“Not that I have already obtained …”
There is an attitude among some who claim to follow Christ that they are already certain of being rewarded by God because they have accepted Christ. This is an unscriptural way of thinking. Paul did not have this attitude until the end of his life as we see in the final letter he wrote, see 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
In his letter to the Philippians he makes some important points, “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ … that I may know him … that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead” (3:8,10,11). To know Christ is to have a real relationship with him, nothing must hinder that relationship.
In the very next verse Paul says, “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. Brothers I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (verses 12-14). Paul’s way of thinking is plain!
Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). What a mess you would make in ploughing a field if you did not look straight ahead, Paul is the ultimate example of doing this. His message to the Philippians, which contains less criticism of believers than any of his other letters encourages them not to slacken their efforts in any way.
What encouraging words his last chapter contains, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice … do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (verses 4,6,7).
“Press on”, “straining forward” – those who read God’s word every day feel motivated to do this.