Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended: but one thing, forgetting the things
behind, and stretching forward to the things before, I pursue after the mark for the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us then, as many as are perfect, think
this: and if you think anything other, even God will reveal this to you. Yet to what we
have arrived, let us walk by the same rule, of the same mind.
Brethren, be imitators of me and mark those thus walking, even as you have us for a
For many walk as the enemies of the cross of Christ, of whom I have often told you, and
now I tell you even weeping, whose end is ruin, whose God is their belly, and whose glory
is in their shame, those minding earthly things.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also await for the Savior, the Lord Jesus
Christ; who will transform our body of humiliation, for it will be conformed to his body
of glory, according to the working of His power, even to subject all things to Himself.
Paul did not consider that he had arrived at perfection. The things behind (his
position as a Hebrew among Hebrews, the sins he committed in pursuit of
Christians, along with the killing of Stephen) Paul leaves behind him. These things
cannot make him perfect. Only the high calling of God in Jesus Christ can make
him perfect. This he pursues after, not has hold of.
Then in a sarcastic note, Paul says as many as are perfect, recognize that it is the
high calling of God in Christ Jesus that makes Christians perfect. And, if there is
anything else anyone thinks, let him look to what God reveals for the answer.
Therefore, no matter at what point in the journey to the mark for the prize of the
high calling of God in Jesus Christ we are, let us all walk by the same rule. The
rule that we are to walk by, no matter at what point of spiritual maturity we may find
ourselves, is the same rule -- the same canoni -- the same canon, the New
Testament -- that revelation of God which Paul appeals to if anyone thinks
anything other than what he is writing. As he wrote to the Corinthians, If anyone
thinks he is a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize that what I write to you, they
are the commands of the Lord. [1 Corinthians 14:37]
All Christians walk by the same set of rules, the same canon, the books of the New
Testament. The implication is that those who walk by other rules, who use other
sources of authority than that revealed by God, are walking by the wrong rule and
are the dogs and evils workers he warns Philippi about.
The lesson is clear for us today: do not accept anything as a rule of what you
should believe or do other than the revelation of God which is contained in the
Paul tells them to pay specific attention to both his example and the example of
those who are following what he has taught as you have us for a pattern. There
was a blueprint, a pattern for Christians to follow: the apostles and those who
followed the teaching of the apostles. Some people have deridingly called this
"pattern theology." Paul says you have us for a pattern. When writing to the
Hebrews Paul says as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make
the tabernacle. For He said, See that you make all things according to the pattern
shown you on the mountain. [Hebrews 8:5] The pattern was given for Noah's ark,
for Moses' tabernacle, for Solomon's temple, and for the Christian's temple and
Unfortunately, there were those in the first century, just as there are those in our
century, who walk by another rule, and follow a different pattern. These Paul,
weeping, recognizes as enemies of the cross of Christ, people who will be lost.
There is no joy in this recognition. There is no joy in this news. Paul says it with
tears in his eyes.
The compassion Paul shows here for wayward brethren, false teachers and those
who follow them, is the same compassion, sympathy and empathy we should have
for those today who are walking by the wrong rule and building according to the
wrong pattern. There is no air of superiority. There is only a sense of grief and
mourning over the ultimate end of these people if they do not change their ways
and follow the right rule and build according to the right pattern.
These people are concerned about earthly things rather than heavenly. The god
that they worship is their belly, or their lusts; and the glory that they seek for
themselves is really their shame. They look for what serves them, rather than
looking for how they can serve God.
In contrast, Paul shows that he and those who follow his teaching revealed from
God, are concerned about heavenly things, or those things which are to come.
Our citizenship is in heaven, and therefore the set of laws and rules which govern
us come from heaven, where our Lord Jesus Christ awaits till He comes again to
transform all those who are His and have submitted to His authority from this body
to a body like His glorious body.