Philippians 3:12-16 Pressing Toward The Goal.
What Paul makes clear is that one can have “the righteousness which is from God by faith,” and yet not have fully “attained” or “perfected” this relationship (vv. 9, 12a). Both words are in the past tense, and this is Paul’s point-there is an ongoing aspect to this righteousness from God that is by faith which won’t be finished until we die (Cf. Heb. 12:23). Nevertheless, this is what we are called upon to strive for (v. 12b). Paul knew that he had not yet “apprehended” this perfection, but this did not mean that he wasn’t making progress. For this reason he said, “one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 13-14). The Christian life, as far as progressive sanctification is concerned, is a marathon, a lifelong project.
We must not let the lack of perfection in the present to either prevent perfection in the end or the progress that is possible in this life. Paul stated in the last chapter that we are all called upon to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because God is at work in us (vv. 12-13). The standard to go by is not the other runners in the race, but rather the goal is Christ and the progress is where we are today compared to where we were yesterday or a year ago. Paul stated the following in Galatians 6:4. “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” This is the mature way to look upon this progressive work (v. 15). On this we should agree-let each of us keep what we have attained. We do not want to backslide. We should all have this as our rule-strengthen what remains and press forward (v. 16 Cf. Rev. 3:2).