THE PRICE IN PHILIPPIANS—GIVING UP ALL THINGS TO GAIN CHRIST
The price in Philippians 3 is different from the price in the Gospels. The price in the Gospels refers to all that we have, whereas the price in Philippians 3 refers mainly to all the things that enable us to serve the Lord. For example, all things in Philippians 3 denotes our abilities in service (v. 8). We may have the ability to serve, to preach, to testify, and to visit the saints. We may also have eloquence and experience. All these things are included in the price required of us in Philippians 3. The revelation in Philippians 3 is that we should pursue the experience of Christ and the power of His resurrection (v. 10). Therefore, we need to pay the price by giving up all that we have—our theology, eloquence, doctrines, knowledge, and experience—in exchange for Christ, the experience of Christ, and the gaining of Christ. Paul forsook all things that he might gain Christ (v. 8). In other words, he forsook all his abilities in the service of God that he might gain Christ as his ability. We need to cast aside our ability, our eloquence, our doctrines, and our messages and let Christ be our ability, our eloquence, and our message. Only by paying a price in this way will we be able to gain Christ.
Let us use the matter of visiting the saints as an illustration. Since we have gone out frequently to visit the saints, gradually we have learned something concerning this matter. Therefore, we may think that we are experienced in this matter. However, if we do not give up our experience in the matter of visitations on account of Christ, we will not be able to experience Christ through the visitations. Because we want to retain our ability, Christ has no chance to come in. However, if we go to visit the saints by putting aside our experience, then we are no longer depending on our ability. Our ability to visit the saints, which was a gain to us, we have counted as loss on account of Christ. Although we have the ability, we give it up and count it as refuse. In exchange we gain Christ and experience Christ.
The price in Philippians 3 is not a price experienced in a Christian’s initial stage. The price experienced in a Christian’s initial stage is the price in the Gospels. The price in Philippians comes after the price in the Gospels. One who has not paid the price in the Gospels cannot pay the price in Philippians 3. The price in the Gospels does not require any qualifications—it is the initial price, whereas the price in Philippians 3 requires certain qualifications. Only when a person has paid the price in the Gospels will he be able to serve in Acts, and only when a person is serving in Acts will he have the experience and qualification to pay the price in Philippians 3.
After paying the price in the Gospels, a person will have numerous experiences in the service of God. However, if he stops there, holding on to those experiences rather than giving them up, eventually he will not have any fresh experiences and will therefore be unable to have more experiences of Christ. Hence, Paul said that we should forget the things which are behind and stretch forward to the things which are before (Phil. 3:13). Regardless of how good our past experiences were, they are the things which are behind and have to be forgotten (cf. vv. 5-6). If we preached the word once and saved three thousand, we still have to forsake that experience and count it as refuse that we may gain the living Christ. Unless we are willing to forsake our past experiences, we will not be able to have a fresh experience of Christ, and without a fresh experience, we will not have new usefulness in service. There are some whose usefulness before the Lord is old—not fresh and living, because they are not willing to pay the price referred to in Philippians 3 and are therefore short of the experience of Christ and the power of His resurrection.
The price in Philippians 3 may be likened to Abraham’s offering of Isaac on the altar (Gen. 22:1-2). Abraham had received Isaac as a promise from God, yet he still had to offer Isaac back anew. Likewise, we still need to offer to the Lord the lessons that we have learned before Him in the past. This is the price in Philippians 3, which is a higher price. The price in the Gospels is paid by a follower of the Lord in the initial stage of his experience. The price in Philippians is paid by one who has already been serving the Lord to a certain extent and has a considerable amount of knowledge of the Lord, a considerable measure of spirituality, a considerable degree of obtainment, and a considerable amount of experience. At this time, the price revealed in Philippians 3 will require him to give up all these “considerables,” that is, to give up all things. Although these things are good and are “Isaacs,” they are all things of the past. Therefore, he has to forget them and pay them as the price so that he may have some new experiences. Only by this can he have a fresh and living usefulness in service.
THE PRICE IN REVELATION—BUYING THREE THINGS
Another place in the Scriptures that mentions the paying of a price in a very clear way is Revelation 3:18. There it mentions buying three things: gold refined by fire, white garments, and eyesalve. These are all matters related to a price. Furthermore, it is the Lord who asks us to buy.
Gold signifies God’s nature, God’s element. In the church in Laodicea there was much clay but very little gold. In other words, in their midst there were too many things that were outside of God, and there was too little of the element of God. Therefore, the Lord counseled the believers to buy gold. With regard to white garments, the color white denotes purity, the absence of mixture, and garments refer to our walk and conduct. Hence, white garments signify a walk and conduct expressing the purity of God. Third, eyesalve is for anointing the eyes. When the eyes have an ailment and are unable to see, there is the need to buy eyesalve to cure the eyes and make them bright again. In normal situations, the inner nature of a Christian should be pure, and his outward living should be white and bright. All these items require us to buy, to pay a price. God’s intention is to accomplish His eternal purpose through man. Thus, after the Lord calls us, we need to pay a price so that we may become useful to Him.
(How to Be Useful to the Lord, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)