The Olympics are coming soon to Vancouver British Columbia. Athletes all over the world are preparing for their various events. They of course train in such a way as to be the best of the best. Their goal; an Olympic Gold Medal, and hearing their national anthem playing while their flag is raised and they stand atop the podium as ‘Olympic Champion.’

Have you ever heard of someone saying: ‘I want to be an Olympic Silver or Bronze medalist.’ or, ‘We’re here to lose!’, or how about, ‘What AM I doing here?’ What would we think of a coach who said something like, do whatever you like, I’m sure it will be fine. There are specific rules for competition and exact sciences in body mechanics, nutrition, training and equipment. Each athlete knows that they have not arrived and must have a specific objective and train. (adapted from Steven Buhr

The Judaizers taught the Philippians that spiritual perfection was attainable through being circumcised and keeping the Law. There were also heretics (forerunners of the second-century Gnostics) who taught that spiritual perfection awaited those who attained a certain level of knowledge.

As followers of Christ, should we set our sights any lower than the prize for which we all strive for? What is that prize? What is our goal? Are we in a race of some kind that we need to win?

In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul sets forth six necessary prerequisites for effectively striving for the prize of Christlikeness. The effort requires from the believer a 1) Proper Awareness, 2) A Maximum Effort, 3) A Focused Concentration, 4) A Proper Motivation, 5) A Proper Recognition, and finally 6) A Proper Conformity.


Philippians 3:12a [12]Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, (but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own). (ESV)

All that believers are now positionally in Christ and will enjoy forever in heaven is eternally fixed by God’s gracious purpose (cf. 1 Peter 1:4). That spiritual reality and promise cannot be improved upon, but believers’ virtue in this present life can and must be. Knowing that we are not now what we should be, and what we someday will be in glory, must not produce apathy and laziness, but a zeal for moving in the direction of the prize. That is the Spirit’s work in us (2 Cor. 3:18) and the longing of the regenerated soul. The awareness of the need to improve one’s spiritual condition is a necessary prerequisite to pursuing the prize of spiritual perfection.

Paul had that awareness, and expressed it in the two words that begin verse 12, not that. He had not yet obtained (from lambanô; “to receive,” “acquire,” or “attain”) the prize he pursued. The twice-repeated word already indicates that Paul was still imperfect when he wrote this epistle.

Despite the rich blessings that were his in Christ, the apostle knew that he was not perfect. His knowledge of Christ was still incomplete (1 Cor. 13:12).

Christ’s righteousness had been imputed to him (2 Cor. 5:21). The tense is aorist: “I say not that I did at once win the prize;” that is, at the time of his conversion (Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.): The Pulpit Commentary: Philippians. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004, S. 114).

Paul Realized:

2 Corinthians 7:1 [7:1]Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (ESV)

Paul had Christ’s power at work in him (1 Cor. 15:10; Col. 1:29), but that power still worked through his weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). The rich fellowship with Christ that he experienced was also imperfect; he still did not know how to pray as he should, and depended on the Holy Spirit to intercede for him (Rom. 8:26–27). While his body was a temple of the glorious Holy Spirit who indwelt him (1 Cor. 6:19), Paul longed for the day when Christ “will transform the body of [his] humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21).

Obviously, pursuing the prize of spiritual maturity begins with dissatisfaction with one’s present spiritual condition. Those who think they have reached spiritual maturity will not see the need to pursue a better condition; why should they chase something they believe they already have? Such complacent, contented people are in grave danger of becoming insensitive to their sin and blind to their weaknesses. It is only those who continue to recognize the need to eliminate sin and cultivate holiness who will make progress in the Christian life. This pursuit by the power of the sanctifying Spirit produces a decreasing frequency of sin and increasing love for holiness, which makes less sin feel like more. The truly mature and godly have the most sensitive awareness of their sins, and are the humblest before God because of it.

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