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Philippians 3:12-16 | One Thing

Sunday, June 14, 2020 • John Cole • Spiritual Maturity
Paul denies that he has obtained perfection in Christ, yet he declares it will happen because of Christ in the future and determines he will press on toward that goal and high calling of God in Christ now. He then exhorts believers t o do the same thing. This focus becomes our "one thing."








During a race, successful runners have one thing on their mind—the finish line.


I believe Paul is referencing a Roman chariot race in this passage of Scripture.


Especially during a race like this, you can't have other things on your mind. There must be a definite, singular focus!


Our lives and minds get infiltrated with all sorts of things. We live in a day when news is global and constant, learning is exhaustive and accessible, choices and options are relentless, travel is historically fast, vocations are demanding and ever with you, opinions are unfiltered.


It is vital that we know our focus and purpose!


Companies have learned how important a mission statement is; Christians should know it too!


What's your purpose? Today. Tomorrow. The next ten years.


There is one, clear purpose to which all other sub-purposes point. God makes it clear in this Scripture as He gives it to us through Apostle Paul.




In verses 7-11, Paul says he counted and suffered the loss of all things to win Christ, be found in Him, and be made perfect like Him through the resurrection of the dead.


This is why Paul, as we said last week, "gave it up." His gain of Christ far surpasses his losses.


In verses 12-14 and 21, Paul denies that he has obtained perfection in Christ yet, declares it will happen because of Christ in the future, and determines he will press on toward that goal and high calling of God in Christ now.


In the final verses of our text, 15-16, Paul exhorts mature believers to have his same mindest and walk toward the same goal, believing God would reveal this mindset to them as they mature in Christ.




Philippians 3:10–16

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

13 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,

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.




Living amidst a busy world full of distractions, it is vital we maintain a clear purpose.


God defines for us in this text our primary purpose and mission as Christians.




Philippians 3:20–21

20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.


The mark/goal/purpose/target is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. It is being with Christ and becoming Christlike.


Let's listen in as Paul describes how he pursues this goal, as though he were an athlete in a race.


He begins by denying that he has yet arrived and achieved the goal.


Deny Present Perfection


Vs. 12a—Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect:


Vs. 13a—Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended:


Let's not kid ourselves . . . we have certainly not arrived.


As a missionary once said, "The closer I get to Christ, the further I realize I still have to go."


We see in Jesus' revelation to John some churches which had a false perception of themselves:


Revelation 3:1

1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.


This church had a reputation of being "alive," but Jesus says here that they are dead.


To the church of the Laodiceans, Jesus said:


Revelation 3:17

17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:


This church thought they were good before God because of their material riches, but Jesus said they were spiritually poor, needing to invest in eternal riches.


Not only did Paul deny his present perfection, but also he declared his future anticipated perfection.


Declare Future Perfection


Vs. 12b—but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.


Philippians 3:14

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.


Paul followed after and pressed toward the mark, or goal, of perfection in Christ that Jesus had already obtained for him. Paul knew this would be his end, so he strived toward it now.


The only reason Paul could make progress toward this "high calling" is because God was performing this work in Him since his conversion to Christ.


Philippians 2:12–13

12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.


John 15:5

5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.


Notice Paul's mark, or goal was Christ. Not others! Comparing ourselves with others is striving for the wrong goal. This only creates chaos!


Now, we will see next week that Christ gives us examples in the church to follow, but we must always follow with Christ as the goal, not the examples we follow.


So, Paul denies his present perfection, declares his future perfection, and in light of these, he determines to make present progress with Christ until God brings him to the goal.


Reach Forth Now


Vs. 13b—but this one thing I do,


Paul expresses here a righteous, singular focus.


Matthew 6:24

24 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.


Psalm 27:4

4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after;

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.


You and I need to pray God enables us each day to keep as our priority the "one thing" of becoming like Jesus.


So many distractions around and within us will work to drown this out. Determine to do this one thing!


Vs. 13c—forgetting those things which are behind,


Paul expresses here a necessary action to focus on this "one thing" of becoming like Jesus—forgetting.


This doesn't mean to dispose of all cognitive memory. It means to move on beyond it and to what is ahead!


Don't be held down your past beliefs, actions, or experiences. Everyone has a past, and they can be really complicated. 


Paul could have been paralyzed in regrets of how he wasted time and persecuted Christians. He could have been consumed by anger at the Pharisees for keeping Him from Christ through their teaching and rule. He could have been satisfied with two decades of fervent service to Christ.


You and I will miss out on blessings and service if we won't forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before.


Luke 9:62

62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.


We may be tempted to look back with longing or fear of what's ahead, but move forward!


Consider this situation with the children of Israel after their salvation from Egypt (the world) and on to God's progress (sanctification) for them into His promises.


Exodus 14:10–15

10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.

11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?

12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.

14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

15 And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:


In our interactive Bible study tonight, we will begin by looking at Genesis 45 to see a person who becomes an Old Testament "type of Christ". There we will see how God gives him the faith to forget his past and to press toward the goal as well as to encourage his brothers to do the same.


Let's move on past our past.


Vs. 13d—and reaching forth unto those things which are before,


This "reaching forth" portrays the idea of straining, stretching, and reaching out with everything you have.


It's much like the posture of a Roman chariot racer, straining with all his might to control the reigns of the horses while standing on a small platform with wheels.


The athlete remains focused on one thing in order to win the race. Our one thing a Christians is to be with and become like Christ.


1 John 3:2

2 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.


Remember in the beginning with the chariot race? We talked about the athletes needing to focus on one thing to finish the race and win.


Not only do they need to focus on one thing and Paul need to focus on one thing, but you and I need to focus on "one thing".




Philippians 3:15–16

15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.


God tells us to have the same mindset as Paul. If we are saved, God will reveal this mindset in us as we mature in Him. Christ and Christlikeness becomes our rule, or standard, in daily living.


We are not to be satisfied with our certain, future perfection in Christ. The perfection secured for us in Christ motivates true believers to follow after and press toward that end goal now as our chief pursuit! We press on like athletes in an Olympic competition, representing our citizenship in Heaven.


We are never satisfied until we reach the finish line in the presence of Jesus.


We belong to Christ and are citizens of His. Therefore, we neither run to become accepted by God, nor do we refuse to run because we are already accepted by Him. Rather, we run because we represent, belong to, and are becoming like Christ.


This is who we are. My friend, if you are saved . . . born again . . . converted to Christ . . . having responded to the Gospel with repentance and faith in Jesus, you share this inward desire and divine work.


Sure, we still struggle with sin. As Paul said, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect . . ."


". . . but I follow after,"


Each time Scripture is proclaimed, taught, discussed, memorized, and obeyed, that inward desire to follow after Christ grows!


May we follow after Christlikeness. May we press toward that mark, prize, and high calling. May we all share this same mindset and rule, or standard as our "one thing."


Christlikeness is our standard. Christlikeness is our goal.


We have not arrived. Press toward the mark! Follow after the high calling.


This is our "one thing."


If you are unsure if you are saved by Jesus Christ and secure in Him for eternity, come to Jesus for this "one thing" today!


Jesus was blamed for your sins on the cross and offers His righteousness for you to receive. Jesus rose again from death, assuring you that you can trust Him to give you eternal life and victory over death.


This "one thing" of knowing Jesus and becoming like Him eternally is why you exist. It is why you are listening, and it is why you are invited to respond in faith to Jesus and forsake all other means of living and of knowing God.


May we not fill our life with all sorts of things and miss out on the "one thing" that really matters!



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