Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Here is the exhortation− Paul is urging the people to follow his example, and the example of others who live as he does. Because of this, it is quite clear that he is talking about the way we all live; follow the example of the way he and certain others live. This is an important distinction, for many say all of the right things and live quite differently.
Pay careful attention to verses 18 and 19: Many live a different kind of life than Paul does− a life that leads to destruction. My first question about this would be, “Just exactly who are we talking about?” My first impulse is to assume that he must be talking about unbelievers, to make a distinction between Christians and non-Christians; some might even want to toss in the concept of phony Christians or fake Christians, or Christians who aren’t “really” saved. I’d prefer to leave that kind of speculation to others; they are probably much smarter than I am if they can make such judgments. I’ll ‘play it safe’ and stick with the context. Since Paul is sending this message to Christian believers, I must infer that he thinks it is possible for Christians to follow the wrong path, thus the warning; otherwise the warning is pointless and sent to the wrong people. Are there Christians that we might know of (or be) who live for the things of this world and neglect the heavenly priorities of Christ? If so, we should not follow their example.
Our citizenship is in heaven! Our priorities must be on heavenly things. As citizens of heaven, we must concern ourselves with the mission that Jesus has given us, to love others, to put their interests ahead of our own in true humility, and to share the awesome gospel of Jesus Christ, for this is the way that will lead us to our reward. As it happens, it is also the reason that Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians.