Philippians 3:1-21.
 Growing in Faith, Truth, and Maturity

Copyright © 2011, John.W. (Jack) Carter
All rights reserved.  Scripture quotes from KJV

Experiencing salvation in Christ marks the beginning of a pilgrimage that leads one toward the fulfilling of God's will in one’s life.  It is a pilgrimage filled with a wide variety of experiences, from mountaintops of spiritual excitement to valleys of discouragement and sorrow.  Many of those experiences are life-changing as they establish for us a specific direction and purpose.  As we go through these experiences the Holy Spirit is available to lead every believer through those experiences, drawing upon His wisdom as we make those necessary choices that accompany them.

As Paul writes to the church in Philippi he has been providing them with some very sound advice concerning the application of God’s wisdom in daily living.  Chapter three continues this discussion.

Philippians 3:1.  Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

Having shared the reason for his writing, a short presentation of the gospel, some advice on personal integrity, and his plan to send Timothy and Epaphroditus along with this letter, Paul brings some advice concerning some very specific issues that the church in Philippi is dealing with. 

It is notable that Paul first reminds the fellowship to rejoice in the LORD.  When we consider much of what Paul has been describing, particularly his own state, one might think that there is not much to be joyful about.  What is needed for us to be joyful? 

Perhaps we misunderstand the meaning of the word, joy, replacing it with happiness.   Paul does not instruct the fellowship to “be happy.”  Happiness is an emotional response to worldly circumstances.  Joy is the product of the peace that comes with an understanding of what God has done, and will do, for us.  Joy is not impacted by our day-to-day experiences.  In fact, those experiences that challenge us the most in life can bring us the greatest joy:   

James 1:2  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 

The joy that is experienced in the life of the believer is found in the acceptance of the gospel message.  Paul makes no apologies for repeating the gospel message in this letter.  Though people of faith may have many years of experience with the gospel, that gospel is unlike any other experience in life:  it is dynamic in that it constantly informs our daily living.   Consequently, it is quite appropriate that we continue to study and learn of that gospel message, as the more we understand, the more we profit in our daily lives. 

When we tackle the issues of life, we can do so in joy when our spirit is immersed in the message of the gospel.  We are then able to respond to our world with godly wisdom.  Paul gives an example of an issue that is taking place within the church that requires such wisdom.

1.       Paul's Warning Against Judaizers.

Philippians 3:2.  Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

The gospel message of grace is inconsistent with the world’s demand for a works/rewards-based system.  It is not uncommon for people to put additional demands upon people that are beyond the simple profession of faith for salvation.  By putting demands upon others, they are exercising their own

Paul does not give authority to those who would lead the church into error.  Paul refers to these as “dogs.”  We lose much of the inference in meaning when we consider the way we treat dogs today.  In the first century, though dogs were domesticated, they were considered of little or no value.  By referring to the false teachers as “dogs” he is pointing to their noise and barking, but noting that they have no true authority in their voice.

In this specific case, Paul is referring to those early Christians who were of Jewish background who sought to add Jewish ritual and tradition to faith as requirements for salvation.  That is, in order to be a Christian, one must also keep the Jewish law.  The more prideful Jews received a lot of gratification from the self-righteousness that they claimed by their “obedience” to the law, lifting themselves up above others who did not live up to their standards. 

The issue is not that the Judaizers were glorifying God with their obedience to the law, but rather, that they were demanding that other Christians do the same.  They were simply demanding that other Christians hold to the same practice and convictions that they do.  What are some of the conflicts that are realized when people in the church place the burdens of their own convictions on others?

We must not forget that, as Christians, we are freed from the law.  The Holy Spirit is now a part of who we are, and is always present to convict us of what is wrong (and right) in our lives.  We do not need someone else to make up rules or judge us, as we are not to judge one another.

What are some legalistic rules sometimes impressed upon the church body by its own members?  (usually they are a definition of a list of "hedge sins" such as playing cards, dancing, etc.  It might be church tradition which suffocates the expression of the gospel.)

Paul advises the fellowship to be wary of those who would dilute the truth and joy of the gospel with additional requirements.  How does a person of faith determine what is correct?  There are at least three resources that are available to all Christians:

Paul writes that Christians should be aware:  when something feels inconsistent with the attributes of God it is probably not in God's Will.  Also, what is not God's will for one Christian might be for another, and vice versa.[1] For example, Jewish Christians may sincerely worship God through the adherence to some of their traditions.  When they do this, they are honoring the LORD.  Likewise, others may honor the LORD in other ways.  Problems arise when we make demands upon others to worship the LORD in the same manner that we do.

Philippians 3:3.  For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Jews had traditionally defined themselves by the act of circumcision, a work of the flesh.  Males were circumcised shortly after birth, so their circumcision was not a personal choice.  The choice was made by the parents.

We might find a modern parallel in the ordinance of baptism.  Like the Judaizers, there are some Baptists to teach that one must be baptized by immersion in order to be saved.  They add baptism as a sacrament.  The third-century Catholic church fell into this doctrine, and instituted the baptism of infants with the intent that upon doing so, the child would be saved from their sin.  They baptized babies to “protect” them from hell in the event of their youthful death.  Those who continued to exercise baptism by immersion upon profession of faith were referred to as "rebaptisers" or ANABAPTISTS and are the foundation of the Baptist faith that still exists today.[2]

The gospel is simple:  salvation is given by the LORD as a gift to those who place their faith and trust in Him.  Christian confidence is not found in an act of the flesh, but rather in Christ who has sealed His work of salvation for the faithful with his blood.  Those who have placed their trust in Him can simply glory in Him and rejoice in the gift of salvation.  Salvation was not attained through any work of the flesh, so no work of the flesh will undo it.  Likewise, salvation was not found in the cessation of sin, so no sin can undo it.  If failure to follow some religious rite, or failure to live a perfect life would undo our salvation, we would have no hope.  The joy of the gospel is a joy that is found in the hope of salvation, a salvation that cannot be undone by any work of man.

2.  Paul's Human Credentials.

Philippians 3:4.  Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

Here Paul presents a frontal attack against those who profess to be worthy of their own salvation based upon their own merit.  His "spiritual resume" will blow the doors off any person trying to pull rank on another Christian!  That is, if anyone has the personal credentials to make Jewish demands, it would be Paul.  There is no member among the early church that was more Jewish than Paul.  There is no member in the Philippian church who can stand over Paul when it comes to matters of Jewish belief and practice.  In a few words, Paul expresses his “Jewishness.”

Philippians 3:5.  Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

First, he places himself in a comparison against those attributes the Judaizers consider of value.  He first states that he has been ritualistically circumcised as under Jewish Law.  Furthermore, he states that he is of the tribe of Benjamin, the only son of Jacob born in the promised land.  Saul was of this lineage, and the tribe of Benjamin remained faithful to Israel when the kingdom split into Israel and Judah.  He has identified himself as of the utmost high tribe. 

Second, he identifies his relationship to and knowledge of the Law.  He doesn't state it here, but it was well known that Paul, who studied under Gamaliel, was one of, if not the most, knowledgeable Jews when it came to the Law.  He was a Pharisee.  None of the Judaizers could claim that level of aptitude with the Law.  For Paul, that knowledge informed him of the Law’s true purpose: to expose the sin of the lost.  Paul clearly teaches that once one places their faith in God, one’s relationship with the Law is replaced by one’s relationship with God. 

Philippians 3:6.  Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

If he is being accused of being lax, and simply not following that which he knows to be correct, he reminds them of the zeal he had once demonstrated for the Law.  His zealousness for the law was known throughout the region.  That reputation preceded him when he first attempted to bring the message of God’s grace following his conversion.  Christians feared Paul (then, Saul) for his threats and violence against Jewish Christians who refrained from keeping the Mosaic Law.

Furthermore, based upon his greater knowledge and understanding of the application of the Mosaic Law, he was truly faultless under that law.

Clearly, Paul "pulls rank" on the Judaizers, stating that he is much more aware of that which they profess than they are themselves.  In reality, understanding the Gospel as he does, he has a new understanding of the Law and its part in the Salvation process.  The Galatian church was dealing with a similar issue, and Paul addresses this in greater detail in the first few chapters of his letter to the church.

3.       Paul's Christian Testimony

Philippians 3:7.  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

In these verses Paul gives a personal testimony of his life in Christ.  Just as his testimony is different here as it fits the situation at hand, our testimonies of the gospel will always be unique and fresh, and can be expressed within the context of the situation.

First, Paul states that those things that he considered of utmost value prior to his knowledge of Christ have become a literal loss to him, those things no longer have any intrinsic value.  Using accounting terms, Paul compares gains and losses with his life after and before Christ. 

Paul spends a few moments in introspection:  looking into his own life with the intent of assessing his faithfulness to the LORD as he considers his life before trusting in Christ, and his life after.  Looking back at your own life, will you agree that many of the things that you considered of great value are no longer priorities?  What are some of them?

Philippians 3:8a.  I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:

Introspection involves the determination of what is important in life.  What are some of the things that you give great importance to?   

What was important to Paul.

The word that Paul uses for “knowledge” is important.  We tend to use the word to refer to head-knowledge that can be obtained from a book.  The Greek term, knosis, that Paul uses, goes far beyond this simple idea.  Knosis refers to an intimate knowledge that only comes from a close, personal, relationship.  Paul is not describing the importance of head-knowledge of the gospel.  He is referring to a heart-knowledge of the gospel that comes only from a personal relationship with the LORD, Jesus Christ.

The greatest single priority in Paul's life was his relationship with Jesus Christ.  This is not to say that these other things are not important.  However, if one is to be more like Christ, one is going to have a sincere and close relationship with Him.  Most of us did not have the type of conversion experience that Paul had, when on the Damascus Road he had a dynamic first-person conversation with the risen Jesus.  Because of this it may be harder for us to be as zealous about our relationship with God as it was for Paul.  However, faith demands no less commitment to the LORD than is evident in Paul’s testimony.  The first step in being more like Christ is to develop a close and vital relationship with Him that holds a position of importance that is superior to everything else in life.  It is when we experience such a commitment to the LORD that the Holy Spirit can work in and through us to bring all of the other important things in life into a meaningful context. 

Philippians 3:8b.  for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Paul is writing this letter from the setting of his imprisonment in Rome.  Paul was once a self-righteous, well-educated, and well-respected Jewish leader who fully enjoyed all of the advantages of that position.  When he gave his life to the LORD, he realized the unimportance of what He had thought was his entire world.  He completely left his position in the Jewish leadership and was despised by his peers as he left Jerusalem and spent several years alone as he received the knowledge of the Gospel.  When Paul compared the value of all of his worldly possessions and worldly position to his relationship with the risen Jesus Christ, he found them of no comparable value.  It is these things that we may hold in high regard that may actually serve to distract us from our commitment to the LORD, and should be discarded. 

The KJV rendering of the word, "dung", skubalon, skubalon, skoo'-bal-on, is curious.  When the KJV uses a word that is different from other modern translations, it is usually evident that the KJV translation is archaic, and sometimes lacks the scholarship that the last 400 years of study has gained.  However, in this example, this is not the case.  The other translations tend to soften the intensity of Paul's term that is clearly referring to that which is periodically left buried on the South-facing trail of a North-bound nomad.  Paul is clearly stating that those things that he left behind are not worthy to be carried along with us on this great adventure.

How much do the things that we hold close to us actually serve to hold us down?  If you are conscripted to run a foot-race that ends with a great prize, what will you carry along with you?   Would you choose to carry a 16-pound bowling ball in each hand?  You would only take with you that which you absolutely need, and that which will provide real help in the effort.  When we carry excess baggage with us, we give that burden power over us, and by so doing that baggage serves the same function as an idol as it distracts us from following God’s purpose in our lives. 

An important step in being more like Christ is to develop an appropriate perspective concerning the true value of the things of this world.  Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world,"[3] and as citizens of His kingdom, neither is ours.  What are those things that you carry with you that really need to be left buried along the path?  For Paul, much of this was an established and well-defined religious tradition that was maintained solely for tradition's sake.  We may also find ourselves hemmed in by traditions that disallow our free expression of faith.  More than likely our baggage is more than simple tradition: 

When people observe us, they see the sum of the baggage that defines us.  When we honestly turn our attention to that baggage, we find we have no justification for any form of pride or self-righteousness.

Philippians 3:9.  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:  

Before Paul met Jesus, he believed that he was a very righteous person.  He believed he was a good man because of his zealous efforts to adhere to the Jewish traditional laws.  This is the same pattern by which most people evaluate their own righteousness today.  People observe what society considers morally good, and use that ambiguous pattern for self-evaluation.  People think that they are righteous simply because they exercise a greater level of morality than some others.  Paul thought he was righteous because he kept to selected tenets of the Jewish traditional laws, a behavioral standard that was accepted by himself and his peers. 

When God looks at us, He does not consider our righteousness by man's standards, but by His own standard of absolute, uncompromised, perfection; and all sin leaves us short of that standard.  However, Paul understands and fully appreciates God's act of grace.  Righteousness cannot be found by meeting any standard of conduct.  Righteousness before God is found only by placing one's faith fully in Him.  Paul understands that all the work that he did in order to attain some level of righteousness was worthless, since righteousness is not attained by any mixture of works.  Paul had once invested a great amount of effort in the task of righteousness only to find that all of that work is entirely ineffective in accomplishing that goal. 

Philippians 3:10.  That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 

Prior to meeting Jesus, Paul put his zealous efforts into his knowledge of the Mosaic Law so that he could be considered righteous by those around him.  He put his efforts into being religious, and did what he could to assure that others knew of his zealotry for the LORD.  Now Paul understands that such knowledge is worthless, and not worth pursuing any longer.  Likewise our pursuit of those things that profit us nothing is not worth pursuing any longer.  What is it that is now important?  Paul mentions a few things that are worthy of the same zealous pursuit:

1.  Knowing God.  Many of us chase after knowledge, but there is no knowledge that is of any real value if it is not subject to the knowledge of God.  Paul again uses the word for "know" that involves a personal, deep, and intimate knowledge of God rather than a simple knowledge that He exists.  Even satan knows that God exists, that salvation is by faith, and the gospel is true.[4]  Obviously, knowledge of God is not enough.

How does one obtain a deep and intimate knowledge of God?  Such knowledge requires a relationship, just as if you are developing a deep and intimate knowledge of another person, one whom you love deeply.  One must spend time with God and with His word.  Instead of spending time and energy chasing after the worthless things of this world, Paul recognizes the value in placing that time and effort into knowing God. 

Do you agree with Paul?  Do you also have a zealous desire to know Him and spend time with Him?  Or, would you rather spend your time gazing at your mindless television set?  Could you set aside the fruitless hours of “NCIS,” “CSI,” or “Code Blue” to spend time in prayer or in the study of God's Word?  Could you set aside a televised ball game to read an illuminating Christian commentary or devotional?  Time spent staring at a television set brings no lasting reward.  In stark contrast, the time spent in the pursuit of knowing God is a worthwhile effort that has eternal rewards.

2.  Experiencing the power of Jesus' resurrection.  Most of the world fails to understand the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and as citizens of this secular society, we tend to follow right along with them.  When Paul came to understand this power, his life changed and he chased after the things of this secular world no longer.  Understanding the power of the resurrection can be simple enough for a child to follow, yet profound enough to keep theologians immersed in its analysis for centuries.  Paul states a simple explanation of this power in that:

Romans 8:1.  "There is now no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ, Jesus." 

A miracle of grace took place at the resurrection event: if you have placed your faith and trust in God, sin has lost its power to condemn you.  Where sin brings death, the resurrection is evidence of Jesus' power over death.  Jesus' death on the cross not only paid the death-sentence for sin, His resurrection destroyed sin's power to condemn the faithful.  If you have truly placed your faith and trust in God, you are saved from the punishment that sin in your life had once demanded.  You do not stop sinning when you come to God in faith.  Christians struggle with sin and its earthly consequences every day.  However, Jesus' death and resurrection took place so that sin can no longer condemn those who trust in Him.  Since sin has lost its power to condemn, sin can no longer separate the faithful from God.  Therefore, one cannot lose their salvation by any act of sin. 

This is the power of Jesus' resurrection.  The Greek word used here for ”power”, dunamis, is the same word from which we get the terms ”dynamic” and "dynamite."  The power of the resurrection completely blows away Satan's efforts to use sin to separate you from God.  You are not saved because you make a claim to be Christian.  You are not saved because you stopped sinning.  You are saved simply because you placed your faith and trust in God.  Therefore sin will no longer condemn you.  That is power.   

Still, people preach and teach that a Christian can lose their salvation through sinful behavior, and if this were true, there would be no hope for anyone.  As we come to know and understand the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we come to understand and appreciate the security of that salvation.  We come to understand that God is not standing over us, ready to smite us when we fall.  God exercises His grace as He carries the faithful through their times of difficulty as His Holy Spirit continually works to draw those who have wandered away back to His hand of protection.

3.  Sharing in His suffering.  Paul understands his relationship with Jesus to be a partnership in which as he has accepted the call to share in God’s work, accepting criticism and scorn when that work is contrary to this pagan and secular world culture.  He also stood firm in the truth of the gospel when that truth was in conflict with his religious peers.  We fill our lives with activities that serve to entertain us and gratify our own desires.  This is a normal, worldly pursuit that would never bring criticism from this secular and pagan society.  However, Jesus has called all Christians to join Him in the mission of demonstrating unconditional love for others, shown by sharing the gospel with this secular and pagan culture so that people can be saved from sin's condemnation.  How much effort do we put into sharing in Jesus' work?  Are we partners with Him or are we spectators?  Are we more interested in our personal pursuits that profit nothing for the kingdom of God?

4.  Imitating Christ, even unto death.  Paul lived in a culture where anyone who took a stand against the religious and political leadership faced harsh persecution.  He had suffered beatings and imprisonment for his partnership in Jesus' mission.  As he was writing this letter he was being held in Roman imprisonment, and it is presumably in this imprisonment he would meet his own death.  How could Paul be so courageous?  How could Paul risk so much for the faith?  When Jesus started His ministry, He left behind Joseph's carpenter shop, depending on God for His daily needs.  When Paul started His ministry, he left behind all that he thought was of value as he depended upon God for his daily needs.  Paul's courage was simply characteristic of the product of his faith and his determination to serve God.  Paul was fully committed to God's call in his life. 

When we honestly compare the commitment of Paul to that in our own lives, we may actually be a little embarrassed by the amount of baggage that we carry with us in the race.  We may be seeking ways to apologize for our submission to our own selfish desires and fears.  We may look at Paul as some great stalwart of the faith who has accomplished so much that he has arrived at some point of spiritual greatness that we will never realize. 

Consider some of the stalwarts of the faith.  In addition to Paul, we might think of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John and Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, or even Billy Graham.  If you were to ask any of them if they had done all they could do for the kingdom they would all say “no”, and each has stated something to that effect in their writings. 

Philippians 3:10-12.  That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

4.  Paul's Goal

As mature that we may think Paul is in His own Christian faith, he clearly teaches that he still has not attained all that is to be attained in this life.  The Judaizers, as many Christians today, carried themselves in a manner that implied that they thought they had arrived at some point of spiritual “perfection.”[5]  If Paul has “a long way to go,” so do all of us.  Likewise, so do those Philippian leaders who imply some form of superiority.   Paul notes that he will never fully attain perfection this side of death, but he “follows after” Christ that he might continue to grow in Him, becoming more and more conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Note that when he described his "spiritual resume" he had completed the task of Jewish maturity.  He had reached the top of the “Jewish ladder.”  As a child of God our task is never fully complete.  We are constantly growing and maturing in Him as we seek to be obedient to Him.

Philippians 3:13-14.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 

We find in this statement a formula for a deeper commitment to the work of the Kingdom, a formula that Paul uses to help him stay on track.

1.  Paul recognizes that the work is not complete.  Despite all that Paul has done, he recognizes that he could have done more.  We, with Paul, are called to take part in a great adventure.  When we think of adventure, we may think of an adventurer like the fictional Indiana Jones who dedicates his life to the pursuit of archaeology so that he might learn more about God.  The adventure to which we are called brings us to know God, Himself.  Our work is far from complete.  There is much that can be done if we will simply join God in His kingdom work.

2.  Paul has taken his focus off of the past.  We tend to like to define ourselves by our past accomplishments, and may sit idle as we are satisfied in them.  We might also use the circumstances of the past to rationalize our present state.  The word that the KJV renders, "forgetting" does not refer to the erasure of history, but rather to a shift of focus.  It is a deliberate turning from one direction unto another.   Paul has taken his focus off of the past so that he might apply himself to that which is of immediate importance.  Paul has made a deliberate and concerted effort to leave behind the baggage that would weigh him down. 

3.  Paul reaches toward that which has been placed in front of him by the LORD.  Paul is intent upon running the race as a participant, not a spectator.  The race cannot be run by watching, and a spectator does not share in the prize.  Paul ran the race with his feet.  When we study his life we find that at times he stumbled and fell.  At times he ran into obstacles.  At times it appeared that he would be utterly defeated.  However, through all of Paul's experience we find that he continued to reach forward.

4.  Paul is focused on the mission.  Paul understands this mission to be the high calling of God.  We may approach Jesus' command of Matthew 28, the great commission, as the "great suggestion," and give it more lip-service than real authority in our lives.  Paul truly understood the high call of this commission and he dedicated his life to it.  He kept his focus on this calling.  Jesus stated that "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."[6]  What would happen if we are plowing a row and we look back?  The furrow will no longer be straight.  The integrity of the furrow is maintained by a steady focus on a point at the other end of the field.  Likewise, the integrity of Christian service is maintained by a steady focus upon the high calling of Christ.  However, Paul goes beyond a simple focus and combines that with what he refers to as "pressing on."  This refers to a steady and firm pressure that is applied in the direction of his goal.  At times the resistance he encounters may drive him back, but the pressure that he applies continues.

Milestones in life give us an opportunity to take stock as we look at our own lives.  Today can be a day to take a spiritual inventory that can inform us of where we are in our own commitment to the high calling of Jesus Christ.  Would we spend this day dwelling on the past, remembering the good times and the great things that have been accomplished?  Or would we be better to consider the testimony that Paul brought to the church in Philippi as he gave them the formula for faithful Christian service:

What is the reward for such a sacrifice?  When we have shed those things that would hold us down, we will experience more of the promised peace and joy that comes from the knowledge that when the race has been completed, and we find ourselves standing before Jesus Christ in the final judgment, we will simply hear those few words, "Well done, my faithful servant."[7] as we discover all of the lives that we have touched in some small way with the love of God.

5.  Paul's Challenge

Philippians 3:15-21.  Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.  16Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 17Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself..

Note that Paul gives an imperative to those who are more mature in Christ, further emphasizing the continuing maturation process that takes place in the Christian pilgrimage.   This is not an isolated statement.  Paul continually refers to our life in Christ as one of maturing: starting with spiritual milk, and advancing to meat.

Paul states that the mature in the faith are to agree with him.  This statement is not being presented from an autocratic standpoint:  it is simply true.  Paul knows what is true from living a life dedicated to obedience to Christ and he can have confidence in it when that which he professes is consistent with that which has been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit and by his understanding of God.  As Christians mature in the faith, they will find that they are more and more in agreement with Paul’s statements concerning the faith, as they learn more and more of the truths of the gospel.

How does Paul instruct those who think differently from Him?  He doesn't seek to argue.  He instructs those who would contend with his position to take the case directly to God.  Paul knows that there is only one gospel, and only one Truth.  Consequently, Paul is confident that God will instruct us in the same way He instructed Paul and every other Christian.  That which is truth becomes evident by the peace or conviction of the Holy Spirit in us.

Paul’s challenge to us is to live a life that is consistent with that which we already have obtained, rather than be swayed by demands of others who would add to the gospel.  If we seek to live a life that expresses the joy of our salvation, we must live up to that which we truly profess, rather than live up to someone else’s definition of righteousness. 

Set aside the baggage that drags us down.  That baggage may be a focus on past failures.  It could be a focus on bad doctrine.  It might be current circumstances which are taking our focus off of Christ.  It could be the baggage of a self-centered or ego-inflating attitude which takes our focus off of Christ and places it on ourselves to massage an ego which is out of God's will.  These things must be discarded as we would discard dung.

With the baggage no longer weighting us down, we are to press toward a life of obedience.  This is an action.  We cannot run a race glued to the couch with our eyes mesmerized by baseless entertainment.  We must ACT.

The action must have a focus, and that focus is on Christ, and Him alone.

By following Paul's three-step example we can open up a whole new experience in Christ.  We will find the time and resources to become a useful and fruitful part of God's kingdom on earth.


[1] Romans, Chapter 14.

[2] Note that the Anabaptists predate the reformation by many centuries.  Consequently Baptists are not Protestants, since they were not a part of the break from the Catholic church during the reformation.  Baptists were already established as a separate faith.

[3] John 18:36.

[4] James 2:19.

[5] Note the similarity found in the holiness movement of the 19th century that held that Christian perfection was performed as a second act of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, freeing them of voluntary sin. 

[6] Luke 6:42.

[7] Matthew 25:21,23.