Sermon Notes: Follow the Leader-Philippians 3:17-21

Introduction: How many of you remember playing the game “Follow the Leader” as a kid?  I still get to play the game with the kids in Children’s Church. In the game, the leader does an action (marching, clapping, running, crawling, etc.) and the followers imitate the leader. 

Today’s Scripture sounds like a game of Follow the Leader as Paul is writing to the Philippians.

Video of Molly singing at a year old-trying to follow sound of piano and her mom

Read Philippians 3:17-21

Guide (vs. 17)

·         Paul’s example

o   His behavior-

§  Is Paul being egotistical or prideful? Is Paul saying that he is perfect or superior to others? Paul answers these questions in previous verses in Chapter 3.          

·         Paul does not want the glory for himself—see 3:1-rejoice in the Lord and 3:3-who glory in Christ Jesus

·         Not perfection-see 3:12-14

·         Righteousness-Self-see 3:4-6 or Christ-outside of us-see 3:9

o   Paul’s own life story has shown not only the futility of striving toward one’s own righteousness, but also the priceless treasure of gaining Christ and resting in his righteousness[1]

o   His Christ-

§  Greek word literally means “co-imitators” which says the focus is not be like Paul or Peter or Timothy but instead be like Christ.

§  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ-1 Corin. 11:1

·         Live by the pattern-

o   Flesh like the Judaizers or Paul before salvation-living by a checklist or by law

o   Spirit-living in freedom or by grace

gods (vs. 18-19)

·         Vs. 18-with tears-Paul is saddened by this

·         Vs. 18-In 2017, who are the enemies of cross of Christ? 

o   When I have read this passage before, I would have said these enemies are people outside the church such as media, Hollywood, government, lust for power, money, pleasures.

o   When I teach, I will often say “context matters” As I read this passage in light of previous verses, book of Philippians, and other writings of Paul, I discovered  something I had not realized before--The enemies could be “bad” people morally or but it might instead  be “good, religious people-Judaizers.

§  There is disagreement among scholars and in commentaries over who these enemies of the cross of Christ are.

·         The one group (Judaizers) added works to salvation by Jesus alone. They said yes to Jesus AND circumcision, dietary laws, etc.

·         The other group ignores the free gift of salvation and lives for self and what pleases them not what God says is best. They believe they have freedom to do whatever they want (various sins) but in actuality they are not free but in bondage to that sin.

§  Perhaps it is good that Paul left the identity of these people vague. Had he clearly identified a certain group, we might connect the danger only with that one group and forget that false teaching and sinful living can come at us from any side.[2]

o   Vs. 19-Destiny is destruction

§  This word carries with it the idea of waste and “lostness.”[3]

§  Without Christ, we do not receive eternal life.

o   Vs. 19-god is their stomach

§  Bad-That means they worship their fleshly desires and appetites.

§  Good-From a Jewish perspective, the stomach represents food allowed or not allowed by Jewish food laws.[4]

o   Vs. 19-glory in their shame

§  Bad-a focus on shameful things, glory in created things

§  Good- a focus on circumcision, glory to themselves rather than God.

o   Vs.19-Mind on earthly things

§  Naturally, as humans, we focus on ourselves.  It is easier to look around and compare ourselves to others or to look inward than it is to keep our eyes up. 

§  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2

·         Both groups need Christ alone by faith alone by grace alone through Scripture alone for the glory of God alone.

Glory (vs. 20-21)

·         Vs. 20-Citizen of heaven

o   I am a citizen of the United States. How? I was born here. I did nothing. My citizenship was secured by my parents. Similarly, I’m a citizen of heaven because of what Christ has DONE.

o   our citizenship in heaven ought to make us better people here on earth.[5] --it will affect how you live.  It is not a striving, doing more, trying harder, but instead a freedom & living from our identity in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

o   Christian, remember your citizenship. Remember who you are. Since “doing” flows from “being, and because how we live naturally results from who we know ourselves to be, it is important to think of the gospel in this way at all times. Because of Christ’s work, we have been rescued from the idolatry of earthly things. Our God is the one true God, and in Him we have total satisfaction and eternal security. (Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ pg. 144)

·         Vs. 20-Savior-Jesus

o   Save us from ourselves, save us from this broken world, died for sinners, Rescue/Restore/Reconcile, defeated sin, death & Satan, Not by works but by faith

·         Vs. 21-Power that Enables--Greek work dunamis where we get dynamite

·         Vs. 21-Transforms our bodies

§  No more muscle aches, broken bones, arthritis, memory loss, indigestion, disease, or death. no more selfishness


Closing: Justification-“just as if I never sinned and just as if I always obeyed”, fully acceptable and pleasing to God, God is not your Judge, but your Father. You are good with God.  There is nothing you can do to make him love you more or less. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Glorification-Transforms our bodies (Phil. 3:21) There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. (1 Corinthians 15:40)

No one doubts that our justification is all of Christ.  We know we are saved by faith not by works.  We don’t contribute anything.  We also know glorification is all of Christ because we don’t contribute to our bodies being transformed.  But when we move to sanctification, we start talking 50-50 (Jesus and Us).  We see the other words as what Jesus does, but sanctification is up to us.  Let me share some verses to help us sanctification in a different way this morning. 

Sanctification-process/journey/path of becoming more like Christ. being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6)

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Why share this with you?  Because as we understand that our justification/sanctification/glorification is all of Jesus, our lives will be transformed.  Because when we understand that our justification/sanctification/glorification is not just something pastors and scholars talk about, we will see how it affects how we live Monday-Saturday not just on Sunday. Because when we realize, who God is, what Christ has DONE, and what the Holy Spirit is empowering and doing in us, we will want to serve, love, give, tell others about Jesus, and much more. 

Benediction--Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

[1] Johnson, D. E. (2013). Philippians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (1st ed., p. 228). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
[2] Ellsworth, R. (2004). Opening up Philippians (p. 74). Leominster: Day One Publications.
[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 93). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[4] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 246). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[5] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 91). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


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