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23 August 2019

Perfection - Resurrection Hope in Philippi

(Philippians 1:1-10) – “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ.”
In this thanksgiving section of his letter, the Apostle Paul prepares his readers for a key theme of his letter – going on to “perfection” or “completion” in Jesus. What God began in the Philippians He will continue to perform “until the day of Jesus Christ.”
The “day of Jesus” refers to his future “coming” or Parousia when he will appear in glory to gather his elect. That day will be a time of judgment and salvation (cp. Romans 2:16, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 3:13, 5:5, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Ephesians 4:30, Philippians 2:16).
In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul equates this day with the Old Testament expectation of the “day of the Lord,” again, a time of judgment and salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9). On that day, “the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing” the Man of Lawlessness.
Paul presents himself as an example of going on to perfection. He put his Jewish heritage that he once held sacred aside to pursue completion in Jesus; “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them dung that I may win Christ.”
Of far more value to the Apostle is the knowledge of Christ:
The power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from among the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which, also, I am apprehended of Christ Jesus…I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” (Philippians 3:7-21).
Unfortunately, some believers had chosen a different path, making themselves “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Paul referred to certain Jewish Christians, probably Judaizers, like those who disrupted the churches of Galatia; “beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
Whose glory is their shame.” This clause refers euphemistically to the circumcision on which the Judaizers placed great value. In contrast, they who “worship God in the Spirit and rejoice in Jesus” have their citizenship in heaven, “from whence we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our lowly body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.”
In this letter, the future resurrection of believers will mean their “completion”; it is not optional and is a vital part of their salvation hope. And that resurrection will impart to them a new body of the same type as the glorious one that of Jesus Christ. It will not mean abandoning it for a disembodied state. What Paul strives for is full participation in the bodily resurrection of Jesus; anything less will mean disaster, not “perfection.”

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