Paul encourages the Philippians to imitate Paul’s way of life. He also states that he understands the challenges of trying to do this in the world (“because many lives as enemies,” verses 3:18-19.) He explains the consequences of both following his advice (verses 20-21) and of living instead as an enemy (verse 19). Paul really reiterates this whole main idea 4:1, by strongly encouraging the Philippians to “stand firm in the Lord in this way.” He uses many terms of endearment for the Philippians to encourage them and to stress the importance of what is the main idea here.
According to hermeneutics, there are truths in Scripture that are timeless. Clearly, the advice about standing firm in the Lord is one of these truths. The “enemies of the cross of Christ” could possibly refer to specific people in Philippi, but Paul is probably referring to enemies all over. Such enemies certainly still exist. Although Paul probably did not anticipate that we would be reading this letter 2,000 years later because he seemed certain that the return of Christ would happen very soon, the results of living as an enemy or following the example of Paul must be true for us today. For one thing, Paul notes that we are “expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” from heaven. Christians today are still expecting this event to occur, so it is likely that Paul would include us in the citizenship of heaven.
Much of the letter of Philippians before 3:17 and some of it after 4:1 is instructions. In specific and in general ways, Paul gives the Philippians directions on how they should live, and he sometimes used himself as an example (like in 3:12-14). One thing that is very important about verse 3:17 is that it sums a lot of things up. Since Paul practiced what he preached, all of his teaching can be added together by stating that one should follow his example. Therefore, if Paul can convince the saints at Philippi to commit to following his example, he would have convinced them to “be of the same mind,” pursue “Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,” “hold fast to what we have obtained,” “work out your own salvation,” “beware of the dogs,” etc. The list is extremely long, and it would include not only the letter of Philippians but anything that they had heard about Paul through word of mouth, other letters, actual visits, and the people Paul sent back to Philippi. He is stating that he lives the way he does for a reason, and he encourages all of them to live in the same way.
Where this intersects human life is where one does or does not follow the example of Paul. Are we, are you, is he, is she, are they living as “enemies of the cross of Christ” or is our/your/his/her/their “citizenship… in heaven”? From the way Paul spoke, it is evident that he thought that the way he lived was the way that all those who are “expecting s Savior” should live this way. We can follow this teaching in many ways. We can study the life of Paul and do our best to follow his example. Although we do not know everything about Paul’s life, we know a lot about it through his letters and from the book of Acts. We can also apply this advice to following the example of Christians in our lives who are more mature than we are.