A high calling in Christ Jesus. 3:12-16


In this passage Paul encourages his readers to press on toward the goal of knowing Christ, of experiencing the power of his resurrection and sharing in his sufferings. Paul wants to underline the truth that he has not yet attained this goal, but that both he and his readers must see themselves as straining toward it. Paul declares, "I press on toward the goal", a goal which, in Christ, he has already reached, but within his life experience still lies in the future.

The passage

v12. Paul announces that he has not as yet obtained "all this." The "all this" is obviously not the glory promised at the day of resurrection, v11. The glory he has not "already attained" is the fullness of his desires expressed in v10. He has not yet attained complete full knowledge / union with Christ, holiness and victory over sin. Paul, like all of us, is not perfected, but he presses on to take hold of "all this." It is for this very purpose that Jesus reached out to him, that he might possess the fullness of new life.

v13-14. So, having not yet attained it, forgetting the failures of the past, Paul strains / presses toward the prize for which God has called him, namely, perfect union with Christ, glorification, Christ likeness, and a total control over self. This then is the eternal prize awaiting all of us.

v15. Having underlined the fact that he has not yet attained to the perfection hoped for in v10, Paul now declares that those who are spiritually mature do understand that this race is not yet won. Although the prize is promised, we still strain to cross the finishing line. Some in Philippi may not yet accept this fact, but Paul knows that God will inevitably make this truth plain to them.

v16. Paul now sums up his exhortation that we should view our Christian hope, expressed in v10, as if it were a "goal", a finishing line in a race that we must strive to cross. Although we have partly realized this goal, we must still press on to the finishing line. The NIV is somewhat misleading, so we are best to go with Richard Weymouth's translation: "but whatever be the point that we have already reached, let us persevere in the same course."

Press on toward the finishing line

"All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and to share in his sufferings", Phil.3:10.



Paul's hope, expressed in Philippians 3:10, is even now an eternal possession on the basis of Jesus' death and resurrection. The believer is:

i] fully reconciled with God in Christ, a friend for eternity;

ii] a righteous, godly new person;

iii] free from the power and curse of sin.

Yet, it is true to say that the reality of our perfection, as a gift of grace appropriated through faith in Christ's saving work, in no way matches our present experience.

In our life's journey the believer:

i] struggles to experience union with Christ;

ii] constantly falls far short of the righteousness of Christ;

iii] is regularly overtaken by habitual / recurrent sin.

Although our performance never matches our standing, it also never undermines our standing. Our standing is a gift of grace appropriated through faith, and is not of works. None-the-less, we are encouraged to push our performance toward our standing. Let us "press on toward the goal that we may win the prize."

Paul doesn't take us through the reasons why we should "strain toward what is ahead", yet, consider the four following reasons:

i] The struggle of life, under the guiding hand of the Spirit, prepares us for our rule with Christ in eternity, 2Tim.2:21-22.

ii] To comply with the indwelling compelling of the renewing work of the Spirit is comfortable, but to oppose the Spirit's work of renewal is frustrating, Gal.5:16-18.

iii] The desire to affirm our relationship with God through Christ motivates behavior pleasing to Christ, 2Cor.5:9,10.

iv] Pressing toward the good produces positive results, Heb.4:12.

So, "whatever be the point that we have already reached, let us persevere in the same course."


Given that Paul has not already been made perfect, v12, discuss in what sense we are already perfect.

[Printer icon]   Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes

Index of studies: Resource library
[Pumpkin Cottage]
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons