The Expository Files


Follow the Pattern

Philippians 3:17

ďBrethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.Ē Philippians 3:17

Paul urged the brethren in Philippi to join in following his example, while observing others who walk according to this pattern. This, for the Christian, is
not optional. If we want to remain faithful to the Lord, we must embrace the pattern that Paul and others laid out for us. If we donít observe and walk
according to this pattern, we will find ourselves as enemies of the cross of Christ (Philippians 3:17-19)! On the other hand, when Christians embrace this
pattern, unity will be achieved in a local congregation. Thankfully, we are given instructions on how to avoid this pitfall that many fell into, which
resulted in Paulís tears. Letís consider the pattern of Philippians 3:17!

Paul demonstrated the pattern in his life by living sacrificially, this is the pattern that he just nicely laid out for the brethren to follow (Philippians
3:2-16). Paul had many fleshly achievements he could have taken pride in. Whether it was his education, righteousness, or simply how pure of a Jew he was,
there were many areas of his life that were well respected and impressive to the society around him (3:4-6). Yet despite that, Paul was not an enemy of the
cross of Christ, he was a follower! He demonstrated this by taking what was valuable to him and putting it on the cross of Christ. Paul gives us the example
that we must embrace when he took what was gain to Him and counted it as loss for Jesus Christ (3:7-11). The value of knowing Jesus is simply far greater
than any earthly treasure one could lay their hands on. The example continues when we see Paul continuing to count all things loss (3:12-16). To Paul, the
cross he carried was not a one time event in his past, it was a continuous sacrifice where he would not dwell on his former earthly achievements, but would
keep reaching for the standard of sacrificial living that all Christians need to reach for.

Paul was not the only one who was reaching for this standard, Timothy and Epaphroditus demonstrated sacrificial living as well (Philippians 2:19-30).
Epaphroditus went to the extent of risking his physical life for the work of Jesus Christ (2:30). In every way he demonstrated a higher concern for other
people. Even when he was sick, a time were many of us become self absorbed, his greatest concern were for his beloved brethren whom he had left behind in
Philippi. We donít know much about Epaphroditus, except that he was a worker in the kingdom who lived with a selflessness that shows Godís kingdom was dearer
to his heart than even his life itself. Timothy had this attitude as well. I can think of no greater compliment one could give to another than what Paul says
about Timothy. We learn that Timothy had a genuine concern for their well being and was not looking out for his own interests (2:20-21) He was a servant in
every way and had made his lifeís purpose about serving God and building up Godís people. He was not more concerned with his own well being than that of his
brethren. What a pattern for us to follow!

The standard that Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Paul were reaching for, was not original with them. The example of sacrificial living that these men gave us,
pale in comparison to the ultimate example that Christians need to join together and follow. I know for a fact, Paul wanted us not to look to him, but
through him to a greater example (1 Corinthians 11:1) This of course, is the example of Jesus Christ (2:5-11). The humility the 3 examples demonstrated could
not approach the standard Jesus laid out for us, and the pattern is clear! Jesus did not hold on to all the advantages of being God but counted it but loss.
He was willing to become flesh and let go of the glory he possessed, even though it was rightfully His, because he was genuinely concerned with the welfare
of other people. The humility did not stop with the incarnation, but went all the way to the depths of the cross. This is the example and pattern that every
Christian needs to see, understand, and embrace (2:5). An attitude that seeks the interests of others, even above the interest of their own. It all begins
with Christ. I am grateful for examples like Paul and the others mentioned, but Christ is the one we need to look too. He is the great example and pattern
for us. Brethren are to join together, with each other, looking to Jesus as the one we want to become like. He has put the example there for us to see, will
we follow?

By Nathan Quinn
  From Expository Files 18.12; December 2011