In Philippians 3, Paul tells the church that he desires to experience the knowledge of Christ and the power of the resurrection of Jesus in his life. He tells how he has put behind the past and is pressing forward to the goal of that lies ahead. Then in verse 16, Paul says something very simple, yet profound… “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
The Amplified says “Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.”
According to the Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, “the word translated “attained” is a different Greek word from that translated “attained” in 3:12. The word there meant “to take or appropriate.” This word means “to arrive at, to reach.” It speaks of progress along a road to a certain point.” Wuest then translates the verse this way: “Only one thing, so far as we have come, let us keep our lives in the same path.”
We must strive to arrive or reach the fullness of the gospel in our lives. We must forget what lies behind and stop allowing past mistakes or failures to define our future. So much has been made available to us that is within our reach, if we press on toward the goal that Christ has set for us.
So often, we may think that conforming to the image of Christ is an impossible goal. But the Bible tells us the exact opposite. In Ephesians 4:11–13 we are shown that the standard we are given is not only possible but expected.
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
How do we do this? By submitting our lives to the gifts Christ has given to the church for the specific purpose of reaching this level of maturity. We are in a time when church attendance is slipping and where many think they can get what they need from the TV minister. For sure, some of these ministers are a blessing, but not all. And for sure again, this is not what Jesus meant when He designed His church. The very word for church is “ecclesia” and implies a coming out and coming together for the purpose of glorifying Him and benefitting the body. There is no one pastor, leader, teacher, evangelist, prophet or apostle who has every gift that a person needs. However, as we come together in unity for the purpose described above, we can find those gifts among us and create a beautiful picture of Christ and what He represents to His body.
Jesus designed His church so that we would need each other. There are no lone rangers in the body of Christ. We are designed to need each other and we reflect the image of Christ as we come together in love and unity building each other up and equipping each other to do the work each one has been assigned by God to do.
So getting back to our original Scripture, let us keep our lives on the same path that we have traveled since we have met Christ and let us move forward, progressing toward our goal of developing into His image and living according to His standard. The enemy is very subtle and would deceive many into believing that we do not need the body, Jesus’ church. We are warned against “Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:25”
Many leave church because of offense. The enemy has great strategies for causing offense in the church and we must not give in to this deception. We must be quick to forgive and also quick to recognize the enemy at work. Too many are living far below all that has been made available to and for them. Too many have given up on God because they have not seen the promise come as they expected, while stubbornly refusing to examine their own lives to see if they are living in agreement with God’s Word. Let us not be deceived.
We have so much at our disposal as free gifts from God. Let’s attain what has been made available!