By Gregg Bing
“Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” (Phil. 3:15-16)
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, admonishes us, as believers in Christ, to “walk by the same rule.” The word “rule” is translated from the Greek word “kanon.” The English word “canon” is typically associated with the canon of Scripture, meaning the books recognized and accepted as being inspired by God. The Greek word “kanon” refers to a straight reed or rod to which something was fastened to keep it straight or aligned. The word came to mean a measuring rod. Hence, the basic meaning of “kanon” is a rule or standard for measurement or judgment. Paul uses the word here as a standard for measuring the believer’s walk.
The word “walk” is not the typical Greek word used in the New Testament of a person’s walk. The word most often used is the Greek word “peripateo” which literally means “to walk about” and simply has reference to our daily conduct. Here in Philippians 3:16 Paul uses the Greek word “stoicheo” which means to walk orderly, to march in military rank, or to keep in step, thus to walk according to some order or rule. What is this rule or order for our walk as believers?
Paul clearly associates the “rule” for our walk with the word “mind.” Those who are spiritually “mature” believers are told to “have this mind” (vs. 15), and he relates walking by “the same rule” with being of “the same mind” (vs. 16). The word “mind” is actually a Greek verb “phroneo” which means to exercise the mind, to think, to understand in a certain way; to be disposed in a certain direction, thus to be of a certain sentiment or opinion.
One of the primary themes of the book of Philippians is the believer’s mind or mindset. This is particularly evident in the second chapter where Paul instructs the brethren at Philippi to be “likeminded,” to be “of one mind” (Phil. 2:2). Paul tells them, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Paul identifies two elements of Christ’s mindset we are to follow: 1) He humbled Himself and 2) He became obedient to the will of the Father. We find more specifics about the type of “mind” we are to exhibit in chapter 3.
Our passage, Philippians 3:15-16, begins with the word “therefore,” which forces us to look back to the preceding context to understand Paul’s admonition. Chapter three begins with Paul warning the Philippians about false teachers, specifically the Judaizers, who placed their confidence in the flesh rather than walking by faith (vs. 1-3). Paul reminds them of his own past life in unbelief, a time when he felt absolutely confident in and even boasted of his fleshly accomplishments: his Jewish lineage, his circumcision, his education, his zeal for God in persecuting the church, and, to cap it all off, the righteousness which he felt he had established by his adherence to the Mosaic Law (vs. 4-6).
Paul begins verse 7 with the word “but” from the Greek word “alla,” a word which indicates strong contrast. “But, what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ” (vs. 7). The things that Paul once felt were great gain to him, the things he boasted of and placed his confidence in, he now counted as loss for Christ. Paul continues, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (vs. 8). When Paul came to know the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, his mindset changed drastically. He now counted (esteemed) all the things of the flesh loss for the one thing that excels everything: “the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul not only “counted” these things loss, he “suffered” the loss of all things. When Paul acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth (whom he once persecuted) as Lord and Christ, he lost his position, his reputation, and his favor among the Jewish rulers and among the majority of the Jews. He was willing to suffer this loss because he realized that the things which he once highly valued, were nothing but “rubbish” (KJV uses the word “dung”) or worthless. Paul’s mind, heart, and desire was now set on one thing: “that I may gain Christ.”
What does it mean to “gain Christ?” Paul elaborates in verse 9-14.
Position—To gain Christ begins with our position, spiritually: “to be found in Him” (vs. 9). We are born into this world “in Adam” where we are spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1-3). When we trust in Christ as Savior, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ. God now sees us “holy and without blame,” not because of any goodness in us or good works on our part (the works of the flesh), but simply because of our position in His Son (Eph. 1:4).
Personal Knowledge—To gain Christ continues as we personally experience Him living in and through us: “that I may know Him” (vs. 10). The word “know” means to get to know through personal experience. Paul wanted to experience Christ in three areas: 1) “the power of His resurrection” (walking in newness of life by the power of the resurrected Christ living in us—Gal. 2:20). 2) “the fellowship of His sufferings” (suffering for the name and cause of Christ, who is our life, knowing that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution—2 Tim. 3:12). 3) “being conformed to His death” ( recognizing that we have been crucified with Christ to the things of the world, that our old sin nature, the flesh, is to be reckoned as dead, powerless—Rom. 6:11-13).
Purpose—To gain Christ centers on fulfilling His purpose for our lives: “that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (vs. 12). The words “lay hold” mean to lay hold on, to seize, to take possession of. Christ “laid hold” of us and saved us by His grace for a reason. He desires to use us in His service and for His glory. Paul desired to “lay hold” of Christ’s purpose for His life and see this purpose realized in his daily life. This should be the mindset of every believer.
Pursuit—To gain Christ requires us to pursue one thing—Him: “to press on … forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the mark …” (vs. 12-14). The word “press” in verses 12 and 14 is translated from the Greek word “dioko” which means to pursue or to follow hard after. This same Greek word is also translated “persecute.” All the zeal, time, and energy Paul once expended in persecuting Christ and the church, he now redirected in pursuing the excellence of knowing and serving Christ.
Prize—To gain Christ means that we keep our eyes focused on the ultimate goal: “to press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vs. 14). As he lived and served the Lord, Paul was continually “looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Paul looked forward to Christ’s coming for His Church with great expectation, knowing he would stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be rewarded for his service (2 Cor. 5:10). Having a mindset that values eternal things more than our temporary time here on earth has a powerful impact on our daily walk for the Lord.
“Therefore,” Paul says, “let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (vs. 15-16). “This mind” is characterized by the things Paul describes in verses 7-14, things that are present in the mindset of a mature believer, things that enable a believer to grow into spiritual maturity. We are to exercise our minds in this direction, regardless of the level of our spiritual maturity. We are instructed to walk (order our steps) by this same rule, to think, reason, and purpose with this same mind. In brief, to growing, mature believers, Christ is our life (Col. 3:4); He is our “all in all.” Paul expressed the essence of this mindset in chapter 1: “To me, to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:27).
(To be continued next issue.)