Application and Final Appeal (3:15-4:3)

Although Paul's focus is altogether on the heavenly prize, his running shoes make regular contact with terra firma. So in the same way he did with Christ's story in 2:13-18, he applies his story to the situation in Philippi. Twice over he urges the Philippians to follow his example: first by having the same "mindset" as in his story (3:15-16), second by "joining together" in "walking" in his ways (v. 17). This is followed with a concluding set of stark contrasts: there are some who "walk" as enemies of the cross, whose mind is on earthly things and whose "future" is destruction (vv. 18-19), whereas as citizens of heaven we await from there our Lord and Savior, who at his coming will transform our earthly bodies into the likeness of his present heavenly glory (vv. 20-21).

Following this glorious wrap-up of his second excursion into the Philippians' "affairs," Paul concludes with two final appeals, which connect this one to the first one. He returns first (4:1) to the primary appeal from 1:27 to stand firm in the Lord and second (4:2-3) to its accompanying appeal from 2:2-5 to "have one mindset," this time specifically applying it to two leaders of the community. Thus Paul's final application of his story recalls the two major concerns addressed in the two sections of the letter given to their affairs: steadfastness (including their keeping a steady gaze on Christ and their sure future) and unity in the face of opposition.

The glue that holds together this application and final appeal is friendship and the three-way bond (between him, them and Christ) that gives the whole letter cohesion. Paul's story (3:4-14) was devoted altogether to his relationship with Christ; these appeals now link that with the other two sides of the triangle (see figure 1 in commentary on page 21). First, his secure relationship with the Philippians allows him to tell his story for purposes of imitation, as he now explicitly tells them (indeed, he begins [vv. 15-16] and ends [vv. 20-21] with first-person plural verbs [see commentary on 3:3], thus reinforcing that he and they are in this together). Second, the clear aim of all this has to do with the Philippians' relationship with Christ, which is specifically picked up in the final application (3:20-21) and two final appeals (4:1, 2-3). Also like the preceding narrative, all of this is placed in the context of friends having enemies in common (vv. 18-19): some who have rejected imitating Paul are in this case enemies of the cross.

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