Whose Example Will You Follow?

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Whose Example Will You Follow?

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Philippians 3:17-19




As we continue our study of Philippians, we have been addressing Paul’s encouragement to not give up.   No matter what happens, keep pressing on.   As Paul concludes that thought, we find him encouraging them to follow his example and he contrasts that with whose example NOT to follow. Let’s examine these verses.

  1.   Following a godly example
    1. Paul challenges them to follow his example.   He often does this though it is not a prideful attitude (1 Corinthians 11:1, 4:16, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, etc.).
      It is not wrong to present a proper example, even if it is yourself. Jesus did this when He challenged others to follow Him. There may be times where you say, “This is what I have done and it works”.
      BUT you must maintain humility – Romans 12:3.   It is often unwise and for some their disposition seems to be one of drawing attention to themselves CONTINUALLY.
      Not the context – what Paul has given up and his hope these brethren will endure regardless of what they face.
    2. Note those who so walk – the word for note here is found some 6 times in the NT and means to regard or watch closely. The verses used are interesting:
      1. Luke 11:35 – take heed that the light that is in you is not darkness.   Jesus is addressing our example.   We need to note ourselves as we live
      2. Romans 16:17 – Note those who cause divisions – we warn others about those who might cause trouble. We often associate this with “discipline” and rightly so.   This text is only part of the process, but it is an important part – MARK them and make sure brethren are aware of their sinful conduct.
      3. 2 Corinthians 4:18 – we o not look at the things that are see, but at the things which are not seen. Are we taking note of things eternal? More on this in our context.
      4. Galatians 6:1 – a brother overtaken in a trespass – restore them – considering yourself…   Again, a call to take note of yourself.
      5. Philippians 2:4 – let each of you look out … for the interests of the others.
      6. Thought: We are quick to recognize those doing wrong and marking them. Do we recognize those doing the RIGHT thing?   And do we do so with EQUAL (or greater) effort?
    3. As you have us for a pattern – we often reference patterns and associate them with our authority. So it is in this passage. Paul and those with him are a pattern, but only because they are doing what God said to do.   1 Timothy 4:12 – Paul told Timothy to be an example to the believers in word… (same word; Titus 2:7 – young men are to in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; Romans 6:17 – you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.
      In THIS we are also reminded of letting our lights shine.   ARE our actions a pattern worthy of imitation? Could someone SEE the truth by following us? (cf. Matthew 5:16).
  2.   An example NOT to follow
    1. For many walk – sadly there are MANY who are ungodly.   We know this to be true as the majority wholesale reject God and Jesus. And even among professed believers, there are so many who are choosing their own path rather than God’s path. How tragic. This should not surprise us – we are told many are called, but few are chosen – Matthew 22:15, 7:13-14 – the two ways.
    2. Of whom I have told you often, and now tell you – there is a place for continued warning.   The Bible is FILLED with warning about false teachers and various errors. It is filled with warnings about the ungodly and how we ought to avoid them.
      We need CONSTANT warnings against such.   Rarely, will one respond when there is only ONE warning given.   And furthermore, we need reminders – Philippians 3:1, Hebrews 2:1.
    3. Even weeping – do we grieve at the ungodliness around us?   And does that provoke us to warn others?   Does it intensify our warnings?
      Psalm 119:136, Rivers of water run down from my eyes, Because men do not keep Your law.
      Luke 19:41 – as Jesus draws near Jerusalem, he weeps, knowing what is their destiny.
      Romans 9:1-2 – Paul had great sorrow and continual grief in his heart for his brethren who rejected God.
    4. They are enemies of the cross of Christ
      1. What constitutes an enemy of the cross of Christ?   It would be anyone who rejects Jesus as Savior.   Anyone who declares war on God.   Anyone who refuses to obey God.
        Some have debated if Paul had specific enemies in mind – such as the Judaizing teachers, who certainly fit this description, OR pagans who simply refused to submit to God and accept Jesus as their only hope of salvation (Acts 4:12).
        Likely, this was the Judaizing teachers Paul had been warning about, however – it applies to all who are enemies of the cross of Christ.
      2. Whose end is destruction – whoever Paul is speaking of, they are destined for condemnation – 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 – their end will be destruction from the presence of the Lord; Matthew 25:46 – it will be everlasting punishment; 2 Peter 2:1-3 as Paul warns of false teachers he appeals to their destructive results, and ultimately their own destruction.
    5. Whose god is their belly (appetite) – The idea of belly here is they are driven by carnal desires and appetites.  They are doing what they want to do to selfishly satisfy themselves – Romans 16:18
      Some associate this with addictive behaviors – e.g. gluttony, etc.
      HOW MANY TODAY are driven by their own selfish appetites rather than submitting to God or even serving others?   Even among brethren, how many seek their own gratification to the destruction of their souls? There are “under the power” of whatever (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12)
      How many compromise or reject the truth to “fill their bellies”?
    6. Whose glory is their shame – Paul ties this together with the previous description (“and”), thus it describes the same person.   In warning about Judaizing teachers, Paul noted how they sought to glory in the flesh of others – Galatians 6:13.
      I also see in this a prideful attitude – Romans 1:28 speaks of those who did not like to retain God in their knowledge – God gave them up to a debased mind…
      1 Corinthians 5:2 – where brethren were puffed up rather than mourning…
      James 4:16 – leaving God out of your plans, and “boast in your arrogance”…
      HOW MANY TODAY are prideful, even to the point of parading their sinful conduct in public
      ? Bragging about ungodly behaviors – wearing t-shirts about proudly having an abortion, gay pride parades and activities, etc.
      And brethren are not exempt – how many on social media parade sinful conduct and ideas as if they are nothing? How many espouse immoral false doctrines and boast about it (daring anyone to challenge them)?   How many brag about how they tolerate false doctrine and lives?
      I think of Jeremiah 6:15, 8:12 – they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush. That so describes our society today.
    7. Who set their mind on earthly things – this is WHY they reject God.   Rather than submitting to God, they reject Him.   Romans 10:3 speaks of those seeking to establish their own righteousness – they have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
      The Bible continually warns of this attitude – Romans 8:5-6 speaks of those who live according to the flesh and set their minds on the things of the flesh.
      AGAIN, HOW MANY TODAY live their lives for now and now only?   We have been made uncomfortably aware of how more and more are totally walking away from God, even the concept of His being.   And more and more believers and watering down God’s word to accommodate sinful lifestyles.   We must beware and avoid   such (cf. Ephesians 5:11).
      2 Peter 2:9-10 – as Peter continues to warn of false teachers, he notes that God reserves them for punishment (see destruction above) – especially those who walk according to the flesh…
      Contrast this with Colossians 3:1-2 – we are called upon to set our minds upon things above.

As Paul continues in this text, he contrasts this ungodly attitude noting that our citizenship is in heaven.   In our next lesson we will address this.   But for now, we have once again been reminded of two different paths – one leads to heaven, the other to eternal destruction.   Which path will you choose.