What is “That” in Philippians 3:12b?

Periodic Encouragement and RemindersTM

What is “That” in Philippians 3:12b?©

by Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Philippians 3:7-16 has long been a focal section of the Scriptures for me.

My initial fascination was with the word “that” in verse 12b of the NIV 1993 translation:

…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

It is crucial, however, to read all verses 7-16 in order to see how pervasive the hold of “that” (whatever  “that” is) had on the Apostle Paul – being so comprehensive as to not only become the sole objective and pursuit in his life – but also being a reflection and imitation of the “that“for which Jesus Christ Himself, had taken hold of Paul

I wanted to know (I needed to know) what “that” was.

Now, almost forty years later, the one answer I have repeatedly found is this: 

The “that” of Phil. 3:12b is having a single, primary life purpose and mind-set of, continuously, constantly and uncompromisingly doing the work and the will of the Father.  

That” (the knowing, gaining and living a life in the likeness of Christ) is the life Paul was pursuing and had captivated him to his core.

It is the same “that” by which Jesus had taken hold of all the apostles; and the prophets in the Old Testament and of all the individuals mentioned in the “hall of faith” of Hebrews chapter 11.

AND, it is the same “that” all professing followers of Jesus are commanded to engage in as disciple-makers – as well as closely related to, if not identical to, “the work of the ministry” in Eph. 4:12 (ESV) – in which leaders are instructed to equip and train their congregations. 

It is also the same “that” to which all believers are to daily admonish, teach and exhort one another. (Heb. 3:12-19)

The goal/prize of engaging in “that” is knowing Christ, gaining Christ and being found in Christ (Phil. 3:8-9) for which God has called us heavenward. (vv.14-16).  It is eternal life and the ultimate joy of existence! 

Although no human during his or her life on earth can ever attain the full maturity and perfection of a “that” life exemplified by Jesus, perfection was Paul’s target and IS to be the target of every professing disciple of Jesus – to be pursued with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. The three, primary elements of which are: 1) being positioned in Christ, 2) having the priorities of Christ and, 3) engaging in the practices of Christ

For further study of a “that” life expressed in Phil. 3:12b true discipleship in Christ, the following thoughts and references are recommended:

  • We are to seek “that” with all of our mind, heart, will and strength. (Lk. 14:27)
  • We will be able to “that” by taking Christ’s yoke upon us; understanding He will never leave us or forsake us, even as we experience and encounter rejection and persecution of different kinds and degrees; for wherever we go and whatever we do, He will be with us. (Jos. 1:9, Matt 11:29, and 28:20)
  • Living a “that” life means doing everything, all the time for the glory of God. (Col. 3:17, 1 Cor 10:31)
  • Having Christ’s priorities and commitment to a “that” life are the requirements of true discipleship and, without them we are not and cannot be His disciples. (Lk. 9:62, Lk. 14: 26-27 and 33, Jer 29:13, 2 Chron 16:9 & 15:2)
  • Those who are truly disciples/apprentices of Christ seeking His “that” likeness will do the same work of the Father that He did. (Jn. 9:4, 14:10b-c, 14:12, 17:4, 17:18)
  • Those who are truly disciples/apprentices of Christ seeking His “that” likeness will testify to the Truth as He did. (Jn. 15:27, 18:37 and 20:21)
  • A “that” life of true discipleship to Christ will always be seeking first and foremost His kingdom and righteousness (Matt 6:25-34) as “that” is the very foundation of the Gospel  and every Christian’s personal ministry. (Prov. 3:5-6, and Matt. 16:26)
  • Matt. 5:1-11, 7:21-23, 7:24-27, Rom. 8:28, & 12:2 are all pertinent to living or not living a “that” life.
  • Lk. 6:40 and Eph. 4:11-16 are epitome verses related to the equipping, training and ultimate result of a “that” life as disciples of Christ.
  • A “that” life, “the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12a NASB), primarily means “bringing” and sharing the Gospel (see http://www.lionelwindsor.net/wordpress/wp-content/2016/09/Windsor-Pages-from-9781906327446-txt.pdf) – e.g. for going and making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20.

* * * * *

Perhaps the two, most potent, hitting-the-nail-on-the-head prayers by Jesus and the Apostle Paul in the Bible applicable to the calling and needs of true disciples of Christ, in the pursuit of perfection of a “that” life, are found in John 17 (paying particular attention to vv. 6, 9, 13-15, 19-23) and Eph. 1:18-20.

May every person, who professes or seeks to be a disciple of Christ, fully embrace and constantly engage a “that” life as branches of the Vine for our desires, our focus and our strength. (Jn. 15:1-8)


Have a great week!


(And to my family, Love, DAD)

2021.12.22-P.E.A.R.s- What-is-“that”?

PERMISSIONS:  You are encouraged and permitted to reproduce and distribute a “P.E.A.R.”TM in any format – provided you do not alter it in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and do not make more than fifty physical copies without further written permission by Robert E. Alderman, Jr.  However, all reproductions must include the statement: “Reproduced with permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Keep in touch!
Receive through RSS feed
Receive by Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.