Phil 3:17-4:3 Pitfalls of the Journey
17. Paul begins this section asking the Philippians to follow his example.
What is his example? Farley suggests that it is to “conform to apostolic pattern; the pattern is the apostolic teaching and example (Rom 6:17)”. Paul readily admits in previous verses that he has not arrived, yet he presses on. His example then is not so much every aspect of who he is but to follow him on his journey. It is the way which is the example--the journey toward Christ. This is what he is confident about. This path is sure and true and will lead to communion with God.
Paul also says to look at others who walk this way and follow their example. Who are those who we can follow their example? Today there are many faithful Christians who are on the path, but the church upholds the Saints for this reason. Here are men and women who have gone before us and have attained the prize. Their life is worthy of modeling. This should encourage us to read their lives and listen to their path.
18. There are many who followed this path but have fallen away. This brings Paul to tears. He is speaking again of the Judaizers. Why did they fall away? They stopped pressing forward; possibly they felt they had attained the prize; they got comfortable at their level of growth. This is why the church always call for repentance. The Church provides for us multiple opportunities to reflect and repent. The fast of the Church are there for us to re-evaluate and repent.
19. Paul gives characteristics of those who left the faith and danger signs for us. 1. Their god is their appetite Ambrose-“impeding the salvation of the faithful by raising questions about the eating of or abstinence of food.”
-What does he mean by this? (Rom 16:18; 1 Cor 6:13; Hos 4:7; Jdg 6:32; Gal 1:15) Chrys “Your belly is given to you to nourish it, not so that it may burst. Your body is given to you that you may rule it, not so that you may have it as a mistress, it is given that it may serve you.” There is a slight pun here. The Judaizers were insistent upon retaining and enforcing the dietary laws of the OT. Paul ridicules them somewhat by saying that what they eat has become their god. Also, it can be extended to the passions in general. Life’s purpose for these people have become the satisfaction of physical desires rather than God’s glory.
2. Their glory is their shame. Farley says their “glory is their shame; Paul’s is the maturity and holiness of the churches he fouded (1 Thess 2:20”. What they purpose to do will ultimately lead away from Christ thus becoming shame to them.
3. They set their mind on earthly things. Once again Farley states, “The Judaizers insisentence on circumcision makes the Cross irrelevant (Gal. 6:12)”.
20-21. Paul now gives motivation to continued growth. The Christian’s citizenship exists in the heavens; remember that the Philippians were proud of their Roman citizenship (Farley). Clement of Alexandria “we know that this is well said, for we ought to live as strangers and expatriates in the world…not using the creation to satisfy our passions but high-mindedly and with thanksgiving.”
4:1-3. Paul encourages them to stand firm. Marius Victorinus says that they are to be “united as one, thinking in harmony”. Paul makes his exhortation very practical by mentioning a situation in the church. His exhortation is to two women in the church; Paul does not take sides; Yet he encourages his yokefellow and the other Christians to work with these women for reconciliation and unity. Who is this yokefellow? Some even in the early church (Clement of Alexandria) suggested St. Paul’s wife because of the marital language that yokefellow suggests. Farley suggests that is was the husband of one of the women and maybe the brother of the other one. This is Chrysostom’s theory as well. Marius Victorinus suggests the yoke fellow is Epaphroditus. He also mentions Clement in this passage who is to become a later bishop of Rome. Ultimately this reminds us that we are to help each other on the race – we are not lone ranger Christians.