Philippians 3:12-14

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Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

            Paul begins by saying that he doesn’t think of himself more highly than he ought, instead he thinks of himself with “sober judgment.”  He brings into play the “already but not yet” of Christianity:  Christ has come and made salvation possible, but it won’t be complete until he comes again.  Therefore, Paul has not been made perfect when he believed in Jesus.  Instead he is still striving imperfectly toward his goal which he will reach when Christ comes again.  Jesus took a hold of Paul so that Paul could take a hold on the prize that he is striving for.  Because Jesus has Paul, Paul can have eternal life.  Paul knows that he hasn’t achieved it yet, and so he presses forward to win the prize.

            Paul says that he does one thing:  presses forward while forgetting what is behind.  Paul doesn’t throw away his memories of what happened in the past.  He doesn’t let them influence him anymore.  Just like God doesn’t have amnesia when it comes to what we have done in the past, instead he chooses to not let what we have done in the past influence how he feels about us in the present.  That is comforting and reassuring.

            Paul’s life is focused on one thing and one thing only:  the prize.  He doesn’t get distracted with the things that so often distract us:  relationships, wealth, status, careers, etc.  He doesn’t allow his focus to be taken away from what matters most to him:  being called “heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Like Curly in City Slickers, Paul knows what the “one thing” is and what it should be for every person: Christ.

            What Paul is not saying in this passage is that it is completely up to Paul alone to earn his salvation.  He is not saying that he has to overcome incredibly odds in order to attain life with Christ.  Instead, Christ has already taken hold of Paul so that Paul can take hold of life with Christ.  It is not right to say that it is all Paul’s effort, but it is not right to say that Paul has no responsibility.  The prize has not been attained yet, and Paul strains with his whole body—focused on one thing and one thing only—to reach that prize.  And God will reward Paul for his straining.



Explain the “already and not yet”

Show clip from City Slickers about “One Thing”

Talk about distractions

Understanding the Passage:

Verse 12:

What is Paul talking about when he says “all this?”

Paul is referring to becoming like Christ and achieving eternal life.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Vs. 10-11)

What is Paul’s goal?

            Paul’s goal is the same thing:  becoming like Christ and achieving eternal life with Christ.

Has Paul achieved his goal?  Will Paul ever achieve his goal?


            No.  Yes.  When Christ comes again.

Jewish people viewed history in 2 stages:  present age and the age to come.  they thought that when the Messiah came, he would set everything right, back to the way it was supposed to be.  They thought that the world would be made perfect again.  The present age is a time where there is evil and sin present.  People suffer and it seems like God is not always in control, even though he is in complete control.  In the age to come, everything will be perfect.  God will rule, everyone will know God, and there will be no more evil.  People will be perfect again.

What actually happened when Jesus came is that the age to come overlapped with the present time so that we experience both of them at the same time.  What that means is that even though we believe in Christ, we still sin.  Even though God loves us and sees us as very special, we still do things that hurt him.  We won’t be completely perfect until he comes, but we can strive to be perfect.

What Paul is saying in this verse is that Paul has not yet reached his goal of becoming like Christ, and he never will reach it until Christ comes again.  But what he does is that he “presses on” to take hold of it.  Because Christ came, died on the cross, and rose again, we have the opportunity to become like him.  The problem is that we still sin because of the influence of this present age.  When Christ comes again, this present age will be over, and we will be perfect, like Christ, and not sin.


Verse 13a:

Show “One Thing” clip from City Slickers

For Paul, what is his “one thing?”

Paul’s one thing is Christ.

What is your “one thing”?

What gets in the way of Christ being your “one thing”?

Forget about the distractions.  Forget about the past.  Don’t let it influence you anymore.  Strive for being like Christ.  strive to know him and have a relationship with him.

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