Friday, February 8, 2013

Walking the Path Together

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (Philippians 3:15-16)
Phillips translates it this way: “All of us who are spiritually adult should set ourselves this sort of ambition, and if at present you cannot see this, yet you will find that this is the attitude which God is leading you to adopt. It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have ourselves attained to” (J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English).

Paul speaks again of being “mature” (Greek, teleios). We saw it earlier in verse 12, where it was translated as “perfected” (teleioo). There, it was about being made fully mature and complete, and Paul made it clear that he has not yet reached that goal. But here in verse 15, he speaks of maturity in a relative way. In a community of believers such as at Philippi, we will find believers with various levels of spiritual maturity. There are those who are new to the faith and still have much to learn. There are others who have been walking with the Lord for a longer time and have grown up in the faith. Some have grown more, and some have grown faster, than others. No one has arrived at the finish line, but each is somewhere along the way.

Paul makes his appeal, then, to those who have come to some measure of maturity. “Have this mind,” he says. That is, have the mindset or attitude he has been speaking about since the beginning of chapter 2, where he exhorted them to be “like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (v. 2). It is an attitude of humility (“lowliness of mind”), not of self-seeking ambition or conceit. It is putting others ahead of ourselves, watching out for their interests as well as our own (vv. 3-4). It is taking the role of the servant, which is glory in disguise, and Jesus is the perfect example of this. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” Paul said (v. 5). The Lord Jesus humbled Himself and became a servant, even to the point of death on the cross, giving His life for our sake. Because of this, God has exalted Him to the highest place.

It is this mindset that Paul pursues in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” To know the Lord Jesus well is to know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings — to pour out one’s life for others — as well as in the power of His resurrection life. All these go together, and Jesus is glorified in the midst of them.

So now Paul says to as many as are mature, “Have this mind.” It is the mark of maturity. “And if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” If there are any who think themselves spiritually grown up but who do not have the attitude Paul speaks of, it will soon become apparent — God will reveal it to them. Everything about the Christian life points us toward it, and it is what being a follower of Jesus is about. When persecution looms, as for these believers at Philippi, such revelation is likely to come sooner rather than later — and the sooner we learn this lesson, the better off we will be.

Not everyone has reached the same level of maturity, but however far along we have progressed and to whatever degree we have grown up in the Lord Jesus, we are to “walk by the same rule.” The Greek word for “walk” pictures an orderly procession, everyone keeping in step with each other. We walk this path together, always pressing, like Paul, toward the goal, so that everyone may cross the finish line and lay hold of that for which the Lord Jesus has laid hold of us.

Focus Questions
  1. This mindset Paul wants all of us to have — do you think it is a good indicator of spiritual maturity? Why, or why not?
  2. What are some ways God exposes improper attitudes and teaches us appropriate ones?
  3. Why is it important that we keep in step with each other along this path?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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