Follow Me
Tim Temple


Our text is Philippians, chapter 3, verses 15-21:

Philippians 3

15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
16Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
17Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
18(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:
19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

It is a mathematical axiom that a building that is only slightly out of line at its base will be much more greatly out of line at its top, depending on how tall the building is. The taller it is, the more out of line it will be at the top, even if it is only a fraction of an inch out of line at the base.

From a spiritual standpoint, that was the problem Paul was facing with the Philippians. They had begun to listen to false teachers who were saying that in order to live the Christian life, one must obey the law of Moses. Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, but successful Christian living, they said, comes from obedience to the law of Moses.

While on the surface this may seem very good–in fact, it may be close to the truth–Paul is anxious for the Philippians and for us to realize that ultimately it will lead far from the truth. Of course, it is important for us to understand this in our generation because even though we are not specifically confronted with Judaism in the sense of the legalism that is involved in keeping the law of Moses, we do face all around us in the Christian world today the matter of legalism in the sense of obeying standards that we ourselves have made. So the same basic principle is true. As Paul wrote to the Galatians along this same line, “Having begun in the Spirit, we ought also to walk in the Spirit.” Or as he says in another place, “That as we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so let us walk in Him also.” Salvation is by faith, and our life, pleasing to the Lord, is a step by step walk of faith also.

The true approach is what Paul has been saying in these preceding verses. Remember back in verse 14:

Philippians 3

14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul is saying in that passage that we don't ever rest on our achievements, either our successes or our failures. We forget those things which are behind. In the Christian life, we are constantly to press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, walking step by step at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Maturity Required for Christian Living

In the verses at which we are looking, Paul is simply taking that personal example and the conclusion that he drew as a result of the personal example of his life and making that exhortation public.

In verses 15 and 16, we have the exhortation itself:

Philippians 3

15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded…

First, we need to notice that in giving this exhortation, Paul realizes, and we need to be aware of the fact, that in order to fully accept this exhortation, in order to fully apply this exhortation, there is required a certain amount of maturity. Notice in verse 15, the word “perfect.”

Philippians 3

15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded…

Most of us are familiar enough with the King James Version to know that he is not talking about sinless perfection. As you probably are aware by now, the word “perfect” in verse 15 is a translation of the Greek word, teleios , which means specifically “to reach an end,” “to reach a goal.” But it is used usually in the Greek text in the sense of having reached maturity. So what he is saying is, “As many of us as are mature need to apply this exhortation.”

Mental Attitude of Humility

With that in mind, the exhortation is that they should have a certain mental attitude. Notice in the last part of verse 15:

Philippians 3

15[Having said] Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: [now] and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

Notice the phrase in the middle of verse 15, “being thus minded.” When he says, “be thus minded,” in verse 15, he is talking about the mental attitude that he was describing in the previous verses.

Go back to verse 13, and notice that mental attitude. He comes to the conclusion of that section in verses 13 and 14. Notice what he says in verses 13-14:

Philippians 3

13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

We mentioned verse 14 a moment ago, but notice what he says. “As many of you as are mature have this mental attitude.” That was a mental attitude of, first, never thinking that we have arrived spiritually. We talked about that in some detail in our last lesson. “I count not myself to have apprehended.” Don't ever get to the place as a believer that you think that you have arrived spiritually.

The Upward Call of Christ

In fact, Paul warns in another place in the New Testament that at the very point in life that we think that we are in our greatest danger of falling. “I count not myself to have apprehended, but realizing that the result of our life and ministry will really not be counted in full until the upward call of the Lord Jesus Christ,” in verse 14:

Philippians 3

14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

As we noticed in our last lesson, the phrase “the high calling,” is not just a reference to Paul's call to the ministry or the fact that his call to salvation had a high note about it. There is a sense in which that is true, but basically what he is saying in verse 14 in the original text, is “the upward call.” It is a reference to the fact that we will someday stand in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is when the accounting will be made.

At this particular time in my life I have been greatly impressed of the need to never think that we have arrived spiritually and to never make an accounting at any certain point in this life before we stand in the presence of the Lord. We as believers have a tendency to do that, to say, “Well, I have done this and I have done that. Surely the Lord is going to recognize this particular gain that I have made for Him and His kingdom.”

Paul is saying, “The attitude that we must all adopt is to not think that we have arrived and to recognize that the real goal is not next year or next month or five years from now, but the real goal is the time when we will stand in the presence of Jesus Christ.” That is the upward call of Christ. So that is what he is talking about as when he says, “Be thus minded. I want all of you Christians,” Paul says, “to adopt this same mental attitude that is exemplified in my life.”

Let me pause here and mention that this shows the importance of Paul's life and the reality of Paul's life as we remember that all of this was not just something that Paul wrote down. We are all aware of the fact that it was God the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write what he wrote; and so when Paul is saying, “Be thus minded,” it is really God the Holy Spirit Who is saying, “Take Paul as an example, and adopt the same mental attitude that the Apostle Paul says that he has been led to adopt.” If God says it, then that means that it is entirely possible for us to do that.

We might look at the Apostle Paul's life just as an individual. We might think about his exhorting us to adopt his attitude; and we could say, “Well, that is you, Paul, and you are much greater than I am. I admire you for having that attitude, but I could never be that way.” But remember, it is God who says, “Be thus minded; ” and if God says it, we can be assured that it is possible to do it. Of course, it is only possible through God's strength.

Paul's Attitude Toward Disagreement

As we go on, Paul also realizes that he may not have total agreement about this. Some will feel as we have just been expressing, “Well, that is impossible for me.” Or some will feel that that is not really the way to live the Christian life. Notice in verse 15:

Philippians 3

15…and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

He recognizes that some may not see it the way that he does. They may be “otherwise-minded.” But notice what Paul's attitude is about that. He simply trusts God to take care of it.

Philippians 3

15…God shall reveal even this unto you.

Again, let me make a parenthesis here. Here is a beautiful example of the way to approach people who disagree with us about differences of understanding. It doesn't mean that we should just back away and not express ourselves. Paul clearly explained his understanding of what the Christian life is, what the goal of the Christian life is; and he has clearly said, “God wants all of you to have this same mental attitude. Be like-minded. It will take some maturity.” But then he says, “If anyone be otherwise minded, I am going to trust God to straighten that out.”

You see, we don't find Paul continually haranguing and hammering and beating the thing to death. He simply states the truth and explains it as clearly as is possible to explain, and then he says, “I am going to trust God to straighten out any disagreements about this. If anybody is otherwise-minded, I trust God to reveal this unto you.” That is another attitude of Paul's that it would be well for us to imitate, although as I say, that is not the basic point of this verse, but it is a good example and something that we need to keep in mind.

Achieving the Proper Mental Attitude

In verse 16, we have the method of achieving this mental attitude. Going back to what we were saying a moment ago, what if someone says, “Well that is Paul, and I just can't achieve that. I simply cannot have that kind of mental attitude. It is more than I can do.” Notice in verse 16:

Philippians 3

16Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

I suggest that verse 16 contains the method of achieving this mental attitude. How do we get to the place where we can be thus minded? How do we get to the place we can constantly forget those things which are behind and look forward to those things that are before and press toward the mark for the time that we stand in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ? How do we get to that place?

A very, very significant statement is here in verse 16. The King James Version is not quite as clear as it could be. The New American Standard Version translates this, almost literally from the Greek, in this way: “Let us keep living by the same standard to which we have attained.” See, he is not just saying that we need to agree among ourselves that we are all going to try to grow spiritually. The King James version of that passage might give us that idea, and there is some truth in that. We do all need to mind the same things. We do all need to agree with ourselves. There are other Scriptures that say that, but the basic point of this verse is, “Let us walk in the light that we already have. Let us keep living by the same standard to which we have already attained.” In other words, Paul says, “If you understand what I am talking about in verses 10-14, if God can reveal that to you and open your eyes to that, and if you have the maturity to apply that in your own life, then just keep walking by the means of what you have learned.”

Walk In the Light That You Have

James says much the same thing in James, chapter 1, verse 22–a very well known verse of Scripture:

James 1

22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only…

Here is another of the many Scriptures where God's method of maturity is brought out, and that is simply to obey the Scriptures that you have had the opportunity to learn. As believers, as we begin to study the Word of God and as we begin to realize the value of studying the Word of God, sometimes we begin to get frustrated about how little we know. In fact, a mature person as a human being, whether he is a mature Christian or not, recognizes, and this is true in the secular world as well as the spiritual world, that the more we learn, the more we realize we do not know. The bigger our circle of knowledge becomes, the bigger becomes that circle that is outside of our knowledge also. It is frustrating sometimes to think, how can I ever learn enough to be a mature believer? How can I ever learn enough to be the kind of believer that Paul was?

Here is God's answer for that. “Just keep living by the standard to which you have already attained. Be doers of the Word of God, and not hearers only,” as James says. Walk in the light that you already have, and as you are faithful to walk in the light that God has given you thus far, God takes this upon Himself to give us more light. That is what Paul is saying and on that basis, the most immature believer can be brought to maturity through obedience to the Word of God.

Let me mention, and I hope that you are aware of this already, this is the only means of maturity that God outlines in His Word: Learn the Word of God, and obey it. Learn a little bit more, and obey that. Learn a little bit more and obey that. There is no shortcut to spiritual maturity.

We live in a generation, I think, when there is a great emphasis on shortcuts to spiritual maturity. If we can just read the right book or go to the right conference or have the right emotional experience, we will be instantly spiritually mature. God never says that in His Word. Every verse of Scripture that talks about spiritual maturity, talks about practicing what God has revealed. One step at a time, line upon line, precept upon precept, God will lead us into maturity. There is no other method.

Follow Paul's Example

Verses 17-19 gives us some examples of both right and wrong attitudes in this regard. First, the positive examples are given in verse 17. You will notice we are referring to this as examples in the plural, because he mentions two examples. The first example is Paul himself. Notice, he says:

Philippians 3

17Brethren, be followers together of me…

“Be followers together of me.” Then he goes on to mention some others which we will come to in a moment. The phrase, “followers together,” is a translation of one Greek word, summimmetes . This is a combination of two Greek words, the word sum , which means “with,” and the word mimmetes , which means “followers.” That is why it is translated “followers together.” The basic idea is, “Join each other in following me, as an example, in the attitude of pressing toward the mark that we are talking about.” The word mimmetes , is the basis for our English word “mimic.” And that gives us an idea of what Paul is talking about. “Follow” in this sense, surprisingly enough, is to mimic Paul's Christian life.

Again, that may seem like a somewhat artificial way to achieve spiritual maturity, but remember it is God the Holy Spirit who is saying this: “Be mimics together of me. Join together in mimicking me.” As we recognize the basis for Paul's Christian life, we can understand why God would have the confidence in Paul to inspire him to write this. Put a marker here, and look back at chapter 1 for just a moment. Remember what Paul said was the basis for his Christian life. Philippians, chapter 1, verse 21:

Philippians 1

21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

As we talked about chapter 1, in previous lessons, Paul said, “To follow Christ, now that is what living really is. That's really living.” As we meditated on that passage, we asked ourselves what would we say is really living? Some people would say, “Ah, to find a place in the Ozarks and be able to sit on the porch of a little cabin and watch the beautiful sky and feel the crisp weather–that is really living.” Someone else would say, “To be able to go fishing in the Gulf and to spend all day out on a fishing boat and pull in a couple of marlin–now that is really living.” It would probably get amusing to talk about the various things that you might say and that I might say would be really living, but Paul literally says, “To follow Christ, to be utterly devoted to Christ–that is really living.”

Join Together With Other Believers

That is why, you see, as we go back to Philippians, chapter 3, God could have the confidence to say, “Mimic this man. Be a follower of this man, because his life is built around knowing Jesus Christ.” In chapter 3, as we looked at in our last lesson, Paul has elaborated on that.

Philippians 3

10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

That is why God said, “Be a follower of this man. Be a mimic of this man.” This verse also says that we should be imitators of other Christians. Notice he says in the last part of verse 17:

Philippians 3

17Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

So in other words, we can also mimic other believers who are walking uprightly. Paul says, “Join together in following me and look around for other believers that you can follow.”

If you are a new believer or one who has only recently begun to grow spiritually, no matter how long you may have been a believer, here is specific advice for you. How do you grow spiritually? The basic point is as God reveals His truths to you, you follow in the same standard to which you have attained. You walk in the light that you have.

But a second means of spiritual growth is to look around at other believers and find someone you can imitate. That is straight from the Scripture. The Word of God is always the primary basis of spiritual growth. But find another person who is feeding on the Word of God and who can say with Paul that to live is Christ, and imitate that person.

Our Example for New Believers

If you are thinking with me, you realize that that is a tremendous responsibility for those of us who claim to be spiritually mature, or getting there. I wonder, are you the kind of Christian that some new believer, some immature believer, could look at and mimic your life? What would that new believer's life be like if he imitated your life? Would he be anywhere near spiritual activity, spiritual growth? The Apostle Paul says, “There are believers, or there should be, in any assembly who you can imitate; and based on the obedience to God's Word and the imitation of those believers who are walking uprightly, you should be able to live a Christian life. You should have at least an idea of what the Christian life is all about.” So that is a tremendous responsibility. As we grow as believers, we should be able to have the kind of life that others can imitate.

Negative Examples

The importance of imitating positive examples is stressed by the fact that there are also some poor examples around. In verses 18 and 19, Paul talks about the poor examples:

Philippians 3

18(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:

Evidently Paul felt that this was important enough “to have told you often.” He says, in verse 18, “I have told you often.” And in fact it is so serious that as he tells us about it again, he even is moved to weep over it. “And now tell you even weeping.”

See, Paul didn't take these examples lightly. “This is a very serious thing, serious enough that I have had to repeat it, and as I repeat it, I weep over it.” Why is that? Notice he says specifically without mincing words:

Philippians 3

18…that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

They are enemies of the Cross of Christ. Here is the distinction of those poor examples. The distinction is that they are enemies of the Cross of Christ. Notice this important distinction. Notice the wording here. Notice that he doesn't say, “enemies of Christ,” or “enemies of the Gospel,” although those things would be true. He specifically makes the distinction that they are enemies of the Cross of Christ. That is a very important distinction, because we still have such enemies of the Cross of Christ with us today, and we always will have, the Scripture tells us. Peter writes that just as there were false prophets in the Old Testament, there will be false teachers among us. Paul is talking about those men when he says, “They are enemies of the Cross of Christ.”

Confusion Caused By False Teachers

There is a very practical matter in the distinction that he is making. You see, these false teachers that were dealing with the Philippians, and their decendants that we have among us today, are people who talked about spiritual things. That was the problem. They were leading the Philippians astray spiritually. It wasn't so much a matter of leading them into immorality or something like that, but they were confusing them spiritually. We have men, and we are getting to the place where we have women, who are leaders, who are teachers–supposedly spiritual people. They stand in the guise of God's representatives and they make light of what the Word of God has as the principles of His Word. They will lead us astray.

Those individuals may, and in fact probably will, talk about Jesus Christ. In fact, it is interesting to me that usually they will refer to Him as Jesus, and rarely do they use the name “Christ.” But they love to talk about the teachings of Jesus, the examples of Jesus, the life of Jesus, and the love of Jesus. It is when they come to His atoning sacrifice on the Cross that they show their true colors. You see, they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ. That is the issue that really divides them.

Incidentally, that is a good test. If you think someone may be a false teacher, if you think someone may be leading you astray, try to pin him down on what he believes about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Try to pin him down on what he believes about the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, because false teachers are enemies of the Cross of Jesus Christ. The real issue in their minds, and the Holy Spirit points this out, is the cross of Christ.

Ultimate End of False Teachers

Paul says, “I tell you this even weeping.” It may be that another reason Paul weeps is in the first part of verse 19. He talks about their destruction. And I think the Apostle Paul is a godly enough man that he has concern for the fact that these people are going to be destroyed. But notice what he says in verse 19: “…whose end is destruction.” Now why does Paul mention that? He goes on in the latter part of verse 19 to describe them more fully. He just makes this one statement about destruction then moves on, but it is very significant. We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture. “Plenary” means that all of the Scripture is inspired, and “verbal” means that the very words are inspired. So it is very significant, even a statement that seems to be out of place in the course of describing false teachers.

Why do you suppose Paul includes in their description something about their destruction? I think the reason for that is that there was a tendency among the Philippians, and there has always been a tendency among us, to think, “Well if they were really so bad, God wouldn't allow them to go on. If they were really all that bad, why are they so popular?” “Even though they walk around unhindered for the present,” Paul says, “I want you to remember their ultimate end is destruction.” You know, this is one of the major themes of the Psalms, the very often seeming success of the wicked. “Why do the wicked prosper?”, the Psalmist asks. Then he goes on to explain that how in God's own timetable the wicked will be justly dealt with by God, and don't be confused just because a false teacher or some other wicked person is not immediately dealt with by God.

Peter makes this same application, this same point. Don't get confused just because the wicked and the false teachers aren't immediately wiped out by God. The word “destruction” in verse 19 is a translation of the Greek word apoleia , and it doesn't really mean “destruction” in the sense that we think about it, in the sense of being annihilated. It means “to ruin” or “to waste.” So it is a reference, technically correct, to their eternal state of wasting and ruin in Hell–not that they will be wiped out and annihilated, but the fact that all of their lives, all of their accomplishments will come to nothing, and they will be eternally punished in Hell.

I mention that particularly to show the consistency and the accuracy of the Word of God. Even the very use of the word “destruction” here is, in the Greek language at least, a word that is consistent with the rest of Scripture–not that they will be annihilated, but that they will punished eternally.

In the last part of verse 19, he gives a further description of these poor examples. He says, in the latter part of verse 19:

Philippians 3

19…whose God is their belly…

There are many people to whom this description could perhaps apply, if we were going to really be cruel and take it out of context. What does it mean when he says, “…whose God is their belly”? There are several implications of that. The word “belly” here is a translation of a Greek word which means “appetite.” In the Greek as well as the English, the word “appetite” can apply to a much broader range of things than just our physical appetite for food. Basically what Paul is saying is, “These poor examples, these false teachers that we need to be so careful about, just live for personal edification. Their decision-maker in life is the fulfillment of their own desires, their various appetites. They do what they do to satisfy themselves.”

I have made the statement, and I am sure you have heard it made from other pulpits, that every person has a god. Idolatry is just as much a part of our system today as it ever has been, even though we don't physically bow down and worship idols. Whatever it is that is the basis for your decision-making in life is your god. Are you aware of that? Whatever it is that motivates you to dress the way you do, to talk the way that you do, to go the places that you go–whatever is the ultimate motivation for those things is your god.

Why do you refuse to do the things that you refuse to do, and why do you do the things that you are intent on doing? Every one of us has some motivation, aside from the fact that our schools or our employer or our parents may require us to. What is the ultimate basic motivation? Of course our motivation as believers should be to please Jesus Christ, to please God the Father. But if it is to gain popularity or to gain some sort of approval from any other source, then that source,I say, is your god. This is the Biblical basis for saying that. It is possible, you see, for our appetites to be our god: “…whose god is their belly, whose god is their appetite, whose god is their personal desire.” It is entirely possible to have an idol, even in the day in which we live. These false teachers, these poor examples–their god was their personal appetites, their personal desires.

Having Faith In Themselves

We have another suggestion based on this description of them as having their bellies–their appetites–as their god. It is interesting to notice that twenty-two times this word occurs in the New Testament, and twelve of those times, it is translated with our English word “womb”–the womb as in a mother. Some Bible scholars suggest when Paul says, “Their god is their belly,” that he is referring to their confidence in their natural birth. That would fit the pattern of these Judaistic teachers who were harassing the Philippians–their confidence in their natural birth, the fact that they were the sons of Abraham.

Other expositors have suggested that this is a reference to paying close attention to what they put in their bellies, paying close attention to what they eat. That, too, would fit the description of the extremely legalistic Jews.

The basic point, whatever interpretations you want to take, and they would all fit, is the dependence on something other than Jesus Christ as our means of spirituality or as our motivation in life, faith in ourselves and our own desires other than faith in Christ.

Fulfilling Desires of the Flesh

Another part of the description is not only whose god is their belly, but again in verse 19:

Philippians 3

19…whose glory is in their shame…

Not only do they shamefully worship their appetites, but they actually glory in that fact. It is a shame, isn't it? It is shameful to worship our own desires, to be motivated by our own desires. It is a shameful thing. Paul says, “Not only do they shamefully worship their own desires and are devoted to fulfilling their own desires, not only is that their god, but they actually glory in that.”

I think we have a good example of that philosophy today in the way that we can see that philosophy in the advertising that we see all around us. It is one of many examples, but I think it one of the places where it is most obvious. All of our advertising on television and on radio and in magazines is geared to the idea that if you just drink the right soft drink or use the right shampoo, life will be gloriously fulfilling. Now isn't that an example of worshiping our own appetites? You are going to swear that you have more hair if you just use the right kind of hair conditioner. Buick gives you something to believe in. Coke–it's the real thing. If you just drink the right soda pop or drive the right kind of car, everything is going to be all right. That, you see, is worshiping our own appetites, being devoted to fulfilling our own desires. That is a shame in God's sight.

Do you also recognize the same advertising has running all through it the idea that if you don't agree with this, you're just out of step? If you are among those who say, “I don't swear I have more hair,” or if you say, “I'm not sure Coke is the real thing,” or “my Buick doesn't give me anything to believe in,” there is something wrong with you. You are out of step. We glory in worshiping our own appetites. We glory in satisfying our own desires.

You see, those poor examples are just as much with us today as they were with the Philippians, and the Holy Spirit writing through the Apostle Paul says, “Watch out for this. Imitate the good examples. Imitate the positive examples, because the poor examples are all around us.” This is summarized in the phrase of verse 19:

Philippians 3

19…who mind earthly things.)

That is a good summary. Everything they are devoted to, everything they build their lives on, is simply a matter of this earth and this life, with no thought whatsoever for what lies beyond. You see, to do that would be just as foolish as a person devoting his entire life and his every waking thought to what he is going to do now. I know there are some kids who do this without realizing it, but I am talking about someone consciously thinking, “I'm not going to look one day beyond high school graduation. I'm going to devote myself to the things that lead up to high school graduation, but I am going to give no thought to anything beyond that.” We would think that was very foolish, wouldn't we? If we saw that developing in our children, because sometimes we do see it, we try to warn them about it. We try to straighten out that attitude. But you see, that would not be one bit more foolish than a person living this life and giving no thought whatsoever to what lies beyond this life. And that is what Paul is talking about. The poor examples, the false teachers, mind earthly things only. They give no thought whatsoever to the bigger frame of reference the Scripture points out for the believer.

To whatever extent these things characterize your life, you are playing right into Satan's hands. That is exactly the way Satan wants us to think. And that is why Paul says, “I've told you this before, and I don't apologize for telling you again, and I even weep as I say it. Be careful of these poor examples.”

Heaven Contrasted to Earthly Things

The life of a believer in fellowship, however, presents a vivid contrast, because it is a life of expectation. And that is what we have presented to us in verses 20 and 21. Notice he says by way of contrast in verse 20:

Philippians 3

20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

The way that verse is worded, it is obvious in the English as well as in the Greek, that it is by way of contrast. These things we should be very careful about because our life is a contrast to that. For–we should be very careful of that word “for.” “For our conversation is in heaven.” The source of our expectation is here in the first part of verse 20. “Our conversation is in Heaven”–Heaven contrasted to the earthly things of verse 19.

The word “conversation” here is a translation of a Greek word that would be better translated “citizenship.” See what Paul is saying? “Life is just a temporary visit to another country. Our real citizenship is not here in this life on earth. Our citizenship is in Heaven. We are temporarily visiting this life.” And again, the Scripture consistently says that. We are strangers and pilgrims only here for a short time.

Our Expectation In Heaven

The last part of verse 20, and then on into verse 21, talks about the satisfaction of that expectation. Our expectation is not only Heaven, as he says in verse 20, but:

Philippians 3

20…from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Not just the expectation of Heaven, but the personal appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. You know, that should be the determining factor in our life. Have you ever stopped and thought about the fact that we have every possibility of standing in the presence, physically, of the Lord Jesus Christ before this day comes to an end? That is our expectation. Our citizenship is in Heaven and not only that, but:

Philippians 3

20…from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

In verse 21, even better than just the fact that we will see Him, He will deliver us from these vile, failure-prone bodies. Why do you suppose the Apostle Paul includes that promise that we are all so familiar with here in verse 21? I think it is because he realizes that as we think about this public exhortation that Paul is making, we may be aware of how far short we fall of having the right motivations. We may identify too strongly with those poor examples. We may be thinking that really my appetite is my god, too. Paul wants to remind us, “Look this is not all there is. We look for the Savior, and we will be with Him in Heaven. Not only that, but these failing, disappointing bodies will change, and the day is coming when we will be like His glorious body. We will be free of the limitations of sin, free of the problems, the vexations, the disappointments that come because of our sin nature.”


As we conclude, let me ask you the question, what is your confidence in life based on? We have been talking about Jesus Christ as the basis for confidence. What is your expectation and your confidence in life based on? Is it based on your physical or financial or educational or career accomplishments? Is it based on your material possessions? If it is based on anything less than your accountability to Jesus Christ and your citizenship in Heaven, sooner or later it will fail you.

Paul had the greatest qualifications for confidence that anybody could have, and he said, “That is all a failure. That is all a total loss, compared to the excellence of confidence in our relationship to Jesus Christ.”

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