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Philippians 3:17-4:1 – Enemies of the Cross
by Gary Sims
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The Letters
Philippians 3:17-4:1 – Enemies of the Cross

Key Verses: (NCV)
  • 17: “Brothers and sisters, all of you should try to follow my example and to copy those who live the way we showed you.” – Paul is not being overly proud but, instead, is offering him self and other leaders of the church as role models that point to Christ. He cautions against false teachers that lead elsewhere.

  • 18: “Many people live like enemies of the cross of Christ. I have often told you about them, and it makes me cry to tell you about them now.” – Paul is referring to people who claim to be Christians but fail to live up to Christ’s teachings of self-sacrifice, humble attitudes, and servanthood for all.

  • 19: “In the end, they will be destroyed. They do whatever their bodies want, they are proud of their shameful acts, and they think only about earthly things.” – A life as a Christian means to deny our selfish ways and focus entirely on Christ, following Him into righteousness.

  • 21: “By His power to rule all things, He will change our simple bodies and make them like His own glorious body.” – No matter how much success we achieve in our lives, it pales to the glory that an eternity with Christ has to offer.

  • 4:1: "My dear brothers and sisters, I love you and want to see you. You bring me joy and make me proud of you, so stand strong in the Lord as I have told you.” – Have faith. Christ will not lead us astray.
Points to Contemplate:
  • Do you have role models? Are there people in your church community that you respect and attempt to emulate? How about in the secular world? Paul warns that we must be careful in our choosing of role models. Do the people you look up to lead you to Christ? If not, should you be following? Does this principle apply to all leaders or only those at church?

  • Are you a role model? Do you lead others to Christ? When you are at work or home and interacting with non-Christians, do your actions and deeds illustrate a Christian attitude? Are you reflecting the light of Christ into all areas of your life? Do you accept the responsibility that some people may never experience Christ except through you?

  • Who are the “enemies of the cross of Christ” in your life? Are they the murderers and thieves in your community that threaten your safety? Are they antagonistic atheists spoiling for a fight? Are they the politicians, judges, or television executives that choose to attack Christian values? Or are they the Christian leaders in your community who fail to act Christ-like in their lives? Who is a bigger threat? Who does the most damage to the kingdom of heaven?

  • Are you focused only on earthly things? How do you avoid this trap? Can you find ways to regularly and daily turn you focus to Christ? Can you set aside your earthly worries, concerns, desires, and goals and make eternity with Christ your number one passion? Is this a realistic objective? Or is Paul outlining an unachievable life-style?
Promises of the Gospel:

Paul is making it clear to the people of Philippi that Christianity is not a life-style choice for those focused on popularity and success. These verses reiterate the importance of Jesus’ lesson when He said: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life from my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”(Mark 8:34-35 – NRSV). C.S. Lewis writes that Satan instilled in the hearts of Adam and Eve not the desire to sin but the desire to pursue happiness outside the realm of God.1 It is in this pursuit of happiness where we elevate our selves into god-like status. The more we think of the self the more we try to become God. Being a Christian is a focus on being Christ-like and doing the things that Christ would have us do. It is a holy life that will lead others to Christ and will, eventually, bring us to the eternal glory that Christ has promised.

1”A Year with C.S. Lewis – Daily Readings from His Classic Works,” edited by Patricia S. Klein, pub. HarperCollins, pp.59, excerpt from Mere Christianity.

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