Philippians 3:17-4:1 New International Version (NIV)
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.
18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Before we start, I’d like to quote one of my favourite verse that gives me and others a big encouragement and confidence when I am down the doldrums, and its it no less than the thanksgiving that Paul writes at the beginning of the letter to the Philippians
3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
In Acts 16 We are told that Paul who was in Troas had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him to come over to Macedonia and help them so he concluded that God had called them to preach the gospel to them. They stayed in Philippi several days.
The Roman colony of Philippi was an important city in Macedonia located on the main highway leading from the Eastern provinces to Rome This road, the Via Egnatia was the source of its prosperity. On the Sabbath they went outside the city gate to the river and spoke to the women gathered there. One of those women Lydia a dealer in purple cloth was a worshiper of God and probably a Jew. The Lord opened he heart to respond to Paul’s message and she and her household were baptised. Later on, Paul and Silas are put in prison – because Paul delivered a slave girl from a spirit (fortune-telling spirit) thus her owners couldn’t make money. In the prison, they were singing hymns and there was an earthquake, the jailer was going to kill himself but Paul told him not to, The Jailer asked what should he do to be saved Paul answered: Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved , you and your household. This started the church in Philippi!
When Paul got thrown in prison again, someone sent word to the church in Philippi that Paul was in prison in Rome. One day one of the main leaders of that church, Epaphroditus travelled some 800 miles to bring to Paul 3 things
- A financial gift from his church
- Report on how things were going in the church
- To express the church’s concern for Paul situation in prison.
And so in response to this visit Paul wrote this letter from prison and sent Epaphroditis back to Philippi to hand deliver his letter to them.
Paul wrote the letter to express joy and concern. Joy because the church had helped him and there was a special bond between Paul and his readers. Concern because the Philippians faced pressure from false teachings
In this passage Paul answers a few questions
1 What is the cross of Christ ?
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23).
Christ died on the cross and by doing this He took our sins, He bore our sins thus opening the way for us to be redeemed. He paid the price of our debts in full and once. The scriptures 2 Corinthians 5:21 say “He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Who are those enemies of the cross of Christ?
At the beginning of chapter 3, Paul mentions judaizing Christians who insisted on circumcision as a badge for salvation. He insists: for it is we who are in the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God who glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul explains that ‘our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in us, whom we have received from God. We are not our own. We were bought at a price. Therefore, we must honour God with your body.
We shouldn’t seek to accumulate wealth or fame, or live solely for pleasure, those things don’t fill the gap that only the Lord Jesus. Those material goods don’t make us happy, our spiritual hunger can only be satisfied by knowing the love and grace of our Father.
3 So what kind of life should we live?
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. What does Paul mean? Our life should be different from others, the light of Jesus should be shining through us.
I remember that before I knew Christ, this colleague called Margaret Mitchell, a teacher of German befriended me and invited me to the Alpha course. I must say it was as if she was saving me from drowning. The Lord had mercy on me. At the time, being stubborn and careless, I was utterly lost. The Alpha course put me back on track even though it took another twelve years for me to commit to Christ and see his love. I can truly say that every time I read Matthew 5:14-16 I think of her. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Have you noticed how difficult it is to pause in our busy life and spend time on heavenly things? What come to mind, reading the bible, ponder about a few verses. One could easily say: I’ll do it later and the precious time that we’d like to spend listening to the Holy spirit gets postponed. We can have different excuses.
However, the longer we stop feeding on the living water that is the Word of God, the worse we feel, we end up by feeling empty, discouraged and dried up.
The joy of having new life found in Christ our Redeemer is our motivation for persevering.
From morning to evening especially in difficult situations, it is vital to remember what Christ has done for us, agonising on the cross, obeying his Father for us but he didn’t leave us on our own, sending our comforter, the Holy Spirit.
And the Holy Spirit who is there by our side, nudging us in the good times or the troublesome times, when we are assailed by the roaring enemy Satan whose goal is to destroy us. Bearing in mind that when we are under attack, we may not be able to pray, but we have Jesus who is at the right of the Father and he defends us, he is our lawyer and an excellent one we can be sure of it. So we press on
4 Why would they refuse the gospel of the cross of Christ?
If we read the end of Philippians ch 1, Paul give us an explanation : conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then… I will know that you stand firm in one Spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.
This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed but that you will be saved.
We have to fight for the Gospel and this may be difficult first we don’t want to upset people but in that case as the Gospel is being perverted, these wolves in sheep’s clothing need to be kept at bay.
The solution for us now is the same as it was when Paul wrote to Philippi — in addition to preaching the true gospel, we must live in a manner shaped by the gospel.
As we live in holiness, imitating others who imitate Christ, those whom God is calling to Himself will see the genuineness of our gospel and follow the authentic Jesus (Matt. 5:14–16).
To end, I will add that the clear truth of Scripture is that if you are saved, it is not because of anything you did or ever could do.
You were dead in your sins, blinded in your understanding, excluded from the life of God because of your ignorance and hardness of heart (Eph. 2:1; 4:18).
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5).