We Need People to Imitate
Paul now turns his attention back to the Philippians. As one who presses toward “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” he counsels these Philippians to imitate him. This is not arrogance on Paul’s part. Living almost two-thousand years after these early believers, we take much for granted. They had no New Testament yet, but only a few letters from the apostles. It is questionable that even one of the gospels had been written when Paul was martyred. Though some of the believers in the churches would have been Jews and so knew the Old Testament, many believers had come out of pagan lifestyles, totally at odds with Christianity. Yes, they were born of the Spirit and indwelt by him, but they still needed flesh and blood witnesses—godly men and women who could embody for them Christian living. So, Paul points not only to himself but to others they might imitate, which reminds us of one of the purposes of the church—to provide godly examples which all may observe and emulate. And this begs the question: Am I being that godly example a young person might follow?
Paul then turns to those who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ, and that with tears. Are these the Judaizers who put their faith in circumcision and legal requirements? Are they the antinomians (Nicolaitans in Revelation) who pervert the grace of Christ into licentiousness? We don’t know. At any rate, we ourselves know that there are enemies of the cross of Christ—and what’s more, they often think they are friends of Christ—championing immorality, gluttony, indulgence, passion, and licentiousness. Paul rightly describes them: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” These are the contemporary peddlers of the worldly gospel of tolerance and inclusion, by which terms they mean assimilation into their own pagan lifestyles. Do not be fooled.
Instead, the Christian enjoys a heavenly citizenship from which we await our Savior. And having pressed on for the goal, we shall finally receive the prize of the heavenly body—not like the corruptible body we now have subject to temptation and weakness, but the glorious one Christ put on in his resurrection. Then we shall have attained the perfection for which we strive, then shall all things be completely subject unto him.
And so with the promise that our pressing on shall one day reach its goal, let us stand firm in the Lord embracing the promise.