The Reading: Philippians 3:12-16
“ … not that I … am already perfect …” (v.12) RSV
“Salvation” (last week) affirms our status and relationship with God through Jesus. But “sanctification” (this week) spells out the gradual changing process that takes place in us. As Paul says elsewhere, we “are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Salvation, or perhaps more correctly justification (peace with God) happens instantly when we hear and accept the good news of God’s love and acceptance of us. Sanctification is a lifelong process whereby we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), so that we become increasingly what we profess to be.
Paul makes it quite clear that despite his Damascus Road conversion and his joyous acceptance by the Lord, he has a long way to go to be perfect. He writes, “Not that I … am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own …” (v.12). he will continue to “pommel the body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others he should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Although he “knows whom he has believed” and though he has a “sure and certain hope”, he never presumes. Daily he seeks to improve and press on, lest he should fall away and be lost.
But none of this means that Paul is unsure or in doubt. He does not let past failures dog him. As he says, “forgetting what lies behind” he is “straining forward to what lies ahead” (v.13). Where he is at any moment of time is provisional. He must continue to be changed and to become more like his Lord and master, Jesus Christ.
This vision and goal truly energises Paul, and it will do the same for us. Settling down on our laurels will demotivate us. Like riding a bicycle we cannot stand still. We must forever go forwards and upwards. How wonderful to have such a worthwhile task in our life!
Thank you Lord that you accept me in my imperfect development. Inspire me to do better and be better. Amen.
1 Who will be saved?
2 When will we be perfect?