- Lesson 10 in the BaptistWay Press Connect360 unit “Pure Joy” focuses on Philippians 3:12-16.
In the previous section, Philippians 3:1-11, the Apostle Paul spoke about his past. He identified specific aspects of his devotion to the Law as a Jew: circumcised on the eighth day, a strict adherence to the Old Testament Torah, and even a passion to persecute followers of Jesus. He called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5). However, in his assessment, Paul considered these as losses or garbage because they were detrimental to him coming to an awareness and acceptance of Jesus. In contrast, Paul concluded what is most valuable is a developmental relationship with Jesus. He went so far as to suggest that he longs to participate in persecution and death for his faith.
As we transition into verse 12, we see that Paul humbly acknowledged he had yet to attain the fullness of his desire—a goal he strove for and hoped eventually to attain as a follower of Christ. He was still in the process of transformation. Paul espoused a view of voluntary self-sacrifice and surrender to Christ as Lord. He spoke of being a “living sacrifice” in Romans 12:1 and being “crucified with Christ” in Galatians 2:20. Such metaphors emphasized Paul’s determination; while still physically alive, Paul wanted to put to “death” the things of this world (his failures and successes, his opinions and perspectives, his ideals and dreams, etc.), and submit himself fully to the leadership of Christ over him, in him and through him.
‘Press on’ and ‘take hold’
Thus, Paul explained to the Philippians he was going to “press on” toward a life fully consecrated to Jesus. He used the Greek verb, dioko, which literally means “to push, drive, or set in motion.” Oftentimes, this term is used in association with being persecuted. So, in a beautiful play on words, Paul identified with those persecuted as followers of Christ, but he did so in such a way simultaneously to illustrate a mental picture of someone pushing himself/herself toward the finish line of a race. Paul pressed into (not cowered away from) the challenges and obstacles that come with being a passionate follower of Jesus.
Similarly, the last half of verse 12 does not translate smoothly into English. The NIV reads, “…to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul concluded that Jesus took hold of his life. Whereas Paul lived his earlier life following the Torah and striving to merit God’s favor by obedience (Philippians 3:1-11), Jesus “took hold” of Paul on the Damascus Road, transforming his purpose from persecuting Christ to serving him (Acts 9). Jesus took hold of Paul’s life and turned him completely into a new person. As Paul reflected back on this pivotal moment in his past, he chose to continue to press into the opportunity to be transformed each day. Paul willingly and voluntarily longed to “take hold” of the opportunities he had to know Jesus and to become more like him (Philippians 3:10).
Pressing into faith is not just something we do when we first come to accept Jesus and commit ourselves to follow him; opportunities come our way throughout our lifetimes. How we respond to transformational moments will determine the impact they have on the development of our character. Paul wanted his faith to grow and he saw the hardship of life as the “adrenaline” that pushed him to greater Christ-likeness. We, too, should strive to press on in faith so we can know Christ and become more like him.
Compiled by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
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