Philippians 3:17-21 - Distinguishing Those Who Walk as Examples

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1.      This passage has to do with the example we are setting before our families & friends.

a.       The way we live & what we do & say influences people

b.      We may not want to influence people, nevertheless we will—Good or bad.

2.      All will be watching us—If we do good and follow good, it encourages them to do good

3.      If we do bad and follow bad, that also sets a patter for others to follow.

a.       Those in the ministry: must be setting a good example for others to follow

Distinguishing Those Who Walk as Examples

Reason #1—Some walk as examples—v.17

Reason #2—many walk as enemies of the cross—v.18-19

Reason #3—the believer is a citizen of heaven—v.20-21

I.                   Reason #1—Some Walk as Examples—v.17

Paul & Others walked as an example—v.17

A.    Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern—v.17     

Other passages: Read 1Thessalonians 1:5-7-The Pattern-follower of us-Lord-examples to all cf. 2Tim.1:5

1.      1Corinthinans 4:16—Therefore I urge you, imitate me.

2.      1Corinthians 11:1—Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

3.      Philippians 4:9—The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 NKJV)

4.      1Thessalonians 2:10—You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe.

5.      2Thessalonians 3:7-9—For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you.

6.      1Timothy 4:12—Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

7.      James 5:12—But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes," be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment.

What did Paul mean?  Was Paul claiming perfection—claiming to be the perfect pattern for men to follow?  No!

1.      The Perfect Pattern was set for us by Jesus Christ—Philippians 2:5-11

2.      The very opposite was true of Paul, he declared

a.       That he could not stand before God in his own righteousness—3:9

b.      That he had not yet attained or was not perfect—3:12

c.       That he had no yet lay hold of  that for which Christ Jesus had laid hold of him—v.13

3.      Then what did Paul mean?  Just what he said?  Remember the CONTEXT!

Ø      Forgetting those things which are behind—3:13

Ø      Reaching for forward to those thing which are ahead—3:13

Ø      I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus—3:14

4.      Paul was a dynamic example in seeking to follow Christ.  Paul was saying—Follow my seeking after Christ—My seeking to be like Christ—Illustration of a Rock Climber who dies climbing.

B.     And note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern—v.17

1.      Paul wanted them to focus on godly men such as Timothy & Epaphroditus—2:19-30

Example—leaving an imprint or a mark made by a blow or some mold or dye.  The idea is that we should be seeking Christ with such diligence that our example will be like a powerful blow being thrown at those around us, just as a heavy weight boxer strikes his opponent with such power!

Every believer should follow Christ with so much commitment & diligence that he or she is an example!

Salt-creates a thirst, so should our lives create a thirst in people to want  more of Him!

II.                Reason #2—Many Walk as Enemies of the Cross—v.18-19

A.    For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

Who are the enemies of the Cross-of Christ?

1.      Acts 20:28-32—Paul had warned the Philippians of false teachers just as he had warned the Ephesians

a.       Judaizers—3:2

b.      Hypocritical & False believers within the church—So called Christians—faith without works is dead

—       Walk is used of Christians in v.17, therefore it refers to church members in v.18

—       Possibly even reached positions of leadership in the church

2.      Every unbeliever both in & out of the church walks as an enemy of the cross-of Christ

—       Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me—Matthew 12:30 cf. Revelation 3:15-16

—       It is common for believers to weep for the lost & false believers in the church

Matt. 23:37 . . .Lk. 13:34 . . .Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1 . . . 1Timothy 2:1-4

Note: 4 characteristics of “the enemies of the cross of Christ.”

#1—Their end: Destruction—v.19

·         Destroyed; to lose ones well being; to be wasted & ruined & given a worthless existence; One’s ultimate destiny!—According to their works 2Cor.11:15; Fruit of wickedness Rom.6:21; wages earned Rom.6:23

Note who will suffer destruction: Those who…

—       Reject Christ as being the only way to God—Proclaiming other ways—Not believing who Jesus said he was-John 8:21,24; 3:18,36; Mk. 16:16; Acts 4:12; Heb. 2:3; 10:26-29;

—       Do not accept the death of Christ as payment for his sins

—       Reject Christ substitutionary atoning sacrifice

—       Who try to come to God on their own works & effort

#2—Their god: Belly—v.19

·         Their appetite, passion. Mans evil desires that come from his sinful being—Desire’s the physical pleasures of this world—Matt.7:15; Mk.13:22; 2Cor. 11:13; 2Tim.4:1-2

·         When a person has a craving & and appetite for such things, and when those cravings begin to consume their thoughts, energy and efforts, they become his god.

Why do these people have such cravings all the time? 

#3—Their mind: earthly things—v.19

1.      Romans 8:5-6—Because they set their minds on things of the flesh, which leads to death—For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.   For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6 cf. Romans 8:13; 16:18)

2.      These things include commendable things that are accepted by society

a.       Religions – Spiritual pursuits – self-development – pursuing ambition or success – jobs, business

3.      The focus on our lives must be Christ & His cross—Not the things of this world—Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)

God Has Given Us A New Life—Let’s “set our minds on things above, for our citizenship is in heaven”

1.      2Corinthians 5:17—When you were brought into God’s kingdom you were totally transformed

2.      Galatians 2:20—You did not just receive something new—you became someone new.

·         This new nature is not added to the old nature but replaces it—You are completely new!

·         The old man loved evil, the new self—the deepest, truest part of a Christian—now loves the law of God, hates sin, and longs for deliverance from the unredeemed flesh—where sin still resides.

·         Sin no longer controls you, but still entices you to obey it instead of the Lord.

3.      Ephesians 4:17-19—Describes the former wicked lifestyle we all followed—Gentiles is ungodly people

·         This was the lifestyle of the wicked unbeliever—The spiritual Christian must demonstrate a changed lifestyle.

4.      Ephesians 4:20—Learned Christ is in reference to salvation, therefore, anyone who makes a profession of faith in Christ ought to have nothing to do with the ways of the world

·         James 4:4—any participation with the ways of the world is compromise

·         Acts 2:40—God saved us from this perverse generation

·         No one is saved who does not repent and forsake sin

·         To hold on to sin is to refuse God, and to scorn His grace

5.      1Corinthians 2:16—we now have the mind of Christ—think, act, & behave like Him—1Jn 2:6

6.      Ephesians 4:22—Strip off the old self—As taking off dirty clothes—once and forever action at salvation.

·         This means repentance from sin, not just sorrow about sin but a turning away from sin to God.

7.      Ephesians 4:23-24—Put on the new self—We must think differently

·         v.23-24—this is the consequence of laying aside the old self & putting on the new

·         Romans 12:1-2—God has given us a new spiritual & moral capability—which continues throughout our life as we obey God’s will & His word, by God’s Spirit in us (Titus 3:5)

·         This happens through reading God’s word & prayer—Then we will have the mind of Christ (Col.3:16)

8.      2Peter 1:4—Partakers of the divine nature—we now have a new self—holy & righteous inner person

#4—Their glory: their shame—v.19

Simply means men boasting in their sin & thing’s that should be shameful

III.             Reason #3—The Believer Is A Citizen of Heaven—v.20-21

A.       His life: The true believers life is heaven centered—v.20

1.      Our Names Are On Heaven’s Record

Revelation 3:5—The Book of Life— This is a promise not a threat!

It does not say He will blot out some names, but that He will not blot them out.

It must be noted that the ones the Lord gives assurance to are those who show evidence of holiness.  This promise is not for those who supposedly receive Christ & then live any way they choose!

a.       Philippians 4:3—Fellow-workers names are in The Book of Life

b.      Revelation 20:15—This is what determines our final entrance into the heavenly kingdom—If you name is not written in this book you are cast into the lake of fire.

c.       Revelation 21:27—Your name must be in it or you will not be in the heavenly city.

d.      Revelation 13:8; 17:8—Those who worship the beast do not have their names in the book.

e.       Matthew 10:32-33—When you confess Christ on earth, He confesses your name in heaven—To have you name confessed by the Lord shows complete acceptance by God in eternity.

f.       Luke 10:20—Our response should be to rejoice, because your name is written down in heaven.

g.      Revelation 17:8—Your name has been their from the foundation of the world!

2.      Since we are citizens of heaven, we should live like it!

2Corinthians 5:20—We are ambassadors for Christ—We're representatives of Christ with the authority to speak for Him—As ambassadors, we're not at home in this corrupt world, but our hearts are at home in heaven Hebrews 11:13-16

a.       We are to dress as a citizen of heaven & not of the earth

–        Wear modest clothing, not showing body parts—Do not wear Marlin Manson T-shirts

b.      We are to speak as a citizen of heaven and not of the earth

–        Matthew 12:34-37—whatever comes out of the mouth reveals what is in the heart.

–        Matthew 6:21—Jesus said wherever your treasure is, their your heart will be also.

–        1Corinthians 2:14-16—Unsaved people do not understand the things of God, because they are of the world-1John 4:5

–        Colossians 4:6—are speech is to be seasoned with salt—Tasteful words

–        Ephesians 4:29—No corrupt words, only words edify & minister grace to those who hear.

c.       We are to engage in the pleasures of a citizen of heaven not of earth.

–        Prayer, fellowship, communion, reading & studying the Word

d.      We are to live by the laws of heaven as well of the laws of earth

–        Being concerned about others, not yourself—Giving not getting—Loving not hating

e.       We are to worship the God of heaven, not the religions and gods of earth

B.       His focus: The true believers focus is on the return of Christ—v.20

1.      Believers are to constantly be looking for the Lord’s return

2.      Knowing that He will complete that good work which He began—Philippians 1:6

Kenneth Wuest points out that the Greek word “look”(KJV) is made up of three words put together

–        “receive”—speaks of the welcoming of a guest.  It has the idea of preparing for this guest,

–        “off”—speaks of withdrawing ones attention from other objects.

–        “out”—idea of waiting for, of stretching out the neck and waiting out or for the return of Christ

Combined together, “look” means to yearn, to eagerly look and wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus.

Hebrews 9:28—To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. 

–        The phrase “to those who eagerly wait for Him” is synonymous with “believers” or “the church”

–        Believers are to “eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”—Philippians 3:20

–        Believers are to anticipate the “blessed hope”—Titus 2:13

How Do We Eagerly Wait?

1.      Matthew 6:20—Jesus taught that we are to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven—He wants our hearts

2.      Colossians 3:1—He was teaching us to fix our hearts on heaven, “seeking those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on the earth.”

3.      Mark 4:19—The cares of this world are nothing but a snare & a deadly pit, For all that is in the world----the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life----is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:16 NKJV)

4.      Titus 2:11-14—denying ungodliness, worldly lusts, live soberly, righteously & godly

5.      1Peter 1:13-16—Live a holy life

6.      John 15; 1Jn 2:24—Abide in Christ

7.      James 4:7-10—Submit to God, Resist the devil, Draw near to God, repent of sins, Humble ourselves

8.      1John 3:3—Purify ourselves from sin

9.      2Corinthians 7:1—Cleanse ourselves, perfecting holiness in the fear of God

10.  Hebrews 12:14—Pursue peace and holiness

11.  2Timothy 2:22—Flee youthful lusts

Matthew 24:44—“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

1Thessalonians 4:16-18—For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.   Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.   Therefore comfort one another with these words.

C.       His end: The true believer will have a changed body—v.21

1.      The Believer will receive this glorious body at Christ return.

a.       Our body is now dying, aging, offering no hope of lasting forever.

b.      However the Lord will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.

c.       This body will be perfect, permanent, constant, unchanging

2.      Romans 8:23—The believers eagerly wait for the redemption of the bodies

a.       2Corinthians 5:2—And in this body we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven—This mean we will receive new bodies!

b.      1John 3:2—The bodies we receive we be like the resurrected Christ.

c.       Christ resurrected with the same body but in a glorified condition.

1)      John 20:27—the wounds from his crucifixion were still visible

2)      Luke 24:39—He was not a phantom—He looked human in every regard

3)      Luke 24:13-18—the disciples never question His humanity after His resurrection

4)      Luke 24:42-43—He ate real, earthly food

5)      John 20:19—Yet-His body could pass through solid walls

6)      Luke 24:36—He could suddenly appear out of no where

7)      Luke 25:41; Acts 1:9—He could ascend directly into heaven in bodily form

3.      Our bodies will be like that—“Who will transform our body that it may be conformed to His”

This is possible by the power of God, the very power that created the world and all that is in it

Paul says according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself


Think about the fact that you are a citizen of heaven.  What differences should this fact make to your outlook, behavior and priorities?  2Peter 3:10-11

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