The Christian Course: Philippians 3

Christianity was first introduced into eastern Europe around the middle of the first century by Paul and his companions, Silas, Timothy, and Luke (Acts 16). It was at Philippi that the gospel won its first triumphs. Philippi was a Roman colony with all the rights and immunities that belonged to Rome itself. The colonists were Roman citizens. In short, the colony was a miniature of the imperial city.

The circumstances relating to the planting of the assembly in Macedonia were extraordinary. First the preachers were forbidden to preach in Asia; then the Holy Spirit did not allow them to go into Bithinia. “So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.” While there Paul received a vision in the night, a man urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul concluded that God was calling them to preach in Macedonia. They finally arrived in Philippi, and some details are given: the conversion of Lydia, the exorcism of the slave girl, the arrest of Paul and Silas, the dungeon, the earthquake, and the conversion of the jailer and his family. The Spirit of God and the spirt of the evil one contended for the mastery. In a very real sense, the destiny of Europe was involved in the struggle between Christianity and heathenism at Philippi.

The grace of God in the gospel prevailed and a NT assembly was established for the glory of God.

The Philippian assembly held a special place in the affections of the beloved apostle to the Gentiles, and he highlights some of their delightful features:

Fellowship in the gospel: 1:3-5

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. Always in every prayer of mine on behalf of you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Faithful in generosity 1:7; 4:15, 18

“No church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving, but you only … the things that came from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.”

Fruitful in their spiritual life 1:11

“Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Forward in their suffering 1:29, 30

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had, and now hear that I still have” (ESV, Written at the time of his imprisonment).

Chapter 3:17-21, The Christian Course can be considered in three aspects: Walking (vv17-19); Watching (v20); Waiting (v21).

Walking (vv17-19)

Walking is used as a figure of speech to express the importance of conduct. Walking implies action, progression, concentration. Walking also suggests a determination to reach a goal, an accomplishment. Drfting along is a pointless attitude. A pilgrim isn’t a tramp! A tramp was asked on one occasion how he decided which way he would tramp, and his answer was, “I always turn my back to the wind.” There was a lack of incentive, determination, and achievement. The word for “walk” means, “to keep in line, in rank.” It is a military term. Paul goes on to emphasize that there is a right way in which to walk. He addresses the positive way of life for the Christian, then contrasts this with a negative way of life, using the same simile to underscore his explanation.

The Positive View (v17)

He points them to a pattern. “Brethren, be followers (imitators) of me, and mark them (keep your eyes on them) who walk according to the example you have in us.” Paul, knowing their difficulties, and the danger of being diverted from the true path, pointed them to his own conduct as a pattern for believers. This is the second time, within a few verses, he has called on them to follow his example in verse 14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV). The pursuit of the prize is Christian experience at its highest point. His own path was clear cut and decisive. He had renounced everything that the world would consider to be beneficial, in order to “win Christ.” Paul was a model Christian in every way: “Brethren, be followers together of me” or, “join in following my example.” Delivered from the “course of this age” (Eph 2:2), to pursue the course of living according to the will of God, and for His pleasure.

He points them to a path. “Mark those who so walk” (v17) A. S. Way’s rendering is suggestive, “Note those who tread the same path.” How encouraging to be able to observe the same devotion, dedication, and obedience in others.

-To be continued