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Philippians 3:17-21 - Homilies By R. Finlayson

Contrasted character's and destinies.

I. WHOM TO LOOK TO . "Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them which so walk even as ye have us for an ensample." There was no assumption in Paul putting himself before the Philippians for their imitation. He was simply proceeding on what belonged to the relation subsisting between them. It devolved on Timothy to be an example to believers in the various places where he labored in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity. So it devolved on Paul, as having the care of the Gentile Churches, to walk before them so that they might be directed in their walk. And, although he did not count himself perfect, yet he had earnestly endeavored to come up to this idea of his duty. He had carried his faithfulness to Christ to the extent of suffering imprisonment for him for a long period. In a brotherly manner, then, he asked them to imitate him. Let them hold to Christ under all circumstances. Let them not refuse the hardships to be endured in his service. Others were imitators of him and were proving themselves valiant for Christ and against persecution. Let them also be numbered among his imitators. He did not set himself exclusively forward for their imitation. He leaves the singular for the plural. "As ye have us for an example." He could join with himself other Christian teachers known to the Philippians. There was one type according to which they walked. Mark them among them who followed this type. "Mark the perfect man," says the psalmist. The New Testament form given to it by Paul is that we are to mark those who have, in their walk, the common Christian features.

II. WHOM TO TAKE WARNING FROM . There were others who walked differently. We are apparently to think of them as nominal Christians— owning the cross of Christ in their profession, disowning it in their practice.

1 . Feelings with which the apostle calls attention to them. "For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping.' In this Paul echoes the words of the psalmist, "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy Law." He echoes the words of the weeping prophet, "Hear ye, and give car; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride: and mine eye shall weep sore and run down with tears." Chrysostom says here, "Paul weeps for those over whom other men laugh and are uproarious." It is an aggravating circumstance when men dishonor the Christian circle with which they are connected. But there is this, that Christ needed to weep over us when we were sinners, and still needs to weep over us for the sin which doth so easily beset us. And the more that others are in a state of sin, there is only the more need for our weeping over them and desiring their emancipation from their unhappy thraldom. Another circumstance which led to the tears of the apostle was their number. There were many who had disgraced their Christian profession. It was like a catastrophe involving the loss of many lives. But why did the apostle tell this to the Philippians? Why had he not been content with telling them once? Why had he continued telling them in his addresses when with them and in his messages when absent? Why, as he now thinks of it, with the pen in his hand or dictating to his amanuensis, do the tears begin to flow? It was because, being many, there was danger of this class appearing also in the Church of Philippi. Persistently, tearfully would he endeavor to stave off, to prevent, such a catastrophe.

2 . Described generally.

3 . Described more particularly.

"The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherits shall dissolve,

And, like the insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind."


1 . Its seat. "For our citizenship is in heaven." More exactly it is the state in connection with which we have citizenship. We properly belong to a heavenly order of things. And this points to the possession of higher privileges.

2 . Obtaining the condition necessary for the full enjoyment of privileges.

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