Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God
(Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)
Press On Toward The Goal #4
January 16, 2011
Before concluding this series, there is one matter that needs to be addressed dealing with the teaching
by some that Paul was referring to a spiritual resurrection while he occupied a mortal body, not the
bodily resurrection into immortality that comes after the mortal body undergoes corruption in the grave.
According to some, the spiritual resurrection is discovered with Paul's use of the word perfect , so let us
consider how he used this word. In order to maintain continuity, verses 3:10-15 are presented.
(10) I long to know Christ and the power which is in His resurrection, and to share in His
sufferings and die even as He died; (11) if by any means I might arrive at the goal, namely, the
out-resurrection from among those who are dead. (Philippians 3:10 WNT; 3:11 WAET)
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect [teleioo] , but I press on so that
I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12 NASB)
(13) Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting
what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the
prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect [teleios] , have this attitude; and if in anything you have a
different attitude, God will reveal that also to you… (Philippians 3:15 NASB)
In verse 12, Paul claimed that he had not become perfect, and then in verse 15 he claimed that others
are perfect. How could this be? After all, if there was anyone in his day that was perfect, one would
think that it had to be Paul. Was he being modest? Or, did he view himself less perfect than the other
apostles? Reading how he defended himself to the Corinthians, I would say no on both counts.
To answer this seeming contradiction, we need to consider the Greek words used in these verses and
how they are used elsewhere. In verse 12, the word perfect is the verb teleioo , which means "to
complete, finish, fulfill, or perfect," or "to make a full end, consummation." In verse 15, the word perfect
is the adjective teleios , which means "perfect, complete, or mature," or "that which has reached its
end." It is translated in various ways to indicate "labor, growth, mental, and moral character." Both
Greek words come from the root noun telos , which means "the end, literally of time or action." Keep in
mind, we are dealing with a verb and an adjective and their meanings are very much alike. Context
matters in understanding their use in scripture.
Verse 12 must be read in light of verse 11, and, in this context, Paul used teleioo to mean that he had
not reached the full end of his life that would lead him to attaining to the out -resurrection that he sought.
In other words, he had not reached his goal to receive the prize. Another way of stating it is that the
process of being perfected had not been completed. At this point, he had not finished the course and
won the race. He was still on the course, fighting the good fight, and keeping the faith. Simply, he had
not reached the end.
He was not stating that he had not reached spiritual maturity or high moral character or some form of
spiritual resurrection, as some teach. I do not believe that this is the meaning of verse 12 because it is
joined with verse 11 and the goal of the out-resurrection: Not that I have already obtained it .
In verses 10-11, the word resurrection forms two bookends: the power of His resurrection and the out -
resurrection. To claim that resurrection is some type of spiritual resurrection makes no sense. Paul
referred to it as His (Jesus') resurrection, and Jesus did not have a spiritual resurrection; He had a
bodily resurrection. Yes, He was resurrected into a spiritual body, but this is what resurrection is all
about: putting off the mortal and putting on immortality. Paul sought a spiritual, glorified, celestial body
in the image of his Lord.
To believe that two different types of resurrections are somehow in view for Paul in these verses defies
logic and his teaching. Paul was logical in the presentation of his evangel. He pressed on, for his end
had not come. He knew that his perfection would come when Jesus transforms the body of our
humble state into conformity with the body of His glory .
To add a little more proof to this, consider that Jesus said: "The third day I am perfected [teleioo] "
(Luke 13:32 ASV). Obviously, the third day is an inference to the day of His resurrection, also the day of
His perfection. In what is called His priestly prayer to His Father before He went to the cross, Jesus
said: "I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished [teleioo; completed, perfected] the work
which You have given Me to do" (John 17:4 NASB). Paul made a similar statement regarding his
desire to complete or finish [teleioo] my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord
Jesus (Acts 20:24). Finally, Hebrews 5:9-10 refers to Jesus as having been made perfect [teleioo]
and becoming the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest
according to the order of Melchizedek . He became the source of salvation because He died for the
sin of the world and was resurrected from among the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness
(Romans 1:4). He was made perfect by learning obedience from the things which He suffered, but He
was perfected in His death and resurrection. For by one offering He has perfected [teleioo] for all
ime those who are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14 NASB)
So, what did Paul mean by his use of the word perfect in this verse? He meant maturity, a maturity of
character and morals, that is, spiritual maturity. Paul desired that all who are in Christ be spiritual men ,
that is, spiritually mature, not immature infants (1 Corinthians 3:1). Paul made this clear.
We do speak wisdom among those who are mature [among the perfect] [teleios] (1 Corinthians
2:6 NASB [LITV])
Let us press on to maturity [perfection] [teleiotes; derived from teleios]… (Hebrews 6:1 NASB [KJV])
For this purpose also I labor, striving, according to His power. … Until we all attain to the unity
of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man [a perfect man] [teleios]
(Colossians 1:29; Ephesians 4:13 NASB [KJV])
Maturity in this life speaks of knowing God's purpose and plan and living an obedient, holy life with this
in view. Just as we are exhorted: "You shall be holy, for I am holy," so are we exhorted: "Therefore
you are to be perfect [teleios] , as your heavenly Father is perfect [teleios] (Matthew 5:48 NASB).
his speaks of maturity manifested in righteous, moral character.
(35) So that they might obtain a better resurrection… (39) And all these, having gained approval
through their faith, did not receive what was promised, (40) because God had provided
something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect [teleios] . (Hebrews
1:35, 39-40 NASB)
The Upward Call: #05-1116 [524]
By: Stuart H. Pouliot
Let us be clear that there is an ultimate perfection that comes with the out -resurrection, but, in verse 15,
Paul also referred to being perfect in this life: Let us therefore, as many as are perfect [teleios] , have
this attitude . It is untenable to think that Paul did not include himself in this group, for he went on to tell
the Philippians to follow his example.
We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we
ay present every man complete [perfect] [teleios] in Christ. (Colossians 1:28 NASB [KJV])
However, as long we occupy mortal bodies where sin dwells, we will not be fully perfected into the
image of our beloved Lord Jesus. We need a new body, but let us seek for it in the better resurrection!
Let us strive like Paul and press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ
Jesus so that we too will be made perfect in the out -resurrection.