By Justin Randolph
Pastor, Zion Hill Baptist Church, Sevierville, TN. Extract from the Baptist and Reflector: Sunday School Lesson-Bible Studies For Life. Focal Passage: Philippians 3:12-21

How beautiful, sweet, and innocent is a newborn baby. For many, we would keep them as babies perhaps for a little longer, and yet we take them to their first doctor’s visit hoping that their measurements and weight indicate growth. Later in life, as their physical maturity increases, the hard work begins of helping them develop their emotional and intellectual maturity. But, the goal is always growth and upward movement.  And, the reward is in the maturity of the child. In fact, life’s greatest moments of celebration regard this maturation process. The first word, their first step, Pre-K graduation, Kindergarten, high school graduation, driver’s license, and college graduation — each is a milestone in the joy of maturity.

The Apostle Paul’s challenge to the early church and to us today is to keep growing, keep walking, and keep climbing until we reach our full potential in Christ. In these verses, Paul discusses the four things necessary for us to keep this upward movement toward maturity in Christ.

At first glance, verse 15 seems like a contradiction. After Paul has said he has not yet attained “perfection,” is he now telling us to strive for that which he has not yet attained for himself? The answer lies in the meaning of the word “perfection.” Here, the same Greek word is used in a different context. So, what means complete or perfect in verse 12, means in the process of or maturing in verse 15. In other words, what Paul is saying is this … “The people who are like-minded in being perfected in Christ should keep pressing on because through Him is the way to perfection.” To think otherwise is to feel you are already perfect or to carry the faulty view that perfection comes through the law or good works.

In verse 16, Paul acknowledges the growth he has observed in the life of the church thus far.  His encouragement is to “walk the line” and continue in the principles by which they have started. He urges them to stay connected with the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit and to not give up. Next, Paul writes about the need to follow the examples of godly leaders around them. Paul uses the Greek Word tupos in verse 17 which means pattern. We should pattern ourselves after those who are following closely after Christ.  The power of a godly example cannot be overstated. People will never remember the words you say as much as the life you live.  For Paul, it was follow me as I follow Christ. What is it for you? Someone is watching you. Can they pattern their life after you and know that they will find Christ?

Our enemy in this spiritual journey is many times religious people, people who pervert the gospel, who pose as friends, but are practical foes. These are people who are being controlled by their appetites, who give themselves over to the flesh and call what is evil good as well as what is good evil. They are friends of this world and as a result are enemies of God.  Therefore, their end is to follow the god of this world to his destruction. Paul does not say this in boasting, but with weeping. These ought to be marked, but not followed. Watch out who you admire and be careful who you allow your children to look up to. Not everyone is worthy of such honor.

Stephen Covey is famous for saying, “Begin with the end in mind.” He argues that to see one’s goal clearly is the difference between those who achieve their objectives and those who do not.  What is our goal? Paul says our goal is to be remade by Christ in order to be worthy of being a citizen of His heavenly kingdom. Today, to our peril, we have stopped teaching the truths of eternity in our faulty view that we can save this world which is destined to destruction. But for Paul, nothing was more central than the certainty of the return of Christ. Paul was eagerly looking for His glorious appearing when we would be transformed from being limited to being limitless, from mortal to immortal, from finite to infinite. This perfection is made possible only through the dunamai or power of Christ translated here as “he is able.” He is able! Christ possesses the power and the wisdom to accomplish His plan. Nothing is able to stop the power of God through Christ Jesus to accomplish this.

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