A study of Philippians 3:17-21 reveals the value of a Christian mentor, the tragedy of rejecting Jesus, and the promise of following Jesus.
A study of Philippians 3:17-21 presents the value of a Christian mentor
V. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us
Someone is watching you. Evaluating. Measuring. Taking your cues. And following them. No pressure, right?
In this passage, Paul not only embraces the idea of others imitating him. He encourages it. Not because he’s perfect. He already confessed his imperfection. And he’s not full of himself either. But he understands the importance of mentoring other followers of Jesus.
It underscores both the importance and serious responsibility of disciple-making. Which Jesus commanded all of his followers to engage in.
Sure, it’s risky business. Because right after you hold yourself up as an example you’re sure fail. To sin. Me too. But Paul qualifies his meaning in Corinthians 11:1 by saying, “Be imitators of me, as I am in Christ.”
In other words, the pattern of behavior he invites the Philippian church to imitate is his example of striving to imitate Christ. Not his achievement of perfection. And that’s what Christian mentorship is all about. Not, follow me because I’ve got this Christian faith all figured out. But follow me because I’m following Jesus.
REFLECT & RECORD
Who has been a mentor in your life? How did they invest in your life and positively impact your faith? How are you investing in and making a positive impact on the faith of someone else? Would you feel comfortable inviting others to imitate your imitation of Jesus? Why or why not?
A study of Philippians 3:17-21 presents the tragedy of rejecting Jesus
In V. 18, Paul calls people enemies of Christ. And the Greek word for enemies is echthrós, which means hostility. But wait. Doesn’t Jesus love everyone? And the answer is yes he does. But here, Paul refers to people who completely reject Jesus Christ. And rather than choose to follow him as Lord, they follow their own desires and passions.
V. 19 Their end is destruction…
God grants you free will so you may accept or reject a relationship with Jesus Christ. But there is no riding the fence. No maybe. You’re either all in or not. The Greek word for destruction is apōlĕia which means spiritual, eternal death. So ultimately, your decision has an eternal consequence.
their god is their belly…
Who is Paul talking about? He may have meant the Jewish followers who insisted new believers must also follow Jewish religious practices. And this included observing Jewish practices around eating clean versus unclean food. Or perhaps, he meant a group called Gnostics who perverted the teaching of God’s grace. They reasoned that because God’s grace covered every sin, they could satisfy their appetites and enjoy a worldly lifestyle without restraint. However, scripture consistently warns about the dangers of these two extremes. The first is legalism and the second is license.
they glory in their shame…
They celebrated wrong and shameful behavior. To defiantly sin and then celebrate it mocks God. And is unwise. Scripture clearly warns God will not be mocked.
with minds set on earthly things.
Both then and now, people seek to acquire earthly possessions, recognition, and achievements in the pursuit of happiness. But the truth is, as Solomon attests in Ecclesiastes, only the presence of God and his goodness is fully satisfying. What earthly things are consuming your attention right now?
A study of Philippians 3:17-21 presents the promise of following Jesus
V. 20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body
Whales and dolphins are a marvel of creation. The ocean is their habitat, but they require air to live. And drown if totally immersed under water for too long. Likewise, Christ-followers inhabit the earth. But will spiritually suffocate if immersed in a worldly lifestyle. Paul reminds us that while we reside on earth, not to get too comfortable. Because a day is coming when we will be transformed into our perfect image of God. The one he originally intended. And we’ll enjoy in our eternal home.
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