"Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." (Philippians 3:15)
The Apostle also wrote in the following verses:
"Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule" (that is, the rule of God's Word,) "Let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample."(Phil. 3:16,17)
It is very evident that the Apostle Paul followed Christ closely with his heart and soul. By faith in Christ, he was very near Him, or he never could have said: "Be followers together of me," but would rather have said: "Be followers of Christ."
The first doctrine that presents itself in our text is Perfection: "Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect."
Secondly, Unity in purpose and endeavor: "Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded."
Thirdly,it appears there was a deficiency or necessity in some; for it is said: "If in anything ye be otherwise minded."
Lastly,we have a gracious promise to such: "God shall reveal even this unto you." So that the Church of God shall be all of one mind, all seek the same object, all walk in the same way, and all shall arrive at the same place of joy and comfort--the place to which departed saints have gone. It is a sweet consideration, to be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. We cannot enter into or fully comprehend the promises of God. Who can understand one promise in all its fullness that we find in the Word of God? It is beyond the reach of reason, sense and faith. When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. "For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor. 13:10,12) Knowledge will be perfect and complete when saints have laid aside their mortal bodies (their tabernacles,) and arrive in glory for ever glorified with the Lord.
First, Perfection. In the twelfth verse of this same chapter the Apostle says: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect," and in our text he writes: "As many as be perfect." There must be, therefore, a two-fold sense to this perfection. We know that saints in glory are perfect; we know that the Church of God in Christ is for ever perfect. There is nothing wanting there--there is no imperfection in Christ. There the whole Church is said to stand complete; one glorious body, the Bride, the Lamb's wife. Here is perfection for ever. The perfection then spoken of in the text must mean something else. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, says, in the 4th chapter and 11th verse: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints," (it is evident that in this sense they are not perfect, or how can it be said that the ministry is to perfect them)--"for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:" (when saints are brought into this perfect state in regard to their knowledge of interest in Christ, look at their stability!) "that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive."
Here is another text. Let us understand it for ourselves, and all will be well (1 Cor. 14:20) "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice by ye children, but in understanding be men." The marginal rendering is, "perfect, or of a ripe age." Be of a ripe age in knowledge of divine and heavenly things. Then again Colossians 1:28: "Whom we preach" (before it is said, Christ in you, the hope of glory,) "warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." You will see with me, that to be perfect in this sense, is to know our interest in Christ; to know we are perfectly pardoned through His precious blood; perfectly justified in His righteousness; that we stand complete in Him, and can never be lost; because the Lord has saved us, and that we are waiting for the coming of the Lord. Oh, that we may be led up to this perfection! This is very beautiful and precious, but how few saints have attained to it. How few can say, without any doubt in the mind or conscientious fear, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, I know that Christ died for me, and I know when I die I shall go to glory." How few seem to be brought to this state of perfection. What can a saint want more than to know that he is blessed, saved and justified, and will be ready when the Lord comes to take him home? Do not think this will make him indolent or careless, because men must be fed as well as children, and the Gospel feeds such.
Comparatively speaking, few are brought to such a state of perfection as to be enabled to say, "Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." (Romans 14:8) Some of the Lord's people have been brought to know this without any question or fear; but how few; and those who have done so, sometimes doubt it. Whenever we doubt this fact, how imperfect and unsatisfied we are. How we feel we want to know again, by another gracious visit from the Lord, or the application of some Scripture to the heart, that we are the children of God. When that is done then we want no more, and can say, "I am satisfied, I am blest." How sweet and precious to be brought to the enjoyment of this! God's people are now sometimes, and I believe all of them will be before they die. I believe God satisfies His people in their last moments of their safety in Himself. They may go trembling into the river of death, but they will lose their doubts there, and God will appear as He has promised in His Word--"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matt. 28:20) Saints are perfect in knowledge, when they know that they are the Lord's; that heaven is their home, and when the Spirit of God witnesses with their spirits that they are right. Perhaps you are thinking of some you were acquainted with, and who you never heard express themselves so. That is very likely, because just before we die, we are brought into such a state of prostration and weakness as to be unable to express ourselves. Still the Lord will give His people this blessed assurance that they shall die in the Lord, and they shall pass away triumphing in their spirits in almighty grace. This is perfection, and some of God's people know it. Have you and I this assurance? Do we know we are the Lord's? Are we not often saying:
"'Tis a point I long to know,
Often causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no,
Am I His or am I not?
This longing is hungering for Christ. "Those feeble desires and wishes so weak" belong to the Christian as much as the full assurance of faith. "Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect." (Phil. 3:15) If we know our safety, if we know we are the Lord's by His teaching, let us be thus minded, let us be all of one mind. You see how the teaching of the Holy Ghost leads us to this knowledge of faith and oneness with the Lord. If the Holy Ghost had not taught these people, they could not have desired this, and having been brought thus to desire, the desires of the righteous were granted, and some of them, for some special purpose and work, were brought whilst here below to know they were the Lord's. This will lead them to labor with confidence. "We know in Whom we have believed; that we have seen, declare we unto you." That man must be a good teacher, whether he teaches from the pulpit, the Sunday school, or anywhere else, who is brought to know this for himself. Then he talks about things he understands. When he speaks of Jesus, sometimes his heart glows with love to Him, because he can say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God." He then talks about Him as his own, about Heaven as his home, and about the Gospel as belonging to those that fear the Lord. But all are not brought to this confidence.
We pass on; and the Apostle said, "Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." I had almost said it is a natural consequence of this perfection to be one in mind and faith, because it leads to the same object. The Apostle, referring to the mind of man in his carnal state, before his call by grace, says: (Eph. 2:2,3) "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in time past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." God gives His people a right mind for heavenly things. In what direction does your mind go? Some may think perhaps this is very simple; there cannot be much religion in this. Let us look into the Scriptures: (Rom. 8:5) "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Is it in your mind to seek the Saviour? because to be heavenly minded is of God; to be sober minded is from Himself. The marginal rendering of spiritually minded is "the minding of the spirit"--thinking about God and heavenly things. Some say when they come to the house of God, "I hope I shall get some comfort; I do pray the Lord to be with me and bless me, and give me a sweet assurance that I am His." This is minding the things of the spirit. The mind of man is very wonderful. Oh! the efficacy of atoning blood, that can cleanse the thoughts and desires of the mind, give us proper desires, and enable us to mind spiritual and heavenly things.
"Then when landed on that shore,
Where my mind was fixed before,
In sweet raptures I shall see
All my safety was in Thee."
There are a thousand things to draw us aside from this. We admit when we get amidst time things we sometimes forget our high calling; but then we go back to it again. There is no satisfaction without it. I ask you, ye doubting ones, if to be spiritually minded, to be thinking of divine things, and calling upon the Lord and seeking His face, is not life and peace to you? What peace it brings to us, and makes us desire to know more and more of JESUS. We want to understand God in His most Holy Word, and be assured we are right in His sight. In Romans 7:25, the Apostle, after speaking of the conflict he felt within, came to this conclusion, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." There is the difference in every Christian. When the mind is right, his heart is set on Jesus and His precious love and he loves the Lord, his neighbor and brother, and all who desire an interest in Christ. The flesh will serve the law of sin, and our old nature will be a trouble to us till we lay it aside, as our departed sister has now laid her's aside. It will at times spoil the little comfort we have, and the little joy we get. Worldly desires and things pertaining to the satisfying of the body will get in the way, and we understand the meaning of these words, "But with the flesh the law of sin." At the same time with our mind, heart and spirit, we serve the law of God, by loving divine truth and the Saviour. So God will give His people to discern between these two powers in their own bosom; one looking after the things of this time state, which must be attended to, and the other minding heavenly things. To "mind" is to pay attention, of course. If a man's mind is set on a thing he will go after it. His flesh is not purified yet. There is the conflict; but his soul is right in the sight of God. So we mind heavenly things. The mind is fixed heavenward; we hope we shall get there. We have no doubt our friends who die in the Lord go there, but, oh! if we should be left out when the door is shut, what can we do?
The words "thus minded" in our text mean the same mind as Paul had. Writing of his love to Christ, the Apostle says: "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." Paul tells us that he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I suppose he meant that both his parents were Hebrews, and that he was brought up in the Hebrew religion. Circumcised the eighth day (that was very proper in that dispensation), of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, and Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee (these Pharisees lived very strictly and uprightly, outwardly, and adhered closely to the letter of God's Word) concerning zeal, persecuting the Church (but when zeal is not directed by the Spirit of God, it may be very injurious to the Church of God); touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. Paul must have been a very upright, sincere, and zealous man. "But (he said) what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." He found there was no salvation in them, and he laid them aside for Christ Himself, and found everything there. He cast his own righteousness aside, and found a righteousness in Christ better than his own--a righteousness that could justify and bless him. He laid aside all his merit, for in Christ he found everything. There he found peace which he had long labored for. There is nothing will give us right and properly directed zeal but a knowledge of Christ; and having Christ in view and being determined to publish His name and fame, let us go forth in His name teaching and admonishing His people, not to trust in themselves, but in the true and living God. Paul thought he could be saved (as he implies) by his own works and labors; but he threw all aside and found he was saved in Christ. "And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness." Paul's righteousness was about the best that human nature could ever produce; there was no flaw in his parentage, bringing up and religion, but he trusted in these things for salvation--"And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness." That did not deter him from laboring; it did not hinder him from trusting in Christ; it filled him with such holy zeal, that he really died for Christ. "As many as be perfect, be thus minded." Let us all give up our own righteousness for the righteousness of Christ; let us suffer for Christ; let us make Christ our all and in all; let everything that is human go for the love of the Saviour; let us glory in the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Let all fruitless searches go,
Which perplex and tease us;
We determine nought to know,
But a bleeding Jesus."
I do not wonder at Paul's comfort after he was brought into this position, and we shall find it the same, if we look entirely to Christ.
Thirdly, it appears there is a deficiency or necessity "If in anything ye be otherwise minded;" if you do not know your election of God, if you cannot say you are saved in Him, you would like to know this, but you have not the assurance. Your mind is set on heavenly things, but you dare not say that if you die now you would go to glory. Why not? Because the Lord has not revealed it to you. It is a sweet mercy that God has promised to comfort and bless such.
"If in anything ye be otherwise minded." What has your mind to say about these things? Can you say, without any fear, "I am the Lord's; if I die I shall go to heaven?" Some feeble minded Christians think they must get much better before they can be fit for heaven. They say, I will pray more, I will read the Bible more, I will do many things; but they do not do them. If we are in this state, it is of no use to think we can make ourselves better, and prepare ourselves for death. "Neither be ye of doubtful mind," said the Saviour. Let us again seek His face; let us come just as we are, without anything of our own, except our sin and misery, and our unrighteousness. Let us come, as we were singing (though we do not always practise it)--
It is not making ourselves better.
"If you tarry till your're better,
You will never come at all."
We must come without money, and without price. As long as we think we can do something we shall get no comfort from Christ, but "when they had nothing to pay he frankly forgave them both." I daresay they looked surprised, and said they never expected it. It is when our sins are prevailing within us and we feel lost, that we go to the Lord and He will not cast us off.
Lastly, we have a gracious promise: "God shall reveal even this unto you." Ye poor doubting, fearing, and distressed ones, God will teach you that you are His. "Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." Now, our dear departed friend had this mind. Her mind was set on heavenly things--she sought the Lord for many years. It is a sweet consideration to think she had such a peaceful, quiet home, and such a peaceful departure. How quietly she used to come to this place and worship the Lord, and no doubt at times her heart was comforted and cheered. A few months ago, when she was ill, she longed to go home and appear in glory. The Lord was with her then; now He has answered her prayers. All that her mind was set upon she enjoys now. Dear people of God, the Lord give us grace to be followers of her, and those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. May God bless the bereaved ones very much, and prepare them, that when they depart this life, they may depart in peace to meet their loved ones there, and be with Jesus for ever, blessing and praising the Lord for His grace, love, and mercy, that enabled them to set their minds on heavenly things, to love the Saviour, and glorify God whilst here, till they were taken to glory to bless Him there for ever.