Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians approximately twelve years after he planted the first house church in Philippi around AD 50. By the time Paul sent his letter to the Philippians around AD 62, some of the Philippians had grown to spiritual maturity (Phil. 3:15). In his letter, Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to continue in their upward call. In an important sense, our spiritual journey is never complete (Phil. 3:12). Despite what Paul had already accomplished spiritually, Paul wrote, “I press on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Because God is infinite and we are finite, our upward call will never end. The writer of Hebrews taught us that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6). Even after we have died and gone to Heaven, we will continue to seek God’s will, and He will continue to reward us. We will always be learning new things.
Paul wrote, “Therefore, all who are mature, let’s have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that to you as well” (Phil. 3:15). The believer must never lose his or her attitude of humility. We must always be teachable. The writer of Hebrews also wrote, “For this reason, we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1). Unfortunately, many – perhaps most – drift away from their spiritual advance. They lose their focus. God is no longer their number one priority.
In part, Paul wrote his letter to warn the Philippian believers not to drift away from their spiritual advance. Paul wrote:
Brothers and sisters, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things.
We should note a number of things about Paul’s warning. Paul’s spiritual life served as an example to others. He faced many trials and tribulations, but he did not retreat from his spiritual advance. He persevered. His spiritual life had a certain pattern that we should emulate. He often meditated on Scripture. He sought guidance and direction from the Holy Spirit. He continued to trust in God’s provision for his life, and he continued to grow in faith. He rejected self-righteousness (Phil. 3:9).
On the other hand, Paul knew of and was saddened by the thought of the many believers who retreated from their spiritual walk. He called them “enemies of the cross,” “whose end is destruction” (Phil. 3:18-19). Paul used the Greek noun apoleia, which means “ruin, destruction, or waste.” Being that Paul was addressing believers, Paul (in my opinion) was not saying that such believers were going to Sheol or Hell after they died. However, such believers should anticipate experiencing God’s judgment and discipline in this life, and they should anticipate a loss of future blessings and rewards in the next life (both in Heaven and during our future existence on Earth).
Paul explained that such believers no longer made God’s will their highest priority. In fact, Paul explained that their god was actually their “appetites” (Phil. 3:19). Their appetites included their lusts (inordinate desire) for things like money, pleasure, sex, approbation, fame, success, entertainment, self-righteousness, etc. John, the Elder, taught that such believers were preoccupied with the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-6). Paul explained that such believers set their minds nearly exclusively upon earthly things and whose “glory is in their shame” (Phil. 3:19).
Paul’s warning fits nicely within the Bible’s larger theme of “salvation and destruction,” which were two big ideas often contrasted and juxtaposed to each other by the writers of Scripture (Phil. 1:28). For example, James wrote, “There is one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save [sozo] and destroy [apollymi]…” (Jas. 4:12). Matthew wrote, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter in through it[; but] the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).
At Proverbs 16:18, we learn that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Pride and arrogance are the target of God’s wrath. These are characteristics of Satan and other creatures (both human and angelic) who presume themselves fit to play God and challenge God’s righteous and just authority. In fact, all humans are inclined to arrogance and self-destruction. We must seek and learn a new and different way of being. Psalm 107:20 states that God “sent His word and healed them, and saved them from their destruction.” Proverbs 16:5 states, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he [or she] will not go unpunished.” In contrast, we read, “It is better to be humble in spirit with the needy than to divide spoils with the proud” (Prov. 16:19). At Galatians 6:8, Paul wrote that “the one who sows to his own flesh will reap destruction from the flesh.” And to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).
We must pursue the never-ending upward call of God in Christ (Phil. 3:14). If we remain faithful to this journey, God will bless us in some incredible ways. God’s promise to Abraham is applicable to every believer (Gen. 12:2). God wants to give us a blessing, and He wants us be a blessing to others (Gen. 12:2). We are required to demonstrate faithfulness and endurance. By taking up residence in the Kingdom of God, we will experience righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). More and more, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit and manifest things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” which are all a part of what it means to inherit the Kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21-23). This is God’s will for every believer.
 “G684 – apōleia – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 12 Sep, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g684/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.