“Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on [e]so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own” (Philippians 3:12)
I am sure you have seen the phrase: “Be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet”. Very true indeed.
In my quiet time with the Lord this morning, I read that well-known passage in Philippians 3 (Paul writing to Timothy) which says:
“12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[d] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Apart from the overall message of this passage, which illustrates the importance of finishing the race rather than necessarily winning the race, never entertaining the possibility of slacking off because of infirmity or old age and committing oneself to finishing strong with whatever strength and abilities one has – until our final breath or when we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air and we get our first sight of the Lord Jesus …, there were some other very encouraging and helpful thoughts I gleaned from this passage. Let me share them with you now.
Is it possible for anyone to be perfect in this imperfect world we live in?
The thought of being “perfect” can be troubling and challenging when we think of all our imperfections as Christians. We are still a work in progress, after all…
The word “perfected” or “perfect” as used in the Bible to describe various people, does NOT mean “sinless perfection”. Only Jesus is perfect and sinless! In the Old Testament, we read about various Bible characters that were described as “perfect”, “blameless” or “loyal” – they were by no means sinless. For example – Noah, Asa, Hezekiah, Job and David (see footnote below for Bible references to these people). It is important to be aware that several Greek and Hebrew words are translated as “perfect”, but the thought behind them is either “completeness in all details” or “to reach a goal or achieve a purpose”
I discovered that there are three stages of perfection (as set out in the Scofield Reference Bible):
As the footnote in the Schofield Bible states: “For the Christian nothing short of the moral perfection of God is always the absolute standard of conduct, but Scripture recognizes that Christians do not attain to sinless perfection in this life.”