All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, verses 15,16)
What has been the norm for American churches when believers find themselves at odds with one another? Too often it has been argument, anger, division and accusation. Paul has just finished expounding the true gospel of a bestowed righteousness from God that replaces coming to Him with our own righteousness. Paul draws a conclusion from this gospel that believers should not therefore focus on their accomplishments as Christians for their progress in the faith, but instead should keep forgetting their past accomplishments and striving toward all that Christ has called us to become.
But what if the Philippians don’t agree? What if they feel there is an attainable perfection as Christians that brings with it a need to measure whether they have achieved it? Paul very clearly states his view that they are not mature (same word translated “perfect” in some versions of verse 12, translated “already arrived” in the NIV), for if they were mature (perfect, already arrived) they would realize that they are not perfect, have not arrived, and agree with Paul’s view.
So Paul, as usual, is very willing to try to persuade believers of what he feels is the correct perspective. But what is most interesting is his follow up statement. If the Philippians do not agree with him, he is willing to let God take responsibility for making the truth clear to them. In fact, he believes God will do that. His only request is that the Philippians continue to live the lives of holiness they have already attained. This is not a time to go backwards in the race.
What if we lived in this confidence and faith that Paul has? What if we were as persuasive as we could be, but instead of separating ourselves from those we disagree with we instead stayed in fellowship and watched for God to change their or our minds? O, for more humility!