Tag Archives: Wrath

Philippians 3:17-19; Wolves, Brief Thought

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 

Wolves are horrible. They eat the sheep. They’re incredibly smart and maniacal. They work in teams and are just extremely dangerous and deadly when they are hungry. The Bible warns believers to watch out for wolves (c.f. Mt. 7:15, 10:16, and Acts 20:29). These are men and women who insert themselves into the community, claim the authority of God, and eventually bring destruction to the flock of God. Paul’s exhortation in verses 17-19 gives some insight on the identification of such wolves.

It is common in the western church to encounter wicked men who lead poorly and harm the flock of God. These men often appear to be incredibly godly men. Yet, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing knowing nothing about the Holy Spirit or the sincere love of Christ. Early in my ministry I was scarred by someone I thought to be a brother in the ministry. This man leveled me with accusations of failure and angry reproof without any righteous motivation. He did not scar me for my benefit or instruction. He attacked me and wounded me for his own gain and reputation among other wolves. Forsaking the glory, humility, and love of Christ, he reacted to me in anger and hatred. This man has been a source of tears and pain. I have wept over his sinful rejection of Christ’s love and subsequent display of self-righteousness. Paul was no stranger to such men. In his work he suffered rejection from Jewish leaders he once called brothers (Acts 18), materialistic Christians (2 Timothy 4:10), and even other so-called Christian leaders (Galatians 1-2). His warning to believers are born from experience. He admonishes the Philippians to remain faithful in following after his own example because there are many who will reject the cross of Christ and will lead others to do the same.

Identifying such people can be a difficult task. Verse 19 gives some instruction on the identification of those who would become enemies of the cross of Christ. Paul identifies wolves among us with three unique characteristics. Before he cites their characteristics, Paul proclaims their end. Wolves will be destroyed. There will not be rescue from the judgement for such as these. Their end is wrath and justice, not mercy and grace. Those who serve as enemies of Christ will find their end is destruction. There is no hope for those who reject the salvation of Jesus in favor of this world… there is only wrath.

The first of the three character traits that lead to this horrific end is a subservience to apatite. These are people who are enslaved to their cravings. They find it difficult to deny themselves their desires, even if those desires will harm them. Indeed, they worship their own satisfaction and everything they pursue is to that end. It is their apatite and self-satisfaction that drives their decisions and activities.

The second identifying mark is that they “glory in their shame” (v.19). Glory is an accurate representation of something. For example: the glory of a frog is that it jumps and is slimy. Glory is that which your identity is founded on. The glory of those who reject Christ is in their shame. They revel in shameful activities and give approval to them as though they were righteous.

The third character trait is an infatuation with earthly things and success in this world. Their focus is on this life and not the next. They want the approval of men and the wealth and prestige of the rulers on earth. An obsession with success according to the people of this world is the final mark of a wolf.

The difficulty in identifying wolves in the modern church is that so much of what they are calling success looks spiritual. It is common to find men and women who will seek the praise of other men and women through the auspice of leading in a church. They are governed by their apatite to be approved of and heralded as a great spiritual leader and they consider their divisive and deceptive actions to be wisdom and good business practice. Yet, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, seeking their own advancement and not the Kingdom of God. Avoid these leaders, they will meet their end in destruction.

Be faithful, oh Christian, to maintain an eternal perspective. The admonition to keep your eyes on holy examples is imperative for the identification of other wolves to be sure. It is also critical that you do so for your own sake. You are just as wicked as the one who believes himself to be spiritual while feeding his apatite and hoping in this life. So stay faithful and consistent in your walk. In maintaining a persistent and faithful walk with Jesus, you will find yourself drawing closer and closer to the glory of Christ and thereby assuring yourself of salvation and keeping yourself from becoming or behaving like a wolf.

 

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Philippians 3:7-11 pt. 1; Brief Thoughts

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. [1]

Comparative analysis is necessary when determining the course of action that best serves to benefit the individual making the decision. On the one hand, there is option A with its benefits and on the other, option B with its own rewards. A wise person will weigh the cost of each option and select the one that reaps the greatest reward. So, Paul has considered the cost of following Christ and weighed the benefits on each side and has arrived at the conclusion of these verses. The apostle determines that his former victories and life are not worthy of comparison with the reward and benefit derived from knowing Christ.

Paul explains that he has surrendered all things to Christ. Take note the language he uses to describe this surrender, “I have suffered the loss of all things…” (v. 8). Paul does not diminish the feeling of loss or the pain of suffering. He admits that it is difficult to follow the way of Christ. Paul has suffered loss and pain in his efforts to know Christ. Indeed, a brief read through the book of Acts will illuminate Paul’s difficulty quite clearly. He has lost prestige, friends, community, wealth, and even physical well-being. Along with the suffering of loss, Paul’s opinions have been transformed and he now sees worldly gain as “rubbish,” meaning something that is revolting and worthy only to be tossed out (v. 8).[2] These accolades that so thrill the soul of men are now viewed through the lens of Christ. They are no longer appealing but now pale in comparison to the glory of Christ. The pain of suffering loss is not diminished by the mental ascent toward the value of rubbish. Rather, the perspective of Paul is transformed to accept the truth of God’s proclamation. God’s proclamation is always greater than man’s perceptions. So, when the truth of Christ is proclaimed, the hearts of believers rejoice. This rejoicing does not negate the reality of loss. Indeed, it heightens the depth of loss and the present desperation that only can be filled with Christ.

Paul explains two purposes for his surrender and suffering. First, so that he may be covered in Christ Righteousness. Second, so that he may overcome death and be resurrected from the dead.

Paul’s hope for redemption is found in Christ’s righteousness and not in his own works. He knows that in surrendering all things, he will be found in Christ Jesus. To “be found in Him” is a rather profound and intriguing statement. He states not that he wishes to be covered by Christ or that he wishes to be standing by Christ. He says he wishes to be “in” Christ. Paul wants to know Christ to such a degree that the character of Paul and the character of Christ are indistinguishable. That he would be found in Christ, dependent on a righteousness that he could not earn. His longing to be so associated with Christ is coupled with the reality that he will be covered in the righteousness of Christ.

It is necessary to pause here for your sake, oh reader. Sin has separated humanity from God. Every individual has been found guilty (Rom 3:23). No one has been righteous on their own and will not be (Rom. 3:10-20). The consequence of this sinfulness is death and hell (Rom. 6:23a). God, in His kindness and mercy, has provided a way of salvation for anyone who will believe (Rom. 6:23b, 5:8-10). The believer must confess with their mouth and believe in their heart, then they will be spared the punishment and judgment against them (Rom. 10:9,13) Once a person has believed in Christ, then there is no condemnation against them any longer and they are free to follow Him (Romans 8).

To attain this righteousness, it must be given by God. The righteousness that Paul seeks comes from God, not works of the law or merit earned in some sort of service. This righteousness is granted through faith in Christ. All other righteousness is “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).

The second purpose for Paul’s surrender is resurrection. We will look more at this tomorrow.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Php 3:3–11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] O’Brien, P. T. (1991). The Epistle to the Philippians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 382). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.