Think This Way
“Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”- Philippians 3:15–16
Continuing his call for his readers to turn from their own works, trust in Christ alone, and make knowing Him and His resurrection power their chief end (Phil. 3:1–14), Paul in today’s passage says something that, at first glance, seems unlike him. We are not surprised that in Philippians 3:15 he calls mature believers to agree with his doctrine. However, Paul’s statement, “if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you,” in the same verse makes it appear as if he is in no hurry to see his audience embrace what he has said about making the knowledge of Jesus and His righteousness the Christian’s ultimate aim.
Given Paul’s stress elsewhere that there is no justification and thus no salvation without repentance and faith in Christ alone (Rom. 4; Gal. 2:15–16), we know that the Apostle cannot be somehow implying that it is safe to delay turning from our own “righteousness” to the perfect righteousness of our Savior. As John Calvin comments on today’s passage, the proof that we are God’s people is that we “renounce confidence in all things, that we may glory in Christ’s righteousness alone, and preferring it to everything else, aspire after a participation in his sufferings, which may be the means of conducting us to a blessed resurrection.” Instead, when the Apostle seems to imply that a delay in changing one’s mind about things that are “otherwise” is acceptable, he refers to matters that are important but not necessary to salvation. Essentially, Paul says something like this in Philippians 3:15: “If you think differently about anything other than what I have just said about the overall aim of the Christian life, the Lord will eventually show you the truth.”
All truth is important, but not all truth is equally important in the sense that a denial or misunderstanding of it is worthy of damnation. There are matters over which two people may disagree and yet still be citizens of heaven, even if one or both of them is wrong (Rom. 14). As Paul shows us, the right approach is not to deny that those who differ on secondary matters are brothers and sisters in Jesus. Instead, we must be patient with them, knowing that God will finally show them the way. As long as we all hold fast to what we have attained — the gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ — we are fellow children of the Father (Phil. 3:15–16).
Because our Savior is the very truth of God (John 14:6), standing for the truth is an essential part of being a Christian. Yet that does not mean that we break fellowship over everything that we believe is the truth. There are secondary matters over which faithful Christians have differed for centuries, and these matters should never prevent us from working with other gospel-loving and gospel-affirming believers to reach the world for Christ.
Passages for Further Study