The Three Tense Life of Faith

Christians live in three tenses: past, present, and future.

How is this possible?

The three tenses are demonstrated in a number of places in Scripture. Paul’s letter to the Philippians gives us an excellent example of the three tenses.

Paul wrote to the church at Philippi about living Godly lives. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12).

Paul continued in this line of thought in the next verses: “I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Paul seemed to think of his life in Christ in two ways.

First, it had to do with how he came to Christ. When Paul trusted Christ everything changed. He was crucified with Christ. The old man died and the new man was raised. He was born again. That was the gracious past.

The Christian always lives in that past. It’s who we are. We are in Christ.

Paul lived out his faith in the present. He described how he pressed on toward the goal for the prize (reward) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

But, everything about Paul looked forward to the future because our citizenship is in heaven. From heaven we await a Savior who will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21). This is our glorious future.

The second way Paul thought of his life in Christ also had to do with past, present, and future.

He would forget the things of the past. In Scripture “forgetting” refers to our no longer being bound to the past or influenced by it. ‘Forgetting” means “we break the power of the past by living for the future. We cannot change the past but we can change the meaning of the past” (Warren Wiersbe).

Paul determined to live for Christ in the present. He “pressed on” toward the prize of the future.

But it was the future that controlled the present and the past. Paul so lived for the prize of the upward call of God that it infused the present with meaning.

We should live in three tenses. We should go from past to present to future when we think of our salvation. We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

We should also go from future to present to past in the way we live now. We are citizens of heaven. We belong to God. Our future is with Him.

Because of our past salvation by the blood of Christ and our future hope of receiving a glorified body like His, let us press on in the present to present ourselves to God as living sacrifices which are holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

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2 Comments


  1. Anita Soileau
    Nov 13, 2014

    Thank you for this insight! The past doesn’t completely define out future, but our future infuses our past with meaning!


    • Waylon
      Nov 13, 2014

      It’s a wholly different way of looking at life. The more I know about Christ, the more amazed I am!

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About Waylon

I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. — 1 John 2:1 (NIV)