The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
February 26, 2012


1) Philippians 3:18-21 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 3:18-21
by Tom Edwards

After exhorting the brethren to follow his example and to "observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us," Paul then speaks of those who lived to the contrary of that, in the next passage.  He states: "For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things" (Phil. 3:18,19).  

Could it be that many of these did not even view themselves as being "enemies of the cross of Christ"?  For instance, even when Peter meant well by trying to forbid Jesus from going to the cross, the Lord responded by saying, "...'Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's'" (Matt. 16:23).  But often folks don't even "mean well."  So we do not find it strange for Paul to refer to the Lord as having many "enemies."  For is it not usually the majority who are going down the wrong path that puts them in opposition to the Lord; while only a few, out of their love for God, have chosen the path of salvation?  Consider, for instance, Exodus 23:2: "You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice."  Centuries prior, about 1,650 years after the creation, only 8 souls were saved out of the entire world's population.  The majority had chosen the wrong way, which led to their destruction, rather than taking heed to the preaching of Noah (2 Pet. 2:5), which would have led them to safety.  This also corresponds with the Lord's statement, many centuries later, that "...the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt. 7:13,14).  Just as this principle was true when Jesus said it and in Noah's day, it has also been true throughout the history of mankind.  For as the world has increased in population, God's faithful few have decreased percentagewise.

No matter how much one claims to believe in and love the Lord, sin will always put one in opposition to Christ; and, thus, cause one to actually become His enemy.  Consider how this is expressed in Hebrews 10:25-29: "not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.  Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?"

We must, therefore, realize that Jesus died for us so that we can and will live for Him, and that to continue in sin is to disregard His suffering and atonement at Calvary (cf. 2 Cor. 5:15).  Going along with this, Paul declares in Romans 6:1,2: "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"  And concerning his own life, Paul had not only made the cross of Christ his boast, but also referred to it as being that "...through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14).  Just as death separates us from this world and the things of this world, even so the cross of Christ had separated Paul from his former life of sin, as if he were now "dead" in relation to that, and that to him, which also corresponds with Romans 6:11-13: "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God."  Death has been defined as a "separation."  But, now, rather than being alive unto sin, but dead or separated from God, this is reversed in the life of the Christian who is to be "dead" unto sin, but alive unto God.  What a major difference!  And the cross of Christ, which is an essential part of the gospel, helped make that possible.  No wonder Paul boasted and gloried in the cross.  To the Corinthians, he put great emphasis on it when he states, "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).  As perfect as Jesus was and is, there would be no hope of salvation for us apart from what He accomplished at Calvary.  

In speaking of those, however, who had become "enemies of the cross of Christ," Paul  says of them, "whose end is destruction" (Phil. 3:19).  The American Standard Version renders "destruction" as "perdition," from the Greek word "apoleia" and defined as "ruin or loss (physical, spiritual, or eternal)" (James Strong).  According to 2 Thessalonians 1:9, the punishment the Lord will be meting out to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel will be a "penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."

Some have erroneously taught that an "eternal destruction" means that one is destroyed or will become no more for all eternity, that hell is not a place that the lost will have to endure forever.  But that is not what the Bible shows.  For instance, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Rev. 20:10). "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (v. 15).  Furthermore, in expressing the non-ending duration of hell, Jesus speaks of it three times in Matthew 9:43-48 as being a place "where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched"; and in Matthew 25:46 as an "eternal punishment," while the righteous will enter "eternal life."  In this verse, the same Greek word is used to refer to the punishment as well as the life, the word "aionios," which is translated as "eternal."  So just as eternal life has no end, the same can be said about the eternal punishment, which will be in hell where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 13:42).    

These enemies of the cross are also described as being those "whose god is their appetite" ("belly," KJV) -- from the Greek word "koilia," which is translated 7 times in the New American Standard Bible as "stomach"; and since the belly pertains to the fleshly part of man, this phrase figuratively expresses that the chief aim in life of these individuals was only to gratify their carnal desires rather than being concerned for spiritual things and pleasing God.   

Paul also spoke of people like this in Romans 16:17,18, using the same Greek word: "Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.  For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites [koilia]; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting."

These certainly did not have the type of high esteem toward God's word as Job had. For note how opposite to them he was, according to Job 23:12, where he declares, "I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food."  We are mindful, too, of Jesus Christ who states in John 4:34, "...'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work."  And this is the "food" that is emphasized in John 6:27, where Jesus told those who were seeking Him merely for physical food, "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal."  Jesus is not saying that man should not have a secular job; but, rather, He is putting the emphasis on the most important work of all.  For the "food which endures to eternal life" is acquired by our obedience to the gospel; and, by doing so, the power of God's word will then be a part of our lives (cf. Rom. 1:16; Phil. 2:12,13).  So this is the type of spiritual appetite we need to have in order that our souls can truly thrive.  In writing to Timothy, Paul says, "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following" (1 Tim. 4:6).  Just as Timothy taught and lived by God's word, we are to do the same in order to also be "constantly nourished" in the gospel.  

In speaking more about the corrupt attitude of these "enemies of the cross," Paul uses the phrase, "whose glory is their shame."  As E. M. Zerr writes, "Not that they admit having pride in their shame, but Paul is asserting that the things these evil workers take glory in, are truly shameful."  This is widely demonstrated in the world today by those who take great pleasure in that which is sinful.  Rather than being ashamed of it, they often do not view it as even being wrong; and not only delight in it, but also speak favorably of it.  They fall into the same category of those whom Isaiah pronounces "woe" upon in  Isaiah 5:20, "...who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"  These also remind us of those whom Paul speaks of in Romans 1:21-31, who were not only guilty of practicing the various sinful things mentioned in this passage, but also in giving "hearty approval" to others who did.  In figuratively describing the false teachers who had "turned the grace of our God into licentiousness" (NASB) or "into a license for immorality" (NIV), Jude says that they were like "wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam..." (Jude 1:13).  To the contrary, however, part of becoming a Christian involves turning from shameful ways.  For example, in writing to the Corinthians, Paul declares, "but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2).

These enemies of the cross are also referred to as those "who set their minds on earthly things" (Phil. 3:19).  We are not surprised that this phrase is also part of the context, for there is no way that these individuals could be spiritually minded while pursuing all the carnal things they did.  Paul clearly shows of this in Romans 8:5-8 in speaking of the conflict between flesh and Spirit, that "...the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God...."  So rather than setting one's mind on things opposed to the Spirit, the Christian's affections or mind is to be set on "the things above, where Christ is..." (Col. 3:1- 3), which we do by looking to God's word and conforming our lives to it.  Earlier, in this epistle to the Philippians, Paul had exhorted the brethren to put on the mind of Christ (2:5); but these in 3:19 were doing just the opposite.    

Paul closes this chapter by showing another reason why we shouldn't be all wrapped up in only the affairs of this life, as those who had become the enemies of Christ: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Phil. 3:20,21).   The KJV uses the term "conversation" for "citizenship" in this verse.  The Greek word is "politeuma," which is used only here in the New Testament and defined by W. E. Vine as "the condition, or life, of a citizen, citizenship."  It "...is said of the heavenly status of believers, Phil. 3:20."  Compare also Hebrews 12:22-24: "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel."  The Christian is "enrolled in heaven."  The English word "citizenship" is defined as "the state of being vested with the rights, privileges, and duties of a citizen" (Random House Webster's Electronic Dictionary).  The apostle Paul, for example, had some special rights and privileges because he had a Roman citizenship (cf. Acts 22:23-29; Acts 16:37).  Adam Clarke refers to this, by saying, "It is a transgression of the law to bind a Roman citizen: it is wickedness to scourge him. And the illegality of the proceedings of these magistrates was farther evident in their condemning and punishing them unheard. This was a gross violation of a common maxim in the Roman law."  Paul could  have possibly carried papers that verified his Roman citizenship.  According to Suetonius (who was a Roman historian from AD 75 to 150), it would have been a crime worthy of death for anyone to merely pretend they were a Roman citizen.  He writes, "He who falsely pretended to Roman citizenship was beheaded on the Esquiline hill."  The Esquiline hill was one of the seven hills on which Rome was built.  Paul states in Acts 25:16, "I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges."

In view of this, consider the rights and privileges that we who are Christians have for being Christians with our citizenship in heaven: We have the right, the privilege, and the duty to pray to God as our Father and to receive physical and spiritual blessings from Him.  We are protected in His care and know that not even death can separate us from His love for us (Rom. 8:35-39).  He welcomes and encourages us to cast our every care or anxiety upon Him because "He cares" for us (1 Pet. 5:7).  We also have the right, the privilege, and the duty toward living as citizens in God's kingdom, which is very exclusive for only those who have been cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:14-16; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:9,10).  After speaking about the Christian being "enrolled in Heaven" (Heb. 12:23), the writer then goes on to show of our responsibility because of that in Hebrews 12:25: "See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven."  As a citizen of God's kingdom, we have the right to enjoy the fruit of that kingdom; and Paul shows us some of that in Romans 14:17: "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."  This verse also stands in contrast to those whom Paul refers to as having their belly for their god and their minds set on only earthly things.  For the true Christian is concerned with God's kingdom and spiritual things, which far surpasses the carnal and earthly.  More of the fruit of that kingdom can be seen in Galatians 5:22-23: "...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."  As citizens of God's kingdom, we will one day be able to enter into that heavenly glory that will never end.  

Because the Christian's true and greatest citizenship is in heaven, the child of God can likened himself to a pilgrim or stranger who is journeying through this world below (cf. 1 Pet. 2:11).  This was the mindset of many of the great people of faith in days gone by (cf.  Heb. 11:13-16).  "For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come" (Heb. 13:14) -- a city "whose architect and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10).  

As citizens of heaven, we can have a foretaste of it now.  For not only is our citizenship there, but, in addition it is "from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20).   This is referring to the spiritual realm of the church (a.k.a. the kingdom).  For Paul shows that the Christian is one who had formerly been "dead in transgression," but "made...alive together with Chirst...and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:5-7).  The word "places" is in italics, so not in the original.  But what would the "heavenly" be that the Christian has been raised up to and seated with Christ?   Thayer shows that the Greek word ("epouranios") pertains not only to heaven (the place where God dwells), the heavens of where the stars are, and the heavens of where the clouds are; but also that it can mean "of heavenly origin or nature."  And is that not true of the church, God's kingdom on earth?  Is it not of a heavenly origin?  and is it not to be characterized with a heavenly nature?   So there is that foretaste of heaven for those in the church while on earth.

Paul goes on to show that when Jesus does return, it will be at that time that He "...will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory..." (Phil. 3:21).  Compare 1 John 3:2: "...it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him...," when we will be "...changed, in a moment in the twinkling of an eye..." (1 Cor. 15:51,52).  Christ will be able to accomplish this glorious transformation for us because He has the power, as Paul states, "to subject all things to Himself" (Phil. 3:21).  We think of this vast universe with all its billions and billions of heavenly bodies that make it up, and we realize that Christ has power over it all.  He brought it into existence with a word, and He can make it all vanish just as quickly.  But it is not only in having a glorified body that will make heaven so marvelous, though that in itself will also be a most wonderful thing to have; but especially because heaven is a place where God is -- and a God who loves us more than we can fully realize and who wants to bless us throughout all eternity.  Heaven will, therefore, be a place greater than we could ever dream or imagine (cf. Rev. 21:1-7, 22-23); and, therefore, well worth the striving for.  So may we each choose that path that leads to eternal life and continually walk therein, till we reach that glorious goal!


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* Gyndell Henry (Lea Hall's grandmother) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

* Mike Dubose who is continually undergoing cancer treatment.

* The following concerns R.J. Stevens (from his son Tim, 3/2/12):

"Due to post-operative complications from the heart by-pass surgery on Tuesday, our dad underwent abdominal surgery this afternoon. He will remain in ICU throughout the weekend.
"The doctors are hopeful that today's procedure will help in turning the complications around and heading in the right direction toward recovery.

"All three of us are here at the hospital and will alternate between us - to be near our dad at all times.

"PER ICU PERSONNEL, NO VISITORS IN ICU. Only 'limited' immediate family members are allowed in ICU.

"Our requests for your prayers are stronger than ever! Thank you so much" (Joe and Tim Stevens and Paula Stevens Ladd).

* Here's an update (3/2/12) on Roy Fenner (from his wife Michelle): "Roy had another shot in his eye Monday.  They took x-rays of both eyes and feel it is some better: went from 20/70 to 20/60. They noticed a leak in his other eye, but stated this is from his diabetes. Good news is it is not next to the MACULAR like the left eye. There is a possibility later they can use laser surgery to stop the bleeding. We are praying it continues to get better. He had an appointment today.  Dr. was pleased at how it is healing. Still have to find a plastic surgeon for the one that is the biggest basal cell on him that is behind his ear. It has been there for almost 2 years now."

* I received the following concerning Jackie Evans, from her husband R.J.: "Some of you asked that we let you know concerning Jackie's tests:  In preparation for same-day knee surgery (scope), her EKG revealed an abnormality.  Today she had a nuclear stress test and an echo-cardiogram.  She will probably receive the results on Monday.  We appreciate your prayers that all will come out well.  God bless, R.J." 

* Let us also be praying for my landlord's grandson, Joseph John Koczrowski IV, who will soon be having major surgery, due to severe intestinal problems.  He is only about 2 years old.      

*  Members who have been sick, with poor health, and/or physically weak: Geneva Wilson, Jean Calloway, Lelani Armstrong, Shirley Young, and Cheryl Crews.

*  Let us also be keeping Cheryl Anderson in prayer who will soon be moving to the Houston area.  We are all going to miss her, but we wish her well.

* Also, Mozelle Robertson (Ken's mother) who at 91 years of age is still healing from wrist surgery; and Clifton Trimble whose health has been poor.

*  Let us also pray that Anthony Webb, Andrew Robertson, and Cheryl Anderson will be able to find new employment. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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