Bible Topics
in the Christian Library

Philippians 3:17-4:1

John L. Kachelman, Jr.


I. General remarks on the lesson text.

1. Within this passage there is a broad contrast presented to the readers.

a. V. 17, 20-21 describe the child of God who is steadfastly plodding toward the goal of Christianity.

b. V. 18-19 describe the Christian who tries to live as a citizen of the world and as a citizen of heaven.

c. As Paul concludes this paragraph he pleads for the Philippians to see the great difference between the two lifestyles (4:1). A proper realization will lead one to firmly stand in his convictions and faith!

2. The contrast which is presented here is found at other places in the Bible (Ep 2:1-13).

a. The Christian has been rescued, and though by no measure is he/she perfect s/he is striving toward maturity in Jesus Christ.

b.The sinner lacks even the basic meaning and purpose of life. There is such a broad difference between the saint and sinner!

II. The key word in this section is "walk."

1. The word signifies daily living and conduct, and behavior.

2. Paul's message is a much needed one -- if you want to find joy you MUST walk in the proper way!

3. There is presented to us two different ways in which we can walk. Each is fully described and the traits are clear. 

4. Consider now these two ways in which we can "walk" (live).


I. Paul shows us the RIGHT WAY TO WALK (v. 17, 20-21).

A. We consider the HOW of walking in the right way.

1. By imitating Paul (v. 17).

a. This was not an "ego trip" for Paul. He was encouraging his brethren to follow the principles of Christ as he did.

b. Paul did not hesitate to call others to follow exactly his life (1 Co 11:1; 2 Ths 3:7-9).

c. Instead of this reflecting arrogance in Paul's life, it demonstrated humility. Consider what all we are called to imitate Paul in Philip. 3:7, 9, 10, 14.

d. Once one imitates fully the apostle's attitudes and lifestyle there will be joy found! He sacrificed and served to follow Christ; he disregarded his personal rights and privileges. He entreats the Philippians to do this as well. 

e. Can you offer yourself as a pattern, begging others to follow your lifestyle exactly? There are no Bibles like human Bibles. We have pulpit Bibles, teachers' Bibles, children's Bibles, and many others; there are red leather, black leather, and brown leather Bibles. But there is only one Bible the unsaved are taking time to read and that is the old shoe-leather Bible characterized in your life and mine. If our unsaved neighbors and friends do not see the Lord Jesus Christ in us, in all probability they will never see Him. What do they read when they look at your life? What do they see? Are you an example to the God of grace and glory who has sacrificed everything for you?

2. By marking mature believers (v. 17b).

a. "Mark" -- to observe or carefully watch, behold closely.

b. We should look around our number and select ones whose character is blameless and mark them and follow their example (Hb 13:7).

c. Once again each should seriously examine their life to make sure they carry this "mark" (Gal 6:17b; Rv 14:1).

B. We note the WHY of walking in the right way (v. 20).

1. We need to walk in the right way because we are citizens of heaven! (cf. 1:27).

2. The logic of this point is understood by looking at a citizen of this age. No matter where he may travel he is still a citizen of his homeland. He is responsible to that country and is bound by the laws of his country.

3. We are citizens of God's Kingdom. Thus we must do what God's Laws demand, not what we want. It is a question of how I can conform to His Kingdom as a dutiful citizen desires.

4. Believers belong to that "city . . . whose architect and builder is God" (Hb 11:10), the "Jerusalem that is above" (Gal 4:26), and are themselves "foreigners and strangers on earth" (Hb 11:13; 1 Pt. 2:11). As such, their eyes should be heavenward, anticipating the coming of their Saviour, who is not a mere emperor but the Lord Jesus Christ! (Kent).

5. Note: Jn 17:16; Col 3:2; Hb 13:14.

6. You cannot be a citizen of heaven AND a citizen of the world at the same time! "If unconverted men lay their hands upon your shoulders to hail you as one of themselves, begin to question in your own heart whether you are truly living as one of the citizens of the New Jerusalem" (Meyer).

C. We note the JOYOUS RESULTS of walking in the right way (v. 20b-21).

1. There is an eager expectation of Christ's return (v. 20).

a. As each day dawns and each evening fades we should be expecting the fulfillment of this blessed hope! (Jas 5:8; Hb 10:37).

b. The faithful disciple will not slacken his watch for the Lord's return (Lk 12:40- 48; 1 Jn 3:3).

c. One of the greatest reasons why people allow worldliness to creep into their lives is because they allow this expectancy to become loosened.

d. It is this expectancy which closes the Bible's last message (Rv 22:20). 

e. For all who live and walk in the right way there should be no fear or hesitation about the Lord's return -- it will be a glorious happening! (2 Ths 1:7-12; 2 Ti 4:8). "Oh! When will those pearly fgates open! When will that cavalcade issue forth! When though the dim haze will the Lord come, riding upon his white horse, and followed by the army of heaven. What a hope; what a day; what a scene, what a triumph; what a joy! Oh that, being unafraid, and unashamed, we may be happily ready to join in the welcome to the Returning King" (Guy King).

f. Friends, if you do not eagerly await the Lord's return, you had best be doing whatever needs to be done to get ready! (Lk 12:35-37).

2. There is the assurance of the resurrected body (v. 21a).

a. "Humiliation" -- literally is "lowliness." It calls attention to the body's weaknesses and susceptibility to persecutions, diseases, death, age, infections, etc.

b. But, at the time of Christ's second coming, and because we have walked the right path, our bodies will change -- they will become glorious, powerful, honorable, spiritual, and immortal.

c. See I Corinthians 15:42-44, 51-58.

3. There is vindication by the glorious power of God (v. 21b).

a. God's power is perfected in Christ!

b. "When the devil is strong, when passion rages, when you cannot be the man you would, when it seems as though the world were hopelessly corrupt and the wrongs of time refuse to be adjusted, repeat these words to yourself, as a sweet refrain" (Meyer).

c. Through the power of Christ we are able to subdue temptation living worthily of our citizenship and ultimately rise to life immortal.


I. In this first part we have seen the need to walk in the RIGHT way.

1. Surely the logical and sensible person can see the urgency of following this path.

2. Remember the How, the Why, and the Joyful Results which come from walking in the right way.

II. Briefly consider the pride of being a citizen of heaven (v. 20). Men speak of Rome as the eternal city. She has no right to that title. There is only on eternal city, because its foundations cannot be impaired by revolution or change; because its walls are founded on God's eternal covenant of truth; and because all its laws and regulations are based upon the principles of eternal truth. From out of those city gates proceed the angels to all parts of the universe, but they return to it, as the metropolis of life. Thither the kings and princes of science, of literature, of music, of art bring their treasures. The saints of every age find their home there. Her light is brighter than the sun's; there is no temple because God is her Temple; her river is the Holy Spirit of God; her flowers are of amaranth; her streets are of gold; her walls of jasper; her gates of pearl; God Himself is her architect and King. Who may not be rightly proud to belong to such a city?" (Meyer).

III. Do you share in the glorious citizenship of heaven? Are you living a life that will show others the way to heaven? Do you live expecting the Second Coming?

Copyright 1998 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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