Summary: This passage demonstrates the simple but often neglected principle that we should not expect every believer to be fully mature.
Lesson # 25
Title: An Exhortation for Them to Have the Same Mind
• “Special Notes” and “Scripture” are shown as endnotes.
• NIV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.
Scripture: Philippians 3:15-17 (NIV)
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.
This passage demonstrates the simple but often neglected principle that we should not expect every believer to be fully mature. As long as the church is composed of fallible people, it will include some who will try the patience of mature believers. When that happens, Paul’s example shows us that we should trust such people to God’s care and not allow our disagreements with them to disrupt the churches unity.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.
What does Paul mean by “All of us, then, who are mature?” I think I can illustrate this by using a baby as an example. Suppose we have a baby here that is seventeen months old. My what a wonderful baby he is?he wins the blue ribbon. But if you see him seventeen years later and he is still saying, “Dada,” there is something radically wrong. Maturation is the thought Paul has in mind. He is saying this: “Let us, therefore, as many as are complete in Christ, who are growing normally in Christ, let us be thus minded.” In other words, have the same mind as Paul. Get out on the racetrack with Paul and press on toward the same goal. He wants them to press on for the prize ?the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
This statement by Paul, at least in the Greek text, comes as a surprise. Literally, he says, “Those of us, then, who are perfect, let us think this.” Having just denied that he has been made perfect (v. 12), Paul now numbers himself among the perfect. Why? The answer comes through a close examination of Paul’s use of the term teleioi in his other correspondence. When Paul applies this word to believers, it has the connotation not of perfection in the ultimate sense but of the maturity necessary to distinguish the wisdom of God from the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 2:6; Col. 1:28) and to use spiritual gifts appropriately (1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:11-13).
It would be a mistake to miss the way, Paul, as elsewhere in the letter, provides a personal example for the Philippians to imitate. Having set forth his life ambition to be more Christlike, Paul did not hesitate to tell the Philippians to follow his example. He wanted them to imitate Him, but surely he did not mean that they should imitate every single area of his life, for he had just stated that he is not sinlessly perfect. But in the matter of relentlessly pursuing after Christ-likeness, he did set himself up as an example. Those Philippians who followed him would join with others who were already doing so.
The Apostle works hard to be faithful to the call of God, not in order to become a wise man who can always decide what is best in a given situation but so that when he stands before God on the day of Christ, he will not have run the race in vain (2:16; Gal. 2:2). The disunity within the Philippian church (2:1-18; 4:2-3) may have resulted from disputes over theological matters; in verse 15 Paul provides a model of the humility he has admonished the Philippians themselves to exhibit in their disagreements with one another. On one hand, Paul does not compromise His convictions on not yet having attained perfection, maintaining that those who are mature will agree with his perspective. On the other hand, He shows His unwillingness to break fellowship with or lash out against those who speak differently on this matter. Instead, he trusts that God will make the truth clear to them in His own time.
Paul’s use of the term in 1 Cor. 14:20 provide an example. “Brothers,” Paul says, “do not be children in your thinking. In evil be infants but in your thinking, be perfect.” Paul’s contrast between those who think like “infants” and those whose thinking is “perfect” shows that his primary concern is not with ultimate perfection but with spiritual maturity. In Philippians 3:15, then, maturity is a matter of refusing to focus on Spiritual attainments of the past and of realizing how much effort must be expended on the course that lies ahead.