“…for you are all partakers with me of grace…And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
For many years of my early Christian life, I read this verse as an exhortation to ‘do’ something, to behave a certain way, to force myself to be something I’m not. As you can imagine, my self-efforts to become pure and blameless were futile and exhausting, like a zebra trying to beome a Clydesdale.
Then I learned several surprising things about what Paul was saying here. First, he wasn’t exhorting me to do something; he was praying I would live into something. Second, he wasn’t talking about something I should become — “Pure and blameless” — he was describing my current status now that I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. My sin-stripes really are gone, and I really could be pulling one of those sleighs on a cool Superbowl commercial. As Alec Motyer puts it, Paul is calling us to “become what we are.”
Rest and rejoice with me in this good news today. For further reflection on this passage, read what Motyer has to say:
“When Paul says elsewhere that ‘if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation’ he is teaching that God has done for us everything that needs to be done; when Peter says that ‘his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness’, there is the same note of completeness; and he adds the explanation that in this way, by God’s promise, we ‘become partakers of the divine nature.’. Both Paul and Peter speak of this work of God in the past tense: it is our foundation inheritance as believers. The remainder of our earthly life is an outworking of what God has already ‘in-worked’. We are called to become what we are.
This is the mighty imperative of Christian ethics. Every other ethical system calls us to the costly effort of becoming what we are not. But in the full salvation already bequeathed to us in Christ, the new nature is already ours, waiting for expression, poised for growth, until its potential is triggered by our obedience to the word of God.” Alec Motyer, Commentary on Philippians, 55