This blog continues my translation and brief commentary on Paul’s letter to Philippians.
Philippians 3: 15 to end
Grown-up believers should think in this way; and if you think differently, God will show you also this truth. Only let’s walk by what we’ve grasped. Be joint – imitators of me, my dears, and keep your eyes fixed on those who are walking in this way, for you have us as a model. I have told you often and now I tell you again in sorrow, that there are many who are walking as enemies of Messiah’s cross.
Their destiny is destruction, their God is their belly, their honour is in their shame, for their mindset is worldly; But we are citizens of heaven, from where we await a rescuer, the Lord Jesus Messiah, who will transform this wretched body so that it shares the status of his glorious body, working through his ability to bring all things under his control.
The first sentence refers back to verse 14 which expresses Paul’s determination to press forward in the life of trust in God, leaving the past behind. Paul often refers to those who are infants in faith who need careful handling, while those who are grown-up, “complete” can be pushed towards greater discipline.
People will differ in what they have grasped of Jesus’ way, but all must act (walk) by what they have grasped. There is no spiritual advancement which is not practical as well as intellectual. He does not scruple to use himself as an example to be followed. This is sometimes criticised by people who expect a decent modesty from everybody. But Paul knows he has practised what he has preached, and needs no more modesty than an expert musician giving a masterclass. ‘It is all possible’, he tells his readers, ‘because I have done it.’ He defines believers who do not discipline their lives as enemies of the cross of Messiah. He means that they do not honour the discipline by which Jesus emptied himself unto death. Jesus Messiah lowered himself in service to God and the least and most lost of humanity. But his death qualifies forever the natural life of human beings; it is not evil but is always under sentence of death and resurrection. It can only be lived rightly under the discipline of the cross.
Those who refuse true discipline are defined as “consumers” – their God is the belly, the consuming mechanism of the body, which is controlled by a mind fixed on what can be got from the world and closed to any other dimension of life. They will be destroyed just as they destroy what they consume. Modern consumers should take note.
Paul immediately insists that true believers are citizens of heaven, that is, of God’s rule. Their loyalty and pride are not given to any worldly ruler, but only to God, who will reward them by sending the Rescuer, who will transform their “vile” (KJV) bodies into the likeness of his own divine body. There is nothing wrong with bodies as such in Paul’s theology, but the earthly human body stands on the battleground where God’s creation is threatened by sin and death, and suffers accordingly. It is too frail to win by itself, but through the Rescuer it can enter the life of God.