“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 3:14
In this text Paul is expressing his desire to advance in his personal relationship with Christ. He has already declared that this relationship cannot be established or maintained by the means of law keeping. He once thought that to be true. However, he came to realize that this way of attempting to live for God was a severe detriment to his foremost goals.
In Philippians 3:12-16, Paul declares that he has not attained, been made perfect, or yet apprehended the full potential of his relationship with Christ. Scholars are not in total agreement as to what each of these words represent, but I intend to suggest three possibilities that tie themselves to the three words attain, perfect, and apprehend. These words reveal how intently Paul wanted to press forward in his relationship with Christ. They reveal that he would not be content until he reached these personal goals.
Press Forward To Attain
What does Paul mean when he says that he has not yet attained? One possibility is that Paul speaks here of attaining to glorification.
Previously, in Philippians 3:11, Paul speaks of attaining to the resurrection which is the moment in time that the believer receives a glorified body. When our present corruption puts on incorruption. This will take place at the rapture of the church, some time prior to the great tribulation. It describes the moment when the down payment that we have received at salvation comes face-to-face with the final purpose of God for believers. This event ought to be a firm fixture in the heart and mind of every believer.
There is coming a day when everything that we have done for Christ will be completed. Jesus will then come to collect His own. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall all be changed. Never again will we fail the Lord. Heartaches, difficulties, sadness, and tears, will all be things of the past. It is the ultimate transforming event of the salvation experience. Paul was able to maintain a proper balance where he sought to accomplish the will of God in the earth, but all the while, his heart was looking toward the heavens. Are you pressing forward to attain?
Press Forward To Spiritual Maturity
Paul also says he is pressing forward toward perfection. This may very well indicate spiritual maturity. Throughout the New Testament Scriptures, this term often refers to bringing something to completion. Paul did not teach a gospel of sinless perfection. He did teach that the work of Christ on Calvary freed believers from the dominion of sin. He taught that in believing this truth, believers would find “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
When we see the areas of our life that are unlike Christ, then we must turn to the help of the Holy Spirit to conform us into the nature and character of God. This can only be done as we keep our eyes centered on Christ and what He has accomplished for us. We cannot change ourselves. A person must change the way that he thinks, take control of his emotional life, and submit all that he is into the powerful hands of the Holy Spirit. We must become the recipients of the Holy Spirit’s work. We are responsible to see to it that the necessary changes take place and that these changes occur through the process that God has provided. The clinging vines of the fall that grasp the heart and mind can be difficult to remove.
Just about the time we think the Lord has accomplished all that could ever be accomplished in us, He draws us a little closer toward the light of Christ’s perfection, and the darkness within us is exposed. Repeatedly, we must turn to the process of faith and grace to bring us into a new fullness, a spiritual maturity, to which we have not previously arrived. Paul recognized this need and chose to constantly press forward toward spiritual maturity.
Do you see your need? Are you pressing forward through the means of faith and grace? Do you have a strong desire to be conformed into the image of Christ? If so, then you are pressing forward toward spiritual maturity.
Press Forward To Know Christ
Last of all, Paul is pressing forward to apprehend something. In Philippians 3:4-11, Paul shows us his heartfelt desire regarding the “knowing” of Christ. He wants to gain all that He is. He wants to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which comes from the law or through religious works. He wants to know Christ in the power of His resurrection, in the fellowship of His sufferings, and to be made conformable unto His death. He sees all this as the surpassing value of a personal and experiential knowledge of Christ Jesus as Lord.
In Paul’s heart, there is nothing that surpasses the greatness, worth, or value of just getting to know Christ in a more complete way. He wants to know all that there is to know about Christ. He wants to be totally dependent upon Him for every single aspect of this earthly life. He knows He is Lord, but he also longs for the friendship and the fellowship that is offered in Christ to every believer.
Think of the person in your life that you know best. What did it take for you to come by that knowledge of him or her? How many experiences together did it take for you to come to know how that person feels or how that person responds or reacts to every situation. Paul wants to have the full benefit of his relationship with Christ. But above all, he wants to experientially know him in the fullness of relationship.
Are you pressing forward to know Christ? Is He your all and all, your final goal? If so then, like Paul, you just might be pressing forward to know Christ.