By Gregg Bing
(Continued from last issue)
In our last issue, we looked at Paul’s admonition in Philippians 3:15-16 that we “order” our Christian walk according to a certain “rule,” a rule based on having the right mindset. Paul describes this proper mindset in the preceding verses of Philippians 3. Its essence is found in the words of verse 8. “… that I may gain Christ.” This is the mindset of a mature believe, the mindset that will bring a believer to maturity.
Paul follows this admonition with some examples of this type of ordered walk, some positive, some negative.
“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” (Phil. 3:17)
Paul directs us to become “imitators” of him. The expression “join in following my example” is in the imperative mood, meaning it is a command. The Greek word consists of two parts: (1) the word “mimeomai,” from which we get our English words “mimic” and “mimeograph, means to imitate or to follow exactly and (2) the preposition “sun” which means “together with.” All believers are to be of the same mind and walk by the same rule; all believers are to be imitators of Paul.
This does not mean that we are to become “Paulites” or worshippers of Paul, but, as Paul told the Corinthians, “to follow Paul as he followed Christ.” Paul was quite humble; he never magnified himself, but he did magnify his office (Rom. 11:13) as an apostle of Jesus Christ, called of God to a unique apostleship to the Gentiles. We are to follow Paul in his doctrine, as the steward of the dispensation of the grace of God. We are to follow Paul in his attitude in faithfully serving the Lord Jesus Christ, the very attitude we find in Philippians 3:7-14.
Paul also directs us to “note those who so walk as you have us for a pattern.” Paul’s life was a pattern (type or example) for us to follow, but his was not the only one. There were others who labored with Paul in the ministry, both men and women, whose lives we should give special consideration to as well. Timothy was a young man whom Paul described as “likeminded,” a man who sincerely cared for others (Phil. 2:20). Silas and Barnabas were fellow apostles who faithfully travelled and served alongside Paul even through times of great persecution. Aquila and Priscilla were a husband and wife team who “risked their own necks” for Paul (Rom. 16:4). We also need to take note of brothers and sisters in Christ that we know personally who “so walk” and learn from their example.
“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: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” (Phil. 3:18-19)
Paul warns that there are many whose walk is not ordered according to the right rule or standard. Their walk is so far off that they have become “enemies of the cross of Christ.” This was not the first time Paul had warned the Philippians about these people. He had often reminded them in the past, and now he felt they needed to hear it again. Paul did not hesitate to repeat himself, especially in warning the saints about spiritual dangers (Phil. 3:1), even when the reminder brought him grief. Just thinking about those who walked this way caused Paul to weep. Paul had a genuine love and concern for others, and his heart was stirred when he encountered those who did not know the Lord (Acts 17:16).
Those who are “enemies” are filled with hatred and hostility. Paul warned about those who were not just “enemies of Christ,” but “enemies of the cross of Christ.” There are many religious groups who claim to follow Christ, especially in the areas of His teaching and His life, but they deny His finished work on the cross. The message of the cross is the gospel for this present age, the basis for our salvation, but the majority of religious people in the world hate this truth. Many are like the Jews of Jesus’ day. They are religious; they have “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). They are offended at the simple teaching that salvation is “by grace through faith” and that we are “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10) without any religious works. To them, the “cross of Christ” is a stumbling block. Others are like the Greeks of that same generation. They are humanists; proud and self-sufficient. They consider foolish the teaching that man is, by nature, a sinner and in need of a Savior, and that man’s salvation is only possible through the death of God’s Son on the cross of Calvary. To them, the “cross of Christ” is foolishness.
Some have questioned if these “enemies of the cross of Christ” could include believers? It doesn’t seem likely that a true believer could be an enemy of the cross, but believers can walk like these “enemies of the cross of Christ.” That is why they are held up as a negative example, to warn us against walking as they do.
Four things characterize the walk of these “enemies of the cross.”
1) “Whose end is destruction.” The word “end” can mean their ultimate end, or it can refer to the result of such a walk. The word “destruction” can mean destruction, ruin, loss or waste. An unbeliever who remains an enemy of the cross of Christ throughout their life will perish. They will be separated from God and reside in the lake of fire for all eternity. A believer who walks like an enemy of the cross of Christ will not perish, but they will lose rewards, and such a walk will result in a wasted, ruined life.
Believers should seek to walk in such a way that our lives bring forth fruit, works that will stand the fires of the judgment seat of Christ and will endure to the glory of God.
2) “Whose god is their belly.” The word “god” implies what they worship, serve, honor or value most in life. Rather than worshipping their God and Creator, their focus is on their own belly, satisfying the needs/wants of their own bodies, the desires of the flesh.
A believer’s walk should reflect a desire to be “well-pleasing” to the Lord, a life more concerned with our spiritual life and relationship with Him rather than our mere physical existence.
3) “Whose glory is in their shame.” They glory, boast, and rejoice in things they should be ashamed of; things that are not fitting, proper, or suitable. They have “debased minds,” leading them to do things “which are not fitting” (Rom. 1:28).
Believers should have nothing to do with these “unfruitful works of darkness.” It is shameful even to speak about such sinful acts (Eph. 5:12). These types of deeds are not proper or suitable for those whom God has called “saints,” meaning “holy ones” who are set apart for Him.
4) “Who mind earthly things.” Here is the fundamental problem with those who walk as “enemies of the cross of Christ”: their minds. Their thinking, their reasoning, their value system is centered on earthly things instead of on heavenly things. They have not counted the things of this life as “loss” that they “may gain Christ.”
Since we have been “raised with Christ” we are to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” We are to set our minds and hearts “on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2). We have been “crucified with Christ” to the things of this world. Our life is “hidden with Christ in God.” Christ is our life! Our walk should reflect this wonderful spiritual reality.
This earth is not our home. Like Abraham in the land of Canaan, we are merely pilgrims, sojourners here on earth.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)
Our citizenship is in heaven. The King James Version reads, “Our conversation (conduct, manner of life) is in heaven.” Both ideas are present in the original Greek word. We need to remember that we are heavenly citizens, and we need to think like heavenly citizens, even while living here on earth. What’s more, we need to conduct ourselves like heavenly citizens. Our walk should be worthy of heaven and worthy of our glorious Lord who dwells there (Col. 1:10).
One of the things that helps us maintain such a worthy walk is to keep our focus on the future, on eternity. As we live and serve the Lord, day by day, we are to “eagerly wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our hope, our expectation for the future is in Him. One day soon He will appear, and when He appears, we will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). He will change our lowly bodies of flesh, and they will be conformed to His wonderful body of glory. We shall be “like Him” and we shall be “with Him” forever in our heavenly home.
Until that day comes, Paul encourages each and every believer to live a life ordered by the same rule, a rule I believe is summed up in this simple statement in Philippians 1:21: “to me, to live is Christ.”