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Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Philippians 3:12-16



Studies in Philippians (21)

Tonight we continue our study of Philippians.   Paul seeks to encourage these brethren to endure with a proper attitude, even in the midst of troubling times.   In previous lesson we have noted what Paul gladly gave up to gain Christ, to be found in Him and to know Him.   Tonight, we want to notice how Paul resolves to keep moving forward.

  1.   Not there yet (12a)
    1. Paul had not yet attained – the idea of attaining something is to receive and possess something.
      1. What had Paul not already attained? See vs. 9-11 – The righteousness of Christ from God by his faith, knowing Him (perfectly) and the power of the resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering and being conformed to His death in order that he might attain the resurrection of the dead.
      2. This verse teaches then need for persistent faithfulness and the possibility of losing our eternal salvation. Even Paul, had not yet permanently secured eternal live.   Recall 1 Corinthians 9:27 where he disciplined his body “lest I should be disqualified…”
        Hebrews 4:1, Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.
      3. There is also a humility associated with this. When we consider all that Paul has given up (including what he described earlier in this chapter), yet he realizes it is not enough to say he is finished.
    2. Paul was not yet perfect – flawless in his service.
      Perfect (τελειόω, teleioō) is a word that means to reach its end, to be complete.   To be completely successful.   To reach a point where nothing more can be done.   This is related to perfect as we think about the word.
      Paul often used athletic analogies – and this is one.   Paul is saying, he was not finished with his race.   Acts 20:24, as Paul is warned of troubles in Jerusalem, he knows But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. That is the same word from our text.     Paul is saying, I have not yet crossed the finished line.
      Lesson: As long as we are on this earth, we are not perfect, nor have we perfected our faith and Christian walk.   We always have more to do.
  2.   I press on (12b-14)
    1. Press on – Paul is saying that he will keep going.   The word is a pretty strong word that means to strive after something or to chase it. It can describe a singleness of purpose and determination to achieve it.
    2. That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me – this brings us back to the spiritual purpose of Paul’s letters.
      The word “lay hold” means to acquire something, or to capture it.
      What had Christ “laid hold” of Paul with?   Most would take you back to the road to Damascus, where we find events that lead to Paul’s change and his salvation.   Truly that is what Paul is pursuing.   And what we ought to be pursuing.
      BUT (again), he did not have it YET!   He still had work to do.   Continue with the athletic analogy – 1 Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain That is the same word in the Greek.
      Paul’s message is that Christ HAD saved Him, but he still needed to maintain that salvation by being faithful and continuing to work.
    3. I do not count myself to have apprehended (related to the word for Christ having laid hold of him) – again, this is based on the same word as the previous verse.   Paul is humbly and CLEARLY declaring, “I’m not there yet!”
    4. But one thing I do – a singular focus. Paul viewed everything in light of “one thing”.   We are reminded of this principle when we discuss priorities.   Matthew 6:33 – seek first God’s kingdom – that IS the priority.   Just prior to this, Jesus said we CANNOT serve 2 master – Matthew 6:24.
      This doesn’t mean that Paul didn’t do other things, but EVERYTHING he did was with that single focus in mind.   What is our “one thing”.
    5. Forgetting those things which are behindof forgetting what lies behind (NASB) – letting go of the past.
      This is always a challenge to do and needs clarification.   Why? Because it is impossible to erase from your memory everything you have done in the past. AND, to do so is not a wise thing. If such happened, how would you learn from your past?   Paul often made reference to his past – his persecutions, etc. – and in so doing he declared his unworthiness (1 Timothy 1:12-15, Acts 22:3-5, even in our text – Philippians 3:5-6).
      BUT, we don’t have to dwell on the past and we don’t have to let it keep us from moving forward.     How many give up because of past failures? Again note Paul in 1 Timothy 1:14, “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant…”; 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 – where Paul again appeals to his past but notes, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am.”
      Your past doesn’t matter, IF YOU REPENT TODAY and move forward from here. ACCEPT God’s forgiveness and make this a new starting point.
      We don’t have to let the guilt of the past consume us.   Luke 9:62 – no one looking back is fit…
      Now that doesn’t mean we may not have consequences – we will.   But again, move beyond that and do your best to work through it.
      Another thought: Forgetting the past may also include our accomplishments. How many think to highly of themselves based upon what they have done in the past.   Paul didn’t boast on his past accomplishments than he did his failures.
    6. Reaching forward to the things which are ahead – this is the OTHER side of the coin dealing with our past.   Don’t let it paralyze you, but MOVE ON!   And do so in a positive direction.
      The expression, “reaching forward” is a word that means to strain or stretch out. It can describe one who stretches forward as he striving to cross the finish line.   Just this past week, I saw a video of several instances of people letting up just before the finish line and they were passed up and lost or took second. The race isn’t over until you have crossed the finished line.   And you CANNOT let up!
      Again, 1 Corinthians 9:24 – RUN to win!
      This is always part of the answer in dealing with our past failures. You may never make up for what you have done or failed to do, but you can make headway, starting RIGHT NOW!
    7. I press toward the goal for the prize – Again Paul knew he was not finished.   The race isn’t over. It was only at the end that he could tell Timothy, I’m done – 2 Timothy 4:7-8. Hebrews 12:1-2 – look to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith”.
  3. To the mature (15-16)
    1. Let us, as many as are mature have this mind – Paul is challenging his audience, especially those who reached a more mature level in the faith, to consider these things like Paul did.   Both the KJV and NASB say, “As many as are (be-KJV) perfect” for this phrase. It is the same word as used previously, but here it is obviously a reference to one who has matured.
      A true mark of maturity is the realization you are not done.   With Biblical maturity (more knowledge) comes the realization of just how much you do not know).   Thus we need to work toward that attitude.
    2. And if in anything otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. In what way God would reveal to them we do not know.   They were still in times of miraculous spiritual gifts.
      For us, the message is: In whatever you do not know, KEEP LEARNING!   2 Timothy 2:15.
    3. Nevertheless, to the degree we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule – we already have our standard of authority.   It is not going to change.
      This is Paul’s appeal to authority.   2 Timothy 3:16-17.
      And if you see in this a specific “rule” it would be to keep going and don’t give up. Strive to be “in Him.” Colossians 2:6-7, As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
    4. Let us be of the same mind – NKJV, etc. Not found in earlier mss (e.g. the NA/U). Paul’s appeal to unity (again) in this letter. As we have noted, this is one of Paul’s points in this letter.

And thus we can see Paul’s encouragement to these brethren to not give up.   The Hebrew writer was concerned as he began to make practical application in his letter. He told them, Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Hebrews 10:35-39

Let us learn from Paul to keep pressing forward.   Think about it.