Philippians 3:15: Thinking Differently

The following took place some time ago on an internet forum. It has undergone some additions and subtractions for the purpose of clarity and readability.

“Then as many as are perfect, let us be of this mind; and if you think anything differently, God will also reveal this to you” (Philippians 3:15).

The verse above (and others such as 2 Peter 3:18) are perverted by many who think that true Christians “grow” FROM believing the false gospel of Galatians 1:8-9 TO believing in the true gospel of Romans 1:16-17; that true Christians “grow” FROM believing in the false christ of 2 Corinthians 11:4 TO believing in the true Christ of 2 Corinthians 4:6. “Lee” was one such unstable soul who twisted Philippians 3:15 to his own destruction (cf. 2 Peter 3:16). Lee wrote:

“all truths, even: Philippians 3:15 And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

Paul isn’t much worried! Paul acknowledges a process here. God will reveal the truth to those who seek it, and his children will listen to his voice, that’s why they’re his sheep. But Paul does also imply that this may take some time…

The process that Paul is referring to here is the striving and pressing on to be more conformed to Christ in their character and conduct. Those Christians who are mature or “perfect,” are to be of that mind. Not all are, for some think differently. They are certainly not living in sin (cf. 1 John 5:18), but they are not striving for obedience as they ought. And Paul is confident that God will reveal even this to them.

Paul and all Christians are NOT striving to be more conformed to Christ in their character and conduct thinking that their striving forms any part of the ground of their salvation. For they glory in Christ Jesus and do not trust in flesh (Philippians 3:3). But since those who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception believe that their “faith” makes the ultimate difference between salvation and damnation they trust in flesh and do NOT glory in Christ Jesus. Notice what Paul says next:

“Yet as to where we have arrived, walk by the same rule, being of the same mind.”

So where have they all arrived at? Complete salvation, from regeneration to final glory, conditioned on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. Their salvation was infallibly secured by Christ, so Paul and all Christians have assurance of their salvation based on His righteousness alone and not a righteousness of their own (Philippians 3:9).

Those who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception reject the righteousness of Christ and put in its place their own righteousness (Philippians 3:9). God curses all who do not perfectly keep His law (Galatians 3:10). God will bless the One who keeps His law perfectly and has met in full the demand it makes on all who transgress it (Romans 6:23; Galatians 3:11-14). Jesus Christ is the Representative and Substitute for certain sinners. He obeyed and died in the place of certain sinners. These sinners are blessed for His name’s sake, their sins are forgiven for His name’s sake (1 John 2:12). And since these certain sinner’s sins are forgiven for His sake, all for whom He lived and died will without fail, receive eternal life. If only one sinner for whom Christ lived and died were to end up in hell, then forgiveness would NOT be for His names sake.

I think one HUGE error for the universal atonement advocates is that they ignorantly and mistakenly think that “faith” is the condition for salvation. They think that God has lowered the standard to something they could meet, or be enabled to meet. On the contrary, NO SINNER can meet the conditions for salvation. There are NO conditions for the sinner to meet, for God saves unconditionally. To say that God saves unconditionally is to say that God saves His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. If “faith” is the condition, then obviously Christ’s work alone is not the condition.

True faith (as a necessary fruit of eternal life) believes that Christ alone met the conditions for eternal life. Scripture is very clear that perfect, spotless righteousness in word, thought, and deed is the condition for eternal life (Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:10-14).

“Not that I already received or already have been perfected,”

Paul is referring to being perfected in his own character and conduct, since it is clear that he has already been perfected in the eyes of God’s law and justice by virtue of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone (Philippians 3:8-9).

“but I press on, if I also may lay hold, inasmuch as I also was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not count myself to have laid hold, but one thing I do, forgetting the things behind, and stretching forward to those things before, I press on after a mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul presses on toward perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1). Paul is showing here that none of his following after in obedience and seeking to bring his character and conduct in conformity to Christ is performed from a legalistic or slavish motive. It is all motivated by the absolute certainty of final glory based on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone (Romans 8:15; Philippians 3:12).

In sum, Paul’s goal was to lay hold in his own person that which he already possessed in Christ Jesus. Paul was already considered righteous in Christ (Romans 5:15-21) and it was truths like this that compelled him to press toward the mark (Philippians 3:12) and perfect holiness in the (reverential) fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

“Then as many as are perfect, let us be of this mind; and if you think anything differently, God will also reveal this to you. Yet as to where we have arrived, walk by the same rule, being of the same mind”(Philippians 3:12-16).

To walk by the same rule, to be of the same mind is to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. All Christians (whether a babe, or mature)believe the SAME gospel. The mature Christians (Paul for example) are evidently striving more diligently to be more conformed to Christ in their character and conduct. As certain Christians grow in maturity, they too, will be of this mind.

Note that Paul in Philippians 3:15 is speaking of a character and conduct issue, NOT an essential gospel doctrine issue like the Person and Work of Christ. Certainly basic biblical morality is inextricably linked to a genuine profession of the gospel of Christ, but since Paul addresses them as true believers then they are not so off the mark that they are either following a false christ or putting a lie to their profession of faith (cf. John 10:4-5, 14:15, 21-24; 1 John 2:4).

All Christians believe in Christ’s deity and His effectual atonement. They do NOT think differently about who Christ is, and what He accomplished at the cross. Anything that Christians think differently about is NOT the gospel. If a Christian disagrees with another Christian over a particular doctrinal issue it would certainly have nothing to do with the essential doctrines of the gospel or issues of basic morality (again, see John 10:4-5, 14:15, 21-24; 1 John 2:4).

“But may it never be for me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any strength nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace and mercy be on them and on the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:14-16).

In the Philippians passage Paul mentioned walking by the same rule. He mentions again, in Galatians 6:16, those who “walk by this rule.” Whoever walks by this rule, is the one who has peace and mercy on him; whoever boasts in anything else does not have peace and mercy on him (Galatians 6:16-17).

Those who “walk by this rule” believe that it is the cross of Christ that makes the only difference between salvation and damnation. Whatever one believes makes the difference between salvation and damnation is what one boasts and glories in. The one who believes that it is the work of Jesus Christ alone that makes the only difference between salvation and damnation boasts and glories in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and does not boast or glory in self.

Those who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception believe that their own efforts make the difference between salvation and damnation, and thus they boast and glory in self. There is no peace and mercy to them. They are ignorant of the righteousness of Jesus Christ as the sole ground of acceptance with God. They need to be saved out of their ignorance (Romans 10:1-4).

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