“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”

Because he had warned these Philippian believers about the legalizers among them who used the Mosaic Law as a checklist for spirituality, it may be that Paul was contrasting himself with the legalizers in this verse.  Although the legalizers (Judaizers) did consider themselves to have attained because of their relationship with the Mosaic Law, Paul emphasized that he had had not yet come to the place of experiencing all that Christ had for him.

“Not as though I had already attained,”
Literally:  “Not that I {have} already received.”  For I have not yet received the prize; I am not glorified, for I have not finished my course; and I have a conflict still to maintain, and the issue will prove whether I should be crowned.

From the beginning of the 11th to the end of the 17th verse there is one continued allusion to the contests at the Olympic games; exercises with which, and their laws, the Philippians were well acquainted.  This verse, and the two following, are full of allusions to the Grecian races, and it will illustrate the whole passage to insert a cut representing a Grecian foot-race. We shall thus have the image before us which probably Paul had in his eye when he penned the passage.

        ATTAINED:   (Grk.–elabon)–Literally:  “obtained;” namely, a perfect knowledge of Christ, and of the power of His death, and fellowship of His sufferings, and a conformity to His death. A word that means “to have arrived at the goal and won the prize,” but without having as yet received it. The meaning here is, “I do not pretend to have attained to what I wish or hope to be.”

Paul had indeed been converted; he had been raised up from the death of sin; he had been imbued with spiritual life and peace; but there was a glorious object before him which he had not yet received. There was to be a kind of resurrection which he had not arrived at. It is possible that Paul here may have had his eye on an error which prevailed to some extent in the early church, that “the resurrection was past already,” (II Tim. 2:18), by which the faith of some had been perverted.  How far this error had spread, or on what it was founded, is not now known; but it is possible that it might have found advocates extensively in the churches. Paul says, however, that he entertained no such opinion, He looked forward to a resurrection which had not yet occurred. He anticipated it as a glorious event yet to come, and he purposed to secure it by every effort which he could make.

“either were already perfect,”
Literally:  “Or already been perfected.”  Nor am I yet perfect; I am not yet crowned, in consequence of having suffered martyrdom.

        BEEN PEFECTED:   (Grk.–teteleuomai)–Paul is here alluding to the Grecian games, for this Greek word is spoken of those who have completed their race, reached the goal, and are honored with the prize.

View #1-
Speaking of Sinless Perfection

         This is a distinct assertion of Paul that he did not regard himself as a perfect man. He had not reached that state where he was free from sin. It is a declaration that he did not regard himself as having attained to it.
         This statement of Paul’s alone should destroy that heresy that one can reach the position of
“eradication of the sin nature.”  NO living soul (no matter how piously he may live) will ever reach the point of piety where he totally gets rid of sin in his body, or can sin no more.  The old sin nature will always with us. This old sin nature is considered by God to be so corrupt that not even He will attempt to change it.  Instead, when we become born again, (get saved) He adds to us a new nature, and the two natures are constantly warring against each other.  We will never get rid of the old sin nature as along as we are in our human bodies.  It is only in our new and glorified bodies that we will be free of sin–Perfect Sanctification.

         Yet who can have better claims to having attained sinless perfection than Paul could have done?  Who has surpassed him in love, and zeal, and self-denial, and true devotedness to the service of the Redeemer? Who has more elevated views of God, and of the plan of salvation, than did Paul? Who prayed more, or lived nearer to God than did Paul?  Yet his own words on this are:  “Oh wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”– (Romans 7:24)

View #2
Speaking of the Greek Games

         Many critics suppose the Greek word (teteleuomai)  used here does not refer to moral or Christian perfection, but is an allusion to the Greek games, and that Paul means that he had not completed his course and arrived at the goal, so as to receive the prize. This will be done at the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Cor. 5:10), i.e., the BEMA Seat,.  According to this view, the sense would be that he had not yet received the crown (the Victor’s Crown, the stephanos) to which he aspired as the result of his efforts in this life. It is important to understand precisely what he meant here; and, in order to do this, we must look at how this word as used (and its meaning there) elsewhere in the N.T.
         Thia word properly means, “to complete, to make perfect,” so as to be full, or so that nothing shall be wanting.In the N.T. it is used in the following places, and is translated in the following manner:
1.      It is rendered as “fulfilled” in Luke 2:43; John 19:28;
2.      It is rendered as “perfect,” and “perfected,” in Luke 13:32, John 17:23, II Cor. 12:9, Phil. 3:12; Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:19; 9:9; 10:1, 14; 11:40; 12:23; James 2:22, I John 2:5; 4:12, 17- 8;
3.      It is rendered as ”finished” in John 5:36; Acts 20:24; and,
4.      It is rendered as “consecrated,” in Heb. 7:28.
5.      It is is applied to a race or course that is run:  “That I might finish my course with joy;” in Acts 20:24 it but this is the only instance it is thus used, unless it is being so used in the case before us.

         The proper sense of the word is that of bringing to an end, or rendering complete, so that nothing shall be wanting. The idea of Paul’s evidently is that he had not yet attained that which would be the completion of his hopes. There was something which he was striving after, which he had not obtained, and which was needful to render him perfect, or complete.
         He lacked now what he hoped yet to attain to; and that which he lacked may refer to all those things which were wanting in his character and condition then, which he expected to secure in the resurrection. What he would then obtain would be:

1.      Perfect freedom from sin,
2.      Deliverance from trials and temptations, victory over the grave, and,
3.      Possession of immortal life.

         As those things were needful in order to the completion of his happiness, we may suppose that he referred to them now, when he says that he was not yet “perfect.”  This word, (teteleuomai), while it will embrace an allusion to moral character, need not be understood as meaning that only, but may include all those things which were necessary to be observed in order to his complete faithfulness.
       Though there may be an allusion in the passage to the Grecian foot-races, yet still it would teach that Paul did not regard himself as in any sense perfect. In all respects, there were things wanting to render his character and condition complete, or what he desired they might ultimately be. The same is true of all Christians now. We are imperfect in our moral and religious character, in our joys, in our condition. Our state here is far different from that which will exist in heaven; and no Christian can say, any more that. Paul could, that he has obtained that which is required to the completion or perfection of his character and condition. i.e., sinless perfection, or eradication of the sin nature.  He is looking for something brighter and purer in the world beyond the grave. Though, therefore, there may be a reference to the Grecian games, yet the sense of the passage is not materially varied. It was still a struggle for the Crown of Perfection,a crown which Paul says he had not yet obtained.

        PERFECT:  (Grk.–teleios)—This Greek word means full-grown, as distinct from underdeveloped; for example, it is used of a fully grown adult as opposed to an underdeveloped youth.  So when Paul uses this word here in v. 12, he is saying that he is not by any means a complete Christian, but is always pressing on toward that goal.

“but I follow after”
Literally:  “But I press on.”  I pursue the object, striving to obtain it.

The prize was seen in the distance, and he diligently sought to obtain it. There is a reference here to the Grecian races, and the meaning is, “I steadily pursue my course.” Comp. I Cor. 9:24.  Although he had gone on to spiritual maturity by this time in his life, Paul had not reached a state of absolute perfection such as each believer will have in heaven.  He wanted the Philippians to know that he was still experiencing difficulties and needed to keep on applying the Word of God to his daily life.

        I FOLLOW AFTER:  (Grk.–diokō)–Literally means “follow in the sense of pursue.”  Paul is saying, “I press on.”  He is not discouraged; rather, he is encouraged.  He keeps up the chase.  Real idea in  diokō as seen in; Rom. 9:30; I Cor. 14:1;  II Tim. 6:11.

        “What shall we say then?  That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness,s have attained to righteousness… (Rom. 9:30).
        Follow after charity, and desire spiritual {gifts} but rather that ye may prophesy (preach)–(I Cor. 14:1).
        “But thou, O man of God, feel these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love patience, meekness” (II Tim. 6:11).

Like a runner pursuing the goal, Paul wanted to honor Christ in everything he did so he might be more and more molded into His image.  Possibly, be-cause he had warned the Philippian believers about the legalizers among them who used the Mosaic Law as a spirituality checklist, he may even be contrasting himself with these legalizers.  Although these legalizers considered themselves to have already “arrived,” to have attained because of their adherence to the Law, Paul emphasized that he had not yet come to the place of experiencing all that God had for him.

“if that I may apprehend”–i.e., If I may obtain, or reach, the heavenly prize.
Literally: “That I may lay hold on.” That I may receive those blessings to which I am called by Christ Jesus. There is still an allusion here to the stadium, and exercises there.

         Paul considers Christ as the brabeus, or Judge in the games, Who proclaimed the victor, and distributed the prizes; and he represents himself as being introduced by this very brabeus, or Judge, into the contest; and this brabeus brought him in with the design to crown him, if he contended faithfully. 
         To complete this faithful contention is what he has in view; that he may apprehend, or lay hold on that for which he had been apprehended, or taken by the hand by Christ who had converted, strengthened, and endowed him with apostolic powers, that he might fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life.
         There was a glorious object in Paul’s view, and he made most strenuous exertions to obtain it. The idea in the Greek word (katababō), here rendered as, “apprehend” is that of taking hold of, or of seizing suddenly and with eagerness; and, since there is no doubt of its being used in an allusion to the Grecian foot-races, it is not improbable that there is a reference to the laying hold of the pole or post which marked the goal, by the racer who had outstripped the other competitors, and who, by that act, might claim the victory and the reward. See the engraving.

“that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
Literally:  “For which I also was laid hold on by Christ Jesus.”–The idea is, that he had been called into the service of the Lord Jesus with a view to the obtaining of an important object.   Paul recognized:

1.      The fact that the Lord Jesus had, as it were, laid hold on him, or seized him with eagerness or suddenness, for so the Greek word (katelēmphthēn) used here means, (comp. Mark 9:18; John 8:3-4; 12:35; I Thess. 5:4;) and,
2.      The fact that the Lord Jesus had laid hold on (katelēmphthēn) him, with a view to his obtaining the prize. He had done it in order that he might obtain the crown of life, that he might serve him faithfully here, and then be rewarded in heaven. We may learn from t
That Christians are seized, or laid hold on, when they are converted, by the power of Christ, to be employed in his service
  b.     That there is an object or purpose which he has in view. He designs that they shall obtain a glorious prize,
                  and He “apprehends” them with reference to its attainment.

         c.    That the fact that Christ has called us into His service with reference to such an object, and designs to bestow the crown upon us, need not and should not dampen our exertions, or diminish our zeal.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:  but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,”

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended”
Literally:  “Brethren, I do not reckon myself to have laid hold.”  Instead of claiming complete attainment, Paul says that the main purpose of his life is to press on. “Whatever gifts, graces, or honors I may have received from Jesus Christ, I consider everything as incomplete till I have finished my course, got this crown, and have my body raised and fashioned after His glorious body.”

         That is, to have obtained that for which I have been called into the service of the Redeemer. There is something which I strive after which I have not yet gained. This statement is a confirmation of the opinion that in the previous verse, where he says that he was not “already perfect.”  
         Paul includes a
moral perfection, and not merely the obtainment of the prize or reward.  No one could suppose that he meant to be understood as saying that he had obtained the crown of glory. Whatever gifts, graces, or honors I may have received from Jesus Christ, I consider every- thing as incomplete till I have finished my course, got this crown, and have my body raised and fashioned after his glorious body.

        BRETHREN:  (Grk.–adelphoi)-Paul addresses the Philippians with an endearing term:  “brothers.”  Although they were not his physical brothers, they were spiritual brothers because both they and Paul had believed in Jesus Christ as personal Savior. This is a direct loving appeal, to restate and enforce what he has just said.               

        I MYSELF:  (Grk.–egō emauton)–Paul is saying that whatever others count as to themselves. He who counts himself perfect, must deceive himself by calling sin infirmity (I John1:8); at the same time, each must aim at perfection, to be a Christian at all (Matt. 5:48).  “I” and “myself” are both emphatic in the Greek. Whatever others may think of themselves, this is his deliberate estimate of himself. He has in view the false teachers more clearly indicated below.

Why such strong personal emphasis? It may be a clear hint that there were people at Philippi who prided themselves on having grasped the prize of the Christian calling already. Paul has been tacitly leading up to this. He will yield to none in clear knowledge of the difference between the old and the new life. He knows more surely than any how completely he has broken with the past. Yet, whatever others may say, he must assume the lowly position of one who is still a learner. Not only does Paul refuse to count that he has ever yet “attained;” he will not allow that he is yet in a position even to grasp at the prize.


      This is an interesting little word, with a powerful meaning.  It is used in both Latin and Greek, and both languages it means the same:  “I Am.”  This is interesting because this is the same name that God told Moses was His Name (Exodus 3:14).  In the KJV we read Moses asking whom should he tell the Children of Israel had sent him to lead them out of Egypt.  The reply that he got from was God was: “And God said unto Moses, ‘I AM THAT I AM…”  Then God continued and said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, ‘I AM hath sent me unto you.” 
      Thus, we can almost conclude that man’s use of this word, EGO, is his attempt to make himself to be like God, like the great I AM Himself. This can further be seen when we look back at what happened in the Garden of Eden as is recorded in Genesis 3:5.  In the KJV we read, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”  When we look at the LXX we see:  translated into English–“For God knew that in whatever day you should eat of it your eyes would be opened, and you should be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
     “That you should be as gods”—that you should be as the I AMi.e., that you should be as the EGO.  And people have been striving toward that end ever since.  To be like the great EGO; to be like the “I Am.”    Another noticble fact about this word EGO is that it makes a very interesting, and most telling acrostic:


 E dging

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Ain’t that the truth?


        COUNT: (Grk.–logizomai)—This is the same word Paul uses as “reckon” in Rom. 6:11 where he said to Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin.”  Both in Romans and here in Philippians he is presenting facts that are to be counted true because they are true.

        APPREHENDED:  (Grk.–kateilēthenai)—Literally: “to have laid hold.” This Greek word is the same one used in v. 12, where it is rendered as “apprehend.”

“but this one thing I do,”
Literally:  “But one {thing I do}.”–Paul had one great aim and purpose of life: he did not attempt to mingle the world and religion, and to gain both.

         Paul did not seek to obtain wealth and salvation too; or honor here and the Crown of Glory hereafter; but he had one object; one aim, one great purpose of soul. To this singleness of purpose he owed his extraordinary attainments in piety, and his uncommon success as a minister. A man will accomplish little who allows his mind to be distracted by a multiplicity of objects. A Christian will accomplish nothing who has not a single great aim and purpose of soul. That purpose should be to secure the prize, and to renounce everything that would be in the way to its attainment.

“forgetting those things which are behind,”
Literally:  “Forgetting the things behind.”–My conduct is not regulated nor influenced by that of others; I consider my calling, my Master, my work, and my end. If others think they have time to loiter or trifle, I have none: time is flying; eternity is at hand; and my all is at stake.

         Paul did not want controlled or influenced by the past.  He wanted to press on from the present regardless of the past. Paul had problems when he thought about his past; his unsaved past when he was persecuting Christians, or even having some put to death (Acts 22:4), whereas he now considered them to be brothers.  Unfortunately, many Christians tend to rely on the victories of the past, as they seek to live for the Lord in the present. 
         There may also be an allusion here undoubtedly to the Grecian races; for one running to secure the prize would not stop to look behind him to see how much ground he had run over, or who of his competitors had fallen or lingered in the way. He would keep his eye steadily on the prize, and strain every nerve that he might obtain it. If his attention was diverted for a moment from that, it would hinder his flight, and might be the means of his losing the crown. So Paul says it was with him.  He looked onward to the prize. He fixed the eye intently on that. It was the single object in his view, and he did not allow his mind to be diverted from that by anything-not even by the contemplation of the past. He did not stop to think of the difficulties which he had overcome, or the troubles which he had met, but he thought of what was yet to be accomplished.

         And it may be remarked in general, that a Christian will make more rapid advances in personal holiness by looking forward than by looking backward. Forward, we see everything to cheer and animate us:  the Crown of Victory, the joys of heaven, the society of the blessed,  the Savior beckoning to us, and encouraging us. Looking backward, we see everything to dishearten and to humble. Our own unfaithfulness; our coldness, deadness, and dullness; the little zeal and ardor which we have, all are fitted to humble and discourage. He is the most cheerful Christian who looks onward, and who keeps heaven always in view.
         He who is accustomed much to dwell on the past, though he may be a true Christian, will be likely to be melancholy and dispirited, to be a recluse rather than a warm-hearted and active friend of the Savior. Or if he looks backward to contemplate what he has done-the space that he has run over—the difficulties which he has surmounted—and his own rapidity in the race, he will be likely to become self-complacent and self-satisfied. He will trust in his past endeavors, and feel that the prize is now secure, and will relax his future efforts. Let us, then, look onward.

        FORGETTING: (Grk.–epilanthanomenos)—Literally: “Forget about.”  This word is in the present tense, which emphasizes a continual action. Paul was making it a practice to forget the things the things in the past.  

This means that Paul was not relying on the things of the past.  Those in Judaism who would covet Paul’s natural standing in the world would not be able to imagine how he could disregard all that he had according to the flesh (see (vv. 5-6); but he did not rely on what he had in the natural realm.  His trust was in the Lord, and he was relying on what he had in the spiritual realm.

“and reaching forth unto those things which are before,”
Literally: “And stretching forward to {those} things before.”–Paul was not only forgetting the past but he was also “reaching forth” .

         REACHING FORTH: (Grk.–epekteinmenos)—This Greek word points out the strong exertions made in the race. Every muscle and nerve is exerted, and he puts forth every particle of his strength in running. He was running for life, and running for his life. As one does in a race.

         This Greek word gives the double thought of the runner stretching out his head and body towards his goal. Lightfoot remarks that the imagery might apply to the racing charioteer, bending, lash in hand, over his horses but that the charioteer, unlike the runner, would need often to look back, and that this, with the habitual use by Paul of the simile of the foot-race, assures us that the runner is meant here. This is why Paul’s emphasis was not on the past but on the present and looking ahead to the future
         Not only was Paul forgetting the things which were behind, but he was also, “reaching forth unto those things which are before.”  He seems particularly to had had the runner in view at this time, for the word he used for “reaching,” literally means “to stretch out,” or “to strain” as a runner stretches out to reach the goal first, so he was giving his every effort to fulfill the purpose that Christ chose for him to accomplish.  Every runner realizes that the crucial things is not how far he has come in the race, but how much farther has yet to go.