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ch. 3:1-11    ch. 3:12-4:2

 

No Confidence In The Flesh (ch. 3:1-11)

 

In verse 1 Paul says that it is no bother or trouble for him to remind the Philippians of "the same things."  The words "same things" do not refer to the word rejoice, but to the things that Paul will say in the following verses.  He considers these things a safeguard or a reminder so they will live accordingly.  It is not burdensome for him to repeat himself if it will help his readers stay on the right track.

 

Not that we should be following the world of modern day advertising but one of the most important things to the world of advertizing is the repetitive nature of their commercials.  Over and over again the words and images we see and hear are burned into our heads so we will purchase what is being advertized.  The point is simple.  Repetition is one way to get a point across and have it burned into the human psyche.   

 

Verse 2 begins the warning or the reminder to Paulís readers.  Paul says this.  "Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh."

 

Note the word "dogs" in this verse.  For a Jew, this word was a derogatory word used for nasty, irreligious, and unrighteous people.  Jews considered the pagan Gentile as a dog.  The dogs Paul and the Jews had in mind here were not cute little household puppies.  They were ferocious, hungry, scavengers that roamed the streets.  The dogs that Paul had in mind here were Jews who were promoting circumcision in order to be saved.  Paul's choice of words is important here.  He is calling fellow Jews the same derogatory word that Jews would call their arch enemy, the Gentile.  The words "mutilators of the flesh" refers to circumcision.

 

In Paul's day there were certain Jews who said that in order to be saved one had to be circumcised.  Paul called these men evil.  Again, this is very strong language.  He is calling religious men evil.  They were evil because their position on circumcision took away the importance of the cross of Christ. 

 

One thing we should know about Old Testament circumcision is that even though a man might be circumcised, if he did not have a heart towards God and live accordingly, his circumcision was useless.  See Leviticus 26:40 and 41, Deuteronomy 10:16, and Jeremiah 4:4.     

 

The point to be made here is that the Law of Moses was nailed to the cross with Jesus.  The Law ended with Jesusí death on the cross and therefore circumcision had no place in New Testament thinking.  See Romans 10:4 where Paul says that Jesus is the end of the Law.  See also Colossians 2:14.    

 

It is human tendency to want to attain to Godís salvation through our own good works.  We have done this throughout the history of the church. There has been so many rules made up to help us get saved, but they are all meaningless. Then beyond that, we have made rules to keep us saved, but staying saved is all about continuing to trust Jesus with your life, which includes trusting Jesus for your salvation.  Paul clearly teaches this in all of his writings. 

 

When we add rules to getting saved or staying saved, we are telling Jesus that what He did on the cross was not good enough.  We just need to add a few things to improve on his work.   I cannot think of a worse sin that a Christian can commit.  This was the sin of the Judaizers.  Itís the sin of many people and groups today. Paul calls this another gospel in his letter to the Galatians, and he calls such promoters of this thinking dogs.  We need to remain pure in the gospel message we preach.

 

In verse 3 Paul calls true believers in Jesus who donít add rules to the process of being saved the real circumcised people.  New Testament circumcision is all about the Holy Spirit entering oneís life.  Paul calls this circumcision a circumcision of the heart, because in New Testament terms, issues of the heart are the important issues.  Outward issues are secondary. 

 

The fact of the matter is that if Jesus can change a heart, then all the outward things; all the outward sins get changed as well, because that which is in the heart will show itself in our outward actions.  The Old Testament dealt more with outward issues while the New Testament majors on inner issues. This is one reason why the Holy Spirit comes to live within us.

 

People who believe in what has been traditionally called "Covenant Theology, the alternative to Dispensationalism, believes that the Jews have no special significance in the mind of God in this New Testament era and in the ages to come.  They believe that throughout all of the ages God's plan has been for all people, not just Jews.  The Jewish era of the Old Testament, you might say was a bracketed period of time.  Covenant Theologians use verse 3, along with other verses, to prove their point.  They say that that true Children of God are those who have been circumcised in their heart, not their bodies.  I can understand how Covenant theologians come up with their thinking, especially when you read Romans 2:28 and 29 where Paul says that the true Jew is one who has been circumcised in the heart by the Holy Spirit. It is my opinion that the whole debate over who is a real Jew boils down to how you understand the Abrahamic Covenant. 

 

I understand the Abrahamic Covenant to be directed to Abraham, his descendents Israel , and to Jesus.  Covenant theologians understand that the Abrahamic Covenant was really directed to and fulfilled by Jesus alone.  The basic problem with that thinking is that Abraham would have understood that all the promises God spoke to him would have been directed to him and his descendents Israel, meaning, all the promises need to be fulfilled or else God misled Abraham and we know that God misleads no one.         

 

Also in verse 3 Paul says that the true believers "put no confidence in the flesh," something he begins to explain in the next few verses.  The word "flesh" here is most likely in reference to the outward act of circumcision, but, Paul also uses this word in his writings to denote all aspects of fallen human nature.  

 

If anyone has good reason to put confidence in the flesh, our outward humanistic activities, it is Paul, and for the following reasons.

 

The word "flesh" here is appropriate because Paul speaks of circumcision, but a good understanding of Paul's thinking is that any activity apart from human effort and without the assistance of the Holy Spirit is flesh and does nothing for the believer.  Circumcision is just one example of a fleshly activity, albeit, that was one of the more important fleshly activities that challenged the early church.   

 

Paul says that true believers don't boast in any fleshly activities.  Their boast or glory is in Jesus and Him alone.  When seeing any Christian ministry today, a valid ministry is one who puts no boast in the ministry.  All of the glory and boasting goes towards Jesus.  I would dare say that this would rule out many ministries as being Biblically valid today.

 

Once again, in verse 4 Paul says that if anyone should be boasting about personal achievements, it is him.  He lists many of them.  Note that they are all associated with Judaism because the underlying threat to the church that Paul is addressing here is from the Jews who want to put Christians under the bondage of law.     

 

In verse 5 Paul says that he was "circumcised
on the eighth day."   According to God's
instructions to Abraham that were codified into the Law of Moses male babies had to be circumcised on the eighth day of their lives, and so right away Paul was found to be in obedience to both God's instructions to Abraham and the Law before he even knew there was a Law to be obeyed. 

 

Paul continues by saying; "of the people of Israel ." He was born into the people of God. This was another plus for Paul.

 

Paul then goes on to say that he was born into the tribe of Benjamin.  Paul points this out for a reason.  After Israel was captured and sent off to Babylon , ten out of the twelve tribes were lost and dispersed but there were two tribes that survived the Babylonian captivity, and they were Judah and Benjamin.  So in one sense of the word, that was important. 

 

Another important aspect of being of the tribe of Benjamin is because Israel 's first king, King Saul, was of that tribe.  This might well be why Paul's parents named him Saul, which was his Hebrew name.  Paul was his Greek name.  Many people think that God changed his name from Saul to Paul after he became a Christian but that is not the case.  Acts 13:9 says: "then Saul, also named Paul."  Saul was his Hebrew name while Paul was the Greek equivalent.  Remember, Paul was raised a Jew in a Greek community in Tarsus .  He was born a Roman citizen and thus the reason for his Greco-Roman name.

 

Paul said that he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, meaning, he was a pure, undefiled Hebrew.  There was no mixture in his heritage.  

 

Concerning the word "Hebrew" the general consensus seems to be that it was a term applied to those living beyond (to the east) the Euphrates River, where Abraham originated from.  Hebrew differs from the word Jew that finds its roots in the children of Judah .  That being said, after the fall of the ten northern tribes of Israel to the Assyrians, the word "Jew" became synonymous with all Israelis.  The first time we see the word "Hebrew" in the Bible is found in Genesis 14:13 where Aram is called a Hebrew, that is, one who came from beyond the Euphrates River .         

 

Then Paul says that "in regard to the Law, a Pharisee."  A Pharisee was one group in the ruling class of Israel known as the Sanhedrin.  Pharisees were known to be the strictest followers of the Law of Moses in the Sanhedrin.  When it came to following the Law as the Judaizers were telling Christians to do, they had nothing on Paul.  He followed and obeyed the Law more than most Jews.  His father was a Pharisee as well (Acts 23:6).

 

Concerning Pharisees, many people think that these men were conservative in religion, culture, and maybe even politics.  We can't think of these men in today's standards of conservatism.  In some respects, their divorce laws for example, we would call them liberal.  That being said, these men were extremely legalistic.  They protected the Law of Moses, 613 rules, by adding their own laws and commentary.  So, if the Law of Moses said one thing, in order not to disobey that law, they made an even harder law to obey.  In obeying that harder law they certainly would not disobey God's law.  It was all about protecting the purity of the Law of Moses and making sure it was obeyed.  

 

In verse 6 Paul speaks to the issue of zeal, something that these Judaizers had lots of.  He says that he had so much zeal that he persecuted the church.  Paul went out of his way to have Christians arrested and even killed.

 

Paul closes verse 6 by saying; "as for legalistic righteousness, faultless."  Paul was blameless when it came to obedience to both the Law of Moses and the rabbinical laws.  It was for this reason that he was advancing as a Pharisee so fast.  See Galatians 1:14. 

 

When Paul associates the word "legalistic" with the word "righteousness" in verse 6 he is saying there is more than one type of righteousness.  Legalistic righteousness is attained legally, by following certain legal rules.  In this case the rules are from the Law of Moses.  The book of Romans shows us that there is another type of righteousness that is "apart from the Law," as Paul puts it in Romans 3:21.  This righteousness is by faith in Godís grace.  Simply put, when we trust in what Jesus has done for us, God proclaims us to be righteous.  This righteousness is a free gift.  You do not work for it.  You simply trust in what Jesus has done because He has paid the price for this proclamation of righteousness over our lives.

 

Paul tells his readers that when it comes to legalistic righteousness he was indeed faultless.  I do not think that Paul menses words.  When he said he was faultless, we can believe him.  That was what being a Pharisee was all about.  Pharisees had a very high esteem of the Law of Moses, so high that it protected it, or, fenced it in with their own rules which were stricter than the Law of Moses.  This meant if you obeyed the rabbinical laws instituted by the Pharisees, you would not break one of the 613 rules of the Law of Moses.      

 

We will now see that all of this legalistic righteousness means nothing to Paul any longer.    

 

What Paul has just done here is to measure his past life with the lives of the Judaizers who were attempting to make Christians into Old Testament Jews.  These false teachers were saying that in order to be a real Christian, you had to become a Jew and obey the Law of Moses.  In some Christian circles today, this very thinking, sad to say, is coming back into the church.

 

These Judaizers had nothing on Paul in these outward issues of righteousness.  By far Paul wins the battle of outward legalistic style righteousness if one was going to make a comparison.

 

Much of the Christian Evangelical world, although not in the exact same category as the Judaizers, were very legalistic in their thinking.  Many Evangelicals in the past believed salvation, or initial salvation was by faith and faith alone, but, when it came to keeping your salvation, or, staying saved, it was very much a matter of obeying rules.  It was very much a matter of legalistic righteousness.  Sad to say, much of Evangelical Christianity has now swung too far in the opposite direction and has become way too worldly in the way they live.    

 

In verse 7 Paul says that all these things that he has just mentioned, things that were very important to him and to the Jewish society in which he lived, he now considered a loss.  He gladly forsook all of these glamorous things for Jesus.  To him there was no contest between Jesus and the prestigious life he lived as a Pharisee.  He gave it all up.  It was worth absolutely nothing in his eyes after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus .  If you have really met Jesus, you will at least, or should at least, feel the same way.

 

Our English verb "I now consider" in the Greek text is actually a Greek perfect middle indicative verb.  A perfect verb is a completed action.  Indicative means the action of the verb is a certainty.  The middle aspect of this verb means the action is being done to Paul.  In other words, Paul has allowed Jesus into His life which has caused him to have certainly counted all that he once considered a gain to be a loss.  This counting is a completed action.  He has made up his mind that there is no comparison between the glory of his past life and Jesus.

       

In verse 8 Paul goes even farther in considering things loss.  He just said that his past religious life means nothing to him any longer.  Now he says that he considers all of life a loss when compared to his relationship with Jesus.  There is nothing more important to Paul in life than Jesus.  It does not matter what it is.  There is nothing in life that even comes close to being as important as Jesus.  I wonder how many of our lives as Christians reflect this same mindset.

 

Paul goes on to say that he "has lost all things," and Paul was right.  When he was in house arrest as he wrote these words, he had next to nothing.  He had no prestige, no money, and to use bad grammar, "no nothing."  Paul was poverty stricken in every since of the word except spiritually.  Some scholars even believe that Paul was once married and that because of his conversion to Jesus his wife left him.  We cannot say this for sure, but some reputable scholars believe this to be so.  It would not surprise me if Paul had have been married at one time in his life.  

 

Also in verse 8 Paul says, "I consider them all rubbish that I might gain Christ. The King James Bible translates the word "rubbish" as "dung" and in this case the KJV translators are more accurate while the NIV translators who have attempted to be a bit more diplomatic and culturally correct in their wording is probably less accurate to the text.

 

The Greek word "skybalon" that is translated as "dung" means any kind of "refuse," including human refuse.  

 

In verse 9 Paul comes back to the matter of righteousness that the Judaizers were saying comes from obeying the Law of Moses.  Paul simply says that he has forsaken all of that.  He does not want that outward righteousness any longer in his life.  It is not part of the gospel.  He would rather have the righteousness that comes from Jesus.  This righteousness is a free gift that is given from Jesus to those who believe, to those who have given their life to Jesus in genuine repentance and faith. 

 

Jesus can give us this righteousness because He lived the perfect life for us.  This is why Jesus obeyed the Law of Moses while on earth.  He obeyed it on our behalf.  He obeyed it for us and now God looks on the obedience of Jesus and says that finally someone has obeyed the Law as I wanted and it is Jesus my Son.  If we place ourselves in the arms of Jesus then we are found to be righteous just as He is righteous even though we are far from being righteous.  This is the good news of the gospel.  The Jews understood this to be good news because they understood being righteous as attempting to follow all the rules which was extremely difficult for sinful humanity. 

 

The Gentiles did not understand the gospel as good news as the Jews did because they were never under the Law of Moses and knew little about the Law of Moses.  That being said, they were still sinners an alienated from the presence of God.  

 

All this is important to know because as Christians we should never institute any rule that tries to make someone righteous.  Real righteousness comes from trusting Jesus with your life. It cannot be found anywhere else no matter how religious the rule may look, and the Judaizers looked pretty religious, but in Paulís mind they were evil.

 

In verse 10 Paul says he wants to know Christ. Knowing Jesus is the most important thing to Paul, but he continues.  Knowing Jesus is also knowing two other things.  The first is knowing the power of His resurrection.  Paul wants that same power that was demonstrated when the rock was blown away from the mouth of the tomb of Jesus.  He wants the dynamic power that caused Jesus to rise from the dead.  He wants this in his own life, and I think we can clearly see that he had it in his life.

 

When we think of the dynamic power of God we often think of performing miracles and causing people to be healed of their illnesses, but I think it is more than that.  It is the dynamic Holy Spirit power that can transform a life into the likeness of Jesus that we will see Paul speak to in a couple of sentences.    

 

Paul did not stop with the power stuff.  We would all like that kind of dynamic power in our lives.  Paul knew that Jesus experienced more than a powerful life of miracles.  Jesus also experienced great suffering and which was the other thing that Paul embraced once knowing Jesus.  Knowing Jesus to Paul meant having the power of the Spirit but it also meant suffering throughout his whole life as Jesus suffered while he was on earth. 

 

Also in verse 10 Paul says, "becoming like Him in His death."  The suffering of Jesus reached its climax when Jesus was killed as a criminal.  Paul was more than willing to die the same death as Jesus.  He was willing to have his head cut off as a criminal even though he was not one, and that is what eventually happened to Paul.

 

For Christians living in the first century Roman world life was not easy.  Persecution was ramped.  When someone became a Christian it was a serious matter.  For them, in those days, it could be a matter of life and death.  It was not about getting saved and living happily ever-after.     

 

This section ends with the words "and so somehow to attain to the resurrection of the dead."  Through all these things Paul wanted to end up on the right side of Jesus when the Day of the Lord came and life eternal would be given to all those who gave themselves to Jesus.  The word "somehow" suggests to us that maybe Paul had doubts about attaining to the resurrection of the dead, but I donít think he had any doubts.  Somehow we can reach that place of resurrection, and that somehow is only by trusting our lives with Jesus implicitly.

 

The word "somehow" might well imply that before we reached that all important day, there are some very rough roads that we must travel, of which Paul had many.

 

The difficulty with the word "somehow" seems to me to be a product of the aorist subjunctive verb tense in this verse.  It is hard for us to translate this verb tense into English.  Some commentators suggest that the word "somehow" actually expresses a certain expectation on the part of Paul and not doubt.  That is my position on the matter. 

 

 

 

 

Pressing On Towards The Goal.  (ch. 3:12-4:2)

 

Paul has just told his readers to what degree he is dedicated to following Jesus.  Now in verse 12 he tells the Philippians that he has not attained to these things as yet.  He is not perfect, and this from a man that most of us would consider pretty close to having perfection and dedication to his Lord.  We know that perfection only comes in the next life.

 

The Greek verb "have already attained" is an aorist verb.  An aorist verb, at least for the most part, is a one time action verb.  This suggests that Paul believed there would be one moment in time when he would reach the state of perfection.  I believe this would mean that perfection comes when our mortal sinful bodies are transformed into an eternal glorified body.  Perfection does not come in this life, despite the thought that it does by some Methodists.     

 

In the second half of verse 12 Paul says, "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."  The Greek verb "I press on" is an aorist subjunctive verb which suggests that Paul is constantly pressing on in the attempt to take hold of the reason why God first called him. 

 

This might be seen as a bit of a tongue twister here, but simply put, God took hold of Paul for a specific reason.  Acts 9:15 makes this very clear.  Jesus had work for Paul to do and he was pressing on to the work that Jesus had for him, and not just doing Godís work, but being the person that Jesus called him to be.

 

Just to note what Acts 9:15 says.  There, we see that Paul was called by Jesus to proclaim Him to the Jews, to the Gentiles and their kings, and, along the way to suffer greatly for the sake of Christ.  For Paul, coming to Jesus had nothing to do with get saved and live happily ever after.  If that is the gospel you have adopted, it is the wrong gospel.       

 

The word "press" suggests effort.  Paul was one who put great effort into being a follower of Jesus.  Yes, he preached faith and not works, but that does not mean he did not work as a result of his faith.  His faith, or trust in Jesus drove him to do Godís will for his life.  Too often some have stressed salvation by faith and not by works, which is very Biblical, but in so doing they forget about works altogether.  Valid Biblical works stem from genuine faith.  If there are no works of faith, then you might question if there is any valid faith in the person who has no works.  This is the message of James.    

 

In verse 13 Paul calls the Philippian Christians brothers. Once again we see that Paul views these people as brothers, not as subjects under his apostolic authority. 

 

Paul goes on to say in verse 13 that he does not consider that he has taken hold of what he wants to take hold of.  He has not quite done all that there is to do.  Paul fully expects to be released from house arrest and finish the job that Jesus asked him to do.  Paulís desire was to go to Spain and preach Jesus there as seen in Romans 15:24.   

 

Continuing in verse 13 Paul says that he forgets what is behind him.  Much of what Paul is forgetting is from his past life of rigid legal living as a Pharisee.  Paul left the institution of religion, never to return.  He had no intension to duplicate legalistic Judaism into his new Christian life.  He forgot about all the legalism.   Now he is "straining towards that which is ahead."   We see the word "straining" here.  It is clear that Paul is putting extremely great effort into his life as a Christian.  He is not lax.  He is not sitting back doing nothing.  Of course, the straining here is not pure human effort that he speaks of in Galatians.  This is human effort enabled by the Holy Spirit.  It is cooperation with the Spirit of God who has given him the ability to do God's will.   

 

Concerning legalistic religion, Paul gave it all up.  It was now worthless to him. That which was once his life has now been flushed down the toilet so to speak.  There is no way that he would ever think to implement such legalistic religion into the church, the ekklesia of Jesus, and he never did.  It is my thinking that Paul would be extremely disappointed with the institutional church as we know it today.  To him that would be to re-introduce legalistic Judaism back into his life.     

 

In verse 14 Paul says that "he presses on towards the goal."  He is using a sporting analogy here.  The word goal in the Greek text speaks to "a mark" in which a runner is running towards.  It is as if Paul is running a race, as we see him using this analogy elsewhere in his writings.  He is neither looking to the right or to the left as he runs.  He is looking straight ahead.  Nothing is distracting him for the mark.  Paul is a very intentional person.  Once he sets his mind to do something, he will do it.         

 

In verse 14 Paul says that he is making all this effort because he wants to win the prize.  Note the sporting analogy here.  He uses the word "heavenward."  This tells us that the prize, or the mark, he is fixing his life on is in the next life.  He also uses the word "called" in this verse.  Paul was called by Jesus in Acts 9 to a certain ministry, but in another real sense of the word his final calling is to Jesus Himself, where he will see him in the next life.  This is the final calling of all Christians.  In our thinking we need a proper balance between our earthly calling and our heavenly calling.  Often we get out of balance and promote one over the other.  It has often been said that we too often can love the work of the Lord more than the Lord of the work.  I do not believe that was ever seen in the life of Paul.

 

Paul understood that some day he would meet Jesus once again in person.  At that point he would be rewarded for all of what he had done in his life for Jesus.  You can read 1 Corinthians 3 to learn more about the rewards we as Christians will receive on that day. That is the mark, the goal that Paul is pursuing here.  He does not want to disappoint, either himself or Jesus on the day he stands before his Saviour. 

 

In verse 15 Paul says "that all of us who are mature should take such a view of things."  Note that the Greek word translated as "mature" can also be translated as "perfect," but sine Paul has already said that he was not perfect; we cannot translate this Greek word as perfect here.

 

In view of what Paul has just said, a mature Christian is one who knows God's will and is straining by the enabling of the Holy Spirit to do God's will.  Paul is not speaking to a young struggling Christian here.  

 

In the last part of verse 15 Paul says that "if on some point you think differently, God will make that clear to you".  Paul is suggesting that there might be some issue, that some of these people may thinking differently than him on.  He still views these people as mature believers but that does not mean they agree on every last detail.  So what does Paul do?  Does he try to figure out where the difference is and try to make them think like he does?  No, he does not do that.  He leaves it all up to the Lord.  God will reveal to his readers what needs to be revealed.

 

The idea that Paul is leaving such things to God to reveal to the Philippians is interesting to me.  Many view apostolic authority as being to heavily authoritarian in nature, but Paul does not use his authority as an apostle here.  He is not straining to make these people understand every last detail as he does.  He leaves this up to God and the Holy Spirit, and he has to, because he cannot be with these people long enough to make sure they believe every last detail to how he believes.  This shows that Paul knows that in the final analysis the growth of these people doesnít totally depend on him but on God.

 

In verse 16 Paul says that "we should live to that which we have already obtained."  Simply put, "put in practice that which you already know."  When you do that, what you do not know will some day become clear to you by the Lord.  Another possible way to view this is that Jesus has placed us in a certain place alongside of Him in the Spirit.  We should thus live accordingly.

 

In verse 17 Paul says, "join with others in following my example."  Paul clearly tells his readers that they should follow his example.  In context I believe the example that Paul is telling these people to follow is the way he is approaching the will of God.  He has just told them that he is straining to accomplish the goal that Jesus has set forth for him.  He wants to win the prize that is available for him in heaven.  He wants to be victorious in life as a Christian.  He is a driven man when it comes to fulfilling his God-given ministry.  It is this that Paul is asking these people to follow.  I don't believe Paul is asking these people follow him in every last detail of his life.  They do not have the same ministry as Paul.    

 

I think Paul was telling his readers to follow him in the things he just said.  These things include making a great effort to do Godís will, whatever that would be in an individualís life.  Not everyone was called to do what Paul did, but we are all called, and the same effort that Paul put into his calling should be found in our lives as well.  So Paul is not asking these people to do as he does in every respect.  He is asking them to be as he is.  There is a big difference between the two thoughts. 

 

Then Paul says to "take note of others who follow the pattern we have given.  What pattern is Paul speaking of here?  He is speaking of oneís dedication to the Lord.  He is not speaking of a list of rules to run a church by.  He is talking about living a dedicated life for Jesus.  Pattern does not suggest a formal blueprint.  It suggests a living example of one who follows Jesus, and Paul is that example. 

 

"Take note" means to acknowledge or watch for the sake of showing others that this is the way the Christian life should be lived.  Do not let a good example go unnoticed.

 

It appears to me that Paul is talking about what we have called discipleship in recent decades.  Some call it mentoring.  The point is that those who are mature in the Lord, as Paul spoke about earlier, should help those young believers mature in the things of the Lord.  

 

In verse 18 we see that with many tears Paul reminds his readers something he has said over and over again, that many "are enemies of the cross of Christ."  As I have noted throughout my commentaries of Paul's letters, he puts his heart into all he does.  He has a great heart-felt love and concern for those whom God has given him to care for.  Do all pastors and Christian leaders have to express their concern in tears?  Well, we are all different individuals who express heart-felt emotion differently.  Whatever the case, and, no matter how one expresses heart-felt love and concern, if it is not visible in one way or another I suggest it my not exist.      

 

I believe the enemies of the cross of Christ are the Judaizers that he has warned these people about.  They are the enemies of the cross because what they teach degrades the cross.  They taught that people had to obey the Law of Moses in order to be a true Christian.  This degrades the cross because it takes away from its importance and meaning.  The cross is so important that it is the only way in which one can be saved.  Obeying any rule, whether an Old Testament Law or some man made rule is not acceptable for the purposes of salvation.  If you say that you have to be circumcised to be saved, then you are adding a rule to the cross and that weakens the place of the cross in salvation. 

 

There are many ways in which people weaken the meaning to the cross of Christ today.  The very fact that much of Evangelical Christianity fails to teach the multi-faceted aspect to the cross of Christ weakens it.  The fact that we have traditionalized the real meaning of communion, the Lord's Supper, has weakened the cross of Christ.  Adding rules to maintain one's salvation also weakens the cross of Christ.

 

One newer enemy of the cross of Christ is those who believe we can worship with those of other religions because we all end up serving the same God.  That by-passes the cross of Christ.  These people are present day enemies of the cross.  

 

In verse 19 Paul says that "their destiny is destruction."  Final destruction will come to these enemies of the cross in the next life after the Great White Throne Judgment of God as seen in Revelation 20:11 and following.  Some people use this verse to suggest that there is no eternal judgment.  The enemies of God simply are destroyed forever, not eternally living in the Lake of  Fire .  I think there are sufficient balancing Scriptures that show that eternal death for the enemies of God is always being in the process of dying, but never really dying.

 

Those Paul is writing about here are the Judaizers.  What Paul says here gives us a bit of insight into the Judaizers.  They are all about themselves.  Paul says "that their god is their stomach and their glory is in their shame."  Different versions of the Bible translate the Greek word for stomach here in a variety of ways.  The Greek word "koiia" can mean more than just the stomach.  It can mean "the inner parts of a human" and was commonly used for "the womb" of a woman.   

To me, this suggests their motivation is purely selfish, driven by money to feed their selfish desires.  They may glory in their fleeting prestige and earthly accomplishments, but according to Paul, their glory is in fact their shameful life.      

 

Paul then says that these men are earthly.  All of what they do is all about earthly success, fame and importance and has no eternal benefit.  Earthliness is a problem with present day Christians as well.  It has probably always been a problem but with to many material temptations these days, not focusing on them can be difficult.  Evangelical Christians of the last generation called this "worldliness."  That is to say, we spend too much time and effort on the things of this world and not on the things of the heavenly world, and it shows in our productivity as servants of Jesus.  This is confirmed by what Paul says next.    

 

In verse 20 Paul says that the Christian citizenship is in heaven.  We may reside and be citizens of a particular country here on earth but as Christians our main citizenship is with God in heaven.  Our first alliance is not to an earthly nation but to the Kingdom of God .  This should reflect in all we do.  I believe in this day when Christian involvement in politics is greater than it was in the last generation that sometimes we have travelled to far down the political road.  When place the nation in which we live ahead of the Kingdom of God , that should never be.    

 

The last part of verse 20 says that "we eagerly await a Saviour from there," meaning from heaven, who is the Lord Jesus.  Paul is eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus to this earth.  Here you see the balance between this life and the next.  We have just seen Paul speak about straining with all his might to do Godís will on earth right now, yet as he works hard, he is eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus to earth when his present work will be over.  There is nothing wrong with eagerly desiring the return of Jesus.  Some people get criticized for this.  People say that they are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.  Well, that is only true if the one eagerly waiting for Jesus is not working with Jesus right now.  That was not Paul and it should not be us.     

 

In verse 21 Paul says that at the return of Jesus He will transform our (the Christian) earthly bodies that we have into a glorious heavenly body, that which Jesus Himself has.  We will have a glorified eternal body just like Jesus has right now.  This is something we can look forward to, and it is clear that Paul is doing just that. He would have had good reason to look forward to his eternal state because his present earthly state had been battered and bruised while doing the work of the Lord.  This leads me to think about the Hyper Faith Prosperity Gospel that has inflicted the church over the last few decades.  This so-called gospel tells us that we should be healed of all illnesses and live in health.  That was not Paul's experience.  He bore in his body the marks of Jesus.  He had been flogged and the marks did not go away.  Jesus did not take those marks away from his body.  Galatians 6:17 clearly states that.  "From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus."  See 2 Corinthians 4:10.  Note also  2 Corinthians 11:24 and 25 where we see that Paul received thirty nine lashes on five different occasions.  He was stoned once and beaten with a rod three times.  All this would have left severe marks on Paul's body.  We have no evidence that Jesus ever took those marks away from him. No wonder Paul was eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus and his eternal glorified body.          

 

In the first part of verse 21 Paul says that Jesus will put everything under his control.   Jesus has this power, and He will do just that.  1 Corinthians 15 is all about the future resurrection of the dead when the time will come when Jesus will subject everything under His power, and the last thing to come under His authority is death itself.  At that point Jesus will come to His Father and hand it all over to Him.  Final victory will have been won.

 

The NIV puts chapter 4 verse 1 in this
section.  Paul tells his dearly beloved brothers that he loves them immensely.  He says this is how you should live.  The word "this" refers to all that he has said in this chapter.  All the things from putting great effort into doing Godís will, imitating him, and eagerly awaiting the return of the Lord.  All these things are a part of the true Christian life.

 

Those to whom Paul was writing was his "joy and his crown."  All that was important in his life had to do with Jesus and those to whom Jesus had him care for.  You can certainly tell that Paul and the believers at Philippi had a good relationship.  It was not like the relationship with the Corinthians believers that was in the process of crumbling.  

 

 

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