12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
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. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
As I continue to look at passages in Philippians through the distinctive facet of 2:12-13, what stood out to me is the phrase, “those of us who are mature”. I realized that it would be easy to have a sarky attitude that we are not mature, so this doesn’t apply to us. However, I was reminded of a number of things that makes this very much about all believers, no matter where we are in our levels of maturity.
In a practical way, when I think of what children are like in their immaturity, when they see what they could be like as they grow up, they are usually quite eager to get to that place. When the younger kids in our daycare see an older child climb our crab apple tree, they all want to give it a try because they all want to be able to do the more mature thing. Most of them succeed before they head off to school.
In the same way, when we read in Scripture of the maturity that should guide the church, there is a part of us (often hidden by the sark where we can’t find it) that wants to grow up to maturity in Christ. It is that “new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” This new self wants to be mature in the “true righteousness and holiness” of Christ, just as children want to mature so they can be like the bigger kids.
In other Scriptures, Paul stated it as, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Did you notice the thrice stated, “everyone”? To follow Paul’s example, pastors need to proclaim one person to us all, our Lord Jesus Christ. Then they must warn everyone of anything that would take any of us away from Christ; teaching everyone the things that would bring us to keep growing up in Christ; aiming to present everyone as mature in Christ.
This means that it doesn’t matter how immature we are, the aim of presenting everyone mature in Christ is the same. When we hear Paul set an aim or goal for the mature, it should draw our attention and desire the same way as when little Wayne Gretzky watched his hero Gordie Howe and dreamed of the day he would be just as good at playing hockey.
If the natural man can see what physical maturity looks like in a seasoned hockey player, then the spiritual man can see what spiritual maturity looks like in the elders of the church (at least the ones who laid the foundation for the church). We can and should aim to grow up into that same maturity with the same devotion to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” as an immature young Worldling would put into his hockey development.
This came clear to me when I read Paul’s description of the maturing of the church in Ephesians 4. He described the work of the leaders in equipping the church for ministry with the aim of, “building up the body of Christ.” He then added that the aim of building up the body of Christ was, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
In Paul’s typical fashion of building up so many parallel thoughts that we have no excuse for not getting what he is saying, he makes it clear that building up the body of Christ means maturity. Attaining the unity of the faith is the maturity of the church. Attaining the unity of our knowledge of the Son of God is about maturity. Maturity in the church is “mature manhood,” which speaks of the maturity of the “one new man” Paul introduced in Ephesians 2:15. The one new man made up of Jews and Gentiles needs to grow up to maturity in Jesus Christ.
The conclusion is that, when Paul tells “those of us who are mature,” to do things a certain way, every one of us should step up to find out how we can do our part. There is a way that we can do something today, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, so that our church will mature, and our maturing will contribute something to the maturing of the rest of the church around us.
Paul concludes the Ephesians 4 paragraph with, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Notice again, “we” are to grow up. Growing up together is “in every way.” The one person we are all growing to be like is “him who is the head, into Christ.” Our help is from him because he is the one “from whom” the whole body gets its life. So now, the “whole body,” that is “joined together,” by every person who makes up this body, has as its aim that “each part is working properly.” And, it is when we are all working properly to grow up to maturity in Christ that we all contribute in such a way that it “makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Now that we know how the mature ought to think, let’s devote ourselves to being more mature at the end of the day than when we started. Let’s put in the same kind of practice time that Wayne Gretzky put in to become like Gordie Howe. They are both retired. We don’t retire until heaven. This is a good day to grow up.
© 2015 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)