READ PHILIPPIANS THREE
Paul has traded in his fleshly confidence for confidence in Christ. And while this gives him ultimate hope – hope of resurrection when Christ comes again – it also gives him vision for his daily life.
Read verses 12 through 14. How is Paul’s daily life shaped by His confidence in Christ?
What is Paul’s central motive now in life (verse 12)?
How does this passage relate to verses 7 through 11?
Paul’s primary focus in life now is to glorify God. He wants to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of him – the glory of God! Paul’s whole life is now wrapped up in giving God the glory for his salvation. In this light, he puts away what is behind him – his Jewish pedigree and all of his confidence in the flesh – and he pressing on towards what is straight ahead of him: the Kingdom of God.
What do you think is the “prize” Paul is referring to?
Paul keeps one thing squarely before himself: Jesus Christ. Christ has been Paul’s example in humility (chapter 2) and now in suffering (3:10). Paul has traded in his pedigree for a single identity: being found in Christ. And this union will play out in his everyday life – as he grows more and more into the image of his Savior.
It’s difficult to miss how much of this short passage relays personal struggle for Paul. Paul says that he “presses on”, he “strains towards what is ahead,” and finally, “he continues to press on …” Paul is not sitting back and simply resting in the completed work of Christ (though, of course, he is also doing that), but he is personally laboring and striving to become more like his Savior.
The commentator John Stott says this about these verses:
“No obsessive hatred ever dogged the heels of its adversary with more tenacity than the apostle held to the target of Christian perfection. This is a far cry from the teaching on sanctification which calls believers to ‘let go and let God.’ There was not much ‘letting go’ about Paul, but rather an example of the truth that the regenerate believer must appropriate the sanctifying grace of God by actively obeying him.”
Certainly we do not save or sanctify ourselves – this is only the work of a good and kind God. And in view of our union with Christ, God calls us to delight in obeying Him more and more as we grow in Christian maturity. It is easy for me often to consider my own sanctification, knowing that it is God who accomplishes this work in me, and think that I take a back seat to my own growth. But we have already seen Paul put this lie to bed in chapter 2 when he calls each of us to “work out” our own salvation. Each of us is called to obey Christ by leaning into areas of growth, being transformed into His image, and being formed in the likeness of His character.
In what ways is God calling you to grow? What do you need to do in response to that call? Is there sin to confess? Obedient steps to take? Submission to His Spirit?
PRAY & REFLECT
Ask God to show you where He is calling you to grow. Ask Him to help you, by His Spirit, to strain towards Christlikeness. Ask Him to help you put everything else aside and to cling to Him in faith.