable struggle.
(c) At the same time through the love of God and the Cross of Christ heaven is attracting the soul.
(2) Because of the incessant and dominant power of our easily besetting sin. This power arises largely in that every man thinks his own weakness small and insignificant.
(3) And then listen to Paul after his high attainments telling us that he has to keep his body under lest he should be a castaway.
2. The glory of its attainment. You know how this raised Paul to exertion. He moved onwards to eternity under the constant influence of its attraction. Alas! how feebly we feel this as a motive for endeavour. We lash ourselves into exertion by fear, when we might be so cheered into it by sweet hope as to become unconscious of toil.
(E. L. Hull, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.