Thursday, August 13, 2020

Pressing On In Christ

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14)

Throughout Philippians, Paul encourages the church to press on to maturity in Christ, a maturity that involves living in harmony with one another. In 3:2–6 he warned them against Judaizers, and in 3:7–9 he used himself as an example of someone who has left behind the old shadows of the former covenants to embrace Christ. Today’s passage speaks of pressing on, seeking to know more and more about “Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings” (3:10).

Paul admitted that he was far from mature (translated “perfect” in some versions), and that he was pressing on to lay hold of Christ’s gifts (vv. 12–14). He says that when he looked at how much farther there was for him to grow, he did not consider that he had even begun to lay hold on these riches, but he forced himself to strive for more of them.

He continued, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” (v. 15). If Paul himself was nowhere near maturity, then who are the ones who are mature? In context, it would seem that the mature believer is precisely the believer who sees himself as immature and who is desperately seeking to grow more and more. Those who think they have “arrived” are the sophomores—the “wise fools”—of the church. It is they who are the immature. But Paul had hope for them, too, that God will show them their inadequacy and motivate them to press on to maturity.

The exhortations in verses 15 and 16 are in the plural. Paul addressed the Philippians as those in community with one another. Some would think differently from others on some points. Provided these differences are over minor matters—that is, provided they are differences within the orthodoxy of biblical Christianity—we should bear with one another. We should stand united in what we do believe, “and let us live up to what we [corporately] have already attained” (v. 16).

Unity is important to the church, but unity cannot exist in the face of fundamental differences. True unity is grounded in commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible, and is expressed when we actively discuss our differences while maintaining an attitude of love.

“Doctrine divides; love unites.” Is this oft-repeated slogan true? Both doctrine and love unite and work together. It is false doctrine and true doctrine held in an unloving attitude of pride that cause division in the body of Christ. Love the unity of the church but be concerned to discuss doctrinal differences and achieve unity of understanding.