Philippians 3:12-16 - Pressing On for Christ

Dr. Steve Viars October 28, 1995 Philippians 3:12-16

- this morning, we're going to study one of the most important sections
in this entire book.

- remember, chapter 3 has been giving a contrast between "self-
righteousness" and "Christ-righteousness."

1) the Judaizers had been teaching that you couldn't be saved unless
you were circumcised

2) all of us struggle with self-righteous tendencies.

- so it's been important for us to think through this important theme.
- especially from the perspective of identifying, and then putting
off, any habits of self-righteousness
- whether they be habits of thinking, speaking, or behaving

- the great news is that right here in this very passage, Paul gives us
the opposite, or the "put-on" for self-righteousness...
- that is, growing in the knowledge of Christ.

- that’s his whole point in verses 7-8 (READ)

- now, the last couple of weeks, we've been talking about what's exactly
involved in knowing Christ
1) Rejoicing that we're found in his righteousness alone (that’s
what we centered our attention on last week)

2) (the passage also speaks about) Learning about the power of His
- people who are growing in their knowledge of Christ are
growing in their understanding of just how powerful God is.

3) Willing to partake of His sufferings...
- realizing that some aspects of knowing Christ and living for
Him are difficult.

- so as we put off sinful habits of self-righteousness, we stand in a
perfect position to grow in our knowledge of, and love for, our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ.

- let me just mention verse 11, which completes that section, but may
leave a question in your mind if we don't touch on it:
- read verse 11

1) Paul's not questioning whether he will be raised from the dead
- the KJV makes it sound like he is -- the NASB clears that up

- he doesn't know if he will be resurrected after he dies in the
rapture or if the Lord will return before he dies (I Thes. 4)
- but there's no question about whether he will be resurrected

- the point of the verse is -- that will be the climax of the process
he's been describing in the entire chapter
- in heaven -- then he'll perfectly KNOW his Savior
- in heaven -- he'll perfectly understand God's power
- in heaven -- he'll be delivered from self-righteousness entirely

- so verse 11 is just a natural climax of all he's been speaking
- this process will not conclude until I get to heaven.

- now, Paul goes on in these next verses to develop that very idea
- and in so doing, he explains why this approach to life is so
challenging, and so encouraging:

- READ Phil. 3:12-16.

- we're titling these verses -- "Pressing On For Christ"

- we're going to organize our outline around "three commands we must
follow in order to grow in Christ God's way"

I. Don't Act Like You Believe You've Arrived

- you'll notice that we've turned this around from what Paul said (in
the first person--"I have") to how it needs to affect us (in the
second person--"You must")
- the reason we've done that is because thats the way Paul/the
Lord would want the verses to affect us...
- we're just "getting a jump on" the application phase.

A. How Paul practiced this principle

- verses 12 and 13 are in many ways restatements of one another
- it's almost like laying two transparencies down on top of
one another
- that’s the way we're going to be studying them

- INPUT - from verses 12-13, what phrases do you see where Paul
makes it clear that he doesn't believe--even as a
godly, mature man-that he's done growing.

1) Not that I had already attained it (develop --
attained what?) - v. 12

2) Not that I have already become perfect - v. 12

3) Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid
hold on it yet - v. 13

- so, there's no question that Paul did not believe he had reached
- it's interesting how this word comes up again in verse 15 (READ)
- so there's no question that Paul believed he was mature -- he's not
discounting that
- but there's a big difference between "a person knowing they've
taken some steps of growth" and a "person believing that they're

- let's push this one step further:

B. Why the Philippians needed to practice this principle

- there's a lot of answers we could give to this

- let's limit it right now to two:

1) there's a real possibility that some in the church may have
over-corrected in reaction to the Judaizers and their
- the nature of their over-correction may have been ---
- we don't need circumcision -- we've already
reached perfection

- we don't need anything!

- in a sense they would be right, in a sense they
would be terribly wrong.
- they don't need anything for salvation
- they surely hadn't arrived -- they needed to be
aggressively growing in Christ

- to make their practice match their position!

2) (from Warren Wiersbe) - "A divine dissatisfaction is
essential for spiritual progress. 'As the dear panteth
after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O
God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.'
(Psalm 42:1-2)"

- that is a very important statement -- A divine
dissatisfaction is essential for spiritual progress.

- now, let's move this one step closer to home (in fact -- let's bring it

C. Why you and I must practice this principle.

- we're saying -- we must not act like we believe we've arrived.

INPUT - What might a Philadelphian class member do/not do---
say/not say---think/not think that would give the
impression he believed he'd arrived?

- a good question for all of us to consider this morning is -- to what
degree does my lifestyle match these three statements Paul is making
about himself?
- and what would have to change for my testimony on this subject to
be in line with what these verses are saying?

- one of the ways we can tell if we're getting this area under control is
if we:

II. Make Growth In Christ Your Highest Priority

- this emphasis comes through in several places:

1) v. 12 - I press on ....

2) v. 13 - I reach forward ...

3) v. 14 - I press on toward ...

- there's no question that this is the emphasis of the passage.

- people who have made it their goal to put off self-righteousness
and grow in the knowledge of Christ realize that that is a life-
long pursuit.

A. The point of the metaphor

- Paul is calling up the picture of a runner in a race

- the words indicate "intense endeavor"
- incidentally, this same terminology was used in Bible times
to speak of a hunter "eagerly pursuing his prey"

- but the picture here is of a runner racing toward the goal, with
every muscle straining to reach it.
- the idea is -- "run for all you're worth"

- many of you have seen posters of famous runners while they're
in a race
- muscles bulging
- singularly focused on the goal
- running with all of their might...

- it's almost embarrassing to think about the amount of effort,
and the amount of focus that we often put into growth in
Christ---with this kind of a metaphor/picture.

- now, in order to get this done, Paul talks about it from two sides:

B. What we must not do

- in verse 13, he says "forgetting the things which are behind"

- he probably has in mind all the things he mentioned in verses
4-6, and even the good things he's done since coming to Christ.

- he's not talking about passively forgetting them...
- instead, he is going to consciously choose "not to rest on
his laurels"

- (Kent) - a conscious refusal to let his past accomplishments
absorb his attention and impede his progress.

(teachers -- if time, could develop this was one of the
problems with some of the churches in Rev. 2-3)

- the positive side of this is:

C. What we must aggressively do

1. "lay hold of that for also I was laid hold of"

- that is such a critical concept.

- God saved us for a reason (John 15:16)

- Believers are wise to get in the habit of asking
questions like:
- Why did Jesus save me?
- What was His purpose in "laying hold of me?"
- What does He want to accomplish with my life?
- Why did he "gift me" the way He has?
- Why has he put me in this place?
- Why has He given me these opportunities?
- Why has He given me these trials?

- see, what was Jesus Christ wanting to accomplish by
"laying hold of me"
- and to what degree am I accomplishing that purpose?

- it's amazing that God would save us, and then give us a
"choice in the matter" when it comes to the degree to
which we will "press on" to be/accomplish the goal that
He saved us for in the first place.

- we would never do that with an employee
- I'm hiring you to do such/such
- but you have a choice as to the degree to which
you're going to accomplish the purposes for which
you were hired.

- no way -- you're going to accomplish them to the degree
to which I hired you or...?
- you're not going to be paid
- you'll lose your job

- that’s not the way it is with Christ -- at least not in
the immediate sense.
- I wonder how often we take advantage of "the
- just because God doesn't give us quarterly
- just because He doesn't hold the possibility of
losing our salvation over our heads as a way to
motivate us

- is it possible that some of us have "taken advantage of
God's grace?"

- of course there are long range implications
- pressing on for Christ-likeness is the way to achieve
greatest joy and satisfaction in life
- so, failing to do what Paul is talking about here
will ultimately have a price tag.
- but it won't be immediate - we have a choice

2. With a singular focus

- another very important phrase -- "this one thing"

- it is so important for us as we grow to learn how to
focus//how to concentrate on the things that are most

- life presents so many distractions....there are always
things that can take us away from doing what's most

- "this one thing"

a. "one thing thou lackest" - Mark 10:21
b. "one thing is needful" - Luke 10:42
c. "one thing I know" - John 9:25
d. "one thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I
seek after" - Psalm 27:4

- some of us are like the college student who has no focus
- takes all kinds of classes
- spends all kinds of time, and all kinds of money

- but in the end has no degree and no job!

- one thing that characterizes Paul's life is a singular
- we have to ask this morning -- to what degree is that
true of you?

3. with a goal in mind

- verse 14 - I press on toward the goal

- the goal of knowing Christ, of becoming more like Him,
of serving Him, of accomplishing what He wants me to
- is a goal that is to be firmly fixed in our minds

4. with a prize in mind

- I Cor. 9:25 - "...but they do it to obtain a corruptible
crown, but we, an incorruptible."

- so we're talking about making growth in Christ your highest priority

(tie to stewardship month -- devotional guide -- what does that say
about the way you "stack up" to this passage?)

- Balance - Wiersbe -- Page 90 - "there are two extremes to avoid

III. Even If You Are Maturing, Keep Heading Down This Path

A. You are never too mature - verse 15

B. Live up to the truth you already know - verse 16

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and four grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video