Relative Perfection

In Philippians 3:15 Paul addresses the “mature”. It’s the same word translated “perfect” in 3:12. How can Paul say he’s not perfect, and then tell us to be perfect? The answer is relative perfection. Remember, false teachers were promoting perfection through circumcision. Paul’s argument is that if anyone could be perfect that way, he would be the candidate. The truth is Judaism does not complete the Gospel. Instead Paul turns to striving after Christ, knowing one day he will be perfected. Therefore relative perfection is being mature enough to look at imperfection the way Paul did. In verse 12 the verb is written to convey a completed action (you are perfect in heaven). In verse 15 it is a noun referring to a present condition (you are currently being perfected on earth). The comparison is between absolute perfection in glory versus relative perfection on earth. Can a person be relatively mature in this life? Yes. Maturity is demanded of spiritual leaders, essential for wise spiritual counsel, and the process of moving from spiritual infancy to adulthood. As we strive to be like Christ we mature, and take on the characteristics of future perfection.

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