An Exhortation for Them to Have the Same Mind -- Page 2 (series: Lessons on Philippians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

An Exhortation for Them to Have the Same Mind -- Page 2 (series: Lessons on Philippians)

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

Paul now addresses the problem of serious theological error directly. It was the situation in Philippi that created several problems at this time:
1. Knowledge and power were their watchwords, and possession of both meant the possession of a spiritual maturity that freed them from Paul’s injunction against cultic meals and idol worship Even in the temples of their imagined gods. (1 Cor. 8:1-10:22). It also allowed the wealthy among them to indulge their physical appetites and made them oblivious to the needs and feelings of the poorer members of the community (11:17-34). Moreover, since spiritual illumination and power alone were important, physical indulgence in shameful, sexual conduct was not only tolerated in their midst but celebrated as a sign of sexual freedom (5:1-13, 6:12-20; 2 Cor. 12:21).
2. Their minds were focused only on earthly things. Paul says, their minds are focused on “earthly things rather than on the things of God (v. 19).
3. The churches at both Philippi and Corinth were plagued by disunity.

These may be the problems Paul has in mind when he warns the Philippians against “enemies of the cross of Christ (v. 18) whose “god is their stomach” and whose “glory is their shame” (v.19). As an apostle, Paul is a man whose unique authority stems from his knowledge of Christ’s will for the church, and so there is no egotism in his presenting himself as an authentic pattern for believers to follow (4:9). But here he means something more than: “follow my example.” His primary emphasis is: “Recognize my authority, follow what I say, be obedient.” Again, how sure Paul must have been that he had “the mind of Christ” to talk in this way! (1 Cor. 2:16). “And mark those who lived as you have, an example in us.” “US” means Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus.

Paul recommended two antidotes for these problems: He asks the Philippians to unite in their efforts to follow the example he and other mature Christians had provided for them (v. 17), and he admonished them to remember that they are citizens of a heavenly commonwealth (v. 20). And he urged the Philippians to think as he thinks about the need to keep striving for the final goal of full identity with Christ (3:15). However, Paul’s words are not a self-centered claim that everyone should act precisely as he acts, however, for the pattern is larger than Paul himself. Verse 17 is a powerful statement, “Join together in following my example.” As soon as I read it, I wished that I could have said it. I can’t, but Paul could. He says, “If you want to know how to do it, watch me.” This is not to be an imitation. What he means is that you learn to share the power of Christ in the body of Christ, the church.

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