Philippians 3:12–4:1 (NASB95)
12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. 1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Solomon would agree with what C.S. Lewis said (see Ecclesiastes 1-2). Although there are numerous things in this world that we can enjoy, we know that we need to go beyond the natural realm to find ultimate and lasting satisfaction. In the words of Ecclesiastes, we can’t stay “under the sun” but must look to heaven.
In my last two articles, I pointed out that the grace of God motivated Paul toward an ultimate Goal of knowing Jesus intimately and becoming like Him (Phil. 3:12-16). This required dissatisfaction with where he was spiritually, a devotion to reaching the goal, and discipline to get there. People with that goal will experience Grief when they see people who profess to know Jesus but don’t want to become like Him. They claim they are going to heaven, but live each day for themselves, some even saying that they are “sinning so that grace may abound.” We should not be led astray by “libertines,” but should actually weep over those who pervert God’s grace and fall short of genuine saving faith. Grace motivates us to righteousness, not sin (Titus 2:11-14).
This brings me to the third and final article in this trilogy about biblical motivation we receive from God’s grace. It answers the questions: How do we avoid falling into license? How do we keep our passion aflame for the Savior? Where must our thoughts focus if we are to fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith? The answer is The Glory (Phil. 3:20-4:1). Paul uses this amazing truth about eternal glory to help the Philippian believers overcome sensual passions. He focuses on heaven and has two main issues for them to think about: the Contrast & the Command.
The Contrast (v. 20) – “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” The first contrast is our Destiny. The sensualists are headed to hell (“destruction” – v. 19), while the true believer is headed to heaven. Paul was a Roman citizen, but his ultimate citizenship was in heaven. Grace motivated Paul to live for things eternal! He knew he didn’t fit in here on earth (see Heb. 11:10-13, 32-40), he was an alien and stranger here on earth (1 Pet. 2:11-12). What should we believe about heaven? Our birth is from there (born from above); our names are recorded in Heaven; our lives are governed from there; rights secured there; interests promoted there; thoughts, prayers, & hopes aspire there; our inheritance, treasures, crowns, rewards are there; our spiritual family is there; our ultimate home is there; our Groom, Head of the Body, King, and Savior is there. Is it obvious to the watching world that your true citizenship is in heaven? Do they see this in your PRIORITIES (how you invest your time and money)? In your PERSPECTIVE (final authority on issues of life = God’s Word or man’s wisdom)? In your PLEASURES (what gives you greatest joy: Fellowship? Seeing people repent? Worship?). In your PURSUITS (what ladder of success are you climbing?).
The second contrast is in our Deity. The sensualist’s god is their appetite (belly; passions – v. 19). The true believer’s god is Jesus Christ, the Savior, who is coming back soon (v. 20). Paul eagerly waited for Jesus to come for him. He withdrew his attention from inferior objects and focused his attention on Christ (Titus 2:11-14; 2 Tim. 4:8; 2 Pet. 3:12). Some true believers are guilty of becoming sensualists at this point. They selfishly want Jesus to come back and take them to heaven for what they will get. Paul wanted to be with Jesus and bring Him glory. And while he was waiting, he wanted to become more holy (1 John 3:3; 2 Pet. 3:10ff). I am personally convicted by the statement of Lord Shaftesbury, the great English social reformer. He said, “I do not think that in the last 40 years I have lived one conscious hour that was not influenced by the thought of our Lord’s return.” Oh that we would all live that way!
There is a third contrast and it is our Glory. The sensualist’s glory is their shame (sinful things they do with their fleshly body). But the true believer’s glory is “… the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” We recognize that our bodies are laden with sin, weakness, corruption, and limitations. We aren’t consumed like the sensualists are with something that is so weak and temporary. Our focus is on our eternal Lord and Savior who will come back and transform our bodies to better represent our essential character as children of God (1 Cor. 15:42f). We will have a glorified body like Jesus, fit for eternal life with perfect pleasure, fellowship, joy, comfort and strength. By God’s grace, Paul submitted his weak earthly body to be used for God’s glory (2 Cor. 12), but he longed for the day when that body would be transformed and he could worship and serve his Savior for eternity.
There is one more contrast and that is the Mindset. The sensualists set their minds on earthly things, but the true believers set their minds on eagerly waiting “for a Savior … transform the body of our humble state … His glory … power that He has to subject all things to Himself.” The true believer is not focused on earthly things (1 Jn. 2:15-17; Mt. 6:19-24). He isn’t worried that Jesus will come back soon and he will miss out on something here on earth. His passion is for “Your kingdom come, Your will be done…” He knows that the passing pleasures of sin are nothing compared to the eternal riches of Christ (Heb. 11:24-26), and the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed (Rom. 8:18). Paul’s mindset was the eternal kingdom of God and faithfully getting the gospel to as many people as possible so they too would spend eternity with Jesus (2 Tim. 2:10).
Before we leave this challenging text of Scripture, please don’t miss the “therefore” in Phil. 4:1. Based on what we studied in chapter 3, Paul moves on from the Contrast to the Command. One literal translation of the Greek text is, “Therefore, my brothers, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, IN THIS WAY CONTINUE STANDING FIRM in the Lord, beloved.” Grace has changed Paul and his relationships. He loves these Gentile believers. They are brothers, beloved, his joy and crown (there’s another contrast: libertines bring grief; true believers are a joy & crown). Paul’s command to these dear friends is to live out the principles of chapter 3 so they can continue standing firm in the Lord. They must understand God’s amazing grace (not legalism, perfectionism, or license). They must grow in God’s grace (pursuing Jesus, motivated toward the goal of Heaven). And they must stand firm in God’s grace (by imitating godly examples – 3:17; watching out for the sensualists – 3:18; and recognizing their heavenly citizenship and all of its implications – 3:20f). Praise God for His amazing grace!
Grace motivates us! Our Goal is to be like Jesus. Our Grief is for people who will fall short of that goal because they love this world and the things of it more than Jesus. Our Glory is heaven where the goal is accomplished and we get to spend eternity bringing glory to our heavenly Savior.
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” (C.S. Lewis)