Good examples (17): The best examples to follow are those Christians who, like Paul, are ‘’straining’’ after holiness; those whose minds and hearts are set on things above, and whose hopes are all centred in Christ. ‘’Let my example be the standard by which you tell who are the genuine Christians among those about you.’’ J.B.Phillips. Bill Hybels says ‘’Speed of the leader, speed of the team.’’ In days before the New Testament was written down, Christians needed living examples of what would eventually be put into writing. Emulating good examples and constantly living in the light of the Lord’s return is the way to ‘’stand firm in the Lord.’’ (4:1)
‘’It was as much necessary for Paul to live the kind of Christian life that others could follow as it was for him to preach a pure gospel for them to believe…Our situation is not exactly the same today, as the NT is people’s basic guide to Christian life-style, but it is still the case (as Paul puts it in 2 Cor.3:1-3) that the Christian is called to be like ‘a letter from Christ’, ‘known and read by everybody’, including many who would not turn to the Scriptures.’’ Francis Foulkes: ‘The New Bible Commentary, p.1257
Bad examples (18, 19): ‘’There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street.’’ The Message.
It seems that the people described by Paul were professing Christians, but I think we would call them ‘backslidden’, or ‘worldly’ at very least. The big problem was that ‘’Their mind is on earthly things.’’ They didn’t like the cross. The cross is central for our understanding of discipleship, but they were not inclined to take it up and die daily! They didn’t want it getting anywhere near their flesh life, and slaying it. They weren’t into self-denial. Rather, they wished to give free rein to their carnal natures. Be careful about which ‘Christians’ you spend a lot of time with. Deliberately choose friends who will be ‘firelighters’; who will inspire you and spur you on in the life of faith and holiness.
Great expectations (20): Somebody wrote about ‘living in the future tense.’ True Christians have their minds set on things above, for that is where they really belong (Colossians 3:1-4). Philippi was a colony of Rome in the heart of Greece. Its citizens were Roman citizens. Philippi was ‘Rome from Rome, you might say. It was a little bit of Rome found elsewhere (just as an embassy is a piece of one country located in another.) This idea surely forms the background to Paul’s words here: that of citizenship elsewhere. I often like to think of the church as heaven’s ‘embassy’ here on earth. When people come in among us they should experience a little bit of heaven; sense it, feel it, encounter it. Heaven is where we really belong.
‘’He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.’’ The Message.