The Great Themes of Philippians 3
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:10-11
Philippians 3 contains some of the most recognizable words ever penned by the apostle Paul. For instance, familiar to our ears are sincere expressions of faith such as, “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (vs.7-8). For Paul, knowing Christ was the thing in his life that was of most precious value. This is how it ought to be for us as well. The greatness of knowing Christ is more valuable than any other knowledge available to the mind and heart of man. It is a treasure beyond comparison. It eclipses any seemingly impressive collection of earthly possessions, and supersedes any list of personal gains and accomplishments. Being a child of the King is more magnificent than any rank or position that the world might offer. Undoubtedly, a personal relationship with Christ exceeds all other possible relationships known to man. Compared to knowing Christ, everything else just stacks up like a heap of rubbish.
But as we read further in our passage, we stumble upon another pair of verses which we ought to be very well acquainted with. In an attempt to articulate his desire to be physically present with the Lord, Paul says, “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” (vs. 13-14). Within these beautiful words we find the chronological triad of past, present, and future. First, notice words pertaining to the past. Paul says that we are to forget what lies behind us. Effectively serving the Lord does not involve a rear-view mirror. Having one eye on the rear-view mirror of life will become a festering distraction to serving the Lord in the present. Jesus made this clear when he told a would-be disciple that no one looking back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). So we must learn to close the door on the past. This involves closing the door on past sins, past failures, past hurts. But this truth is magnified all the more when considering the fact that these words came from Paul! If anyone could have held claim to a closet full of baggage and past regrets, it was the apostle Paul. But he turned in his baggage claim and chose to shut the door on the past. This certainly does not mean that his past was without purpose. But it does mean that we are to learn from the past rather than live in the past.
And instead of being in bondage to his past, he chose to serve the Lord in the present. We see this as Paul spoke in the present tense. He mentions forgetting, reaching forward, and pressing on. This present tense language should prompt us to faithfully serve the Lord in the present. God has put us in the here and now, and it is vital for us to remember that to do God’s will tomorrow, we must do God’s will today.
Finally, these glorious truths culminate with the future promise of obtaining the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Oh that we would at all times have our eyes focused on the Lord and our ears open to heaven!
– Pastor Eric