Pastor’s Note – Mature Thinking

Mature Thinking – Philippians 3:12-16

Grace Fellowship Church – what a blessed Sunday we had last week! In the sermon we talked about pursuing Christ because of his inestimable worth and how our own righteousness can never make us more accepted in God’s eyes.

Paul goes as far as to say that he counted all of his obedience and work to be worthless in regards to gaining acceptance in the eyes of God, (Php. 3:8).  He wanted to be found in Christ after losing all his righteousness and self reliance. And that was Paul’s desire daily – to fellowship and rejoice in his union with the Lord Jesus by faith in the righteousness of God. 

Paul was very clear – our understanding of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone fuels our pursuit of a personal knowledge of him.  

We should be a people rejoicing in the salvation that Christ has purchased for us and that salvation should capture our hearts and cause us to pursue a personal knowledge of Christ through the study of his word, meditation upon it, and prayer.

The Problem…

However there is always the accusation whenever we talk about the complete and eternal righteousness imputed to us through faith in Christ that we are saying “works don’t matter, a Christian can go and live however they want.”  This is the accusation of what is called antinomianism which is defined as –

“The position that Christians are not bound by any law, whether related to religious practice or ethical behavior. This view may include the idea that salvation and freedom from the law permit believers to sin without consequence.”

Douglas Mangum, The Lexham Glossary of Theology

So are we saying that because works play no part in our justification, that Christians can just go about doing as they please because they are eternally forgiven? Not at all!

The teaching of the New Testament is clear that a right view of justification by faith leads to a life in pursuit of holiness and knowledge of God.

Without digging too deep into it – lets look at the context of our passage that we looked at last week – Philippians 3:12-16.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

Philippians 3:12-16 ESV

Paul clearly admits that he is not yet perfected in his pursuit of Jesus and living like him. But he says here – “I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Paul was hungry and thirsty for righteousness – because he knew the depth of his sin and worthless works before and how great of an offense they were to a holy God, and how sin was the reason Christ died on the cross. All these things drove Paul to want to have everything to do with Jesus and nothing to do with sin.

Pressing Towards….what?

Paul says that he was pressing on in both v. 12 and v. 14 – twice he says, “I press on,” and that should indicate to us a whole hearted pursuit. And what was he pursuing? He was pursuing what he called “the prize” –  “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

He calls what he is pursing the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. So what exactly is he talking about here? Well, God powerfully calls all those whom he chooses to believe in him, (1Co. 1:26-31).  God’s calling in the New Testament is his powerful call to salvation which goes along with the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Look at what Peter said at the end of his sermon recorded in Acts 2 – “39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” [3] The promise of salvation was specifically for those whom God called to himself. This is important because Paul in Philippians isn’t talking about the general gospel call – the message of the gospel that goes out to all the world calling all men to repent and believe in Christ – but to the specific call – the one that only believers have. And what is this calling? Paul describes it in Romans 8 –

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. [4]

The call of God is to turn from sin and darkness to Christ – and the purpose of the call is that those who are called would be declared righteous by the blood of Christ, and those who are declared righteous (justified) will be glorified – dwell with Christ forever in perfect sanctification in the image of Christ.

Mature Thinking!

Brothers and sisters the call of God is to be conformed to the image of Christ – this is sanctification.  What does it mean to grow in holiness? It means that you are pursuing Christ with your heart, soul, mind, and strength and as you are pursuing him you are changed more and more to look like him. As knowledge of Jesus grows – growth in Christ-likeness grows.

And how did Paul see this pursuit? Did he dwell on his sin and failures to do this daily? No! He adopted an attitude of purposeful forgetfulness – “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Paul adopted an attitude of purposeful forgetfulness about his daily failures because he knew that the blood of Christ had already covered them. And this fueled his daily walk to love and seek after Christ – to strain forward– towards a greater knowledge of Christ and greater conformity to Christ in his mind.

This is how a mature Christian should think. Paul writes, “Let those of us who are mature think this way.” The Greek word here teleioi means to be spiritually mature, “spiritual mature adj. — being at an advanced stage of spiritual development; usually as a result of experience, teaching, and in most cases time.”[5] If we want to be spiritually mature Christians than this is how we should think – we should adopt the attitude of purposeful forgetfulness of our sins and failures and press on towards knowing and looking more like Christ. And the fuel for all this is our standing in him: we are declared righteous by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and nothing can separate us from his love.


[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 2:39.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:28–30.

[5] Logos Bible Sense Lexicon

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