Pressing on to the Goal

I. Base Text: Philippians 3:1-21

II. Context
A. Philippians 1:1-2: Paul and Timothy write to the saints of Philippi
along with overseers and deacons
1. Church in Philippi established around 51 CE despite persecution
(Acts 16:10-40)
2. Paul writes while imprisoned in Rome (ca. 60-62 CE;
cf. Acts 28:13-31)
3. He writes to update them on his condition, regarding Epaphroditus,
and provides some exhortation and encouragement to fairly mature
B. Paul prays to God in thankfulness for Philippian Christians and for
their growth in love and righteousness; Paul speaks of his condition
as advancing the Gospel; some preach from rivalry; to die is gain, to
live is Christ; Christ will be glorified whether Paul lives or dies;
Philippians are to live as worthy of the Gospel, suffering in Christ
with Paul (Philippians 1:3-30)
C. Paul wants the Philippians to make his joy full by living in unity;
have Christ’s mind in them, humbling oneself so that God can exalt;
obey, work out salvation, for God works in us; be as lights to a
crooked generation; Timothy, Epaphroditus commended
(Philippians 2:1-30)
D. Paul continues to exhort the Philippians in their faith in
Philippians 3:1-21

III. Meaning
A. Paul again encourages the Philippians to rejoice; he recognizes he
writes the same things over again, but he does not find it bothersome
(okneron), and it is safe for them (asphales; Philippians 3:1)
B. Beware of the Circumcision (Philippians 3:2-7)
1. Paul then wants to warn the Philippians about the influence of
Jews, most likely the “Judaizers” which seem to continue to cause
difficulties throughout the churches at the time (cf. Romans,
2 Corinthians, Galatians)
2. Paul calls them “dogs,” “evil workers,” the “mutilated”
(katatomen, used only here in the NT; Philippians 3:2)
a. Compare the view of Jews in Romans 9:1-5, 10:1-4
b. And yet the view of the “Judaizers” in Galatians 5:7-12!
c. Paul has no desire to denounce all physical Israel but speaks
in a most derisive way regarding the “Judaizers,” even to the
point of using Gentile slurs against them
3. He then identifies Christians with the covenant language of the
OT: “we” are the circumcision, serving (latreuontes) by the Spirit
of God and glorying (kauchomenoi, boasting, vaunting) in Christ
Jesus, not putting confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3); one
of the clearer identifications of Christians/the church as the new
Israel in the NT
4. Paul anticipates the “Judaizers”’ confidence in the flesh, that
is, in their ancestry and cultural identity, and argues that if
anyone could do so, it would be him: circumcised on the eighth
day, of the tribe of Benjamin, a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” a Pharisee,
zealous in persecuting the church, blameless with respect to the
righteousness in the Law (according to Israelite parlance;
cf. Romans 3:20 for the actual impossibility of justification by
Law; Philippians 3:4-6)
5. Yet Paul proved willing to consider all that standing as lost in
order to gain Christ (Philippians 3:7), indicating the superiority
of that which can be found in Christ
C. Knowing Christ and the Power of His Resurrection (Philippians 3:8-11)
1. Paul then builds on the idea expressed in Philippians 3:7
regarding counting all things as loss to gain Christ
2. He counts all things as loss in order to gain the knowledge of
Jesus Christ; he suffered the loss of standing and its benefits
and considers them as refuse (skubala, what is thrown to dogs ->
garbage, even dung) so as to gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)
3. Gaining Christ involves being found in Him not with Paul’s own
righteousness as from the Law but the righteousness that comes
through faith in Christ, to know Him, the power of His
resurrection, the fellowship (koinonia, association, joint
participation) of His sufferings, being conformed
(summorphizomenos) to His death so as to obtain, by any possible
means, the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:9-11)
4. A great encapsulation of what Christianity is really all about!
D. Pressing on to the Goal (Philippians 3:12-16)
1. Paul continues in the theme of the goal of the life of faith
2. He makes it clear that he has yet to obtain the resurrection or
teteleiomai, made complete / perfect, but that he presses on so as
to obtain that for which Christ laid ahold of him so as to obtain
(Philippians 3:12)
3. He again affirms he has yet to lay hold of it (=the resurrection);
he forgets what lay behind and stretches forward (epekteinomenos,
used most frequently in running imagery) to what lay before him,
pressing on to the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ
(Philippians 3:13-14)
4. He expects those who are teleioi (the same Greek root as in
Philippians 3:12, but clearly with a different sense since he is
including himself and is in the present; not perfect or complete
so much as “mature”) to be thus minded; if any have another view,
God will reveal this to them: in all things Paul and the
Philippians are to hold firm to what they have obtained
(Philippians 3:15-16)
a. What is Paul saying here?
b. He seems to expect some disagreement or dissension about what
he is saying, expecting the mature to understand better than
those less mature
c. He expects the less mature to eventually see the truth in what
he says thanks to God’s revelation, likely through the Spirit
according to the gifts of the first century dispensation
d. There is no need to posit dueling views of truth or the goal;
Philippians 3:16 is really an affirmation of holding to the
level of development to which we have attained with the
expectation of pressing on unto greater growth and maturity
E. The Two Ways (Philippians 3:17-21)
1. Paul then makes a contrasts between two ways of living
2. He first encourages the Philippians to imitate him and to observe
(skopeite, which can mean “mark,” but here not as avoid but as
follow) those who follow Paul’s example (Philippians 3:17;
cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12)
3. He then provides the contrast with those who walk as enemies of
the cross of Christ: their end is destruction (apoleia, loss,
perdition), their god is their belly, their glory is their shame,
their thoughts on earthly things; Paul has spoken of such people
before, and does again with tears (Philippians 3:18-19)
4. Yet “our” citizenship (politeuma; cf. Philippians 1:27) is in
heaven, from which “we” wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus
(Philippians 3:20)
5. Jesus will fashion anew (metaschematisei; to change the figure of,
to transform) the body (soma) of our humiliation (taipeinoseos;
cf. Philippians 2:8), conforming (summorphon;
cf. Philippians 3:10) it unto the body of His glory according to
the power whereby all things have been subjected (hupotaxai) to
Him (Philippians 3:21)
6. Many parallels exist between Philippians 3:20-21 and 2:5-11; this
is the language of resurrection, the raising of the earthly,
corrupted, mortal body and its transformation into the
Spirit-energized, incorruptible, immortal body
(cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20-58)
F. Obtaining the resurrection from the dead: this is our hope, this must
be our goal!

IV. Application
A. The Resurrection
1. The great thrust of Paul’s message in Philippians 3:1-21 is the
power and importance of the resurrection
2. What could possibly explain why Paul would prove so willing to
renounce his life in Judaism, his social standing, his cultural
identity, and even to consider it as refuse or dung?
3. For that matter, what would make any sane human want to share in
suffering and death?
4. Philippians 3:11: the resurrection of the dead!
5. Explained beautifully in Philippians 3:21 in light of
Philippians 2:5-11, 3:19
a. Jesus experienced humiliation to be exalted in glory; the body
of humiliation of the believer is raised in His glory
b. Those in the world have shame as their glory; the Christian’s
glory is the hope of resurrection
6. Paul was a Christian, in relationship with God in Christ,
confident that in life or death Christ is glorified in Him, but
he recognized he had yet to obtain the resurrection, and so he
still continues on in order to do so (Philippians 3:12-14; cf.
Philippians 1:19-25)
7. Note that our present citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20)
but we await a Savior who will raise the body (Philippians 3:21)
8. In the end, the resurrection of the dead is what it is all about,
the game changer, the only possible thing which can make sense of
why we would sacrifice everything for the Lord Jesus
(cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20-58)!
B. Christians, the Circumcision
1. In Philippians 3:3 Paul identifies Christians as “the
2. Consistent with Romans 2:28-29, Colossians 2:11-12, Galatians 6:16
3. Paul has certainly showed plenty of discontinuity with Israel in
Philippians 3:2...
4. ...but despite the discontinuities, he still emphasizes the
continuities as well: Christians can be spoken of in terms of
Israel because they are the people of God in Christ, those
participating in the Kingdom which is the fulfillment of the Law
and the hope of Israel!
5. We are part of the story of the people of God; we can learn from
those who have come before us so that we may serve God faithfully
(2 Timothy 3:15-16, Hebrews 11:1-12:2)
C. Pressing On
1. If anyone had good reason for confidence in their current station,
and had the “right” to believe they could “coast” into salvation,
it would have been Paul
2. He recognizes his maturity (Philippians 3:15), but would not claim
completion/perfection (Philippians 3:12)!
3. He says he forgets what lay behind and “stretches forward” to what
comes ahead, using a running illustration in Philippians 3:13 akin
to 1 Corinthians 9:24-28, Hebrews 12:1-2
4. Paul, despite all what he had experienced and done in Christ,
recognized the continual need to press on to the goal of the
upward calling of Christ, to stretch forward until he obtains the
5. If Paul felt thus, why would we believe otherwise about ourselves
(Philippians 3:15-16)?
D. The Enemies of the Cross
1. In contrast to the citizens of the Kingdom Paul speaks of the
enemies of the cross in Philippians 3:18-19
2. Their end is perdition; their god is their belly; their glory is
their shame
3. 1950 years later an accurate assessment of our consumerist society
glorying in its “tolerance” and “progressivism” in commending what
God has condemned
4. And yet Paul does not speak of them or their fate with glee or
sanctimony but in tears: he does not want this to be the case, and
neither should we!

V. Conclusion
A. We have seen the message of Paul to the Philippian Christians in
Philippians 3:1-21
1. Beware of the “Judaizers”
2. All standing means nothing in light of the hope of the
3. Those in the world live by their belly; we live in the hope of
B. Let us press upward to the goal as Paul did, by any means possible
obtaining the resurrection of the dead!
C. Invitation/songbook

Ethan R. Longhenry

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