Philippians 3:13
Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) I count not myself . . .—The “I” is emphatic, evidently in contrast with some of those who thought themselves “perfect.” (See Philippians 3:15.) Not only does St. Paul refuse to count that he has ever yet “attained;” he will not allow that he is yet in a position even to grasp at the prize. (Comp. 1Corinthians 9:27.)

Forgetting those things which are behind . . .—The precept is absolutely general, applying to past blessings, past achievements, even past sins. The ineradicable instinct of hope, which the wisdom of the world (not unreasonably if this life be all) holds to be a delusion, or at best a condescension to weakness, is sanctioned in the gospel as an anticipation of immortality. Accordingly hope is made a rational principle, and is always declared to be, not only a privilege, but a high Christian duty, co-ordinate with faith and love (as in 1Corinthians 13:13; Ephesians 4:4). St. Paul does not scruple to say that, if we have it not, for the next life as well as this, we Christians are “of all men most miserable” (1Corinthians 15:19). Hence past blessing is but an earnest of the future; past achievements of good are stepping-stones to greater things; past sins are viewed in that true repentance which differs from remorse—“the sorrow of this world which worketh death” (2Corinthians 7:10)—in having a sure and certain hope of the final conquest of all sin. The “eternal life” in Christ is a present gift, but one test of its reality in the present is its possession of the promise of the future.

Philippians

THE RACE AND THE GOAL

Php 3:13-14.

This buoyant energy and onward looking are marvellous in ‘Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.’ Forgetfulness of the past and eager anticipation for the future are, we sometimes think, the child’s prerogatives. They may be ignoble and puerile, or they may be worthy and great. All depends on the future to which we look. If it be the creation of our fancies, we are babies for trusting it. If it be, as Paul’s was, the revelation of God’s purposes, we cannot do a wiser thing than look.

The Apostle here is letting us see the secret of his own life, and telling us what made him the sort of Christian that he was. He counsels wise obliviousness, wise anticipation, strenuous concentration, and these are the things that contribute to success in any field of life. Christianity is the perfection of common sense. Men become mature Christians by no other means than those by which they become good artisans, ripe scholars, or the like. But the misery is that, though people know well enough that they cannot be good carpenters, or doctors, or fiddlers without certain habits and practices, they seem to fancy that they can be good Christians without them.

So the words of my text may suggest appropriate thoughts on this first Sunday of a new year. Let us listen, then, to Paul telling us how he came to be the sort of Christian man he was.

I. First, then, I would say, make God’s aim your aim.

Paul distinguishes here between the ‘mark’ and the ‘prize.’ He aims at the one for the sake of the other. The one is the object of effort; the other is the sure result of successful effort. If I may so say, the crown hangs on the winning post; and he who touches the goal clutches the garland.

Then, mark that he regards the aim towards which he strains as being the aim which Christ had in view in his conversion. For he says in the preceding context, ‘I labour if that I may lay hold of that for which also I have been laid hold of by Jesus Christ.’ In the words that follow the text he speaks of the prize as being the result and purpose of the high calling of God ‘in Christ Jesus.’ So then he took God’s purpose in calling, and Christ’s purpose in redeeming him, as being his great object in life. God’s aims and Paul’s were identical.

What, then, is the aim of God in all that He has done for us? The production in us of God-like and God-pleasing character. For this suns rise and set; for this seasons and times come and go; for this sorrows and joys are experienced; for this hopes and fears and loves are kindled. For this all the discipline of life is set in motion. For this we were created; for this we have been redeemed. For this Jesus Christ lived and suffered and died. For this God’s Spirit is poured out upon the world. All else is scaffolding; this is the building which it contemplates, and when the building is reared the scaffolding may be cleared away. God means to make us like Himself, and so pleasing to Himself, and has no other end in all the varieties of His gifts and bestowments but only this, the production of character.

Such is the aim that we should set before us. The acceptance of that aim as ours will give nobleness and blessedness to our lives as nothing else will. How different all our estimates of the meaning and true nature of events would be, if we kept clearly before us that their intention was not merely to make us blessed and glad, or to make us sorrowful, but that, through the blessedness, through the sorrow, through the gift, through the withdrawal, through all the variety of dealings, the intention was one and the same, to mould us to the likeness of our Lord and Saviour! There would be fewer mysteries in our lives, we should seldomer have to stand in astonishment, in vain regret, in miserable and weakening looking back upon vanished gifts, and saying to ourselves, ‘Why has this darkness stooped upon my path?’ if we looked beyond the darkness and the light to that for which both were sent. Some plants require frost to bring out their savour, and men need sorrow to test and to produce their highest qualities. There would be fewer knots in the thread of our lives, and fewer mysteries in our experience, if we made God’s aim ours, and strove through all variations of condition to realise it.

How different all our estimate of nearer objects and aims would be, if once we clearly recognised what we are here for! The prostitution of powers to obviously unworthy aims and ends is the saddest thing in humanity. It is like elephants being set to pick up pins; it is like the lightning being harnessed to carry all the gossip and filth of one capital of the world to the prurient readers in another. Men take these great powers which God has given them, and use them to make money, to cultivate their intellects, to secure the gratification of earthly desires, to make a home for themselves here amidst the illusions of time; and all the while the great aim which ought to stand out clear and supreme is forgotten by them.

There is nothing that needs more careful examination by us than our accepted schemes of life for ourselves; the roots of our errors mostly lie in these things that we take to be axioms, and that we never examine into. Let us begin this new year by an honest dealing with ourselves, asking ourselves this question, ‘What am I living for?’ And if the answer, first of all, be, as, of course, it will be, the accomplishment of the nearer and necessary aims, such as the conduct of our business, the cultivating of our understandings, the love and peace of our homes, then let us press the investigation a little further, and say, What then? Suppose I make a fortune, what then? Suppose I get the position I am striving for, what then? Suppose I cultivate my understanding and win the knowledge that I am nobly striving after, what then? Let us not cease to ask the question until we can say, ‘Thy aim, O Lord, is my aim, and I press toward the mark,’ the only mark which will make life noble, elastic, stable, and blessed, that I ‘may be found in Christ, not having mine own righteousness, but that which is of God by faith.’ For this we have all been made, guided, redeemed. If we carry this treasure out of life we shall carry all that is worth carrying. If we fail in this we fail altogether, whatever be our so-called success. There is one mark, one only, and every arrow that does not hit that target is wasted and spent in vain.

II. Secondly, let me say, concentrate all effort on this one aim.

‘This one thing I do,’ says the Apostle, ‘I press toward the mark.’ That aim is the one which God has in view in all circumstances and arrangements. Therefore, obviously, it is one which may be pursued in all of these, and may be sought whatsoever we are doing. All occupations of life except only sin are consistent with this highest aim. It needs not that we should seek any remote or cloistered form of life, nor sheer off any legitimate and common interests and occupations, but in them all we may be seeking for the one thing, the moulding of our characters into the shapes that are pleasing to Him. ‘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’; wheresoever the outward days of my life may be passed. Whatsoever we are doing in business, in shop, at a study table, in the kitchen, in the nursery, by the road, in the house, we may still have the supreme aim in view, that from all occupations there may come growth in character and in likeness to Jesus Christ.

Only, to keep this supreme aim clear there will require far more frequent and resolute effort of what the old mystics used to call ‘recollection’ than we are accustomed to put forth. It is hard, amidst the din of business, and whilst yielding to other lower, legitimate impulses and motives, to set this supreme one high above them all. But it is possible if only we will do two things: keep ourselves close to God, and be prepared to surrender much, laying our own wills, our own fancies, purposes, eager hopes and plans in His hands, and asking Him to help us, that we may never lose sight of the harbour light because of any tossing waves that rise between us and it, nor may ever be so swallowed up in ends, which are only means after all, as to lose sight of the only end which is an end in itself. But for the attainment of this aim in any measure, the concentration of all our powers upon it is absolutely needful. If you want to bore a hole you take a sharp point; you can do nothing with a blunt one. Every flight of wild ducks in the sky will tell you the form that is most likely to secure the maximum of motion with the minimum of effort. The wedge is that which pierces through all the loosely-compacted textures against which it is pressed. The Roman strategy forced the way of the legion through the loose-ordered ranks of barbarian foes by arraying it in that wedge-like form. So we, if we are to advance, must gather ourselves together and put a point upon our lives by compaction and concentration of effort and energy on the one purpose. The conquering word is, ‘This one thing I do.’ The difference between the amateur and the artist is that the one pursues an art at intervals by spurts, as a parergon --a thing that is done in the intervals of other occupations--and that the other makes it his life’s business. There are a great many amateur Christians amongst us, who pursue the Christian life by spurts and starts. If you want to be a Christian after God’s pattern--and unless you are you are scarcely a Christian at all--you have to make it your business, to give the same attention, the same concentration, the same unwavering energy to it which you do to your trade. The man of one book, the man of one idea, the man of one aim is the formidable and the successful man. People will call you a fanatic; never mind. Better be a fanatic and get what you aim at, which is the highest thing, than be so broad that, like a stream spreading itself out over miles of mud, there is no scour in it anywhere, no current, and therefore stagnation and death. Gather yourselves together, and amidst all the side issues and nearer aims keep this in view as the aim to which all are to be subservient--that, ‘whether I eat or drink, or whatsoever I do, I may do all to the glory of God.’ Let sorrow and joy, and trade and profession, and study and business, and house and wife and children, and all home joys, be the means by which you may become like the Master who has died for this end, that we may become partakers of His holiness.

III. Pursue this end with a wise forgetfulness.

‘Forgetting the things that are behind.’ The art of forgetting has much to do with the blessedness and power of every life. Of course, when the Apostle says ‘Forgetting the things that are behind,’ he is thinking of the runner, who has no time to cast his eye over his shoulder to mark the steps already trod. He does not mean, of course, either, to tell us that we are so to cultivate obliviousness as to let God’s mercies to us ‘lie forgotten in unthankfulness, or without praises die.’ Nor does he mean to tell us that we are to deny ourselves the solace of remembering the mercies which may, perhaps, have gone from us. Memory may be like the calm radiance that fills the western sky from a sun that has set, sad and yet sweet, melancholy and lovely. But he means that we should so forget as, by the oblivion, to strengthen our concentration.

So I would say, let us remember, and yet forget, our past failures and faults. Let us remember them in order that the remembrance may cultivate in us a wise chastening of our self-confidence. Let us remember where we were foiled, in order that we may be the more careful of that place hereafter. If we know that upon any road we fell into ambushes, ‘not once nor twice,’ like the old king of Israel, we should guard ourselves against passing by that road again. He who has not learned, by the memory of his past failures, humility and wise government of his life, and wise avoidance of places where he is weak, is an incurable fool.

But let us forget our failures in so far as these might paralyse our hopes, or make us fancy that future success is impossible where past failures frown. Ebenezer was a field of defeat before it rang with the hymns of victory. And there is no place in your past life where you have been shamefully baffled and beaten, but there, and in that, you may yet be victorious. Never let the past limit your hopes of the possibilities and your confidence in the certainties and victories of the future. And if ever you are tempted to say to yourselves, ‘I have tried it so often, and so often failed, that it is no use trying it any more. I am beaten and I throw up the sponge,’ remember Paul’s wise exhortation, and ‘forgetting the things that are behind . . . press toward the mark.’

In like manner I would say, remember and yet forget past successes and achievements. Remember them for thankfulness, remember them for hope, remember them for counsel and instruction, but forget them when they tend, as all that we accomplish does tend, to make us fancy that little more remains to be done; and forget them when they tend, as all that we accomplish ever does tend, to make us think that such and such things are our line, and of other virtues and graces and achievements of culture and of character, that these are not our line, and not to be won by us.

‘Our line!’ Astronomers take a thin thread from a spider’s web and stretch it across their object glasses to measure stellar magnitudes. Just as is the spider’s line in comparison with the whole shining surface of the sun across which it is stretched, so is what we have already attained to the boundless might and glory of that to which we may come. Nothing short of the full measure of the likeness of Jesus Christ is the measure of our possibilities.

There is a mannerism in Christian life, as there is in everything else, which is to be avoided if we would grow into perfection. There was a great artist in the last century who never could paint a picture without sticking a brown tree in the foreground. We have all got our ‘brown trees,’ which we think we can do well, and these limit our ambition to secure other gifts which God is ready to bestow upon us. So ‘forget the things that are behind.’ Cultivate a wise obliviousness of past sorrows, past joys, past failures, past gifts, past achievements, in so far as these might limit the audacity of our hopes and the energy of our efforts.

IV. So, lastly, pursue the aim with a wise, eager reaching forward.

The Apostle employs a very graphic word here, which is only very partially expressed by that ‘reaching forth.’ It contains a condensed picture which it is scarcely possible to put into any one expression. ‘Reaching out over’ is the full though clumsy rendering of the word, and it gives us the picture of the runner with his whole body thrown forward, his hand extended, and his eye reaching even further than his hand, in eager anticipation of the mark and the prize. So we are to live, with continual reaching out of confidence, clear recognition, and eager desire to make our own the unattained.

What is that which gives an element of nobleness to the lives of great idealists, whether they be poets, artists, students, thinkers, or what not? Only this, that they see the unattained burning ever so clearly before them that all the attained seems as nothing in their eyes. And so life is saved from commonplace, is happily stung into fresh effort, is redeemed from flagging, monotony, and weariness.

The measure of our attainments may be fairly estimated by the extent to which the unattained is clear in our sight. A man down in the valley sees the nearer shoulder of the hill, and he thinks it the top. The man up on the shoulder sees all the heights that lie beyond rising above him. Endeavour is better than success. It is more to see the Alpine heights unscaled than it is to have risen so far as we have done. They who thus have a boundless future before them have an endless source of inspiration, of energy, of buoyancy granted to them.

No man has such an absolutely boundless vision of the future which may be his as we have, if we are Christian people, as we ought to be. We only can thus look forward. For all others a blank wall stretches at the end of life, against which hopes, when they strike, fall back stunned and dead. But for us the wall may be overleaped, and, living by the energy of a boundless hope, we, and only we, can lay ourselves down to die, and say then, ‘Reaching forth unto the things that are before.’

So, dear friends, make God’s aim your aim; concentrate your life’s efforts upon it; pursue it with a wise forgetfulness; pursue it with an eager confidence of anticipation that shall not be put to shame. Remember that God reaches His aim for you by giving to you Jesus Christ, and that you can only reach it by accepting the Christ who is given and being found in Him. Then the years will take away nothing from us which it is not gain to lose. They will neither weaken our energy nor flatten our hopes, nor dim our confidence, and, at the last we shall reach the mark, and, as we touch it, we shall find dropping on our surprised and humble heads the crown of life which they receive who have so run, not as uncertainly, but doing this one thing, pressing towards the mark for the prize. Php 3:13-14. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended — To have already attained those high degrees of holiness, internal and external, of usefulness and conformity to my blessed Master, which I have in view. But this one thing I do — I make this my chief business. Or rather, (which the phraseology of the original seems to require,) this one thing I can say, though I cannot say that I have attained what I am aiming at; forgetting those things which are behind — Even that part of the race of Christian experience, duty, and suffering, which is already run; and reaching forth, &c. — Greek, τοις δε εμπροσθεν επεκτεινομενος, stretching forward toward those things which are before — Toward still higher attainments in grace, and the further labours and sufferings which remain to be accomplished, pursuing these with the whole vigour of my soul; I press toward the mark — Which God hath placed before me, even a full conformity to the image of his Son in my heart and life, Romans 8:29; for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus — The felicity, honour, and glory, which I am called of God in Christ to contend for: a noble prize indeed! The reader will easily observe, that there is all along in this passage a beautiful allusion to the foot-races in the Grecian games; and in this last clause, to that particular circumstance respecting the prize, that it was placed in a very conspicuous situation, in order that the competitors might be animated by having it still in their view. Add to this, that the judges sat on a high seat, and from thence, by a herald, summoned the contenders into the stadium, or place where they were to contend. In allusion to which elevated situation of the judges, Macknight thinks the apostle here terms God’s calling him by Christ to run the Christian race, ανω κλησις, a high calling, or a calling from above. The phrase, however, seems rather to mean a calling or invitation to very high things, even to dignity and happiness, great beyond all that we can now conceive. For to every faithful servant shall it be granted, partly at death, and more especially at the day of final judgment, to enter into the joy of his Lord, Matthew 25:23; to sit down with him on his throne, as he overcame and is set down with his Father on his throne; and to inherit all things, even all that God has and is, Revelation 3:21; Revelation 21:7. “From the description which the apostle gives in this passage of his stretching all the members of his body while running the Christian race, and from his telling us that he followed on with unremitting strength and agility, till he arrived at the prize which was placed at the end of the course, we may learn what earnestness, diligence, and constancy, in the exercises of faith and holiness, are necessary to our faith’s being counted to us for righteousness at the last day.”3:12-21 This simple dependence and earnestness of soul, were not mentioned as if the apostle had gained the prize, or were already made perfect in the Saviour's likeness. He forgot the things which were behind, so as not to be content with past labours or present measures of grace. He reached forth, stretched himself forward towards his point; expressions showing great concern to become more and more like unto Christ. He who runs a race, must never stop short of the end, but press forward as fast as he can; so those who have heaven in their view, must still press forward to it, in holy desires and hopes, and constant endeavours. Eternal life is the gift of God, but it is in Christ Jesus; through his hand it must come to us, as it is procured for us by him. There is no getting to heaven as our home, but by Christ as our Way. True believers, in seeking this assurance, as well as to glorify him, will seek more nearly to resemble his sufferings and death, by dying to sin, and by crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts. In these things there is a great difference among real Christians, but all know something of them. Believers make Christ all in all, and set their hearts upon another world. If they differ from one another, and are not of the same judgment in lesser matters, yet they must not judge one another; while they all meet now in Christ, and hope to meet shortly in heaven. Let them join in all the great things in which they are agreed, and wait for further light as to lesser things wherein they differ. The enemies of the cross of Christ mind nothing but their sensual appetites. Sin is the sinner's shame, especially when gloried in. The way of those who mind earthly things, may seem pleasant, but death and hell are at the end of it. If we choose their way, we shall share their end. The life of a Christian is in heaven, where his Head and his home are, and where he hopes to be shortly; he sets his affections upon things above; and where his heart is, there will his conversation be. There is glory kept for the bodies of the saints, in which they will appear at the resurrection. Then the body will be made glorious; not only raised again to life, but raised to great advantage. Observe the power by which this change will be wrought. May we be always prepared for the coming of our Judge; looking to have our vile bodies changed by his Almighty power, and applying to him daily to new-create our souls unto holiness; to deliver us from our enemies, and to employ our bodies and souls as instruments of righteousness in his service.Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended - That is, to have obtained that for which I have been called into the service of the Redeemer. There is something which I strive after which I have not yet gained. This statement is a confirmation of the opinion that in the previous verse, where he says that he was not "already perfect," he includes a moral perfection, and not merely the obtainment of the prize or reward; for no one could suppose that he meant to be understood as saying that he had obtained the crown of glory.

This one thing I do - Paul had one great aim and purpose of life. He did not attempt to mingle the world and religion, and to gain both. He did not seek to obtain wealth and salvation too; or honor here and the crown of glory hereafter, but he had one object, one aim, one great purpose of soul. To this singleness of purpose he owed his extraordinary attainments in piety, and his uncommon success as a minister. A man will accomplish little who allows his mind to be distracted by a multiplicity of objects. A Christian will accomplish nothing who has not a single great aim and purpose of soul. That purpose should be to secure the prize, and to renounce everything that would be in the way to its attainment. Let us then so live that we may be able to say, that there is one great object which we always have in view, and that we mean to avoid everything which would interfere with that.

Forgetting those things which are behind - There is an allusion here undoubtedly to the Grecian races. One running to secure the prize would not stop to look behind him to see how much ground he had run over, or who of his competitors had fallen or lingered in the way. He would keep his eye steadily on the prize, and strain every nerve that he might obtain it. If his attention was diverted for a moment from that, it would hinder his flight, and might be the means of his losing the crown. So the apostle says it was with him. He looked onward to the prize. He fixed the eye intently on that. It was the single object in his view, and he did not allow his mind to be diverted from that by anything - not even by the contemplation of the past. He did not stop to think of the difficulties which he had overcome, or the troubles which he had met, but he thought of what was yet to be accomplished.

This does not mean that he would not have regarded a proper contemplation of the past life as useful and profitable for a Christian (compare the notes at Ephesians 2:11), but that he would not allow any reference to the past to interfere with the one great effort to win the prize. It may be, and is, profitable for a Christian to look over the past mercies of God to his soul, in order to awaken emotions of gratitude in the heart, and to think of his shortcomings and errors, to produce penitence and humility. But none of these things should be allowed for one moment to divert the mind from the purpose to win the incorruptible crown. And it may be remarked in general, that a Christian will make more rapid advances in piety by looking forward than by looking backward. Forward we see everything to cheer and animate us - the crown of victory, the joys of heaven, the society of the blessed - the Saviour beckoning to us and encouraging us.

Backward, we see everything to dishearten and to humble. Our own unfaithfulness; our coldness, deadness, and dullness; the little zeal and ardor which we have, all are fitted to humble and discourage. He is the most cheerful Christian who looks onward, and who keeps heaven always in view; he who is accustomed much to dwell on the past, though he may be a true Christian, will be likely to be melancholy and dispirited, to be a recluse rather than a warm-hearted and active friend of the Saviour. Or if he looks backward to contemplate what he has done - the space that he has run over - the difficulties which he has surmounted - and his own rapidity in the race, he will be likely to become self-complacent and self-satisfied. He will trust his past endeavors, and feel that the prize is now secure, and will relax his future efforts. Let us then look onward. Let us not spend our time either in pondering the gloomy past, and our own unfaithfulness, or in thinking of what we have done, and thus becoming puffed up with self-complacency; but let us keep the eye steadily on the prize, and run the race as though we had just commenced it.

And reaching forth - As one does in a race.

Unto those things which are before - Before the racer there was a crown or garland to be bestowed by the judges of the games. Before the Christian there is a crown of glory, the eternal reward of heaven. There is the favor of God, victory over sin and death, the society of the redeemed and of angelic beings, and the assurance of perfect and eternal freedom from all evil. These are enough to animate the soul, and to urge it on with ever-increasing vigor in the christian race.

13. I—whatever others count as to themselves. He who counts himself perfect, must deceive himself by calling sin infirmity (1Jo 1:8); at the same time, each must aim at perfection, to be a Christian at all (Mt 5:48).

forgetting those things … behind—Looking back is sure to end in going back (Lu 9:62): So Lot's wife (Lu 17:32). If in stemming a current we cease pulling the oar against it, we are carried back. God's word to us is as it was to Israel, "Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward" (Ex 14:15). The Bible is our landmark to show us whether we are progressing or retrograding.

reaching forth—with hand and foot, like a runner in a race, and the body bent forward. The Christian is always humbled by the contrast between what he is and what he desires to be. The eye reaches before and draws on the hand, the hand reaches before and draws on the foot [Bengel].

unto—towards (Heb 6:1).

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; he repeats, in somewhat a different manner of expression, what he had written in the former verse, with a friendly compellation, gently and kindly to insinuate a caution against the false teachers’ suggestion about perfection in this state, from the instance of himself, so eminently called to be an apostle of Christ, {1 Corinthians 10:12} who, after all his labours and sufferings for his sake, did reckon he had not yet arrived to the height of what he was called to.

But this one thing I do; but he would have them to understand that he was so intent upon this one thing, for which he was brought by the Spirit into communion with Christ, as if there were not any thing else worthy of his thoughts: as Psalm 27:4 Luke 10:42.

Forgetting those things which are behind; like a true spiritual racer, not minding what he had received by grace from him who had took hold of him, or how much he had run of his Christian race, reckoning it was much short of the whole, or the main intended by Christ in taking hold of him.

And reaching forth unto those things which are before; but straining forward, as it were, with all his force and skill, casting himself like a dart towards the mark, so running that he might obtain {1 Corinthians 9:24} all and the whole, that was his particular portion for ever, to be received from God, as the purchase of Christ, even the total that God had in and by Jesus Christ designed him, and in Christ bestowed upon him, out of his rich grace, as his special allotment. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended,.... That for which he was apprehended of Christ: he had not attained to perfect knowledge, was not come to the mark, had not received the prize, or laid hold on eternal life; though he had received so much grace, and such gifts, as had qualified him for an apostle; and he had been so many years in that office, and had so great a knowledge in the mystery of the Gospel, and had laboured in it more abundantly than others, and with great success; and even though he had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard unspeakable words, not lawful to be uttered, 2 Corinthians 12:2, yet he had no such opinion of himself, as if he was perfect: by which way of speaking, he tacitly strikes at the arrogance and vain confidence of false teachers, that pretended to perfection; and in this way led the brethren to conclude, that they could never have arrived to it, since so great an apostle had not; some copies read not "yet", and so the Ethiopic version:

but this one thing I do; which he was intent upon, constantly attended to, and earnestly pursued; it was the main and principal thing he was set upon, and which he employed himself in; and which engrossed all his thoughts, desires, affections, time, and labour; see Psalm 27:4. The Syriac version reads, "this one thing I know"; signifying that whatever he was ignorant of, and however imperfect his knowledge was in other things, this he was full well apprized of, and acquainted with. The Arabic version renders the whole thus, "I do not think that I have now obtained and received anything, but the one thing"; namely, what follows,

forgetting those things which are behind, meaning not the sins of his past life, which were indeed forgotten by God, and the guilt of which was removed from him, by the application of the blood of Christ, so that he had no more conscience of them; yet they were remembered and made mention of by him, partly for his own humiliation, and partly to magnify the grace of God: nor earthly and worldly things, which believers are too apt to have respect to, to look back upon, and hanker after, as the Israelites did after the fleshpots in Egypt, Exodus 16:3; though these were forgotten by the apostle, so as not anxiously to care for them, and seek after them, to set his affections on them, or trust in them: nor his fleshly privileges, and legal righteousness, which he pursued, valued, and trusted in before conversion, but now dropped, renounced, disregarded, and counted as loss and dung, Philippians 3:7; but rather his labours and works of righteousness since conversion, which though he times took notice of for the magnifying of the grace of God, for the defence of the Gospel, and to put a stop to the vain boasting of false teachers, yet he forgot them in point of dependence on them, and trust to them; and having put his hand to the plough, he did not look back, nor desist, but went on in his laborious way, not thinking of what he had done and gone through, nor discouraged at what was before him; as also he intends all his growth in grace, and proficiency in divine knowledge, which was very, great; and though he was thankful for these things, and would observe them to the glory of the grace of God, yet he trusted not in them: nor did he sit down easy and satisfied with what he had attained unto, and therefore was

reaching forth unto those things which are before; to perfection of knowledge, holiness, and happiness, which were before him, and he as yet had not attained unto; but was desirous of, and pursued after with great vehemence and eagerness; the metaphor is taken from runners in a race, who did not stop to look behind them, and see what way they have run, and how far they are before others, but look and move forwards, and stretch themselves out to the uttermost, and run with all their might and main to the mark before them; and so the apostle did in a spiritual sense.

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,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Php 3:13-14. Once more, and with loving earnestness (ἀδελφοί), Paul says what he had already said in Php 3:12 with οὐχ ὅτικαταλάβω; and in doing so, he brings more into relief in the first portion the element of self-estimation, which in his own case he denies; and, in the second part, he sets forth more in detail the idea: διώκω δὲ εἰ κ. καταλ.

ἐγὼ ἐμαυτόν] ego me ipsum, an emphatic mode of indicating one’s own estimation, in which one is both subject and object of the judgment. Comp. John 5:30 f., John 7:17, John 8:54; Acts 26:9, et al. A reference to the judgment of others about him (Bengel, Weiss, and others; comp. also Hofmann) is here out of place.

λογίζομαι] I judge, I am of opinion,[168] Romans 3:28; Romans 8:18; Romans 14:14; 2 Corinthians 11:5, et al.; Xen. Anab. ii. 2. 13; Dem. lxiii. 12.

ἛΝ ΔΈ] Comp. Anthol. Pal. vii. 455: ἛΝ Δʼ ἈΝΤῚ ΠΆΝΤΩΝ, also the frequent ἓν μόνον; see Stallbaum, ad. Plat. Symp. p. 184 C, Rep. p. 548 C. It is here usually supplemented by ποιῶ (Chrysostom appears to have understood ποιῶν). So also Winer, Buttmann, de Wette, Wiesinger, Ellicott. But how arbitrarily, seeing that the context by what immediately precedes suggests simply the supplying of ΛΟΓΊΖΟΜΑΙ (not ΛΟΓΊΖ. ΚΑΤΕΙΛΗΦΈΝΑΙ, Oecumenius, Weiss), and this is in perfect harmony with the sense! Hence we take it thus: “but one thing I think, unum censeo.” This one thing which Paul thinks regarding the matter in question, in contrast to the previous negative (δέ, as in Php 3:12), is then directly expressed by all that follows from τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω to ἐν Χ. . Nearest to this contextual supplement comes the Syriac, which has added οἶδα, and Luther, who has added λέγω. The supplying of λογίζομαι is confirmed by the cognate φρονῶμεν, Php 3:15. Without supplying anything, ἛΝ ΔΈ has either been connected with διώκω (thus Augustine, Serm. de divers. i. 6, Pierce, Storr, van Hengel, and others), or has been taken absolutely: “unum contra!” see Hoelemann, comp. Rheinwald. But the former is to be rejected, because the subsequent διώκω carries its own complete definiteness; and the latter would render the discourse abrupt without reason, since it is not written under emotional excitement, and would, withal, require a supplement, such as Beza gives by ἘΣΤΊ. Hofmann also comes at length in substance to this latter supplement, mixing up an imaginary contrast to that which the adversaries imputed to the apostle: over-against this, his conduct subsequently described was the only thing which was quite right (?).

τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω] what is behind, cannot be referred to what has been mentioned in Php 3:5-6 and the category of those pre-Christian advantages generally (so in substance, Pelagius; ΤΙΝῈς in Theodoret, Vatablus, Zeger, Wolf, and others, also Ewald and Hofmann); this would be at variance with the context, for ΤᾺ ΜῈΝ ὈΠΊΣΩ ἘΠΙΛΑΝΘ. corresponds to the negation of the having already attained or being perfect in Php 3:12, and must therefore apply to the previous achievements of the Christian life, to the degrees of Christian moral perfection already reached, which are conceived as the spaces already left behind in the stadium of the runner still pressing forward; and not to what had belonged to his pre-Christian conduct (Hofmann). Comp. Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact.

ἘΠΙΛΑΝΘΑΝ.] forgetting, like the runner who dismisses from his mind the space already traversed, and fixes his thoughts only on what still lies before him. This is surely no break in the internal connection (as Hofmann objects); on the contrary, like the runner pressing forward, Paul in his continuous restless striving overlooks the degree of moral perfection already attained, which he would not do, if he reckoned it already as itself perfection. ἘΠΙΛΑΝΘΆΝΕΣΘΑΙ is joined with the genitive and accusative; the simple verb, on the contrary, only with the genitive. See Kühner, II. 1, p. 313. On the use of the word in the sense of intentional forgetting, comp. Herod, iii. 75, iv. 43; 1Ma 1:49. It thus amounts to the sense of nullam rationem habere (Sturz, Lex. Xen. II. p. 294).

τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμ.] but stretching myself out towards that which is before. The dative is governed by the verb compounded with ἐπί (Krüger, § 48. 11. 5; Nägelsbach, zur Ilias, p. 30, ed. 3), the ἐπί intimating the direction. In the case of such an one running “prono et quasi praecipiti corpore” (Beza), “oculus manum, manus pedem praevertit et trahit,” Bengel. On the verb, comp. Strabo, xvii. p. 800; Aristot. Poet. 21; Plut. Mor. p. 1147 A. ΤᾺ ἜΜΠΡ. represent the higher stages of Christian perfection not yet attained.[169]

κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω] I hasten towards the goal, therefore in a straight course towards the prize of victory. The opposite: ἀπὸ σκοποῦ, Hom. Od. xi. 344, xxii. 6; Plat. Theaet. p. 179 C, Tim. p. 25 E; Xen. Conv. ii. 10; Lucian, Icarom. 2; and παρὰ σκοπόν, Pind. Ol. xiii. 144. On διώκω without an accusative of the object (in opposition to van Hengel), comp. Xen. Anab. vii. 2. 20, vi. 5. 25 (δρόμω διώκειν); Aesch. Sept. 89; Buttmann, Lexil. p. 219; Jacobs, ad Anthol. IX. p. 213. Comp. on Php 3:12. The prize of victory (τὸ βραβεῖον, see on 1 Corinthians 9:24; Clem. Cor. I. 5; Schol. min. ad Soph. El. 680; Oppian, Cyneg. iv. 196; Lycophr. 1154) represents the salvation of the Messiah’s kingdom (see on Php 3:12), to which God has called man. Hence: τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως, a genitive which is to be taken not as appositional (de Wette, Schenkel), but as the genitive of the subject: the βραβεῖον, to which the calling relates. Comp. Luther: “which the heavenly calling holds out.” This is therefore the object of the ἐλπὶς τῆς κλήσεως (Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 4:4; comp. the Platonic καλὸν τὸ ἆθλον καὶ ἡ ἐλπὶς μεγάλη, Phaed. p. 114 C).

ἡ ἄνω κλῆσις τοῦ Θεοῦ is the calling which issued from God above in heaven (on ἄνω, comp. Colossians 3:2, Galatians 4:26; and on the subject-matter, Hebrews 3:1), by which He has called us to the σωτηρία of His kingdom. The general form of expression, not even limited by a pronoun (such as τῆς ἐμῆς), does not allow us to think only of the miraculous calling of the apostle himself; this is rather included under the general category of the ἄνω κλῆσις τοῦ Θεοῦ, which in the individual cases may have taken historically very different forms. The ἄνω, which in itself is not necessary, is added, because Paul is thoroughly filled with the consciousness of the divine nature of the κλῆσις in its exaltedness above everything that is earthly. Lastly, the κλῆσις itself is, as always (even in 2 Thessalonians 1:11), the act of calling; not that whereto one is called (de Wette), or “le bonheur céleste même” (Rilliet); and the general currency of the idea and expression forbids us also, since no indication of the kind is given, to conceive of God as βραβευτής or βραβεύς, as the judge of the contest (Pollux, iii. 145; Blomf. Gloss, ad Aesch. Pers. 307), who through the herald summons the runners to the race (Grotius, Wolf, Rosenmüller, am Ende, Hoelemann, van Hengel, Wiesinger); τῆς ἄνω κλ. τ. Θ. serves to define more accurately that which is figuratively denoted by βραβεῖον, but does not itself form a part of the allegory.

ἐν Χ. .] is rightly (so also Weiss) joined by Chrysostom to διώκω: ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τοῦτο ποιῶ, φησίν. οὐ γὰρ ἔνι χωρὶς τῆς ἐκείνου ῥοπῆς τοσοῦτον διελθεῖν διάστημα. Comp. Theodoret and Oecumenius. This thought, that the διώκειν just described is done by him in Christ, as the great upholding and impelling element of life in which amidst this activity he moves, is emphatically placed at the end as that which regulates all his efforts. The usual connection of these words with τ. ἄνω κλήσεως τ. Θεοῦ, in which the calling is understood as brought about through Christ (rather: having its causal ground in Christ), yields a superfluous and self-obvious definition of the κλήσις already so accurately defined; although the connecting article would not be necessary, since, according to the construction καλεῖν ἐν Χ. (1 Corinthians 7:22; 1 Peter 5:10), ἐν Χ. . might be joined with κλήσεως so as to form one idea; comp. Clem. Cor. I. 46. A contrast to the calling issued to Israel to be God’s people on earth, is groundlessly suggested by Hofmann.

[168] Οὐ belongs to λογίζομαι. The erroneous reference to κατειληφέναι produced the reading οὔπω (A D א min. vss. and Fathers), which Tischendorf 8. has adopted.

[169] Τὰ ἔμπροσθεν is thus conceived by the apostle as that which still lies further in prospect after every advance in the ethical course; not as that which lay before him in consequence of his conversion (contrasting with his pre-Christian efforts), as Hofmann thinks. It is the ever new, greater, and loftier task which he sees before him, step after step.Php 3:13. ἀδελφοί. This direct appeal to them shows that he is approaching a matter which is of serious concern both to him and them.—ἐγὼ ἐμαυτόν. Why such strong personal emphasis? Is it not a clear hint that there were people at Philippi who prided themselves on having grasped the prize of the Christian calling already? Paul has been tacitly leading up to this. He will yield to none in clear knowledge of the difference between the old and the new life. He knows more surely than any how completely he has broken with the past. Yet, whatever others may say, he must assume the lowly position of one who is still a learner. It makes little difference whether οὐ or οὔπω be read. The authorities are pretty evenly balanced.—λογίζομαι. The word (often used by Paul) has the force of looking back on the process of a discussion and calmly drawing a conclusion. Cf. Romans 8:18 (with note of Sanday and Headlam (Romans). The Apostle expresses his deliberately formed opinion.—ἕν δέ. There is no need to supply a verb. His Christian conduct is summed up in what follows. Never has there been a more unified life than that of Paul as Apostle and Christian. “When all is said, the greatest art is to limit and isolate oneself” (Goethe).—τὰ μὲν ὀπ. ἐπιλανθ. There are a few exx. in classical Greek of ἐπιλανθ. with the accusative, e.g., Aristoph., Nub., 631. But in the later language there was an extraordinary extension of the use of the accusative. (See Hatz., Einl., p. 220 ff.) Does τὰ ὀπ. mean the old life, or the past stages of Christian experience? If the metaphor were strictly pressed, no doubt the latter alternative would claim attention. But pressing metaphors is always hazardous. And parallel passages seem rather to justify the first meaning, e.g., Jeremiah 7:24, ἐγενήθησαν εἰς τὰ ὄπισθεν καὶ οὐκ εἰς τὰ ἔμπροσθεν (of disobeying God’s commands); Luke 9:62, βλέπων εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω; John 6:66, πολλοὶ τῶν μαθητῶνἀπῆλθον εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω.—τοῖς ἔμπρ. ἐπεκτ. τὸ and τὰ ἔμπρ. are found in Herodot. and Xenoph. Wetstein quotes most aptly from Luc., de Cal., 12, οἷόν τι καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς γυμνικοῖς ἀγῶσιν ὑπὸ τῶν δρομέων γίγνεται· κᾀκεῖ γὰρ ὁ μὲν ἀγαθὸς δρομεὺς τῆς ὕσπληγος εὐθὺς καταπεσούσης, μόνον τοῦ πρόσω ἐφιέμενος καὶ τὴν διάνοιαν ἀποτείνας πρὸς τὸ τέρμα κᾀν τοῖς ποσὶ τὴν ἐλπίδα τῆς νίκης ἔχων, τὸν πλησίον οὐδὲν κακουργεῖ. In using this comparison, Paul, of course, adapts himself, as among Greeks and Romans, to a custom of their national life. On this kind of adaptation see an excellent discussion in Weizsäcker, Apost. Zeitalter, pp. 100–104.13. Brethren] A direct loving appeal, to restate and enforce what he has just said.

I count not myself] “I” and “myself” are both emphatic in the Greek. Whatever others may think of themselves, this is his deliberate estimate of himself. He has in view the false teachers more clearly indicated below, Php 3:18-19.

but this one thing I do] “One thing” is perhaps in antithesis to the implied opposite idea of the “many things,” of experience or attainment, contemplated by the teacher of antinomian perfection.

forgetting] Avoiding all complacent, as against grateful, reflection.

behind] He does not say “around” or “present.” The unwearied runner is already beyond any given point just reached.

reaching forth] The Greek (one compound verb) gives the double thought of the runner stretching out his head and body towards his goal. Lightfoot remarks that the imagery might apply to the racing charioteer, bending, lash in hand, over his horses (Virgil, Georg. iii. 106); but that the charioteer, unlike the runner, would need often to look back, and that this, with the habitual use by St Paul of the simile of the foot-race, assures us that the runner is meant here.

those … before] “more and more, unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18). Each new occasion, small or great, for duty or suffering, would be a new “lap” (to translate technically St Chrysostom’s word here) of the course; would give opportunity for “growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). “To increase more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:10) was his idea of the life of grace for others; but above all, for himself.Php 3:13. Ἀδελφοὶ, brethren) He makes his confession in a familiar manner.—ἐγὼ, I) Others might easily think this of Paul.—οὐ λογίζομαι, I count not) It is proper for the saints, and conducive to their activity, to consider themselves inferior to what they really are.Verse 13. - Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; rather, perhaps, I reckon. Two of the best manuscripts read "not yet" (οὔπω). The pronouns are emphatic: whatever others may think of me or of themselves, "I reckon not myself to have apprehended." But this one thing. The ellipse here is forcible; some supply "I reckon;" others, "I say;" others, as A.V., "I do," which seems best suited to the context. I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. St. Paul concentrates all his thoughts and all his energies on the one great end of life, the one thing needful. He forgets those things which are behind; that is, not, as some explain, his Jewish privileges and distinctions, but that part of his Christian race already past. So Chrysostom, Καὶ γὰρ ὁ δρομεὺς οὐχ ὅσους ἤνυσεν ἀναλογίζεται διαύλους ἀλλ ὅσους λείπεται... Τί γὰρ ἡμᾶς ὠφελεῖ τὸ ἀνυσθὲν ὅταν τὸ λειπόμενον μὴ προστεθῇ; Reaching forth. The Greek word μὴ προστεθῇ; is singularly emphatic: it means that the athlete throws himself forward in the race with all his energies strained to the very utmost. Compare Bengel, "Oculus manum, manus pedem praevertit et trahit." Myself

As others count themselves.

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