Calvary Road Baptist Church


Philippians 3.21


I mentioned to you several weeks ago during a previous message from Philippians that the Apostle Paul was giving his beloved Philippians some very good reasons for being humble and following the examples he had paraded before them. Those examples were the Savior Himself, the Apostle Paul himself, a good man named Epaphroditus, and finally young Timothy. I have also pointed out that when Paul dealt with the issues associated with the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to His Own and for His Own, there was a sequence that you could pretty well rely on, a rather predictable pattern.

You might also recollect that Paul’s first concern related to the coming again of his Savior, was his Savior. When you are reunited with a loved one after a long separation, you’re first concern is the loved one you long for, followed by a concern or an anticipation of what gifts or presents that loved one might have brought to give you. The very same was the case with Paul. Oh, I’m sure that the minds of the immature are captivated by the gifts and the presents that daddy brings back from his trip. However, with maturity comes the realization that loved ones are more important than gifts and presents. So, too, is the same type of realization with the arrival of spiritual maturity. New Christians are oftentimes engrossed with concerns about the Rapture and the spiritual rewards and crowns they hope to someday receive. However, with maturity comes an ever-increasing concern only with seeing Him Who, not having seen, we love.[1]

The Apostle Paul expressed his anticipation for the Savior in Philippians 3.20. Now, in its proper place, he turns his attention to what the Lord Jesus Christ is going to do when He comes for us from heaven. That is found in Philippians 3.21. Perhaps you are already there, so stand with me and we will read that verse from God’s Word together:


“Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”


By the time we have wrapped up our consideration of this verse I would like for us to all grasp a concept, a reality, a truth. This is the little germ of truth we need to grasp and hang on to this evening: What the Lord Jesus Christ starts He finishes; what He begins He brings to a conclusion; what He initiates He brings to a climax. You see, He is able.

Philippians 1.6 is a wonderful verse that many Christians have committed to memory. Do you remember it?


“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”


Is that not a great comfort? There Paul declares that what the Lord Jesus Christ has begun in your life, Christian, He will continue with right up until the day of Jesus Christ.

However, the verse before us this evening tells us what the Savior will actually do on that day of Jesus Christ. Therefore, these two verses taken together, Philippians 1.6 and Philippians 3.21, cover the whole, from conversion, through the Christian life, all the way into heaven.

There are two aspects of Philippians 3.21 that are important for you to see:




Glorification is a wonderful thing. The question, of course, is what is it? First Corinthians chapter 15 has the most detailed explanation of glorification found in the Bible. A number of other New Testament passages make reference to it, as well. That said, it is here that Paul uses the fact of the Christian’s future glorification as a motive for being humble. In the first half of Philippians 3.21 reference is made to three things that bear on our glorification.

First, understand that glorification is by the Savior. Paul writes,


“Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body”


Thus, we observe that this glorification event, this transformation, is something that is going to be accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the “Who” referred to in this verse. Therefore, if we take Philippians 1.6 together with Philippians 3.21, and all the rest of God’s Word that we have studied, we see that salvation is initiated by God and by the Lord Jesus Christ, that salvation is continued by God and by the Lord Jesus Christ, and that salvation is culminated by God and by the Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically, the Lord Jesus Christ is here credited with the glorification of believers when He comes for us from heaven. What will you do to be glorified when King Jesus comes? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Second, understand that glorification is from our humility.


“Who shall change our vile body”


Let’s make sure we correctly understand the word “vile,” so that we’re not carried off by some misconception. The Greek word Paul used here is the word elsewhere translated “humble.”[2] So, Paul is not suggesting, here, that your physical body is some disgusting and foul thing that God hates. J. B. Lightfoot wrote, “i.e. the body of which we bear in our present low estate, which is exposed to all the passions, sufferings, and indignities of this life. The English translation ‘our vile body’ seems to countenance the Stoic contempt for the body, of which there is no tinge in the original.”[3] Other commentators concur.[4] Therefore, if you are saved your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit of God, so there is nothing disgusting about it.[5] Roman Catholic asceticism, which manifested itself in monasteries and so-called holy men who lived as hermits, was actually the result of confusion about such passages as this. Misinterpreting this verse and others led to the notion that the sinfulness of people was related to their physicality, rather than recognizing sin to being an essential spiritual malady. After all, there are sinful angels that do not have physical bodies of any kind. Those overwhelmed by this error would then starve themselves, isolate themselves, and go for days or weeks without talking, all of that nonsense in an ill-advised and ridiculous attempt to exert an impossible control over their physical bodies. The flagellants who crucify themselves in the Philippians every Easter, for example, and the women who crawl for miles on their hands and knees to the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, are holdovers of this unscriptural view of the human body as being evil because it is physical. As a matter of fact, this error is one of the underlying justifications for a celibate priesthood and nuns. It goes back to the false belief that all physical appetites are sinful and wrong, and that only those who deny even their sexual urges in marriage can ever be truly holy in the sight of God. Nuts. What Paul really meant when he referred to “our vile body” is this body of humility. Sin has humbled man. And even the saved man must continue to live in a physical body that is brought low by the constant struggle with a sinful nature. However, the body itself, though it is a humble abode, is not wicked because it is merely physical. What Paul is calling attention to by describing the human body in this way is the starting point when glorification occurs. When the Lord Jesus Christ changes us He will start with us way down here.

Third, understand that glorification is like unto His glorious body.


“. . . that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body. . . .”


What is glorification? It is a transformation whereby the believer’s body is instantaneously and miraculously altered so that it is fashioned to be like the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus Christ, completing the salvation of the sinner that began with his justification and resulting in our freedom from both physical and spiritual defects of any kind. Our present physical bodies were designed to function in the time-space-matter continuum of this physical universe. We have five senses that work quite well in this environment. Outside this physical universe, with God and the Lord Jesus Christ in glory, will be an existence that is beyond the bounds of time, space, and the physical universe we are presently in. Existence and functionality there will require a different kind of body, as Paul points out in First Corinthians chapter 15, a glorified body. When Jesus Christ comes He will so transform the bodies of saved people, both living and those already dead or Raptured, that we will be outfitted with a body suited for timeless eternity in heaven.




I use the word “omnipotence” to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as being all powerful; that His power is infinite and incomprehensible. It is in other passages in God’s Word that the Lord Jesus Christ’s omnipotence is declared, whereas in this verse His power and might are intimated.

First, the Savior’s power is intimated by His ability to save. Paul begins the second half of the verse with these words:


“according to the working whereby he is able. . . .”


In other words, the power demonstrated in the Lord Jesus Christ’s saving of sinners, particularly when He returns to glorify His own, when He fashions our bodies like unto His Own glorious body, is a reflection of His Own limitless power and might. Notice those words, “He is able.” Before we see how Paul completes the thought, consider evidences of Christ’s ability, His awesome power. John 1.3 declares,


“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”


Is someone powerful who has the power to create the entire universe? How about being powerful enough to walk on the water, Matthew 14.26, or rise from the dead, Matthew 28.6?

Then, to communicate the magnitude of His power and might, Paul points out that it is,


“according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself”


To state this another way, the Lord Jesus Christ’s power to save and to glorify His Own is proportional, is by the same measure that He is able, to bring His power and might to bear in the conquest of His enemies and in making the entire universe to become subject to Him. Do you want to be reminded of the power and the might of the Lord Jesus Christ to subdue all things to Himself? Turn with me to Revelation 19.11-21:


11     And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

12     His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

13     And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

14     And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

15     And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

16     And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

17     And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;

18     That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.

19     And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.

20     And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

21     And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.


Will that be a demonstration of power? My friends, that is power.


Let me try to bring all this together for you. The Lord Jesus Christ finishes what He starts. What He conceives He brings to a climax. What He initiates He concludes. That person who is justified by faith in Christ? He will be saved from the power of sin in his life and he will be preserved and, ultimately, he will be glorified by the Savior and taken to heaven. That is going to happen. Why? Because what the Savior starts He finishes. He is faithful.[6] How do we know the Lord Jesus Christ can do what He intends to do? How do we know that He is able? Oh, He is able. He is supremely powerful and mighty, even to the point of bringing all things into subjection to Himself, which includes the most powerful of created beings, Satan.

And the point of all this we’ve been told is what? To humble us. Humility is the missing ingredient in the life of the church in Philippi. The examples given, from Paul, to Timothy, to Epaphroditus, to the Lord Jesus Christ, have all been examples to follow of humility. And these last two verses of chapter three are the reasons to follow the examples of humility. Is it not humbling, after all, to consider this King Who is our king, this Lord Who is our lord, this One Who is mighty to save Who is our Savior, Who could have used His majesty and His might to subdue us by means other than His grace?

Consider the passage I just read, and what our coming King will do to His enemies upon His arrival? What if Revelation 19 was a description of what is to happen to you and me, Christian, rather than what will happen to those who are unsaved? That it is not a description of what will happen to me, that Philippians 3.21 is instead what will happen to you, if you know the Savior, and me is humbling. Humbling because, but for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, He could use His might not to glorify us but to cast us into outer darkness. Amen? What a sobering thought. What a profoundly humbling consideration.

[1] 1 Peter 1.8

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 559.

[3] J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle To The Philippians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953), pages 156-157.

[4] G. Walter Hansen, The Letter To The Philippians - PNTC, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), page 272-277 and Peter T. O’Brian, The Epistle To The Philippians - NIGTC, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), pages 463-472.

[5] 1 Corinthians 6.19

[6] Luke 16.10; 1 Corinthians 1.9; 10.13; 2 Thessalonians 3.3; Hebrews 10.23

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