I count not myself to have apprehended - Whatever gifts, graces, or honors I may have received from Jesus Christ, I consider every thing as incomplete till I have finished my course, got this crown, and have my body raised and fashioned after his glorious body.
This one thing I do - This is the concern, as it is the sole business, of my life.
Forgetting those things which are behind - My conduct is not regulated nor influenced by that of others; I consider my calling, my Master, my work, and my end. If others think they have time to loiter or trifle, I have none: time is flying; eternity is at hand; and my all is at stake.
Reaching forth - The Greek word επεκτεινομενος points out the strong exertions made in the race; every muscle and nerve is exerted, and he puts forth every particle of his strength in running. He was running for life, and running for his life.
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.
The apostle himself was endeavoring to reach the same standard of holiness which he set before his brethren. He writes to the Philippians: “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: ...that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 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. 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, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:7-14). There is a striking contrast between the boastful, self-righteous claims of those who profess to be without sin, and the modest language of the apostle. Yet it was the purity and faithfulness of his own life that gave such power to his exhortations to his brethren. SL 86.1Read in context »
Writing to the Philippians, he describes his experience before and after his conversion. “If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh,” he says, “I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6. SR 311.1
After his conversion his testimony was: SR 311.2Read in context »
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light. Ephesians 5:8. SD 200.1
“Walk in the light.” To walk in the light means to resolve, to exercise thought, to exert will-power, in an earnest endeavor to represent Christ in sweetness of character. It means to put away all gloom. You are not to rest satisfied simply in saying, “I am a child of God.” Are you beholding Jesus, and, by beholding, becoming changed into His likeness? To walk in the light means advancement and progress in spiritual attainments. Paul declared, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but ... forgetting those things which are behind,” constantly beholding the Pattern, I reach “forth unto those things which are before.” To walk in the light means to “walk uprightly,” to walk “in the way of the Lord,” to “walk by faith,” to “walk in the Spirit,” to “walk in the truth,” to “walk in love,” to “walk in the newness of life.” It is “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” SD 200.2Read in context »
When we stand the test of God in the refining, purifying process; when the furnace fire consumes the dross, and the true gold of a purified character appears, we may still say, with Paul, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after.... This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Mar 54.6Read in context »