Compare and Contrast
Paul offers contrasting portraits of the enemies of the cross in comparison with what believers may expect. In rapid succession, Paul introduces a topic and makes a comment about the enemies. After four such comments, he moves on to contrast them with what believers do or expect. The close parallels in the topics sharpen the contrast between us and them.
The contrast begins with the enemies, citing a topic and then making a comment about it. The outcome of their behavior is destruction, which stands in contrast to our heavenly citizenship (3:20). Paul made the same comparison in 1:28, contrasting salvation with destruction. Next, he tackles who or what they serve. In the case of the enemies, they serve their belly—something that can never be fully satisfied. In contrast, Paul references the heavenly origins of our citizenship by saying that we await the arrival of our Savior Jesus Christ from the same place. He is the one we serve—not our belly. In fact, Jesus tells us that if we seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, all the other things that we need will be added (Matt 6:33).
“Paul references the heavenly
origins of our citizenship by saying
that we await the arrival of our Savior
Jesus Christ from the same place."
The final thing that Paul compares is focus. The enemies have their sights set on earthly things, which is to be expected of someone whose god is their stomach. The reference to heaven stands in contrast with the stuff of earth. Paul closes the reference to the believer’s outlook with how things turn out. At the end of the day, Christ’s glorious power enables Him to subject all things to Himself. This not only means earthly things, but everything else as well (see 2:10–11).
No matter how appealing it might look to follow these folks, the contrasting picture that Paul paints moves beyond the surface to the final outcome. Whoever they are, the Philippians want no part of what they are offering. We are repeatedly warned to watch out for those who will try and draw us away from the truth of the gospel (see Rom 16:17; 2 Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6; 1 Tim 1:3; 6:3). In the end, their ways lead to death and destruction, not the freedom and blessing that is promised. No matter what gain they may offer in the short run, following such people is a losing proposition in the end.