One Thing I Do
By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
Apart from our Lord, Paul is the only man presented to us by God for imitation; as he says himself, by inspiration, - Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ (1 Cor. 11: 1). This lends immense force to the master-passion of Paul, which, therefore, should become ours:- ONE THING I DO (Phil. 3: 13). He says there is a mountain summit yet ahead that he has not reached: Paul the aged; Paul, after writing his greatest Epistle, and having founded his noblest Churches, nevertheless cries, - One thing I do; I PRESS ON. He uses a careful word. I count not myself to have apprehended: I have taken stock; I have sum mod up the facts; I have reached a mathematical conclusion: my whole life must be concentrated on one aim: one thing I do.
The Apostle begins by acknowledging exactly what had not yet been achieved even by the chief of the Apostles; an unachievement which, if it included Paul, must embrace every one of us. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if so be that I may - for it depends on my own effort - apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus. Paul is the supreme master of the doctrine of assurance: his statements of our fundamental safety by saving faith are unsurpassed: his own [eternal] salvation he was the last soul in the universe to doubt. Since he was as certain as anyone in the world that he had obtained [this initial] salvation, what was it that he had not obtained? Not that I am already made perfect. The word perfect was used of racers end wrestlers, when their strength and ability had passed the standard of their agonistical exercises. Paul did not go to sleep over the singularity of his conversion; nor rock himself in the cradle of his apostolic success; nor sooth himself with the opiate of his official position (M. M. Taylor, D.D.). [Eternal] Salvation can never be insecure: the prize can never be assumed until it is won.
Paul now defines what he means by his concentrated singleness of aim. Forgetting the things that are behind. Among the things behind Paul, take up a single group - his sufferings for Christ. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one, thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned; in labour and travail, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness (2 Cor. 11: 24). What a golden record! He forgets it all. Humility that begins to plume itself on its past is already dead. Equally vital is it to forget our failures, our disappointments, our [wilful] sins: brooding on the past paralyses the present, and bankrupts the future. One word of our Lord, counters both. Many that are first shall he last - first-class runners may lose the race oven in the last lap; and the last first (Mark 10: 31), for even if, at this moment, we are last, we may yet he first, if - one thing I do. Let the glorious, certain, infinite future, with its boundless possibilities, bury a stained and disappointing past.
But again Paul defines his attitude, which makes our model, towards the present. Stretching forward to the things that are before: stretching ourselves out, as the keen runner in a race, towards the things in front: not satisfied with any past achievement or suffering, or consecration, but continually reaching forward with ever-growing ardour. An artist, standing before his latest picture, was seen to burst into tears. When aaked why, he replied:- Because I am satisfied with my work. He had reached his ideal, and therefore exhausted it. Never so Paul. The successful runner is the racer who has girded his loins tight, forgetting the past - looking over shoulder would lose any race - with his whole energies he is concentrated on the goal.* Stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal. Passionate absorption is beautifully illustrated in General Booth, when himself over eighty. A friend of his writes:- I learned the secret of his power. He said, When do you go? I said, In five minutes. He said, Pray; and I dropped on my knees with General Booth by my side, and prayed a stammering and stuttering prayer. Then he talked with God about the outcast of London, the poor of New York, the lost of China, the great world lying in wickedness; and then he opened his eyes as if he were looking into the very face of Jesus, and with sobs he prayed Gods blessing upon every, mission worker, every evangelist, every minister, every Christian. With his eyes still overflowing with tears, he bade me goodbye and started away, past 80 years of age, to preach on the Continent. And I learned from William Booth that the greatness of a mans power is the measure of his surrender. It is not a question of who you are or of what you are, but of whether God controls you.
* Professor Eadie expresses it thus:- The picture is that of a racer in his agony of struggle and hope. Every muscle it strained and every vain starting - the chest heaves - the big drops gather on his brow - his body is bent forward, as if he already clutched the goal.
Paul next makes clear what lies beyond the mark - the tape which the winner first touches. I press toward the mark for the prize. If I touch the goal first, I am therefore awarded the crown of wild olive,* which was the prize of the winner in the Greek games. Concerning the gift, Paul has just said, not having a righteousness of mine own, God has given me His, a pure gift; but what I have not yet apprehended, because not yet made perfect, is a prize; and no prize ever existed that did not have to be won. And what that prize is he has already shown:- if by any means I may attain unto the out-resurrection from among the dead. The Revelation puts it beautifully:- Blessed, and holy is he - no mass resurrection, but the beatitude and sanctity of an individual - that hath part in the first resurrection: they shall reign with Christ a thousand years (Rev. 20: 6).**
* An important difference, however, between the human race and the divine race is that in the human there can be but one prize-winner, who ousts all the other runners; whereas in the divine race all who reach the prize-standard attain the prize; and so our Lord apprehends us all for the Prize.
**All martyrs will be in the [Millennial] Kingdom (Matt. 10: 38; Rev. 20: 4); therefore, it was told by inspiration of his imminent martyrdom, that Paul knew at last he had apprehended: the time of my departure is come; henceforth there in laid up for me the crown (2 Tim. 4: 6).
Paul makes a final appeal. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect - full grown, as opposed to babes be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you. Multitudes of Christians are content just to be saved: others in youth have wrought marvels, and are now drifting downstream on motionless oars: others - as Paul here assumes - have quite sincerely, had wrong convictions concerning the Prize. Our Lord has expressed the principle for ever:- If any man willeth to do His will - he who has made up his mind to put into action whatever God tells him to do - he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God (John 7: 17). If one thing I do, God will open my eyes. There is no one among us, however limited his powers may be, whose weakness and incapacity may not be changed into wisdom and knowledge; his timidity into firmness and fearlessness; his hardness and un-loveliness into amiability and gentleness.
So our magnificent opportunity awaits us. One thing I do. Scatter-brained people never arrive anywhere. Many aims dissipate energy: contrary pulls on the soul cancel out, and leave a man powerless: if anything is to he well done, it must be done with the whole soul and with every faculty. Paul does not mean, This only do I do, but this is my all-controlling purpose, my one over-mastering aim: all my evangelism, all my missionary effort, all my prophetic study, all my practical sanctification - all is embodied in one master-passion - that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus. Paul thus adds here a wonderful revelation nowhere else (so far as we recollect) explicitly made:- namely, that Christ apprehended every one of us for this very purpose. Seize the victory, he says, for which Christ seized you: the Prize is so much our Lords wish and intention for us all that He chose every one of us with a view to it. Not that universal achievement will happen. They which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize: even so run, that ye may attain [the prize] (1 Cor. 9: 24).
This truth of the Prize, Mr. G. H. Pember, one of the greatest students of prophecy of the nineteenth century, wrote to Col. Joseph Sladen shortly before his death, I believe to be not only true, but also the doctrine of which the Church is just now in special need. It seems certain that the inconceivably greater pressure since Mr. Pember wrote, together with the double fact of a manifestly disintegrating world and a deeply corrupting Church will, mercifully, drive many believers to this truth - the divine solution of the problem. Opportunities, said Napoleon, are born, and die, in the same day: there is time to win a victory before the sun goes down.
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This tract should be read in conjunction with:-
1. The Race and the Crown. 6. The Responsibility of the Believer.
2. The Overcomer and the Throne. 7. The Prize of our Calling.
3. The Gift and the Prize. 8. Joseph the Overcomer.
4. The First Last and the Last First. 9. This Truth Kindled Me.
5. Firstfruits and Harvest. 10. The Overcomer.
Copies reprinted as the Lord provides.
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