Is Paul Addressing Believers or Unbelievers?


Pastor Paul M. Sadler


“I’m confused! In Philippians 3:17-20, is Paul addressing believers or unbelievers?”

“17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example.

“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 [citizenship] is in heaven….”

Paul is addressing both groups! In verse 17 the apostle begins by encouraging those at Philippi who were saved to follow his teachings and manner of life. Notice, however, that he digresses in verses 18 and 19 to add a parenthetical thought. The reason the apostle pauses momentarily here is to point out that there were many who claimed to be Christians, probably for some type of personal gain, but he clearly exposes them to be enemies of the Cross of Christ. They lived to satisfy the desires of the flesh. Their god was food, and drink, and sex, as they gloried in their shame. They were consumed with earthly possessions, which blinded them to their need of the Savior. As a result, their “end is destruction!” Surely this could not be said of the believer. After Paul completes the parenthesis, he resumes with his initial train of thought, confirming our heavenly hope with the saints at Philippi, “For our citizenship is in heaven….”