“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind…” [Phil 3:13]
Paul’s storied past left much to be regretted and to be forgotten.
“I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.” (Acts 26:9-11).
It’s Paul’s past that gives much more weight to this advice given through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What can we learn from Paul about how to forget the past? Here’s the rest of the passage in Philippians 3:13-14; “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, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
“I press toward the mark for the prize” It’s not enough to just forget the past, one must PRESS toward the PRIZE. Each of us has a past that needs forgiving and forgetting (Rom 3:23). Thankfully we have obeyed that form of doctrine whereby we may have the forgiveness of sins and the forgetting of them by our heavenly Father (Rom 6:17; Heb 10:17). Having repented and been baptized, we are to move forward and not to remain in the past.
“Set your affection on things above,” (Col 3:1-3). In the letter to the Colossians, Paul gives more details on this subject. If we’ve been raised with Christ, we are to seek those things above by setting our AFFECTIONS on things above. This word means to ‘intensively interest oneself.’ [Strong’s Greek Concordance]. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom 8:6). Paul makes this point in our Philippians passage verses 15-16.
“For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.” (Heb 11:13-14). This passage in Hebrews helps us learn from those who preceded us in faith. They needed to forget the past because, “And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (15-16). The third key to forgetting the past is to SEEK a heavenly home. To seek means; ‘to search (inquire) for; intensively, to demand, to crave.’ [Strong’s Greek Concordance].
So far, we have learned that to forget the past is to Press toward the prize, to set our Affections above, and to Seek a heavenly home. The last piece comes to us from the Lord…
“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62). Just as we learned from the Patriarchs in the point above, we are not to TURN back from pressing forward. Looking back makes us ineligible for the kingdom of God. Please note, this is not about reflection on our past, it’s about longing to return to our past. Consider Lot’s wife. “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Gen 19:26). In retelling his past, Paul didn’t violate the word of God because he wasn’t desiring to go back to what he had left. He told it as a reminder of the importance of pressing forward.
Forgetting the past is about keeping our desires for the future glory of heaven before us that it keeps us from returning to sin. Peter said it best, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” (2Pet 2:20-22).
We can only live in one of two directions. Pressing ahead or longing for the Past. “Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.” (Ecc 7:10).
Let us press toward the prize, it will be worth it.
Spencer is an evangelist for the Franklin & Juniper St church of Christ in Borger Texas. Would you like a personal bible study? Please reach out & let us know how we can help you know more of God’s word.