In Philippians chapter three, Paul warns these saints about some who were trying to impose parts of the Law of Moses on them in addition to the Law of Christ (vs. 2, cf. Acts 15:1 & 24). The point he makes in verse 3 is that “we” (i.e., Christians) – not those who were fleshly Jews – are the “circumcision.” This was the Holy Spirit’s way of emphasizing that the church – spiritual “Israel,” Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 6:16 – is the successor to national Israel as the object of God’s affection. Paul goes on to emphasize and illustrate this point in verses 4-7 by using himself as an example of it. At verse 3, worshipping God “in the spirit” means according to, or as directed by the Spirit of God (i.e., through the instructions He has given in the word). This stands in direct contrast to the ancient Jew’s tendency to place his confidence in his own genealogy. By acknowledging that his “family tree” was not the key to his salvation, Saul/Paul is showing the key role of faith in his own salvation, verses 8- 11 (and therefore, ours too).
Verses 12-16 emphasize two important points: These verses conclude with an admonition for the Philippians to “walk” according to what they had already attained (to hold true to the same “rule” or principle that had brought them into their relationship with God). The first point Paul makes here (vs. 13) reminds us that even he, an apostle, had not reached a “leveling off” point in his spiritual growth. We, therefore, ought to remember what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:12, and not “slack off” in our own spiritual growth!
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (NKJV)
As a result, Paul points out in verse 14 that his own course of action was to “keep on pushing” in matters of spiritual growth – to keep on trying to improve and grow!
The second point he makes (vs. 15) is that willingness and desire to keep growing in faith, knowledge, understanding, etc. are characteristics of spiritual maturity! Paul also reminds us that God is the ultimate authority when we come to disagreements in spiritual matters.
As he had done with the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:16 & 11:1), Paul next urges the Philippians to “copy” him in his Christian life, as well as keeping their eyes focused on those – presumably within the Philippian congregation – whose examples matched his own (vs. 17). The important point here lies in the contrast it implies between Paul’s own conduct and motivations, and those of the “enemies” of the cross (vs. 18). He reinforces the importance of this point by highlighting the distinctly different destinies of those who are motivated by earthly things versus those who are motivated by heavenly citizenship (vv. 19-20). In all of this, the object of Paul’s admonitions is in the statement of chapter 4:1, to encourage the Philippian brethren to “stand firm.”