Last week we talked about how those of us who have studied this word and are more mature in the faith, we are called to teach those who are newer to the faith. That if God has given us a gift for teaching or for preaching that we are to use that gift to build up the church—and by “church” I don’t just mean people that walk into a particular building on Sunday morning. When the Bible speaks of “the church” it refers to all believers in Christ. Sometimes it means all believers all around the world. Ephesians 5:25—Christ…loved the church and gave Himself for her. Sometimes it means a local congregation. Paul opens some of his letters by saying To the church which is at Corinth or To the church of the Thessalonians. The CHURCH is a worldwide body of believers which is made up of smaller bodies of believers. I hate to use words like “divided” or “separated” because we are not “separate.” Much like Tennessee and Rhode Island and Utah and Alaska are all states which make up one nation…under God. They are individual states which make up one whole.
And the people that gather here and the people that gather over on Elm Street and the people that gather in Powell and the people that gather in Africa and the people that gather in—wherever—are all smaller gatherings of the one great gathering. And Christ has given us gifts to use in ministering to those who gather, so that the whole body may grow and so that each individual may grow into the fullness of what Christ has called us to be. And the one person who knows a little truth, and the other person who knows a little more truth, and the person who knows a whole lot of the truth will all be measuring everything according to the same truth. Just like the illustration of measuring the distance from here to the end of the block. Whether I'm using a ruler or a yardstick or a tape measure—those instruments are different lengths but they are all based on the same standard. Six inches is 6” is 6”.
And in the same way, if a new believer and a more mature believer and the fellow who has been preaching truth for 60 years see the same thing—they are all seeing that through their own knowledge of the truth, and if they are all measuring according to the same standard of truth—then they are all going to be in agreement on it. So, let’s go ahead and read our text. And continue this idea.
Philippians 3:16-19—Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.
We look for men who are teaching truth, and when we find them, we follow them, and we use them as a pattern for ourselves. And we use truth to measure anything else that claims to be truth (2nd Corinthians 10:3-6). If one person says “this is one inch,” and another person says, “No, this is one inch.” How do I determine who is correct? We find the "original inch" and we compare the two against it. By the same token, if someone says, “The universe was developed over billions of years, and human beings evolved from monkeys millions of years ago,” while another person says, “No, the universe was created over the course of six days a few thousand years ago, and man was created in God’s image.” How do I figure out who is right? I am gonna look for the answer from someone who was actually there!
Was God there when the universe was created? And let’s go one step further. If someone says, “You have to pray your Rosary and obey the Pope and give indulgences for your dead mother in Purgatory in order to be saved,” and another person says, “No, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” Where is the first place you should look? We should look to the One who decides what is necessary for salvation! And so you read your Bible, and lo-and-behold, none of those things that your Roman Catholic friend said you have to believe are in the Bible. So who do you believe? Yeah. You believe the one that has Scripture on their side. Because the Scripture is the rule we walk by.
Verse 16. Let us walk by the same rule—measure. We measure everything by the Holy Scriptures—not by Popes and councils. Martin Luther stood before the council that declared him a heretic for daring to say that Scripture is the final word on anything, and said, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe. God help me. Here I stand, I can do no other.” If our conscience is captive to the Holy Scriptures, should we go against our conscience? No. We should walk by the same rule; we should be of the same mind.
Verse 17. Brethren, join in following my example. KJV—Brethren, be followers together of me. The HCSB is close, Join in imitating me. The NET comes closest—Be imitators of me. Literally, be joint-imitators of me. It’s one of those words Paul had to make up, kinda like the word “Google.” Ten years ago, if you asked your secretary to "Google" for you, you'd have probably wound up in a lawsuit. Today, we know what it means to "Google." The Greek word Paul used (συμμιμητής, summimetes) literally means, “join with each other as imitators of me.” Key word: imitate.
Last week we talked kinda briefly about how the apostles taught what Christ taught. And the early church taught what the apostles taught—which was what Christ taught. So if we follow what the early church taught, which was what the apostles taught, which was what Christ taught—whose teachings are we gonna be following? A=B, B=C, C=D, so A=D. How do you tune 100 pianos? You tune one, then you tune the rest according to that one. That passage from Ephesians that we looked at last week, let me finish that for you. Ephesians 4:14-16—We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
I don’t understand how someone can study the human body and look at it and say it was just one big accident—or a bunch of little accidents. You want to know what is responsible for regulating your blood pressure? Your kidneys and your lungs. If your kidneys aren't getting enough blood, they release a substance that releases another substance, which changes into another substance, that goes to the lungs and there is an enzyme there that changes that substance into something else and then that increases your blood pressure. Guess what happens if one of those steps doesn’t happen? The whole shebang gets shut down, and the body does not work right.
What happens when the church doesn’t do what the church is supposed to do? The body of Christ will never die (Matthew 16), but sometimes it doesn’t function right. But since the apostle Paul imitated Christ, then we know that if we imitate Paul, we will be imitating Christ. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. KJV—mark those who so walk… We talked about the word “mark” a couple weeks ago. It’s the same word here that he uses in verse 14 when he says I press toward the mark for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We get the word “scope” from the Greek. Telescope, microscope, gun scope. If I'm a sniper, where is my focus? Do I see what’s around me? Do I see what’s behind me? What is the only thing my eye is trained on? The only thing my eye sees is what is directly in front of me. So look at what Paul is saying here. We are to join together in imitating Paul—because he was focused on one thing and one thing only, and that was Christ. Then we mark those whose lives demonstrated a pattern of following Christ. Ephesians 5:1—Be imitators of God as dear children.
And we examine their lives, see how they lived their lives, and we follow that example. Join in following my example, mark those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. That word “pattern” means “the mark of a stroke or blow; a figure formed by a blow or impression.” We get the English word “type” from the Greek (τύπος, tupos). That’s why they call it a “typewriter.” The Greek refers to striking a blow that leaves a mark. On that typewriter, you mash the button, and what happens? You hit the “j” button; the die smacks the ribbon, and leaves an impression of the letter “j”. What happens if you hit that button again? You're gonna get another “j”. Is it gonna look like the first “j”? What happens if you hit that “j” 8,000 times? You're gonna get 8,000 “j’s” that all look pretty similar. Should a Christian today look pretty similar to a Christian from 2,000 years ago?
Basically, we are to think of men like the apostle Paul, and his students like Timothy and Titus, focus on them as examples, patterns. We imitate them, and we follow others whose lives are carbon copies. And that gives others a carbon copy, a pattern, and example to follow. Those people become a pattern for others who come after them. You see what I'm getting at? 1st Thessalonians 1:7-9—You became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth…Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. The Thessalonians had turned from their wickedness and their idolatry, and worshipped Christ. The people in Macedonia and Achaia heard that, and saw that their faith was genuine. So, when Paul and Timothy and Silas went to Macedonia and Achaia, those people already knew the Thessalonians, and they knew that the Thessalonians had learned from Paul and Timothy and Silas.
So what would that mean when they went to these regions? “Oh, you're the guys that taught the people at Thessalonica—that’s good enough for us! Welcome!” That’s the legacy we are to leave. That if someone says, “I learned what the Bible means from listening to the guys over at Grace,” and we if we are doing our job, what will that mean to others who are thinking about coming here? “That person goes there. I want to know the Bible. I'm gonna go there, too.” If we’re doing our job.
But if we’re not doing our job of teaching the whole counsel of God—who will we answer to in the end? I gotta confess, sometimes I’m not half as scared as I should be. It oughta frighten us to death. Isaiah 66:2—“I look on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” We not doing this to get an “A” in a class. We can't bluff our way through this. Our Boss, our Supervisor, the One who is gonna be grading us—the One that we must give an account to in the end—is God. So we are obligated to do our best to make sure that our teachings leave the right mark on people’s lives, so that if others follow their pattern, and those people follow our pattern, that pattern will lead them to Christ. If someone were to say, “My pastor is John MacArthur,” I would probably think that person knows the Bible because John MacArthur is one of the finest Bible teachers alive. That is the pattern his teaching leaves on a person.
Now, if a person said, “My pastor is Joel Osteen,” I would think they would be able to tell me how to be happy and healthy and wealthy and prosperous, and how “God created me to be a champion!” But I would also leave with the impression that the person wouldn’t know a whole lot about what the Bible actually means. That is the pattern his teaching leaves on a person. Study under a man like Dr. MacArthur—or some other men I could name (Mark Dever, Al Mohler, the late James Kennedy)—then the pattern, the mark they leave on your life will be that you know the Bible and what it means. If you study under a man like Joel Osteen, then the pattern, the mark he will leave on your life will be that you're happy—but you don’t know a whole lot of Scripture.
And that is so sad. Listen to the how the Psalmist described his love for God’s word. Psalm 119:1-18—Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways. You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all Your commandments. I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments. I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly! How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word. Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.
Does that sound like a pattern that we should follow? Here is this man pouring out his heart about how wonderful the Law of God is—that very same law that condemns us! That is the attitude of a Christian. It’s not a case of “I have to keep the Law if I want to love God.” No! The truth is, “I love God—so I want to keep His Law!” Obeying mom and dad doesn’t make you love them. You love them, so you obey them. We are to note the men whose lives are patterned after godliness, shaped out of godliness, devotion to the truth, and a love for Christ. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
Verses 18-19. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. Paul has just finished telling us to watch and follow those people that you can see their lives and say, “That is someone who imitates Christ. I want to be like that person.” And now he lets us know that there are others whose lives are the complete opposite. They live a life that ignores Christ, that is hostile to Christ, and who want nothing to do with Christ.\
Verse 18. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Anybody want to be an enemy of God? But here’s the thing: look at what Paul says. Does he say these people are enemies of Christ? They are enemies of Christ, but he calls them enemies of—what? Enemies of the cross of Christ. When Paul talks about an “enemy of the cross,” he’s not simply talking about people who are out-and-out sinners. He’s talking about people who deny that salvation comes only by and through the cross of Jesus Christ.
Now, what do I mean by that? Well, if we go back to the first few verses of this chapter, we see one example. This whole chapter is one long train of thought. He spends all these verses warning the Philippians about a group of men called “Judaizers.” Long story short: these were Jews who were pinning their hopes of salvation on keeping “the Law”—the Ten Commandments and all the rest of the 613 commandments in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy. Plus, they said, if a man was not circumcised, they taught that the man could not be saved. And by doing so, they were pitting themselves against the cross of Christ.
But listen to some of the words Paul has for these guys: Galatians 5:2-4 [NASB]—If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. In other words, if someone tries to say that salvation comes through faith in Christ AND “keeping the Law” then they're not saved. If someone says you must be saved by Christ AND keeping the Sabbath; or you must be saved by Christ AND baptism, or you must be saved by Christ AND anything—they probably aren't saved. Because according to Galatians 5:4, if anyone is seeking to be justified by Law, they are severed from Christ.
Hebrews 10:28-29—Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? Think about that! Anyone who knew the Law, but went ahead and did what was forbidden by that Law of God—was put to death if 2-3 people testified (Deuteronomy 17:2-7). That is what God demanded and that is what God thinks about sin. And in that regard, He has not changed. He still hates sin. But now, God has sent His Son, who fulfilled all of those 613 commandments, so that we don’t have to worry about remembering all of them and trying to obey each and every one of them—because there is no way we could! So if you reject the sacrifice that was the cross of Jesus Christ, guess what your only hope of salvation is? From the moment you're born until the day you die, you must keep that Law perfectly, never ever break even one commandment ever, ever-ever, even once.
Romans 3:23—All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 1st John 1:8—If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. So if a person rejects the blood of Christ, they have basically said to God that they’re gonna do what only Jesus could ever do. They make themselves an enemy of the cross of Christ by rejecting that cross—they have condemned themselves. Because they are saying that they are putting their hope of salvation in themselves. And, I believe Dr. MacArthur said it best: “The apostate is beyond salvation because he has rejected the only sacrifice that can cleanse him from sin and bring him into God’s presence. To turn away from that sacrifice leaves him with no saving alternative.” The cross of Christ is the ONLY way to salvation. Period. Paragraph. Jesus Christ is Savior.
Jesus Christ is Lord.