Philippians 3:17-21

17 Brothers, 1join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk 2according to the example you have in us.
18 For 3many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you 4even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
19 5Their end is destruction, 6their god is their belly, and 7they glory in their shame, with 8minds set on earthly things.
20 But 9our citizenship is in heaven, and 10from it we 11await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
21 who will transform 12our lowly body 13to be like his glorious body, 14by the power that enables him even 15to subject all things to himself.

Philippians 3:17-21 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO PHILIPPIANS 3

In this chapter the apostle cautions the Philippians against false teachers, whom he describes as evil men, and exhorts them to walk as they had him, and other faithful ministers for an example. And whereas these judaizing teachers were for drawing them off from Christ, and weakening their joy and glorying in him, he exhorts them in the first place to rejoice in Christ, Php 3:1, and to beware of them, whom he describes as dogs, as evil workers, as the concision, Php 3:2, and opposes to them the characters of real saints, who are truly what they vainly boasted of, really circumcised persons in a Gospel sense, spiritual worshippers of God, joyful believers in Christ, and such as placed no confidence in outward things, Php 3:3, This the apostle illustrates in his own case, who had as much reason for trusting in such things as any man whatever, Php 3:4, of which he gives an enumeration in several particulars, Php 3:5,6, upon which he passes his judgment, and shows of what account, and in what esteem they were with him before, and now; that formerly they were reckoned gain, but now loss, Php 3:7, and which he explains as referring to every thing short of Christ, and in comparison of the knowledge of him, and which he preferred to everything; and this he confirms by his willingness to suffer the loss of all things for him; his ends in which were, that he might win him, and be found in him, without his own righteousness, that legal one the false teachers extolled, and with the righteousness of God which faith receives, and is the only justifying one; and that he might know more of him, feel more of his power, have more fellowship with him, and conformity to him, Php 3:8-10. His view in all which was, that he might attain to that glorious and happy state of the resurrection of the dead in Christ, Php 3:11, and to prevent mistakes, and anticipate an objection that might be made to him, as if he ascribed perfection to himself in the present state, he owns he had not arrived to it: all he meant was, that it was his desire to enjoy that which Christ had laid hold on him for; in order to which he buried in oblivion what was past, looking and pressing to things before hint, even to Christ, and the glory he was called unto, which was with him, Php 3:12-14. Next follow various exhortations, as to be of the same mind with the apostle in pressing after spiritual and heavenly things, to which he exhorts those that had a greater knowledge of them than others; and who, though otherwise minded, the apostle was persuaded would have, the same revealed to them, Php 3:15, and both he exhorts, according to their different attainments, to walk by the same rule and mind the same thing, Php 3:16, and to be followers of him, and of them that walked after his example, Php 3:17, giving this as a reason, because there were men who walked otherwise, to the grief of him, to the dishonour of Christ, and to their own shame and destruction, whom he describes as sensual and earthly minded men, Php 3:18,19, and to engage them to follow him, and others, and not such persons, he draws a character of them opposite unto them; that whereas the minds of those others were carnal and earthly, their minds were spiritual and heavenly; their conversation was in heaven, and they were waiting for Christ from hence, Php 3:20, and the blessedness they expect from him then, is the resurrection of their bodies, which is illustrated by the efficient cause of it, Christ; the subject of it, their vile bodies, as in this lifts, and in the grave; the exemplar and pattern of it, the glorious body of Christ; and the means by which it will be effected, the energy and power of Christ, who is omnipotent, Php 3:21.

Philippians 3:17-21 In-Context

15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Cross References 15

  • 1. [Philippians 4:9]; See 1 Corinthians 4:16
  • 2. 1 Peter 5:3
  • 3. See 2 Corinthians 11:13
  • 4. [Acts 20:31]
  • 5. 2 Corinthians 11:15; [2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Peter 2:1, 3]
  • 6. See Romans 16:18
  • 7. [Hosea 4:7; 2 Corinthians 11:12; Galatians 6:13; Jude 13]
  • 8. Romans 8:5; Colossians 3:2
  • 9. See Ephesians 2:19
  • 10. Acts 1:11
  • 11. See 1 Corinthians 1:7
  • 12. [1 Corinthians 15:43-53]
  • 13. [ver. 10; Colossians 3:4]; See Romans 8:29
  • 14. See Ephesians 1:19
  • 15. 1 Corinthians 15:28
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.