New Year 2019: Forgetting What Lies Behind (Phil. 3:1-16)
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13 & 14 ESV2011)
Paul here was supposed to end his letter but made one more reminder for his brethren in Philippi against false teachers – the Judaizers. These people were going around imposing Jewish identity markers on Gentiles in order to gain favor from God. For Paul, this is simply “putting confidence” in the flesh. (Fee & Stuart) Such confidence is not accepted. (3:1-3)
After all, Paul had enough reason to have confidence in the flesh having been born a Jew obeyed everything the law required and was trained to be a devout, law abiding Pharisee. However, this kind of devotion was not enough to make one righteous in the sight of God. So he considered everything to be worthless in view of the greatness of knowing Christ and becoming one with him. (3:4-9)
Instead of depending on his own brand of righteousness by virtue of his obedience to the Law, he counts faith in Christ as the right measure for righteousness. This faith transcends a mere conviction or belief in Christ, it is knowledge of Christ by experience – becoming one with him in his sufferings and death. He was bent to persist in his efforts to secure or experience the resurrection.
“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (3:10-11 NLT).
The next verse (3:12) according to Barnes suggests that “Paul here may have had his eye on an error which prevailed to some extent in the early church, that ‘the resurrection was already past’ (2 Tim. 2:18). Paul says, however, that he entertained no such opinion. He looked forward to a resurrection which had not yet occurred. He anticipated it as a glorious event yet to come, and he purposed to secure it by every effort which he could make.”
Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (3:13-14 ESV2011)
The NIV renders, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it” from the verb καταλαμβάνω (katalambanō) which means “to lay hold of” (Strong-Lite). That is, he has not yet attained the goal he has set in previous verses – being one with Christ in his sufferings, death and resurrection.
What he does is to forget what lies behind. ‘”Forgetting’ does not mean banishing from memory (if that were possible), but disregarding as to present potency.” (Gundry) The word in Greek means neglecting, no longer caring for. (Strong-Lite). Paul no longer care about his previous life as a passionate Jew and his achievement as a follower of Christ. He used the metaphor of a runner in Grecian races, stretching out towards his goal, pressing forward to reach the finish line where his reward is waiting. (3:13-14)
One of the characteristics of a mature Christian is to have the attitude like that of Paul. In case one thinks differently, God will show it to them too if they are willing. In spite of their disagreements and differences of views and opinions, they have made some progress together, and by virtue of that Paul encouraged them to “walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” (NKJV) (3:15-16)
This is a good reminder as we start this year 2019 – putting more value to our glorious endeavor and putting aside selfish desires that can hinder us from achieving our goal of becoming like Christ, enjoying unity in diversity!
Happy New Year everyone!
Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. Third Edition. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, Inc., 2002.
MySword for Android. Riversoft Ministry, 2011-2018. For Barnes and Strong-Lite)
Bible Gateway. www.biblegateway.com