Summary: Part of a series in Philippians, we’re reminded that we’re citizens of heaven.
Not of this World
Randy Aly, SC.com) Every time a boy went to his playmates house he saw his grandmother studying her Bible. Finally, he asked his friend about it. Why is your Grandmother always reading that Bible? He answered, I don’t know. But I think she is cramming for her finals."
Christianstories.com) A minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him in front of the service station. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump. "Reverend," said the young man, "sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip." The minister chuckled, "I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business."
Please turn with me to Phil. 3:17-21.
•We’ve been challenged lately to pursue Christ and press on toward the goal.
Today, we get a better glimpse of that goal/prize, what it will be like when Jesus comes.
•And will we be ready?
In this passage on the return of Christ, Paul begins by distinguishing between true followers of Christ and enemies of Christ.
He already made that distinction in Phil. 3:2-3 WATCH OUT FOR THOSE DOGS, THOSE MEN WHO DO EVIL, THOSE MUTILATORS OF THE FLESH. 3FOR IT IS WE WHO ARE THE CIRCUMCISION, WE WHO WORSHIP BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, WHO GLORY IN CHRIST JESUS, AND WHO PUT NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH—
Here, expands on that distinction.
While he goes back and forth between the two, I’d like to look at each one separately.
I. The Enemies of Christ:
18FOR, AS I HAVE OFTEN TOLD YOU BEFORE AND NOW SAY AGAIN EVEN WITH TEARS, MANY LIVE AS ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
This is the first time in his letter that Paul expresses real sorrow.
•Apparently, it’s not the first time he’s shared this difficult news with them.
Why is he so passionate about this?
•First of all, this false teaching threatens to undermine the Gospel/destroy the Church.
•Secondly, those enemies are lost and deceived and they need to know the truth.
Paul demonstrates here a tenuous balance between wrath and mercy.
Why does he call them “enemies of the cross of Christ”?
What does the cross stand for? Sacrifice and suffering.
What do these people stand for? Gluttony and indulgence – self. Exact opposites.
Before we look at the characteristics of these enemies, we need to understand again their motives. We mentioned this 2 weeks ago.
There were several false teachings prevalent in those days that undermined the gospel.
•The Epicureans taught that the chief purpose in life was to pursue happiness and to live a life of pleasure. Paul confronted these people in Athens in Acts 17.
•The Gnostics mixed that with the Gospel to say that the only thing that really mattered was the spirit.
•That meant that this physical life and what we did with our bodies was irrelevant.
•Both philosophies led to the belief that we could attain perfection in this life.
•Not only that, but some taught that because we are not under the Law anymore, and because we can attain perfection, we’re free to indulge the flesh.
•“You can have your best life now”. Cf. Prosperity Gospel.
Today’s New Age movement is very much the same.
As New Age publisher Jack Underhill writes, “There are no victims in this life or any other. No mistakes. No wrong paths. No winners. No losers. Accept that and then take responsibility for making your life what you want it to be. Evil is an illusion, and salvation comes from within.” Thielman, Frank, NIV Application Commentary, NT: Philippians, 202. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1995.
Paul had warned against this teaching earlier, but he now drives the point home.
He lists 4 characteristics of these enemies of the cross of Christ.
19THEIR DESTINY IS DESTRUCTION, THEIR GOD IS THEIR STOMACH, AND THEIR GLORY IS IN THEIR SHAME. THEIR MIND IS ON EARTHLY THINGS.
1. Live for the flesh THEIR GOD IS THEIR STOMACH (belly),
What does he mean by this? Perhaps he was thinking of the Cyclops in Euripides of Greek mythology: “My flocks which I sacrifice to no one but myself, and not to the gods, and to this my belly the greatest of the gods: for to eat and drink each day, and to give one’s self no trouble, this is the god for wise men” (“Cyclops,” 334-338, Vincent’s Word Studies).
These enemies indulged themselves in gratifying their earthly desires.
•Not just with food, but with drink, sex, money, and anything else their heart desires.
2. Live for self AND THEIR GLORY IS IN THEIR SHAME.
They were perfect, so it didn’t matter what they did.