Epistles: Our Allegiance Is in Heaven (Philippians 3:17-4:1)

Good examples

Paul has a reason to explain his eagerness — he wants the Philippians to share his approach. “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” (3:15). Those who are mature recognize that they are not yet complete, but the immature sometimes claim victory prematurely. So Paul adds, “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (3:15). As you mature in Christ, you will learn to think this way, too.

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (3:16). Those who are in Christ should live like it (Eph. 4:1); we should let Christ make a difference in our lives, changing us, giving us zeal for his work. And to reinforce this active faith, we are to be attentive to good examples. “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Phil. 3:17).

Be zealous for Christ, he says. “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:18). Here Paul equates the gospel with “the cross of Christ.” The good news is based on a crucified Savior, for salvation comes through what Christ did, not on what we do. But many people are embarrassed by the cross and stress works instead.

“Their destiny is destruction,” Paul says (3:19). “Their god is their stomach” — they seek financial support — “and their glory is in their shame.” They glory in the flesh, in circumcision and works of the law. But now that Christ has come, it is shameful to choose these things instead of Christ, or to insist on both, when Christ is all that we need. Paul concludes, “Their mind is on earthly things” (3:19).

In contrast, Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (3:20). Our minds are set on heaven, not on earth. We focus on the spirit, not the flesh. Our hope is in the future, not in this world. “We eagerly await a Savior from there [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, 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” (3:20-21).

When Christ returns, we will be like he is (1 John 3:2). He will give us the righteousness we need, and that is why we can so eagerly strive to do his will. “Therefore,” Paul concludes, “that is how you should stand firm in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1). We cannot trust in our imperfect performance — we must trust in Christ and in the transformation that he will bring us when he returns (3:21). By keeping a clear focus on Christ, we can stand firm until the end.

Things to think about

  • Can I trust God to teach people who think differently than I do?
  • What is my attitude toward the cross of Christ?

Author: Michael Morrison

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