Chapter CONTEXT from MHCC: The apostle cautions the Philippians against Judaizing false teachers, and renounces his own former privileges. (1-11) Expresses earnest desire to be found in Christ; also his pressing on toward perfection; and recommends his own example to other believers. (12-21)
MHCC notes on our main text: [2.] What the happiness of heaven is: it is to apprehend that for which we are apprehended of Christ. When Christ laid hold of us, it was to bring us to heaven; and to apprehend that for which he apprehended us is to attain the perfection of our bliss. He adds further (v. 13): This one thing I do (this was his great care and concern), forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before. There is a sinful forgetting of past sins and past mercies, which ought to be remembered for the exercise of constant repentance and thankfulness to God. But Paul forgot the things which were behind so as not to be content with present measures of grace: he was still for having more and more. So he reaches forth, epekteinomenos—stretched himself forward, bearing towards his point: it is expressive of a vehement concern.
(3.) The apostle’s aim in these actings: I press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, v. 14. He pressed towards the mark. As he who runs a race never takes up short of the end, but is still making forwards as fast as he can, so those who have heaven in their eye must still be pressing forward to it in holy desires and hopes, and constant endeavours and preparations. The fitter we grow for heaven the faster we must press towards it. Heaven is called here the mark, because it is that which every good Christian has in his eye; as the archer has his eye fixed upon the mark he designs to hit. For the prize of the high calling. Observe, A Christian’s calling is a high calling: it is from heaven, as its original; and it is to heaven in its tendency. Heaven is the prize of the high calling; to brabeion—the prize we fight for, and run for, and wrestle for, what we aim at in all we do, and what will reward all our pains. It is of great use in the Christian course to keep our eye upon heaven. This is proper to give us measures in all our service, and to quicken us every step we take; and it is of God, from whom we are to expect it. Eternal life is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23), but it is in Christ Jesus; through his hand it must come to us, as it is procured for us by him. There is no getting to heaven as our home but by Christ as our way.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
J.R. Miller, December 1902
“The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15
Archibald G. Brown, Sunday, December 31st, 1871, Stepney Green Tabernacle