“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.”
By using the perpendicular first person singular “I” 15 times from verse 4 to 14, Paul set 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 growing into maturity.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended”
By the use of “brethren,” he addressed those who had come to know Christ personally. By personally addressing the Philippians as “brethren,” he drew 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. Through studied evaluation, Paul came to a calculation. He did not come to this decision by a snap opinion. The apostle thought about it. He concluded that eternal values (vv. 13,14) would keep his perspective right. God had a plan for him. God was managing that plan perfectly. Paul put confidence in that plan. God has a purpose for every believer in time. Paul wanted to “latch on” to the purpose God had for him.
The first calculation Paul made was a negative one. He did not calculate himself as having reached the final destination in his spiritual growth. He said, “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, that 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 its position. An army must continue to move to keep the enemy from using it as a target. That is why it is dangerous to consider ourselves to have arrived spiritually.
Growth is a continuing process in the spiritual life.
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 an increasing amount of light, a Christian sprouts divine character that only God can give. Whatever balance of growth is left over when we go to be with the Lord, we are given it 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 capture 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 faces so often is to keep us from the delusion that we are super-saints. 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 leads us toward a fall (Prov. 16:18).