Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Phillipians 3:12-16 ESV
In Philippians 3:12 Paul says, “I am not yet already perfect, I have not attained.” That gives us a lot of comfort: “Whew,” we say, “that lets me out. I don’t need to worry about how I live. Because if Paul, of all people, wasn’t perfect, my goodness, why should I worry?” But then in the fifteenth verse, after he has talked about what is true of him, he says, “Everyone who is perfect ought to have the same attitude that I have.” “Now wait a minute,” you say. “He didn’t say ‘perfect,’ he said ‘mature.’” Well, as a matter of fact, he did say “perfect,” both in verses 12 and 15 (check out the King James Version). So what has happened? Modern translators, reflecting modern culture, cannot stomach any idea of human perfectibility. So, even though Paul uses the same word in both places, they refuse to translate the second occurrence in the same way.
But if that is true, what is Paul saying? It looks like he is saying he is not perfect, but that everybody who is perfect ought to be like him! That makes no sense. So what is he saying? He is using the word, purposely, I think, in two “perfectly” good, but different ways. On the one hand, he is saying that God is not done with him. ”I don’t know Jesus yet like I plan to know Him, like I believe I am going to know Him. I don’t know yet the full power of His resurrection in all that it could do in me. I don’t know yet the fellowship of His sufferings, the likeness to His death, in all the possibilities that it has for me. No, I am not finally perfected.”
However, he then says, “I will tell you what God has done for me. He has perfected me in this sense. He has made my heart one; he has made my desires one; he has made my goals one; he has made me one. He has put before me the vision of what I may be in Christ, and He has imprinted it so much on my mind that everything in my life is subordinated to that vision, and in this sense, I am perfect, and you should be too.”
Brothers and sisters, that can be true for us. Done, finished, nothing more to be done? Of course not, not this side of heaven. But—one? Yes! “All for Jesus, all for Jesus, all my being’s ransomed powers; all for Jesus, all for Jesus, all my days and all my hours.” That perfection we can know—now.