Philippians Week #10 – Notes for Church

Philippians 3:17-4:1


Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

4 Therefore, my brothers,[a] whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.


HEAVEN. Philippians 3:20 says that “our citizenship is in heaven.” What is heaven? At the consummation of all things there will be a completely reconstructed creation, a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21–22). However, heaven is not just a future reality and place. Nor is it simply the dwelling of those who die before Christ’s return. Heaven is also a present, invisible reality for the saints living on earth. Every Christian is already “blessed … with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Raised up with Christ in regeneration, we are mysteriously but really “seated … with him in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6). So when Paul writes “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20), he is not only encouraging us to think about where we will go, but also about where we are now. It is a concept as majestic as it is mysterious. We “see” this realm now only with the eyes of faith (2 Cor. 4:18). We must “set our minds” on it (Col. 3:2) and long for the day when “heaven” will not only become visible but will overtake and transform everything.


Detour Ahead: Much of the focus of this section is on a group Paul refers to as enemies of the cross. Paul draws more attention to them by delaying the disclosure of who the many are. He creates this delay by making two impassioned statements about the steps he has taken to warn the Philippians about such people. He’s mentioned them in the past, and now weeping, he raises the issue again. This not only heightens the emotion of his plea, it also delays the disclosure of who the many are: enemies of the cross.


Us vs. Them: Paul offers contrasting portraits of the enemies of the cross in comparison with what believers may expect. In rapid succession, Paul introduces a topic and makes a comment about the enemies. After four such comments, he moves on to contrast them with what believers do or expect. The close parallels in the topics sharpen the contrast between us and them.


Runge, S. E. (2011). High Definition Commentary: Philippians (Php 3:15–21). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


3:17 fellow imitators of me Paul regularly presents himself as a model for believers to follow (compare 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; Gal 4:12). In Philippians, he also praises others who are worthy of imitation—Christ, Timothy, and Epaphroditus (Phil 2:5, 22, 25, 29).


3:18 enemies of the cross of Christ These enemies seem to be different from the group that was promoting circumcision for non-Jewish believers (vv. 2–3). Paul associates them with sensual pleasures and shameful behavior (v. 19), suggesting they are libertines rather than keepers of the law.


3:19 whose end is destruction Paul assures the Philippians that such people will face divine judgment.


3:20 our commonwealth exists in heaven Roman citizenship was highly prized, but Paul encourages believers to embrace a far better identity as citizens of God’s kingdom. Most residents of Philippi probably lacked Roman citizenship (see note on 1:1). For any believers who did hold Roman citizenship, Paul’s statement here presents a challenge to look beyond their earthly status and show the highest allegiance to Christ.


a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ In the Roman Empire, the emperor was known as the savior and lord. By applying these titles to Jesus, Paul is calling the Philippians to live under the authority and reign of the universe’s true Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. It was likely this kind of message that landed Paul and Silas in jail in Philippi (Acts 16:21).


3:21 transform our humble body Those who believe in Christ will be raised and their bodies will be transformed (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:20–22, 51–54).


Philippians Week 10 – GOING DEEPER STUDY