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Philippians 3:17-21

Walk this Way!

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • October 15, 2023

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Walk this Way!

Philippians 3:17-21 


While studying the verses leading up to this section last week in Philippians 3, we noted the common analogy Paul gives us in his writings that centers on the athletic analogy of running our race for Christ. This week, he slows things down just a bit and directs our attention to the Christian walk. The Christian walk is another analogy often seen in Paul’s writings and throughout the New Testament.

Colossians 2:6, “as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him;” In Galatians 5:16 we are told to “walk in the Spirit;” Ephesians 4:1, “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called;” 5:2, “walk in love;” 5:8, “walk as children of the light.

1 John 1:7, “If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin;” 1 John 2:6, the one who is in Jesus should “walk just as He walked.”  1 Peter 2:21, Jesus left you an example “so that you might follow in His steps.”


Illus. Walk the walk?


As we turn to Philippians chapter three, verses 17 to 21 this morning, we will see Paul point to the Christian walk and essentially say, “walk this way!” When he writes about the Christian walk, he is writing about the way we live, our conduct, or the way we proceed through this life as those in Christ. From the verses today, I want to point out four ways Paul encourages us to walk and look at each point as if Paul were saying to you and me today, “walk this way!”

The first way Paul points us to, centers on the patterns we walk according to.


  1. Walk According to a Christlike Pattern


Philippians 3:17, Brothers and sisters, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.


  • In this verse, Paul points the church to an example and pattern to walk according to.


  • Specifically he says, “join in following.”


  • If we going to go anywhere on a walk, we have to join in, so there is an invitation Paul gives to us all, sisters and brothers, join in the walk!


  • We don’t just walk in such a way that we are wandering aimlessly, we need to make sure we are headed in the right direction. And Paul first directs our attention to his example.


  • Some might read these words and go, “wow, why didn’t Paul just tell them to follow Jesus’ example?” Is he trying to lead people to follow him rather than Jesus? Not at all!


  • Throughout this book already, Paul has consistently pointed to Christ. Chapter 1, “to live is Christ;” Chapter 2, “Have the attitude that was in Christ, in you;” also in Chapter 2, “prove yourselves children of God.”


  • In the verses leading up to this Paul made sure the people knew that his pursuit was the upward call of Christ (14), that he was not there yet, he was not perfect, he had not grasped it, but he was reaching forward and running toward the call of Jesus Christ on his life (vs. 12-16).


  • The Greek word for “example” is symmimetes (soo – mee-may -tase), it is defined as a co-imitator, or co-follower.


  • Paul was not elevating himself above them, but rather, providing an example among them.


1 Corinthians 11:1, Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (NIV)


  • Paul does not just point his own example; he also directs our attention to those who “walk according to the pattern you have in us.”


  • At the end of chapter two, we learned about Timothy and Epaphroditus, who were faithful workers for the kingdom, their interests were centered on Jesus Christ. When referring to Timothy he wrote, “you know his proven character.”


  • Paul was giving them Christlike patterns to follow. He tells them to follow his example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern in them.


  • That word is skopeo, it is to mark, to look at, observe, to take heed for oneself.


  • Last we look at Hebrews chapter 12, let us run the race, fixing our eyes upon Jesus. And this is very important to do.


  • Paul also encourages walking according to Christlike patterns. People who are running the race as well, fixing their eyes there. Those people are examples, they can help provide a pattern.


  • Note this, Jesus is the only perfect pattern, but there are those who have chosen to follow Jesus and provide for us some powerful examples and patterns to follow.


Illus. Phone a friend.


Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.


  1. Watch Where You Step


Philippians 3:18-19, For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things.


  • In verses 18 and 19, Paul essentially says, “watch your step” because not everyone is providing a good pattern in the way they walk.


  • We do not know if Paul was referring to one specific group when he wrote about the “many who walk as enemies of the cross.”  What we know about the early church was that there were two primary groups that were problematic inside the early church.


  • I say “inside” because Paul is on the topic of our Christian walk and which examples to pattern their walk after. He wrote, “many walk, but they are enemies of the cross of Christ.”


  • In other words, there are good examples, and bad examples, even inside the church, so watch your step!


  • One group was the Judaizers. We looked at them two weeks ago. They were the people who said a person needed to keep the Jewish law and live according to the Jewish customs in order to be saved.


  • They believed that those without a Jewish lineage could be saved, but circumcision was an admission requirement, and then a commitment to keeping the law of Moses.


  • They kept rigid rules and regulations. They tried their best to adhere to the laws of Moses, all 613 of them.


  • Paul’s message was, “just believe in Jesus…”


Acts 13:38-39, Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.


  • The other group that had come into the church were the Gnostics, and many scholars believe Paul is referring here also to a sect of Gnosticism called the antinomian Gnostics.


  • This group was on the opposite in end of the spectrum, teaching that all matter was evil, only the spirit is good. So, a person can be saved by surrendering their spirit to God, but they could live however they wanted and do anything with their body, because the body is irredeemable according to their teaching.


  • Paul wrote, they are enemies of the cross…What this means is that one group is rejecting the Biblical truth that Jesus died for our sins and we have grace, mercy, and new life in Him. The other group was unwilling to “deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus” (Matthew 16:24-26).


  • Paul wrote, “their end is destruction…”


    • For the Judaizers, a refusal to accept Jesus’s sacrifice on their behalf, would eliminate their ability to be saved, they were teaching that salvation was by works, not by grace.


    • For those practicing and teaching antinomianism, they were not displaying the fruit of a redeemed and repentant life. The life of one who had turned from sin and to Christ.


Romans 6:11-14


  • Paul continued, “their god is their appetite…”


    • The Judaizers were focused on following various food laws.


    • The antinomian group centered their lives around their physical desires, their focus on being filled by whatever desire they were hungry for.


  • Paul continued, “their glory is in their shame…”


    • The Judaizers were glorying in themselves and their works, finding personal glory in their circumcision, believing their law keeping was making them righteous.


    • The antinomian group were pursuing glory in carnality, sexuality, sensuality…They elevated the desires of their physical body.


    • From Isaiah 43:7, we know that we were created for God’s glory.


1 Corinthians 10:31, Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God.


  • Lastly, “Their mind is on earthly things…”


    • With the Judaizers, their mind was on the way they looked in this life. Their credentials, the accomplishments, their pursuit of precision in law keeping.


    • For the antinomians, their minds were set on the things of this physical world, the wants of the world, the ways of the world. They were all about pleasing surrendering to the desire of self, rather than surrendering to Christ and setting their minds on Him.


Colossians 3:1-3, Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.


  • Again, Paul is talking about the examples that we follow. He is saying, “watch your step!” because not everyone steps as the Lord directs.


  • In Matthew 7, Jesus said to watch out for those who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ferocious wolves…By their fruit you will recognize them. Just before this, he gave a sobering statement as well.


Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


Illus. Mirror Maze.


  • Want for the Ways of Heaven


Philippians 3:20, For our citizenship is in heaven…


  • Paul just noted those who had their minds set on earthly things, and then gives us the contrast, “our citizenship is in heaven.”


  • A citizen is defined as a native or naturalized member of a nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its privileges and protection.


  • The word Paul uses for “citizenship,” is the Greek word, “politeuma,” (pawleetuma). It is the Greek word from which we get the English word “politics.” It means that which governs us, or our political affiliation.


  • To the Philippians, their citizenship in an earthly sense, was something they were well aware of.


  • The Philippians were Roman citizens, however, they lived nearly 800 miles away from Rome in Macedonia.


  • Being a Roman colony, they were expected to promote the interests of Rome and maintain the dignity of the city.


  • As a colony of Rome, they were under the Roman laws, customs, and government, though they were surrounded by other governments.  


  • This all seems to suggest that Paul may be saying, “you are a colony of kingdom citizens, surrounded by others customs, laws, and governments, but your citizenship is in heaven.”


  • This is true of me and you. We are surrounded by many things, culture, customs, laws, and government, but we have a spiritual address that supersedes all of it.


  • When Paul addressed the church in chapter 1 verse 1 he wrote, “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi.”


  • Notice that, they are in Philippi, but they are in Christ. A physical address, and a spiritual address. We are here on earth, a colony of heaven’s citizens, but our governor is God!


Illus. David Guzik wrote, “If we are citizens of heaven, it means that we are resident aliens on earth. Foreigners are distinct in whatever foreign land they go. Christians must be so marked by their heavenly citizenship that they are noticed as different.”


  • As you walk out this life for Christ, it is important to remember where our citizenship is spiritually, and recognize that where we are presently, is temporary.


Matthew 6:9-10, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.


Illus. Benefits and Responsibilities.


  1. Eagerly Wait for Jesus, the Savior


Philippians 3:20-21, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.


  • In Paul’s day, the word “savior” is one that was used frequently. In the world, the “savior” they would refer to, however, was not Jesus Christ, rather, the most common use of the word in the world was applied to certain world leaders called Caesars.


  • In 48 B.C, Julius Caesar was declared the “universal savior of mankind.” This then became a common title for every ruling Caesar.


  • Caesar Augustus for example issued coins with his image that read, “Divine Caesar and Son of God.” An Egyptian inscription called him a star “shinning with the brilliance of the Great Heavenly Savior.” People worshipped not only him, but other Caesars as types of saviors.


  • The word “Lord” was also applied to the Caesars, and shortly after the days of Paul, many Christians would be martyred for refusing to call Caesar “Lord.”


  • Here Paul sets the record straight, we are awaiting a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus Christ.


  • And Jesus will transform our lowly condition into conformity with His glorious body, and all things will be in subjection to Him.


  • Paul wrote, we eagerly wait for Jesus our Savior! This is word that means “expect fully,” to “patiently wait for” to “look for.”


  • Let us be those who look for the Savior eagerly, presently, know that He is Lord both now, and for all eternity.  

Philippians 3:17-21

17Brothers and sisters, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things. 20For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.


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