I’ve long been fascinated by Philippians 3 (even wrote a whole post about it). Here, Paul talks about the things he had before conversion–religious status, a good background, the best education, zeal for his faith–and then says all his “human credentials” count for nothing. Indeed, he regards “them as dung!” It is so much more valuable to know Christ “and be found in him,” not because Paul is righteous by following the law but because he has “the righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.” And then with all that as background, he talks about how he keeps striving to live a godly life and will keep doing so until the end of his life in the hope of attaining “to the resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3:5-12, NET).
This discussion is framed by Paul addressing a contentious issue in the church. He warns the Philippians to “beware of the dogs” (false teachers, see NET footnote), “beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh” (those who wrongly teach physical circumcision is still necessary” and those who “rely on human credentials” (Phil. 3:1-4, NET). That is why Paul brings up his own credentials. He’s not attacking these other teachers and saying their credentials mean nothing because Paul doesn’t have any and wants to make himself look better. Rather, he has the credentials and he still says they’re worthless because “human credentials can produce nothing that is pleasing to God” (NET footnote on v. 15). It is with this foundation that Paul then says what I want to focus on today.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways. Nevertheless, let us live up to the standard that we have already attained.Phil. 3:13-16, NET
So often, when we disagree with someone in the church we instinctively want to defend our point of view. But what Paul indicates is that our first response should be to ask God to reveal His mind.
The Mind of Christ
One of the central goals of our Christian walk is to learn to think like God does. He fills us with His spirit to transform us and make us part of His family. We have received the Spirit “from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12, NET)
The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.1 Cor. 2:14-16, quoting Isa. 40:13, NET
We must “arm ourselves with the same mind” Christ had so that we can live “for the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:1-2, WEB). Part of the “will of God” involves living in harmony with our brethren. That only happens when all of us are trying to think like Christ.
Now the God of perseverance and of encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore accept one another, even as Christ also accepted you, to the glory of God.Rom. 15:5-7, WEB
Like Minded in Him
When scripture says that Christians are to be like minded, it does not mean we reach whatever mutual consensus we want. Our like-mindedness comes from all of us putting on the mind of Christ. That “we have the mind of Christ” verse I quoted earlier is preceded in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians by this:
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose1 Cor. 1:10, NET
Paul goes on to talk about how ridiculous it is to divide the church over which teacher to follow (1 Cor. 1:9-17), the fact that there is no room for human boasting before God (1 Cor. 1:18-31), that our faith is based in God’s wisdom, and that through His spirit we get to put on Jesus’ mind (1 Cor. 2:1-16). It has quite a few parallels with Philippians 3, where Paul talks about the uselessness of human credentials and then urges continued faithfulness, which includes living in peace with your brethren.
It’s a familiar refrain in Paul’s letters. “Live in harmony with one another” (Rom. 12:15). “Be of the same mind … being united in spirit” (Phil. 2:2). “Agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11). The more like God we become, the fewer disagreements we ought to have with others who are also becoming more like God.
Continue Aligning Yourself With God
The principle we’re discussing is simple in theory: put on Christ’s mind and you’ll all be united. In practice, we’re all at different levels of growth. None of us have fully put on the mindset and attitudes of Jesus yet, and we don’t always agree on what putting on His mind looks like. Returning to Philippians 3,
Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways. Nevertheless, let us live up to the standard that we have already attained.Phil. 3:15-16, NET
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way. If in anything you think otherwise, God will also reveal that to you. Nevertheless, to the extent that we have already attained, let’s walk by the same rule. Let’s be of the same mind.Phil. 3:15-16, WEB
When we disagree, we can ask God to reveal His mindset and align us with truth. When seeking this sort of like-mindedness, always ask for God’s perspective so you can understand what He wants you to see–not to help you understand human teachings or teachers. Our goal for spiritual growth is to be like our Father. Unity with other believers happens as a result of that goal, not as the central goal itself.
Paul also admonishes us to “live up to” or “walk by” the standard we’ve already attained. This goes along with verses like the one in James that says if you know to do good and don’t do it that is sin to you (James 4:17) and passages in Romans that indicate we’re judged based on how well we do God’s will rather than how well we understand the law (Rom. 2:10-16). Though we might not always agree with other Christians on the best way to follow God, we need to live in peace with others as much as possible, follow God as faithfully as we understand how, and always be seeking to align our thinking and mode of living more closely with Him.
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