Text–Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. [Philippians 3:17-4:1 ESV]
Summary–In Acts 16:12, Philippi is described as a Roman colony. It was a Rome in miniature, a reproduction on a small scale of the imperial city. Its citizens naturally took great pride in being Roman. Moreover, they enjoyed all the rights and privileges of being a citizen in the greatest empire of its day. They were freed from having to pay tribute to Rome (a kind of income tax). They were allowed to govern themselves without having to report to a provincial governor. In return, Philippi provided a safeguard to Roman lands and spread Rome’s dominance throughout Macedonia. The Roman citizen had much to boast about. Paul was one of these favored citizens of Rome. But where did this position get him? It got him into a prison cell. While writing to the Philippian Church, Paul sat in a Roman prison awaiting the verdict from the Roman emperor on whether he would be sentenced to death or be allowed to live. But Paul was not concerned with this judgment. He warned the Philippian church not to rely on their citizenship in Rome, but to imitate Paul and look to their citizenship in heaven in standing firm in the Lord.
Insight–As you walk in this life, there are many paths before you. You must choose which way you will go. Standing still is not an option for you. You must choose one. But how will you know which path is the correct one? Which path will lead you to the heavenly father and his celestial kingdom and which will lead you to destruction? They all look pretty similar but how do you know which way to go? In our text, Paul gives us the directions on how to pick the right path. Paul commands us to join with others who are following his example (vv 3:17). Look to how he puts it in the preceding verse. He states, “let us hold true” (vv 3:16) which in the Greek is another way of saying, “let us walk in a row”. This row is a row of houses, a squad of soldiers, a wall of trees, and so on. This word implies an orderly and harmonious arrangement.
But what ways can we stand together in a row? One way is to remember the season of lent. Our church fathers arranged the Christian calendar in such a way as to remember the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. For many thousands of years, christians walked by the light of this calendar as a way to follow Him and to imitate His life. As we follow the same calendar, and remember the same days of feasting and fasting, we are formed more and more into a row of houses, soldiers, trees. Time builds community. Following the season of lent provides an avenue for fellow Christians to cooperate in common Christian community. It helps us take our eyes off ourselves and helps us remember Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are then able to avoid walking with those who only think of themselves and where their next meal will come from. This is what Paul warns us about in walking with those whose god is their belly. Don’t lose sight of where they are headed. Many look only at what brings them pleasure in the moment. But when they do that, they are steered off the path and are led to destruction. Paul commands the church to stand firm in the straight path of the Lord and avoid at all costs the crooked path of the evildoer and enemy of the cross of Christ (vv 4:1). Remember during this season of lent what Christ did for us and where he is taking us. He is coming again, stand firm in the faith and look to Him for your salvation.
Catechism–(Q) How do I imitate Paul? (A) By standing firm in the Lord
Prayer–Almighty God, ruler of nations, help us to keep on your path to your glorious city. Father, give us clear understanding of our privileges as your citizens in the heavenly realm. Lord, grant us wisdom in who we walk with, that we would walk in a manner worthy of the calling that you have granted us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Contributed by Michael Fenimore