"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 overcomers 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 first allegiance.
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
In the first place, we learn that
WE ARE TO FOLLOW PAUL IN HIS GREAT RENUNCIATION (vs.3-9).
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
realises 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, atleast, 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!
(To be contd.)
SECRET OF EFFECTIVE MINISTRY -5
Many believers live as beggars rather than living as kings. Instead of having faith they are full of fear,
doubts and anxiety. Our God is the God of Jacob. He has called us to be kings and priests forever, in His
heavenly Kingdom. Now upon the earth we are being prepared for our kingship. Those who are washed
by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ will sing the same song in heaven as we read in Rev. 5: 9,
10, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof:
for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and
people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth."
One day we are going to be with the Lord Jesus Christ as heavenly kings, as His co-workers forever and
ever. First we will reign upon the earth for a thousand years and then we will reign in the new creation for
eternity. Thus if we believe from the heart that my Lord, my Saviour and my Redeemer, has redeemed
me by His precious blood to be His king to reign with Him, first upon the earth and then in the new
creation for ever, then we can thank Him for every trial in our lives. Our trials give us the training for our
position in heaven as heavenly kings. Thus we can overcome every trial, every difficulty and every
hardship in our lives.