"Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead."
Paul, by using the perpendicular first person singular “I” fifteen times from verse four to fourteen sets before us the development of his own soul before God. This maturity process is triggered by the cataclysmic event of becoming a Christian. Spiritual birth commences a life-long process of growth into maturity.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended
By the use of “brethren” he is addressing those who have come to know Christ personally. By personally addressing the Philippians as “brethren” he draws them into his experience. This reminds us that no Christian has arrived in his/her growth in time on earth.
The word “count” means to calculate. By studied evaluation Paul came to a calculation. He did not come to this decision by a snap opinion. He thought about it. He came to the conclusion that eternal values (vv 13,14) will keep his perspective right. God has a plan for him. God is managing that plan perfectly. Paul puts confidence in that plan. God has a purpose for every believer in time. Paul wants to “latch on” to the purpose God has for him.
The first calculation Paul makes is a negative one. He does not calculate himself as having reached the final destination in his spiritual growth. He says, “I do not want you to get the impression that I have arrived at the point of ultimate maturity. I do not want to leave you with the idea that I have no further room to grow as a Christian.” He had been a Christian between 25 and 30 years at this time.
For the third time the word “apprehended” occurs in this context. The first use of “apprehend” pertains to appropriating God’s provisions for the Christian life. The second refers to the utilization of the cross for salvation. In this verse “apprehend” refers to reward (v.14). When we think we have arrived spiritually is the point we begin to fall. We never stay at the same place in our spiritual life. We either grow or revert. We go up or down. We progress or retrogress. We never stand still. If an army sits in one place in war the enemy will target their position. An army must continue to move to keep the enemy from using them as a target. That is why it is dangerous to consider ourselves to have arrived spiritually.
PRINCIPLE: Growth is a continuing process in the spiritual life.
APPLICATION: As we eat and exercise spiritually we develop Christian character. Every true Christian develops to some extent after becoming a Christian but few grow over a protracted period. With increasing amount of light a Christian sprouts divine character that only God can give. Whatever balance of growth left over when we go to be with the Lord is given to us instantaneously.
Growth is relative. Spirituality is absolute. Either we are spiritual or we are not. Growth is a matter of degree. There are horizons yet ahead. There is more grace to appropriate for life. The Lord apprehended me. Now I need to apprehend what he has apprehended me for. Do you want to realize the purpose for which you have been apprehended? What is the unfinished business God has in your life? One reason God allows us to fall on our face so often is to keep us from the delusion that we are a super-saint. We are spiritually smug. Smugness creates a spiritual self-complacency. God then will pick our inflated spiritual cranium with a needle to deflate our pride. Pride always heads us toward a fall (Prov. 16:18).