Php_3:17; Php_3:20. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
For our conversation is in heaven.
GREAT is the force of example, either to vitiate or improve the morals of those around us. There are few, even of real Christians, who do not, in some considerable degree, yield to its influence. The church at Philippi was, on the whole, distinguished for its attainments: yet even there, hypocrisy was found, and error had its advocates. The example of some worldly and sensual professors was likely to prove extremely injurious: while therefore the Apostle declares his grief occasioned by their misconduct, he exhorts the Church to unite in following rather the example that he had set them, and to notice with approbation all who conducted themselves agreeably to his advice.
The words that are in verses 18 and 19, being included in a parenthesis, those which are united in the text are properly connected with each other. In discoursing on them, we shall consider,
The Apostle’s example—
St. Paul considered himself as a citizen of heaven
might have been translated our citizenship.]—
[To be a citizen of Rome was deemed a high honour; and it was an honour which Paul possessed by virtue of his being a native of Tarsus, on which city this privilege had been conferred [Note: Act_22:28.]. But Paul’s name was enrolled in a more glorious city, even in heaven itself [Note: Luk_10:20.]. He belonged to the society of saints and angels, who were united under Christ, their common head [Note: Eph_1:10; Eph_3:15.]: and he had a communion with them in all their honours, their interests, and their enjoyments [Note: Eph_2:6.].]
In the exercise of his rights, he had his daily converse in heaven—
[As a person is daily conversant with that society to which he belongs, maintaining fellowship with them, and ordering his life according to their rules, so the Apostle lived, as it were, in heaven: his thoughts and affections were there continually: and he was emulating those around the throne by his constant endeavours to glorify God, and by walking habitually in the light of his countenance.]
While he mentions his example, he shews us,
The use that we should make of it—
We should imitate him ourselves—
[We are already joined to the society in heaven [Note: Heb_12:22-23.], provided we be united unto Christ by faith: and it behoves us to “walk worthy of our high calling.” Though we are in the world, we are not to be of it. “We have here no continuing city:” we are to be in this world as pilgrims only and so-journers: we must ever consider ourselves as strangers and foreigners, who, though living on earth are indeed fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God [Note: Eph_2:19.]. If we were travelling in a foreign land, we should regard the concerns of that land rather as objects of curiosity, than as matters in which we felt any deep interest: whereas the affairs of our own country, where our estates were situated, and our relations lived, would be regarded by us as matters of great moment. Thus should we be indifferent, as it were, to all the vanities of this life, and be wholly intent on our spiritual and eternal interests. We should be maintaining communion with our Head in heaven [Note: 1Jn_1:3.], and growing up into a meetness for the exercises and enjoyments of the invisible world.]
We should also “mark those who” do imitate him—
[All of us should unite
.] in following his example, and emulate each other in his holy employment. And, when any make higher attainments than ourselves we should not be ashamed to imitate them: we should observe
.] particularly what it is wherein they excel us, and how it is that they have been enabled to outstrip us. We should endeavour to encourage them; and together with them to press forward towards perfection [Note: Pro_15:24.].]
We may make use of this subject,
[How widely do the greater part of Christians differ from the Apostle! Nor is it only the profane, or the formal, that are condemned by his example, but even the godly also. Let all of us then be ashamed of the low sense we entertain of our privileges, and of the coldness with which we prosecute our eternal interests. Let us seek to have our views and dispositions more conformed to those of the saints of old; that at the second coming of our Lord we may behold him both with confidence and joy [Note: ver. 20, 21. with 1Jn_2:28.].]
[It is not to Apostles that these attainments are confined: they were common to many others in the Church at Philippi, who, together with the Apostle, are proposed as patterns unto us. Let none then imagine that this blessed state is beyond their reach; but rather let all aspire after it, as the one object of their ambition [Note: ver. 13, 14.]. Let all seek to know what a gloriously rich inheritance [Note: Eph_1:18.] they are even now permitted to enjoy; and, having by faith gained access into this grace, let them stand in it, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God [Note: Rom_5:2.].]