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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Philippians 3



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. Τὸ λοιπόν. “For the rest”; “For what remains.” So below, Philippians 4:8; and Ephesians 6:10 : τὸ λοιπὸνἐνδυναμοῦσθε, κτλ. For St Paul’s use of the phrase see also (λοιπὸν) 1 Corinthians 1:16; (ὃ δὲ λοιπὸν) 1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, and (τοῦ λοιποῦ) Galatians 6:17. On the whole it seems not so much to introduce an immediate conclusion (as “finally” would do) as to mark a transition on the way to it. It “signifies for the rest, besides, moreover, … forming a transition to other things to which the attention of the … reader is directed” (Grimm, ed. Thayer, s.v. λοιπός).

Here the Apostle is approaching the end of his Epistle, entering on its last large topic, the difference between a true Gospel and a false. Hitherto, on the whole, with much accessory matter, he has been dealing with the blessedness of unity. Now he will deliver a definite message about saving truth in view of particular errors; and then he will close. Τὸ λοιπόν fitly introduces this.

The connexion of the passage has been debated; particularly the bearing of the words τὰ αὐτὰ γράφειν ὑμῖν, following on Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ. No previous injunction to rejoice appears in this Epistle; and there is no trace of a previous Epistle, which might have spoken so. Bp Lightfoot’s solution is as follows: “The same things” are the exhortations to unity, often made already, and which St Paul was now just about to reinforce. But he was interrupted, and did not dictate again till, perhaps, some days had intervened. He then dropped the intended appeal, and turned instead to the subject of doctrinal error. Lightfoot accordingly, in his edition, breaks the text at the close of Philippians 3:1, and regards Philippians 3:2 as the opening of a new paragraph or chapter.

But can we think it likely that St Paul, with his scribe beside him, would have let the Epistle go forth in a state so disjointed?

The following seems a more probable theory: St Paul sees at Philippi the risk of doctrinal error; error which in one way or another would undervalue “Christ, and Him crucified.” The true antidote would be a developed and rejoicing insight into Christ and His work, such as had been given to himself. This shall now be his theme. And this, in a sense, he has touched on already, by his frequent allusions to the Saviour’s union with His people, and above all by such passages as Philippians 1:20-23, Philippians 2:5-18. So in treating now of Christ as their righteousness, life, peace, and glory, and of “rejoicing in Him” as such, he is “writing the same things” as before, only in a more explicit way. All “other gospels,” whatever their details, were alike in this, that they beclouded that great joy. Thus the special injunction to “rejoice” affects both the past context and the following; particularly it leads on to Philippians 3:3 below, καυχώμενοι ἐν Χ. .

From the loss of our glory in Thee, preserve us” (Litany of the Unitas Fratrum, the “Moravian” Church).

χαίρετε. The R.V. margin has “Or, farewell.” But the rendering “rejoice” (A.V. and text of R.V.) is supported by Philippians 4:3, which seems to take up this phrase, and adds παντότε. And already in Philippians 2:18 we have had χαίρειν in (obviously) the sense of rejoicing. The Latin Versions read gaudete in Domino. Chrysostom writes in loc. αἱ θλίψειςαἱ κατὰ Χριστὸν ἔχουσι χαράν.

τὰ αὐτὰ. See the notes above, on the connexion of the passage.

ἐμοὶ μὲν οὐκ ὀκνηρόν, ὑμῖν δὲ ἀσφαλές. The words form an iambic trimeter[3] of a rhythm frequent in the Comedians. They may be a quotation. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 we have almost certainly such a quotation: φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρήσθʼ (or χρηστὰ) ὁμιλίαι κακαί: “Ill converse cankers fair morality[4].” For similar apparent verse-quotations in the N.T. see Acts 17:28, ἐκ τοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν: Titus 1:12, Κρῆτες ἀεὶ ψεῦσται κτλ.: and perhaps James 1:17, πᾶσα δόσις ἀγαθὴ καὶ πᾶν δώρημα τέλειον.

We may render here, rhythmically, “To me not irksome, it is safe for you.”

Verse 2

2. βλέπετε. “Comp. Mark 4:24, βλέπετε τί ἀκούετε: 2 John 1:8, βλέπετε ἑαυτούς: so frequently βλέπετε ἀπὸ (e.g. Mark 8:15) and βλέπετε μὴ (e.g. Luke 21:8)” (Lightfoot).—Latin Versions, videte.

τοὺς κύνας. “The dogs”; a known class or party; evidently the Judaistic teachers within the Church, to whom he has referred already in another tone and connexion (Philippians 1:15) as active at Rome. These Pharisee-Christians perhaps called the uncircumcised converts κύνες, as the Pharisees proper called all Gentiles. See e.g. Joh. Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr. on Matthew 15:26): “By this title the Jews disgraced the Gentiles … אומות עולם נמשלו ככלבים. The nations of the world [that is the heathen] are likened to dogs [Midr. Tillin, fol. 6. 3].” The habits of the dog suggest ideas of uncleanness; and its half-wild condition in Eastern towns makes it a simile for an outcast. In Scripture, the “dog” appears in connexions almost always of either contempt or dread; e.g. 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Kings 8:13; Psalms 22:16; Psalms 22:20; Matthew 7:6; Revelation 22:15. St Paul here “turns the tables” on the Judaistic rigorist. The Judaist, and not the simple believer who comes direct from paganism to Messiah, is the real outcast from Messiah’s covenant. The same view is expressed more fully, Galatians 5:2-4 : κατηργήθητε ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ, οἵτινες ἐν νόμῳ δικαιοῦσθε.

τοὺς κακοὺς ἐργάτας. “The evil workers” (R.V.). Or possibly, “the bad,” i.e. unskilful, “workmen.” These are the same persons under another view. Possibly, by a sort of verbal play, he alludes to their doctrine of salvation by “works,” ἔργα, not by faith (see e.g. Romans 3:27; Romans 11:6; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:2); as if to say, “They are all for working, to win merit. But they are bungling workmen, spoiling the fabric of the Gospel.” See 2 Corinthians 11:13 for the same apparent double meaning of this word; ψευδαπόστολοι, ἐργάται δόλιοι.

See Philippians 2:12 above for the precept to work in the right sense and direction.

τὴν κατατομήν. Latin Versions, concisionem. “The mutilation”; i.e. the persons who teach it. By this harsh word, kindred to περιτομή, he condemns the Judaist’s rigid zeal for bodily circumcision. In the light of the Gospel, to demand circumcision as a saving ordinance was to demand a mere maltreatment of the body, no better than that of the Baal-priests (1 Kings 18:28, κατετέμνοντο κατὰ τὸν ἐθισμὸν αὐτῶν, LXX.).

See Lightfoot on Galatians 5:12 (ὄφελον καὶ ἀποκόψονται) for a somewhat similar use of words in a kindred connexion. Lightfoot’s interesting note here gives other instances of St Paul’s play on words; e.g. 2 Thessalonians 3:11, ἐργαζόμενος, περιεργαζομένους; Romans 12:3, φρονεῖν, ὑπερφρονεῖν, σωφρονεῖν. Cp. Acts 8:30, γινώσκεις ἃ ἀναγινώσκεις;

Wyclif curiously renders, “se ye dyuysioun”; Tindale and ‘Cranmer,’ “Beware of dissencion (dissensyon).”

Verse 3

3. ἡμεῖς γάρ ἐσμεν ἡ περιτομή. Cp. esp. Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:29, εἰ ὑμεῖς Χριστοῦ, ἄρα τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ σπέρμα ἐστέ, κατʼ ἐπαγγελίαν κληρόνομοι, and Ephesians 2:11; Ephesians 2:19, οἱ λεγόμενοι ἀκροβυστία ὑπὸ τῆς λεγομένης περιτομῆςσυμπολῖται [ἐστὲ] τῶν ἁγίων, κτλ.

οἱ πνεύματι θεοῦ λατρεύοντες. “Who worship by the Spirit of God” (R.V.). On the reading, see critical note. In this reading λατρεύειν is used without an expressed object, as in e.g. Luke 2:37, λατρεύουσα νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν. The verb originally means any sort of service (λάτρις, ancilla), domestic or otherwise; but in Biblical Greek usage gives it an almost invariable connexion (see Deuteronomy 28:48 for an exception) with the service of worship, and occasionally (e.g. Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 13:10) with the worship of priestly ritual. Probably this use is in view here. The Apostle claims the spiritual believer as the true priest of the true rite.

πνεύματι θεοῦ. For this phrase (πνεῦμα θεοῦ) in St Paul see Romans 8:9; Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 7:40; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 3:3. See 2 Corinthians 3 at large for the supremely significant place given by St Paul in the Gospel message to the gift and work of the Holy Spirit.

καυχώμενοι. “Exulting,” “glorying.” The verb occurs here only in the Epistle; καύχημα occurs Philippians 1:26, Philippians 2:16. The idea is a joy emphatically triumphant, the travesty of which would be boastfulness. Cp. Galatians 6:13, ἐμοὶμὴ γένοιτο καυχᾶσθαι εἰ μὴ ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ, κτλ.

What national and ritual privilege seemed to the Judaist, that CHRIST JESUS was to the Christian; pedestal and crown, righteousness and glory.

καὶ οὐκ ἐν σαρκὶ πεποιθότες. Lit., “and not in flesh confiding.” The words suggest, by their arrangement, that we Christians have a “confidence,” but that it is in something better than “the flesh.”

Σάρξ: the word has occurred twice already, Philippians 1:22; Philippians 1:24, obviously in the sense of bodily conditions of life. Here, in a moral context, it has to be illustrated by e.g. Romans 7:5, ὅτε ἦμεν ἐν τῇ σαρκί: Romans 8:9, οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σαρκί, ἀλλὰ ἐν πνεύματι: Galatians 3:3, ἐναρξάμενοι πνεύματι, νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε: Galatians 5:19, τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός: Galatians 6:12, εὐπροσωπῆσαι ἐν σαρκί. Reviewing these and other like places in St Paul, we find that a fair practical equivalent for the word here is “self,” as used e.g. in the English of Lavater’s hymn (O Jesus Christus, wachs in mir):

“Make this poor self grow less and less,

Be Thou my life and aim.”

It denotes man as apart from God, and then at discord with God. Accordingly it often comes to stand for whatever in man is not subject to the Holy Spirit; and so reaches what is its practical meaning here—anything, other than God, taken by man for his trust and strength, e.g. religious observances, traditional privilege and position, personal religious reputation. From this whole region the Christian’s πεποίθησις is transferred to Christ and His Spirit.

Verse 4

4. καίπερ ἐγὼ ἔχων. The nominative is practically absolute; he might have written καίπερ ἐμοῦ ἔχοντος, as nothing in the previous context stands in apposition with ἐγὼ. But the meaning is luminous.

Strictly, the Apostle asserts that he has, not merely might have, this “confidence.” But the whole context of this passage, and of St Paul’s entire Gospel, assures us that this is only “a way of speaking.” He is looking from the Judaist’s view point, and speaks so. Granted those premisses, he has, in an eminent degree, what his adversary claims to have. R.V. rightly paraphrases, “though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh.”—Καὶ ἐν σαρκί: on the Judaist’s principles, he is so good a legalist that he might rest his salvation even on “the flesh,” should Christ be not enough!

δοκεῖ. “Thinketh.” So R.V. text, and A.V. R.V. margin, “seemeth.” But the other is right in this context. For this (frequent) use of δοκεῖν see e.g. Luke 24:37, ἐδόκουν πνεῦμα θεωρεῖν: Acts 12:9, ἐδόκει ὅραμα βλέπειν. A still closer parallel here is Matthew 3:9, μὴ δόξητε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, where we are compelled to paraphrase, “Do not think in yourselves that you may say.” So here, “Thinketh that he may have confidence.”

ἐγὼ μᾶλλον. Cp. 2 Corinthians 11:21-22 for a series of similar assertions.

Verses 4-11


Verse 5

5. περιτομῇ. “As to circumcision.” For the dative of reference cp. e.g. Romans 12:10, τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ φιλόστοργοι, τῇ σπουδῇ μὴ ὀκνηροί.

ὀκταήμερος. He was a born child of the covenant, and so received its seal as early as possible; no proselyte, circumcised as an adult; no Ishmaelite, waiting till he was thirteen (Genesis 17:25); cf. Joseph. Antt. i. 13 § 1, Ἄραβες μετὰ ἔτος τρισκαιδέκατον [ποιοῦνται τὰς περιτομάς].

ἐκ γένους Ἰσραήλ. “Descended from Israel’s race.” “Israel” here may either be Israel collective, the chosen Nation, or Israel individual, the Patriarch who became “a prince with God” (Genesis 32:28). The latter reference gives the more vivid emphasis, and so seems the more probable here.

See Trench, N.T. Synonyms, § xxxix, and Lightfoot on Galatians 6:16, for the idea proper to the words Israel, Israelite. Lightfoot says, “Israel is the sacred name for the Jews, as the nation of the Theocracy, the people under God’s covenant. Compare Ephesians 2:12 ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραήλ: Romans 9:4 οἵτινές εἰσιν Ἰσραηλῖται, ὧν ἡ υἱοθεσία κ.τ.λ.… John 1:48 ἴδε ἀληθῶς Ἰσραηλίτης.”

Βενιαμείν. So Romans 11:1; and cp. Acts 13:21. His tribe might give him special occasion for πεποίθησις. Its head was Jacob’s much-loved son; it gave Israel its first lawful king (whose name the Apostle bore); and it had proved “faithful among the faithless” when, under Rehoboam, the Ten Tribes forsook the Davidic crown (1 Kings 12:21). Ehud (Judges 3) and Mordecai (Esther 2:5) were Benjamites. St Paul’s character nobly illustrates the courage and the fidelity of his tribe.—See further Conybeare and Howson, Life &c. of St Paul, ch. ii.

Ἑβραῖος ἐξ Ἑβραίων. “Hebrew, and of Hebrew parentage.” Cp. again 2 Corinthians 11:22.—In the O.T. and Apocrypha the word “Hebrew” (occurring about 40 times altogether) is the distinctive national term, by which an Israelite would describe himself, or be described, as against such similar terms as Philistine &c. But in the N.T. (not in later Christian writers, or in Jewish or pagan literature) it denotes the Jew who cherished his national language and manners, as distinguished from the “Hellenist,” who usually spoke Greek and largely conformed to Gentile customs. See Acts 6:1. The “Hebrew” would thus pose as one of an inner national circle. See further Trench, ut supra, and Conyb. and Howson, ch. ii.

κατὰ νόμον.The law,” in the sense of the Mosaic ordinances, is obviously intended. Here, as often, the article is omitted, because the word is otherwise sufficiently defined.

Φαρισαῖος. So Acts 23:6; Acts 26:5; cp. Galatians 1:14. In rabbinic Hebrew the word is פְּרוּשִׁין, P’rûshîn, from פָּרַשׁ, “to separate, to define.” “Suidas s.v. quotes Cedrenus as follows, Φαρισαῖοι, οἱ ἑρμηνευόμενοι ἀφωρισμένοι· παρὰ τὸ μερίζειν καὶ ἀφορίζειν ἑαυτοὺς τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων εἴς τε τὸ καθαρώτατον τοῦ βίου καὶ ἀκριβέστατον, καὶ εἰς τὰ τοῦ νόμου ἐντάλματα” (Grimm, ed. Thayer, s.v.). See Josephus, Antt. xiii. 18, 23, xvii. 3, xviii. 2, for accounts of the Pharisees by a Pharisee of the Apostolic age. “The Pharisees were the enthusiasts of the later Judaism” (Conyb. and Howson, as above); the votaries of religious precision, elaborate devotion, vigorous proselytism, exclusive privilege, and the most intense nationalism. They were in high esteem with the common people, according to Josephus. He gives their numbers as about 6000 (Antt. xvii. 3); when an oath of allegiance to Herod I. was demanded, οἵδε οἱ ἄνδρες οὐκ ὤμοσαν, ὄντες ὑπὲρ ἑξακισχίλιοι.

St Paul was “son of a Pharisee” (Acts 23:6; though Lightfoot here suggests that this means “a Pharisee’s disciple”); and the student and follower (Acts 22:3) of the Pharisee (Acts 5:34) Gamaliel, probably “Rabban” Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel.

Verse 6

6. κατὰ ζῆλος. Here in the sense of ardour, earnestness; sincere, though sinfully conditioned by moral blindness. (See Acts 26:9 ἐγὼἔδοξα ἐμαυτῷ πρὸς τὸ ὄνομαδεῖν πολλὰ ἐναντία πρᾶξαι.)—Ζῆλος sometimes takes the meaning of jealousy, rancour; e.g. Romans 13:13, μὴ ἔριδι καὶ ζήλῳ. But this would be out of place here.

διώκων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. See his own words, Acts 26:11, περισσῶς ἐμμαινόμενος αὐτοῖς ἐδίωκον, κτλ.: 1 Corinthians 15:9, ἐδίωξα τὴν ἐκκλ. τοῦ θεοῦ: Galatians 1:13, καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλ. τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν.

κατὰ δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐν νόμῳ. Literally, “as to law-included righteousness.” He means evidently completeness of legal observance, with its supposed claims to merit. No inquisitor could have found him defective here.

γενόμενος ἄμεμπτος. Almost, “turning out blameless.” R.V. well, “found blameless.”

On the Pharisaic theory, his position was perfect, his title to “confidence in the flesh” complete.

Verse 7

7. ἀλλὰ ἅτινα. Almost, “But the kind of things which.” Ἅτινα is just more than . He thinks not only of the things as things, but of their class and character.—On the reading ἀλλὰ, see critical note.

κέρδη. Observe the plural. He had counted over his items of privilege and pride, like a miser with his bags of gold.

ἥγημαι. “I have accounted”; we may say, “I have come to reckon.”

διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν. “On account of the” (almost, “our”) “Christ”; not “for His sake” (ὑπὲρ τοῦ Χ.) but “because of the fact of Him”; because of the discovery, in Him, of the infinitely more than equivalent of the κέρδη of the past. MESSIAH, found out in His true glory, was cause enough for the change of view.

ζημίαν. Observe the singular. The κέρδη are all fused now into one undistinguished ζημία. And ζημία imports not only “no gain,” but a positive detriment. True, some of the κέρδη at least were in themselves good things; pedigree, covenant-connexion, zeal, exactitude, self-discipline. But as a fact, viewed as he had viewed them, they had been shutting out Christ from his soul, and so every day of reliance on them was a day of deprivation of the supreme Blessing.

Verse 8

8. ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ. ΄ὲν οὖν corrects by emphasis; its common use in dialogue and discussion. “Nay rather, I even, &c.”

ἡγοῦμαι. The present tense emphasizes the present consciousness; the ἥγημαι is carried full into the present moment of thought.

πάντα. He has enumerated many things, but he will sweep everything into the scale which CHRIST has over-weighed. All that goes under the head of personal ambition, for example, must go; his prospects of national and Church distinction; all, all is ζημία, as against Christ.

διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον. “On account of the surpassing(ness).” See on Philippians 2:9 for St Paul’s love of superlative and accumulative words.

τῆς γνώσεως. For αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή, ἵνα γινώσκωσι, κτλ. (John 17:3). On the conditions and bliss of such knowledge see e.g. John 1:10-12; John 14:7; John 17:25; Ephesians 3:19.—St Paul sometimes depreciates γνῶσις (e.g. 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Corinthians 13:8). But there he means a knowledge separable from Divine light and life, a knowledge of mere theory, or of mere wonder, not of God in Christ. The γνῶσις here is the recognition of the glory of the Son of the Father, a knowledge inseparable from love; see the great paradox of Ephesians 3:19, γνῶναι τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Note the implicit witness of the language before us to the Deity of Christ. In Him this man had found the ultimate repose of his whole mental and moral nature.

Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου. Observe the solemnity and fulness of the terms; a “final cadence” of faith, as its glorious Object is viewed anew. See too the characteristic μου (cp. note on Philippians 1:3 above). The Gospel has an individualism, perfectly harmonious with its communism, but never to be merged in it. The individual “comes to” Christ (John 6:35; John 6:37); and has Christ for Head (1 Corinthians 11:3); and lives by faith in Him who has loved and redeemed the individual (Galatians 2:20). And such individual contact with the Lord is the secret of all true diffusion and communication of blessing through the individual.

διʼ ὃν. Again, “on account of whom”; because of the fact of His glory.

τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην. “I was deprived of my all.” He echoes the ζημίαν twice uttered above. His estimate was rudely verified, as it were, by circumstances. The treasures he inwardly surrendered were, as far as could be done, torn from him by man, when he deserted the Sanhedrin for Jesus Christ.

Deeply moving is this passing reference to his tremendous sacrifice, a sacrifice which has of course a weighty bearing on the solidity of the reasons for St Paul’s change, and so on the evidences of our Faith. On this last point see the deservedly classical Observations on the Character &c. of St Paul, by George, first Lord Lyttelton, 1747.

τὰ πάντα. Rendered above, “my all.” This may be just too much as a translation for the τὰ, but fairly indicates its reference.

σκύβαλα. Stercora, Vulg. “Refuse,” R.V. marg. In the medieval Lexicon of Suidas the word is explained by κύων and βάλλειν: Κυσίβαλόν τι ὅν, τὸ τοῖς κυσὶ βαλλόμενον. Others “connect it with σκὼρ (cp. scoria, Lat. stercus), al. with a root meaning ‘to shiver,’ ‘shred’ ” (Grimm, ed. Thayer, s.v.). “The word seems to signify generally ‘refuse,’ being applied most frequently in one sense or other to food, as in Plut. Mor. p. 352 D περίττωμα δὲ τροφῆς καὶ σκύβαλον οὐδὲν ἁγνόνἐστι [κ.τ.λ.]. The two significations most common are [1] ‘Excrement …’ This sense is frequent in medical writers. [2] ‘The … leavings of a feast …’ So again σκυβάλισμα, Pseudo-Phocyl. 144 … σκυβάλισμα τραπέζης” (Lightfoot). “The Judaizers spoke of themselves as banqueters … at the Father’s table, of Gentile Christians as dogs … snatching up the refuse meat … St Paul has reversed the image” (Lightfoot).

ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδήσω. The verb echoes the κέρδη of Philippians 3:7. The repudiation of those “gains” was the condition for the reception of the supreme “gain,” Christ Himself, received by faith. In a sense he paid them down in exchange for Christ, and so “gained” Him; Christum lucri fecit (Vulg.). Cp. the language of Revelation 3:18, συμβουλεύω σοι ἀγοράσαι παρʼ ἐμοῦ. True, they were worse than nothing, and Christ was all; but the imagery only enforces this by its paradox.

Ἵνα κερδήσω, We might expect the optative here, as he is dealing with a past experience; and so with εὑρεθῶ just below. The conjunctive may be explained as expressing, in present terms, a past crisis, vividly realized. But besides, the subtle distinction between conjunctive and optative was not kept up in the popular language; so that the conjunctive was as a rule used for both “may” and “might.” Cp. 1 Timothy 1:16, ἠλεήθηνἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶἐνδείξηται Ἰ. Χ., κτλ., and Acts 5:26, ἐφοβοῦντο τὸν λαόν, [ἵνα] μὴ λιθάσθωσιν.

Possibly the clause καὶ ἡγ. σκ. is parenthetic; the passage would thus present a vivid antithesis: “I suffered the loss of my all (and mere refuse I now see it to be) that I might make Christ my gain.”

Verse 9

9. εὑρεθῶ. “Found,” at any moment of scrutiny, here or hereafter. Lightfoot (on Galatians 2:17, and here) remarks that εὑρίσκειν is very frequent in Aramaized Greek, and has somewhat lost its distinctive meaning. In the N.T. however it is seldom if ever used where that meaning has no point. Such a passage as 2 Peter 3:14 is a parallel here; σπουδάσατεἀμώμητοι αὐτῷ εὑρεθῆναι ἐν εἰρήνῃ, where the reference is to the Lord’s Coming.

ἐν αὐτῷ. Here the Christian’s incorporation with his Lord, for acceptance and spiritual life, is full in view. In the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, written from the same chamber as this Epistle, we have this truth fully developed. See further above on Philippians 1:1; Philippians 1:8.

μὴ ἔχων ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην. “Not having a righteousness of mine own” (R.V.). The ἐμὴν is slightly emphatic by position.

Δικαιοσύνη is a word characteristic, and often of special meaning, in St Paul. In numerous passages (see esp. Romans 3:5-26; Romans 4:3; Romans 4:5-6; Romans 4:9; Romans 4:11; Romans 4:13; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 3:10; Galatians 2:21, with context) its leading idea is of satisfactoriness to law, to legal judgment. “A righteousness of mine own” is thus a title to acceptance before God, on my own merits, supposed to satisfy the legal standard. See further, Appendix K.

τὴν ἐκ νόμου. “The (righteousness) which is derived from the law,” on the Pharisaic theory of law and law-keeping, or any theory akin to it. For though he has the Pharisee proper, and the Christian Judaist, first in view, he looks beyond them to the whole principle they represent; this we may surely affirm in the light of the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians. From the special Mosaic code he rises to the larger fact of the whole Divine preceptive code, taken as a covenant of “righteousness,” of acceptance: “Do this, perfectly, and live; do this, and claim your acceptance.” Against this whole idea he places in its radiant simplicity the idea of “faith”; an acceptance procured for us by the Redeeming Lord, and appropriated by us by the single means of faith, that is to say, acceptance of Him as our all, on the warrant of His promise. Such “faith” unites us to Christ, in the spiritual order; and in that union, by no “fiction” but in fact, we receive His merits for our acceptance, and His power for our life and service. See further, Appendix K.

Here we infer (from the general line of Pauline teaching) that the primary thought is that of an acceptance for Christ’s sake, as against acceptance for any personal merits of the man. Then comes in the spiritual development of the accepted person, as he receives the Christ who has died for him to live in him.

τὴν διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ. “That which is through faith in Christ.” For the construction πίστις Χριστοῦ, with Χριστός for object not subject, cp. Mark 11:22, ἔχετε πίστιν θεοῦ: Acts 3:16, ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ: Galatians 2:20, ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ. In such cases the genitive gives the idea of cohesion, nexus; it presents the Object as clasped by πίστις.

Here again, as with νόμος and δικαιοσύνη, St Paul’s writings are the best commentary; see esp. Romans 3:21-28, χωρὶς νόμου δικαιοσύνηδικ. δὲ Θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦεἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον καὶ δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ, κτλ. In that passage there comes out, what is only latent here, the thought that the “faith” has reference specially to Christ in His propitiation, and that the blessing which it immediately receives is the justification (acceptance) of the believer. See further Romans 4, 5, Romans 8:33-34; Galatians 3:1-14; Galatians 3:21-24; Ephesians 2:8-9. As to the πίστις itself, at least its leading idea is personal trust in a promise, or, better, in a Promiser. Setting aside James 2:14-26, where the argument takes up and uses an inadequate notion of πίστις, namely correct creed (see Lightfoot, Gal., detached notes following ch. iii.), the word constantly conveys in Scripture the thought of personal reliance, trustful acceptance[5]. The essence of such reliance is that it goes forth from self to God, bringing nothing that it may receive all. Thus it has a moral fitness (quite different from deservingness) to be the recipient of Divine gifts. In faith, man forgets himself, to embrace his Redeemer.

τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην. “The righteousness,” the way of acceptance, “which has its origin in God.” Its source is the pure Divine love, flowing out in the line of Divine holiness.

ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει. “On terms of faith.” Cp. Acts 3:16, ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ.

On the doctrine of this verse see Appendix K.


THE following extract from the Editor’s running Commentary on Romans (Expositor’s Bible), p. 32 (on Romans 1:17), may be appended to the remarks in the notes above:

“This message of power unfolds first, at its foundation, in its front, ‘the Righteousness of God,’ not first His Love, but ‘His Righteousness.’ Seven times elsewhere in the (Roman) Epistle comes this phrase (Romans 3:5; Romans 3:21-23; Romans 3:26; Romans 10:3 twice); rich materials for ascertaining its meaning in the spiritual dialect of St Paul. Out of these passages, Romans 3:26 gives us the key. There ‘the righteousness of God,’ seen as it were in action, ascertained by its effects, is that which secures ‘that He shall be just, and the Justifier of the man who belongs to faith in Jesus.’ It is that which makes possible the mighty paradox that the Holy One, eternally truthful, eternally rightful, infinitely ‘law-abiding’ in His jealousy for that Law which is in fact His Nature expressing itself in precept, nevertheless can and does say to man, in his guilt and forfeit, ‘I, thy Judge, lawfully acquit thee, lawfully accept thee, lawfully embrace thee.’ … Thus it stands practically equivalent to God’s way of justifying the ungodly, His method for liberating His love while He magnifies His law. In effect, not as a translation but as an explanation, God’s Righteousness is God’s Justification.

“Then again we note the emphasis and the repetition here of the thought of faith.… Here, if anywhere, we shall find ample commentary in the (Roman) Epistle. Only let us remember from the first that … we shall see “faith” used in its natural and human sense; we shall find that it means personal reliance.… It is in this sense that our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Gospels, invariably uses the word. For this is its human sense, its sense in the street and the market; and the Lord, the Man of men, uses the dialect of His race. Faith, infinitely wonderful … from some points of view, is the simplest thing in the world from others. That sinners … should be brought so to see their Judge’s heart as to take His word of peace to mean what it says, is miracle. But that they should trust His word, having seen His heart, is nature—illuminated and led by grace, but nature still.… (Faith) is not a faculty for mystical intuitions. It is our taking the Trustworthy at His word.… Hence the overwhelming prominence of faith in the Gospel. It is the correlative of the overwhelming … prominence of Jesus Christ. Christ is all. Faith is man’s acceptance of Him as such. ‘Justification by Faith’ is not acceptance because faith is … a merit … a virtue. It is acceptance because of Jesus Christ, whom man, dropping all other hopes, receives.”

See this last point admirably explained by Hooker, A Disc. of Justification, § 31. And see Julius Hare, The Victory of Faith [1847], p. 21:

“It was with the fullest right that Luther and Melanchthon, when the true idea of Faith and of its power was reasserted at the Reformation, were anxious to urge again and again that faith is trust, that faith signifies trust: fides est fiducia; fides significat fiduciam. This was only to assert that the faith required in the New Testament is a feeling of the same kind with the trust enjoined in the Old Testament; as is proved—to take a single instance—by the passage in the Gospels, where the disciples are frightened by the tempest, while their Master is asleep …, and where … He rebukes them for their want of faith (Matthew 8:26), that is … for their want of confidence in Him.”

The Editor ventures to refer to his Tract, Justifying Righteousness (Seeley, 1885), for a discussion in some detail, with quotations.

Verse 10

10. τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν. “In order to know Him.” This construction is very common in the LXX. In the N.T. it is used especially by St Luke and St Paul; cp. Luke 24:29, εἰσῆλθε τοῦ μεῖναι σὺν αὐτοῖς: 1 Corinthians 10:13, ποιήσειἔκβασιν, τοῦ δύνασθαι ὑμᾶς ὑπενεγκεῖν. It is not peculiar to Hellenistic Greek; it appears in classical prose, particularly after Demosthenes’ time (Winer, Grammar, iii. § xliv.).—Note the sequence of thought: he embraces the Divine “righteousness,” and renounces his own, in order to the end here stated—the true knowledge of Christ, communion with Him, and so assimilation to Him. Accepting Christ as his one ground of peace with God (Romans 5:1), he now gets such a view of himself and his Redeemer as to affect profoundly his whole conscious relations with Him, and the effect of those relations on his being. Thus Philippians 3:10 is no mere echo of Philippians 3:9; it gives another range of truth, which yet is in the deepest connexion with the previous thought. To use a convenient classification, Philippians 3:9 deals with Justification, Philippians 3:10 with Sanctification in relation to it.

Τοῦ γνῶναι. The aorist suggests a crisis of knowledge. From such a crisis a process of growing knowledge is sure to issue; for the Object of the γνῶναι “passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). But it is the crisis which is in immediate view here.

τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ. His Resurrection has manifold “power.” It evidences justification (e.g. Romans 4:24-25, and esp. 1 Corinthians 15:14; 1 Corinthians 15:17-18). It assures the Christian of his own future resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). Yet more, it is that by which (completed in the Ascension) the Lord became actually the Giver of the Spirit which unites us to our Head. See John 7:39, οὔπω ἦν πνεῦμα ἅγιον, ὅτι Ἰησοῦς οὔπω ἐδοξάσθη: cp. Acts 2:33. This aspect of truth is prominent in the Epistles to Ephesus and Colosasæ, nearly contemporary with this Epistle; we have here a passing hint of what is developed there.

The thought of the Lord’s Resurrection is probably suggested by the implied reference just above to the atoning Death on which it followed. The whole passage indicates that while our acceptance rests always on the propitiatory work of Christ for us, our power for holy service and suffering lies in our union with Him as the Risen One, to whom we are joined by the Spirit.

Cp. Romans 5:10, καταλλαγέντες [διὰ τοῦ θανάτου τοῦ Χριστοῦ] σωθησόμεθα ἐν τῇ ζωῇ αὐτοῦ: and 2 Corinthians 4:10; Colossians 3:1-4; Hebrews 13:20-21.

κοινωνίαν (τῶν) παθημάτων αὐτοῦ. A share in His experience as the Sufferer. The Lord who has redeemed us has done it, as a fact, at an awful cost of pain, physical and spiritual; so a moral necessity calls His redeemed ones, united as they are to Him, to “carry the cross” after Him, in His Spirit’s strength, and for His sake. And this will prove a deep secret of fuller spiritual sympathy and fellowship with Him. Cp. 2 Corinthians 1:5, καθὼς περισσεύει τὰ παθήματα τοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἡμᾶς, οὔτως διὰ τοῦ Χριστοῦ περισσεύει ἡ παράκλησις ἡμῶν: 2 Corinthians 12:10, εὐδοκῶ ἐν ἀσθενείαις κτλ. ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ· ὅταν γὰρ ἀσθενῶ τότε δυνατός εἰμι.

συνμορφιζόμενος. On the reading, see critical note.—Configuratus, Vulg. But the Latin, with its lack of a present pass. part., misses the point of the Greek—a process of conformation; R.V., “becoming conformed.”

The immediate thought is that of spiritual harmony with the suffering Lord’s state of will. His Death, as the supreme expression of His holy love and surrender, draws the Apostle as with a spiritual magnet to seek assimilation of character to Him who died. The Atoning Work is not forgotten; for the full glory of Christ’s Death as Model is never wholly seen apart from a view of its propitiatory purpose; but that purpose is not the first thought here.—Cp. 2 Corinthians 4:10, πάντοτε τήν νέκρωσιν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῷ σώματι περιφέροντες, ἵνα καὶ ἡ ζωὴ τοῦ Ἰ. ἐν τῷ σώματι ἡμῶν φανερωθῇ.

Verse 11

11. εἴπως καταντήσω κτλ. “If by any means I may arrive.” Observe the (unusual) use of the conjunctive with εἰ. Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:5, ἐκτὸς εἰ μή τις διερμηνεύῃ, and the reading εἰθερίσωμεν in some MSS. of 1 Corinthians 9:11. The construction is found in e.g. the Greek tragedians, and in Greek of the Roman period it is not unfrequent.—Note the strong language of contingency; cp. 1 Corinthians 9:27, μή πωςἀδόκιμος γένωμαι. Contrast the exulting assurance of Romans 8:35, τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει; κτλ.: and cp. ibid. Romans 8:30; John 10:27-29; &c.; and indeed the whole tone of “joy and peace in believing” so largely pervading the Scriptures. The two classes of expression represent as it were parallel lines, each of which is necessary to convey the idea of salvation. One line is the omnipotent grace, “made perfect in our weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The other is the unalterable fact of our duty, to watch and pray. As one line or the other is brought into prominence (and there are times when one, or the other, must be stated alone), the language of assurance or of contingency is appropriate; till the parallel lines (as to us they seem and practically are) prove at last, in the love of God, to converge in glory.

εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν. On the reading, see critical note. “At the resurrection which is from the dead.” The phrase is peculiar and forcible, both by the use of the rare ἐξανάστασις, found here only in Biblical Greek (but ἐξανίστημι, with no special emphasis of meaning, is not uncommon in O.T. Greek), and by the τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν. The double compound ἐξανα- must not be pressed; such forms are a characteristic of later classical Greek, in which (Polybius, Strabo) ἐξανάστασις occurs; ἐξανίστημι being familiar earlier, in e.g. the Tragedians, Thucydides, and Plato, and often without emphasis on the ἐξ. But in the phrase here as a whole there is assuredly a fulness and force of its own. Accordingly it has been held that St Paul refers to a special resurrection, and that this is the mysterious “first resurrection” of Revelation 20:5-6, a rising of either all saints only, or of a special class of saints only; a resurrection “up from among the dead,” leaving the multitude behind. But St Paul nowhere else makes any certain reference to such a prospect (1 Corinthians 15:23-24, is not decisive, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 has another bearing). This surely makes it unlikely that he should refer to it here, where he is plainly dealing with plain and ruling truths and hopes. It seems best then to explain these words of the glorious prospect of the resurrection of believers in general, as it is seen in 1 Corinthians 15.; and the force of the phrase may be due to the energy and climax of the passage; he throws his whole soul into the thought of leaving behind for ever the state of death, which state he denotes (on this hypothesis) by the concrete phrase, οἱ νεκροί.

It is observable that he here implies his expectation of death, to be followed by resurrection; not of survival till the Lord’s Return.

Verse 12

12. Οὐχ ὅτι κτλ. This passage of caution and reserve, following out the εἴπως καταντήσω just above, is probably suggested by the thought of the antinomian teaching which he denounces explicitly below, Philippians 3:18-19. Such teaching would represent the Christian as already at the goal; lifted beyond responsibility, duty, and the call to go forward. No, says St Paul; I have indeed “gained” Christ; I have “the righteousness of God”; I “know” my Lord, and His “power,” and am “getting conformed to His death”; but I must be only the humbler and more watchful; the process, the outcome, must be ever moving on; the goal lies, from one great view-point, only at the close of a path of watching and prayer.

Οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβον. Non quod jam acceperim, Vulg. “Not that I have already obtained,” R.V. The aorist is best represented here by our perfect; with “already” we can hardly do otherwise. Greek tends, more than English, to throw back the past; to treat as in the past what still affects the present.—The verb gives the notion not of “attaining” a height but of “receiving” a gift. What the gift is, is indicated just below, Philippians 3:14, τὸ βραβεῖον κτλ. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:24, εἷς λαμβάνει τὸ βραβεῖον.

τετελείωμαι. He would be τέλειος, in the absolute sense, only when he joined the πνεύματα δικαίων τετελειωμένων (Hebrews 12:23). Indeed, as to his whole being, he would be τέλειος only when the ἀπολύτρωσις τοῦ σώματος was achieved in resurrection (Romans 8:23). Only when “we see Him as He is” shall we be altogether ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ. And nothing short of that can be an absolute “perfection,” the goal of the συμμορφίζεσθαι (Philippians 3:10).

Τελειόω, τελείωσις, were used in later church-Greek as special terms for the death of martyrs; in the Menologium it is the regular phrase: ξίφει τελειοῦται, ποντισθεὶς τελειοῦται, and the like. Chrysostom (Hom. XIV. on 1 Tim.), in a passage on the monastic life, says that the monks never speak of a brother’s “end,” but of his “perfecting”: κἄν ἀπαγγελθῇ ὅτι ὁ δεῖνα τετελεύτηκε, πολλή ἡ εὐφροσύνη, πολλὴ ἡ ἠδονή· μᾶλλον δὲ οὐδὲ τολμᾷ τις εἰπεῖν ὅτι ὁ δεῖνα τετελεύτηκε, ἀλλʼ ὁ δεῖνα τετελείωται. In Scripture this bright ideal is intended to be realized by all believers, as they enter on the heavenly rest.

διώκω δὲ. “But I press on,” R.V. He thinks of the race, with its goal and crown; cp. Acts 20:24, ὡς τελειῶσαι τὸν δρόμον μον: 2 Timothy 4:7, τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1.

εἰ καταλάβω. “If I may grasp.” Again the conjunctive with εἰ. See note on εἴπως καταντήσω above.—Cp. for the phrase 1 Corinthians 9:24, οὕτως τρέχετε ἵνα καταλάβητε.—The ἔλαβον just above is intensified into καταλάβω here; he thinks of the crown, till in thought he not only “receives” but “grasps” it.

Lightfoot quotes διώκοντες οὐ κατέλαβον from Lucian, Hermot. 77.

ἐφʼ ᾧ καὶ κατελήμφθην. Either, “Inasmuch as I was actually grasped” (cp. 2 Corinthians 5:4, στενάζομεν, ἐφʼ ᾧ οὐ θέλομεν, κτλ.: and cp. Romans 5:12) or, “That, with a view to which I was actually grasped.” St Paul’s usage (as quoted) inclines to the former rendering; the phraseology and context somewhat recommend the latter, which is adopted by A.V., R.V. (text; margin, “seeing that I was apprehended”), Ellicott, Alford, and (on the whole) Lightfoot.—He presses on to “grasp,” with the animating thought that Christ had “grasped” him, in the hour of conversion, on purpose that he, through the path of faith and obedience, might at length reach the goal and prize of glory. The remembrance of the Divine energy of that “grasp” energizes here all his thought and language.

Verses 12-16


Verse 13

13. ἀδελφοί. A personal address, to bring home and enforce the truth.

ἐγὼ ἐμαυτὸν κτλ. Whatever others may think of themselves. He has the antinomians of Philippians 3:18-19 in his mind.

Verse 14

14. ἓν δέ. The concentration of purpose makes all thought and action one. Cp. John 9:25, ἓν οἶδα, ὅτι τυφλὸς ὤν, κτλ.

ἐπιλανθανόμενος. As to complacency, not as to gratitude.

ἐπεκτεινόμενος. The compound presents the runner as stretching out his head and body towards the goal.—C. Simeon, of Cambridge, says in one of his last letters, alluding to his still abundant toils, “I am so near the goal that I cannot help running with all my might.” St Chrysostom writes here, ὁ δρομεὺς οὐχ ὅσους ἤνυσεν ἀναλογίζεται διαύλους (“laps”), ἀλλʼ ὅσους λείπεται [ἀνύσαι].—“To abound more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:10) was St Paul’s ideal of Christian life for others, and above all for himself.

κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω. “I press on goal-ward.” Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:26, οὔτως τρέχω ὡς οὐκ ἀδήλως, “as not in the dark”; as with my goal clear in view. The word σκοπός is used in the classics rather of a target than a goal; but the context here is decisive.

εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον. “Unto the prize” (R. V.); εἰς leads the thought up to the attainment itself.

Βραβεῖον. The word occurs (in N.T.) only here and 1 Corinthians 9:24, πάντες μὲν τρέχουσιν, εἷς δὲ λαμβάνει τὸ βραβεῖον. The word βραβεῖον is late and scarce in classical Greek, though βραβεύς (an umpire, arbiter, and then, more widely, a leader) is familiar in the Tragedians, and βραβεία (an umpire’s office) occurs in Euripides. In patristic Greek βραβεῖον, naturally, is often found. E.g. Clement of Rome (1 Ep. Cor. Philippians 3:5) writes of St Paul that ὑπομονῆς βραβεῖον ὑπέδειξεν. The word is transliterated in Latin brabeum, brabium, bravium; so in the Lat. Versions here.—The “prize” is “the crown,” “the wreath,” στέφανος, glory everlasting as the issue and triumph of the life of grace. Cp. Revelation 2:10, and esp. 2 Timothy 4:7-8.

On St Paul’s use of athletic metaphors, see Appendix L.

τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως. Vulg., supernæ vocationis.—Cp. John 8:23, ἐγὼ ἐκ τῶν ἄνω εἰμί: Galatians 4:26, ἡ ἅνω Ἱερουσαλήμ: Colossians 3:1-2, τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε, φρονεῖτε.—The κλῆσις was ἄνω alike in its origin, its influence, and its issue.

κλῆσις τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Καλεῖν, κλῆσις, κλητός, in the Epistles, refer not merely to the external invitations of the Gospel but to the internal attraction and victory of grace. See e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, where the κλητοί are differenced from those who have heard the message of Christ but who find only σκάνδαλον or μωρία in it.—Τοῦ θεοῦ. The Father. He is the ultimate “Caller” (so Romans 8:29, οὓς ἐκάλεσε, κτλ., and cp. Galatians 1:15; 2 Timothy 1:9); and the “call” is ἐν Χρ. . as it comes through the Son and leads to union with Him. Cp. for the phrase 1 Corinthians 7:22, ὁ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος, κτλ.

IN his constant illustration of the Christian life by the requirements and rewards of the Greek athletic contests, St Paul at once displays his own Hellenic sympathies and appeals to the noblest enthusiasm of the national life of his Greek converts. The Olympian games were closely connected with all that was most precious in the contribution made by Greece to the providential education of the world. Once in every four years the perpetually quarrelling states of the Panhellenic union proclaimed a solemn armistice for a single summer month, and met on the sacred plain of Olympia in a brotherly contest, city against city as well as man against man, for the highest glory that life could offer. Nothing might take precedence of this supreme festival. Even the sending of forces to support the heroes of Thermopylæ[21] must wait till the sacred month was over. Round this centre of Greek life religion, literature and art ranged themselves spontaneously in their most splendid forms. Historians read their histories to the assembled multitudes; poets proclaimed the glories of the successful champions, and sculptors perpetuated their noble forms. Time for the next four years was marked by the name of the victor in the foot-race, who though he carried off but a crown of wild olive returned to his city to receive substantial honours for the remainder of his days.

Something may be usefully noted here as to the training, the testing of candidates, and the actual contest. The training extended over ten months. A strict diet was enforced (ἀναγκοφαγία). The length and severity of this preparatory discipline led to a professionalism which is sharply criticized by several Greek writers. Athletes as such became marked off from ordinary competitors. Euripides[22] denounces the uselessness of the mere athlete’s life, and Galen[23] (cent. 2) its brutalizing tendency. Extreme exertion, even flagellations, inordinate overfeeding, and as a consequence excessive sleep—these were the exaggerations which accompanied the athletics of a baser period. Yet a certain moral witness was given by the necessity of abstinence from unchaste lusts: and the discipline and self-control demanded by these labours were in striking contrast with the lightness and carelessness which characterized so much of the Greek citizen’s life.

A month before the contest all the candidates were tested by the Hellanodicæ. Every competitor must be able to shew that he was a pure Greek, and that he had undergone the regular training. He must further declare his determination to abide by the customary rules, and take a solemn oath to this effect.

Of the contest itself two forms only need be noticed here. The Foot-race, in the Stadium, was the central event of the Festival; the Olympiad was marked by the name of the winner. The Herald proclaimed:

“Foot by foot

To the foot-line put.”

The starting-rope (ὕσπληξ), the race, the goal, the revel, the hymn—all these are familiar from the splendid verse of Pindar. And it is to this race that St Paul most frequently refers. But the severer contest of the Boxing-match, sometimes even fatal in its issue, also finds a place in his vocabulary of illustration. The Boxer’s hands and arms were furnished with the dangerous cestus of twisted leather loaded with metal[24]. In training the competitors would practise even upon “dummies,” or upon nothing, “striking the air”: but their crushed ears attested more serious and painful preparations[25].

The following passages in St Paul present more or less distinctly athletic metaphors. The passing character of the allusion in some cases serves to shew how familiar, and how instinctive, was the illustration.—The words printed in thicker type recall, often with unmistakable intention, sometimes perhaps half unconsciously, the phraseology of the games.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-4. αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε, ἀδελφοί, τὴν εἴσοδον ἡμῶν τὴν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὅτι οὐ κενὴ γέγονεν ἀλλὰ προπαθόντες καὶ ὑβρισθέντεςἐν Φιλίπποις ἐπαρρησιασάμεθαλαλῆσαι πρὸς ὑμᾶςἐν πολλῷ ἀγῶνικαθὼς δεδοκιμάσμεθα ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦοὕτω λαλοῦμενὡςἀρέσκοντεςτῷ θεῷ τῷ δοκιμάζοντι τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν.

1 Thessalonians 2:18-19. ἠθελήσαμεν ἐλθεῖνἀλλὰ ἐνέκοψεν ἡμᾶς ὁ Σατανᾶς. τίς γὰρ ἡμῶνστέφανος καυχήσεως; ἠ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς κτλ.;

2 Thessalonians 3:1. ἵνα ὁ λόγος τοῦ Κυρίου τρέχῃ καὶ δοξάζηται.

Galatians 2:2. μή πως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω ἢ ἔδραμον.

Galatians 5:7. ἐτρέχετε καλῶς· τίς ὑμᾶς ἐνέκοψεν;

Philippians 1:27; Philippians 1:30. συναθλοῦντεςτὸν αὐτὸν ἀγῶνα ἔχοντες.

Philippians 2:16. οὐκ εἰς κενὸν ἔδραμον οὐδὲ εἰς κενὸν ἐκοπίασα.

Philippians 3:12; Philippians 3:14. οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβονδιώκω δέ, εἰ καὶ καταλάβωτὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμενος κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον κτλ.

Colossians 1:29; Colossians 2:1. εἰς ὃ καὶ κοπιῶ ἀγωνιζόμενοςθέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ἡλίκον ἀγῶνα ἔχω κτλ.

Colossians 2:18. μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς καταβραβευέτω.

Colossians 3:15. ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ βραβευέτω κτλ.

1 Timothy 4:7-10. γύμναζε σεαυτὸν πρὸς εὐσέβειαν· ἡ γὰρ σωματικὴ γυμνασία πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶν ὠφέλιμοςεἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ κοπιῶμεν καὶ ἀγωνιζόμεθα (ita leg.) κτλ.

1 Timothy 6:11-12. δίωκε δικαιοσύνηνἀγωνίζου τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶναἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆςἐνώπιον πολλῶν μαρτύρων.

Cp. Hebrews 12:1. ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων, ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι πάνταδιʼ ὑπομονῆς τρέχωμεν τὸν προκείμενον ἡμῖν ἀγῶνα.

2 Timothy 2:5. ἐὰν δὲ καὶ ἀθλῇ τις, οὐ στεφανοῦται ἐὰν μὴ νομίμως ἀθλήσῃ.

2 Timothy 4:7-8. τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα ἠγώνισμαι, τὀν δρόμον τετέλεκαλοιπὸν ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος.

Cp. Acts 13:25. ὡς ἐπλήρου ὁ Ἰωάνης τὸν δρόμον. Acts 20:24. τελειῶσαι τὸν δρόμον μου.

By far the most elaborate illustration is found in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, where almost every word receives its signification from the Greek games.

Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἐν σταδίῳ τρέχοντες πάντες μὲν τρέχουσιν, εἷς δὲ λαμβάνει τὸ βραβεῖον; οὕτω τρέχετε ἵνα καταλάβητε. πᾶς δὲ ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος πάντα ἐγκρατεύεται· ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἵνα φθαρτὸν στέφανον λάβωσιν, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄφθαρτον. ἐγὼ τοίνυν οὕτω τρέχω, ὡς οὐκ ἀδήλως· οὕτω πυκτεύω, ὡς οὐκ ἀέρα δέρων· ἀλλʼ ὑπωπιάζω μου τὸ σῶμα καὶ δουλαγωγῶ, μήπως ἄλλοις κηρύξας αὐτὸς ἀδόκιμος γένωμαι.

It is interesting to set beside this the splendid appeal on behalf of purity in Plato, Laws, Bk viii. p. 840. After recording instances of famous athletes and their temperance in the period of training, the Athenian stranger says:

“And yet, Cleinias, they were far worse educated in their minds than your and my fellow-citizens, and in their bodies far more lusty.

Cleinias. No doubt this fact has been often affirmed positively by the ancients of these athletes.

Ath. And shall they be willing to abstain from what is ordinarily deemed a pleasure for the sake of a victory in wrestling, running, and the like; and our young men be incapable of a similar endurance for the sake of a much nobler victory, which is the noblest of all, as from their youth upwards we will tell them?” (Jowett’s Plato, Vol. v., p. 409.)

Verse 15

15. τέλειοι. Here is an apparent discrepancy with his rejection of the thought of his being “perfected,” just above. But he seems to be taking up here, with a sort of loving irony, a word used by those who favoured some form of “perfectionism.” It is as if he would say, “Are we really perfect Christians, all that Christians should be, in thought and life? Then among the things which should be in us is a holy discontent with our actual holiness. The man in this sense perfect will be the very man to think himself not yet perfected.” We may notice also that τέλειος is an elastic word; it often means “full-grown” as against “infantine”; cp. Hebrews 5:13-14, νήπιόςἐστιν· τελείων δέ ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή. The τέλειος in this respect would have mature faculty, but would not therefore claim ideal character. The Apostle may thus be using the word with reference at once to a misuse of it, and to a legitimate use.

φρονῶμεν. See notes on φρονεῖν above, Philippians 1:7, Philippians 2:2; Philippians 2:5.

ὁ θεὸς ὑμῖν ἀποκαλύψει. By the action of His Spirit, amidst the discipline of life, shewing more and more the correspondence of the inspired Message with the facts of the soul.—Such words, while they breathe a deep tolerance and patience, imply the Apostle’s commission as a supernaturally inspired messenger of Christ; otherwise he would make an undue claim. Cp. Galatians 1:6-12, where the strong assertions of the absolute and unique truth of “his Gospel” are expressly based on its direct conveyance to him διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Verse 16

16. πλὴν. “Only.” He qualifies the thought of certain present differences of view, by a plea for all the agreement possible.

εἰς δ ἐφθάσαμεν. “(As regards) the point we have reached.” Φθάνειν, in classical Greek, implies properly arrival beforehand, out-stripping; and so 1 Thessalonians 4:15, οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν τοὺς κοιμηθέντας. Later, and ordinarily in N.T., it loses much of this speciality, and means little but “to arrive.” Yet in most places a shadow of its proper meaning can be traced; the arrival is usually either sudden or difficult. Cp. Matthew 12:28, ἄρα ἔφθασεν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ: Romans 9:31, εἰς νόμον δικαιοσύνης οὐκ ἔφθασε. Here we may trace a hint of difficulty; the thought of the toilsome race is still present; as if to say, “as regards the point we have succeeded in reaching.”—On the rendering of ἐφθάσαμεν by an English perfect, see above, note on ἔλαβον, Philippians 3:12.

τῷ αὐτῷ στοιχεῖν. “Take your steps on the same (principle).” Στοιχεῖν, more than περιπατεῖν, suggests the step, the detail. Cp. Romans 4:12, τοῖς στοιχοῦσι τοῖς ἴχνεσι, κτλ.—The use of “the infinitive for the imperative” is familiar in classical Greek, especially in the earlier writers; e.g. Soph. O.T. 462, κἂν λάβῃς μʼ ἐψευσμένον φάσκειν ἔμʼ ἤδη μαντικῇ μηδὲ φρονεῖν. The construction is regularly used in address to others (see Alford here), not in appeals to self; we render here therefore, “Take your steps, &c.”

Here, as in so many places, the Apostle makes a sidelong reference to the need of the spirit of unity at Philippi. “As regards the point they have reached,” they are besought to cultivate a conscious harmony in principle and practice.

On the reading of this verse, see critical note.

Verse 17

17. Συμμιμηταί μου γίνεσθε. Literally, “Become my co-imitators”; “join in copying my example.” In this case, the example is that of the renunciation of self-righteousness and of the dream of an attained perfection. St Paul often thus invites “imitation”; see below, Philippians 4:9, εἴδετε ἐν ἐμοὶπράσσετε: 1 Corinthians 4:16, παρακαλῶ ὑμᾶς, μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε: 1 Corinthians 11:1, μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ: 2 Thessalonians 3:7, οἴδατε πῶς δεῖ μιμεῖσθαι ἡμᾶς: 2 Thessalonians 3:9, ἵνα ἑαυτοὺς τύπον δῶμεν ὑμῖν εἰς τὸ μ. ἡμᾶς: and Acts 20:18-21; Acts 20:30-35. This is not egotism, but a mark of entire confidence in his message and its principles, and a clear conscience as to the power of them on his own life.

σκοπεῖτε. Observate, Vulg.—Σκοπεῖν usually implies the need of caution and avoidance; cp. Romans 16:17, σκοπεῖν τοὺς τὰς διχοστασίαςποιοῦντας, καὶ ἐκκλίνετε ἀπʼ αὐτῶν. Here context gives the opposite reference; to see St Paul’s example, for daily practice, let them watch its reflection in his attached followers among themselves.

περιπατοῦντας. The verb occurs here only (with Philippians 3:18) in the Epistle. Elsewhere it is a favourite with St Paul, to denote life in its action and intercourse; e.g. Romans 6:4, ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς περιπατήσωμεν: Romans 13:13, εὐσχημόνως περιπατήσωμεν: Galatians 5:16, πνεύματι περιπατεῖτε: Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:8; Ephesians 5:15; and many other places.

τύπον ἡμᾶς. “Shrinking from the egotism of dwelling on his own personal example, St Paul passes at once from the singular (μου) to the plural (ἡμᾶς)” (Lightfoot). He similarly uses the plural in 2 Thessalonians 3:7, quoted above, and 1 Thessalonians 1:6.

Verses 17-21


Verse 18

18. πολλοὶ. So early did an antinomian travesty of the Gospel of free grace arise and spread. Similar errors are in view in Romans 16:17-18, where he denounces the utterers of unwholesome χρηστολογία καὶ εὐλογία. The moral disorders at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5, 6) were probably defended on such principles. To this class of error Romans 6:1 probably refers, ἐπιμένωμεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, ἵνα ἡ χάρις πλεονάσῃ: and Ephesians 5:6, μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς ἀπατάτω κενοῖς λόγοις. There were varieties no doubt under a common moral likeness. Some would hold the tenet prominent later in “Gnosticism,” that matter must be evil, and that the body therefore can never be holy. Others (and these surely are in view in the Roman Epistle, and probably here) would push the truth of free justification into a real isolation from other truth, and so into deadly error; teaching that the πνευματικός is so accepted in Christ that his moral actions matter not to God. Every great period of spiritual upheaval and power is, as by a subtle law, defaced by some such growths of great misbelief. Such were the phenomena, cent. 16, of the Libertines at Geneva, and the Prophets of Zwickau; and in one degree or another such things are continually felt in Christian life and history.

At Philippi, this “school” would be broadly, perhaps bitterly, divided from the Judaists. But the “extremes might meet” so as to account for the mention of both here in a certain connexion. A stern formal legalism has a tendency to slight “the weightier matters of the law,” heart-purity among them. Still, the persons here directly in view (Philippians 3:18-19) “gloried in their shame”; this must mean a positive and reasoned libertinism.

πολλάκις. Sadly echoing πολλοὶ.

ἔλεγον. “I used to tell you of as.…” As if he would write, πολλάκις ἔλεγον αὐτοὺς τοὐς ἐχθροὺς κτλ. For λέγειν so used cp. e.g. æsch. Eum. 48, οὔτοι γυναῖκας ἀλλὰ Γοργόνας λέγω.—“I used,” in former days, when among you. So very early was the mischief in the air.

νῦν δὲ καὶ κλαίων. “But now actually weeping.” Years had only shewn him more clearly the deplorable mischiefs of the delusion.

For St Paul’s tears, see Acts 20:19, δουλεύων τῷ κυρίῳμετὰ δακρύων: Acts 20:31, οὐκ ἐπαυσάμην μετὰ δακρύων νουθετῶν: 2 Corinthians 2:4, ἔγραψα ὑμῖν διὰ πολλῶν δακρύων.—Κλαίειν implies not tears only but lamentation, audible grief, and thus gives a peculiar pathos to a passage like this.—See Appendix M for an extract from a sermon by Adolphe Monod (in his Saint Paul, Cinq Discours), Son Christianisme, ou ses Larmes.

τοὺς ἐχθροὺς τοῦ σταυροῦ. “As the personal enemies of the cross”; deluding themselves and their followers into the horrible belief that the Cross of Atonement, God’s own argument and secret for our holiness, was in effect intended to give security to sin. Possibly the praise of the Cross was much on their lips; but their doctrine and practice made them its most formidable enemies, disgracing it in the world’s eyes.

M. AD. MONOD ON ST PAUL’S TEARS. (CH. Philippians 3:18)

“WHAT is the Gospel of St Paul? Is it but a refined deism, announcing as its whole doctrine the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, as its whole revelation the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, as its only mediator Jesus Christ living as prophet and dying as martyr? Or is this Gospel a religion unlike all others (une religion tout à part) … proclaiming a God unknown, promising an indescribable deliverance, demanding a radical change, compassionate and terrible at once, … high as heaven, deep as hell? You need not, for your answer, consult the writings of the Apostle; you have but to see him weeping at your feet.”

Saint Paul, Cinq Discours (ed. 1859), p. 62.

Verse 19

19. τέλος. A word awful and hopeless. Τὸ γὰρ τέλος ἐκείνων, θάνατος, Romans 6:21. Cp. 2 Corinthians 11:15, ὦν τὸ τέλος ἔσται κατὰ τὰ ἔργα: Hebrews 6:8, ἧς τὸ τὲλος εἰς καῦσιν: 1 Peter 4:17, τί τὸ τέλος τῶν ἀπειθούντων τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ;

ἀπώλεια. “Perdition”; ruin. See above, on Philippians 1:28.

ὁ θεὸς. The antinomian boasted probably of a special intimacy with God.

ἡ κοιλία. “The” (not necessarily “their”) “belly.” Cp. Romans 16:18, where probably the same “school” is in view; Χριστῷ οὐ δουλεύουσιν, ἀλλὰ τῇ ἑαυτῶν κοιλίᾳ. In 1 Corinthians 6:13 the words βρώματα τῇ κοιλίᾳ καὶ ἡ κ. τοῖς βρώμασιν are probably quoted from a supposed advocate of this same evil “Gospel.”—Κοιλία is not used in classical Greek in other than its physical meaning (γαστήρ appears for “gluttony”; e.g. γαστρὶ δουλεύειν, Xen. Mem. i. 6. 8); but we have κοιλιοδαίμων in the fragments of Eupolis (Κολακ. 4), for “a votary of the belly.” So venter in Latin; Lightfoot refers to Seneca, de Vita Beata, IX. 4: hominis bonum quæro, non ventris.

ἡ δόξα ἐν τῇ αἰσχύνῃ αὐτῶν. No doubt they claimed a “glory”; a larger liberty, a deeper insight, a sublimated Christianity. But their vaunted wisdom was exactly their foulest shame.

οἱ τὰ ἐπίγεια φρονοῦντες. “They whose mind is for the things of earth.” The construction is free but clear.—Contrast Colossians 3:2, τὰ ἄνω φρονεῖτε, μὴ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς: and see the practical precepts in the context there, Philippians 3:5, &c.: νεκρώσατε οὖν τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, κτλ.—For φρονεῖν see notes above, on Philippians 1:7, Philippians 2:2.

The dogmatic libertine would claim to live in an upper region, to be so conversant with celestial principles as to be free of terrestrial restraints. As a fact, his fine-spun theory was a transparent veil over the bodily lusts which were his real interests.

Verse 20

20. ἡμῶν γὰρ. The link of thought with Philippians 3:18 is easily traced; “Such thoughts and lives are wholly alien to ours; for &c.”

“While the earliest MSS. all read γάρ, the earliest citations (with several versions [e.g. Vulg., autem]) have persistently δέ. I have therefore given δὲ as a possible alternative; although it is probably a substitution for γάρ, of which the connexion was not very obvious” (Lightfoot).

τὸ πολίτευμα. R.V. text, “citizenship”; margin, “or, commonwealth.” A.V., “conversation” (which is the rendering of all our older versions, except Wyclif’s, which has “lyvyng”). This represents the conversatio of the Vulg.; “the intercourse of life” (see above, note on πολιτεύεσθε, Philippians 1:27). The meaning is thus, in effect, “We live and move (on earth) as those who are (spiritually) in heaven.”

The word πολίτευμα occurs here alone in Biblical Greek. In classical Greek it denotes (a) an act, or measure, of government; e.g. τῶν τοιούτων πολιτεύματων οὐδὲν πολιτεύομαι (Demosth., 107. 16); (b) the governing body of a state, a “government”; (c) the constitution of a state, e.g. τὸ τῆς δημοκρατίας πολίτευμα (Æschin., 51. 12). This latter meaning obviously is most in point here. St Paul means that Christians are citizens of the heavenly city or realm, free of its privileges, but therefore also “obliged by their nobility” to live on earth as those who belong to heaven. Ἐπὶ γῆς διατρίβουσιν, ἀλλʼ ἐν οὐρανῷ πολιτεύονται, says the writer of the Ep. to Diognetus (Philippians 3:9), cent. ii., probably with this passage in his mind. Meanwhile, for reasons to be further given from below (on ἐξ οὗ) it seems at least possible that St Paul’s thought, in the use of πολίτευμα here, glided from “citizenship,” or “commonwealth,” almost to “city”; it at least bordered upon locality. The translation “seat of citizenship” may thus not unfairly represent it.

ἐν οὐρανοῖς. “In the heavens.” (The word is self-defined; the article is not necessary.) A very frequent plural in Biblical Greek; the classics always use the singular.—For the Heavenly City cp. Galatians 4:26, ἡ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλήμ: Hebrews 12:22, πόλις θεοῦ ζῶντος, Ἱερουσαλὴμ ἐπουράνιος (so Revelation 3:12; see 21, 22). It is called Οὐρανόπολις (Euseb., Dem. Ev. iv. p. 126, οὐρανόπολις, ἡ ἀληθῶς Ἱερουσαλήμ: Clem. Alex. Pæd. II., xii. 119, τὰς δώδεκα τῆς οὐρανοπόλεως πύλας), with its οὐρανοπολῖται (Œcum. in c. IX. ad Hebræos; οὐρανοπολῖταί εἰσιν οἱ πιστοί, εἰ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς τέως πολιτεύονται).—St Augustine’s great work, de Civitate Dei (about A.D. 420), contains a wealth of illustrations of the idea of this passage. To him, at the crisis of the fall of the imperial City, the Christian appears as citizen of a State which is the antithesis, not of civil order, which is of God, but of “the world,” which is against Him. This holy State, or City, exists now, and works for good through its citizens, but it is to be completed and revealed only when eternal glory begins. See Smith, Dict. Chr. Biography, i. 221.

The thought of the City was dear to St Augustine. The noble medieval lines of Hildebert, Me receptet Syon illa, Urbs beata, urbs tranquilla (see Trench, Sacred Lat. Poetry, p. 332, with pp. 312–320), quoted at the close of Longfellow’s Golden Legend, come almost verbatim from Augustine, de Spiritu et Animâ, c. LX.: O civitas sancta, civitas speciosa, de longinquo te saluto, ad te clamo, te requiro.

ἐξ οὗ. The pronoun cannot refer directly to the plural οὐρανοί. It must either be the mere adverbial equivalent of ὅθεν, or it must refer to πολίτευμα. The first explanation is simple; and it is asserted (see Winer, Gr. of N.T. Greek, ed. Moulton, p. 177) that ἐξ οὗ is used for ὅθεν. But the evidence produced is, to say the least, inconclusive. The reference of οὗ to πολίτευμα seems preferable. St Paul seems to use πολίτευμα with, so to speak, a local notion in it.

καὶ σωτῆρα ἀπεκδεχ όμεθα. “We are actually waiting for, as our Saviour, &c.” Ἀπεκδέχομαι by its form suggests a “waiting” full of persistence and desire. It occurs elsewhere, Romans 8:19, ἡ ἀποκαραδοκίαἀπεκδέχεται, κτλ.: 23, στενάζομεν, υἱοθεσίαν ἀπεκδεχόμενοι: 25, διʼ ὑπομονῆς ἀπεκδεχόμεθα: 1 Corinthians 1:7, ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κ. ἡμῶν Ἰ. Χ.: Galatians 5:5, ἐλπίδα δικαιοσύνης ἀπεκδεχόμεθα: Hebrews 9:28, ὀφθήσεται τοῖς αὐτὸν ἀπεκδεχομένοις: 1 Peter 3:20, ἀπεξεδέχετο (so read) ἡ τοῦ Θεοῦ μακροθυμία. Of these passages all but the last (and perhaps Galatians 5:5) refer to the Lord’s longed for Return in glory, ἡ μακαρία ἐλπίς (Titus 2:13), which everywhere shines out in the N. T. as the Promise of promises to the believer and to the Church.

Σωτῆρα. At His coming He will complete our “salvation” by accomplishing the ἀπολύτρωσις τοῦ σώματος, and so realizing in all its aspects our νἱοθεσία (Romans 8:23) in Himself. With σωτήρ here compare Romans 13:1, ἐγγύτερον ἡμῖν ἡ σωτηρία: where “salvation” has the same reference to the Lord’s Return.

κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν. The full designation well accords with the holy hope and joy of the context.

Verse 21

21. μετασχηματίσει. See the note on σχῆμα, above, Philippians 2:8. Cp. 2 Corinthians 11:13, μετασχηματιζόμενοι εἰς ἀποστόλους Χριστοῦ: 14, μετασχηματίζεται εἰς ἄγγελον φωτός: 15, μ. ὡς διάκονοι δικαιοσύνης. There, obviously, superficial changes are in view, true to the distinctive meaning of σχῆμα. And so it is here, in a true sense. Already the essentials of the “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), which is to be “manifested in glory” (Colossians 3:4), are present in the believer. Where the Holy Spirit “dwells,” there already, even for the body, resides the pledge and as it were germ of the heavenly state (Romans 8:11). Thus the final transfiguration will be, so to speak, rather of guise than of being; as with the Lord Himself on the mountaintop. (But observe that in Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2, we have μετεμορφώθη.)

τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν. Cp. A.V., “our vile” (i.e. cheap, common) “body” (Beza’s corpus nostrum humile, and Luther’s unsern nichtigen Leib). This is a paraphrase of the Greek, involving the reader’s loss and possible serious misguidance. No contempt of the body is implied by the Greek; only the body is “connected with our humiliation” as being, in its present state, inseparably connected with the burthens and limitations of earth, and conditioned by mortality.

Observe this peculiar mystery and glory of the Gospel, a promise of heavenly perfectness for the body of the Christian. It is no mere prison of the spirit; it is its counterpart, destined to share with it, in deep harmony, the coming bliss. Its stricken condition, in the Fall, makes it often the load of the spirit now; hereafter it shall be its wings.

The bearing of all this on the libertine, who sinned εἰς τὸ ἴδιον σῶμα (1 Corinthians 6:18), is manifest.

σύμμορφον. “To be conformed,” R.V. See note on μορφή, above, Philippians 2:6. It is implied that the coming likeness to our Blessed Lord’s Body shall be in appearance (σχῆμα) because in reality; the glorious surface shall but express the glorious substance. Ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ ἐσόμεθα (1 John 3:2): to HIM, not only to His “guise.”

τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ. His sacred Body, as He resumed it in Resurrection, and carried it up in Ascension, and manifests Himself in it to the Blessed (ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ἐκ δεξιῶντοῦ Θεοῦ, Acts 7:56). It is τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ, as answering perfectly to His personal Exaltation, and being, so far as He pleases, the vehicle of its display. Of it thus conditioned St Paul had a glimpse at his conversion (Acts 9:3; Acts 9:17; Acts 22:14); cp. 1 Corinthians 9:1, οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κ. ἡμῶν ἑώρακα; 1 Corinthians 15:8, ἔσχατον πάντων, ὤφθη κἀμοί.

Our future likeness in body to His body is alone in direct view here, because the Apostle is dealing with specially sensual forms of error. But it stands in profound implied connexion with moral and spiritual likeness.

From this passage, as from others (see esp. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, where σπείρεται and ἐγείρεται refer to the same thing), we gather that the Christian’s body here and hereafter is somehow continuous; not wholly a new thing in subsistence. But when we say this, we have said all we know; the mystery of the nature of matter falls upon our attempts to think the question out. The ἐπουράνιοι (1 Corinthians 15:48) will be “the same”; truly continuous, in their whole being, with the pilgrims of earth. But no one can say that therefore some particle of the body of humiliation must live on in the body of glory; any more than it is necessary to bodily identity now that constituent particles of the body of childhood should continue in the body of old age. However, the next words assure us that we may leave the matter in peace in the hands of “the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Somehow, in His will and power,

“Though changed and glorified each face,

Not unremembered [we shall] meet,

For endless ages to embrace.”

(The Christian Year, St Andrew’s Day.)

κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τοῦ δύνασθαι αὐτὸν. Literally, “According to the working of His being able.” Secundum operationem qua possit, Vulg. The A.V., “mighty working,” aims to represent the special force of ἐνέργεια (see note on ἐνεργεῖν, Philippians 2:13); but it is too strong. The ἐνέργεια is just the putting forth of the δύνασθαι.

καὶ ὑποτάξαι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. Καὶ emphasizes the whole thought.—Elsewhere the FATHER appears as “subduing all things” to the Son, in the final victory. So 1 Corinthians 15:25 (Psalms 110:1), 27 (Psalms 8:6), δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. But the Father and the Son are One in will and power.—Cp. John 5:31, οὕτως καὶ ὁ υἱὸς οὒς θέλει ζωοποιεῖ.

αὐτῷ. On the reading, see critical note.—“To Himself”: so we must render, in common sense, whether we read αὐτῷ or αὑτῷ.—We too, in English, sometimes say “him” where “himself” is meant.—In such cases the thought is from the speaker’s or writer’s view-point, rather than from that of the subject of the words.

His “subjugation” is thus such that what He subdues shall somehow serve Him. His very enemies shall be “His footstool”; and in His glorified saints He shall be glorified (2 Thessalonians 1:10). Through this great conquest of the Son the Father will be supremely magnified; see 1 Corinthians 15:28, αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται, κτλ.; a prophecy beyond our full understanding, but pointing to an infinitely developed manifestation in eternity of the glory of the Father in the Son. But the immediate thought of this passage is the almighty grace and power of the incarnate, glorified, returning SAVIOUR of His people.

τὰ πάντα. The expression differs just so far from πάντα that it sums up “all things” and presents them together.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Philippians 3:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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