"Brethren, be followers together of me" (Phil. 3:17).
The title of this study will probably raise some questions. Should we, or
should we not, be followers of God's servants? Did not Christ say, "Follow me"
(Matt.9:9)? Is not that sufficient? And do we not read that God's over comers are
they that "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth" (Rev.14: 4)? Why, then, follow
men? These are honest questions, and they deserve an honest answer. What did
Paul mean when he said to the Corinthians, for instance, "I beseech you, be ye
followers of me" (1 Cor.4: 16)? And what of his word to the Thessalonians, "ye ought
to follow us" (2 Thess.3: 7)? And now this call to the Philippians "be followers
together of me".
We must remember, in the first place, that there is the factor of godly
example and this, indeed, is actually mentioned at the end of the verse we are
considering, -"so as ye have us for an ensample". This factor also appears in
numerous other verses such as 2 Thess. 3:9; 1 Tim.4: 12; and 1 Pet.5:3. Then,
again, we have to recall what Paul said in 1 Cor.11: 1, -"Be ye followers of me, even
as I also am of Christ". That, we would say, is the main thought to bear in mind, -
"Follow me, as I follow Christ". It is surely right to follow our God -given leaders in
those matters, and in those ways, in which they themselves are evidently following
Christ. And it still remains that Christ Himself is our main concern, and He holds our
That Paul was following Christ in this case needs no proving. Anyone who
reads through Philippians three, knows immediately that the great Apostle was not
only following his Lord, but doing so in such away as to make him a shining example,
for all time, of what true godliness is, and also of God's gracious design and purpose
for His people. We certainly need not be perturbed when such an one says to us, "Be
followers of me"! The only valid question in such a case is, -are we doing so?
In the pages that follow, we shall seek to trace what it was that Paul mind
especially in mind when he said to the Philippians, -"Be followers of me", We shall
find our question clearly answered when we examine the verses which lead up to the
exhortation, -so that is what we shall be doing.
As we look over the chapter as a whole, we are confronted with three
tremendous considerations, each of which demands our earnest prayer, and, we
would say, our personal response. Let us consider these one by one.
In the first place, we learn that WE ARE TO FOLLOW PAUL IN HIS GREAT
The key verse in this regard would be verse seven, "But what things were
gain (s) to me. Those I counted loss for Christ". Paul has been looking back over his
life, particularly his life as a natural and unregenerate man, and now he gives this
remarkable testimony regarding a complete change that has come over him.
Something has happened, he says, which has compelled a complete reassessment of
everything, -"Those things which were gains, I counted loss".
What the Apostle is saying is that, in those earlier days, there were certain
natural assets of his in which he had greatly gloried, -and; he thought, legitimately
so. He actually lists some of those supposed "assets", but now testifies that
everything has changed, -all has had to be revalued. The fact was that he had seen
the Lord, and, in so doing, had seen those "gains" of his in a light in which he had
never seen them before. He had encountered Truth, and, in the pure light of that
Truth, he had been given an entirely new view of "those vain things that charmed
me most". Now he openly avows that they are not only "vain things", -they are
positively vile, and he actually uses the word "dung" in referring to them. Of this we
shall say more later.
It may be well for us, now, to look at some of the listed details in this
testimony, and to note what were some of the named areas of his erstwhile glorying.
What was it, we may ask, that had needed to be so drastically revalued? As we said,
there is quite a list, and it begins with verse five. At the beginning of that verse, Paul
refers to what we may call his National Standing, -"Circumcised the eighth day, of
the stock of Israel". How proud the original and "natural" Paul had been of that, and
for so long; -"One of God's own chosen nation", he would say. But now, in the pure
light that has emanated from Christ, he realizes that all that must be changed. For
the first time in his life, he begins to see, and to register, the actual truth about his
nation, -and about himself. Important factors, which he had previously (and
conveniently?) preferred to disregard, concerning "Israel", are now borne in heavily
upon him, and it has shocked him. What, after all, even in the plain light of history, if
nothing more, was this "Israel" of which he had so proudly boasted? Of course he
knew the history, but discretion, maybe, had blinded him to detail, and kept him
back from logical conclusions. Israel, unquestionably, was the most privileged of
nations, but the same Israel had also shown itself to be the most despicable, -
warranting not pride at all, but only pity! And Saul of Tarsus was part of it; and so
was that "natural man" within the Apostle, -as long as that "natural man" was
permitted to survive! But now he sees, and now he makes the drastic reassessment.
The Light has dawned! In Christ's light he has seen light!
Perhaps we could be permitted here, to make a brief survey, in few words, of
the sad history of Paul's nation, -although, to most, it will be well known.
Think of Jacob, for instance, the great father of the nation, his name now
accepted as a synonym for craftiness and deception, and that in the holiest of
matters, so that it is only in utmost grace that God was ever willing to call Himself
"the God of Jacob". We know that Jacob, personally, was finally broken and made
again, but history shows that the nation, which sprang from him consistently,
manifested a similar shamefulness and unworthiness. Think of it. Rescued from
Egypt, but immediately murmuring and complaining against the God who had
rescued them. Fed from heaven in the wilderness for forty years, yet loathing this
bread, and lusting again for the leeks and onions of Egypt (Num.11: 5,6; 21: 5).
Moses had been their heaven- sent deliverer, wielding the mighty powers of God
against their tyrant enemies, but always dealing gently and patiently with his
brethren, yet, from their side, they were almost ready to stone him (Ex.17: 4). We
may say that, in their heart, at least, they "killed their Prince of life". And so the
story goes on. Building their idol groves, slaying God's prophets, and finally needing
to be transported as captives to the land of Babylon. How Jeremiah wept over this
incorrigible nation, -but all to no avail. They finally consummated their evil by
crucifying the Christ Himself. And, as we are saying, this was Paul's nation, in which
he had boasted so long; -"of the stock of Israel", he would say. Paul himself had
come from that same "stock", with all its baneful history; -he was, indeed, a vital
part and expression of it. Yet, in his time of blindness, he could only boast
concerning it! How true it is that Satan has "blinded the minds of them that believe
not, " making them completely unaware of the simplest and most obvious things!
Often times, what [s plain history is never really seen, or accurately interpreted, -
even by the most learned of this world, -until the True Light shines!
In Christ's light Paul saw light and he said, "But what things were gain to me,
those I counted loss for Christ" (Phil. 3:7).
We need to understand that, Paul is not simply saying that he now regards
those "gains" of his, as if they were "loss", -shall we say, "Loss in comparison with
Christ". While that is obviously true, that, by itself, would be a totally inadequate
reading of the text. What he is saying is that they are loss, and only now has he
come to see it. The illustration, of course, is that of an accountant, and Paul is now
admitting that, in the past, his "accounts" have all been wrong, and his books in
terrible confusion. What he had fondly reckoned were his "credits", are now
discovered to be plain "debits"! And, all those years, he had been writing them in the
wrong column, and entering them on the wrong side of his ledger! But now, at last,
the light has come; -he has discovered the great fundamental error, and, by God's
grace, the immense correction will be made. Henceforward he will account as loss
what is loss; -he will faithfully "reckon" it according to its true character. That is the
basic teaching of the passage.
The great underlying fact, of course, is that all these supposed "credits" really
pertained to "Adam", and derived from Adam, and were apart of Paul's Adamic life.
They were a part of the Adamic creation; a creation now darkened by rebellion, away
from God, and, in all its parts, unacceptable. The Psalmist declares that this creation,
even at its best state, is "altogether vanity" (Psa.39: 5). But Paul had not seen it, -
hence his continued glorying in those "vain things". But now the Light has come, and
henceforth his accounts will be different. He will personally endorse the Psalmist's
word and say, "I know that in me... dwelleth no good thing" (Rom.7: 18). In God's
mercy, Paul has now seen Christ, the One and Only "Man approved of God" (Acts
2:22), -raised from the dead and highly exalted. Now he realizes that, because of his
simple faith, he has his place and standing in that Newman, and has become, in fact,
a member of His Body. Here, indeed, is the "new creation", where "old things" have
passed away, and all has become new (2 Cor.5: 17). In other words, Paul has really
perceived the inner essence of the Gospel. Now he knows that Adam, and things
Adamic, have all been judged in Christ, and God has now secured His Second Man
(1Cor.15: 47). Gladly, then, will he renounce those "old" Adamic things, and find his
glorying, instead, in the Great Divine Alternative. In this way, Christ has become his
All. He belongs, now, to God's new nation, -his citizenship is in heaven (Phil.3: 20).
He boasts in earthly "Israel" no more; -only yearns over it in brotherly and
sympathetic prayer. It has meant a deep and terrible severance by the Cross-, but O
the immeasurable gains!
And the same Paul says to the Philippians, and to us, "Be followers of me". It
is a fact that all who are in Christ will find that they cannot henceforth glory in any
"old" national standing, for they are partakers, now, in an entirely new creation,
"Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor un-circumcision... but Christ
is all, and in all"(Col.3: 1 0, 11; Gal.3: 27,28).
Only the briefest reference now needs to be made to those other "gains"
which Paul has listed in the passage, -the message is clear and uniform. What he has
said about his National Standing is true, in principle, of all those other imagined
"gains". He refers, in his list, to what we may call his "Social Standing", -"of the tribe
of Benjamin". Quite apart from that major matter of the New Creation, which we
have been considering, it would also appear that, in his earlier days, Paul had quite
forgotten much of the history of his boasted clan, -for example, that outstanding
Benjamite, King Saul, who had spent the "better" part of his life seeking to slay the
anointed David. If Paul had given due consideration to that, and to some similar
episodes in the history of his tribe, he might have been less inclined to boast that he
was part of Benjamin. (Incidentally, how ashamed some of us might be of our "social
standing" and "family tree", if all the facts were tabled for all to see! How foolish and
how childish. It is for anyone to boast of anything, save in the Cross of our Lord
The list goes on to mention what we could call his "Religious Standing",
"concerning zeal, persecuting the church". That, on his own admission, was the sign
and the measure of his previous vaunted "religion"; -"breathing out threatening and
slaughter against the disciples of the Lord", -"binding and delivering into prisons both
men and women", -"compelling them to blaspheme", "exceeding mad against them",
and all "according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers. ..zealous toward
God!" In this religious fever, he willingly subscribed to, and participated in the
heartless stoning of the Christ -like and Spirit -filled Stephen. It seems that, in every
conceivable and diabolical way, he was dedicated to what he hoped would be the
swift and final liquidation of God's true testimony. Such, he says, was his "religion"
and such was his proud religious standing in the Jewish community.
The Apostle concludes his list by reference to what he thought was his high
"Moral Standing", -"concerning the righteousness which is of the law, blameless".
With such a record, he felt he could lift high the head in any company. Poor blinded
Paul; -how totally astray in all his calculations! It was only when the light shone that
he was prepared to bow the neck, and name himself, instead, the chief of sinners (1
Looking back over the section, then, we can only say that Paul had a
revelation of Christ, and, with it, a corresponding revelation of the total corruption of
Adam, and of all things essentially Adamic. Now he realizes, with shame, that, for all
his boastings, he was only a part of that corruption. Now, however, he has embraced
the Available Alternative, and Christ, and Christ alone, is all his glorying.
It is in this context, notice, that Paul makes reference to what he calls the
real "circumcision",-the people who truly are God's own. These, he says, are they,
which "worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence
in the flesh" (Phil.3: 3). only now has it dawned on him that that original rite of
circumcision, instituted with Abraham, was but a figure, or illustration, of this far
deeper thing pertaining to the spirit. Now he sees that it is "the flesh", in its totality,
which is revolting, due to be cut off, requiring the deep surgery of the Cross, and fit
only for out casting and burial. All this was clearly in Paul's heart and in his thinking,
when he wrote "what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ".
Thus it is that Paul pleads with the Philippians, "Be followers of me" (Phil.3:
17). He himself has embraced the Cross; he himself has accepted the righteous
crucifixion, in Christ, of all that derives from Adam, and he would have the
Philippians do the same, -"Be followers of me".
The question, of course, comes on to us, - "Are we following Paul in this
regard"? Have we embraced that all- removing Cross? The question is, indeed, a
deep one, but we venture to say it is basic to everything, not only for the life of the
individual Christian, but also for the securing of a true Church testimony. But this is
the sure pathway that leads on to the glorious reality of Resurrection, and to the
unutterable blessedness of having the Living Christ Himself as our new standing, our
new resource, and our new everything! God forbid that anyone of us should miss this
way! To say the very least, we would all do well to pray earnestly about it.
Now the Apostle introduces another most important matter in which he would
have us be his followers. We may say that WE ARE TO FOLLOW HIM IN HIS GREAT
ASPIRATION (Phil. 3: 10-12).
In the words of verse ten, we have a clear statement of Paul's supreme and
all-governing ambition, -"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection,
and the fellowship of his sufferings". This, we see, is a threefold ambition, but the
key phrase, without question, is the first one, - "That I may know him". Beyond all
doubt, Paul's first and foremost aspiration, and his perpetual heart longing, was to
know his Lord. And this, we may be sure, was very prominently in his mind when he
urged the Philippians, in verse seventeen, to be his followers.
Before we go further, we should perhaps pause to clarify a simple point,
which could possibly raise a question in some hearts. There are those who have said,
"Did not Paul already know the Lord, -why, then, should he ask to know him?” The
answer, of course, is not hard to find. We all realize that, in everything, there are
always degrees of knowledge, and, as far as knowing persons is concerned, this is
particularly so. There is what we may call the "knowledge" of mere acquaintance, but
there is, as well, that far deeper "knowledge" which is the fruit of long and personal
experience. It is one thing, for instance, for a person to say, "Yes, I know the
postman", or, "I know the professor", but it is quite another thing for the wife of that
postman, or that professor, to say she knows him! In that case, the reference is to a
deeper kind of "knowledge", -a knowledge of character, of inner strengths and
weaknesses, and, it could be, of secret sufferings and heartaches, -something far
deeper than that initial or superficial knowledge. Now Paul, of course, did know
Christ in that initial and preparatory way; - he had personally met Him and
acknowledged Him as Lord, -and he meant it. But now his inmost spirit cries out -for
more; -he longs for that far greater thing; -"that I may know Him". Evidently he
realizes that this extra fellowship and intimacy, and these fuller unfolding of his Lord,
were equally his heritage and birthright, and now his burning heart cries out for that.
The point that we are making, of course, is that Paul wanted the Philippians to
be his followers in this matter also. He would have them set their hearts, too, on this
further and fuller "knowing of the Lord". As his own hands stretch up eagerly to
Heaven, and his eyes search out that incomparable countenance of his Master, he
turns his spirit momentarily to his brethren, and says to them, "Be ye followers of
me". He would have them set their hearts, too, on knowing Christ, and longs that his
ambition become their ambition, -that, in due time, they might all rejoice together, -
they have come to know their Lord!
We venture to suggest that far too little is said, these days, about this fuller
"knowing of the Lord". The emphasis is almost entirely on what we must do for Him.
Possibly, a little later, (and happily so), the emphasis shifts to what we must be, but,
very seldom, if at all, is the emphasis found on what we must know, or, more
importantly, Whom we must know! How foolish we are to reverse completely that
divine order of which we read in Daniel 11: 32; -"the people that do know their God
shall be strong, and do exploits", According to that verse, it is the knowing that
comes first, then the being, and then the doing, In other words, the "being" and the
"doing", important though they are, are all subservient to, and depend on, the
"knowing". To say the very least, it is the "knowing" that makes possible the "being",
and then gives power and effectiveness to the "doing", And yet, so little is ever said
It is a fact that, according to the Bible, (and the statement of the Lord
Himself), the whole purpose of our having "eternal life" is that we might come to
know the Lord! In His High-Priestly prayer, Christ declared. "...this is life eternal,
that they might know thee and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
Again the tendency is to reverse the order (how upside down we are!), and jump to
the conclusion that we get eternal life by knowing the Lord, whereas the teaching of
the verse is that we are given eternal life so that, thereafter, and along life's
pathway, we might come to know the Lord, -in the manner that we have described
(see also verse 24). The point is that it is not until our spirits are quickened into
newness of life that we are in any way conditioned or equipped to know the Lord, for
"the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: ... neither can he
know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). All of us, then,
need to receive a new faculty, and, indeed, a New Life, if we are to begin to enter
that realm and penetrate those mysteries. Now, in His mercy, God imparts that new
faculty, and infuses that New Life, introducing us thereby to an entirely new
dimension of knowledge, -spiritual knowledge.
Certainly God's servants need to understand this principle, for it is always this
"knowing of the Lord" that gives spiritual substance and true value to all ministry.
People are not impressed when we talk to them about a Christ we scarcely know,
and who, perhaps, is just a name or a figurehead. And still less are they inclined to
repent before Him, or come under His glorious dominion, -to say nothing of pursuing
Him with all the heart for what He is, Himself. It is a simple fact that, if we only
present a formula, we shall only get formal results, and these, really, are no results
at all. It will be proved in the end that they are only a diabolical deception, and they
will certainly not stand up to any coming test. If, on the other hand, we present a
Christ we really know (or are coming to know), the results will be genuine, and
spiritual and abiding.
And here it is, we can thank God for the Holy Spirit who is called "the spirit of
wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him" (Eph. 1: 17). The Greek there,
incidentally, is "epignosis", -full or thorough knowledge, -the kind of "knowledge" we
have been talking about. The work of the Holy Spirit is always to glorify Christ, and
He does this against the background of daily experiences and our ever-changing
need. It is His prerogative and joy to make us into men and women who really know
their Lord. We can be sure that Paul himself was depending continually on that Great
Divine Indweller to enable him to realize his heart's ambition. And, in the confidence
that his beloved Philippian brethren were similarly indwelt and endowed, he says to
them, "Be followers of me". He would have them also to look to this same Indwelling
Teacher to enable them, likewise, to enjoy this richest of all blessings, -a fuller and
deeper knowing of the Lord. And he would say the same to us, "Be followers
together of me", -"That I may know Him".
There is one more matter, in which, according to Philippians 3, we are to be
followers of Paul. We have considered the matter of his renunciation (v.7), and his
aspiration (v.10), and now there remains what we shall call his concentration, for
that, too, is strongly raised in the passage. WE ARE TO FOLLOW PAUL IN HIS
It would seem that it was this matter, particularly, which was uppermost in
his mind when he issued his appeal, "Be followers of me". We deduce this from the
fact that, in the verses immediately prior to verse seventeen, the Apostle had been
making reference to what we call the Christian race, and he had testified that, as far
as he was concerned, he was in that race, and, indeed, pressing toward the mark for
the prize (v.14). The revised version renders it, "I press toward the goal unto the
prize", but, in either case, the emphasis is on intense concentration. Indeed, Paul
says, "This one thing I do" (v. 13). Now, it is exactly at that point that Paul says to
the Philippians, "Be followers of me", meaning, of course, that he would have them
join him in a similar concentration, and a whole hearted pursuit of the prize.
We may notice that this figure of the Christian race is frequently used in
Scripture, and we give the following references:
To the Corinthians (world center of the Olympic games!), Paul wrote, "Know
ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that
ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all
things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible" (1 Cor.9: 24, 25).
Then, towards the end of his life, he wrote to Timothy, "I have fought a good
fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for
me a crown of righteousness, i.e. a righteous crown), which the Lord, the righteous
judge, shall give me at that day" (2 Tim.4: 7, 8).
And most of us will be well familiar with that great word to the Hebrews:
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us
run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and
finisher of our faith" (Heb.12: 1, 2).
Yes, the Christian life is indeed a race, and, as we know, a race requires very
much in the way of concentration. That, we repeat, was the point the Apostle was
making when he wrote those words to the Philippians, -"I press toward the mark for
the prize". We can be assured, of course, that, in such passages, the idea is never
that of competing selfishly or unkindly against our fellow-Christians, or, in any way,
seeking personal advantage or glory at their expense, for that would be entirely
contrary to the whole teaching of the Lord. Rather is it this simple matter of intense
concentration on the part of all as we all press forward to the promised "upward
calling in Christ Jesus".
Much has been said and written in connection with this "upward calling", but
our single purpose, for the present, is to emphasize this matter of the Apostle's
concentration in the Christian race, and his immediate call to us to be his followers in
We do well, of course, to recognize that the Word does have much to say
about a coming spiritual prize giving; -whatever form that "prize giving" may take.
Christ Himself said, "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with
his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matt.16:
The Apostle John re-echoes this same truth when he writes in his epistle: "Look to
yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we
receive a full reward" (2 John 8). And, (very significantly, we would say), the very
last chapter of the Bible confronts us, likewise, with the same great matter when the
Coming King Himself proclaims: II and, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is
with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev.22:12).
Detailed expositions of these verses we are not attempting here, but certainly
no one can deny that there is a Biblical principle of "Rewards". And that, perhaps, is
all we need to know at present!
The simple question we are raising here is, -are we really concentrating in this
race? Are we truly following Paul in this regard? Are we pressing toward the mark for
the prize? Have we at least got a heart to seek that prize, -whatever it might be?
Even if it be nothing more than God's "Well done, good and faithful servant"
(Matt.25: 21), have we got a heart for that? And, should the prize be something
more specific, say, sharing the Throne with Christ as promised in Rev.3: 21, -shall
we qualify? We know that this can only be by His grace, but the Lord did say, "To
him that overcometh will grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame,
and am set down with my Father in his throne"(Rev.3: 21). This, too, is a
tremendous subject, which we are not embarking upon just here. We simply note the
fact that a great "Prize-giving" is surely coming. That day will bring great glory to the
Lord, and Paul, for one, was concentrating. No time for fond reminiscences over the
past (how fatal in a race!), or, for that matter, for any futile regrets over the same,
but simply, "I press toward the mark for the prize".
In case there be someone who is perplexed or troubled by the thought, or
fear, of using merely carnal energy in this regard of following Paul, let us hasten to
append his clarifying word in Col.1: 29 where he speaks of himself as "striving
according to His working, which worketh in me mightily". We may always be assured
that the energy for this race is never intrinsically our own, but something entirely
"sourced" in Christ. It is purely and simply His strength, graciously imparted to us
through the Holy Spirit, -a wonderful heavenly "supply" which we may breathe in,
moment by moment, as an athlete would breathe in the air. It is what Paul, in this
same epistle, calls, "the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil.1: 19). So, after all,
(as in all matters of spiritual achievement), it is basically a matter of yielding to
Christ, and drawing all from Him. You will recall that Paul wrote to the Romans that it
is they who "receive abundance of grace "who "shall reign in life by one, Jesus
Christ" (Rom.5: 17). Writing similarly to the Corinthians, he testifies, "...labored
more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me"
(1 Cor.15: 10). The question, then, comes back to this, how much of God's grace are
we willing to receive, and to live by, and, shall we adt1, to "run" by? Certainly no one
abhorred carnal energy more than Paul did, and yet he said, MI press toward the
mark for the prize".
We are left, then, with this very solemn question, -are we, or are we not,
following Paul in this matter of the race? Are we, in our day. Evidencing a similar
concentration? Have we a comparable heart for the proffered prize? Are we receiving
an abundance of the same grace?
This kind of concentration will surely entail for us, as it did for Paul, a
determined "laying aside. of all hindering "weights", -not to mention the obvious
matter of "sins" (Heb.12:2). We hardly need to be told that if any athlete in a race
keeps on his comfortable overcoat, or tries to carry his easy chair, he cannot expect
to gain the prize! Yet, how wedded to our comforts some of us are, and how
reluctantly we surrender them! Nor, of course, can an athlete afford to be weighed
down by a large bag of gold! Gold may be all right in its place, but never in a race!
And yet, again, how tenaciously many of us cling to this world's passing treasures,
and yet expect to win an eternal prize! Better far to follow Paul who, having nothing,
yet possessed all things, and, being poor, yet made many rich (2 Cor .6: 10) .Yes,
we too, have to learn this lesson of "laying aside", and then the accompanying lesson
of utter concentration in the race. In all these things we are to be "Followers of
In concluding our study, there is one further thought which we feel should be
emphasized in connection with Paul's call for "followers", for we sense it touches a
matter which is of no small moment. It would appear, from the actual wording of the
call that it was the Apostle's desire and hope that there might be many at Philippi
who would follow him in the various matters we have here considered, and,
moreover, who would do so together. The actual wording is, "Brethren, be followers
together of me", and we feel sure that the insertion of that word "together" was
studied and deliberate. Evidently Paul was envisaging not just one, or two, or more,
isolated individuals, who, as such, would rise up to his call, but rather of the whole
church or, at the very least, a considerable nucleus within the church, who would
definitely commit themselves together to come behind him in these explicit matters
which he had set before them. As you will see, this is no small matter, and we should
give it some earnest thought and prayer.
We may be well assured that God's servant had some important reason for
including that vital word. May be he was thinking of the great encouragement and
strength which such a group at Philippi could be to each other in the spiritual battle
that would inevitably be involved in any following of Paul in these new ways. More
likely, it was a combination of such considerations. In any case, Paul did reach out
for a group, or a fellowship, of those who would faithfully follow him in the matters
he had mentioned. Perhaps it would be timely and appropriate, here, to say that
many of us have had to learn that it is in the disciplines of fellowship with others that
we have come to discover the real deeps of our own personal need, and then the
availability of God's gracious supply. That is certainly one reason why God puts us in
churches, and also into groups of fellow -workers in the gospel. The disciplines that
are called for will prove to be His highway (or low way!) to spiritual enlargement.
However, we just return to the fact that Paul's call was for those who would
follow him together in all the matters he had indicated, and we feel that this is
something that all of us should take seriously to heart. Should we not be asking God
for something like 1hat in our day; -groups and companies of those who have seen
the King, and who, as a result, are committed to Him, and to each other, in pursuing
God's good and perfect will for His people? What a difference it would make if, for
instance, the elders of our churches could be brought to the place where they are
solidly together in following Paul in all the matters we have here considered.
"But what things were gain(s) to me, those I counted loss for Christ" (Phil.3:
7). "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of
his sufferings" (Phil.3: 10). "I press toward the mark for the prize" (Phil.3: 14).
Needless to say, it still has to begin with the individual, and with individual
decisions, -costly, no doubt, but far more costly, in the end, to the Lord, and to
ourselves, if we foolishly turn aside. May God graciously help us to "follow Paul", -
even as he followed Christ.