In the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, chapter 3, he tells his own story to draw the people’s minds back to Christ. He describes his earlier life as a Pharisee and how he willingly gave up all to follow Jesus Christ. Paul describes how his values had changed since becoming a follower of Christ. His ultimate goal was now to follow the “upward call of God” (verse 14) to the end.
Paul assured us he had not conquered all spiritual difficulties and had not arrived at near perfection.
Paul’s goal is perfection, but he has not reached it yet. He is not faultless, nor does he expect to achieve perfection before his death. Instead, he uses the analogy of a runner in a race to depict the motivation of his spiritual life.
It is common for many Christian leaders to cultivate the attitude that they have already attained. Without saying the words, they put forth the image of constant triumph that gives the idea that they have already attained and are already perfected.1
Because Paul realized that he had not arrived, there was only one option open for him. He had to press on. There was no turning back.
Paul pressed on for what Jesus wanted. His effort was put forth to do God’s will, not his own.
Paul began verse 13 with the idea that Jesus Christ had laid hold of him. This is an important idea; yet sometimes Christians suppose, “Jesus got a hold of me; so that is it now. I am a Christian and I am going to heaven.”
Paul showed a different attitude. Jesus laid hold of Paul to make him a new man (Romans 6:4). So, Paul would lay hold of that and wanted to see the converting work of Jesus completely carried out in himself
Paul wanted to see the nature of Jesus within himself. Paul wanted to testify of that experience to make him a witness (Acts 9:15). Paul wanted to be an instrument in the conversion of others (Acts 9:15) and bring others to Jesus. Paul wanted to know Jesus in the fellowship of His sufferings. Paul would lay hold to the heavenly hope of attaining the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:11).
Forget the past
Paul’s statement to the Philippians in 3:13-14 gives us that action which is essential for us: “forgetting what lies behind.” It is God who enables us to cover up the past, to forget the unforgettable, to erase those memories which paralyze us.
He was not losing memory of his sinful past, but leaving it behind him as done with and settled. 2
We often let those things which are behind us distract us, whether they be good things or bad things. Looking at what is in the past often keeps us from what God has for us in the future.
We cannot interpret these words to mean that for Paul the past counts for nothing. Rather this is a statement about the overall outlook of Paul’s life. On balance, the future was more important to him, more in his thinking, than the past.
We must not interpret these words to mean that for Paul the past counts for nothing. Rather this is a statement about the overall outlook of Paul’s life. On balance, the future was more important to him, more in his thinking, than the past.
In Philippians 3:14, Apostle Paul used an analogy of a runner who focuses on the goal ahead of Him. Paul mentioned that a runner should always fix his eyes on the goal. As Christians, we should always remember to fix our eyes on the prize which God has called us upward in Jesus Christ.
It is a deception to live either in the past or in the future; God wants us to press on in the present because the present is where eternity touches us now. Paul knew that a race is won only in the present moment, not in the past or the future.
Paul was focused on one thing and would not let those things which are behind him distract him from it. He pressed on for the prize.
If we hope to have new life in Christ, we must first die to our old life. If we want to live each day for him, we must first die each day to ourselves. So, the prize that Paul is pressing on to obtain is that life-transforming knowledge of Jesus Christ in the everyday.
The prize is the upward call of God itself, not the benefits that come from the call or any other thing. The prize is being able to run the race at all, working with God as a partner to do the work of His kingdom.
Because it is such a glorious call, it is worth reaching forward for it.
The upward call of God in Christ Jesus, as with everything else, is only in Christ Jesus. The legalists might say they followed the upward call of God, but they certainly didn’t do it in Christ Jesus; instead, they did it in the efforts of their own flesh. 3
God wants us to keep on striving, keep on trying, and keep moving on; trying to reach our goal. Never give up. So first of all, we must stay focused, and secondly, we must press on. There’s just one more thing that I want to leave with you, take the Lord with you.
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In conclusion, consider what the Daily Bread email message sent on 6/12/2023 says,
Philippians 3:13, 14 – 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NASB)
Pray to God. Ask him to please forgive you for taking your focus off of moving forward toward Him. Ask Him to help you to trust in His forgiveness for your past. Then focus on all the good He has given you and the eternal and heavenly things you desire.
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- David Guzik, Commentary on Philippians 3, (Enduring Word, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/ Philippians-3/, vs. 3:13
note: Rev. David Guzik is a pastor, Bible teacher, and author of a widely used Bible commentary. David Guzik pastors the Calvary Chapel, Santa Barbara, the daily radio program of Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara and is the major contributor to Enduring Word Ministries. David is widely known for his popular online, verse by verse commentary on the entire Bible, used by many thousands of pastors, teachers, and everyday Christians worldwide.
- 2. “NIV,” International Bible Society, The Holy Bible, New International Version, Study Bible (Zonderman Publishing House copyright 1973, 1978, and 1984.), pg. 1847.
- 3. (Guzick, Philippians 3:14)