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3:1-21 THE WAY TO PERFECTION
Paul’s testimony (3:1-16)
At this point Paul repeats warnings that he gave the Philippian church some time earlier concerning Judaisers. He calls the Judaisers ‘dogs’ because they like to ‘cut the flesh’ of people; that is, they insist that they must circumcise Gentiles before those Gentiles can be saved. The true people of God, whom Paul calls the ‘true circumcision’, are not those who have carried out a ceremony to put a mark in their bodies, but those who have received new life from Christ through an inward spiritual change (3:1-3).
To support this statement, Paul refers to his own experience. He was born and circumcised a Jew and trained to be a zealous law-abiding Pharisee, but he found that trying to do good by keeping laws could not make the guilty sinner acceptable to God. Such things only prevented him from trusting in Christ (4-7). He has not only put aside religious ceremonies and national status, but he considers that all things in which he might boast are worthless. They cannot gain righteousness before a holy God. Righteousness is a gift that God gives to those who have faith in Christ (8-9).
But Paul does not stop there. Having died and risen with Christ, he wants to go on and experience in reality what this means - death to sin and selfish desires, and a new life of constant victory through the living power of the risen Christ within him. He is encouraged to keep moving towards this goal by his knowledge that final victory over sin, suffering and death is certain (10-11).
Paul knows that he will not reach perfection in this life. He will reach it only on the day when Christ returns and raises the righteous from death. But since he now belongs to Christ, he believes that perfection is the only goal he can aim at. Nothing less would be in keeping with such a high position. He therefore puts all his energy into his efforts to reach this goal, just as a runner strains every muscle to reach the finishing line and gain the prize (12-14).
Mature Christians will have the attitude to life that Paul has just outlined. Should any at present think differently, they will soon come to agree, if they allow God to teach them. Whatever the case, all should make sure that they do not slip back from the standard of practical holiness they have already reached (15-16).
A guide for behaviour (3:17-21)
Jewish false teachers tried to make the Philippians keep laws; other false teachers said they could do as they liked. Paul warns the Philippians to believe neither. They will learn the standards of Christian behaviour by following the example of Jesus and those who live like him. Those who allow themselves to follow the natural desires of their bodies and their minds are not disciples of Jesus Christ, but enemies (17-19). Christ’s people are interested in things of spiritual and heavenly value. They will be careful how they live, knowing that the body they have now is the body in which they will meet Christ. When that time comes, Christ will change their bodies to be like his (20-21).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Philippians 3". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30