“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.”
Phil. 3:20, 21
Phil. 3:20, 21
In approaching the study of this passage let us notice first, the remarkable fact that it contemplates the believer’s salvation and future glory from the side of the body rather than from that of the spirit. By this it is not meant that the body and the spirit are brought under redemption and into glory in any different sense, but only that the text speaks specially of the salvation of the body; in this respect, resembling a small class of passages which deal with this aspect of the subject, as contrasted with a larger class which Speak of the salvation of the soul, or of salvation generally and without indicating any special aspect of its application. Man’s being consists of body and soul; or, to speak more accurately, of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess. v. 23); and although it is not so easy to comprehend the distinction between soul and spirit as that between body and soul, yet, seeing that man in all the constituent parts of his nature has been ruined by sin, we can, at any rate, understand that all parts of that nature shall, likewise, be redeemed and glorified in Christ. The salvation of the believer is a complete salvation of the entire being with which God has endowed him. Immortal life and glory are God’s gifts, not only to the spirit, but also to the body of each of the redeemed in Christ Jesus.
Examination of the Text
The importance of the text is even greater than we may perceive at first. Let us begin by closely examining the language employed, so that we may be sure of discerning its exact force and contextual significance. And first, it should be noticed that the word “conversation” may be translated “native city”,  for one prominent object of the verse, apparently, is to contrast believers, as citizens of the Heavenly City, whose polity, privileges, and principles are heavenly, with the worldlings previously mentioned, “who mind earthly things”. Then the word “is” may be preferably rendered “subsists” for the Greek here signifies existence in a specified and fixed character of being—as in chap. 2:6, of the Lord Jesus—unaffected by the mutations of earthly circumstances. Again it should be observed that the words “from whence” do not grammatically refer to the heavens, but to the City which is implied in the word politeuma just used, which includes the idea of a city, or state, to which, as its citizens, we belong; and out of that city in the heavens we expect the Saviour to come forth: the fact that the word rendered “whence” (literally, “from which”) is in the singular, whilst “heavens” is in the plural, makes this translation “out of which (city)” necessary. The word translated “look for”, would be better rendered “await”, for it combines the ideas of expectation and desire, and lifts the soul over intervening circumstances onwards to the realization of all its hopes at the return in glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The next point is, that as there is no definite article before the word “Saviour” in the Greek, the translation should be made by the words “as Saviour”—”we expect, as Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ”. In the next verse, it is a point of great interest that the word “change” (metaschematisei) is not one which expresses an alteration of essential being, but simply one of outward form; being connected with that used in the second chapter of this Epistle, where the Son of God, before His incarnation, is described as subsisting in the form (morphe) of God, but, at His incarnation, as “found in fashion (schema) as a man;” the former term expressing His eternal, and the latter His earthly relations. Our text tells us that the outward aspect (schema) of our bodies is to be altered, for they may be regarded as being, in virtue of regeneration, in that spiritual form (morphe) which is to endure for ever; and this change is to assimilate them to the permanent form (morphe) of the Lord’s “Body of glory”. The translation “our vile bodies” is greatly to be regretted, for the word “vile”, which is here employed in its old sense, derived from the Latin, of “cheap”, or “of trifling value”, is used in modern English only in the sense of evil, an idea which is not at all suggested by the Greek. The better translation would be “our body of humiliation”, a phrase which at once recalls the fact that the Lord’s own Body was, in the days of His flesh, a “body of humiliation” also, though now it is a “body of glory”, consequent upon the change which passed upon it at His ascension into the Heavens. And lastly, the word “subdued” at the close, is of great significance, and must not be taken as though it were intended to teach us merely that the Lord’s power can effect all things. It clearly means more than that. It points to the fact that this transformation of the bodies of the Redeemed into the likeness of their Lord’s Body of glory, is the final triumph of His redemption-work over that power of death which as the penalty of sin, came upon man’s being; for “the last enemy that shall be subdued is death”, and the last victory of our Redeeming Lord is won over the power of death in the bodies of His people, by their transformation into His immortal and glorious likeness. To bring out these several points, the whole passage may be paraphrased thus: “For our native city essentially subsists in the heavens, and from it we are expecting the Lord Jesus Christ, in the character of Saviour; who shall change in its outward fashion our body of humiliation, that it may be made in its abiding form like unto His body of glory, according to the power whereby He is able to bring all things, without exception, into subjection to Himself”.
Although the subject is too large to be adequately treated in a single discourse, its leading thoughts may be examined under the three following heads:
1. The manner in which Scripture speaks of the body in its relation to the soul.
2. The body in those aspects which connect it with the significance of the phrase “our body of humiliation”.
3. The body in that altered future aspect which it will present when constituted a “body of glory”.
1. The Body in its relation to the Soul
When God created man, He “formed him out of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul”. These terms obviously described physical and spiritual being respectively: but when we are told that God created man “in His own image”, we must, of necessity, suppose that the meaning of the words is to be restricted to the spirit of man, for in no sense can God’s being be material. “God is a Spirit”. The change referred to in the text, which is to take place in the Day of Glory, is a change the character of which can only be understood when viewed in the light of 1 Corinthians 15:44 (r. v.), “If (i.e., as surely as) there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body”. In our “natural body” we are like the first man Adam, who was “of the earth earthy”; in our “spiritual body” we shall be like “the second Man, the Lord from heaven”, who is heavenly, “as if we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly”; and this change will be a change from a condition which is mortal and corruptible to one which shall be immortal and glorious.
The New Covenant affects our whole Man
We need to distinguish clearly, therefore, what it is which is given to us in the new creation, discerning that the new creation is indeed a NEW CREATION, and not merely the restoration of the old. “If any man be in Christ, there is (i.e., has taken place) a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, new things have come into being”  (2 Cor. 5:17), that is, there has taken place in the case of each believer, a veritable work of new creation.
The body of man is an essential constituent of his being. It is not the mere garment of the soul, designed for a time to enfold a spiritual being which shall afterwards exist without it, like the chrysalis-sheath within which the butterfly is formed in perfectness and beauty, or as the envelope which is worthless when the enclosed letter is unfolded. The body is the complement of the soul, the instrument of the spirit; and that it is so is proved by the resurrection of the body, and corroborated by the words of the Apostle, “not for that I would be unclothed, but clothed upon with my house which is from heaven”. It is to be feared, however, that the minds of many Christians are guided more by the words of poets about laying aside “this mortal coil” and the like, than by the teaching of Scripture. The words of the Apostle just quoted prove that it is not liberation from the body that we should desire, but rather that the body and spirit might be perfected in their united being, thus rendering us capable of perfect communion with God. How strange it is that mystic spiritualizing evolved from human fancy and not reconcilable with the Scriptures, exalting the spirit to the disparagement of the body, should be as common among many professing Christians as the opposite idea is in the minds of Agnostics and Skeptics, who give matter the pre-eminence, and cannot conceive the moral qualities of man to be anything more than properties of his material nature.
But if the body is the instrument of the spirit it—the means by which the spirit can fulfil its purposes and designs—let us remember that the body can also hinder the spirit, as is shown in those most solemn and mysterious words of the Lord in the garden of Gethsemane, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. How touchingly, how suggestively, do these words reveal the intimate connection between matter and spirit—the body and soul of man! These work together; they were destined to work together: that they do not always work harmoniously together in us, as indeed they ever did in our Lord, is a part of the misery induced by sin. Sad is it when the arm, paralyzed, is unable to respond to the dictates of the will; but sadder still when the arm moves to do evil at the dictates of a sinful will. We see by this, how foolish, as well as how evil, was that doctrine, so common in days gone by, and not perhaps entirely extinct even now—an idea which more or less influences some of those who “spiritualize” (as it is called) the statements of Scripture—that matter is evil, and that it is in the material body the secret of human sin lies! No; it is not the body that is evil—evil impulses come from the corrupt will—it is “the mind of the flesh” which is enmity against God! True, the powers of the body have been perverted and misused by the sinfulness of the will; but the blessed destiny of the body is that it shall yet be, when itself glorified and united to the glorified spirit, the medium through which that glorified spirit shall enjoy full communion with God, and perfectly fulfil His service.
2. Let us now consider some of the statements of scripture regarding those aspects of our corporeal being which are expressed by the words “our Body of Humiliation”.
Although, as we have seen, there is no ground in Scripture for believing that the unfallen humanity of Adam was like that of the Lord Jesus in glory, yet it is abundantly clear that it was in many respects different from ours. Human nature before the Fall was not subject to death, to pain, to weariness, or to want: all these are consequences of sin. The sweat of the brow to Adam, and the pains of child-bearing to Eve, were amongst the first bodily penalties of the Fall; and soon by our first parents, as by us since, must have been realized the physical effects of the mental anguish sin had brought into the world. Disappointment over the rebellious C2in, and sorrow over the murdered Abel, together with the ten thousand elements of that vanity and vexation of spirit which are the lot of our sinful race, must quickly have begun to leave their traces upon both their inward being and their outward aspect. The stooping form, the care-lined face, the sorrowful look, the tearful eye, must, ere long, have become manifest in men, as evidences of the misery that sin had wrought. Humanity, as it came from the Hand of God, though not glorious, as has been already shown, must have been beauteous, noble, perfect in all respects and to a degree which we can now but little realize. There are many hints in Scripture that human nature in primeval days was far more excellent, both physically and mentally, than it is now. Possibly the stature of man was above the present average; probably comeliness of form was much more general and perfect than now, for “the daughters of men were fair”; and the far greater duration of human life witnesses to the superior strength and vitality which the human constitution must have possessed. Blighted by sin, as man was even then, both in body and in soul, he must yet have been far more beautiful and perfect than is the case now. But the righteous sentence of “humiliation” had gone forth, and “the body of humiliation” soon began to show, and has ever since progressively developed, the deteriorating consequences of those sufferings, mental and physical, which are the result of sin. Every disappointment that racks our minds, and every pain that afflicts our bodies, tells us how far our mental and physical constitution is removed from its paradisiacal condition; that is, how deeply the body in its humiliation is groaning under the results of sin.
The Redemption of the Body
One passage of Scripture lays especial stress upon that aspect of salvation which relates to the physical degradation of man through sin. “Ourselves, also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit” (which means, surely, that the Holy Spirit indwelling the people of God is the firstfruits of their future glory), “even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body”. It will be noticed how this passage emphasizes the bondage of corruption in its relation to the physical nature of man, telling us that “the adoption”, that is, the admission of God’s children to that coming state of glory, their entrance into which will place them in enjoyment of the full privileges of sonship, is to be coincident with “the redemption of the body”; for the hour which will terminate the subjection of man’s natural being to the physical, mental, and moral consequences of sin, will transform the body as well as the soul into the glorious likeness of our risen and ascended Lord. The expression in the context, “the manifestation of the sons of God”, refers to the hour of their manifestation in glory, the passage being parallel to the beautiful words of 1 John 3—“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it is not yet manifested what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is”.
But this future likeness of the believer to his Lord in body as well as in spirit—our “body of humiliation” being destined to be fashioned like unto His body of glory-is the counterpart of another truth, namely, that the Lord Jesus at His Incarnation took a “body of humiliation”, “prepared” by God (Heb. 10:5), wherein He wrought out for us, in life and death, that redemption, the completion of which was the great Sacrifice of Calvary, in order that we might be associated with Him in glory for ever. We are told, in the 2nd of Hebrews, that “In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren”, in order that He might become their High Priest, and make reconciliation for their sins; and in the same chapter, there are some other words, the meaning of which is absolutely precise as to this point: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same”. The Lord Jesus, then, assumed humanity, humanity as now seen in man, yet without sin. God sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Let us be perfectly clear, however, that in no sense of the word was there sin in Him. Sin is a moral, not a material evil. It is not, as has been already pointed out, in the corporeal nature of man, but in his perverted will, that evil exists. The fact that the Lord Jesus assumed humanity, not in its paradisiacal aspect, as seen in Adam before the Fall, but a humanity like that of the brethren whom he came to redeem, and to whom He was made like in all things, except sin, is a very important truth. How affecting it is to think that the physical nature which our blessed Lord assumed in His grace and compassion towards us, was like unto our own! It was truly human, for it needed nourishment and was sustained thereby: it was liable to fatigue for He was weary when He sat by the Samaritan well and slept upon a pillow in the boat: it was capable of exhaustion, for it failed to uphold the burden of His heavy cross on the way from the city to Golgotha: it was not beautiful to look upon, for the words of the Scripture are, “His face was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men”, “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him”: and, it was weak, for “He was crucified through weakness”. All these considerations prove the essential similarity, in all sinless respects, of our Lord’s humanity to our own; all show that His body in the days of His flesh was a “body of humiliation” like unto our own, in all points except sin: all these things show us how infinite and how real were His grace and compassion towards His people, the objects of His love, whose place He came to take, in order that they might share His glory in the New Creation.
3. Let us consider, in the third place, those aspects of our corporeal being which are expressed by the phrase ‘the Body of Glory”.
We have seen that “the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory”, includes for all His people the redemption of the body as well as of the soul. Salvation does not consist in the glorification of the spirit apart from the body, but in the union and equal change into glory (whatever that term in its fullness may import) of the body and the spirit, as together forming the totality of our being. But this truth has practical aspects also, and is found sometimes in connections where we might hardly have expected it. “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” “The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13), and the verse next to that just quoted states that “God has both raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by His own power’; so that these bodies, which are the members of Christ now by an invisible union, shall, when changed into His likeness in glory, become His actual possession, and constitute, it may be said with perfect reverence, a part of His mystical body. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, so, also, is Christ”.
But in order that our thoughts concerning the change of our body into the likeness of the body of our Lord’s glory may be clear and complete, let us consider what Scripture reveals to us regarding the change through which the holy body of our Lord passed when He left this earth and ascended into glory; for the change from physical into spiritual being in His case, us the pledge and pattern of our own. The consideration of this portion of the subject must be divided into two parts, for we shall need to inquire what was the nature of the body of our Lord, first, between His resurrection and His ascension, and, secondly, after His ascension into glory.
Many Christians have indefinite, and, it must be feared, even erroneous thoughts, concerning the nature of our Lord’s body during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension. There is a widespread idea that the body of our Lord, after His resurrection, was no longer the material body which He possessed before His death, but a body of resurrection glory, not physical in its qualities, but spiritual. It has been supposed that because our Lord was pleased, by an act of His almighty power, to come invisible into the midst of His disciples, or to vanish suddenly out of their sight, as recorded in the last chapter of Luke, His body must have been at that time immaterial and spiritual. But, apart from the consideration that these miraculous acts were not different in character from others which He had performed previously to His death, such as, for example, when He walked upon the water or appeared transfigured upon the mount, the very chapter just quoted itself contains the strongest possible assertion that our Lord’s body was still (i.e., after His resurrection) in the same condition of being as before His death. “He showed them His hands and His feet”, and furnished a yet further proof of His body being still physical, by eating a piece of broiled fish and an honeycomb in their presence, saying “A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have” (Luke 24:36-43). Since, then, our Lord’s body at this time was declared by Himself NOT to be “spirit”, there cannot be the slightest doubt that it had not yet become “the body of glory”; and the presence in it of the scars of the wounds in His hands and His side, which He was careful to show them, that by these they might identify His personality, proves that it was still His “body of humiliation”. We cannot doubt that, whatever His bodily appearance was before His death—as, for example, His stature, the fashion of His countenance, His form, and any other marks of physical personality—these were present in His body after His resurrection and until His ascension, just as they had been before. If, then, His face were the same as it was before His death, it must still have been a face “marred more than any man”; and similarly all the other characteristics of that holy body must still have declared it to be His “body of humiliation”. It was, indeed, as yet unglorifled.
The Body of Glory
But, in turning to the consideration of His “body of glory”, it may be remarked at once, that there is one passage which, even if it stood alone, is sufficient to show us that the change from humiliation to glory took place not at the resurrection, but at the time He left this earth and ascended to the Father. This text is 1 Tim. 3:16, the last words of which, “believed on in the world, received up IN glory”, place in contrast the period of His sojourn on earth and His ascension into heaven. Let us observe that the translation should be “in glory”, as in the Revised Version, and not “into glory”, as in the Authorized Version; for the alteration is both necessary and important. The Greek preposition en employed here, conveys the primary and natural idea, similarly to the English preposition in, of a person or thing being in a certain state. If the object of this verse had been to teach us that our Lord was received up into the place of glory, another preposition (eis, meaning “into”) would surely have been employed; whereas the use here of the preposition in clearly marks the fact that it is not the place of glory which is meant, but the state of glory in which He entered as He ascended from the earth into
the heavens. It was then that His “body of humiliation” became changed into the “body of glory”; and this is probably why the cloud “received Him out of their sight”, mercifully intervening between the feebleness of human vision and that glory which no man can look upon and live. Accordingly, on the only other occasions on which it is recorded that any of His people saw Him again, as John in Patmos, and Saul upon the way to Damascus, the Lord was no longer seen in a body of weakness and humiliation, but in splendor transcending human sight—a glory which caused Paul to fall blind and prostrate before Him, and which laid even John at His feet “as one that was dead”. No longer could His people look upon Him as in the days of His flesh; no longer could John lean his head upon His bosom: they now needed to say “If we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more”; that is, no longer in that character; for although the body of the Lord Jesus was still the same as to identity, it was now glorified, and, as such, beyond the power of human sense to gaze upon and comprehend. Doubtless this is why, in the description given in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, the glory of Christ, as seen by the eyes of John, is described by symbols, which are of moral significance—that is to say, they set a picture before the mind, not a picture of mere physical characteristics presented to the eye, for heavenly glory cannot be discerned by human sense: the only estimate we can form of it is in its moral features.
Conformed to His Body of Glory
And, let us remember, it is to the likeness of this “body of glory” that it is the blessed destiny of all His people to be conformed. This was once a mystery inconceivable by the heart of man; but it is a mystery no longer because it has been revealed. “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”. This change, the change of body as well as soul and spirit into the likeness of the glory of their Lord, awaits all His redeemed. None of them has as yet participated in the glory of the New Creation. Only “Christ, the firstfruits”, has as yet entered into that glory; “they who are Christ’s”—and the language implies that “they who are Christ’s” without exception are meant—will enter into it “at His coming”, some changed, without seeing death, namely, they “who are alive and remain” unto the coming of the Lord; some, whose bodies shall be raised from the dust and glorified in His likeness. Thus, “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear (i.e., be manifested) with Him in glory”. The hour of the manifestation of His glory will be the hour of “the manifestation of the sons of God”; the moment of His coming, the moment in which all His own, whether sleeping in death, or waiting alive for His coming, shall be instantaneously changed into the beauty and glory of the likeness of their Lord!
We shall be like Him
Let me close by inviting you to remember that this glorious change into His image is our hope! “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be; but we know that when He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”. The moment that His glory breaks upon our sight will be the moment of our own change, in body, soul, and spirit, into a glorious being like unto His: indeed, without this we could not look upon Him. That vision of unearthly glory mortal eyes could never behold. Hence the words, “for we shall see Him as He is”, carry in themselves the witness and evidence of our own previous change. And then, next to this “change” comes the Translation of the Glorified Church! “The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall be caught up together with them”—all having been, as we have seen, instantaneously glorified at the moment of the Lord’s appearing—”into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord”. The fact then, of the Lord’s coming, but not the date of it—this is our hope: to be fashioned from the humiliation of our fallen being into the likeness of His glory—this is our destiny. This is our hope—and what a hope it is! It is not only the beatific vision of the glory of God manifested in His Son; not only the hope of dwelling for ever with Him, for ever near Him; but a hope which has for its essence the fact that we shall be like Him whom we love, that we shall be like Him whose beauty and whose glory we shall behold and admire throughout a changeless eternity of bliss! Well saith the Scripture, “He that hath this hope built upon Him purifieth himself even as He is pure”. If this hope be ours, let us see that we manifest in our spirit and our walk here below the moral likeness of that glory, the holiness that shall make us like our Lord before the eyes of men, purifying ourselves even as He is pure,  while we await that moment of unspeakable felicity when He shall “change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory, according to the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself”.
 I think the translation, “native city”, is warranted by the occurrence of the word kuparchei, which implies the connection of believers with the Heavenly City as their natal home.
 There is strong MS. authority for the omission of the words “all things”. They are omitted by the four Editors, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Alford.
 See Matt. S 45. “That ye may become (genesthe, i.e., become in practically developed likeness) the sons of your Father who is in heaven.” The disciples addressed, being the sons of God, were taught to prove this by so living as to resemble their Father. See also Eph. S I. “Be ye therefore imitators (mimetai) of God, as dear children.”