This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ;. This work must continue until we are all joined together in what we believe and in what we know about the Son of God. Our goal is to become like a full-grown man—to look just like Christ and have all his perfection.
This is to continue until we all reach unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, resulting in a mature man with a stature reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ. Till we all meet together in the unity of faith and that acknowledging of the Son of God unto a perfect man, and unto the measure of the age the fullness of Christ,.
And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature. This work must continue until we are all joined together in the same faith and in the same knowledge about the Son of God.
We must become like a mature person—we must grow until we become like Christ and have all his perfection.
Some he made his messengers, some prophets, some preachers of the Gospel; to some he gave the power to guide and teach his people. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is, He climbed the high mountain, He captured the enemy and seized the booty, He handed it all out in gifts to the people. Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth?
And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. This work must continue until we are all joined together in the same faith and in the same knowledge of the Son of God. We must become like a mature person, growing until we become like Christ and have his perfection. That will continue until we all become one in the faith.
Spiritual Maturity (Philippians ) | Brackenhurst Baptist Church
I lived for a time by the banks of the Ottawa River in Canada, just upstream from where it joins the St. It is, at that point, over a mile wide. Many streams have made it what it is. The tree begins with a single seed. An acorn or its equivalent falls into the earth: tiny, vulnerable, alone. It germinates and puts out roots down into the dark earth. Simultaneously it sends up a shoot into the light and air. The roots quickly diverge and probe all over the place, looking for nourishment and water. The shoot becomes a trunk, again a single upright stalk, but this, too, quickly diverges.
An oak or a cedar will spread far and wide in all directions. Even the tall, narrow poplar is far more than just a single trunk.
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The river flows from many into one; the tree grows from one into many. The church is like a river. In the last book of the Bible, John the visionary sees a huge throng of people from every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue coming together in a great chorus of praise.
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Like the river, they all started in different places, but they have now brought their different streams into a single flow. But at the same time the church is like a tree. The single seed, Jesus himself, has been sown in the dark earth and has produced an amazing plant. Branches have set off in all directions, some pointing almost directly upward, some reaching down to the earth, some heading out over neighboring walls.
But they are. Unity generates diversity. In the final chapter of the Bible, where river and trees come together as part of the extraordinary picture of the New Jerusalem, the river comes from a single source, and the trees all bear leaves with the same healing power. What is the church? Who belongs to it, and how? Equally to the point, what is the church for? The church is the single, multiethnic family promised by the creator God to Abraham. First, the church is the single great river formed from tens of thousands of scattered tributaries.
Even when, in the days of the early Israelites, it was mostly a single family, there was plenty of room for outsiders such as Ruth, in the book that bears her name to come in to the one family of Israel.
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Once Jesus had done what he did, that became the new norm: people of every race, every geographical and cultural background, every shape, sort, and size were summoned and welcomed into this renewed people. Second, the church is the many-branched tree planted by God when he called Abraham: the tree whose single trunk is Jesus, and whose many branches, twigs, leaves, and so on are the millions of Christian communities and Christian individuals around the world.
The tree, rooted in ancient Israel, standing up straight in Jesus, branching out with his life in all directions, is to be the means of implementing his work, of making his achievement real in all the world. They lived and prayed and thought like that: children of the same father, following the same older brother, sharing goods and resources where need arose. The church must never forget that calling. This would have meant that they had to practice the Jewish Law, including having their menfolkcircumcised.
The answer, from Paul and the rest, was a resounding no. As John the Baptist had said, the ax is laid to the roots of the tree. Nor does a person belong to the Messiah and his people simply because of being born into a Christian family or household. Many of the earliest Christians were related to one another. Sometimes two or three families have contributed massively to the life and work of the church in particular areas and generations. Many branches fall off the tree; many streams come together into the single river. Many people today find it difficult to grasp this sense of corporate Christian identity.
We have been so soaked in the individualism of modern Western culture that we feel threatened by the idea of our primary identity being that of the family we belong to—especially when the family in question is so large, stretching across space and time. It may sometimes look like that, and even feel like that. You can hide in the shadows at the back of the church for a while, but sooner or later you have to decide whether this is for you or not. But we need to learn again the lesson to take St. The foot is not diminished in its freedom to be a foot by being part of a body which also contains eyes and ears.
In fact, hands and feet are most free to be themselves when they coordinate properly with eyes, ears, and everything else. Cutting them off in an effort to make them truly free, truly themselves, would be truly disastrous. In particular, it would deny the very purpose for which the church was called into being. Nor does it exist in order to provide a safe haven in which people can hide from the wicked world and ensure that they themselves arrive safely at an otherworldly destination.
Born Again: Our New Life in Christ
Private spiritual growth and ultimate salvation come rather as the by-products of the main, central, overarching purpose for which God has called and is calling us. This purpose is clearly stated in various places in the New Testament: that through the church God will announce to the wider world that he is indeed its wise, loving, and just creator; that through Jesus he has defeated the powers that corrupt and enslave it; and that by his Spirit he is at work to heal and renew it.
Mission, in its widest as well as its more focused senses, is what the church is there for. God intends to put the world to rights; he has dramatically launched this project through Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus are called, here and now, in the power of the Spirit, to be agents of that putting-to-rights purpose. This process will come to completion in our future glorification. Paul has already made it clear that he loathed sin. He desired to be glorified.
But lest anyone got the wrong impression, he now makes it clear that he had not already achieved the glorification that he desired. And yet, even though he had not yet arrived, and though he would never arrive at perfection before his death, he still desired and worked toward perfect Christlikeness. We have noted in our studies that the theme of Philippians is gospel joy. Of course, you may immediately see a difficulty with this. If true rejoicing can only be found in Christlikeness, is it possible to rejoice in this life? After all, we will never be perfect, and the more we strive for perfection, the more we see the reality of our sin.
But the fact is, the more you feel the weight of your sin, the more you experience the gospel, and the more you experience the gospel, the easier it is to rejoice in the Lord. Those who are bored with their Christianity are clearly those who do not strive toward the mark of Christlikeness. They are self-satisfied, having lost sight of the standard. They have set their own standard, which is easy to achieve, and there is little joy in meeting such standards. The Judaisers, against whose teaching Paul is writing in this chapter, set such a standard.
Their standard was religious, ceremonial Judaism, which was an easy standard to measure and thus to meet. As long as certain rites were observed, the standard was achieved. But Paul reveals that he was at one time blameless concerning the Judaistic law, and yet he was then without joy because he was without Christ.
By his own testimony, he knew that true joy was found in Christ alone. He was well aware that legalism could not produce joy, for legalism merely met a superficial standard. Perfection is our goal.
Principles of Spiritual Growth
Maturity is the process by which we strive for this goal, and death or the return of Christ is the event that will eventually usher us from maturity to perfection. In vv. We will consider three of those essentials here, and introduce a fourth, which we will pick up in our next study.
If we will rise to the next level in our Christian experience, if we will know Christ in a deeper way, then we must honestly assess where we are currently in our spiritual walk. Paul speaks of his ultimate desire in v. It is quite possible that the Judaisers were teaching a form of perfectionism. Sadly, perfectionism is still alive in certain segments of the church today.
I recall meeting a man in Australia who believed that he had attained perfection. And there are others just like him. But how can any believer claim to be perfect? One way is to create a superficial distinction between sins of the will and sins of the heart.
And so they will admit that they have a sin nature, but will claim that they do not commit sinful acts and are thus perfect. More often, however, professing believers claim perfection by redefining sin. They lower the standard to one that is easily attainable. But Paul will not allow for this: he makes it clear that the standard is in fact the Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore he is quick to add that he has not yet attained to the standard.
If we will make progress toward spiritual maturity, we need to honestly assess our walk with God. Rather than redefining sin, we must confess where we have sinned and repent when necessary. In fact, most Puritan pastors would probably have taken a full year to preach through vv. Whilst the concept of self-examination is absolutely vital, it can also become dangerous if it is overemphasised.
We cannot be so introspective that we take our eyes off the goal. Paul uses the imagery of a footrace in vv. When I was in high school, I ran competitively. My coach often warned me that when I ran I should not look at my own feet or the feet of the runner in front of me, but at the shoulder blades of the runner ahead. If I watched the feet of the front runner, all I would do was keep pace with him, but not overtake him. If I watched my own feet I would not improve my own performance in the race. The only way for me to improve my performance was to keep my eye on the goal, and that is precisely what Paul says in vv.