Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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“I Press Toward the Goal”

In his epistle to the Philippians, the apostle Paul expressed his attitude toward his service to Christ. Simply put, he wasn’t about to “count his chickens before they hatched.” In his own words, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

The reason for this single-minded approach in his service to the Lord is stated in the preceding verses, “that I may gain Christ, and be found in him” (vs. 8b-9a). Further, he longed for the result of such a fellowship with his Lord, “if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead” (vs. 11).

Now, this was not a “mind trick” that Paul was playing on himself. We do this from time to time. How many have moved their clocks forward 5 or 10 minutes to help ensure that they will be one time? Such tricks lack effectiveness, because we know in the back of our mind what the true time is, and we make the mental adjustment. Paul was not acting like his attainment of the resurrection was in doubt, he understood that he truly could forfeit his salvation! And so, he pressed forward in his service to Christ. Notice verse 12, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”

It is significant that the author of these words is an inspired man of God, and an apostle of the Lord. It is enough to note that he is a Christian, but it serves to further make our point in establishing the nature and efficacy of his faith. Here is one in right standing with God, who nevertheless recognized his eternal standing to still be determined, based upon his faithfulness.

Those who advocate the “once saved, always saved” mentality have no way to explain the attitude Paul expressed toward his own life. He “pressed on” until it was time for his departure from the earth. It was not until his valedictory that he would say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Notice even in these words the recognition that his reward (“the crown of righteousness”) is given him (“finally”) because he had “finished the race,” he had “kept the faith.”

So, with Paul we must acknowledge certain truths, that we might stay on course, and attain the resurrection from the dead. Note the following:

  • We have not attained the resurrection of the dead. Though this is our desire, becoming a Christian (being saved) does not mean that we have reached the final goal. What a shame it would be for individuals who come to a knowledge of the truth, to forfeit their eternal reward (cf. 2 Peter 2:20-22). As stated in our text, Paul warned the brethren in Philippi to emulate him. He indicated that some were not, and described their walk, “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: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is their shame — who set their mind on worldly things” (3:18-19).
  • We have not yet been “found in Him.” It is important to note that this event is yet future. While it is indeed true that we are “in Christ” when we become Christians, ultimately what will matter is being “in him” at the end of our time on earth. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mark 13:13). “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you in prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
  • We too must press on! Consider the contrasting focus of those whose end is destruction. They set their mind on “earthly things” (vs. 19). In response, Paul says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (3:20-21). As our citizenship is in heaven, we must set our minds on heavenly things, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

Heaven is attainable by all, but it has not yet been attained. A resurrection to life is something that can be apprehended, but it is not yet in our grasp. It is incumbent upon each of us to “suffer the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that [we] may gain Christ” (3:8). Can it be said that you have that same single-minded zeal to live for Christ that the apostle Paul exhibited as our example? Think about it!