The Ideal and the Actual
Philippians 3:12-14
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after…

I. THE IDEAL OF CHRISTIAN LIFE AND CHARACTER. St. Paul was a most ambitious man, but his aim was to be something. So his ideal was personal, not something wrought out or imagined or embodied in a system or a creed. He wanted to be like Christ. That for him was perfection.


1. He had a consciousness of incompletion which was forced upon him by a variety of experiences.

(1) His particular form of ambition — being as distinct from having — which, connected with Christ, was an egoism which promoted true humility. Hence he was keenly alive to his imperfections.

(2) His sense of limitations. The feeling would be forced upon him that he was capable of better things.

2. All this has its lessons.

(1) It gives us heart for ourselves and courage in our work for others.

(2) It rebukes self-satisfaction and complacency.

(3) It teaches us to recognize Christian character below perfection, and to cultivate charity for the imperfect.

III. BUT IT WAS THE FIXED PRACTICAL PURPOSE OF HIS LIFE TO REACH IT. Did he do nothing beside? Nothing. He did indeed many things, but the many made one. And had he been a Manchester man he would so have bought and sold, etc., that in doing it he would have been doing the one thing.


1. Forgetfulness of things which belong to immature and unripened states.

2. A gathering up of the totality of nature into purpose and effort.

(W. Hubbard.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

The Christian Race: Conditions of Victory
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