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Philippians 3:4b-14 - Press On
Phil. 3:4b) If any one else has reason to be confident in flesh, I have more: 5) circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6: as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7) Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8) More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ. 8) More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11) if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12) Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13) Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Background to Philippians: This is the most personal of all of Paul’s letters. In it he tries to help his friends learn how they can live joyfully and in any circumstances of life. He tries to help them deal with difficult problems like personality disputes and power struggles, false teachers and the danger of losing hope. While it may seem like a casual letter from friend to friend, there is much more here than meets the eye!

About Philippi: Philippi was a Roman province in what is now Greece. The town sat eight miles from the Mediterranean Sea. It was a center of agriculture because of fresh water springs. It was wealthy because of gold mines. Philippi was founded in 360 B.C. by King Philip of Macedonia. He was the father of Alexander the Great. Philippi was a cosmopolitan town on a trade route between Rome and Byzantium. It was also an army town and the site of major battles between Anthony and Octavian and Brutus and Casius. Anthony and Octavian won the first battle and later went to war against each other with Octavian winning and becoming the Emperor Caesar Augustus. It was a town used to wealth, with along history of armed conflict and glorious successes. It was very Roman even though in Greece. People were citizens of Rome. It was like it would be if Cambria were a part of Canada.

The Church in Philippi: The church was founded during Paul’s second missionary journey, during which he spent a lot of time in jails all over Greece. He made everybody mad. Especially on one occasion when he cast an evil spirit out of a slave girl whose owner was making a lot of money off of her. When she was healed she could no longer make the man any more money. The church began with a hand full of women. One of them was Lydia who was rich and took the fledgling church into her home which then became the base of missionary operations for the area.

Where was Paul when he wrote to the Philippians? In jail. We don’t know exactly which jail or for what offense. He was in jail a lot. We do know that the conditions were appalling. Some reports were that he was standing up to his knees in excrement. That context makes this passage all the more touching.  
Immediate Context: In this unit Paul turns his attention to the false teachers that are troubling the church. They are saying that it is by keeping the law that one gains God’s favor. Paul argues from his own experience that nothing could be farther from the truth.

Word Study
Vs. 4-5 – confidence in the flesh – this refers to righteousness based on heritage and accomplishment.
Eighth day – the day on which a Jewish child was circumcised (as opposed to a convert)
Tribe of Benjamin – an elite tribe within Israel
Pharisee – a small, strict party of intensely devout Jews
Vs. 6 – zeal - a highly prized virtue among the Jews, one of the greatest qualities of the religious life.
Blameless – He had observed the law to the best of his ability. Because of that he is on equal footing with his critics.
Vs. 7 - Come to regard as loss – Paul uses the image of a balance sheet to make his point. What he once thought of as a posting on the profit side of the ledger (keeping the law) he now sees as a posting to the loss column.
Vs. 8 – surpassing value of knowing Christ – the only thing that has any ultimate value.
Rubbish – actually a vulgar term, it refers either to waste food bound for the garbage pit or human excrement.
Vs. 10 – power of his resurrection – Paul wants to experience this personally.
Sharing of his suffering – or fellowship of his suffering, he wants to experience all of who Jesus was and went through for him.
Becoming like him – we are indissolubly linked with Christ
Vs. 12 - obtained – a difficult word – It can mean to take hold, to apprehend, to comprehend as well as to obtain.
Already reached my goal – become perfect, grasped all that Christ is
Press on – Christian life is one of constant striving to know Christ in his fullness.
Take hold – can mean to win a prize or to understand or comprehend.
Vs. 13 – consider – to calculate precisely
Straining – the image is of a runner in a stadium straining every muscle to reach the finish line.
Vs. 14 – goal – mark on the track that indicates the end of the race

Question for Personal Reflection
1. What do you think that Paul meant by “forgetting what lies behind?” How do we go about doing that?
2. What role do you think suffering plays in life and in the life of faith?
3. What are the things that give you hope in difficult circumstances? How do you nurture hope without denying loss and pain? How do you hold all things in your life together as one?
4. Can you think of a time when the church held you together? Can you think of a time when you were called to be a chalice of comfort to someone in despair? What came from those experiences?