World English Bible translation
3:17Brothers, be imitators together of me, and note those who walk this way, even as you have us for an example. 3:18 For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ, 3:19 whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who think about earthly things. 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 3:21 who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself.
Paul had begun this section by warning the Philippians about the Judaizers. These were men who tried to subvert the work of the early church by telling converts that in order to be Christians, they must first convert to Judaism. Paul told the Philippians that if anyone had reason to be proud of their Jewish heritage it was him. Paul knew himself to be a Hebrew of Hebrews. But Paul said that there was nothing in Judaism or anywhere else that was more important than knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection.
The concept of the Christian example is an important part of this letter. Paul had used the example of Christ to tell the Philippians how they should live. He had written to them encouraging them to live their lives as an example to those around them that were outside of Christ. Now he tells them to follow his own example. He told them to follow his own example because there are many who are enemies of the cross of Christ. The Judaizers are just one example of people who sought to undermine what Christ had accomplished. It would have been easy for new converts to listen to the wrong people and be led astray.
What every Christian needs, especially new converts to Christianity, is a good example. It is important to be able to see other people of faith and to share in their experiences of real life. When we see someone else successfully living the Christian life, our own faith is built up. This is why Paul tells the Philippians to follow his own example. The good example of mature Christians is a kind of inoculation against the evil of false teachers.
Paul reminded them that their citizenship was in heaven. We are not to think of earthly things and we are certainly not supposed to follow the example of false teachers. Instead, we are to anxiously wait for the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He will change us from a life of suffering and humiliation to a life of glory.
How has the example of other Christians helped you in your Christian life? Where is your citizenship? Where do you call home?
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