“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.” Philippians 3:15-16
I wish I could collected a $10 bill for every time I have tried to explain to our 6 year-old son that he cannot expect his 3 year-old sister to understand what he understands or act how he acts. Certainly, I’d at least have a nice chunk of petty cash to buy some more yoga pants and a value-pack of diapers for our tiniest tot! FOR REAL!
Our middle child is still learning how to respect others and their belongings; she’s still learning the ropes of personal space and privacy; she’s still learning how to understand social norms and respect boundaries; and she’s still learning social cues, language, and the etiquette surrounding communication.
Again and again, I keep reminding our oldest, “Buddy, she’s still little; give her grace to learn.”
understand sort of understand something my son doesn’t yet understand: We don’t all share the same level of maturity and understanding.
I say “sort of” because I remember one afternoon, about two years ago, coming home from a Bible study and feeling a little frustrated with the maturity of the discussion and a lot disappointed with the level of personal engagement.
In an attempt to find a safe place to vent and process my junk, I fired off an e-mail to my brother that pretty much said, “I don’t understand why people live such shallow, nominal Christian lives. What ever happened to the idea of being disciplined in our faith, of growing in our faith, of being seriously committed to our faith?”
Folks, there’s no happy or humble spin for those sentences; truly, there was a whole lot of pride wrapped up in those emailed words.
And my brother (who apparently possessed a maturity that I did not) replied with such grace and wisdom-filled words.
“Jessica, it isn’t simply knowledge, but the lived knowledge of what they possess… many people are actively practicing what they do know…”
My wise brother was SPOT ON.
We don’t always know and understand what others already know and understand; we’re all growing at varying degrees and at varying paces; and we’re all using and living out the knowledge we have in the places we are with what knowledge we currently possess.
And that’s where I believe Paul lands in verses 15 and 16 in Philippians 3.
“All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.”
He is urging the “mature” (believers who were more aged and grown in their understanding of faith in Christ, not by WORKS and not by the LAW) to think in harmony with what he has already said in the prior verses (v 3-14).
We put no confidence in the flesh;
everything is a loss compared to knowing Christ;
we participate in His sufferings;
we have yet to obtain the final prize; and
so we press on toward Jesus and our heavenly home.
Paul is not only urging the Philippian believers to continue on in their growth and in their pursuit of Jesus, but he is also simultaneously refuting the teaching of the Judaizers.
While the Judaizers were preaching a faith that could be attained by keeping the Law, Paul was challenging his comrades to push forward (all the way to heaven) in their pursuit of holiness, not settling for an achieved godliness this side of heaven.
And yet, in all of this urging and in all of this commending, Paul graciously acknowledges: “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”
He doesn’t bully; he doesn’t rush; and he doesn’t demand for everyone to be on the same “doctrine train” all at once and all at the same time.
Paul trusts the Spirit, and he trusts the process. And unlike my oldest and unlike myself at times, Paul was patiently embracing where the believers were in their walks, remembering that faith is cultivated, belief is grown, and maturity is a process.
1 Corinthians 13:11 reads as follows:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
And who is the “I” mentioned in this verse?
Paul. Yes, Paul. The great apostle, the prolific writer, the great debater, the hard-core missionary, the continuous prisoner, the godly martyr…yes, he (too) admits to a period of “child-like” faith.
And then Paul finishes his thought in verse 16 by commending the believers with this gracious encouragement:
“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
I believe Paul is saying, “Practice what you have proclaimed; live what you have learned; continue in what you have confessed; press on in what you have already possessed; and the Lord will grow in you what He needs to grow in you!”
And ya know what?
Just like Paul, and just like my daughter, and just like my son, and just like those women in my Bible study two years ago, and JUST LIKE ME, and just like you… we’re all babies (in some way or another)… growing in our understanding, maturing in our faith, and cultivating the application of His Truth.
So dear ones, let us be gracious with our growth and the growth of others, trusting the Lord to prune where He needs to prune and grow where He needs to grow.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever!
2 Peter 3:18