Wednesday 08 October 2014

Bible Book:

“I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (v. 14)

Philippians 3:12-16 Wednesday 8 October 2014


As Paul writes these words of challenge, he turns to the imageof an athletics stadium in order to make his point. The imagery isclear. Paul has begun the race in response to what Christ Jesus hasdone for him, but he has not yet finished that race (verse 12).There is a prize that awaits him. But to obtain that prize he mustbe committed and single-minded - "this one thing I do" (v. 13).

The athletic imagery is significant:

  • A good athlete does not keep looking over their shoulder butinstead forgets "what lies behind" (v. 13). Maybe Paul is herereferring not only to his life before he encountered Jesus, butalso to the earlier part of his Christian discipleship. Paul cannotsimply 'rest on his laurels' (to use another image with roots inancient Greek athletics) as a result of what he has already done asa Christian in the past.
  • A good athlete is focused on the finishing line and strains'forward to what lies ahead' (v. 13). Christians are not called tolive in their own strength - but equally Christians are called tobe focused on the work of God's kingdom and on their own growth indiscipleship. This is in God's strength - but it does require afocussed and a disciplined life.
  • A good athlete has the prize in view. For Paul, this prize isthe "heavenly [or "upward" in the NRSV footnote] call of God inChrist Jesus" (v. 14). This image may refer to the way thatvictorious athletes were called "upwards", that is up the steps inthe athletics stadium, in order to receive their prize. Thedetailed meaning of the phrase itself is debated, with some seeingthe prize as a relationship with Jesus Christ which is experiencedin this life, and others seeing the phrase as a reference to theinvitation to be in God's eternal presence at the end of thisearthly race.

What is clear in this image is that Paul is running this racewith a single-minded focus (verses 12-14) and he invites hisreaders to do the same (verses 15-16).

To Ponder

  • What will it mean for you today to forget "what lies behind"and to strain "forward to what lies ahead" (v. 13)?
  • What do you understand by "the prize of the heavenly call ofGod in Christ Jesus"?
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