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Q In Phil 3:11, Paul used the term "IF" when speaking about his own future resurrection. Wasn't Paul already saved? If so, why would he use the "IF"?
 
 

A Paul was, indeed, already saved and his other writings do not indicate any insecurity about his position (Note 2 Tim. 1:12 and Romans 8:28-39 especially). The New Testament and Paul’s writings in particular do not teach that we are insecure in our position. There is no need to see that insecurity here. 

In the context, Paul gives a whole lists of reasons he could have been confident in the flesh (3-6), then states that he counted them loss for Christ (v. 7). In v. 8 he repeats that he “counts all things loss” for Christ, adds that he has “suffered the loss of all things,” and then, as if he hasn’t said it enough, announces that he “counts them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” All these things he counted loss for Christ are the basis for his statement in v. 11 “if, BY ANY MEANS, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” In other words, he would let anything go, whatever it took, to gain Christ and the resurrection. The statement is not one of insecurity in his future resurrection, but emphasis that he would have let no fleshly advantage whatsoever stand in the way of gaining it.

The context of this passage and the thrust of general New Testament theology would be absolutely enough to nail this interpretation--but there is good grammatical evidence as well. Although the word ‘if’ is there, it is only there because the fulfillment of Paul’s confident hope in the resurrection is still future. Again, despite what it sounds like in English, this is not an expression of insecurity. The Greek language often used a conditional statement when a future, as yet unfulfilled, event was in view. The ‘if’ is in a grammatical construction that introduces a future supposed fulfillment with a great degree of probability. That is a fancy way of saying Paul confidently expected this resurrection. In fact, it is possible to treat this as a statement of a goal or purpose introduced by ”in order that” or “so that.” Several translations do just this. The New American Standard Bible has, “in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Additional evidence for this view of the grammar is in v. 12, where the same Greek construction with the ‘if’ is always translated something like “that I may lay hold of.” No insecurity there--just the statement of his goal or purpose for pressing on. 

Unfortunately, there are times when it’s hard to get one language’s nuances of meaning into another language. But, as I suggested before, there is plenty of help in the context and theology. The Bible seldom leaves us with a strange statement that we couldn’t figure out without being a Greek in the first century. 

 

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