Online Bible Commentary
Pressing Toward the Goal
Philippians 3: 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (NKJV)
Verse twelve refers to verse eleven where Paul is writing of attaining the resurrection. In verse twelve he acknowledges that this has not yet taken place, that he has not yet gone to Heaven and been made perfect.
He is still in the process of being perfected and realizes this process will not be completed until he reaches Heaven. Paul is still in the process of completing God’s purpose for him on earth.
Paul repeats that he has not yet completed his purpose, but like a runner running a race he will continue to look forward and stay the course (v.13). He will not look back to the past. The past is done and cannot be changed.
Instead, all of his thoughts, all of his emotions, and all of his energies are focused on what is ahead for him. Paul realizes that this is the only way he will be able to honor God with his life. He has done some horrible things in the past, such as murdering Christians. However, if he dwells on that it will keep him from glorifying God with his future.
The literal Greek in verse fourteen is “after a mark, I press on for the prize of the high calling of God.” The word translated “mark”, or “goal”, is the Greek word “skopos”. The verb is “skopeo”, which means “to watch out for, to look to.”
So, this goal is to be visualized. It is not some nebulous goal, but a definite goal that Paul is focused on and visualizes himself achieving every minute of every day. He is consumed by this goal, and this allows him to live the Christian life. He does not do anything that will keep him from his goal, and therefore his lifestyle is one of obedience to God. Paul’s goal is “the prize of the high calling of God.”
Paul probably wrote this passage thinking of the Greek games, specifically the Isthmian games held in Corinth, which he likely attended (1 Cor. 15:32). Several events were held, including boxing, wrestling, and the pentathlon. Among the ten pentathlon events was running. Paul, in his writings alluded to boxing and running. The prize received by the winners was a crown of pine or ivy leaves. Paul’s prize for running the race is the “crown of righteousness”.
Paul writes that all mature Christians should think like this. But if not, God will make this clear as they continue to be perfected by Him (v. 15). Nevertheless, their walk with the Lord should reflect the growth He has already given them (v.16).
Paul made the most of his second chance. God is the God of a second chance. He is only concerned with the future. He has cast our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12). He has forgotten our sins, and wants us to do the same.
In return, we should “strain”, like Paul, putting our time and effort into being perfected by Him until we are mature Christians, obedient to His word and will. And we should always keep our eyes on the goal, the prize of the crown of righteousness. “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).