Philippians 3:15-21

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

December 4, 2002


Paul has been talking about how we are made righteous through our faith in Jesus Christ, not by our own good deeds.

He’s talked about how he is pressing on to follow Jesus, to be more like Jesus.

(Phil 3:13-14 KJV)  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, {14} I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

:15-16 The right attitude

:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded:

perfectteleios – brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfect; consummate human integrity and virtue; full grown, adult, of full age, mature

thustouto – that (thing), this (thing)

be … mindedphroneo – to have understanding, be wise; to feel, to think; to have an opinion of one’s self, think of one’s self, to be modest, not let one’s opinion (though just) of himself exceed the bounds of modesty; to direct one’s mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for

This verb was used in:

(Phil 2:2 KJV) Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
It was a part of the word translated “likeminded”, or, “to be minded the same”.


Perfectly imperfect

This may sound a little confusing, but Paul is saying that if you are “perfect” then you know that you’re “not perfect”.
Paul used a similar word in verse 12:

(Phil 3:12 KJV) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

We might say, “As many of you as are spiritually mature like me, you ought to have the same thoughts about yourself, that you’re not perfect and haven’t arrived yet.
It’s kind of like how our opinions change about our parents as we grow up.
Growing Opinions of Dad

4 years: My daddy can do anything.

7 years: My dad knows a lot, a whole lot.

8 years: My father doesn't know quite everything.

12 years: Oh, well, naturally Father doesn't know that, either.

14 years: Father? Hopelessly old-fashioned.

21 years: Oh, that man is out-of-date. What did you expect?

25 years: He knows a little bit about it, but not much.

30 years: Maybe we ought to find out what Dad thinks.

35 years: A little patience. Let's get Dad's assessment before we do anything.

50 years: I wonder what Dad would have thought about that. He was pretty smart.

60 years: My Dad knew absolutely everything!

65 years: I'd give anything if Dad were here so I could talk this over with him. I really miss that man.

The more mature we get, the more we realize that we don’t know much at all.
The more mature we get, the further we realize we have to go to be like Jesus.

:15 and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

otherwiseheteros – otherwise, differently

be … mindedphroneo – to have understanding, be wise; to feel, to think; to have an opinion of one’s self, think of one’s self, to be modest, not let one’s opinion (though just) of himself exceed the bounds of modesty; to direct one’s mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for

shall revealapokalupto – to uncover, lay open what has been veiled or covered up; disclose, make bare; to make known, make manifest, disclose what before was unknown


Let God handle them.

If a person thinks that they are perfect, then Paul turns them over to God. Let God show them they are not perfect.

:16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

neverthelessplen – moreover, besides, but, nevertheless; besides, except, but

we have already attainedphthano – to come before, precede, anticipate; to come to, arrive at; to reach, attain to

let us walk stoicheo to proceed in a row as the march of a soldier, go in order; metaph. to go on prosperously, to turn out well; to walk; to direct one’s life, to live; from steicho – to range in regular line

Look at these verses where the word is used – think about how these verses are talking about “walking in a purposeful way, marching like a soldier”

Ro 4:12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which [he had] being [yet] uncircumcised.

We are to march in order following Abraham, walking in faith.

Ga 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We need to be marching after the Spirit, letting Him lead us.

rulekanon – a rod or straight piece of rounded wood to which any thing is fastened to keep it straight; used for various purposes; a measuring rod, rule; a carpenter’s line or measuring tape; the measure of a leap, as in the Olympic games; a definitely bounded or fixed space within the limits of which one’s power of influence is confined; the province assigned one; one’s sphere of activity; metaph. any rule or standard, a principle or law of investigating, judging, living, acting

let us mindphroneo – to have understanding, be wise; to feel, to think; to have an opinion of one’s self, think of one’s self, to be modest, not let one’s opinion (though just) of himself exceed the bounds of modesty; to direct one’s mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for

Robertson: Paul means simply this that, having come thus far, the thing to do is to go “in the same path” (tw autw) in which we have been traveling so far. A needed lesson for Christians weary with the monotony of routine in religious life and work.


Stay on track

Maturity in the Christian life doesn’t mean that you no longer have trials and temptations.
Maturity means that you don’t quit, but you keep moving forward.
(Prov 24:16 KJV)  For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

:17-21 Follow the right examples

:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

followers together summimetes (“with” + “imitate”) – an imitator of others ; “be together, jointly imitators of me

mark skopeo – to look at, observe, contemplate; to mark; to fix one’s eyes upon, direct one’s attention to, any one

which walkperipateo – to walk; to make one’s way, progress; to make due use of opportunities; Hebrew for, to live; to regulate one’s life; to conduct one’s self; to pass one’s life

sohouto – in this manner, thus, so

an ensample tupos – the mark of a stroke or blow, print; a figure formed by a blow or impression; form; an example; in the technical sense, the pattern in conformity to which a thing must be made; an example to be imitated; of men worthy of imitation

Paul is challenging them to be like him.  He’s challenging them to “mimic” him.


Follow good examples

One of the things we keep our eyes on are the ones in the race ahead of us.
Athletes will often watch films of other famous stars to study their techniques.
I think a good practice is to take time to read biographies of the great men and women of faith throughout history. Look at their example. I’ve enjoyed reading biographies of men like Dwight Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Finney, George Whitefield, John Wesley, Billy Graham, and Jonathan Goforth.


Be an example

Can you say this: “Walk like me”?
Paul often did. He wrote,

(1 Cor 4:16 KJV) Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

(1 Cor 11:1 KJV) Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

(1 Th 1:6-7 KJV) And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: {7} So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.

(2 Th 3:7-9 KJV) For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; {8} Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: {9} Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

Be an example
There is a tendency in us to back off of a statement like this.
I think that sometimes we are too aware of our own shortcomings and we might not want people to imitate our faults as well.
But sometimes we to step up to the challenge and be an example.
The world is looking for examples to follow.
Dallas Willard in his book, “The Spirit of the Disciplines” (pg. 2) writes about these verses:
(Mat 11:29-30 KJV) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
(1 John 5:3 KJV) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
Then he goes on to say,
“The words of Jesus quoted above from Matthew 11:29-30 pre­sent an alternative to the desolation of life lived apart from God. Yet, in all honesty, most Christians probably find both Jesus' state­ment and its reiteration by the author of 1 John (5:3) to be more an expression of a hope or even a mere wish than a statement about the substance of their lives. To many, Jesus' words are frankly bewildering. We hear them often quoted, because the idea they express is obviously one that attracts and delights, but there seems to be something about the way we approach them, something about what we think it means to walk with Christ and obey him, that prevents most of us from entering into the reality which they express. The ease, lightness, and power of His Way we rarely enjoy, much less see, as the pervasive and enduring quality of our street­-level human existence.
So we do not have the strength we should have, and Jesus' com­mandments become overwhelmingly burdensome to us. In fact, many Christians cannot even believe He actually intended for us to carry them out. So what is the result? His teachings are treated as a mere ideal, one that we may better ourselves by aiming for but know we are bound to fall glaringly short of.
It's a familiar story. "We're only human," we say, and "to err is human." Such pronouncements may be for another age or "dispen­sation," we may think-or possibly they're for when we are in heaven. But they cannot be for us now. Not really. Jesus could not have imposed anything that hard upon us. And beside, we're in a period of grace we are saved by grace, not by anything we do - ­so obedience to Christ is actually not necessary. And it is so hard, anyway; it cannot be expected of us, much less enjoyed by us.
And so we reason. All of our reasonings cannot, however, re­move the thought that Jesus calls us to follow him - to follow him now, not after death.”
Don’t settle for the easy out. We can be examples for others to follow.

:18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

walkperipateo – to walk; to make one’s way, progress; to make due use of opportunities; Hebrew for, to live; to regulate one’s life; to conduct one’s self; to pass one’s life

oftenpollakis – often, frequently

I have toldlego – to say, to speak

weeping klaio – to mourn, weep, lament; weeping as the sign of pain and grief for the thing signified (i.e. for the pain and grief); of those who mourn for the dead; to weep for, mourn for, bewail, one; to weep audibly, cry as a child

enemiesechthros – hated, odious, hateful; hostile, hating, and opposing another; used of men as at enmity with God by their sin; opposing (God) in the mind; a man that is hostile; a certain enemy; the hostile one; the devil who is the most bitter enemy of the divine government

Who is Paul talking about?

Probably the Epicureans, who don’t care how they live as long as they enjoy themselves.

We’ll see this explained a little better in the next verse.

1Jo 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.


Weep for the lost

Paul was quite upset when talking about this subject.
How do you talk when you are discussing people who are not following the Lord?
Paul wept.

:19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

endtelos – end; termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be (always of the end of some act or state, but not of the end of a period of time); the end; the last in any succession or series; eternal; that by which a thing is finished, its close, issue; the end to which all things relate, the aim, purpose

destructionapoleia – destroying, utter destruction; a perishing, ruin, destruction; of money; the destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell

belly koilia (“hollow”) – the whole belly, the entire cavity; the upper [i.e. stomach] and the lower belly are distinguished; the lower belly, the lower region, the receptacle of the excrement; the gullet; to be given up to the pleasures of the palate, to gluttony; the womb, the place where the foetus is conceived and nourished until birth; the innermost part of a man, the soul, heart as the seat of thought, feeling, choice

glorydoxa – opinion, judgment, view; opinion, estimate, whether good or bad concerning someone; in the NT always a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, and glory; splendour, brightness; magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace

shame aischune – the confusion of one who is ashamed of anything, sense of shame; ignominy, disgrace, dishonour; a thing to be ashamed of

People are proud of things they should be ashamed of.

earthly things epigeios – existing upon the earth, earthly, terrestrial

who mindphroneo – to have understanding, be wise; to feel, to think; to have an opinion of one’s self, think of one’s self, to be modest, not let one’s opinion (though just) of himself exceed the bounds of modesty; to direct one’s mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for

Robertson: The comic poet Eupolis uses the rare word koiliodaimwn for one who makes a god of his belly and Seneca speaks of one who abdomini servit. Sensuality in food, drink, sex then as now mastered some men. These men posed as Christians and gloried in their shame.

Wuest:  “He probably was thinking of the Cyclops in Euripedes who says, “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 of wise men.”” [1]


Don’t live by your appetites

Talking about appetites:
The FBI Orders Pizza
FBI agents conducted a raid of a psychiatric hospital in San Diego that was under investigation for medical insurance fraud. After hours of reviewing thousands of medical records, the dozens of agents had worked up quite an appetite. The agent in charge of the investigation called a nearby pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues. The following telephone conversation took place and was recorded by the FBI because they were taping all conversations at the hospital.
Agent: Hello. I'd like to order 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of soda.
Pizza Man: And where would you like them delivered?
Agent: We're over at the psychiatric hospital.
Pizza Man: The psychiatric hospital?
Agent: That's right. I'm an FBI agent.
Pizza Man: You're an FBI agent?
Agent: That's correct. Just about everybody here is.
Pizza Man: And you're at the psychiatric hospital?
Agent: That's correct. And make sure you don't go through the front doors. We have them locked. You'll have to go around to the back service entrance to deliver the pizzas.
Pizza Man: And you say you're all FBI agents?
Agent: That's right. How soon can you have them here?
Pizza Man: Everyone at the psychiatric hospital is an FBI agent?
Agent: That's right. We've been here all day and we're starving.
Pizza Man: How are you going to pay for all of this?
Agent: I have my checkbook right here.
Pizza Man: And you're all FBI agents?
Agent: That's right. Everyone here is an FBI agent. Can you remember to bring the pizzas and sodas to the service entrance in the rear? We have the front doors locked.
Pizza Man: I don't think so.
Seriously …
A person who lives according to their appetites. Their life is built around satisfying the next craving.
This is the kind of person who is an “enemy of the cross of Christ”. (vs.18)
There are even Christians who can fall into this category.
When we refuse to live a “crucified” life, the life of the cross, we will fall into the category of those who follow their own fleshly desires, whose “God is their belly”.
Jesus said,
(Mat 16:24 KJV) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

conversation politeuma – the administration of civil affairs or of a commonwealth; the constitution of a commonwealth, form of government and the laws by which it is administered; a state, commonwealth; the commonwealth of citizens

This is related to the word used in:

Php 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Paul was proud of his Roman citizenship and used it to find protection against the Jewish leaders.

The Philippians were also proud to be a Roman colony, being Roman citizens.

heavenouranos – the vaulted expanse of the sky with all things visible in it; the region above the sidereal heavens, the seat of order of things eternal and consummately perfect where God dwells and other heavenly beings

Savioursoter – saviour, deliverer, preserver

we look for apekdechomai – assiduously and patiently waiting for

(Phil 3:20 NASB) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;


Represent your country well.

We are no longer “earthly” people. We now have a new nature that comes from heaven itself. We are strangers in this world.
We ought to have a “passport” showing our true citizenship.  Not the U.S. (though I’m proud to be an American).  But a passport from Heaven.
We need to represent our country well because pretty soon, we’ll be there.

:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

shall changemetaschematizo – to change the figure of, to transform

bodysoma – the body both of men or animals

viletapeinosis – lowness, low estate

may be fashionedsummorphos – having the same form as another, similar, conformed to

gloriousdoxa – opinion, judgment, view; opinion, estimate, whether good or bad concerning someone; in the NT always a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, and glory; splendour, brightness; magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace

the workingenergeia – working, efficiency; in the NT used only of superhuman power, whether of God or of the Devil

he is abledunamai – to be able, have power whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources, or of a state of mind, or through favourable circumstances, or by permission of law or custom; to be able to do something; to be capable, strong and powerful

to subduehupotasso – to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection; to subject one’s self, obey; to submit to one’s control; to yield to one’s admonition or advice; to obey, be subject; A Greek military term meaning "to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader". In non-military use, it was "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden".


We’ll be like Him

He will change our bodies to be like His own glorified body. He will use the same power that He will exert to bring the whole world into subjection to Himself.
We will be like Him.

(1 John 3:2 NASB) Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.

We’re not sure just what these bodies will look like, but they’ll be like His glorified body.

He could fly. He could walk through walls. Cool stuff.

We look forward to the Rapture:
(1 Th 4:15-17 KJV)  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. {16} For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: {17} Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
(1 Cor 15:50-53 KJV)  Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. {51} Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, {52} In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. {53} For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

[1]Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Php 3:18). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.