Paul seems to encapsulate verses 12-15 with a final exhortation in verse 16, 'Only let us hold true to what we have attained.' So, the Philippians were to press on by forgetting what lies behind, straining forward to what lies ahead, and finally, by holding true to what they had already obtained. But what did the Philippians already possess? What did Paul possess? What do we possess that enables us to press on? Well, we know from the previous verses that Paul did not think he had attained perfection or the resurrection. And, we know Paul was not holding true to his performance or personal righteousness. But what is it that we are to hold true to?
What Paul possessed, what the Philippians possess, and what we possess is Christ himself. Through the Gospel, we are united to Christ. We are made His own. Because we have been made his own, we can press on. Paul makes this the center of his pressing on. It is the power, motivation and means by which he is able to press on. It is power, motivation and means by which he is able to forget the past and strain forward towards the prize.
As Sinclair Ferguson writes, "If we are united to Christ, then we are united to him at all points of his activity on our behalf." Therefore, we are united to Christ in his death, in his resurrection, and in his promised return. Our hope to press on and attain the prize lies in our present union with Christ. We have the full assurances of G0d's promises because we are IN Christ.
Moreover, how does this functionally apply to us? How does this actually work? Well, belonging to God, being in Christ, we are indwelled with His Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that applies the benefits of Christ's work to our lives. The Spirit empowers us to forget our past by applying the power of Christ's death defeating death to our hearts. Also, the Spirit is the means by which we strain forward. The Spirit gives us eyes to see Christ and hearts to treasure him. We are given strength in weakness to press on. The Spirit takes tired believers, gives them new hearts and sets them on fire for Jesus. So, what we have already attained in the Gospel is the motivation, means and power by which we progress in this Christian life.
Therefore, our pressing on is rooted not in our achievement, but in the achievement of Him to whom we belong. Christ defeated sin once and for all at the Cross. He was victorious. Being united to Him, this victory is imputed to us. Through Christ, our past sin is forgiven, so we are free from its burden. Through Christ, our shame is wiped away and we are made radiant, so we can now let go of our past shame. Through Christ, there is healing, so we can receive full restoration to our brokenness. Through Christ, we receive His perfect righteousness, so we no longer have to parade our own righteousness as a means of security. Through Christ, we have received adoption, so we can be sure that on this journey, our Father will never leave or forsake us. We press on by looking to what we have in Christ. We hold true to the Gospel in order to empower and transform us to press on. We strive by His grace. And even in our weakness, when we don't know what we ought to pray, because we are united to Christ, The Spirit intercedes for us. Only let us look to what Christ has accomplished as the source by which we press on. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.