Commentary on Philippians, 3:13-16 (Single-Minded Pursuit)

Scripture quotations are from the English Majority Text Version (EMTV) unless noted otherwise.


Philippians 3:13-16


11 if in some way I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained [it], or have already been made perfect; but I press on, if also I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
13 Brothers, I do not count myself as having laid hold of [it] yet; but one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Therefore, as many as are mature, let us think this way; and if in anything you think otherwise, even this God will reveal to you.
16 Nevertheless, to what we have attained, let us walk by the same rule, [being] of the same mind.


13 Brothers, I do not count myself as having laid hold of [it] yet; but one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,


Paul again states that he has not yet experienced the resurrection from the dead. However, he always has his eyes on that goal, as “one thing I do.” He makes this unusual statement as though this is the only thing in life that he does, which isn’t true of course. But he says this to make the point that this is the direction of his whole life, that this is the reason for his existence.


Paul had a single-mindedness. He let go of the things of the past, and the things of this world. Whatever was once “gain” to him, he gave it all up. Whatever regrets he had as fierce persecutor of the Church, he laid it down, and rested in God’s grace. He always lived with eternity in view. His eyes were straight ahead. He didn’t allow worthless things to distract him from the things that have great worth. He gave up the temporary things of this life, that he might gain the things that he would enjoy throughout eternity. His one desire was to please His Savior. His one desire was to be able to stand before Him without regret, to hear those wonderful words, “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21).


Paul didn’t let the regrets of his past or the allurements of this world, to hinder his service to Christ. God called him and gifted him; He gave him a mission to accomplish in this world, and that’s where is focus was. He wanted to finish life in faithfulness, to cross the finish line a winner:


24 Do you not know that those running in a stadium all run, but [only] one receives the prize? So run, in order that you may win.
25 And everyone who competes exercises self-control [in] all things. Now they [compete] in order that they may receive a perishable crown, but we [compete for] an imperishable crown.
26 Therefore I run thus: not as without a goal, thus I box: not as one beating the air.
27 But I treat my body roughly, and I bring it into subjection, lest, having preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27)


Sometimes the regrets of our past can be debilitating. They can hinder us from moving on from there because of a sense of unworthiness. Furthermore, the temptations of this modern world in which we live can be so very strong. How was Paul able to rise above those things? How was he able to have such a clear view of eternity? The answer to that, is that he knew the One who inhabited eternity.


The key to living the Christian life and serving Christ, the key to moving on from where we’re at in life, is to know the One who has called us and forgiven us. No matter what mistakes we’ve made in the past, no matter how strong the temptations of the world are, we can rise above it all by knowing Christ more and more. The closer we get to Jesus, the more everything else fades from sight.


When are we as Christians going to learn that the secret to an empowered life is a close walk with the One who provides that power? At some point we just have to make up our mind what we’re going to seek in life. At some point we have to come to terms to what’s really important and worth living for.


If we sincerely believe that God forgives, if we sincerely believe that there is nothing greater in life than walking with God and serving Christ, then it will change the direction of our lives. If we truly believe that there’s an eternal reward for a life of faithfulness, then we will let go of all the things that stand in the way….as Paul did.


14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.


“high calling”  (Gr. ano – 507)


Upward call, calling that is above or heavenly.


All of us who are “in Christ Jesus,” have a “heavenly” calling. Throughout our lives we are being drawn upward, moving toward our heavenly goal. However, we’re also being drawn downward by the things of this life. We must resist that with the power and enabling grace that the Holy Spirit provides. We will be drawn away toward the things we want to draw us, toward the things we have a heart for.


I don’t think there’s anything sadder than for a Christian to go all through life and never really know what it’s like to walk with God, and then to find out in eternity what a wasted life they had and what they could have gained, and to know that it’s forever too late to do anything about it….for I believe that whatever we gain in this life in regard to our relationship with Christ, we take with us into Glory.


A wonderful “prize” awaits the faithful. It’s a motivating thought that some Christians will enjoy Heaven more than others.


15 Therefore, as many as are mature, let us think this way; and if in anything you think otherwise, even this God will reveal to you.


Those who are spiritually mature will have the same spiritual mind-set that Paul had. Paul was single-minded, and he had a radical approach to the Christian life and in his service to Christ. He was that way because He knew Jesus in a most intimate way. Paul learned that everything else in life pales in comparison to knowing Jesus our Lord.


“if in anything you think otherwise, even this God will reveal to you”


Throughout our lives the Holy Spirit is working to draw us to spiritual maturity. However, we have to be willing to listen and to yield. If we’re spiritually immature, it’s because we’re not listening, we’re not pursuing….it’s because we’re not engaging ourselves with the Word of God. We must be in God’s Word in order to grow spiritually.


We need to be taught. Pastors must be teaching the Word faithfully, and we must be students of the Word personally. God is willing to teach us, but we must be willing to learn and to respond in humble obedience. We must be in passionate pursuit of God and His will, and that comes through the knowledge and understanding of His Word.


16 Nevertheless, to what we have attained, let us walk by the same rule, [being] of the same mind.


To the degree that we’ve learned, to that we must be faithful. God holds us accountable to humbly respond to the truth and light that He reveals to us.


We’re not all at the same place spiritually. We’re not all at the same place in our understanding of God’s Word and the Christian life. However, we must be obedient to what we have attained.


“[being] of the same mind”


(This phrase is absent in some manuscripts)
Furthermore, since we’re all at different stages of maturity, we must live in humility toward one another. We must be patient with new believers, and with those who are struggling to live the Christian life. We must reject a critical spirit, and pray for one another and try to be an encouragement to one another.


We should also be moving ahead together in fulfilling our mission in this world. Regardless of where each of us is at spiritually, we must be doing the work of the Lord with a loving and harmonious spirit. We must be of one heart and one mind, striving for the same goals, while living with our eyes firmly on what lies ahead in eternity.