Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Philippians 3

Verses 1-99

Ch. 3:1 3 . Let them cultivate Joy in the Lord, as the true preservative from the Dangers of Judaistic Teaching

1 . Finally ] Lit., “ For the rest ”; “ For what remains .” See Ephesians 6:10 , and note in this Series. In 2 Corinthians 13:1 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:1 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:1 ; below 4:8; and (in a slightly different form) Galatians 6:17 ; the phrase appears to mean “ in conclusion .” But it is plainly elastic, and in 1 Thess. we have an example, as here, of its use (and of course of its retention by the writer on review of his writing) some time before the actual farewell . As a fact the Apostle is just about to open the last large topic of his letter, the topic of the difference between a true and a false Gospel; all else in the remaining paragraphs is only accessory. Hitherto he has been dealing, in effect, with the duty and blessedness of unity, secured by humility and watchfulness; bringing in some all-important doctrinal statements, but only by the way. He will now close with a definite and solemn message of spiritual truth, in a matter of present urgency.

The connexion of this passage has been much debated, and particularly the bearing of the phrase “to write the same things unto you.” What does he refer to? To a previous Epistle? To a previous similar statement in this Epistle? But there is no other hint whatever of a previous letter; and in this present letter there is no previous injunction to rejoice. The solution offered by Bp Lightfoot is as follows: “The same things” are the exhortations to unity so often made already, and which the Apostle was about to reinforce . But he was interrupted in his work, and not till after an interval of days, perhaps, did he resume it. He then dropped the intended appeal, and turned instead to the yet more serious subject of doctrinal error.

This ingenious suggestion offers, however, a serious difficulty, by assuming that St Paul, with his scribe beside him, would have sent out an Epistle in a state so disjointed, simply for lack of revision. No view of Divine inspiration demands it; and certainly all considerations of thoughtful authorship are against it.

We offer the following theory: The Apostle sees before him, as he thinks of Philippi, the danger of doctrinal error; error which in one way or another undervalues Christ and Him crucified. The true antidote to such error is a developed and rejoicing intuition into Christ and His work, such as had been granted to himself. This he will now make his theme. But he has, in a sense, done so already, by the oft-repeated allusions to the Lord’s sovereign and vital connexion with His people (“ in the Lord ,” “ in the heart of Christ ,” &c.), and above all by the opening passages of ch. 2. So he is “writing the same things” when he writes now “finally” about “rejoicing in the Lord ” as their righteousness, life, glory, strength, and peace. All “other Gospels” were obscurations of that great joy.

Thus the special injunction to “ rejoice ” has regard to the past and coming context at once. In particular, it anticipates ver. 3 below, (“ glory in Christ Jesus ”).

A suffrage in one of the Litanies of the venerable Church of the Unitas Fratrum (“the Moravians”) is in point here: “ From the loss of our glory in Thee , preserve and keep us, gracious Lord and God.”

rejoice ] R.V. margin, “or, farewell .” But the evidence of 4:4, which plainly takes this phrase up, and adds the word “ always ,” is altogether for the text R.V., and A.V. “Farewell always ” is an impossible formula of conclusion; we are constrained to render “ Be glad always” there. And already 2:18 he has used the same Greek word in that sense beyond doubt. See the last note.

in the Lord ] See last note but one, and that on 1:8.

To write the same things] See last note but two, for a reference of this to “the things” already written in this Epistle about the glory and fulness of Christ.

to me indeed … safe ] The Greek words form an Iambic trimeter, a verse corresponding in the Greek drama to our blank heroic, and may thus be a quotation by the way 1 1 I owe this remark to a friend. . In 1 Corinthians 15:33 we almost certainly have such a quotation from a Greek dramatist, Menander or perhaps Euripides; “ Ill converse withers fair morality .” We may render here, with a view to the rhythm, To me not irksome, it is safe for you. St James (1:17) appears similarly to adopt a Greek hexameter; “ Every giving of good and every boon of perfection .”

2 . Beware of ] Lit., “ see .” For this use of the verb, cp. Colossians 4:17 ; 2 John 1:8 .

dogs ] Lit. and better, the dogs . He refers to a known and defined class; and these evidently were those Judaistic teachers within the pale of the Church to whom he has referred already (1:15) in another connexion and in a different tone. These Pharisee-Christians very probably called the uncircumcised, and (from their point of view) non-conforming, converts, “dogs,” as the Pharisees-proper called all Gentiles; cp. Matthew 15:26 , Matthew 15:27 , for words alluding to this use of the term. The habits and instincts of the dog suggest ideas of uncleanness and wantonness; and its half-wild condition in Eastern towns adds the idea of a thing outcast. Thus everywhere in Scripture the word “dog” is used in connexions of contempt, reproach or dread: see e.g. 1 Samuel 24:14 ; 2 Samuel 16:9 ; 2 Kings 8:13 ; Psalms 22:16 , Psalms 22:20 , 59:6; Ecclesiastes 9:4 ; Matthew 7:6 ; Revelation 22:15 . The Apostle “here turns the tables” on the Judaist, and pronounces him to be the real defiled outcast from Messiah’s covenant, rather than the simple believer, who comes to Messiah not by way of Judaism, but direct. The same view is expressed more fully Galatians 5:2-4 . It is just possible that the word “dog” refers also to positive immorality underlying, in many cases, a rigid ceremonialism. But this is at most secondary here. See below vv. 18, 19, and notes, for another “school” more open to such charges.

evil workers ] Better, the bad work-men . He refers to the same faction under another aspect. Very probably, by a play on the word “worker,” he censures them as teaching a salvation by “works,” not by faith. (See e.g. Romans 3:27 , Romans 3:4 :2, Romans 3:6 , Romans 3:11 :6; Galatians 2:16 , Galatians 2:3 :2; Ephesians 2:9 ; 2 Timothy 1:9 ; Titus 3:5 .) As if to say, “They are all for working , with a view to merit; but they are bungling workmen all the while, adjusting wrongly the fabric of the Gospel, and working not rightly even what in itself is right.” Cp. 2 Corinthians 11:13 for a passage where the same double meaning seems to attach to this word. For the other side of the truth of “working” see 2:12, and notes.

the concision ] “ The gashing, the mutilation .” By this harsh kindred word he satirizes, as it were, the rigid zeal of the Judaist for bodily circumcision . In the light of the Gospel, the demand for the continuance of circumcision in the Church, as a saving ordinance, was in fact a demand for a maltreatment of the body, akin only to heathen practices; cp. e.g. 1 Kings 18:28 .

Cp. Galatians 5:12 , with Lightfoot’s notes, for a somewhat similar use of words in a kindred connexion. Lightfoot here remarks on the frequent occurrence in the N.T. of verbal play. See e.g. the Greek of Acts 8:30 ; Romans 12:3 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:11 .

Wyclif curiously, and without any support in the Latin, renders this clause, “se ye dyuysioun”; Tyndale and Cranmer, “Beware of dissencion (dissensyon).”

3 . we are the circumcision ] See the previous note. For the thought, cp. especially Galatians 3:7 , Galatians 3:29 , Galatians 3:6 :16; Ephesians 2:19 ; Colossians 2:11 .

which worship God in the spirit ] R.V., who worship by the Spirit of God . This is based on the better-supported reading of the Greek, and should be adopted. The word “worship” is thus used without an expressed object, as Luke 2:37 ; Acts 26:7 ; (in both which places, in A.V., the word “God” is in italics). The verb here ( latreuein ) originally imports any sort of service, domestic or otherwise; but usage gives it in the N.T. a fixed connexion with the service of worship , and occasionally (Hebrews 8:5 , Hebrews 9:9 , Hebrews 10:2 , Hebrews 13:10 ) a special reference to the worship of priestly ritual . Very probably this last usage is in view here. The Judaist claimed to be the champion of the true ritual of worship, as well as of the true initiation into covenant. The Apostle replies that the spiritual Christian is as such the ideal worshipper, the priest of the true rite.

“By the Spirit of God”: cp. for the phrase in St Paul, Romans 8:9 , Romans 8:14 ; 1 Corinthians 2:10 , 1 Corinthians 2:11 , 1 Corinthians 2:12 , 1 Corinthians 2:14 , 1 Corinthians 2:3 :16, 1 Corinthians 2:6 :11, 1 Corinthians 2:7 :40, 1 Corinthians 2:12 :3; 2 Corinthians 3:3 . The effect of the whole work of the Blessed Spirit in the regenerate Christian was to bring him into right relations of worship with God who “is Spirit” (John 4:24 ); to make him a “worshipper in (the) Spirit and in truth.”

and rejoice in Christ Jesus ] R.V., and glory &c. Better so, for the Greek is not identical with that in 1:18, 2:17, 18, 28, 3:1, 4:4, 10. It means a joy emphatically triumphant; such as would find its parody in a proud and eager boastfulness (as e.g. Romans 2:23 , Romans 2:3 :27; 1 Corinthians 4:7 ; 2 Corinthians 5:12 &c.; Galatians 6:13 ; James 4:16 ).

What national and ritual privilege was, in his own distorted estimate, to the Judaist, that the true Messiah, the Incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus, was to the spiritual Christian at once pedestal and crown, righteousness and life and glory.

For the thought cp. Romans 5:11 ; 1 Corinthians 1:31 (observe previous context); Galatians 6:14 .

have no confidence in the flesh ] Quite lit., “ not in the flesh are confident ”; with the implication that we are confident, on another and a truer ground.

“The flesh”: a most important word in the distinctive teaching of St Paul. A fair popular equivalent for it would be “self,” as far as that word expresses that attitude or condition of our moral being which is not subject to God’s law or reliant on His grace. The “flesh” is sometimes that state, or element, of man in which sin predominates; whatever in man is not ruled and possessed by the Holy Spirit; the unsanctified intellect, the unsanctified affections. The “flesh” is sometimes, again, as here, anything other than God taken by man as his trust and strength, e.g. religious observances regarded as occasion for self-confidence. In this latter case the word “flesh” is, as here, shifted, so to speak, by a natural transition of language, from the chooser to the thing chosen.

See further on this word Romans 8:4 ; Ephesians 2:3 ; and notes in this Series. See also Dickson, On St Paul’s Use of the Terms Flesh and Spirit (the Bain Lecture, 1883).

This short verse gives us one of the deepest and most inclusive descriptions of the true Christian to be found in Scripture.

4 11 . His own experience as a converted Pharisee: Justification by Faith: its spiritual and eternal issues

4 . Though I might also &c.] The Greek seems to assert that he not only might have, but has, such confidence. But the whole context, and St Paul’s whole presentation of the Gospel, alike assure us that this is but a “way of speaking.” What he means is to assert, in the most concrete form, his claim, if any one could have such a claim , to rely on privilege and observance for his acceptance. Render accordingly with R.V., Though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh . So the Latin versions; Quanquam ego habeam &c.

thinketh ] R.V. margin, “ seemeth .” But A.V., and text R.V., are certainly right. The “seeming” or “appearing” is to the man’s self; he thinks it to be so. Cp. for this (frequent) use of the Greek verb ( dokeîn ) e.g. Luke 24:37 ; Acts 12:9 . And see esp. Matthew 3:9 , “ Do not think (seem) to say in yourselves &c.”; where common sense gives the paraphrase, “ Do not think that you may say.” So here, “ thinketh that he may have confidence &c.”

I more ] “I, from his point of view , think that I may have it more.” Cp. 2 Corinthians 11:21 , 2 Corinthians 11:22 , a passage closely akin to this.

5 . Circumcised &c.] Quite lit., “ as to circumcision, eight days old .” See Genesis 17:12 ; Luke 2:21 . He was neither a proselyte, circumcised as an adult, nor an Ishmaelite, circumcised (as Josephus tells us, Antiquities , xii. i. § 2; see Genesis 17:25 ) at thirteen, but a member of the covenant from infancy.

Israel ] The name may refer here either to the original and individual Israel, Jacob (Genesis 32:28 &c.), or to the collective Israel, the chosen nation. The former is more likely, in view of the next clause, and would besides be the more vivid and emphatic reference; “one of the race descended from God’s Prince.”

The words Israel, Israelite, indicate specially the sacred privileges and dignity of the Covenant People as such; see Trench, N.T. Synonyms , § xxxix., and Lightfoot, on Galatians 6:16 . Cp. Romans 9:4 , Romans 9:11 :1; 2 Corinthians 11:22 ; Ephesians 2:12 ; and see John 1:47 , John 1:49 .

Benjamin ] So he had previously said, Romans 11:1 . See Acts 13:21 for another mention by St Paul of his tribe, though in another connexion. He names his tribe, not only to emphasize his nationality, but no doubt because the Benjamites, descendants of the last and much loved son of Jacob, had given the nation its first lawful king (whose name the Apostle bore), and had with Judah remained “faithful among the faithless” at the great Disruption (1 Kings 12:21 ). Ehud early in O.T. history (Judges 3:0 ), and Mordecai late (Esther 2:5 ), were Benjamites. It is interesting to trace in St Paul’s character some of the characteristics of this small but remarkable tribe; stern courage and persistent fidelity. But certainly it was something better than Benjamite “obstinacy and persistency” (Smith’s Bible Dict. , s.v. Benjamin ) which made him resist the entreaties of the disciples and avow himself ready to die for the Lord (Acts 21:12 , Acts 21:13 ). See further, Conybeare and Howson, Life &c. of St Paul , ch. 2.

a Hebrew of the Hebrews ] With R.V., omit “ the .” Cp. again 2 Corinthians 11:22 . The words mean that he was a Hebrew and of Hebrew lineage. What is a “Hebrew” in N.T. phraseology? In O.T. the word is the distinctive national term, as against other national terms, as Egyptian, Philistine &c.; and is thus the term by which a heathen would designate an Israelite. By the N.T. era its bearing had changed, and in the N.T. (not in later Christian writers, or in Jewish and pagan writers,) it designates the Jew who retained, more or less fully, his national language and manners, as against the “Hellenist” who habitually spoke Greek and largely conformed to Gentile customs. See Acts 6:1 . The “Hebrew” would thus naturally regard himself as one of the élite of his race, from the historical and traditional point of view. See further, Trench, as quoted just above on “ Israel ,” and Conybeare and Howson, ch. 2.

the law ] Lit., “ law ”; but here, as often, the article is omitted because not needed before a word defined by use or context. Obviously the Mosaic ordinances are mainly intended.

a Pharisee ] So he declares himself Acts 23:6 , Acts 26:5 . And see Acts 22:3 ; Galatians 1:14 . “The Pharisees … were the enthusiasts of the later Judaism” (Conybeare and Howson, as above); the zealous and rigid votaries of religious legal precision, elaborate devotion, vigorous proselytism, and exclusive privilege. St Paul was “the son of Pharisees” (Acts 23:6 ; though Lightfoot suggests that this means “disciple of Pharisees”; improbably, as it seems to us), and the student-follower of the Pharisee (Acts 5:34 ) Gamaliel, probably “Rabban” Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel. Cp. Acts 22:3 .

6. zeal ] “of God, but not according to true spiritual knowledge ( epignôsis ),” Romans 10:2 . Cp. Acts 26:9-11 . He implies here that this “zeal” was perfectly sincere, though sinfully conditioned by a moral blindness. See in this connexion Acts 23:1 ; 2 Timothy 1:3 .

persecuting the church ] Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:9 ; Galatians 1:13 , Galatians 1:23 ; 1 Timothy 1:13 .

the righteousness which is in the law ] Lit., again, “ in law ”; see fifth note on ver. 5. The reference is to completeness of observance and privilege, from the point of view of the Pharisaic legalist. The most rigid inquisitor in this direction could not have found fault with Paul’s title. See further on ver. 3. “In (the) law”: included within its terms.

blameless ] Better, with R.V., found blameless , a good paraphrase of the Greek, which is literally, “ having become blameless .”

His title, or temptation, to “confidence in the flesh” was thus compounded of a natal right to the seal of the covenant; hereditary and educated loyalty to the purest Jewish life and practice; personal devotion to the strictest Jewish religionism; the utmost practical energy in its defence; the most minute attention to its rules. Of its kind, the position was perfect.

7 . what things ] The Greek might almost be paraphrased, “the kind or class of things which”; including anything and everything, as ground of reliance, other than Christ. So more fully, ver. 8.

gain ] Lit. and better, gains . The plural suggests the proud and jealous care with which the religionist would count over the items of his merit and hope. One by one he had found them, or had won them; each with its separate value in the eyes of the old self.

those ] There is emphasis and deliberation in the pronoun.

I counted ] Lit. and better, I have counted . The perfect tense indicates not only the decisive conviction, but its lifelong permanence.

loss ] A singular noun. The separate and carefully counted gains are heaped now into one ruthless estimate of loss. From the new point of view, they all sink together .

He does not mean that he discovered his circumcision, ancestry, energy, diligence, exactness, to be in themselves evil things. But he found them evil in respect of his having used them to shut out the true Messiah from his obedience, faith, and love. As substitutes for Him they were not only worthless, but positive loss . Every day of reliance on them had been a day of delay and deprivation in regard of the supreme blessing.

Wyclif’s word here is “apeiryngis,” and just below “peirement”; i.e. impairings , losses.

for Christ ] Lit. and better, on account of the Christ ; because of the discovery of Jesus as the true Messiah, and of the true Messiah as no mere supreme supernatural Jewish Deliverer, but as Son of God, Lamb of God, Lord of Life. He cast away entirely all the old reliance, but, observe, for something infinitely more than equivalent.

8 . Yea doubtless, and &c.] Better, perhaps, Yea rather I even &c. He adds a twofold new weight to the assertion; “ I count ” (not only “ I have counted ”), emphasizing the presentness of the estimate; and “ all things ,” not only specified grounds of reliance. Whatever, from any point of view, could seem to compete with Christ as his peace and life, he renounces as such; be it doings, sufferings, virtues, inspiration, revelations.

for ] Better, again, on account of .

the excellency ] More lit., the surpassingness . For St Paul’s love of superlative words see on 2:9 above.

the knowledge &c.] He found, in the light of grace, that “this is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3 ). On the conditions and blessedness of such “knowledge” cp. e.g. Matthew 11:27 (where the word is kindred though not identical); John 1:10-12 ; John 10:14 , John 10:14 :7, John 10:17 :25; 2 Corinthians 5:16 , 2 Corinthians 5:10 :5; Galatians 4:9 ; Ephesians 3:19 ; 2 Peter 3:18 ; 1 John 2:3-5 , 1 John 2:3 :6, 1 John 2:4 :7, 1 John 2:8 . The Apostle sometimes speaks with a certain depreciation of “knowledge” (e.g. 1 Corinthians 8:1 , 1 Corinthians 8:13 :2, 1 Corinthians 8:8 ). But he means there plainly a knowledge which is concerned not with Christ and God, but with spiritual curiosities, which may be known, or at least sought, without Divine life and love. The knowledge here in view is the recognition, from the first insight eternally onward, of the “knowledge-surpassing” (Ephesians 3:19 ) reality and glory of the Person and Work of the Son of the Father, as Saviour, Lord, and Life; a knowledge inseparable from love. See further on ver. 10.

Observe the implicit witness of such language as that before us to the Godhead of Christ. Cp. Ephesians 3:19 , and notes in this Series.

of Christ Jesus my Lord ] Note the solemnity and fulness of the designation. The glorious Object shines anew before him as he thinks out the words. Observe too the characteristic “ my Lord” (see note on 1:3 above). There is a Divine individualism in the Gospel, in deep harmony with its truths of community and communion, but not to be merged in them. “One by one” is the law of the great ingathering and incorporation (John 6:35 , John 6:37 , John 6:40 , John 6:44 , John 6:47 , John 6:51 &c.); the believing individual, as well as the believing Church, has Christ for “Head” (1 Corinthians 11:3 ), and lives by faith in Him who has loved the individual and given Himself for him (Galatians 2:20 ; cp. Ephesians 5:25 ).

for whom ] Lit. and better, on account of whom ; in view of the discovery of whom.

I have suffered &c.] Better, I suffered &c.; a reference to the crisis of his renunciation of the old reliance, and also of the stern rejection with which the Synagogue would treat him as a renegade. This one passing allusion to the tremendous cost at which he became a Christian is, by its very passingness, deeply impressive and pathetic; and it has of course a powerful bearing on the nature and solidity of the reasons for his change, and so on the evidences of the Faith. See on this last subject, Observations on the Character &c. of St Paul , by George, first Lord Lyttelton (1747).

The verb rendered “ I suffered loss ,” “I was fined, mulcted ,” is akin to the noun “ loss ” used just above, and takes it up. There is a certain verbal “play” in this; he reckoned his old privileges and position loss , from a spiritual point of view, and he was made by others to feel the loss of them , in a temporal respect.

all things] The Gr. suggests the paraphrase, my all .

dung ] Better, refuse , as R.V. margin. The Greek word is used in secular writers in both senses. Its probably true derivation favours the former, but the derivation popularly accepted by the Greeks (“a thing cast to the dogs ”) the latter. And this fact leans to the inference that in common parlance it meant the leavings of a meal, or the like. See Lightfoot here.

that I may win ] Better, with R.V., that I may gain ; the verb echoes the noun of ver. 7. There was no merit in his coming to a true conviction about “confidence in the flesh”; but that conviction was so vital an antecedent to his possession and fruition of Christ that it was as it were the price paid in order to “gain” Him. Cp. the imagery of Revelation 3:17 , Revelation 3:18 .

That I may ”: practically, we may paraphrase, “that I might ”; with a reference to the past . The main bearing of the passage is obviously on the crisis of his conversion; on what he then lost and then gained, but he speaks as if he were in the crisis now. Not unfrequently in N.T. Greek the past is thus projected into the present and future, where certainly in English we should say “ might ,” not “ may .” Cp. e.g. (in the Greek) Matthew 19:13 ; Acts 5:26 ; 1 Timothy 1:16 ; 1 John 3:5 . It is true that the Apostle here uses the present, not the past, in the adjoining main verb (“ I count ”). But this may well be an exceptional case of projection of the whole statement about the past, instead of part of it, into the present. Or may not the words “ and do count them refuse ” be parenthetic? In that case he would in effect say, what would be a most vivid antithesis, “I suffered the loss of my all, (and a worthless ‘all’ I now see it to be ,) that I might gain Christ.”

He thus “gained” nothing less than Christ; not merely subsidiary and derived benefits, but the Source and Secret of all benefits. The glorious Person, “who is made unto us of God wisdom, even righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 ), was now his own, in a mysterious but real possession.

9 . be found in him ] at any moment of scrutiny or test; alike in life, in death, and before the judgment-seat. The truth of the believer’s deep incorporation in his Lord and Head, and identification with Him for acceptance and life, is here full in view. In the surrender of faith (Ephesians 2:8-10 ; cp. John 3:36 ) he becomes, in the deep laws of spiritual life, a true “limb” of the sacred Head; interested in His merits, penetrated with His exalted Life. In the Epistles to Colossæ and Ephesus, written from the same chamber as this, we have the large development of this truth; and cp. John 15:1-8 ; 1 Corinthians 12:12 .

Lightfoot remarks (on Galatians 2:17 , and here) that the verb “ to find ” is very frequent in Aramaized Greek, and has somewhat lost its distinctive meaning. Still, it is seldom if ever used in the N.T. where that meaning has not some place.

mine own righteousness ] Rather more precisely, with R.V., a righteousness of mine own . The word “ righteousness ” is highly characteristic, and of special meaning, in St Paul. In very numerous passages (examine Romans 3:5-26 , Romans 3:4 :3, Romans 3:5 , Romans 3:6 , Romans 3:9 , Romans 3:11 , Romans 3:13 , Romans 3:6 :16, Romans 3:10 :3; 1 Corinthians 1:30 ; 2 Corinthians 3:9 ; and cp. Titus 3:5 ) its leading idea evidently is that of acceptance, satisfactoriness, however secured, to law; whether to special or to general law as the case may be. (See Grimm’s Greek-Eng. Lexicon of the N.T., Thayer’s edition, on the word δικαιοσύνη , for a good statement of the matter from the purely critical point of view.) “A righteousness of mine own” is thus a title to acceptance, a claim on Divine justice, due to my own doings and merits, supposed to satisfy a legal standard.

which is of the law ] Literally, again “ of law .” But R.V. retains the definite article, as practically right in translation, as it was in ver. 6. How shall we define the word “ Law ” here? Is it the Mosaic law from the Pharisee’s point of view, as in ver. 6? Or is it the far larger fact of the Divine preceptive moral code, taken as a covenant of life, in which the terms are, “Do this, truly and perfectly, and live; do this, and claim acceptance as of right”? We take the answer to be that it means here this latter as an extension of the former; that the thought rises, or developes itself, in this passage, from the idea of special ordinance to the idea of universal covenanting precept. And our reasons lie, partly in this context, partly in the great parallel passages in the Epistles to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians. In the present context the ideas immediately contrasted or opposed to that of “the law” are ideas not of “work,” in any meaning of that word, but of “faith.” And for exposition of this we turn to the argument of Rom. 1 5, and of Galatians 2:3 , and of Ephesians 2:1-10 , and (a passage closely parallel to this; see notes in this Series) 13 17; and of Colossians 2:8-14 . In this whole range of teaching it is apparent that the idea of Law, as a whole, cannot possibly be satisfied by explaining it to mean merely a Divine code of observances, though that is one of its lower and subsidiary meanings. It means the whole system of Divine precept, moral as well as ceremonial, eternal as well as temporal, taken as a covenant to be fulfilled in order to acceptance of the person before God. The implicit or explicit contrary is that such acceptance is procured for us by the merits of the Redeeming Lord, appropriated to the sinner by the single profound means of faith, that is to say, acceptance of Him as Sacrifice, Saviour, Lord, on the warrant of God’s word. Such faith, in the spiritual order of things, unites to Christ, and in that union the “member” receives the merit of the “Head” for his acceptance, and the life and power of the Head for obedience. That obedience (see esp. Ephesians 2:8-10 ) is now rendered not in fulfilment of a covenant for acceptance, but in the life, and for the love, given to the believer under the covenant in which he is accepted, from first to last, for the sake of his meritorious Lord and Head. Cp. further, Hebrews 10:0 , esp. 15 18; with Jeremiah 31:33 , Jeremiah 31:34 .

Such is the general Pauline doctrine of acceptance, a doctrine such as to give its opponents or perverters, from the very first, a superficial excuse to make it out to be antinomian (Romans 3:8 , Romans 6:1 ); a fact of the utmost weight in the estimate of its true bearing.

Such a general doctrine assists us in interpreting this great incidental passage. And we infer here accordingly that the primary idea is that of acceptance for Christ’s sake , as against acceptance on the score of any sort of personal merit. The spiritual development of the regenerate being comes in nobly here, as in the other and larger passages referred to; but it comes in upon the basis, and as the sequel, of a gratuitous acceptance for Christ’s sake alone. See notes on ver. 10.

that which is through the faith of Christ ] So lit., but better, in regard of English idiom, that which is through faith in Christ . For the Greek construction (“ faith of ,” meaning “ faith in ”) cp. e.g. Mark 11:22 ; Acts 3:16 ; Galatians 2:16 , Galatians 2:20 ; Ephesians 3:12 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 . Here again, as with the words “law” and “righteousness,” St Paul’s writings are a full commentary. See especially Romans 3:22-28 , a passage most important as a parallel here. It brings out the fact that “faith,” in the case in question, has special regard to Christ as the shedder of His sacred blood in propitiation, and that the blessing immediately received by faith thus acting is the acceptance, the justification, of the sinner before the holy Lawgiver and Judge, solely for the Propitiator’s sake. See further Romans 4:5 , Romans 4:8 :33, 34, Romans 4:9 :33, Romans 4:10 :4, Romans 4:9 , Romans 4:10 ; Galatians 2:16 , 3:Galatians 2:1-14 , 21 24; Ephesians 2:8 , Ephesians 2:9 .

Much discussion has been raised over the true meaning of “faith” in Scripture doctrine. It may suffice to point out that at least the leading and characteristic idea of the word is personal trust , not of course without grounds, but on grounds other than “sight.” It is certainly not mere assent to testimony, a mental act perfectly separable from the act of personal reliance. Setting aside James 2:14-26 , where the argument takes up and uses designedly an inadequate idea of faith (see Commentary on the Romans in this Series, p. 261), the word “faith” consistently conveys in Scripture the thought of personal reliance, trustful acceptance of Divine truth, of Divine work, of the Divine Worker and Lord 1 1 Fides est fiducia (Luther). See this admirably developed and illustrated by J. C. Hare, Victory of Faith , pp. 15 22 (ed. 1847). . And if we venture to ask why such reliance takes this unique place in the process of salvation, we may reply with reverence that, so far as we can see into the mysterious fact, it is because the essence of such reliance is a going forth from self to God, a bringing of nothing in order to receive everything. There is thus a moral fitness in faith to be the saving contact and recipient, while yet all ideas of moral worthiness and deservingness are decisively banished from it. It is fit to receive the Divine gift, just as a hand, not clean perhaps but empty, is fit to receive a material gift. Certainly in the reasonings of St Paul every effort is made to bring out the thought that salvation by faith means in effect salvation by Christ only and wholly, received by sinful man, as sinful man, simply and directly in and by personal reliance on God’s word. The sinner is led off, in a happy oblivion of himself, to simple and entire rest in his Saviour.

the righteousness which is of God ] On the word “righteousness” see above, note 2 on this verse. Here, practically, it means acceptance, welcome, as a child and saint, in Christ and for Christ’s sake.

“Of God”: lit., “ out of God ,” originating wholly in Him, uncaused by anything in man. Its origin is the Father’s love, its reason and security, the Son’s merits, its conveyance, the Holy Spirit uniting the sinner in faith to the Son.

For some good remarks, of caution as well as assertion, on justifying righteousness, see G. S. Faber’s Primitive Doctrine of Justification , ch. i, pp. 25 32, with footnotes (ed. 1839).

by faith ] Lit., upon faith ; in view of, under circumstances of, faith. We may render, “ on condition of faith .” But faith, in the Pauline view, is not a mere condition; it is the recipient act and state. It is a condition, not as paying for a meal is a condition to getting good from it, but as eating it is a condition.

On the doctrine of this verse cp. the Sermon of Salvation (being the third in the First Book of Homilies), referred to in Art. xi. as “the Homily of Justification”; and the short treatise of Bp Hopkins, of Londonderry (cent. 17), The Doctrine of the Two Covenants . See further Appendix F; and cp. at large O’Brien, Nature and Effects of Faith , and Hooker’s Discourse of Justification , esp. §§ 3 6, 31 34.

10 . That I may know him ] In order to know Him . For the construction, cp. e.g. 1 Corinthians 10:13 . Observe the sequence of thought. He embraces “the righteousness which is of God on terms of faith,” and renounces “a righteousness of his own” as a means to the end here stated the spiritual knowledge of Christ and of His power to sanctify and glorify by assimilation to Himself. In order to that end, he thankfully “submits Himself to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3 ; cp. 1 Peter 1:2 ); accepts the Divine justification for the merit’s sake of Jesus Christ alone; knowing, with the intuition of a soul enlightened by grace, that in such submission lies the secret of such assimilation. Welcoming Christ as his one ground of peace with God, he not only enters at the same time on spiritual contact with Christ as Life from God, but also gets such a view of himself and his Redeemer as to affect profoundly his whole intercourse with Christ, and the effects of that intercourse on his being.

Ver. 10 is thus by no means a restatement of ver. 9. It gives another range of thought and truth, in deep and strong connexion. To use a convenient classification, ver. 9 deals with Justification, ver. 10 with Sanctification in relation to it.

“That I may know Him”: the Greek seems to imply a decisive act of knowledge rather than a process. A lifelong process is sure to result from the act; for the Object of the act “passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19 ). But the act, the decisive getting acquainted with what Christ is, is in immediate view. A far-reaching insight into Him in His glory of grace has a natural connexion with the spiritual act of submissive faith in Him as our Sacrifice and Righteousness. Cp. John 6:56 .

On this “knowledge” of recognition and intuition, cp. ver. 8, and notes.

the power of his resurrection ] A phrase difficult to exhaust in exposition. The Lord’s Resurrection is spiritually powerful as ( a ) evidencing the justification of believers (Romans 4:24 , Romans 4:25 , and by all means cp. 1 Corinthians 15:14 , 1 Corinthians 15:17 , 1 Corinthians 15:18 ); as ( b ) assuring them of their own bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20 , &c.; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ); and yet more as ( c ) being that which constituted Him actually the life-giving Second Adam, the Giver of the Spirit who unites the members to Him the Vital Head (John 7:39 , John 7:20 :22; Acts 2:33 ; cp. Ephesians 4:4-16 ). This latter aspect of truth is prominent in the Epistles to Ephesus and Colossæ, written at nearly the same period of St Paul’s apostolic work; and we have here, very probably, a passing hint of what is unfolded there. The thought of the Lord’s Resurrection is suggested here to his mind by the thought, not expressed but implied in the previous context, of the Atoning Death on which it followed as the Divine result.

This passage indicates the great truth that while our acceptance in Christ is always based upon His propitiatory work for us, our power for service and endurance in His name is vitally connected with His life as the Risen One, made ours by the Holy Spirit.

Cp. further Romans 5:10 , 6:Romans 5:4-11 , Romans 5:7 :4, Romans 5:8 :11; 2 Corinthians 4:10 ; Ephesians 2:6 ; Colossians 3:1-4 ; Hebrews 13:20 , Hebrews 13:21 .

the fellowship of his sufferings ] Entrance, in measure, into His experience as the Sufferer. The thought recurs to the Cross, but in connexion now with Example, not with Atonement. St Paul deals with the fact that the Lord who has redeemed him has done it at the severest cost of pain; and that a moral and spiritual necessity calls His redeemed ones, who are united vitally to Him, to “carry the cross,” in their measure, for His sake, in His track, and by His Spirit’s power. And he implies that this cross bearing, whatever is its special form, this acceptance of affliction of any sort as for and from Him, is a deep secret of entrance into spiritual intimacy with Christ; into “knowledge of Him.” Cp. further Romans 8:17 , Romans 8:37 ; 2 Corinthians 1:5 , 2 Corinthians 1:4 :11, 2 Corinthians 1:12 :9, 2 Corinthians 1:10 ; Colossians 1:24 ; 2 Timothy 2:12 ; 1 Peter 4:13 ; Revelation 3:10 .

being made conformable ] Better, with R.V., becoming conformed . The Greek construction is free, but clear. The Lord’s Death as the supreme expression of His love and of His holiness, and the supreme act of His surrender to the Father’s will, draws the soul of the Apostle with spiritual magnetic force to desire, and to experience, assimilation of character to Him who endured it. The holy Atonement wrought by it is not here in direct view; he is full of the thought of the revelation of the Saviour through His Passion, and of the bliss of harmony in will with Him so revealed. No doubt the Atonement is not forgotten; for the inner glory of the Lord’s Death as Example is never fully seen apart from a sight of its propitiatory purpose. But the immediate thought is that of spiritual harmony with the dying Lord’s state of will. Cp. 2 Corinthians 4:10 .

11 . if by any means ] For the strong language of contingency here cp. 1 Corinthians 9:27 . Taken along with such expressions of exulting assurance as Romans 8:31-39 ; 2 Timothy 1:12 ; and indeed with the whole tone of “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13 ) which pervades the Scriptures, we may fairly say that it does not imply the uncertainty of the final glory of the true saint. It is language which views vividly, in isolation , one aspect of the “Pilgrim’s Progress” towards heaven; the aspect of our need of continual watching, self-surrender, and prayer, in order to the development of that likeness without which heaven would not be heaven. The other side of the matter is the efficacy and perseverance of the grace which comes out in our watching; without which we should not watch; which “predestinates” us “to be conformed to the image of the Son of God” (Romans 8:29 ). The mystery lies, as it were, between two apparently parallel lines; the reality of an omnipotent grace, and the reality of the believer’s duty. As this line or that is regarded, in its entire reality, the language of assurance or of contingency is appropriate. But the parallel lines, as they seem now, prove at last to converge in glory (John 6:39 , John 6:40 , John 6:44 , John 6:54 , 10:John 6:27-29 ; Romans 8:30 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 , 1 Thessalonians 5:24 ).

See Hooker’s Sermon Of the Certainty and Perpetuity of Faith in the Elect , especially the closing paragraphs.

I might ] Lit., and here better, with R.V., I may .

the resurrection of the dead ] The better supported reading gives, as R.V., the resurrection from the dead . The phrase implies a certain leaving behind of “the dead”; and this is further emphasized in the Greek, where the noun rendered “resurrection” is the rare word exanastǎsis , i.e. the common word ( anastǎsis ) for resurrection, strengthened by the preposition meaning “from.” This must not, however, be pressed far; later Greek has a tendency towards compounding words without necessarily strengthening the meaning. It is the setting of the word here which makes an emphasis in it likely. It has been inferred that St Paul here refers to a special and select resurrection, so to speak, and that this is “the first resurrection” of Revelation 20:5 , Revelation 20:6 , interpreted as a literal resurrection of either all saints or specially privileged saints, before that of the mass of mankind. (Such an interpretation of Revelation 20:0 appears as early as Tertullian, cent. 2, de Monogamiâ , c. x.). But against this explanation here lies the fact that St Paul nowhere else makes any unmistakable reference to such a prospect (1 Corinthians 15:23 , 1 Corinthians 15:24 is not decisive, and certainly not 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ); and that this makes it unlikely that he should refer to it here, where he manifestly is dealing with a grand and ruling article of his hope. We explain it accordingly of the glorious prospect of the Resurrection of the saints in general. And we account for the special phrase by taking him to be filled with the thought of the Lord’s Resurrection as the pledge and, so to speak, the summary of that of His people; and His Resurrection was emphatically “ from the dead.” Or it may be that we have here to explain “the dead” as a term of abstract reference, meaning practically “the state of the dead,” the world of death. In any case, the phrase refers to “the resurrection of life” (Daniel 12:2 ; John 5:29 ); “the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14 ); differenced from that of “the unjust” (Acts 24:15 ), whether or no in time, certainly in an awful distinction of conditions and results. The blessed resurrection is here called “ the resurrection” as the blessed life is called “ the life” (e.g. 1 John 5:12 ). The antithesis is not non-resurrection, and non-existence, but such resurrection, and such existence, as are ruin and woe. It is observable that the Apostle here implies his expectation of death, to be followed by resurrection; not of survival till the Lord’s Return. Cp. 2 Corinthians 4:14 .

12 16 . On the other hand, his spiritual condition is one of progress, not perfection

12 . Not as though &c.] This reserve, so emphatic and solemn, appears to be suggested by the fact, brought out more fully below (vv. 18, 19), of the presence of a false teaching which represented the Christian as already in such a sense arrived at his goal as to be lifted beyond responsibility, duty, and progress. No, says St Paul; he has indeed “gained Christ,” and is “found in Him, having the righteousness of God”; he “knows” his Lord, and His power; but none the less he is still called to humble himself, to recollect that the process of grace is never complete below, and that from one point of view its coming completion is always linked with the saint’s faithful watching and prayer, the keeping open of the “eyes ever toward the Lord” (Psalms 25:15 ).

attained ] Better, received , or, with R.V., obtained ; for the verb is not the same as that in ver. 11. (It is the same as that in Revelation 3:11 .) The thought of “ the crown ” is probably to be supplied. See below, on ver. 14. R.V. renders, rather more lit., “ Not that I have already attained .” But the construction of A.V. well represents the Greek. Some documents here add “ or have been already justified ”; but the evidence is decisive against this insertion.

were already perfect ] Better, have been already perfected . The process was incomplete which was to develope his being for the life of glory, in which “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:3 ; cp. Romans 8:29 ); a promise implying that we are never so here, completely. Cp. the Greek of Romans 12:2 ; 2 Corinthians 3:18 ; in which the holy “transformation” is presented as a process, advancing to its ideal, not yet arrived there. And see further below, on ver. 15.

The Greek verb, and its kindred noun, were used technically in later ecclesiastical Greek of the death of martyrs (and of monks, in a remarkable passage of Chrysostom, Hom. xiv. on 1 Tim ), viewed as specially glorious and glorified saints. But no such limitation appears in Scripture. In Hebrews 12:23 the reference plainly is to the whole company of the holy departed: who have entered, as they left the body, on the heavenly rest, the eternal close of the state of discipline. Cp. Wisdom 4:13; “he [the just man], in short (season) perfected , fulfilled long times.”

I follow after] R.V., I press on . The thought of the race, with its goal and crown, is before him. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ; Galatians 2:2 , Galatians 2:5 :7; 2 Timothy 2:5 , 2 Timothy 2:4 :7; Hebrews 12:1 .

if that I may ] Better, if indeed I may . On this language of contingency, see note above on ver. 11.

apprehend ] i.e., grasp . Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:24 . All the English versions before 1611 have “ comprehend ” here. Both verbs now bear meanings which tend to mislead the reader here. The Greek verb is that rendered “ receive ,” or “ obtain ,” just above, only in a stronger (compound) form. He thinks of the promised crown, till in thought he not merely “receives” but “grasps” it, with astonished joy.

that for which also &c.] The Greek may be rendered grammatically either ( a ) thus, or ( b ) “ inasmuch as I was even &c.” Usage in St Paul (Romans 5:12 ; 2 Corinthians 5:4 ) is in favour of ( b ); context is rather for ( a ), which is adopted by Ellicott, and Alford, and in R.V. (text; margin gives ( b )). Lightfoot does not speak decidedly. We recommend ( a ) for reasons difficult to explain without fuller discussion of the Greek than can be offered here. The meaning will thus be that he presses on to grasp the crown, with the animating thought that Christ, in the hour of conversion, grasped him with the express purpose in view that he, through the path of faith and obedience, might be glorified at last. Cp. Romans 8:30 ; where we see the “call” as the sure antecedent not to justification only but to glory; but antecedent in such a way as powerfully to cheer and strengthen the suffering saint in the path of the cross, not to leave him for a moment to fatalistic inaction. The rendering ( b ) gives a meaning not far distant from this, though less distinctly.

Christ Jesus ] Read, with the documentary evidence, Christ .

13 . Brethren ] A direct loving appeal, to restate and enforce what he has just said.

I count not myself ] “I” and “myself” are both emphatic in the Greek. Whatever others may think of themselves , this is his deliberate estimate of himself . He has in view the false teachers more clearly indicated below, vv. 18, 19.

but this one thing I do] “ One thing” is perhaps in antithesis to the implied opposite idea of the “ many things,” of experience or attainment, contemplated by the teacher of antinomian perfection.

forgetting ] Avoiding all complacent, as against grateful, reflection.

behind ] He does not say “around” or “present.” The unwearied runner is already beyond any given point just reached.

reaching forth ] The Greek (one compound verb) gives the double thought of the runner stretching out his head and body towards his goal. Lightfoot remarks that the imagery might apply to the racing charioteer, bending, lash in hand, over his horses (Virgil, Georg . iii. 106); but that the charioteer, unlike the runner, would need often to look back , and that this, with the habitual use by St Paul of the simile of the foot-race, assures us that the runner is meant here.

those … before ] “more and more, unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18 ). Each new occasion, small or great, for duty or suffering, would be a new “lap” (to translate technically St Chrysostom’s word here) of the course; would give opportunity for “growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 ). “To increase more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:10 ) was his idea of the life of grace for others; but above all, for himself.

14 . the mark ] R.V., “ the goal .” But the Greek word is, like “mark,” a general rather than a special one, and used in the classics rather of archery than of racing. The verse might be roughly but closely rendered, “mark-wards I haste, towards the prize &c.”; I run with a definite aim, and that aim is to win the prize. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:26 ; “I so run, not as uncertainly .”

the prize ] The same word occurs 1 Corinthians 9:24 , and not elsewhere in N.T. It is very rare in secular Greek, but is connected with the common word for the arbiter or umpire who awarded the athletic prize. In Christian Latin (e.g. in the Latin versions here) it appears transliterated, as bravium (or brabium ). The “prize” is “the crown,” glory everlasting as the blessed result and triumph of the work of grace, of the life of faith. Cp. Revelation 2:10 ; and esp. 2 Timothy 4:7 , 2 Timothy 4:8 .

the high calling ] Lit., “ the upward , or upper calling .” The Latin versions have superior vocatio, superna vocatio . The word rendered “ high ” is the same as that rendered Galatians 4:26 as “Jerusalem which is above ”: and cp. John 8:23 , “I am from ( the things ) above .” The “calling” in St Paul’s case was doubtless to be an Apostle (Alford), but it was first and most to be a Christian, and the whole tone of this great passage is in favour of this latter thought. He is dealing with his own spiritual experience as a general model. This “calling” is “celestial,” at once in origin, operation, and final issue. Cp. Colossians 3:1 , Colossians 3:2 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:14 . In the Epistles the words “call,” “calling,” denote not merely the external invitation but the internal and effectual drawing of the soul by grace. See in illustration 1 Corinthians 1:23 , 1 Corinthians 1:24 . It corresponds nearly to the common use of the word “conversion.” Contrast the use of “call” in the Gospels; Matthew 20:16 , Matthew 22:14 .

of God in Christ Jesus ] The Father is the Caller (as Romans 8:29 , Romans 8:30 ; Galatians 1:15 ; 2 Timothy 1:9 ; 1 Peter 5:10 &c.), and the call is “in” the Son; it is conveyed through the Son, and takes effect in union with Him, in embodiment in Him. For the pregnant construction cp. 1 Corinthians 7:22 .

15 . perfect ] An adjective, not a perfect participle, as was the kindred word (“ perfected ”) in ver. 12. Is there a contradiction between this place and that? On the surface, but not really. The Apostle appears to be taking up the favourite word of teachers who upheld some phase of “perfectionism,” and using it, with loving irony, on the side of truth; as if to say, “Are you, are we, ideal Christians, perfect Christians, all that Christians should be? Then among the things that should be in our character is a holy discontent with, and criticism of, our own present attainment. The man in this sense ‘perfect’ will be sure to think himself not perfected .” And it is important to remember that the Greek word rendered “perfect” is an elastic word. It may mean “adult,” “mature,” as against infantine; cp. Hebrews 5:13 , Hebrews 5:14 . A “perfect” Christian in this respect may have spiritual faculty well developed, and yet be very far from “perfected” in spiritual character . Such considerations, in the light of this whole passage, will do anything for such a Christian rather than teach him to tolerate sin in himself; they will at once keep him humble and contrite, and animate him to ever fresh developments in and by Christ.

be … minded ] The same word as that in 1:7, 2:2, 5, where see notes.

God shall reveal ] by the action of His Holy Spirit on heart, mind, and will, amidst the discipline of life. There need not be any new verbal revelation, but there would be a new inward revelation of the correspondence of the inspired Word with the facts of the soul, and so a fresh light on those facts. Such language implies the Apostle’s certainty of his commission as the inspired messenger of Christ; it would otherwise be the language of undue assumption. Cp. Galatians 1:6-12 .

16 . Nevertheless ] Better, with R.V., only ; a word, like the Greek, of less contrast and easier transition.

attained ] Not the same Greek verb as that in ver. 12, though R.V. (with A.V.) gives the same English. The verb here is properly used, in classical Greek, of anticipation (so 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ), arrival beforehand, rapid arrival. Later, and so ordinarily in N.T., it loses much at least of this speciality, and means little besides “to reach,” “to arrive.” Still, a shadow of the first meaning may be traced in most places; a suggestion of an arrival which is either sudden, or achieved in spite of obstacles. The latter idea would be in place here, where the metaphor of the race with its difficulties is still present; as if to say, “whereunto we have succeeded in arriving.” The verb is in the aorist, but the English perfect is obviously right.

let us walk by the same &c.] The Greek verb is in the infinitive, “ to walk ”; a frequent idiomatic substitute for the mood of command or appeal. Apparently this construction is always used in address to others (see Alford here), and thus we should render “ walk ye &c.” The verb here rendered “walk” means not only movement on the feet in general, but orderly and guided walking, stepping along a line. The appeal is to take care of Christian consistency in detail, up to the full present light, on the unchanging principles of the Gospel, which are essentially “the same” for all. And there is a reference, doubtless, in the words “the same,” to the Philippians’ tendency to differences of opinion and feeling.

The words after “ by the same ” are an excellent explanation, but not part of the text. Read, in the same [ path or principle ].

17 21 . Application of the thought of progress: warning against antinomian distortion of the truth of grace: the coming glory of the body, a motive to holy purity

17 . Brethren ] A renewed earnest address, introducing a special message. See above, ver. 13.

be followers together of me ] More lit., become my united imitators . For his appeals to his disciples to copy his example, see 4:9; 1 Corinthians 4:16 (a passage closely kindred in reference to this), 10:33 11:1; and cp. 1 Thessalonians 2:7 , 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 ; and Acts 20:18-21 , Acts 20:30-35 . Such appeals imply not egotism or self-confidence, but absolute confidence in his message and its principles, and the consciousness that his life, by the grace of God, was moulded on those principles. In the present case, he begs them to “join in imitating” him, in his renunciation of self-confidence and spiritual pride, with their terrible risks.

mark ] Watch, for imitation. The verb usually means the watching of caution and avoidance (Romans 16:17 ), but context here decides the other way. The Philippians knew Paul’s principles, but to see them they must look at the faithful disciples of the Pauline Gospel among themselves; such as Epaphroditus, on his return, the “true yokefellow” (4:3), Clement, and others.

walk ] The common verb, not that noticed just above. It is a very favourite word with St Paul for life in its action and intercourse. See e.g. Romans 13:13 , Romans 13:14 :15; 2 Corinthians 4:2 ; Ephesians 2:10 , Ephesians 2:4 :1; Colossians 1:10 , Colossians 1:4 :5; 1 Thessalonians 4:1 , 1 Thessalonians 4:12 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:6 . Cp. 1 John 1:7 , 1 John 1:2 :6; 2 John 1:4 ; Revelation 21:24 .

Walk so as &c.”: more lit., with R.V., so walk even as &c.

us ] “Shrinking from the egotism of dwelling on his own personal experience, St Paul passes at once from the singular to the plural” (Lightfoot). Timothy and his other best known fellow-workers, Silas certainly (Acts 16:0 ), if still alive, would be included.

ensample ] An “Old French” and “Middle English” derivative of the Latin exemplum (Skeat, Etym. Dict .). The word occurs in A.V. elsewhere, 1 Corinthians 10:11 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:7 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:9 ; 1 Peter 5:3 ; 2 Peter 2:6 ; and in the Prayer Book (Collect for 2nd Sunday after Easter).

18 . many ] Evidently holders of an antinomian parody of the Gospel of grace; see on ver. 12. That there were such in the primeval Church appears also from Romans 16:17-18 (a warning to Rome, as this from Rome); 1 Cor 5., 1 Corinthians 5:6 . To them Romans 3:31 , Romans 6:1 , refer, and Ephesians 5:6 .

There may have been varieties under a common moral likeness; some perhaps taking the view afterwards prominent in Gnosticism that matter is essentially evil, and that the body therefore is no better for moral control; some (and in the Roman Epistle these surely are in view), pushing the truth of Justification into an isolation which perverted it into deadly error, and teaching that the believer is so accepted in Christ that his personal actions are indifferent in the sight of God. Such growths of error, at once subtle and outrageous, appear to characterize, as by a mysterious law, every great period of spiritual advance and illumination. Compare the phenomena (cent. 16) of the Libertines at Geneva and the Prophets of Zwickau in Germany. Indeed few periods of Christian history have escaped such trials.

The false teachers in view here were no doubt broadly divided from the Judaists, and in most cases honestly and keenly opposed to them. But it is quite possible that in some cases the “the extremes met” in such a way as to account for the mention here of both in one context, in this chapter. The sternest formal legalism has a fatal tendency to slight “the weightier matters of the law,” and heart-purity among them; and history has shewn cases in which it has tolerated a social libertinism of the worst kind, irrevocably condemned by the true Gospel of free grace. Still, the persons referred to in this section were those who positively “ gloried in their shame”; and this points to an avowed and dogmatic antinomianism.

The “ many ” of this verse is an instructive reminder of the formidable internal difficulties of the apostolic Church.

I have told you ] Lit. and better, I used to tell you , in the old days of personal intercourse. This makes it the more likely that the antinomians were not of the gnostic type of the later Epistles, but of that of the Ep. to the Romans, perverters of the doctrine of free grace.

weeping ] Years had only given him new and bitter experience of the deadly results. For St Paul’s tears , cp. Acts 20:19 , Acts 20:31 ; 2 Corinthians 2:4 . We are reminded of the tears of his Lord, Luke 19:41 ; tears which like these indicate at once the tenderness of the mourner and the awfulness and certainty of the coming ruin. See a noble sermon by A. Monod (in his series on St Paul), Son Christianisme, ou ses Larmes . An extract is given, Appendix G.

the enemies of the cross ] As deluding their followers and themselves into the horrible belief that its purpose was to give the reins to sin, and as thus disgracing it in the eyes of unbelieving observers. “The cross” here, undoubtedly, means the holy propitiation of the Lord’s Death. For the Divine connexion of it as such with holiness of heart and life see the argument of Rom. 3 6; Galatians 5:0 .

19 . end ] A word of awful and hopeless import. Cp. Romans 6:21 ; 2 Corinthians 11:15 ; Hebrews 6:8 ; 1 Peter 4:17 .

destruction ] R.V., perdition . See on 1:28.

their belly ] Lit. and better, the belly . Cp. Romans 16:18 for the same word in the same connexion. See too 1 Corinthians 6:13 . The word obviously indicates here the sensual appetites generally, not only gluttony in food. Venter in Latin has the same reference. See Lightfoot.

The Antinomian boasted, very possibly, of an exalted spiritual liberty and special intimacy with God.

whose glory is in their shame .] It is implied that they claimed a “glory”; probably in such “liberty” as we have just indicated. They set up for the true Christian philosophers, and advanced dogmatists. (Cp. Romans 16:0 quoted above.) But in fact their vaunted system was exactly their deepest disgrace.

who mind earthly things .)] For a closely kindred phrase, in the negative, see Colossians 3:2 ; and observe the context, ver. 5 &c. And for the meaning of “mind” here see notes on 1:7, 2:2, above.

The Antinomian claimed to live in an upper region, to be so conversant with celestial principles as to be rid of terrestrial restraints of letter, and precept, and custom. As a fact, his fine-spun theory was a transparent robe over the corporeal lusts which were his real interests.

The Greek construction of this clause is abrupt, but clear.

20 . For ] The A.V., by marking vv. 18, 19 as a parenthesis, connects this “for” with ver. 17. But there is no need for this. A suppressed link of thought is easily seen and expressed between vv. 19, 20; somewhat thus: “such principles and practices are wholly alien to ours; for &c.” In a grave oral address or dialogue such links have often to be supplied, and the Apostle’s written style is a very near approach to the oral.

A reading “ But ,” or “ Now ,” has much support in early quotations, but none in MSS. See Lightfoot here.

our ] He refers to the “ensamples” mentioned ver. 17, as distinguished from their opponents. Or perhaps we should say, from their false friends. For very possibly these antinomians claimed to be the true disciples of Pauline truth, the true exponents of free grace as against legalism.

conversation ] R.V. “ citizenship ”; margin, “ commonwealth .” The A.V. is the rendering also of all our older versions, except Wyclif’s, which has “lyuyng.” It represents the conversatio of the Latin versions, a word which means not “mutual speech” but “the intercourse of life” (see on 1:27); and the meaning is thus, in effect, that “ we live on earth as those whose home is in heaven .” The same English is found (in A.V.) Psalms 50:23 ; 2 Corinthians 1:12 ; Galatians 1:13 ; Ephesians 2:3 , Ephesians 2:4 :22; above 1:27 (where see note); &c. But the Greek in all these places is quite different from the Greek here, where the word is polîteuma . (connected with polis , city, polîtês , citizen), a word which occurs nowhere else in N.T., nor in LXX., nor in the Apocrypha. In classical Greek it denotes ( a ) a “ measure ,” or “ policy ,” of state; ( b ) the governing body of a state, its “ government ”; ( c ) the constitution of a state, including the rights of its citizens. On the whole, this last meaning best suits the present context, or at least approaches it most nearly. What the Apostle means is that Christians are citizens of the heavenly City, enrolled on its register, free of its privileges, and, on the other hand, “obliged by the nobility” of such a position to live, whether in the City or not as yet, as those who belong to it and represent it. “Our citizenship, our civic status , is in heaven,” fairly gives this thought. In the anonymous Epistle to Diognetus , a Christian writing of cent. 2 (printed with the works of St Justin), a sentence occurs (c. 5) which well illustrates this passage, and perhaps refers to it, and is in itself nobly true: “Christians, as dwellers, are on earth, as citizens, in heaven.” The verb cognate to the noun here is used there; see, on the verb, note on 1:27 above.

is ] More strictly and fully, subsists . See second note on 2:6 above, where the same word occurs. The thought is that the “citizenship” is at any moment an antecedent and abiding fact, on which the citizen may fall back.

in heaven ] Lit., in (the) heavens ; as often in N.T. On this plural see note on Ephesians 2:10 , in this Series. Cp. Galatians 4:26 ; Hebrews 12:22 ; Revelation 3:12 (where see Abp Trench’s full note, Epistles to the Seven Churches , pp. 183 187), xxi., xxii., for the revealed conception of the heavenly City, the Ourănopolis , as it is finely called by St Clement of Alexandria (cent. 2), and Eusebius of Cæsarea (cent. 4); and other Greek Fathers use the word ouranopolîtês of the Christian. The great treatise of St Augustine (cent. 4 5), On the City (Civilas) of God , contains a wealth of illustration of the idea of this verse. To Augustine, writing amidst the wreck of Old Rome (about a.d. 420), the Christian appears as citizen of a State which is the antithesis not of human order, which is of God, and which is promoted by the true citizens of heaven, but of “the world,” which is at enmity with Him. This State, or City, is now existing and operating, through its members, but not to be consummated and fully revealed till the eternity of glory shall come in (see Smith’s Dict. of Christian Biography , 1., p. 221). The thought of the Holy City was dear to St Augustine. The noble medieval lines,

Me receptet Syon illa ,

Urbs beata, urbs tranquilla ,

(quoted at the close of Longfellow’s Golden Legend ), are taken almost verbally from Augustine, de Spiritu et Animâ , c. lx. See Trench, Sacred Latin Poetry , p. 332 (and cp. pp. 312 320).

from whence ] Lit., “ out of which ( place ).” The pronoun is singular, and so cannot refer directly to the plural noun, “ the heavens .” The construction must be either ( a ) a merely adverbial one, an equivalent for the adverb “ whence ”; or ( b ) the pronoun must refer back to the noun politeuma (on which see above). In the latter case, we must suppose that the idea of citizenship suggests, and passes into, that of city , the local home of the citizens, and the word denoting citizenship is treated as if it denoted city 1 1 We might thus perhaps render, or explain, politeuma by “ seat of citizenship .” . The solution ( a ) is no doubt simpler, but clear evidence for the usage (where ideas of place are in view), is not apparent, though the fact is asserted (e.g. by Winer, Grammar of N. T. Greek , Moulton’s Ed., p. 177). Happily the grammatical problem leaves the essential meaning of the clause quite clear.

we look for ] Better, with R.V., we wait for . The form of the verb implies a waiting full of attention, perseverance, and desire. The verb occurs elsewhere, Romans 8:19 , Romans 8:23 , Romans 8:25 ; 1 Corinthians 1:7 ; Galatians 5:5 ; Hebrews 9:28 ; 1 Peter 3:20 . Of these passages all but Gal.(?) and 1 Pet. refer to the longed for Return of the Lord, the blessed goal of the believer’s hope. Cp. Luke 12:35-38 ; Acts 1:11 , Acts 1:3 :20, Acts 1:21 ; Romans 8:18 , Romans 8:23-25 , Romans 8:13 :11, Romans 8:12 ; 1 Corinthians 11:26 , 1 Corinthians 11:15 :23, &c.; Colossians 3:4 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:10 , 1 Thessalonians 1:2 :19, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 :13, 4:14 5:10, 23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 ; 1 Timothy 6:14 ; 2 Timothy 2:11 , 2 Timothy 2:12 , 2 Timothy 2:4 :8; Titus 2:13 ; Hebrews 10:25 , Hebrews 10:37 ; James 5:7 , James 5:8 ; 1 Peter 1:7 , 1 Peter 1:13 , 1 Peter 1:4 :13, 1 Peter 1:5 :4; 2 Peter 3:4 , 2 Peter 3:9 , 2 Peter 3:13 ; 1 John 2:28 , 1 John 2:3 :2, 1 John 2:3 ; Revelation 2:25 , Revelation 22:20 .

the Saviour &c.] There is no article in the Greek; and therefore render, perhaps, as our Saviour, the Lord &c. The A.V. is by no means untenable grammatically, but the word “Saviour” is so placed as to suggest not only emphasis but predicative force. And the deep connexion in the N.T. between the Lord’s Return and the full and final “salvation” of the believer’s being (cp. esp. Romans 13:11 ) gives a natural fitness to this use of the holy Title here.

“The Lord Jesus Christ”: this full designation of the Blessed Person suits the tone of solemn hope and joy in the passage.

21 . change ] The Greek verb is cognate to the word schêma , on which see second note on 2:8. It occurs also 2 Corinthians 11:13 , 2 Corinthians 11:14 , 2 Corinthians 11:15 , and, with a different reference of thought, 1 Corinthians 4:6 . Its use here implies that, in a sense, the change would be superficial. Already, in the “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ; Galatians 6:15 ) of the saint the essentials of the glorified being are present. Even for the body the pledge and reason of its glory is present where the Holy indwelling Spirit is, (Romans 8:11 ). And thus the final transfiguration will be, so to speak, a change of “accidents,” not of “essence.” “ Now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be” (1 John 3:2 ).

our vile body ] Lit., and far better, the body of our humiliation . Wyclif has “whiche schal refourme the bodi of oure mekenesse”; the Rhemish version, “the body of our humilitie”; Beza’s Latin version, corpus nostrum humile ; Luther, unsern nichtigen Leib . All paraphrases here involve loss or mistake. The body transfigured by the returning Lord is the body “of our humiliation” as being, in its present conditions, inseparably connected with the burthens and limitations of earth; demanding, for its sustenance and comfort, a large share of the energies of the spirit, and otherwise hindering the spirit’s action in many directions. Not because it is material, for the glorified body, though “spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:44 ), will not be spirit; but because of the mysterious effect of man’s having fallen as an embodied spirit . The body is thus seen here, in its present condition, to be rather the “humbling” body than “vile” (Lat., vilis , “ cheap ”), “humble.”

Observe meanwhile that peculiar mystery and glory of the Gospel, a promise of eternal being and blessedness for the body of the saint. To the ancient philosopher, the body was merely the prison of the spirit; to the Apostle, it is its counterpart, destined to share with it, in profound harmony, the coming heaven. Not its essential nature, but its distorted condition in the Fall, makes it now the clog of the renewed spirit; it shall hereafter be its wings. This is to take place, as the N.T. consistently reveals, not at death, but at the Return of Christ.

The bearing of this passage on the error of the libertine, who “sinned against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18 ), is manifest.

that it may be fashioned like ] One word, an adjective, in the Greek; we may render, nearly with R.V., ( to be ) conformed . The word is akin to morphê , 2:6, where see note. It is implied that the coming conformity to our Blessed Lord’s Body shall be in appearance because in reality ; not a mere superficial reflection, but a likeness of constitution, of nature.

unto his glorious body ] Lit. and better, the body of His glory ; His sacred human body, as He resumed it in Resurrection, and carried it up in Ascension 1 1 The Ascension may well have been, as many theologians have held, a further glorification, the crown of mysterious processes carried on through the Forty Days. We see hints of the present majesty of the Lord’s celestial Body in the mystical language of Rev. 1:14 16. , and is manifested in it to the Blessed. “ Of His glory ”; because perfectly answering in its conditions to His personal Exaltation, and, so far as He pleases, the vehicle of its display. A foresight of what it now is was given at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2 , and parallels); and St Paul had had a moment’s glimpse of it as it is, at his Conversion (Acts 9:3 , Acts 9:17 , Acts 9:22 :14; 1 Corinthians 9:1 , 1 Corinthians 15:8 ).

Our future likeness in body to His body is alone foretold here, without allusion to its basis in the spiritual union and resemblance wrought in us now by the Holy Spirit (e.g. 2 Corinthians 3:18 ), and to be consummated then (1 John 3:2 ). But this latter is of course deeply implied here. The sensual heresies which the Apostle is dealing with lead him to this exclusive view of the glorious future of the saint’s body.

It is plain from this passage, as from others (see esp. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 , 1 Corinthians 15:53 ), that the saint’s body of glory is continuous with that of his humiliation; not altogether a “new departure” in subsistence. But when we have said this, our certainties in the question cease, lost in the mysterious problems of the nature of matter. The Blessed will be “the same,” body as well as spirit; truly continuous, in their whole being, in full identity, with the pilgrims of time. But no one can say that to this identity will be necessary the presence in the glorified body of any given particle, or particles, of the body of humiliation, any more than in the mortal body it is necessary to its identity (as far as we know) that any particle, or particles, present in youth should be also present in old age. However, in the light of the next words this question may be left in peace. Be the process and conditions what they may, in God’s will, somehow

“Before the judgment seat,

Though changed and glorified each face,

Not unremembered [we shall] meet,

For endless ages to embrace.”

( Christian Year , St Andrew’s Day.)

according to the working whereby &c.] More lit., according to the working of His being able . The word “ mighty ” in the A.V. (not given in the other English versions) is intended to represent the special force of the Greek word energeia (see note on the kindred verb, 2:12); but it is too strong. “ Active ,” or even “ actual ,” would be more exact; but these are not really needed. The “ working ” is the positive putting forth of the always present “ ability .”

even to subdue all things unto himself ] “ Even ” precedes and intensifies the whole following thought.

Elsewhere the Father appears as “subduing all enemies,” “all things,” to the Son. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:25 (and Psalms 110:1 ), 27 (and Psalms 8:6 ). But the Father “hath given to the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:26-29 ), and therefore power. The will of the Father takes effect through the will of the Son, One with Him.

“All things”: and therefore all conditions or obstacles, impersonal or personal, that oppose the prospect of the glorification of His saints. Cp. Romans 8:38 , Romans 8:39 ; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 .

“Unto Himself”: so that they shall not only not obstruct His action, but subserve it. His very enemies shall be “ His footstool ,” and He shall “be glorified in His saints” (2 Thessalonians 1:10 ). And through this great victory of the Son, the Father will be supremely glorified. See 1 Corinthians 15:28 ; a prediction beyond our full understanding, but which on the one hand does not mean that in the eternal Future the Throne will cease to be “the throne of God and of the Lamb ” (Revelation 22:1 , Revelation 22:3 ), and on the other points to an infinitely developed manifestation in eternity of the glory of the Father in the Son. Meanwhile, the immediate thought of this passage is the almightiness, the coming triumph, and the present manhood, of the Christian’s Saviour.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Philippians 3". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.