Bible Topics
in the Christian Library

Philippians 3:17-4:1

John L. Kachelman, Jr.


I. In this passage Paul presents a broad contrast that is designed to show the great difference between believers and unbelievers.

1. The true believers follow a lifestyle (walk) which results in wonderful blessings and immeasurable joy.

2. The unbeliever, and the faithless disciple, will never find true joy because he is not concerned enough to "walk" in the right way.

3. In our last lesson we observed the RIGHT way to walk in verses 17, 20-21.

a. The HOW was shown: by imitating Paul and mature believers (v. 17).

b. The WHY was answered: Because we are citizens of heaven! (v. 20).

c. We briefly noted the joyful results: eager expectation of Christ's return (v. 20); assurance of the resurrected body (v. 21a); vindication by the glorious power of God (21b). 

II. In our present study we turn to consider the other way of walking -- the WRONG WAY (v. 18-19).

1. Should one deliberately choose not to follow the right way of obedient living, this is the only alternative left!

2. Those who refuse obedience need to carefully consider this section and realize the gravity of disobedience!


I. Paul shows us the WRONG WAY to walk (v. 18-19).

A. We note the HOW of walking in the wrong way.

1. Paul is very specific in stating how one can walk in the wrong way. This involves a deliberate choice of rejecting God's will, just as walking in the right way involves a deliberate choice of accepting God's will (cf. Ac 13:44-48).

2. One who walks in the wrong way makes their belly a god to them (v. 19).

a. A similar statement is found in Ro 16:18.

b. This refers to one who is concerned only with pleasing himself. His goal in life is to satisfy only himself. He is not bound by the standards of God's will, he is guided only by that which satisfies and pleases him!

c. This "god" may be a multitude of things -- whatever comes first in one's thoughts, that which you most want to do. Anything that habitually occupies the mind and actions.

d. This trait directly strikes at a number of texts which emphasize the need to deny ourselves of things that are wrong and things which become barriers to our service (1 Jn 2:15; Ro 14:17; Gal 5:24; 6:14; 1 Pt 2:11).

e. How sad it is to see one like this -- who is so selfish and so interested only in pleasing self that others are hurt and used!

f. It is very possible that some have followed this way and followed the wrong way -- Have you put aside Christ and His church for some personal desire thus making your "god" your belly?

g. Seriously think on this point! "The meaning of this devotion is the degradation of the man below the level of the beast" (Pulpit Commentary).

3. One who walks in the wrong way will glory in their shame (v. 19).

a. They glory in that which should cause them to be ashamed! (Ro 1:32).

b. I have heard people boast about doing things which should never even been spoken about! They gloried in fornication, how much alcohol they drank, of money gained by gambling, fighting, and other shameful acts! They actually boasted in doing things for which they should have been ashamed!

c. How sad it is whenever one's conscience will become so dull and insensitive that the early training of parents and Bible school teachers is cast aside with no regard and life is spent glorying in shame! (2 Pt 2:9b-10; Hos 4:7).

4. One who walks in the wrong way will possess earthly attitudes and goals (v. 19).

a. Their value system is based upon the dollar mark. They are unable to appreciate any spiritual values because it is not material!

b. Paul is not saying that material things are sinful (cf. 1 Ti 6:17b). He is saying that the attitudes of living for the present and neglecting the future is wrong (Jere 45:5).

c. What does it mean to have your mind on earthly things?

1) You accept the standards of morality of the world. "Those outside of Jesus Christ have the ethics and morals of animals. They basically live as animals. When a man accepts the moral standards of an animal, he can never conform to the holiness and righteousness of God" (Pentecost).

2) You desire the world (Col 3:2); admire the world (Lk 21:5, 6); labor after the world (Jn 6:27).

d. "The apostolic description fits a great many people who would be chagrined and embarrassed to admit it; but it is evident to all except themselves that their one and only interest is centered in the present life on earth" (Coffman).

B. Paul tells us the TRAGIC RESULTS of walking the wrong way.

1. Such dispels all joy with sorrow (v. 18).

a. In an epistle filled with joy it is shocking to read of the great apostle weeping!

b. Ps 119:136 -- There is no heavier sorrow than that arising from disobedience of God's Law!

c. The one who walks in the wrong way will be a source of great agony for family, friends, and God!

2. Such will become an enemy of the cross (v. 18).

a. "Cross" -- Stands representing all of the doctrine of Christ.

b. Those in the world despise and scoff at all of the teachings of Christ (Jas 4:4).

3. Such will face the inevitable end of destruction (v. 19).

a. Those who deny the cross and refuse salvation will reap eternal separation from God!

b. There is but one end to such a life (Ro 6:21; Hb 6:8; 2 Co 11:15).

4. Such must be "marked" (v. 18). Paul had noted them before and does so again. They must be marked so as to provide safety for the remaining members (1 Co 5:7; Ro 16:17; 2 Ths 3:6).

III. The PLEA of Paul to walk in the right way stated (4:1).

A. The chapter division is unfortunate because it removes this grand conclusion from the body of exhortation.

B. In view of the great contrast the readers are encouraged to stand fast in the right way!

1. Do not allow yourself to be swept away by the world's allurements -- recognize the end which awaits the world!

2. The right way is found only "in the Lord."

3. Surely the reasonable listener will see the need to follow inspiration's counsel on this point! 


I. Thus Paul has outlined a most important lesson for Christians today -- we are either following the right way or the wrong way (Mt 7:13-14)!

II. May all be impressed with the understanding that this world holds nothing of eternal values, it will pass away and only those who are prepared will enjoy eternity!

III. Which way are you walking today? Which will you deliberately choose? Choose the right way as the Lord's invitation is sung!

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

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