3:16 – The Rest of the Story – Our Response 4: Philippians

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response (Current location of study)

Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” – Philippians 3:16

A song written by Dan Burgess and recorded by the vocal group Selah is based on this passage from Philippians. The lyrics for the song are:

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
When we’re battered and scarred
When we’ve spent our resources
When we’ve given our all

In Jesus’ name, we press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize, clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on

You may also like to listen or watch a performance of this song on YouTube.

I chose to begin with this song simply to get our thinking in this direction. We are looking at the responses that we should have to what the Bible has taught us about the human condition, God’s revelation of His plan to provide us with salvation, and how God has fulfilled that plan. So far we’ve seen that we must first simply BELIEVE in the gift given us through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Then we must ALLOW the Holy Spirit to control our lives. Then we must SHINE for all the world to see the light of God’s Spirit within us.

Now we turn to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In this passage Paul is speaking about what is involved in living out the Christian life. He begins in Philippians 3 verses 1-6 (not quoted here) by pointing out that from a “religious” standpoint, he had all the “right” credentials to be in right standing with God – a native Jew, a Pharisee, a persecutor of the church – all things that he thought would have had him in God’s good graces. But then he became a Christ-follower – and that is where he picks up the story in verses 7-11.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him,

I interrupted verse 9 to point out that Paul is providing an example to us of what it means to follow Christ – that following Christ literally means dying to ourselves and giving over every aspect of our life to Him. Paul then explains that Jesus bestows on us His righteousness…

not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Dying to self takes an act of faith that Jesus will impart His power to us, also enabling us to share in his sufferings and making us more like Him. We don’t do this ourselves, we allow His Spirit to work in us and produce these effects. But then Paul acknowledges that it is a continual work in progress in verses 12-14.

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 for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

It is these verses that the song referenced earlier is alluding to. Paul paints a picture of a race that we are running. He had not yet concluded that race and we who are still alive on Earth also are running this race – a race to finish the work that God has given to us. Paul acknowledged that he had not yet completed it. But he kept his eyes on the goal – obedience and service of God in the expectation (through faith in God) that God would allow the choices and events in Paul’s life to continue to shape him into the person God wanted him to be.

Then Paul encourages us to have that same view in verses 15-17, including our 3:16 verse.

Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

The longer and more faithfully you serve God in the race in which He has placed you, the more you should be encouraged to keep you eyes on the prize, which is completing that race. If along the way you stumble (e.g. things happen that you don’t understand), Paul promises that God will give you understanding. But in the meantime (vs. 3:16!), “only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Don’t give up the race! Keep true to the progress you’ve made so far. Hold fast to the knowledge and understanding you do have – and keep your eyes on the prize, enabling God to continue working in your life and providing you with the answers you’re needing. And, as an added benefit, Paul reminds us that we have EACH OTHER to provide help, guidance, encouragement, examples, etc. for how to run the race a little further or faster. But keep your eyes on those who are running the race, not on those who have quit!

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
When we’re battered and scarred
When we’ve spent our resources
When we’ve given our all

In Jesus’ name, we press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize, clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on

Next we’ll look at Proverbs 3:16.

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