WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “MIND EARTHLY THINGS?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Philippians 3:19 says, “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.).” What does it mean that these people, “mind earthly things?” Who are these individuals, by the way?
Reading at the beginning of the chapter: “ Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.  Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.” There are some people—Jewish religious leaders (as denoted by “concision”)—of which the saints at Philippi need to be aware. These religious leaders are promoting something harmful, some false teaching. The Philippians saints need to be on guard (and so should we)!
“ For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.  Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:  Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;  Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:….”
Notice how Paul gave us his religious credentials. If someone could have boasted in religious works, it would have no doubt been he! As Saul of Tarsus, he had been a very powerful religious leader in Israel and the epitome of Mosaic-Law living. He had been infatuated with his own “goodness”—yea, self-righteousness. There came a point, Acts chapter 9 to be exact, when he learned that his righteousness was absolutely worthless! The Law condemned him as a no-good sinner (Romans 8:3), unsaved and worthy of damnation, doomed to endure God’s wrath forever! Saul of Tarsus had come to realize that God’s righteousness mattered above all else. Right there, on the road to Damascus, Saul saw, appreciated, and relied on Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as the only way to be fit for Heaven. Paul quit working in religion and started relying on Christ’s performance!
Paul continues in Philippians chapter 3 to talk about his personal, daily walk in Christian living and maturity: “ That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;  If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.  Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.”
Paul is advancing, maturing, coming to better understand, God’s righteousness that he already has in Christ. Even at such a late date—some 30 to 35 years after meeting Jesus Christ and being saved from the penalty of sin—he still has not fully grasped why God saved him anyway. What he does know is that it is Christ’s righteousness—not his own (in religion)—that gave him a right standing before God. He therefore knows that he is to walk by faith in what Christ did, not what he can do in religion. Verses 8-9 again: “ Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:….”
Now, we get to the verse in question: “ Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.  (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:  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)  For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:  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.”
Did you see how verse 17 says that Paul is our pattern, our “ensample?” We are to follow him as he follows Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul learned not to depend on his performance in religion; his relationship with God and eternal life depended on what Jesus Christ did at Calvary. Keeping rules and regulations could not get him saved; therefore, they could not keep him saved. It would always have to be the merits and power in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. Jesus Christ had pleased God in offering Himself for our sins, and God is pleased with us when we rely on Christ’s work for us.
Verses 18-19 are a parenthetical statement. They are a contrast to verse 17. Notice: “ (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:  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.).”
The poor Apostle Paul! He is so sad—yea, he is crying! While some Christians are following his model in grace motivation rather than works-religion, some members of the Church the Body of Christ are still laboring under the Law system (just like the Galatians, which see that epistle). They are performing—keeping rules and regulations—and thus ignoring Jesus Christ’s performance at Calvary. The cross of Christ says that we are dead to the Law (Romans 7:4). To be “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18) means to be opposed to God’s grace demonstrated to us at Calvary. Rather than wanting God to deal with us according to grace, we want Him to bless us according to our works (Law). Paul had to learn as a lost man that his religious performance meant nothing then (first half of Philippians chapter 3) and it means nothing as he writes (second half of the chapter).
In the context of Philippians chapter 3, to “mind earthly things” means to “think,” or be focused on, God’s earthly program (the Mosaic Law, namely). Paul left behind works/Law and came to understand grace concerning justification and sanctification. Some Christians had still not come to that understanding, and it grieved him. The Judaistic (Jewish religion) false teachers of verse 2 had misled them! They were so fixated on human works, our efforts, human religious performance to get blessings and favor from God. While they would not die and go to Hell, they would experience the “destruction”—or damage—done to their Christian life and maturity. Their internal edification would be ruined; sound doctrine would be nowhere in their minds or hearts. The Law is made for a lost man, to lead him to faith in Christ, not for a Christian (1 Timothy 1:3-11)! The Mosaic system and all of its legalistic demands do not belong in the Dispensation of Grace (Colossians 2:8-23)!
Rather than thinking earthly, we should be focused on heavenly things. We are not God’s earthly people (that is the nation Israel); we are His heavenly people (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 2:6-7; et cetera). We should thus be thinking about God’s heavenly program, Pauline doctrine, “for our conversation is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Our behavior should reflect the place to which we belong. We belong to Heaven, and grace—not Law—is the operating system for the heavenly places. Romans 6:14-15 reminds us: “ For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
Titus 2:11-15 shows us grace thinking and grace living: “ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” Some may argue that we need the Law to be victorious over sin. The Bible says we do not need the Law because God’s grace teaches us to be who we are (sons of God in Christ) rather than sinners lost and destined for Hell! Cognizance of our identity will change our behavior, yes?
Colossians 3:1-3 tells us: “ If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” We should be concentrating on Christ’s heavenly ministry—Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon—rather than His earthly ministry. Our focus is on the heavenly things, not the earthly things.
Philippians chapter 3 again: “ Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.  (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:  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.).” We are to follow the Apostle Paul according to verse 17. If we do not, we are following the Law, the Bible’s earthly program (our own “belly”/desires, rather than what God wants us to follow). Our Christian lives will be greatly impaired!