What do you do when you try harder and still struggle with sin? That’s the question Paul answers in Philippians 3:12-31. In this section, Paul clarifies what he means by perfection and the goal of the Christian life.
Paul wrote this letter during his first Roman imprisonment (60-62 AD). The Philippians have sent him a gift of financial support. Paul and the Philippians are on good terms and they have a warm and caring relationship. As a church, they are basically doing well. Paul is writing this letter 1) to thank them for their generosity in sending the gift; 2) assure them that he is doing well even though he is a prisoner and 3) to encourage them to persevere in and live out their faith.
In Philippians 3, Paul shifted to a new but related topic: warning them not to follow the Judaizers. The Judaizers were Jewish Christians who believed that you had to keep the law of Moses in order to be a true believer. After saying in 3:8-11 that he counts all his personal accomplishments, his pedigree and his law keeping as loss in order to gain faith in Christ and to obtain the resurrection from the dead he says:
12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, 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, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. – Philippians 3:12-21 ESV
- The “this” in 3:12 refers back to “the resurrection from the dead” in 3:11.
- There is both a future sense and a present sense to the resurrection. The future sense is what we call glorification: when our physical bodies will be transformed at the second coming of Christ.
- The present sense is the fact that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us now, to mature and strengthen our faith.
- The greek word “perfect” does not mean flawless or without blemish. Rather it means to have arrived at its intended goal and become that which it is suppose to be.
- Paul is clarifying that he does NOT believe we have the power to live a perfectly obedient life now (3:12; 3:13; 3:14).
- He uses the metaphor of an athlete running a race, and keeping his eyes focused on the finish line.
- Notice throughout chapter 3 that Jesus Christ is central to everything.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.
Previous: 08 Philippians 3:1-11 Count it all loss
Series: Philippians: Choose Life
Study: Philippians Resources
Scripture references are from the English Standard version.