Philippians 3:20 ESV
Matthew Henry's Commentary
He closes the chapter with warnings and exhortations.
I. He warns them against following the examples of seducers and evil teachers (Phil. 3:18, 19): Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Observe,
1. There are many called by Christ’s name who are enemies to Christ’s cross, and the design and intention of it. Their walk is a surer evidence what they are than their profession. By their fruits you shall know them, Matt. 7:20. The apostle warns people against such, (1.) Very frequently: I have told you often. We so little heed the warnings given us that we have need to have them repeated. To write the same things is safe, Phil. 3:1. (2.) Feelingly and affectionately: I now tell you weeping. Paul was upon proper occasions a weeping preacher, as Jeremiah was a weeping prophet. Observe, An old sermon may be preached with new affections; what we say often we may say again, if we say it affectionately, and are ourselves under the power of it.
2. He gives us the characters of those who were the enemies of the cross of Christ. (1.) Whose God is their belly. They minded nothing but their sensual appetites. A wretched idol it is, and a scandal for any, but especially for Christians, to sacrifice the favour of God, the peace of their conscience, and their eternal happiness to it. Gluttons and drunkards make a god of their belly, and all their care is to please it and make provision for it. The same observance which good people give to God epicures give to their appetites. Of such he says, They serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies, Rom. 16:18. (2.) They glory in their shame. They not only sinned, but boasted of it and gloried in that of which they ought to have been ashamed. Sin is the sinner’s shame, especially when it is gloried in. “They value themselves for what is their blemish and reproach.” (3.) They mind earthly things. Christ came by his cross to crucify the world to us and us to the world; and those who mind earthly things act directly contrary to the cross of Christ, and this great design of it. They relish earthly things, and have no relish of the things which are spiritual and heavenly. They set their hearts and affections on earthly things; they love them, and even dote upon them, and have a confidence and complacency in them. He gives them this character, to show how absurd it would be for Christians to follow the example of such or be led away by them; and, to deter us all from so doing, he reads their doom. (4.) Whose end is destruction. Their way seems pleasant, but death and hell are at the end of it. What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death, Rom. 6:21. It is dangerous following them, though it is going down the stream; for, if we choose their way, we have reason to fear their end. Perhaps he alludes to the total destruction of the Jewish nation.
II. He proposes himself and his brethren for an example, in opposition to these evil examples: Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark those who walk as you have us for an example, Phil. 3:17. Mark them out for your pattern. He explains himself (Phil. 3:20) by their regard to Christ and heaven: For our conversation is in heaven. Observe, Good Christians, even while they are here on earth, have their conversation in heaven. Their citizenship is there, politeuma. As if he had said, We stand related the that world, and are citizens of the New Jerusalem. This world is not our home, but that is. There our greatest privileges and concerns lie. And, because our citizenship is there, our conversation is there; being related to that world, we keep up a correspondence with it. The life of a Christian is in heaven, where his head is, and his home is, and where he hopes to be shortly; he sets his affections upon things above; and where his heart is there will his conversation be. The apostle had pressed them to follow him and other ministers of Christ: “Why,” might they say, “you are a company of poor, despised, persecuted people, who make no figure, and pretend to no advantages in the world; who will follow you?” “Nay,” says he, “but our conversation is in heaven. We have a near relation and a great pretension to the other world, and are not so mean and despicable as we are represented.” It is good having fellowship with those who have fellowship with Christ, and conversation with those whose conversation is in heaven.
1. Because we look for the Saviour from heaven (Phil. 3:20): Whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not here, he has ascended, he has entered within the veil for us; and we expect his second coming thence, to gather in all the citizens of that New Jerusalem to himself.
2. Because at the second coming of Christ we expect to be happy and glorified there. There is good reason to have our conversation in heaven, not only because Christ is now there, but because we hope to be there shortly: Who shall change our vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, Phil. 3:21. There is a glory reserved for the bodies of the saints, which they will be instated in at the resurrection. The body is now at the best a vile body, to soma tes tapeinoseos hemon—the body of our humiliation: it has its rise and origin from the earth, it is supported out of the earth, and is subject to many diseases and to death at last. Besides, it is often the occasion and instrument of much sin, which is called the body of this death, Rom. 7:24. Or it may be understood of its vileness when it lies in the grave; at the resurrection it will be found a vile body, resolved into rottenness and dust; the dust will return to the earth as it was, Eccl. 12:7. But it will be made a glorious body; and not only raised again to life, but raised to great advantage. Observe, (1.) The sample of this change, and that is, the glorious body of Christ; when he was transfigured upon the mount, his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light, Matt. 17:2. He went to heaven clothed with a body, that he might take possession of the inheritance in our nature, and be not only the first-born from the dead, but the first-born of the children of the resurrection. We shall be conformed to the image of his Son, that he may be the first-born among many brethren, Rom. 8:29. (2.) The power by which this change will be wrought: According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. There is an efficacy of power, an exceeding greatness of power, and the working of mighty power, Eph. 1:19. It is matter of comfort to us that he can subdue all things to himself, and sooner or later will bring over all into his interest. And the resurrection will be wrought by this power. I will raise him up at the last day, John 6:44. Let this confirm our faith of the resurrection, that we not only have the scriptures, which assure us it shall be, but we know the power of God, which can effect it, Matt. 22:29. At Christ’s resurrection was a glorious instance of the divine power, and therefore he is declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4), so will our resurrection be: and his resurrection is a standing evidence, as well as pattern, of ours. And then all the enemies of the Redeemer’s kingdom will be completely conquered. Not only he who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14), but the last enemy, shall be destroyed, that is, death, 1 Cor. 15:26; shall be swallowed up in victory, 1 Cor. 15:54.