The most important things in life have to do with the desire to be whole and complete in Christ. That kind of maturity comes, of course, from the Holy Spirit’s transforming us.
Paul taught that we should strive for wholeness and maturity by becoming like Christ. He was also quick to tell his friends in Philippi that he hadn’t yet reached that state himself:
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12)
Let’s slow down and look closely at this verse.
“Not that I’ve already attained it…” In other words, “I haven’t been raised from the dead yet. I’m not at the final goal.”
“…or have already become perfect…” I explained the Greek word teleios in my last blog post. Paul uses the verb form of teleios here. The New American translates it “perfect” in this passage, but it means much more than that. Teleios refers to maturity, wholeness, and completion. Paul wanted his readers to know he was not yet fully mature, whole, or complete.
“But I press on, in order that I may lay hold…” notice that Paul wants to lay hold of something. Of course, Paul’s pressing on is by the grace of God, something for which God laid hold of him.
“… That I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Jesus Christ.” The end goal in this passage—the thing Paul wants to lay hold of—is the resurrection of the dead, and full bodily conformity with the resurrected Jesus.
Moral achievement and bodily resurrection are two aspects of the same thing. That is, we are raised to be like Christ—not just physically like Him, but morally like Him.
Press on Toward the Goal
Paul wanted his friends in Philippi to know how they should act as they pressed forward toward maturity:
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
God is summoning us toward a goal; he wants us to become complete in Christ Jesus. If you strive to be anything less than mature, complete, and whole in Christ, God will reveal that to you. (Philippians 3:15)
Paul continued with another reference to that ancient Greek term, teleios. The New American standard translates it “perfect” here:
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude… (Philippians 3:15)
In other words, “as many as are whole, mature, and complete, let us have this same attitude.” Paul wanted to encourage the Philippians, because he knew they were suffering. He concludes this passage,
Therefore my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord. (Philippians 4:1)
In other words, “now that you know what you’re striving for, be strong.”
Let’s live by the standard to which we are called.
The previous was adapted by Rachel Motte from an essay featured on Dr. Sloan’s radio program, A Higher Education, on July 30, 2014.