Biblical Concept: Forgetting

Introduction: Forgetting is one of the most important aspects of a sound Biblical psychology--how to be stable in soul.  Perhaps you have been wronged or done something wrong.  Really wrong!  How do you go on with your life?  Philippians 3:13 and the surrounding context tell us how.

The Surrounding Context: In Philippians 3:6a, the Apostle Paul states that he was a zealous persecutor of the Church.  How zealous?  In Acts 26:10-11, Paul recounts that he took part in the imprisonment and death of many Christians.  Paul had to forget that he was a murderer!  How can one forget that they are a multiple murderer?  Paul had to practice Biblical forgetting everyday--Philippians 3:13.

NAS Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

“Forgetting” is the compound Koine Greek word epilanthanomai.  The first part of the word is Epi = “upon” and in this context is used for emphasis.  Notice the emphasis at the beginning of the phrase in which epilanthanomai is found: “but one thing I do.”  Ponder the word “one.”  Paul is using grammatical techniques of emphasis because he is going to say something important.  Not translated into the English text is a men de construction (“on the one hand, but on the other hand”) which is also emphatic. The next part of the word is lanthanomai = “to be unnoticed, “concealed,” or “escape detection.”  For examples of lanthanomai see 2 Peter 3:5 and 3:8.  Epilanthanomai literally means “full concealment.”  Epilanthanomai is an emphatic word.  The forgetting that Paul is practicing is aggressive. The inflection, the grammatical ending, used by Paul is a participle present middle.  This emphasizes linear or continual action with a special participation by the agent producing the action.  Paul had to continually forget for himself.  This is an active continual forgetting for the sake of the present and the future: “reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:13b-14).  A literal translation of “but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind” = “but one thing I do, on the one hand, the things behind, I myself continually place them in full-concealment.”

“Reaching forward” also has a participle present middle inflection and emphasizes a “continual personal reaching forward.”  This also counters baggage from the past that hinders: Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Conclusion: Biblical forgetting and reaching forward are important aspects of positive mental health.  Perhaps Biblical forgetting and reaching forward are the final act/acts in the process of forgiveness?  Even a multiple murder like Paul could “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  All Christians need to move ahead by daily actively forgetting and reaching forward.  Note the Biblical psychology in Philippians 4:6-9.  If you struggle with stability of soul, commit to memory Philippians 3:13 and 4:6-9 and “let your mind dwell on these things.