Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In order to have an adequate understanding of 3:17-21, we need to know Paul’s basic thought in these verses. This requires experience and insight.
In chapters one and two Paul’s intention was to have communication, fellowship, between him and the believers in Philippi that he might share his experience of Christ so that the believers might be encouraged to have a full participation in his enjoyment of Christ. At the beginning of chapter three, Paul changes his emphasis. Although it is rather difficult to trace Paul’s thought in this chapter, my burden in this message is to consider Paul’s basic concept in Philippians 3.
If we read this chapter carefully, we shall see that Paul refers to two groups of people who were exerting a strong influence in the Mediterranean area. The first group was the Judaizers, the Jewish religionists, who were zealous for their traditional religion. In verse 2 Paul speaks of them as dogs, evil workers, the concision. The second group consisted of those who held to the Epicurean philosophy, which promoted indulgence in the pleasure of eating and drinking and self-gratification in other things, all of which are contrary to the cross of Christ (vv. 18-19). From verse 2 we see that Judaizers were causing damage to the Philippian believers. From verse 18 we see that those who practiced according to the Epicureans were also causing damage to them. The former was of Jewish origin; the latter, of a heathen source. Paul’s underlying thought in this chapter is related to these two groups. As we shall see, in speaking of the Judaizers, Paul deals with the soul, especially with the mind, but in speaking of the Epicureans, he deals with the body.
The Judaizers did not promote the enjoyment of material things. Rather, they zealously promoted their particular religious philosophy. Both religion and philosophy involve the mind. For the most part, religious people and philosophical people are not occupied with material things. They do not care to indulge themselves in such things as eating and drinking. On the contrary, they may even restrict themselves in these matters. As we have pointed out, the things to which Paul refers in verses 3 through 7 are not material things, but things related to religion, philosophy, and culture, things which have much to do with our mind.
The believers in Philippi had been saved and regenerated in spirit, but there was still the need for them to care for their soul and body in a proper way. As Paul was writing chapter three, deep within him was the intention to give certain instructions to the Philippian believers concerning how to deal with the soul and the body. Therefore, he first spoke of the Judaizers in order to edify the Philippians in dealing with the soul. Then he referred to the Epicureans in order to instruct the believers in dealing with the body.
If we would deal with the soul, we need to count as refuse all religious matters, philosophical things, and cultural elements. The main ingredients of religion, philosophy, and culture are things which appeal to thoughtful people. This indicates that religion, philosophy, and culture are intimately related to the soul and to the psychological world.
In the past we have spoken very much about transformation. We even have a hymn on the subject of transformation (Hymns, #750). However, it is still possible that many do not realize that transformation involves the renewing of the mind. According to Romans 12:2, the renewing of the mind is a basic aspect of transformation. The transformation of our soul depends to a great extent on the renewing of our mind. If our mind is not renewed, our soul will remain unchanged.
To say that our mind is renewed means that a change has taken place in our way of thinking. The thoughts of many believers are still occupied with religious, philosophical, and cultural things, the very things mentioned by Paul in 3:7 and 8. These matters are related to the psychological world, to the world of the soul. Many are also taken over by a natural way of thinking. Such saints may be good, but they are the same in soul today as they were many years ago. A primary reason for our lack of transformation is that a huge rock, the rock of national characteristics, is occupying our soul, taking the place that belongs to Christ. In the case of every one of us, national characteristics occupy our soul. Our soul has been taken over by this rock.
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