17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Phil. 3:17-21
The most important thing that I want us to consider in portion of scripture is Paul’s attitude towards the gospel of Jesus Christ contrasted with preachers in his day whom we would equate with today’s prosperity-gospel preachers. The latter were men whose motive in the gospel was material fulfillment. Even in our modern times, the truth is that what is called ‘church’ under the prosperity gospel – and it increasingly consists of a large portion of the Body of Christ – is not Christ’s church at all, but it is simply that some hungry, wrongly-motivated individuals have taken it upon themselves to trouble and mislead God’s people (Gal. 1:7).
These kinds of preachers preach a gospel that has absolutely no relation with the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and in real life there are many tragic stories in people’s lives that are directly connected with the activities of these preachers.
Any gospel that minds “earthly things” is a low-life, spiritually abhorrent gospel. It is a ‘gospel’ that has been brought in by men who simply want to fill their bellies!
The Apostle Paul was so grieved in his spirit by the bearers of this materialistic gospel that he wept.
Paul knew these people were dangerous, because they purposely avoided the cross of Jesus Christ, and they taught God’s people to do so. These people were enemies of the cross of Christ!
But Paul had been taught by Christ that the cross is the only gospel that can perfect men in the Spirit (2 Cor. 12;9).
But God is extremely patient and it appears as if He gives these false preachers all the rope they need. But the Apostle Paul warns that, one day, the Lord will deal severely with them. Their “end is destruction” (v.19).
Paul, on the other hand, did not preach a worldly gospel, nor did he live a material life. When it came to the material life, Paul rolled with the times. Sometimes he was full, other times he had nothing. And if he was in really dire straits, he could always rely on his friends, the brethren from Philippi (Phil. 4:15-18).
Paul states the gospel that he preached in verses 20-21:
“20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
Paul’s gospel focused on God’s heavenly Kingdom. Paul himself lived a life that was fully in preparation to living the eternal life with Jesus Christ. It was a life of self-denial, of the denial of the world and its ways and attractions.
And so the apostle wept. He wept for the church because he saw people who took advantage of God’s patience to preach a gospel that drew God’s people away from the heavenly vision to an earthly one. Paul, the man who was given the mandate to perfect Christ’s bride through the cross of Christ found himself at war with people who were bound enemies of this very cross!
Now, surprisingly, and pleasantly so, Paul says there were people in the Philippian church who obeyed exactly the same example of life that he lived and preached. There were people in the church at Philippi who followed the example of Paul!
And Paul tells the church: “Mark these people”.
In other words, “Set your goal to be as them; follow after them”.
These were men and women who took up their cross daily and followed Christ, with their sights set, not on the fleetings material things of this world, but on heaven.
This is God’s cry for the modern church: that we may catch a revelation of heaven through the gospel of the cross.
[Is leavin’ on our minds? Jessy Dixon]