The Apostle Urges His Own Example. A. D. 62.
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.
He closes the chapter with warnings and exhortations.
I. He warns them against following the examples of seducers and evil
teachers (v. 18, 19): Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now
tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Observe,
1. There are many called by Christ's name who are enemies to Christ's
cross, and the design and intention of it. Their walk is a surer evidence
what they are than their profession. By their fruits you shall know them,
Matt. vii. 20. The apostle warns people against such, (1.) Very frequently:
I have told you often. We so little heed the warnings given us that we
have need to have them repeated. To write the same things is safe, v. 1.
(2.) Feelingly and affectionately: I now tell you weeping. Paul was upon
proper occasions a weeping preacher, as Jeremiah was a weeping prophet.
Observe, An old sermon may be preached with new affections; what we say
often we may say again, if we say it affectionately, and are ourselves
under the power of it.
2. He gives us the characters of those who were the enemies of the cross
of Christ. (1.) Whose God is their belly. They minded nothing but their
sensual appetites. A wretched idol it is, and a scandal for any, but especially
for Christians, to sacrifice the favour of God, the peace of their conscience,
and their eternal happiness to it. Gluttons and drunkards make a god of
their belly, and all their care is to please it and make provision for
it. The same observance which good people give to God epicures give to
their appetites. Of such he says, They serve not the Lord Jesus Christ,
but their own bellies, Rom. xvi. 18. (2.) They glory in their shame. They
not only sinned, but boasted of it and gloried in that of which they ought
to have been ashamed. Sin is the sinner's shame, especially when it is
gloried in. "They value themselves for what is their blemish and reproach."
(3.) They mind earthly things. Christ came by his cross to crucify the
world to us and us to the world; and those who mind earthly things act
directly contrary to the cross of Christ, and this great design of it.
They relish earthly things, and have no relish of the things which are
spiritual and heavenly. They set their hearts and affections on earthly
things; they love them, and even dote upon them, and have a confidence
and complacency in them. He gives them this character, to show how absurd
it would be for Christians to follow the example of such or be led away
by them; and, to deter us all from so doing, he reads their doom. (4.)
Whose end is destruction. Their way seems pleasant, but death and hell
are at the end of it. What fruit had you then in those things whereof you
are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death, Rom. vi. 21. It
is dangerous following them, though it is going down the stream; for, if
we choose their way, we have reason to fear their end. Perhaps he alludes
to the total destruction of the Jewish nation.
II. He proposes himself and his brethren for an example, in opposition
to these evil examples: Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark
those who walk as you have us for an example, v. 17. Mark them out for
your pattern. He explains himself (v. 20) by their regard to Christ and
heaven: For our conversation is in heaven. Observe, Good Christians, even
while they are here on earth, have their conversation in heaven. Their
citizenship is there, politeuma. As if he had said, We stand related the
that world, and are citizens of the New Jerusalem. This world is not our
home, but that is. There our greatest privileges and concerns lie. And,
because our citizenship is there, our conversation is there; being related
to that world, we keep up a correspondence with it. The life of a Christian
is in heaven, where his head is, and his home is, and where he hopes to
be shortly; he sets his affections upon things above; and where his heart
is there will his conversation be. The apostle had pressed them to follow
him and other ministers of Christ: "Why," might they say, "you are a company
of poor, despised, persecuted people, who make no figure, and pretend to
no advantages in the world; who will follow you?" "Nay," says he, "but
our conversation is in heaven. We have a near relation and a great pretension
to the other world, and are not so mean and despicable as we are represented."
It is good having fellowship with those who have fellowship with Christ,
and conversation with those whose conversation is in heaven.
1. Because we look for the Saviour from heaven (v. 20): Whence also
we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not here, he has
ascended, he has entered within the veil for us; and we expect his second
coming thence, to gather in all the citizens of that New Jerusalem to himself.
2. Because at the second coming of Christ we expect to be happy and
glorified there. There is good reason to have our conversation in heaven,
not only because Christ is now there, but because we hope to be there shortly:
Who shall change our vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto
his glorious body, v. 21. There is a glory reserved for the bodies of the
saints, which they will be instated in at the resurrection. The body is
now at the best a vile body, to soma tes tapeinoseos hemon--the body of
our humiliation: it has its rise and origin from the earth, it is supported
out of the earth, and is subject to many diseases and to death at last.
Besides, it is often the occasion and instrument of much sin, which is
called the body of this death, Rom. vii. 24. Or it may be understood of
its vileness when it lies in the grave; at the resurrection it will be
found a vile body, resolved into rottenness and dust; the dust will return
to the earth as it was, Eccl. xii. 7. But it will be made a glorious body;
and not only raised again to life, but raised to great advantage. Observe,
(1.) The sample of this change, and that is, the glorious body of Christ;
when he was transfigured upon the mount, his face did shine as the sun,
and his raiment was white as the light, Matt. xvii. 2. He went to heaven
clothed with a body, that he might take possession of the inheritance in
our nature, and be not only the first-born from the dead, but the first-born
of the children of the resurrection. We shall be conformed to the image
of his Son, that he may be the first-born among many brethren, Rom. viii.
29. (2.) The power by which this change will be wrought: According to the
working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. There
is an efficacy of power, an exceeding greatness of power, and the working
of mighty power, Eph. i. 19. It is matter of comfort to us that he can
subdue all things to himself, and sooner or later will bring over all into
his interest. And the resurrection will be wrought by this power. I will
raise him up at the last day, John vi. 44. Let this confirm our faith of
the resurrection, that we not only have the scriptures, which assure us
it shall be, but we know the power of God, which can effect it, Matt. xxii.
29. At Christ's resurrection was a glorious instance of the divine power,
and therefore he is declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection
from the dead (Rom. i. 4), so will our resurrection be: and his resurrection
is a standing evidence, as well as pattern, of ours. And then all the enemies
of the Redeemer's kingdom will be completely conquered. Not only he who
had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. ii. 14), but the last
enemy, shall be destroyed, that is, death, 1 Cor. xv. 26, shall be swallowed
up in victory, v. 54.