Selecting role models to imitate is a normal human practice. When we turn towards the best role models to follow, it can help make our lives and our character more profitable. Paul understood this when he wrote to the Philippians, telling them in Philippians 3:17, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”
Paul could urge them to follow him, not because he wanted to be the center of attention and was full of himself, but because of his humility toward God. He knew who he was in Christ Jesus, having had personal encounters with the Lord, suffering for the Lord’s sake as he committed himself to doing routine as well as miraculous works for God. Paul not only pointed out himself as a role model, but told the Philippians they could use anyone walking faithfully in the Lord as their example.
Marking someone as a worthy spiritual and/or moral role model implies that sound judgment, discrimination, and discernment must be utilized. Paul then tells us why in the next two verses:
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.)
For every good role model available as an example, there are many more people who, because of their destructive mindsets, morals, and behaviors, should not be seen as someone worth emulating. As Paul implies here, they are people in the midst of Christian gatherings, but live their lives as enemies of the cross of Christ. They were so common in the saints’ gatherings and upset Paul so much that he had many conversations with the believers about them. Those of us who are truly devoted to the Lord know how Paul felt. When we see people in Christian circles who habitually go against the Lord’s principles, it really bothers us, to say the least.
Paul notes that their God is their belly. He’s referring not only to gluttony and drunkenness, but also to their general tendency to do whatever feels good to their fleshly desires as they glory in their shame, obsessed with worldly things. Since their end is destruction (v. 19), it’s safe to say they were (and are today) the type of people listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, and Ephesians 5:5 who will not inherit the kingdom of God. They have no understanding or concern that “our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,” as Paul points out in Philippians 3:20. They live life ignorant of the truth that the Lord Jesus is the one “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father,” (Galatians 1:4).
Good godly role models are “so over” the evil stuff the world has to offer, having the attitude that the world is dead to them and they are dead to the ways of the world (Galatians 6:14). When we are focused on Christ as we follow his faithful, we never have to worry about being the blind following the blind who both fall into the ditch, as Jesus warned in Matthew 15:14. Our path instead will lead us steadily onward and upward.