By Charles L. Morton
The apostle Paul revealed much about his own attitude toward his life as a Christian in the following statement:
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, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14).
While the foregoing passage is a statement of Paul’s own personal attitude, it is commended to all Christians. In the same letter, the apostle said, “Those things, which ye have learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9). The text reveals an excellent attitude for any person to have toward his life and responsibility as a Christian. Several observations are offered for serious consideration.
1. Paul said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended . . .” (Phil. 3:13). Life, if it is to be successful in any undertaking, requires constant attention, effort and diligence. Those in the legal and medical professions must apply themselves constantly. The same is true in business, agriculture, and in national affairs. The debacle of the home in American society today reveals that proper attention has not been devoted to family relationships. The life of the Christian is no exception. Paul wrote, “. . . Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) and Peter admonished, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:1-2).
2. In the text, Paul said again, “. . . But this one thing I do . . .” (Phil. 3:13). Nothing can be more fundamental to the life of a Christian than a singular purpose. Jesus said, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be- full of light. But if thine eye by evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matt. 6:22-23). A major problem in the lives of many is double vision! While professing the desire for heaven, their “sight” (attention) is focused on this present life and world. It will not work, for Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
3. Paul affirmed again in the text that “doing one thing” involved “. . . forgetting those things which are behind . . .” (Phil. 3:13). The emphasis of Paul’s life was not upon his past labors: the congregation established and edified, the lost converted, the fallen restored, and all other past labor in the furtherance of the gospel in his own life and the lives of others. The apostle knew that responsibility to God is determined by the opportunities of today. Jesus said, “. . . No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
4. Finally, Paul affirmed his confidence for the future when he said that his attitude was that of “. . . 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” (Phil 3:13-14). The ultimate victory of the Christian was ever first in Paul’s life. He spoke of “. . . having a desire to depart, and be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). Again he wrote, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give to me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). The goal of Paul’s life was eternity with Jesus Christ, and so it should be with us today. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Indeed, what incentive has been provided for faithful and godly living!
The apostle Paul admonished, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58). It is believed that such admonitions can be discharged by any Christian who will maintain an attitude such as was expressed by the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14.
Guardian of Truth XXV: 12, p. 188
March 19, 1981