Philippians
1-6 Confidence In the Flesh 7-11 Gain Christ 12-16 One Thing 17-21 Our Citizenship Is In Heaven
Confidence In the Flesh

1Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things [again] is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3for we are the [true] circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

Also in this chapter it is all about Christ. He is presented here as He is in the heavenly glory. There He is the source of power for the life of a Christian. When you look at His glory in faith, you will want to gain nothing but Him considering all other things as loss and rubbish.

Chapter 2 describes Christ in His humiliation as a model and the driving force for the true Christian spirit of self-sacrifice. Chapter 3 is the answer to the question of how to get the mind of chapter 2. When you are filled with Him, you will always be like Him and that gives power for a life in humility.

V11Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things [again] is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.. With the expression “finally” Paul goes on to another theme. Of course not essentially, but certainly there is a shift in the emphasis as I just pointed out. The joy remains the same because the object of joy does not change. Paul is not tired of asking the believers in Philippi to rejoice in the glorified Lord. He knows that he is associated with them as brothers. He and they form a family. Together they should rejoice in Him as they are connected with one another by Him. Whoever rejoices in the Lord is kept from preoccupation with his self. The joy of the Lord gives strength to live for the glory of the Lord (Neh 8:1010Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”).

Some things must be simply said repeatedly. Paul does not say that sighing with the undertone: ‘When will you learn it at last?’ No, he repeats his message gladly knowing how important it is. He knows how forgetful people are, even the believers.

It is not clear what precisely is meant by “same things”. It could refer to the joy but it could also be meant as a warning to the adversaries. He already dealt with it in chapter 1 (Phil 1:1515Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;). In the following verses he talks at length about it. When it is about joy Paul however does not present a new method in order to make faith more cheerful. When it is about the adversaries he does not seek to join them to make a compromise.

His teaching is the same. Nothing disturbs him and that gives the assurance to the Philippians that they are on the right track. When views are constantly changed it produces a lot of uncertainty and one might even say a feeling of insecurity. Teachers who once interpreted the Word of God clearly, now say, that they do not know all things so sure any more. Don’t let them throw you off the track. The Word of God is exactly the same and sure today as it was in the past centuries.

V22Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;. “Beware” (Paul uses this word three times) of people who want to undermine the faith and separate believers from Christ and from the joy in Him. They have always existed. Here it is mentioned about such categories of people. Paul does not use flattering terminologies. He calls them “dogs”, who are people with a corrupted way of life, just like the unclean Gentiles. He also calls them “evil workers”, people who introduce evil things under the guise of working for Christ. He speaks of “false circumcision”. This is a word-play on circumcision by which he means, by reintroducing the law, people mutilate what Christ accomplished. When this happens even the Christian witness is mutilated.

The letter to the Galatians is a huge argumentation against this undermining of the perfect work of Christ on the cross. There we read about the reintroduction of all sorts of practices of the law in the Christian church, including the circumcision. That circumcision Paul calls mutilation. Here Paul is very pungent. It is because he sees very clearly that his beloved Philippians run the great risk of becoming entangled in wrong doctrines. Therefore he is sharp. Love is always sharp in defending their loved ones against unscrupulous people who seek to plunge their loved ones into destruction.

As for circumcision certainly it is a God given thing (Gen 17:9-149God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.10This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.11And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.12And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a [servant] who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.13A [servant] who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.14But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”). It belonged to the Jewish people as an outward sign of God’s covenant with this people. When it is introduced into the church, it does injustice to God and to His people, and His Word is not taken seriously.

V33for we are the [true] circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,. For the church circumcision has a spiritual meaning. Paul says it in verse 33for we are the [true] circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, (cf. Rom 2:2929But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.). You have experienced a spiritual circumcision through what happened to Christ on the cross (Col 2:1111and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;). When He died under the judgment of God against sin you died there with Him. With “we are the [true] circumcision”, are those meant who are really separate from evil. Paul views this here not from the negative side, but from the positive. He cites three characteristics that belong to those who are the circumcision.

The first is that they “worship in the Spirit of God”. That puts an end to any stereotyped service which is often seen in Christendom in sacraments, in church orders and liturgy without regard to the Holy Spirit. A church service without the guidance of the Holy Spirit is a formal service which can be performed very well by people who are not born again.

The second point is that they “glory in Christ Jesus”. In the Old Testament people boasted in their own ‘I’. Anyone who paid attention to the rules got fame. But the Spirit points our hearts to Christ.

The third characteristic is to “put no confidence in the flesh”. The entire Old Testament was oriented on a service in the flesh. You must not understand flesh here as the flesh of sin, from which lust comes out. What is meant is something which you can touch and can lead to great achievements.

V44although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:. Paul knew what he was talking about. When it is about flesh he can enumerate a lot. In seven points he names his privileges about which he can boast. He possessed four privileges without having had to work for it; they were handed to him on a silver platter. Namely, one has absolutely no influence on the parents who gave him birth. The other three privileges are the consequences of his own decisions and have to do with his personal contributions.

With every measure of dignity he could have been winner on all fronts. No, he had no interest in this kind of triumph; on the contrary he gave up these privileges. He considered them even rubbish (verse 88More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,) in the light of the glory of the Man Who appeared to him when he was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-51Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,2and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.3As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;4and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He [said], “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,). He is exactly like Moses who gave up all the treasures of Egypt and all the prerogatives of a king’s son, because he had seen the Invisible (Heb 11:26-2726considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.). Thus he became a model for the Israelites. He gave up more than anyone else. Paul also is such a model. He gave up much more than what you and I would probably ever let go.

V55circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;. First, he mentions that he was “circumcised”, and that was because he was a part of the covenant God made with His people. He was not added as a stranger to the people through circumcision, but he was “of the nation of Israel”, which means he was an Israelite by birth. He was one of a people whom God chose from all nations to be His own people with special blessings (cf. Rom 9:4-54who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the [temple] service and the promises,5whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.). Among this nation he belonged to the “tribe of Benjamin” and was therefore a descendent of Jacob's family and his favorite wife Rachel.

V66as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.. Finally he was “a Hebrew of Hebrews”. This name is used for the first time for Abraham (Gen 14:1313Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram.) when he migrated away from his family and came to Canaan. This name means the migrant. By mentioning this name Paul says that he lived, as a true, pure-bred descendent of Abraham in the land of promise.

There were even more things of which he could boast. They were things which he had acquired with unbridled zeal and was committed to them with boundless energy. No one knew the law like him and lived according to the law like him (Acts 26:55since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived [as] a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.; Gal 1:1414and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.).

His zeal for the law had made him “a persecutor of the church”. He pursued after the church universally and visited places where the believers were to be found; where they were living as members of that one church in dependence upon the Head of His church, the Lord Jesus. This Name made him furious (Acts 26:99“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.). Wherever he could, he wanted to exterminate all who honored this Name. Borders counted nothing for him (Acts 26:1111And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.).

With all his knowledge of the law, even in persecution of the church, he remained within the bounds of the law. He was “blameless”. He was like the young rich ruler (Mt 10:2020For it is not you who speak, but [it is] the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.). Paul and the rich young man were blameless before the eyes of men, but not in the eyes of God (Ecc 7:2020Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who [continually] does good and who never sins.).

Now read Philippians 3:1-6 again.

Reflection: Are there things which you can boast about?


Gain Christ

7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from [the] Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which [comes] from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

V77But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.. Verse 77But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. begins with a meaningful “but”. This brings a complete turn in the argumentation. In the previous verses Paul highlighted all the privileges he possessed and all the achievements he could boast about. ‘What an admirable person’ you could say. But all of them sink into nothing and disappear completely from the scene as soon as he meets the Lord Jesus and sees His magnificent excellencies.

By this encounter Paul sees that he as the ‘best human being’ is the greatest sinner and that all the good things and all the achievements counted nothing before God. On the other hand he gets to know what he received in Christ, all the profit it brings him. He spreads out this gain largely before the Philippians. He lays before them his personal profit and loss account. He writes off what was profit before, and turns it into a loss of income. The only additional entry that stands against this loss is Christ.

The profit is not simply written off. He thought over it and came to the conclusion that all these gains could not be compared to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. They aggrandize man and minimize Christ. Whoever meets the Lord really is inspired by only one desire: to glorify Christ. If this is your desire too, you will give up all what interferes with it. This desire will be indicated not only at the moment of your repentance but it will run through the whole of your future life.

It is noticeable that Paul here constantly uses the ‘I’ form. He tells his personal story, and narrates his experiences and desires. You can apply this to yourself only if you are filled with the same desire. What he says is either far from you or is quite near. You cannot be neutrally interested in the zealousness of this man. The fact that you are still reading this means that, at any rate, you want to come close to what drove him. So it is with me too. I am quite jealous of him and I know that this is a legitimate jealousy.

V88More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,. In verses 8-118More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from [the] Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which [comes] from God on the basis of faith,10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Paul gives you and me in a long sentence an insight into his character and his motives. Thus we become familiar with his desires and his pursuits. In summary he means that he has three desires: to know Christ, to gain Christ, and to be found in Christ.

Paul did not give up all to regret later and to pull some things back (cf. Heb 11:15-1615And indeed if they had been thinking of that [country] from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.16But as it is, they desire a better [country], that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.). He was filled with Christ and therefore he looked at all that prevented him from knowing Christ more, as ”loss”. There is nothing more valuable than the knowledge of His Person! He considered all his own righteousness as something filthy (Isa 64:66For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
). It did not matter whether it was a good social position, or a noble family, or a circle of men among whom he enjoyed prestige, or intellectual knowledge. He set aside everything in whatever a man could boast in.

His goal is clear. It is about “the surpassing value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”. He testifies here to his personal relationship with Christ (“my Lord”). At the same time he acknowledged the authority of Christ over his life by calling Him my Lord. In the light of this Person he saw all the privileges not only as harmful but they looked even as “rubbish”. Do you find it difficult to dispose of the “rubbish”? It costs dearly sometimes to handle as rubbish things which have a certain value to you although you know that it is detrimental to keep it. Nevertheless, to dispose of rubbish is not a sacrifice.

It is one thing to look at all as loss and it is another thing to suffer loss for all. Paul experienced both. He found out that his privileges were harmful if he wanted to know Christ better. He did not remain with that knowledge. He just gave them up all. He did not do it as a kind of self-flagellation. Such acts will never bring spiritual benefits and they do not bring you to a greater knowledge of Christ.

V99and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from [the] Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which [comes] from God on the basis of faith,. To all his excellent merits he could have added further that he gave up all his privileges. But even through all this his view of Christ would be more unclear. He just wanted a different and maximum profit: Christ Himself. He wanted to possess Him completely, as the One who gave meaning and direction to his life. He wanted to “be found in Him” so that all that he was and all that would be visible in his life would be a clear picture of Christ. Should anybody see him whether man or God he should perceive only Christ and nothing of Paul.

Therefore his own righteousness had no meaning for him anymore. Imagine he thought that he would be able to maintain himself irreproachable before God and men, what would that mean then? His ‘I’ would be great. But he says, ‘I do not want that at all. It would not be more than a human righteousness, and I do not want it.’

Do you know why Paul thought so? It is because he had met Christ and it is because Christ is the content of his life. Faith in Him has given Paul the “righteousness which [comes] from God”. Paul has seen how relative and meaningless all is what is of men, even of the most exalted people who are of high standing. He found out the eternal values of all that is of God, and of all whose origin is God.

The righteousness which has God as its source has become his portion, not on the basis of his achievements but by faith. He received the righteousness which is from God, because he put his faith in what the Lord Jesus had done for him on the cross, and therefore he did not place any value on his own efforts any more.

V1010that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;. That does not make him a reckless Christian, someone who pays due attention to his own righteousness. No, he desires the daily practical communion with Christ in order to know Him as good as possible. You may know Him as a new convert; nevertheless when you live with Him day by day and experience Him every day you can know Him better and better. You will learn how He thinks about you and how He expects that you should live. And besides you know of Him still better at the very place where He occupies in heaven now, and you can learn more and more of His glories.

When you are preoccupied with Him in His glory, you also learn more of the “power of His resurrection” (Eph 1:19-2019and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. [These are] in accordance with the working of the strength of His might20which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly [places],). It is the power by which you walk on the earth. By this power you will, so to speak, pass through death and can walk in newness of life (Rom 6:44Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.).

However a walk in the power of His resurrection does not make you immune to the suffering that is your portion, when you are faithful to the Lord. With the mind of Paul you do not accept suffering as something which you can not escape from. No, Paul sought after all means to be like the Lord Jesus. Fellowship with Him also included suffering. ‘All right’, Paul says, ‘I like to suffer, because that deepens my fellowship with Him.’

“Fellowship of His sufferings” is to have a share in the suffering that the Lord experienced during His life time on the earth, namely, to pass through ridicule and shame and to feel the pain by hearing and seeing sin. Even in his death Paul wanted to be like his Lord. A person says this when he has no more interest on the earth than only in Christ. It was enough for him that the servant would be like his Master (Mt 10:2525It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more [will they malign] the members of his household!).

Paul followed Christ on the path of suffering not in fear like his disciples in their days (Mk 10:3232They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him,). He wanted to undergo sufferings, not for the sake of suffering, but in order to partake of Christ’s sufferings. That is why he did not go away sad like the rich young man who leaned on the advantages of the flesh (Mt 19:2222But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.). He had really taken the distance from all these things, and in his heart there was nothing that bound him to the earth.

V1111in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.. Paul not only carried his cross after the Lord Jesus, but he also wanted to die on it. Whatever the cost, and however painful might the way be, he wanted full fellowship with Christ on the way that led to his resurrection. His whole aim was to be like the lord Jesus in all, and be on the way He went, to reach Him in glory. Did the Lord Jesus suffer? Then he also wanted to suffer. Did the Lord die? Then he also wanted to die as a martyr in the service of his Lord. Did the Lord rise from the dead and go into heaven? Then he also wanted to rise from the dead and go to Him.

How exactly it would be in his case, he did not know. Certainly he did not doubt this fact. Note, that it does not say ‘resurrection from death’ but “from the dead”. That literally means a ‘resurrection out of the dead’. Even so the Lord Jesus also resurrected out of the dead, while all others remained in death.

The great desire of Paul to be in complete identification with Christ shows how much he was attached to Christ. I sincerely hope that this is your desire too. In the following passage you will hear more about it, so that your desire is aroused still more to follow Paul with regard to the one goal for his life.

Now read Philippians 3:7-11 again.

Reflection: How can you gain Christ?


One Thing

12Not 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. 13Brethren, 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, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let 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; 16however, let us keep living by that same [standard] to which we have attained.

V1212Not 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.. Paul was not yet so far as he wished. His desire to be like the Lord Jesus was not yet fulfilled. He still lived on the earth, and that meant that he had not yet reached perfection. As long as a man lives on the earth the process of becoming perfect and of being like the Lord Jesus is not finished. Precisely for this reason, someone who has known the Lord Jesus continues to pursue after and strive for that perfection. He will never be content to sit back with folded hands behind his head and think: Well I am now where I wanted to go and I am perfectly identical with Christ. That would be great pride and a terrible mistake. This thinking would reveal a tremendous lack of self-knowledge.

On the other hand Paul teaches here to seek for perfection diligently as if perfection can be achieved on earth. There is a wrong teaching which says that you can be perfect on earth, and also you can reach a state of sinlessness. Do not be deceived by that. That is impossible. Every sincere child of God should strive for the utmost in his life to be like Christ. If Christ Jesus has really laid hold of you, as He did of Paul, then you will not desire anything else.

Think of your life before you knew Christ. Perhaps you were a bit like Paul. You were full of zeal doing (religious) work or study. You thought that you pleased God with all your strivings until you realized that you only did it for yourself. Christ came into your life; Someone fully different from what you were. His zeal was entirely focused on God. He never did anything for Himself. His life consisted solely of service to others. He finally gave up His life for that.

The death He died was not only the crowing act of a fully consecrated life, but it was also the reconciliation for everyone who recognizes himself as a sinner – even for you. So you have learned to love Him, and He has become the content of your life. He has laid hold of you. You have come under the spell of His love. His embracing love has overwhelmed you. You feel safe and secure through and through. He is there for you. You also want to be wholly for Him. You want to be like Him, not only a little bit, for you cannot be content with that. In this respect it is as someone once wrote ‘contentment is the grave of progress’. No, you want to be quite like Him; and perfectly like Him.

Just a side note. It is good to remember that the word perfection has three meanings:
1. You are perfect before God in Christ through His work (Heb 10:1414For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.). Every believer has this perfection the moment he confesses his sins and accepts in faith the Lord Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
2. Then there is the perfection which we receive when we are with the Lord Jesus, when our body partakes of the redemption, and the flesh is no more there. This verse is about that.
3. Then there is the perfection we can achieve on the earth and that has to do with our spiritual growth. That is the perfection in the sense of maturity, fully grown. That is perfection which is at issue in verse 1515Let 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;. It can be said, for example, that the fathers in Christ (1Jn 2:13-1413I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.14I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.) are perfect in that sense. They have nothing else but Christ in their life.

V1313Brethren, 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,. To exclude every misunderstanding Paul emphasizes once again that he knows very well that he is not there yet. He is not leaning back idly content even now while imprisoned. He does not think that his work is done and also does not think that the process of his spiritual education is finished. Despite all the years of his work for the Lord and his incessant action in that work he considered the process of becoming like the Lord Jesus as not complete yet. With unflagging energy he reaches out for what lies ahead.

The secret of his power is his focus on “but one thing”. That is a secret which only a few know, unfortunately. Many people are not satisfied with but one thing. They think that to be narrow-minded. They argue that we must have a wider field vision; they ask: ‘Is there not much more to enjoy?’ Yes, but the moment you want to add something to Christ, in order to pay attention to it, you are no more content with the one thing. The one thing excludes everything else. What is your choice? The decision is not difficult if you understand that this one thing alone gives perfect satisfaction to life. All that you add lessens the satisfaction. What is your preference?

For Paul it was not a question. He makes clear how we can pursue after that one thing. First he forgot “what [lies] behind” him. He did not think of all his privileges. He did not even think of all the work he had done, of all the journeys he had made, and of the places where he had proclaimed the gospel or of the many believers whom he had served. When you work for the Lord (and who does not do that?) it is dangerous to look back in order to assess the results of the work. That is the moment you stop looking at the goal. Paul had not kept a list of his spiritual progress.

By the way, “forgetting what [lies] behind” doesn’t mean that we should forget who we were. Paul didn’t do that. He never forgot that he was the greatest of all sinners (1Tim 1:1313even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;; cf. 2Pet 1:99For he who lacks these [qualities] is blind [or] short-sighted, having forgotten [his] purification from his former sins.). Instead of being busy with the way that was already behind him he was “reaching forward to what [lies] ahead”.

V1414I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.. He presents himself here as someone who takes part in a race. Without looking up or looking back he runs as fast as he can in the direction of the goal which he uninterruptedly keeps an eye on. He is concerned with the prize which is related to the calling of God. God had called him heavenward. Then you must not look at your interest on earth. We will pay attention to the Christians who do that in verse 1919whose end is destruction, whose god is [their] appetite, and [whose] glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.. When you are called by God it is His purpose to bring you to heaven where you can enjoy in Christ Jesus all the blessings His heart longs to shower upon you. You will not want to miss this prize for anything in this world, right?

V1515Let 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;. Perhaps you acknowledge that it should be so in your life. But you feel the field of tension within yourself. It is difficult for you to really give up everything and focus only on the one goal. There are believers in whose life everything revolves around Christ. Those are the mature ones verse 1515Let 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; speaks about in its first part. Paul includes himself in this. The word “us” clarifies that. The mature ones are those who in their Christian experience have come to the point where nothing is interesting to the heart but the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.

How many beautiful things are here on the earth but they all fade away and nothing compares with His beauty. Some people may call it extremism or fanaticism. In any case it is radical. A Christian who grew up this way is characterized by the mind which is in conformity to the mind of Christ. Christ also had only one goal – the glorification of the Father. This prompted Him to do the will of the Father which brought forth all the imaginable blessings.

In the second part of verse 1515Let 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; another group of believers is addressed. Paul speaks to them as “you” who ”have a different attitude” in anything. By this he does not mean unspiritual or carnal believers. He means believers who have not yet learned that mind of Christ; for God nothing really has any value except the Lord Jesus. An example of such believers is found in the weak (ones) about whom Paul speaks in contrast to the strong (ones) (Rom 14:11Now accept the one who is weak in faith, [but] not for [the purpose of] passing judgment on his opinions.; 15:11Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not [just] please ourselves.).

Both groups are spiritually minded believers. He makes clear there that the one weak in faith does not know the full Christian freedom that is given to him in Christ. Such believers think that they still have to do with certain ordinances. God observes the sincerity in such persons and He is patient towards their spiritual development. At the right time He will reveal what is the real issue for Him by removing the veil that still covers the eyes of their understanding. Then they will be able to see things as they really are.

This difference in the spiritual development, this otherwise mindedness, does not have to disturb a happy fellowship. These are things we can leave to the Lord. In such cases we must not try to force our brethren to fall in line with our views. God Himself will teach them (1Thes 4:99Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for [anyone] to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;).

V1616however, let us keep living by that same [standard] to which we have attained.. When anyone does not focus all his interests on Christ, then we ourselves must not wait till it happens. We need to proceed together provided that everyone walks according to the light he received. Light that is received evokes the desire for more light. It does not make passive, but encourages to a closer communion with Christ with the desire for greater likeness to Him.

From the moment you have accepted Christ, you have started to grow spiritually. The stage that you have now reached, on the one hand is the result of God’s work in you, and on the other hand, it is your commitment (Phil 2:1313for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for [His] good pleasure.). Well, you are inspired to continue along this path. You need not do it alone. You can do that with others who have also come to know Christ and want to live for Him alone.

Now read Philippians 3:12-16 again.

Reflection: Are there other interests that you pursue after apart from ‘one thing’?


Our Citizenship Is In Heaven

17Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] enemies of the cross of Christ, 19whose end is destruction, whose god is [their] appetite, and [whose] glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21who 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.

V1717Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.. A good example is worth a lot. As a young Christian you need orientation. It is a blessing if you know people who set the right examples for what the Bible expects of you. Paul presents himself together with Timothy as “a pattern” (they are “us” in this verse). That is not pride but it is conviction. He was following Christ Who was his Example (1Cor 11:11Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.).

He calls upon the Philippians to “join in following” his example. The word “join” is important. An attentive reader will notice that this is a gentle exhortation to be like-minded. When we make anything together, when we have a pattern before our eyes and follow it, we forget about the unpleasant traits of the others. The Philippians were fortunate that they had many whom they could take as examples. When they looked at their lives they saw the same thing as in Paul. They were all people whose only goal was to gain Christ.

Were there many then? I don’t think so, like there are not many today. By the way, do you realize that you on your part are an example for others? Can others follow you because they see that Christ is all that matters in your life?

V1818For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] enemies of the cross of Christ,. Do you know what kind of people we have a plenty of? Of people who walk as “the enemies of the cross of Christ”. With this qualification Paul points out a third group of believers besides the two he points out in verse 1515Let 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;. Between the two groups and this third group there is a big difference. Group one and group two love the Lord Jesus from the heart and want to be in tune with Him in their lives. They put into practice what they know of Him. With the second group however their knowledge is certainly limited but still they want to live for Him whatever be the cost. The third group is completely different. They are certainly people with mouths full of biblical truth and may be they can even say wonderful things about the Lord Jesus. But they do not reckon with Him in practical life.

Here they are portrayed not as enemies of Christ but enemies of the cross of Christ. The cross of Christ has a crucial significance for the life of a Christian. It is the radical separation between you and the world (Gal 6:12,1412Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.14But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.). The more you know of the cross, the more you will give up every connection with the world to be bound the stronger with Christ. An enemy of the cross of Christ is someone who wants to have all the joys and the wealth of Christendom but not its burdens. He is someone who wants to follow Christ indeed but without taking up the cross (Lk 14:2727Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.).

If you live according to the meaning of the cross, the world has nothing more to offer you. You have settled up with it. The world however does not allow with impunity that you do not like it at all anymore and that you condemn it. It will cause shame to you. If you do not like that and try to stay on friendly terms with the world you are an enemy of the cross. You do not give up Christ really, but you do not come out for Him, since you know that you will be laughed at.

It is not the first time Paul is talking about those people. He has spoken many times about them. He reacts to them differently from the people he has in mind at the beginning of this chapter. Those persons he simply exposes for their evil intentions to undermine his work. Maybe the people here still believe, but they do not live accordingly.

When he writes about it he cannot hold back his tears. He is not the kind of person who says that ‘men do not cry’. He speaks more often about his feelings (Acts 20:31-231Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.; 2Cor 2:44For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.). Emotion is an essential part of a human being. This does not change when someone becomes a Christian. Faith must not be guided by emotions but be accompanied by it. The Word of God is the foundation of faith. The feelings arise because Paul states that Christians deviate from the path of God shown by the Word of God.

This category of Christians is a wrong model, and they are therefore a threat to others. They act as if they are sure of heaven, but at the same time they enjoy life on earth to the fullest. Isn’t this a wonderful way of being a Christian? Do not be deceived by this kind of a lifestyle! I think this is why Paul has said it many times before and he says it again. They are not a good example.

V1919whose end is destruction, whose god is [their] appetite, and [whose] glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.. Heaven does not wait at the end of such life but only “destruction” in hell. The broad way, the way on which many walk along, is that which leads to destruction (Mt 7:1313“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.). The question whether it is about the genuine Christians or about the Christians in name, i.e. who are not born again, does not matter. It is about what you confess. If you confess to be a Christian it will be seen in your life. If you live for Christ your testimony is true. If you do not live for Him your confession is a lie. I do not assume the latter as your statement; for otherwise you would not read this book. But these verses are also applicable for you and me as confessors of Christ.

He who lives as the enemy of the cross lives for himself, for his own “belly” (Rom 16:1818For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.). His life is for the satisfaction of all sorts of physical needs like food and drink, and also for fulfilling sexual passions (1Cor 6:1313Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.). It is certainly not only the immoral behavior that is meant here but it is a complete surrender to the things which God has given. It doesn’t seem that they did something evil that required punishment. It is about good citizens, people who give to everyone what is his; but they do it all for themselves. They place the earthly things in the first place. Their life is not all about Christ.

The result of such an attitude is that they find their glory in what is shame. For example you can see even Christians who subscribe to the idea that man is descended from ape. They regard it as an honor that human science has brought this to light. They boast of such follies. All this is the consequence when people are focused on earthly things. Their thoughts are filled with earthly prosperity. Their efforts are aimed at making their life on earth as long and as comfortable as possible.

V2020For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;. Indeed such an attitude of life fits well with the citizen of the world but not with a citizen of heaven. Since you came to know Christ you are a stranger and sojourner on the earth (1Pet 2:1111Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.). Your real home is heaven. As long as you are here in an environment in which you have no part you should live in this consciousness.

The Philippians are a good example for this situation. Philippi was a Roman colony in Asia Minor. It was far from Rome, but the citizens of this city had to live as citizens of Rome to hold up the name of Rome. We live in the midst of the people of this world but we must hold high the name of heaven. We live as ambassadors of our true homeland in a foreign country. Our conduct should reflect the life of our homeland. At the same time we adhere to the rules of the country in which we reside temporarily as long as these rules do not conflict with our citizenship in heaven. It is not fitting to participate in the politics of the country in which we are strangers. That would mean a denial of our heavenly citizenship.

Our hearts are so full of our homeland that we long to move in there. That is why we expect the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He that is the goal towards which we travel, Who promised to come soon (Jn 14:1-31“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.3If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, [there] you may be also.; 1Thes 4:16-1716For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.; Rev 22:2020He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.). Paul calls Him “Savior” here. Now you may be thinking: Do I not know Him so already? He is my Savior, my Redeemer (that again means Savior), Who has redeemed me from my sins.

V2121who 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.. Sure, but there is one aspect of salvation which is not yet complete and that is the salvation of our body (Rom 8:2323And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for [our] adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.). When the Lord Jesus comes to take the church to be with Him you get a glorified body. In this body you will know no more sadness, no more pain and no more fatigue. The body you now have corresponds to a situation where sin has left its scars, upon which the curse of sin rests. It is “the body of our humble state”, the body in which we live here on the earth.

By the way, this is not a flattering expression in a world in which ‘body care’ is very important. The body is glorified here. You also must not fall into the other extreme and say that the body is not important. For the believer the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and a member of Christ (1Cor 6:15,1915Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?). Therefore live responsibly according to this matter.

For all those who belong to Him, the coming of the Lord Jesus for the church is the end of all imperfection of the earthly body. Then the body you will receive is similar to His body (1Jn 3:22Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.). The slightest trace, every remembrance of the imperfection of life that we literally experience in our body on earth is removed. This unimaginable change is brought about by the Lord Jesus. He is the only One capable of doing it. He will do so with the same power He has to subdue all things to Himself. He is the Almighty God.

Think again: the innumerable departed believers of all ages who died or were killed in all sorts of ways – burned, beheaded, cut into pieces or torn and eaten by lions. He knows to bring together all the scattered molecules, and again make them into the human being they once were. The unbelievers receive a body fit to live in hell for all eternity. The believers will receive a body with which they will be in heaven forever to praise Him in eternity.

Now read Philippians 3:17-21 again.

Reflection: What does it mean to you to expect the Lord Jesus as Savior?


Read more