Philippians (10): Pressing On
Philippians 3:12–17 - Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 3:13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 3:16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. 3:17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 3:18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 3:19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 3:21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Paul began the chapter contrasting the false circumcision with the true circumcision (vv2-3). The true Israelites ”worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (v3). He resumes this discussion after explaining his own conversion from being just such a part of the false circumcision. His conversion in the past means for the present to press on, to advance with our hope on the right object, Christ.
Paul was a murderer and a persecutor of the church. Yet he was able to let it go and “forget what lies behind” through forgiveness in Jesus (v13). His desire for the brethren is to do the same. We are to follow this pattern. This requires true repentance which is turning away from idols, whether they be Judaistic idols such as righteousness through the Torah-Law or pagan idolatry, toward the living God revealed in Jesus Christ (1Th. 1:9). Those who don’t do this but proselytize on the basis of idolatries are enemies of Christ. Their true motivation is the fulfillment of their own desires. From this we see that all kinds of works righteousness turns out to be just selfishness and lust in the end, such as the lust of the boastful pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). This is “earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15).
Paul contrasts this with having our citizenship in heaven. Like being at a Roman outpost and awaiting the fulness of the empire to transform the untamed land, so Christ shall come “from” heaven and transform us by his (postmillennial) power to “subject all things to Himself” (v21).