Philippians 3:17-21 - Avoiding the Antinomian Danger

Steve Viars November 11, 1995 Philippians 3:17-21

Last week you studied "Pressing On For Christ" and looked at three
commands:

  I.  Don't Act Like You Believe You've Arrived.

      We're all just growing, even Paul!

II.  Make Growth in Christ You Highest Priority

      This one thing I do.  Need to make progressive sanctification
      (gradual, increasing holiness)

III.  Even If You are Maturing, Keep Heading Down This Path

      Don't be content with where you are spiritually.  Keep on
      growing!

This week we're looking at a new section in chapter 3.  A new section
AND  a new danger.  Another false teaching had infiltrated this good
church.  This danger was called "antinomianism."

                    "Avoiding the Antinomian Danger"

Read Philippians 3:17-21 (NASB)

NAS Phi 3:17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those
who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of
whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are
enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god
is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their
minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from
which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who
will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the
body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to
subject all things to Himself.


KJV Phi 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which
walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I
have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the
enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God
is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly
things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look
for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile
body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according
to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto
himself.

Introduction:

1.  What is antinomianism?

    From two Greek words:  "Anti" -- against " and "Nomos" -- law

    This was a group that was "against the law."  They were sensual,
    they didn't follow any moral standards but their own.  They did
    what they felt like doing, what fed their lusts.

2.  How do we know that the Judaizers are not referred to here as in
    the beginning of the chapter?

    A few commentators believe the Judaizers were referred to.  However
    the vast majority of Bible scholars believe this is a different
    group than the Judaizers, the ones who believed one had to follow
    the law (esp.  circumcision) to be saved.

    INPUT:  It is true that the description "enemies of the cross of
    Christ in verse 18 would be true of the Judaizers, what is it in
    verse 19 that gives us the clearest indication that this group was
    not the law-keeping Judaizers?

    ("Whose god is their appetite (belly--KJV)" -- Law-keeping
    Judaizers could not be worshipping their appetites and following
    the strict dietary laws of the OT at the same time.)

3.  The antinomians professed to be Christians, but were probably not
    members of the church.

    In v. 18 Paul says "For many walk . . ."  He uses the term "walk,"
    commonly used of Christians.  The fact that he chose this word
    indicates this group of false teachers claimed to know Christ, a
    dangerous group indeed.

So this group is distinct.  The loose, "anything-goes," libertine group
called the antinomians.

From this passage we learn three ways to avoid the false teaching of
antinomianism.


  I.  Follow the Example of Godly Leaders (v. 17).

      NAS Phi 3:17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe
      those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.  KJV Phi
      3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which
      walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

      A.  Paul

          1.  He was telling them to model their lives after him.

              In preparing them for his warning against antinomianism,
              he tells them to use himself as a role model.  He was
              accustomed to denying his fleshly desires and one way for
              them to be motivated and encouraged to do the same is to
              follow his example

              cf. 1 Cor. 9:27 (NASB) But I buffet my body and make it
              my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others,
              I myself should be disqualified.

          2.  He was not being sinfully proud.

              Paul certainly wasn't above sinful pride.  In fact, God
              gave him a thorn in the flesh in order to keep him humble
              after he received several heavenly visions

              2 Cor. 12:7 And because of the surpassing greatness of
              the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from
              exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh,
              a messenger of Satan to buffet me--to keep me from
              exalting myself!

              a.  Paul had already reminded them that Christ was the
                  chief example.

                  INPUT:  Where had he already done this?

                  (Phil. 2:5-11 is one of the most (if not the most)
                  Christ glorifying passages in all of Scripture.)

                  NAS Phi 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which
                  was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed
                  in the form of God, did not regard equality with God
                  a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking
                  the form of a bond-servant, and being ma de in the
                  likeness of men.  8 And being found in appearance as
                  a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the
                  point of death, even death on a cross. Phi 2:9
                  Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed
                  on Him the name which is above ever y name, 10 that
                  at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those
                  who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,
                  11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus
                  Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

                  Having already written this passage in chapter 2,
                  Paul's meaning here is just like his meaning in 1
                  Cor. 11:1: NAS "Be imitators of me, just as I also am
                  of Christ."

              b.  He had just finished telling them he had not arrived
                  spiritually.

                  Having just been perfectly transparent with them,
                  they knew he was speaking as a humble spiritual
                  leader.  Another reason we know Paul was not being
                  sinfully proud here is because Paul told them to also
                  follow .  .  .

      B.  Others

          NAS Phi 3:17b "and observe those who walk according to the
          pattern you have in us."

          KJV Phi 3:17b "and mark them which walk so as ye have us for
          an ensample."

          If Paul were being proud he would have wanted all the
          attention focused on himself.  Not so Paul.  He directed
          their attention to other good examples, too.  He probably had
          in mind at least the two individuals he had already mentioned
          in this epistle : Timothy (Phil.  2:19-24) and Epaphroditus
          (Phil. 2:25-30).

          Paul was at a point in his Christian life where he could say
          to the Philippian believers: "Follow my example.  Imitate
          me." Could you make that kind of statement?

          INPUT:  Who are some individuals for whom you and I must be
          careful to be setting a good example?

          - Spouse (if he/she was just like you spiritually speaking,
            how spiritual would he/she be)

            - Husbands, we are the more accountable to be setting the
              pace in the home.  Are you setting the pace for
              stewardship month?  Are you leading your wife and family
              in studying your Stewardship Devotional guide every day?
              [To be honest with you, I have missed some days already
              in the devotional guide.  I am striving though not to
              miss any more.  And if the time set aside for it is
              filled with a greater priority or emergency, I'm striving
              to "make that day up" as soon as possible.

          - Children  (they truly do "imitate" their parents, don't
            they?  Sometimes a parent can say, "Now where did Johnny
            ever learn to talk like that . . ." and all of a sudden
            realize Johnny has seen it in mom or dad.)

          - Fellow church members

            What kind of church would Faith Baptist be if everyone in
            it imitated you?

            What would our attendance be like at all the services if
            everyone attended as faithfully as you?

            What would our giving be like if everyone gave like you?

            Are you in the position spiritually (certainly not speaking
            of "arriving") where you could with Paul say, "Follow my
            example"?

The second way to avoid this false teaching is to . . .

II.  Beware the False Teaching of Antinomianism (vv. 18-19).

      A.  The urgency of Paul's warning

          1.  Repeated warnings

              NAS Phi 3:18 "For many walk, of whom I often told you..."

              Paul had warned the Philippians often about this group.
              "Perhaps in former visits and letters" (Kent).  The
              nature of the falsehood was such that the warning bore
              repeating again and again.

              INPUT:  What are some warnings that God repeats
              throughout the Scriptures?

              - Avoid sexual sin (10 commandments, Proverbs--strange
                woman, NT-2 Tim. 2:22 "Flee youthful lusts")

              - Avoid wrong speech (10 commandments [God's name in
                vain], Proverbs-29:11 "Fool utters all his mind, NT -
                James 3)

          2.  Heartfelt concern

              "and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of
              the cross of Christ"

              Paul was deeply concerned for the welfare of the
              Philippian believers that even as he penned this letter
              and thought of the grave danger and potential
              consequences to his dear friends in Philippi, he began to
              weep.

              We must have a burning, heartfelt concern for the purity
              of the gospel message and fidelity to the Word of God.

              *ILLUS. Pastor Carl Herbster (spoke about need of
              Christian school) told us the key to working with
              teenagers: "Just love them."


              Often difficult for parents and youth workers, but how
              true!  As the pastor with oversight of our youth
              ministries, let me say we want to help you accomplish
              your spiritual goals with your teens.  Our goal is to
              assist and help you in that task.  If your teen is
              struggling in an area and we can help, please let us know
              so that we can do that (or if he/she is in need of
              encouragement).

      B.  The nature of the false teaching

          1.  Enemies of the cross of Christ

              NAS Phi 3:18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and
              now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the
              cross of Christ,

              Paul wanted them to know for certain that these were not
              merely believers with different convictions, but ENEMIES
              OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST!  Paul does not mince words when
              the true gospel message is at stake.

              "The friends of the cross are those who show in their
              lives that they have caught the spirit of the cross,
              namely, that of self-denial .  . .  (and) the enemies of
              the cross are those who manifest the very opposite
              attitude, namely, that of self-indulgence" (Hendrickson,
              Philippians, p. 180).

              Note the word "many".  This group was a large one and
              influential upon this church.

          2.  Whose end is destruction

              "This is their appointed destiny, for God has ordained
              that 'their end shall be according to their works' (2
              Cor.  11:15)." (Hendrickson, p.  181)

              These (and all other) false teachers face eternal
              destruction.  NOTE: This is not annihilation, where they
              simply cease to exist.  That could not be an eternal
              punishment for they would not be punished for eternity.

              Rev. 20:10 and 15 state "And the devil who deceived them
              was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the
              beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be
              tormented day and night forever and ever.  And if
              anyone's name was not found written in the book of life,
              he was thrown into the lake of fire."

          3.  Whose god is their appetite

              KJV -- "Whose god is their belly."

              We mentioned earlier that this description pinpointed the
              antinomians and ruled out the Judaizers.

              These antinomians did not restrain themselves.  They did
              what they pleased and led feeling-oriented, pleasure-
              driven lives.

              INPUT:  What are some Scriptures that teach us to keep
              our bodies under control for God's glory?

              (NASB) Matthew 5:28 but I say to you, that everyone who
              looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery
              with her already in his heart.

              Romans 6:11-14 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to
              sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do
              not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should
              obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the
              members of your body to sin as instruments of
              unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those
              alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of
              righteousness to God.  14 For sin shall not be master
              over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.

              Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make
              no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

              1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body
              is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you
              have from God, and that you are not your own? For you
              have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in
              your body.

              1 Corinthians 9:27 but I buffet [lit. to strike under the
              eye; beat black and blue] my body and make it my slave,
              lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself
              should be disqualified.

          4.  Whose glory is their shame

              "By their indulgence, they actually exulted in what ought
              to have been shameful to them" (Kent, EBC vol. 11, p.
              147).

              "The unfettered liberty, of which they boast, thus
              perverted becomes their deepest degradation" (Lightfoot,
              Philippians, p. 155)

          5.  Who set their minds on earthly things

              "earthly" = Epigeia (Eh-pi-gay-uh)

              Form: evpi,geia
              Lemma: evpi,geioj
              evpi,geioj( on (1) strictly, existing on earth, belonging
              to earth; hence, earthly, terrestrial (opp. evpoura,nioj
              heavenly) (1C 15.40); (2) subst. ta. evpi,geia earthly
              things, what happens on earth (JN 3.12); (3) belonging to
              human existence (opp.  qei/osv of people, human JA 3.15).

              From Robertson's Word Pictures in the N.T. Col 3:2 - Set
              your mind on (froneite). "Keep on thinking about." It
              does matter what we think and we are responsible for our
              thoughts.  Not on the things that are upon the earth (mh
              ta epi thj ghj). Paul does not mean that we should never
              think the things upon the earth, but that these should
              not be our aim, our goal, our master. The Christian has
              to keep his feet upon the earth, but his head in the
              heavens.  He must be heavenly-minded here on earth and so
              help to make earth like heaven.

              cf. Col. 3:2 Set your mind on the things above, not on
              the things that are on earth.

              INPUT:  What are some ways Christians can be guilty of
              setting their minds on earthly things?

              - More committed to earthly organizations (which may not
                be inherently evil) more than the church

              - Materialistic, very "things" conscience

III.  Remember the Second Coming (vv. 20-21).

      NAS Phi 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we
      eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; NAS Phi 3:21
      who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity
      with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He
      has even to subject all things to Himself.

      A.  Our citizenship is in heaven

          The word "our" (hemon--hay-mon) is emphatic because it is the
          first word in the sentence, NOT the normal location of it in
          Greek word order.

          OUR citizenship, brothers, is not on this earth where rampant
          sensual desires are commonplace.  OUR citizenship is in
          heaven!

          Believers in Jesus Christ are to be different than the
          sensual antinomians of that day (and our day) because our
          citizenship is in heaven.

          Before we are Americans, we are Christians, and we ought to
          be different.

          cf. 1 Peter 2:11 NAS Beloved, I urge you as aliens and
          strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war
          against the soul.
          NAS Heb 11:13 All these died in faith, without receiving the
          promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from
          a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and
          exiles on the earth.
      B.  Our anticipation ought to be eager

          "The citizens of the kingdom of heaven, looking away from all
          sinful pleasures, eagerly yearn to welcome their Savior, the
          Lord Jesus Christ" (Hendrickson, p. 183).

          Are you looking forward to be coming of Jesus Christ?

          Our waiting is . . .

          1.  In faith

              Gal 5:5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting
              for the hope of righteousness.

          2.  With patient endurance

              Rom 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with
              perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

          3.  Unto salvation

              That is, the final conclusion of salvation when He will
              complete it by coming for us.

              Heb 9:28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear
              the sins of many, shall appear a second time for
              salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly
              await Him.

              INPUT:  What are some reasons a Christian might not be
              eager for His coming?

          C.  Our bodies will be transformed

              KJV Phi 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may
              be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to
              the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things
              unto himself.

              NAS Phi 3:21 who will transform the body of our humble
              state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the
              exertion of the power that He has even to subject all
              things to Himself.

              NKJ Phi 3:21 who will transform our lowly body that it
              may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the
              working by which He is able even to subdue all things to
              Himself.

              1.  Like His body

                  Our body is humble or lowly because it is subject to
                  the curse of sin.


                  In that day we will no longer experience weakness,
                  suffering, sickness, pain, or death.

                  KJV 1Co 15:49 And as we have borne the image of the
                  earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

                  KJV 1Jo 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and
                  it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know
                  that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for
                  we shall see him as he is.

              2.  By His power

                  KJV Phi 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it
                  may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,
                  according to the working whereby he is able even to
                  subdue all things unto himself.

                  NAS Phi 3:21 who will transform the body of our
                  humble state into conformity with the body of His
                  glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even
                  to subject all things to Himself.

                  "The question occurs, however 'But how will this be
                  possible?' What about those martyrs who were devoured
                  by lions?  What about those who were burned alive?
                  Yes, what about millions of others, particles of
                  whose dead and decaying bodies, through various
                  stages of disintegration, finally enter into other
                  living bodies?  .  .  .  One outstanding fact
                  remains, however.  That fact is the almighty power of
                  One who could not be held even by death.  . . .  If
                  he can subject even all things, the totality of
                  all the powers of the universe unto himself, will he
                  not be able to refashion our lowly body so that it
                  will have a form like his own glorious body?"
                  (Hendrickson, pp. 184-185)

                  Ps. 8:6 Thou dost make him to rule over the works of
                  Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet,

                  1 Cor. 15:27 For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION
                  UNDER HIS FEET.  But when He says, "All things are
                  put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted
                  who put all things in subjection to Him.;

                  Heb. 2:5-8 For He did not subject to angels the world
                  to come, concerning which we are speaking. 6 But one
                  has testified somewhere, saying, "WHAT IS MAN, THAT
                  THOU REMEMBEREST HIM?  OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT THOU
                  ART CONCERNED ABOUT HIM?  7 "THOU HAST MA DE HIM FOR
                  A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; THOU HAST
                  CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAST APPOINTED
                  HIM OVER THE WORKS OF THY HANDS; 8 THOU HAST PUT ALL
                  THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.  "For in
                  subjecting all things to him, He left no thing that
                  is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all
                  things subjected to him.

May God help us to avoid the sin of sensuality in our lives just Paul
admonished the Philippians in "Avoiding the Antinomian Danger.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video