4th October 2018

Philippians: Week 9 (Thursday, October 4 2018)


Chapter 3: 17-21


Enemies of the cross of Christ 3:17-19

v17 Brothers and sisters, be imitators of me, all of you. We were a model for you. Notice those that are living like that. v18 Many people live like enemies of the cross of Christ. I have often told you about them. And it makes me cry to tell you about them now. v19 These men are heading for complete destruction. They make physical desires their god. They are proud of things of which they should be ashamed. They think only about those things that belong to this world.


Verse 17 Paul is telling the Christians at Philippi to imitate him. But he is not being proud. He called himself ‘the worst sinner’ (1 Timothy 1:16). But now he imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16). So did people like Timothy and Epaphroditus. The Christians at Philippi can copy them too.

Verses 18, 19 Christ’s death on the cross gives men and women complete salvation. Some people refused to believe this. Paul warns the Christians at Philippi again about these people. He is full of strong emotion as he thinks of the spiritual danger to his dear friends at Philippi. These ‘enemies’ were some or all of these people:

1          Jewish Christians that Paul had already described as ‘dogs’ (3:2). By their ‘physical desires’ he means ‘wrong sex’. They also said that Gentiles must receive circumcision (3:2).

2          Christians who said that they no longer needed to obey the Law of Moses. They thought that, because of this, they could now do anything at all. Because God’s grace would deal with any sin, they could sin without shame. They would be giving God more opportunity to show his grace. ‘Perhaps we should continue to do wrong things. So then, God can continue to be even kinder to us. No! Certainly we should not do that!’ (See Romans 6:1-2.)

  1. Christians who believed the doctrine of the Gnostics. The Gnostics said that the body was evil. Therefore it did not matter how they used it. They could eat and drink to excess. And they could have sex whenever and however they wanted to. They said that these activities made no difference to their spiritual nature. This false doctrine had already affected the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 6:13). Paul is afraid that it will upset the faith of the Christians in Philippi.

      The citizens of heaven 3:20-21

      v20 We, however, are citizens of heaven. We are expecting our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come back from heaven. v21 When he does so, he will change our present bodies. He will make them like his own beautiful body in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:42-49). He will do this because he has the power to be in command of everything.


      Verse 20 Paul contrasts Christians with people who think only about this world. Christians belong to heaven. The Christians at Philippi lived in a Roman city. Its citizens obeyed the laws and customs of Rome. Christians are citizens of heaven. Therefore their behaviour must match the standard of their home in heaven. Christians are eager for the time when Jesus will return from heaven. Paul describes Jesus with the words ‘Saviour’ and ‘Lord’. From 48 BC the Roman emperors had the name ‘Saviour’ as one of their titles. Jesus is the true ‘Saviour’ and ruler.

      Verse 21 The human body is weak. It can suffer and die. When Jesus returns, he will change the bodies of Christians. He will make them like his own splendid resurrection body. ‘A dead body is ugly and weak. Jesus will change it. He will make it beautiful and strong’ (1 Corinthians 15:43). Christ has the power to change the bodies of Christians because he has overcome death. He has risen from death. He has complete authority. He rules ‘over all rulers, powers and *lords in heaven. He has a title superior to all titles of authority in this world and in the next one’ (Ephesians 1:21).

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