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Summary: If we are going to emulate anybody, we must emulate Jesus.

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FOLLOWERS ON THE JOURNEY HOME

Philippians 3:17-4:1

The Apostle Paul had been telling of the forward motion in his own Christian life (Philippians 3:13-14), and encouraged his readers to be like-minded with him (Philippians 3:15-16). The writer even went so far as to set himself up as an example to follow (Philippians 4:9) – one example among many (Philippians 3:17).

This is not the only place where Paul encourages people to ‘be followers of me’ (1 Corinthians 4:15-16). Yet that following is qualified: ‘even as I also am of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1). If we are going to emulate anybody, we must emulate Jesus.

Paul held up the humility of Christ Jesus as the supreme model to imitate (Philippians 2:5-11). Other lesser examples to follow include Timothy (Philippians 2:19-22), and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25; Philippians 2:29-30).

Yet, sadly, not everybody in the church will walk this way. There are some whom Paul describes as “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18), for whom he weeps with the love of a Pastor for those who fall by the wayside in his own ministry. Whoever they are, and whatever they have done, there can be only one result: their destruction (Philippians 3:19).

This contrasts with the attitude of yearning expectation which marks out the true brothers and sisters in Christ. Our conversation is in heaven, where our citizenship lies, and we earnestly look for and await the coming of the risen conquering Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20). The enemies of the cross have no such hope: but for blood-bought friends of the cross it is a sure hope, based in the promises of God.

One result of the coming of our Lord will be that (literally) “the body of our humiliation” (Philippians 3:21) will be fashioned to be like His glorious body. In other words, if we have been made conformable to His death (Philippians 3:10), then we will be made conformable also to His resurrection. There’s imitation for you!

This will be the culmination of the change which has been taking place in our lives since the day we first believed (Philippians 1:6). No longer will the willing spirit be hampered by the weak flesh (cf. Matthew 26:41). Then we shall be like the Lord, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

All this is accomplished according to the power whereby He subdues all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21). ‘For it is God who is working in you both to will and to do according to His good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13).

What will heaven be like? In concession to the limits of human language and understanding, Jesus speaks of it as a place (John 14:2-3); yet it is the place of His presence (John 17:24). For Paul, it is something which has not yet been clearly seen, heard, or imagined (1 Corinthians 2:9; quoting Isaiah 64:4). For John, it is the place where we shall see the Lord ‘face to face’ (Revelation 22:4).

The “Therefore” of Philippians 4:1 forges a link to the previous chapter, encouraging us “to stand firm in the Lord”. This is the stance of true brothers and sisters in Christ.


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