OBTAINING THAT FOR WHICH WE HAVE BEEN OBTAINED
In verse 12 Paul says, "Not as that I have already attained, or have already been perfected: but I pursue, if also I may obtain that for which also I have been obtained of Christ Jesus" (Gk.). Here Paul seems to be saying, "I have not reached the goal. Rather, I am still in the process. Although I may be ahead of all of you, I have not yet attained, nor have I been perfected. I am still on the way." Although the Apostle Paul was very mature when he wrote the Epistle to the Philippians, he still said that he had not yet been perfected.
In verse 12 Paul says that he pursued in order to obtain that for which he had been obtained by Christ Jesus. This word is not easy to understand. When Paul was Saul of Tarsus, he was zealous for the law. He was zealous to such an extent that he even persecuted the church. The Greek word rendered "pursue" is also the word for persecute. Thus, when Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the church, he pursued it in a negative sense. On the way to Damascus, he suddenly saw a light from heaven, and he was knocked to the ground. Then he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4). On that day Saul of Tarsus was obtained by Christ. He was obtained by Christ so that he might obtain Christ. Therefore, in Philippians 3:12 Paul seemed to be saying, "Christ has obtained me for the purpose of my obtaining Him. It was easy for Him to obtain me. By one action as I was on the road to Damascus, He thoroughly obtained me. But it takes a long time for me to obtain Him. From the day He obtained me, I have been doing my best to obtain Him. Throughout all the years since then, I have been obtaining Christ."
On the day we were saved we were obtained by Christ. He obtained us in order that we might obtain Him. How good it is to be obtained by Christ! Do you realize that even now He is embracing you so that you may obtain Him? To repeat, for Him to obtain us is easy. By one action He obtained us all. But our obtaining of Him is not once for all. Rather, it is an ongoing process. When I consider the situation among today’s Christians, I am very disappointed. But when I consider the brothers and sisters in the churches, I am quite encouraged, for many of them have been obtaining Christ. Continually and gradually, daily and even hourly, we need to obtain more of Him. The more we obtain Him, the more we are resurrected. In other words, the more we obtain Christ, the more we are renewed and transformed from the old creation into the new creation. Because this is a continuing process, Paul said that he was still on the way to obtain Christ. He had not yet obtained everything of Christ.
Philippians 3:13 and 14 say, "Brethren, I count not myself to have obtained: but one thing I do, forgetting those things behind, and stretching forth unto those things before, I pursue toward the goal for the prize of the above calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Gk.). In these verses Paul seemed to be saying, "I have not yet reached the end of the process in God’s economy, but I am pursuing toward the goal. When I was Saul of Tarsus, I pursued the church in a negative way. But now I am pursuing Christ in a positive way." Paul undoubtedly was of a very strong character, both when he was Saul of Tarsus and when he was Paul the Apostle. Being a strong character, he never did anything halfway. When he was Saul of Tarsus, he persecuted the church negatively, and after he became the Apostle Paul, he persecuted Christ positively.
(The Experience of Christ, Chapter 20, by Witness Lee)