Today: [Philippians 3:] Forgetting Those Things that are Behind: Do you have a past? Have you suffered much and experienced loss? Paul declares in this chapter that we are to forget those things that are behind and press into the mark of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus. We are to put our past behind us, and we are to allow others the privilege of doing the same if we are ever to experience the blessing that God has for us.
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[Phl 3:1-21 KJV] 1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed [is] not grievous, but for you [it is] safe. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 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; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 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. 13 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, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end [is] destruction, whose God [is their] belly, and [whose] glory [is] in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
After urging the Philippians to remain in unity and one accord Paul encourages the people to stay in a posture of praise. He is writing to them things that are uncomfortable to hear, but he desires that they rejoice in the Lord because these indelicate matters he is addressing are for their benefit. After having dealt with the religious contamination of leaders from Jerusalem, Paul cautioned them to beware of the preaching of those believers who demanded that they keep Moses law, calling them dogs and evil workers. He reminds them v. 3 that as believers we are the circumcision who worship God in the spirit and have no confidence in the flesh.
Paul makes this condemnation of Judaizing Christians even though he is a Jew of the highest pedigree. He cites the fact of his circumcision, the proof of his tribal identity and his connection in the past with the ruling elite of the city of Jerusalem. These things were gain to him in time past but now (v. 7) he counts them but loss for the cause of Christ. In fact he goes on to declare (v. 8) that he counts all things by which he could be advantaged in this life as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ for whom he considers all things but dung that he might be found (v. 9) in Christ not having his own righteousness (according to religious standards) but rather that righteousness which is established through his faith in God. This shows us that Christianity as Paul understood it was not intended to be an enhancement of a life one might choose to live but a turning one’s back to the culture of the world to embrace the culture of the kingdom.
Paul’s great longing and that which motivates him to such sacrifice is that (v. 10) he might “know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” Many take this statement and loudly trumpet that sufferings are part of our Christian experience and that we should embrace them wholeheartedly. Notice however that Paul defines this suffering as “his” or Christ’s suffering. Was Jesus ever sick? It is true that he was poor, but 2 Cor. 8:9 declares that he became impoverished so that we could be rich. These are points in God’s word where we must rightly divide what is being said lest by unsound doctrine we give Satan an advantage over us to bring upon our lives much unnecessary distress.
In all these things Paul’s statements are very forceful, but he makes the point (v. 12) that he knows he has not attained the perfection in Christ that he seeks. He does, however, “follow after” that he may apprehend or lay hold on that for which he has been apprehended of Christ Jesus. When was Paul apprehended of Christ Jesus? On the road to Damascus when he saw a great light and Jesus asking him why he was persecuting him. From that day on the Damascus road till this Paul (v. 13) is forgetting those things which were behind him and was committed to reaching for the things of God that were ahead of him.
What about you? Have you forgotten those things that are behind? Are you allowing others to do the same? Paul had some pretty big problems in his past to get over. He was a murderer. He was a persecutor. Because of him, whole families were put to death just for believing in Jesus. For most of us having come to faith after such a horrible past, we would have been crippled the rest of our life, unable to lift our head from the shame of our past failures and sins. Paul does identify himself as the chief of sinners, but he doesn’t allow this to hold him back. He is (v. 14) ever pressing toward the mark of the prize of the high calling in God. Do you have a past? Forget those things that are behind. Have you given up much for the cause of Christ? Count it all but loss, as Paul says “but dung” for the excellency of the knowledge of God. We need to press on toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God.
We should also allow others to put their past behind them as well. Many people are willing to forget their own personal history but not willing to let others forget their own sinful background and failures. We need to do others and ourselves the kindness of not holding them accountable for past wrongdoing and negligence. If you don’t let someone else forget their past, then God will keep you hostage to your own. Many people cry out and wonder why they can’t move on in life, but they refuse to forgive others where they have failed. In v. 15 Paul says if we would be perfect (or mature) in Christ we must be thus minded and put the past behind us and allow others the right to do so also, walking by the same rule and being of the same mind.
Paul then (v. 17) tells the Corinthians to mark them or take note of those who are setting good examples of following after Christ as he has demonstrated to them by his own testimony. We are to mark those who are getting it right and (v. 18) mark those as well who are enemies of the cross. Who is the enemy of the cross? One who minds earthly matters, whose glory is in things they should be ashamed of, whose end is destruction. Our minds should not be filled with the affairs of this world, but rather our conversation is in heaven, focused upon the throne.
We all struggle with the temptations and weaknesses of the flesh but Paul declares that one day (v. 21) our vile body is going to be changed into the image of the resurrection of Jesus himself and in fact Paul says that this resurrection transformation is already working in us to subdue everything in our lives that is contrary to Christ and bringing it into captivity to the Spirit of God working inside of us.
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