Normally Philippians 3:12-16 is treated as a unit in most commentaries and probably constitutes a paragraph in your Bible. There is nothing wrong with this; we must slice the books and letters of the Bible into manageable parts if we are to speak coherently about those parts and about the Bible as a whole. But I have included the few previous verses of 3:9-11 with 12-16 lest we misunderstand the latter.
As we saw yesterday, Paul wants to be found in Christ not with his own righteousness (which is no righteousness at all) but with the righteousness which comes through faith in Christ. It is this righteousness which is the means of knowing him, the power of his resurrection, and sharing in his sufferings—to which Paul then adds the line, “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Now we should not think that Paul doubts that he shall be raised from death unto life everlasting on the last day. Instead we should see Paul’s humility here, a humility which will not allow him to presume upon God’s grace, and a humility which urges him to continue running the race aiming for a prize which he has not yet attained for the simple fact that he is still living in this world. At any rate, I attach verses 9-11 to 12-16 so that we should not make the mistake of thinking that Paul is speaking in 12-16 of a “works-righteousness” as he is clear in 9-11 where righteousness comes from.
In 12-16, Paul states that he is not already “perfect”; the Greek word could also be translated “mature.” Still, he presses to “make it [his] own, because Christ Jesus has made [him] his own.” Furthermore, Paul does not consider that he has made it his own. “It” seems to be this maturity or perfection, though “it” is not in the Greek text but assumed by the translators. Regardless, Paul refuses to slacken his pace even though he has not yet reached maturity or perfection, but laying aside past defeats and victories, or worries about the future, he continues to strain ahead and press on.
And this should be every believer’s task. Until we reach our heavenly goal, we should press on in holiness and godliness every day, not so we may earn the prize which has already been promised us, but so we may anticipate and enjoy the benefits of the prize even now. Paul tells us that to think this way is a sign of maturity, and if there are those who think that they have already reached perfection, they’ll learn otherwise soon enough. In the end, let us hold fast to what we have attained—by pressing on.