Philippians 3:15-16 Devotional
Philippians 3:15-16. 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.
Reflection. In 3:12-14 we saw that the Christian life is nothing less than faith fuelled obedience to God. Because Christ has made us his own and called us, we can have confidence in this endeavour. But this confidence must not be confused with passivity. Paul strived and pressed on. His life was characterised by a passionate longing for the presence of God—his prize and goal.
This radically redirected his earthly ambitions, making him someone who doggedly pursued increasing joy in God and the good of others. Our heavenly calling should make us those who imitate Christ, as Paul did. Following Christ does not merely provide us with a destination but a demanding call to obedience, selflessness and service of others.
There is an interesting wordplay in the Greek of 3:12-16 which English translations struggle to capture. Paul says he is not ‘perfect’ (3:12), yet he is ‘mature’ (3:15). The Greek word for both of these is the same. As we saw last week, the first is a reference to the believer’s glorification at the resurrection (3:10-11). The latter, in 3:15, therefore must refer to something else: Christian maturity.
So, before we get to the four points below, it is worth noting that the consummation of salvation remains in the future. We are not yet perfected. The mature or ‘perfect’ Christian is someone who knows this (3:15). They will therefore live with a desirous longing for God’s heavenward call—simultaneously aware of being imperfect and actively pursuing perfection. This is Christian maturity. The four points below will further unpack Christian maturity from these two verses.
Firstly, we can say something about how God makes things known. The technical term for this is the doctrine of revelation. Not Revelation. Never Revelations. Paul says that God will make certain things clearer to the immature (3:15). The mature, on the other hand, “should take such a view of things.” What view? What Paul has already written. Running the risk of a pedantic reading, when Paul says “that too God will make clear to you,” he is making remarkable claim about the epistle thus far. It offers revelation, clear truth communicated by God.
Secondly then, following from the above, Christian maturity is an awareness of what God has revealed in Scripture—what he has clearly made known. This is an important corrective for churches and Christians chasing what is faddish or fresh. God has already make much clear. One of the pathways to Christian maturity is therefore meditating on God’s inspired communication in Scripture. Christian, hold fast to the word of life (2:14).
Thirdly, the mature Christian acts in accordance with what God has revealed. While the previous point is a necessary corrective for Christians who undervalue the Bible, herein is a warning for Christians who prize their high evaluations of it. Note 3:16, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” The mature Christian is not merely a Bible student. They must be products of the Bible, shaped by what God has revealed.
It is insufficient to be a ‘Bible believing’ church if that does not reflect in the life and love of your church. You can have Bible verse tattoos only for them to go no deeper than your skin. While you might affirm sola scriptura, the Reformers would never have affirmed a faith that forcefully emphasised the Bible yet lacked its fruit. This brings us to one last point.
Fourthly, “let us live up to what we have already attained” (3:16) is a challenge for every believer, regardless of your relative maturity or immaturity. If you are a Christian you may not rank yourself with Paul as “mature” (3:15). You certainly are not yet perfect (3:12). Unless you’re dead. In which case, it’s encouraging to know Rekindle is being read in glory. But whatever point you are at in your Christian faith, live up to what you have already attained.
“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). God is fair, which means responsibility is relative to revelation. To those whom much is given, much will be asked. So live up to what God has given you. At the same time, pursue and desire more from him.