Summary: Paul had one great aim and purpose of life. To this singleness of purpose he owed his exemplary godliness and his uncommon success as a minister.
We have here a very personal letter written by the Apostle Paul. What I mean by that is simply that Paul shares a lot of himself in this letter. He shares with us his thoughts and attitudes as he talks about his past and present circumstances and the hopes he embraces concerning his future.
I think that we all admire Paul’s example of Christian character and spirit and service. Paul, on a number of occasions, encourages us to follow his example as he strived to follow Christ’s example.
This morning, Paul is going to share with us more of the thoughts and attitudes that have molded his mindset and steered his course as a Christian. And, these thoughts and attitudes he shares are extremely important for us to adopt if we are going to grow in godly character and be productive in Christian service.
Paul has just stated that he considered everything that had seemed important in his pre-Christian days as trash or manure compared to His relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now, in verse 12, Paul says “I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”
Paul says that his present ambition is to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus had laid hold of Paul. In other words, Christ had called Paul for a purpose. Christ called Paul so that Paul could lay hold of something. And obtaining that something was Paul’s single-minded focus.
We ask the question - what is that something which Christ called Paul to receive? What is that something which has captured all of Paul’s focus and energies?
Paul answers our question in Verse 11 - “that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Yes, Christ called Paul to be an Apostle. Yes, Christ called Paul to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Yes, Christ called Paul to bear witness before kings and governors and to even suffer for the Truth. But, the ultimate reason or purpose of why Christ called Paul is that Christ wanted Paul to share in the resurrection to eternal life.
That is true for every person here, this morning. The reason why God calls us through the Gospel is so that Christ may raise us up on the last day!
Our being raised from the dead to enjoy eternal life with Christ is our great and mutual hope. I repeat - hope.
Paul opens verse 12 by stating that - concerning the resurrection - he has not “already obtained it.”
This is a very important point. Paul seems to be saying that the resurrection was not yet his. Is Paul saying that should he die, his fate is not known to him? Is he saying that he is not quite sure that eternal life is his quite yet? Does he have doubt about his ultimate salvation? Is uncertainty of his eternal fate pushing him to “press on” to make it certain?
And, if this is so, can any of us know for sure exactly what will be our eternal fate?
How we answer this question is key to understanding this passage. I believe that Paul had complete confidence that he was saved. Furthermore, I believe that he knew he would be resurrected to spend eternity with Christ. The basis of my belief is his statement found in 1:21-24, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”
Would you not agree that is a statement of great assurance?!
Paul had complete confidence that he was saved and that he would participate in the resurrection of life. And, if we have obeyed the Gospel and walk in the light as He is in the Light,” we can and should have the same assurance.
Even though Paul had that inward confidence and assurance of the resurrection to eternal life, he chose to live his life as if it still was something to be won. Paul adopted the analogy of the Christian life as being a marathon and the race’s outcome is not known until the finish line is reached. In this analogy, the resurrection is the prize to be given to those who successfully or victorious run the entire race. In verse 13, he says, “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet.”
At the time of his writing this letter to the Philippians, Paul is saying that he is still actively running the race. In his mind, there is still much ground to cover because, as he says in verse 12, he is far from having “already become perfect.”