Friday, December 31, 2010

Forgetting—and Pressing On


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By Harold J. Berry

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before (3:13).

Paul now addressed the Philippians with an endearing term—“brothers.” Although they were not physical brothers, they were spiritual brothers because both they and he had believed in Jesus Christ as personal Saviour.

Paul told the Philippians, “I count not myself to have apprehended.”  The word
translated “count” (logizomai) is the same word translated “reckon” in Romans 6:11 where Paul told the Roman Christians to “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin.”  Both in Romans and in Philippians Paul is presenting facts that are to be counted true because they were true.

Paul told the Philippian believers that he did not consider himself to have “apprehended.”   The Greek word involved here is the same one used in verse 12, where it is translated “apprehend.”

Although Paul did not consider that he had yet achieved all that God had in mind for him, he was not careless in his attitude.  Rather, he said, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus:  (vv. 13, 14).  Just as a runner in the Greek games of this time, Paul was putting forth every effort as he sought to reach the goal.

Notice, he said, “Forgetting those things which are behind (v.13).  Surely this involves the forgetting of victories as well as defeats—Paul did not want to be controlled by the past; he wanted to press on from the present regardless of the past.  It is the tendency of Christians to rely on the victories of the past as they seek to live for the Lord in the present.  Paul did not want to be guilty of that.  On the other hand, some Christians are defeated by the problems of the past and cannot forget them so that they can live a life of victory at the present.  Paul realized that one could do nothing about the wrongs of the past expect confess them to the Lord and then press on from where he is.

Imagine some of the problems Paul had as he thought about the past.  In his unsaved state he had been guilty of persecuting Christians and even having some put to death (Acts 22:4) whereas he now recognized that they were brothers in Christ.  If anyone would have had a problem with his thought life because of past experiences it would have been Paul, yet he chose to deliberately forget what was in the past and to go forward from the present to glorify the Lord.

The word translated “forgetting” is the present tense which emphasizes a continual action—he was making it a practice to forget the things in the past.  It seems apparent from the context that the idea of “forgetting” especially means that he was not relying on the things of the past.  Those in Judaism who would covet Paul’s natural standing in the world would not be able to imagine how he could disregard all that he had according to the flesh (Phil. 3:5, 6).  But Paul did not rely on what he had in the natural realm; his trust was in the Lord and be was relying on what he had in the spiritual realm.

Not only was Paul forgetting the things which were behind, but he was also “reaching forth unto those things which are before” (v. 13).  Paul seems particularly to have had the runner in view at this time for the word he used for “reaching” (epekteinomai) literally meant “to stretch out” or “to strain.”  As a runner stretches out to reach the goal first, so Paul was giving his every effort to fulfill the purpose that Jesus Christ chose for him to accomplish.  Every runner realizes that the crucial thing is not how far he has come in the race, but how much farther he has yet to go.  This is why Paul’s emphasis was not on the past but on the present and looking ahead to the future.
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (3:14).
The intensity with which Paul was moving toward his goal is seen in the word he used for “press.”  The word is dioko, which also appears in verse 12, where it is translated “follow after.”  But it is much more than a lackadaisical following; it is   intense pursuit.  All of Paul’s attention was on the goal before him—“the mark.”  This word is from a form of the word meaning “to see”; thus, the goal is what one sees whether he sees it with his literal eyes or simply has his attention fixed on it.
But what was Paul’s goal?  He was intensely pursuing “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  The prize, or reward, which Paul sought, was the “high calling of God.”  It was literally an “upward calling” or a “calling from above.”  Interpreters have differed over precisely what this calling involved.  Some think it has to do with the calling at the time of salvation concerning the purpose God has for an individual.  Others see it as the time of rewards at the end of the Christian life.

Paul may have had both in view because he not only wanted to be faithful in the race but he also wanted to seek to win the prize.  Perhaps Paul had in mind what occurred at the Greek games after a person had successfully run the race.   William Hendriksen states:  “At the end of the race the successful runner was summoned from the floor of the stadium to the judge’s seat to receive the prize” (Philippians, P 174).  This was an upward calling because of having been faithful in the race.

Having told about himself and his desire to excel for Jesus Christ, Paul said,
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you (3:15).
The word “perfect” was not meant to convey sinless perfection but a desired end, or maturity the noun is used in verse 15 whereas the verb is used in verse 12, where it is also translated “perfect.”  Paul was calling upon all those who were mature in attitude to think the same way that he was thinking.  He wanted them to have their minds fixed on the goal of honoring Christ in all that they did so that He might be glorified in their lives.

If they had thoughts other than this, Paul realized that he also could not help them to see the real issues; only God could.  But Paul also seemed to have confidence that, as long as their desire was to please the Lord, then the Lord would reveal to them the areas where their thinking needed correction.

Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing (3:16).

Paul was concerned that the Christians in Philippi consistently live according to what they had already attained in the Christian life.  Although one is not to rely on past victories for present successes, one should live in a manner consistent with the level of life he has attained for the Lord.  Paul was thankful for the Philippian believers and for all they had meant to him.  He did not want them to recede in any degree from their spiritual fervor; rather, he wanted them to go on from there to even higher levels.  Just as the runner loses precious time if he wavers from the direct path, so Paul wanted the Philippian believers to keep their eyes on the goal and to keep moving forward for Jesus Christ. END

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