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Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 3

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-3

Paul’s Warning Against Judaism - Paul, who constantly had to struggle with the Judaizers, says in Philippians 3:1-3 that it is safe for him to constantly remind the Philippians of false teachers and their false doctrine especially. Paul especially emphasized the Judaizers in verse 2. There was no particular doctrinal issue that Paul needed to address at this time. He seems to be simply warning them of these traveling Jews that have caused so many disturbances in the other cities where Paul had established churches.

Philippians 3:1 Comments - Paul is not troubled or inconvenienced by taking the time to write these things. Rather, it is for their safekeeping.

Philippians 3:2 “Beware of dogs” Word Study on “dogs” Strong says the Greek word “dogs” ( κύνας ) (G2965) means, “a dog.” This word is used five times in the New Testament. Dogs were considered unclean animals, so it is used figuratively to refer to unclean people.

Literal Uses:

Luke 16:21, “And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”

2 Peter 2:22, “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”

Matthew 7:6, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs , neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

Figurative Uses:

Philippians 3:2, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”

Revelation 22:15, “For without are dogs , and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”


BDAG “Those who are unbaptized and therefore impure.”

Thayer “A man of impure mind, an impudent man.”

Vine Vine says that the Jews called the Gentiles “dogs,” referring to their ceremonial impurity, and the Greeks used it as a title of a disrespectful person.

See also “ κυνάριον ” (a little dog).

Matthew 15:26-27, “But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs . And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.”

(same as Mark 7:27-28)

Comments - It is interesting to note that the Jews used this word when speaking of Gentiles. However, in this passage, Paul uses it in reference to the Judaizers who were perverting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:2 “beware of evil workers” Comments - Paul is using the phrase “evil workers” to describe the Judaizers who based their relationship with God on the Mosaic Law. In other words, these Jews believed that their religious Jewish rituals and works were good and brought them favor with God, but Paul describes such works as evil.

Philippians 3:2 “be of aware the concision” Word Study on “concision” Strong says the Greek word “concision” ( κατατομή ) (G2699) means, “a cutting down (off), mutilation,” and comes from κατά (G2596) and τέμνω . This word is akin to περιτομή (G4061) (circumcision).

Thayer says Paul uses the word “concision” here and in Galatians 5:12 as a reference to Jewish boasting in their rite of circumcision. He says that Paul is saying, “keep your eye on that boasted circumcision, or, to call it by its true name, ‘concision’ or ‘mutilation’.”

Galatians 5:12, “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.”

Comments This may refer to those who required male circumcision as a part of salvation. Of the most emphatic Jewish ritual that the Judaizers enforced upon the early Church was the requirement of circumcision. So, not only were these Judaizers the true “dogs” practicing evil works in the form of Jewish rituals, but Paul describes their acts of circumcision as acts of mutilation, which was in fact practiced by the heathens. We see such barbaric practices by the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel as they attempted to invoke their god to accept their sacrifice; for they cut themselves with knives until their blood flowed down their bodies.

1 Kings 18:28, “And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.”

Circumcision was practiced in many ancient and modern cultures. Anyone who has seen the African rituals of both male and female circumcision realize how accurate a word “mutilation” is in describing this act. Children have pieces of their flesh removed without painkillers. The fact that these rituals are actually useless in that they provide no true benefit to its participants makes them all the more an act of horror rather than one of religious dedication. Yet, the Judaizers rejoiced in their circumcision and allowed this ritual to cause them to stumble at the liberties of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, Paul warns the Philippians to beware of such interpretations of circumcision.

Philippians 3:2 Comments These three words begin with the letter “k,” much like the book of Psalms and other Hebrew poetry use such acrostics for aid in memory. The three “K’s” are three “bewares.” They are repeated perhaps for emphasis.

1. κύνας - dogs - Unsaved, unclean people

2. κακους έργάτας - evil workers - Those fighting against the cross.

3. κατατομήν - concision - Those of circumcision.

These words are used as three synonyms for the same type of people, the Judaizers. The context shows this to be true, since Paul immediately follows this warning with the statement, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in spirit.”

1. Dogs Moule says is referring to “the Judaistic teachers” within the church, who is “the real defiled outcast from Messiah’s covenant.” He says Paul “turns the tables” on their use of the name, whose Pharisees had seen the Gentiles as dogs. [70]

[70] H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle to the Philippians, in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, ed. J. J. S. Perowne (Cambridge: The University Press, 1889), 85; J. B. Lightfoot, Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (London: MacMillan and Co., c1868, 1903), 143.

2. Evil workers - Moule says Paul is alluding to their doctrine of salvation by “works.” [71] A similar use is in 2 Corinthians 11:13, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.”

[71] H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle to the Philippians, in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, ed. J. J. S. Perowne (Cambridge: The University Press, 1889), 85; J. B. Lightfoot, Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (London: MacMillan and Co., c1868, 1903), 143.

3. Mutilators This is a harsh word used figuratively for those who practice circumcision as part of salvation, which is Paul’s use of paronomasia (or punning). We find a similar Pauline statement in Galatians 5:12, “I would that they would mutilate themselves.” The NASB reads, “the false circumcision.” Note this idea in verse 3.

These people are described further in Philippians 3:18-19.

Philippians 3:18-19, “(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Philippians 3:3 “which worship God in the spirit” Comments - Paul adds this descriptive phrase in order to contrast it against the “fleshly” form of worship and traditions that the Judaizers were preaching. We know from Paul’s epistle to the Galatians that these Judaizers were preaching “another gospel” which brought believers back into bondage with man-made traditions, rather than into the liberties of a spirit-led life. However, the true circumcision are those in Christ Jesus who are led by the Spirit of God. These are those who worship God in Spirit.

Note John 4:24 to see our duties and work for God.

John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Philippians 3:3 “and rejoice in Christ Jesus” - Comments - This same Greek word “rejoice” ( καυχα ́ ομα ) (G2744) is translated “glory” in Galatians 6:14.

Galatians 6:14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Philippians 3:3 “and have no confidence in the flesh” Comments - A man’s confidence is his trust, or reliance.” He does not rely upon his salvation due to works of the law, or his own ability.

Philippians 3:3 Comments - In light of the warning in verse 2 of circumcision of the flesh, called “the concision,” Paul explains true circumcision. The true circumcision is of the heart, and not in the flesh (Romans 2:2-29).

Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

Verses 1-14

An Example of False Humility and Sacrifice In Philippians 3:1-14 Paul warns the Philippians of false humility and sacrifice, those who are actually enemies of the Cross of Christ, which can been seen in the religious zeal of the Jews. The Jews sought to please God through religious ceremonies and the pagans sought divine favor through their pagan celebrations. Paul had seen both extremes. He uses himself as an example of this extreme religious lifestyle so as not to bring discredit to anyone, especially the Jews. He explains how he had studied as a Pharisee in Jerusalem with the greatest of zeal for the Law. However, despite the appearance of righteousness, this was false humility and an enemy of the Cross.

1. Paul’s Warning Against Judaism Philippians 3:1-3

2. Paul Boasts in His Credentials as a Jew Philippians 3:4-6

3. Paul’s Pursuit of Salvation Philippians 3:7-11

4. Paul’s Example of Genuine Perseverance in the Faith Philippians 3:12-14

Verses 1-21

Perseverance Philippians 3:1 to Philippians 4:1 reveals God’s plan for the perseverance of the saints. Paul gives the Philippians an example of false humility and sacrifice by using himself before his conversion (Philippians 3:1-14). He then exhorts the brethren to follow the examples of true partnership and sacrifice which he has previously given (Philippians 3:15 to Philippians 4:1). It closes with Paul’s exhortation for the Philippians to “stand fast in the Lord” (Philippians 4:1).

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

A. The Example of False Humility and Sacrifice Philippians 3:1-14

B. Exhortation to Follow These Examples of True Humility Philippians 3:15 to Philippians 4:1

Verses 4-6

Paul Boasts in His Credentials as a Jew After warning the Philippians to beware of Judaizers who sneak into their congregations with false pretenses, Paul takes a minute to boast in his fleshly Jewish credentials. If anyone had a right to boast in his accomplishments as a Jew, Paul certainly had this right.

Philippians 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

Philippians 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

Philippians 3:5 “Circumcised the eighth day” - Comments - The practice of circumcision was part of the Mosaic Law. As we see in Exodus 22:30 and Leviticus 14:10-11, the eighth day was also a day of dedication, a day when the Israelites dedicated themselves and their belongings to the Lord.

Genesis 21:4, “And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old , as God had commanded him.”

Leviticus 12:2-3, “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised .”

Exodus 22:30, “Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me .”

Leviticus 14:10-11, “And on the eighth day he shall take two he lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth deals of fine flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil. And the priest that maketh him clean shall present the man that is to be made clean, and those things, before the LORD , at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:”

Philippians 3:5 “of the tribe of Benjamin” Comments - The fact that a Jew could trace his ancestry back to a particular tribe of Israel often became a source of pride. It caused a Jew to look at himself as being better than a Gentile.

Philippians 3:5 “an Hebrew of the Hebrews” - Comments - This type of word construction is typical Hebrew. This word structure intensifies the word “Hebrew.” Other examples in the New Testament are “Lord of Lords” or “King of Kings.” Also, note:

Philippians 2:27, “For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow .”

Within the Jewish community, there was a difference between being a Jew and calling oneself a Hebrew. J. B. Lightfoot says a Jew was one who could trace his heritage back to Abraham, while a Hebrew was one who spoke the Hebrew tongue and followed the Hebrew customs. [72] Paul did both (Acts 21:40; Acts 22:2, Acts 22:3).

[72] J. B. Lightfoot, Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (London: MacMillan and Co., c1868, 1903), 147.

Acts 21:40, “And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue , saying,”

Acts 22:2, “(And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)”

Acts 22:3, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day .”

Philippians 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Philippians 3:6 “touching the righteousness which is in the law” Comments - That is, “the righteousness which comes by the Law.” If righteousness could be achieved by the Law (though it cannot), then Paul was blameless and had achieved it.

Verses 7-11

Paul’s Pursuit of Salvation In Philippians 3:7-11 Paul the apostle describes his daily pursuit of Christ in light of his salvation. This passage of Scripture makes a clear reference to the spiritual journey that every believer is to work out. Paul first describes the priceless value of every man’s divine calling of salvation in comparison to this world’s corruptible good (Philippians 3:7-8), which reminds us of the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:44-46). He then explains his justification in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:9). The phrase “that I may know him” reflects the process of indoctrination, the phrase “know…the power of his resurrection” reflects divine service, and “knowing…the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” reflects perseverance (Philippians 3:10). Paul then mentions his future glorification in his attainment of “the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:11). However, he describes his spiritual journey from the perspective of our role in God the Father’s plan of redemption for mankind, which is the underlying theme of the epistle of Philippians. We, too, are to follow Paul’s example and pursue Jesus first, or put Jesus first each day.

Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Philippians 3:8 “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things” Comments - Paul the apostle was a man of great zeal and achievement. He was born of Jewish parents in the city of Tarsus, the chief city of Cilicia, where Greek culture predominated. In this city was a great university, which Strabo (63 B.C. to A.D. 24?), the Greek historian and geographer, was known for its enthusiasm for learning, especially in the area of philosophy. Strabo said this university surpassed those at Athens, Alexandria, and all others in its passion for learning ( Geography 14.5.13). [73] It is from this upbringing that we see why Paul was a man of zeal and great achievement; for he was raised in an atmosphere of physical and mental achievement around the university in Tarsus.

[73] Strabo writes, “The inhabitants of this city apply to the study of philosophy and to the whole encyclical compass of learning with so much ardour, that they surpass Athens, Alexandreia, and every other place which can be named where there are schools and lectures of philosophers.” See The Geography of Strabo, vol. 3, trans. H. C. Hamilton and W. Falconer (London: George Bell and Sons, 1889), 57.

In his quest for education, he found himself seeking a meaning in life that went beyond his reasoning. Because of his Jewish heritage, he was later trained in the strictest of sect of the Jews, that of a Pharisee, and in this training, he sat under the most well known Hebrew teacher of his day, a man called Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).

Acts 22:3, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”

In these two educational environments, Paul was yet to find a purpose in life. Yes, he came closer to discovering the truth at the feet of Gamaliel than at the University of Tarsus, but it did not answer the most important question in life, “What is the meaning of life and why am I here?” He had seen man’s wisdom at its best as he studied Greek philosophy. He had seen man’s religion at its best as he studied under Gamaliel. Both failed to explain the meaning of life.

In addition to his educational achievements, Paul’s claim to be a Roman citizen from Tarsus tells us that his family was one of wealth and standing (Acts 22:28). One commentator says that Paul was a Roman citizen because Tarsus was a Roman colony, and all those born in such a city were Roman citizens by birth. However, his Christian faith took him away from the prestige wealth that he could have enjoyed by his father’s heritage, and it removed him from the recognition of the Pharisees that he had worked so hard to achieve. Becoming a Christian cost Paul his career, his wealth and his respect among his family and colleagues.

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Philippians 3:9 Comments The phrase “the righteousness which is of God” literally means, “a righteousness which proceeds out of God.”

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Philippians 3:10 “That I may know him” - Comments Perhaps no other person has received more revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ than Paul. If any believer has come to know Him, it has been Paul. Yet, in all of this knowledge, it was but a glimpse of His eternal glory. We will spend eternity getting to know Him, for it will take eternity to come to this knowledge.

As I was praying late one morning, after singing to the Lord, I told Him that I did not know what I wanted, but that I wanted…(then I began to speak what my spirit longed for)… to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death (Philippians 3:10). Paul spoke these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This was his inner man revealing what all of us long for inside:

In Genesis 4:1, Adam knew Eve. This describes the closeness that is involved when the husband and wife love each other. The Song of Songs expresses this type of love.

Philippians 3:10 does not say Paul wants to just know about God, or to know about resurrection power, or to know about suffering with Christ, or to know about being made conformable into His death, but to experience God in his life, His power, His suffering and His death.

Philippians 3:10 Comments Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:10 reflects the theme of the Song of Songs. Perhaps the most important Old Testament passage to the Jews in revealing God’s redemptive plan for mankind can be found in Deuteronomy 6:4-6, which they called “the Shema,” ( שָׁמַע ), a name derived from the first Hebrew word in this biblical text.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

S. R. Driver calls this passage “the fundamental truth of Israel’s religion.” [74] Because of its historical importance to the Old Testament Jews this passage of Scripture appears numerous times in the New Testament writings (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:29-32; Mark 12:37, Luke 10:27). For example, when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees what was the greatest commandment, He quoted the Shema, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord...” (Mark 12:29) In other words, Jesus considered the Shema the single most important text of the Old Testament, revealing to Israel that there is only one true God whom the Jews were to serve with all of their heart, soul and strength. The three-fold aspect of serving the Lord with all of our heart, soul and strength is the fundamental theme of Solomon’s three writings, reflects God’s commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4-6. The foundational theme of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon is how to serve the Lord with all our hearts. The secondary theme of this three-fold series of writings is what gives these books their structure:

[74] S. R. Driver, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy, in The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, eds. Charles A. Briggs, Samuel R. Driver, and Alfred Plummer (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903), 89; Duane L. Christensen, Deuteronomy 1:1-9, in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol. 6a, second edition, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc., 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 3.0b [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2004), notes on Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Form, Structure, Setting.

1. Proverbs Wisdom Calls Mankind to Understand His Ways (Mind)

2. Ecclesiastes God Gives Mankind a Purpose in Life When We Serve Him (Body)

3. Song of Solomon God Calls Mankind to Walk With Him in the Cool of the Day (Heart)

The third theme of this three-fold series of writings reveals the results of applying the book’s message to our daily lives:

1. Proverbs - The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom. The virtuous woman is a reflection of a person walking in wisdom and the fear of God.

2. Ecclesiastes Fear God and Keep His Commandments. The man who keeps God’s commandments has a purpose and destiny in Christ.

3. Song of Solomon Loving God is Mature as We Abide in Christ & Labour in His Vineyard. The man who abides in Christ and produces fruit that remains.

Combining these three themes to see how they flow together in each of Solomon’s writings, we see that Proverbs teaches us to serve the Lord with all of our mind as the fear of the Lord moves us to wise choices above foolishness. The outcome of this journey is the development of a person who is strong in character, symbolized by the virtuous woman. This is illustrated in the story of Job. In Ecclesiastes the believer serves the Lord with all of his strength by obeying God’s commandments because of his fear of the Lord. The outcome of this journey is the development of a person who walks in his purpose and destiny, rather than in the vanities of this world. This is illustrated in the book of Lamentations. The Song of Solomon reveals the most mature level of serving the Lord with all of one’s heart. This person yields to God’s love being poured into him by learning to abide in constant holy communion with the Lord. The outcome of this journey is the development of a person who overflows in the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. This is illustrated in the book of Psalms.

Paul reflects the theme of Songs when he says, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” (Philippians 3:10) He did not say, “That I might know His Word, His Wisdom, His Ways,” which reflects the theme of Proverbs; neither did he says, “That I might know God’s plan for my life, finishing my course and fulfill my ministry,” which he says to Timothy, reflecting the theme of Ecclesiastes; rather, Paul says, “that I may know Him.” This reflects the theme of Songs.

Philippians 3:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

Philippians 3:11 Comments - It is surprising that Paul makes a reference to his eternal salvation with uncertainty in Philippians 3:11; for he uses the subjunctive mood in the Greek language, which states potential action, and not the indicative mood of action that it certain. It may be possible that Paul is making a reference to the Rapture of the Church in this verse, in which not every believer will partake. The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) and John’s letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22) teach us that only those saints that are pure and ready will partake of the Rapture. Or, Paul may be referring to the fact that it is possible, under certain conditions, for a born-again believer to willfully depart from the faith and loose his/her salvation, as explained in Hebrews 6:4-7; Hebrews 10:26-31.

Verses 12-14

Paul’s Example of Genuine Perseverance in the Faith In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul measures himself against his calling in Christ rather than his carnal achievements as a Jew. Paul perseveres in the high calling in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12 “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect” Comments - In Philippians 3:12 Paul is simply acknowledging that he has not obtained full sanctification, which takes place at the resurrection of the dead (Philippians 3:11).

“but I follow after” Comments Although he has not obtained full sanctification, he is pursuing it, which is a part of the spiritual journey that every believers must partake of.

“if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” Comments - Paul is pursuing full sanctification in order that he may reach his destination, which is glorification with God in heaven, called the resurrection from the dead in the previous verse (Philippians 3:11). Here in Philippians 3:12 we see both divine election and man’s free working side by side to bring man to his full redemption. We were apprehended and saved for good works and perfection. In Paul’s case, he was “apprehended” by Christ Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:0), when Jesus appeared to him and called him. Paul responded by giving his life to Jesus and is now pursuing Him.

Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

Philippians 3:13 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended” - Comments - In the natural, we would view Paul as having “arrived” in his ministry. What more would one want to attain in this life than the success of Paul the apostle? Philippians 3:13 reveals that there is always a place of a greater anointing, a higher calling, or a greater work to do in the Kingdom of God, even for spiritual giants. This is because God created us with a desire to do great exploits for Him and there are no limits in the Kingdom of God. Even in my life as a missionary with a blessed marriage and family and overseeing an influential Christian television station in Uganda, East Africa, I yearn for a closer walk with the Lord and for a greater calling in the Kingdom of God. I am not yet satisfied being where I am now. I want to be more passionate for the things of God and to see Him work in a greater way in my life. The only way to accomplish this goal is to die to my own will, as Paul refers to in Philippians 3:10.

Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”

Philippians 3:13 “but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind” Comments Jesus called His disciples to forsake all and follow Him. This meant leaving loved ones, traditions, habits, familiarity, and comfort. Few people were willing to follow Jesus with such a sacrifice. Those who do press forward in Christ learn to leave their past behind. Ruth did this when she chose to follow Naomi to the land of Israel. Although God rewards us greatly for such sacrifices, it is not easy to begin this journey.

Kenneth Hagin says, “Before any believer can go on with God and reach his fullest potential in the ministry or whatever God has called him to do, he will have to forget about the past, especially his past mistakes. [75] Joyce Meyer said regarding Philippians 3:13, “Don’t kill today’s opportunities with yesterday’s disappointments.” [76] Another minister said, “Your past will erase your future, or your future will erase your past.”

[75] Kenneth Hagin, Following God’s Plan For Your Life (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1993, 1994), 148.

[76] Joyce Meyer, Life in the Word (Fenton, Missouri: Joyce Meyer Ministries), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.

One reason that we must forget those things that are past is that they can become a stumbling block. The failures of the past can be used by Satan to lead us into condemnation. The successes of the past can be used to make us believe we are to set up camp in these good experiences doing things the same way the rest of our lives, or to make us believe we are to continue down that successful path. The experiences of the past will serve to instruct us; but they do not give us guidance for the present and future path that God is guiding us into. The Lord spoke to Frances J. Roberts, saying, “The past I use for thine instruction, but not as a blueprint of the present nor guidance for the future. Be not afraid to follow Me.” [77]

[77] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King’s Farspan, Inc., 1973), 62.

Another reason that we must forget the past is because we can get into a rut living out learned behaviour. When I moved from Florida to Texas, I was able to make some changes in my life for the better. I was able to lay aside some of my old ways and look to a new future with different people. I took the good things from my past and left behind the bad. This is often a good way to make a change for the better in our lives, by actually leaving a physical environment and putting ourselves into a new one.

Not only should we lay aside failures, we must lay aside our achievements lest we become proud and lifted above others.

Philippians 3:13 “and reaching forth unto those things which are before” Comments - The word “reaching forth” is the Greek word ( ἐπεκτείνομαι ) (G1901), which literally means, “stretch” plus “out” plus “towards.” This word reflects an athlete who is focused upon his race, not bemoaning his previous defeats or victories in former races.

Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14 “I press toward the mark” - Comments - Philippians 3:14 reflects an athlete running a race. He has made the last turn on the track and has the finish line in sight. His mind and will are pressing his physical body forward with all of its energy.

“for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” - Comments - He is sole focused upon obtaining the prize for winning this race. The winner in a race is called to ascend the platform and receive the prize in front of the audience. A believer will receive his rewards in a similar way in Heaven.

Verses 15-21

Exhortation to Follow The Examples of True Humility In Philippians 3:15 to Philippians 4:1 Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to follow the examples of himself, Christ Jesus, Timothy and Epaphroditus as true servants and to avoid false humility.

Philippians 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

Philippians 3:15 Word Study on “be perfect” Strong says the Greek word “perfect” ( τε ́ λειος ) (G5046) means, “complete.” BDAG says it means, “mature.” This same Greek word is used in Hebrews 5:14, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age , even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Philippians 3:15 Comments - This absolute focus described in the previous verses of reaching forth and pressing towards the prize of God’s high calling is the sign of a mature believer

Philippians 3:16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

Philippians 3:16 Comments - As we grow in the Lord, God gives to us a series of progressive lessons and revelations of divine principles to live by so that we will have a successful Christian life. For example, after having been raised in a Southern Baptist church, I understood how to be saved, water baptized and to be evangelistic. However, my hunger for more of God and a holy lifestyle led me into the baptism of the Holy Ghost with speaking in tongues. I was soon introduced into the principles of divine healing. Then there came teachings about the power of the tongue and how to have a sound confession of faith. As I learned to walk in these areas on a daily basis, the Lord taught me about the principles of giving and receiving so that I can be financially blesses. He also taught me the importance of using the name of Jesus Christ to take authority over the devil in order to keep him out of my life. I soon learned how to flow in God’s plan for my life and how to wait upon Him to lead me in major changes in my life. Thus, Paul is telling us to what level we have attained, let us walk in that level. We are not to back down leave some of those divine principles out of our life, but we are to strive to walk in the full light of God’s Word that we have been given. A good way to do that is to look at Paul’s life (Philippians 3:17) and let his victories be an encouragement to us.

Philippians 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

Philippians 3:17 “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk” Comments - Paul says to keep your eyes upon them, which walk in such a manner, i.e., like Paul, just as you have Paul and companions as an example.

Philippians 3:17 “so as ye have us for an ensample” Comments - In the phrase “so as ye have us for an example,” Paul was referring to the examples given in the passage above, of himself, of Christ, of Timothy, and of Epaphroditus. These were four examples of true servanthood and partnership.

Why would Paul want to become an example when we have the Lord as the perfect example (1 Peter 2:21)? It has been my experience in life that certain men of God have become a great inspiration to me. As I read the autobiographies of African missionaries, I am tremendously moved to become a better missionary here in Uganda. As I have worked under certain preachers, teachers and other servants of the Lord, I have taken on their attributes. When we watch someone in the flesh and blood, be can be inspired beyond the narrow vision that we have for our lives, and we begin to reach for higher levels of faith.

1 Peter 2:21, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:”

Philippians 3:17 Comments - Paul uses a great amount of the rest of this epistle to give the church at Philippi four examples of men who also gave up their own ambitions in order to serve the interests of the heavenly Father. Paul tells of how he left the Jewish religion to know Christ and how it cost him everything (Philippians 1:12-26). Then he uses Jesus as an example of one who left His glory to come to earth and serve the plan of the Father, and was then ushered into the glory that He deserved (Philippians 2:5-11). Paul then uses Timothy (Philippians 2:19-23) and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30) as examples of faithfulness in supporting Paul’s ministry. In Philippians 3:18-19, Paul contrasts this life of sacrifice by making a reference to men who serve their own interests. Finally, in Philippians 4:3, Paul tells the Philippians that other women have laboured together with him in the Gospel.

Philippians 3:18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

Philippians 3:18 “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping” Scripture Reference - Note:

Acts 20:31, “I cease not to warn everyone night and day with tears ”.

Philippians 3:18 “that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ” Comments - These enemies are like those adulterous in James 4:4, who love the world and are at enmity with God.

James 4:4, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

Philippians 3:19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

Philippians 3:19 “Whose end is destruction” Illustration:

Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Philippians 3:19 “whose God is their belly” Comments - The word “belly” is used figuratively here to describe not only a carnal man's fleshly lusts, but the fleshly desires that proceed out of their hearts.

Philippians 3:19 “whose glory is in their shame” - Comments - These people boast of things that they consider as normal; but in fact, these deeds are too shameful to mention (Ephesians 5:11-12).

Ephesians 5:11-12, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.”

Illustration While a missionary in Uganda, East Africa, I was having a conversation with an Indian who was born and raised in this nation. We were discussing the problem of corruption among the local Africans, and I commented that they should be ashamed of themselves for stealing government funds and lying so openly. His reply to me reflected his insight into the mindset of corruption when he said, “In Africa there is no shame.” Having been raised in a Judeo-Christian culture, integrity served as the moral fiber of society, and people generally felt shame when committing sins against their fellow people. However, there is a mindset of individuals that feels no shame in their sins, and this is the mindset that Paul is describing in Romans 1:32 and Philippians 3:19, a person who openly and blatantly sins without feeling any sense of guilt or shame.

Romans 1:32, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

Philippians 3:19 “who mind earthly things” - Comments - The same words are used in:

Colossians 3:2, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth .”

Philippians 3:19 Comments Philippians 3:19 is a description of the fruit of these false teachers. Jesus said that by their fruit we shall know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Philippians 3:17-19 Comments Warnings of False Teachers - Philippians 3:17-19 is such a timely message today. We must put, or fix, our eyes on God’s word, these epistles, and men of God, because there are present today great deceptions in today’s world of religion and false doctrine. The truth is that there are many false teachers today, not just a few. (Note Matthew 7:15-20, Act 20:28-31 , 2 Peter 2:1 f, 1 Timothy 3:1 f, Jude and other passages.) These destructive enemies of God are mentioned in Philippians 3:2.

Philippians 3:2, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”

Philippians 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Philippians 3:20 “For our conversation is in heaven” - Comments When we are born again, we become a part of one heavenly family. There are not two families of God, with one in heaven and one on earth. We are one family here on earth with the saints in heaven.

Julius Oyet said to Jesus, in his vision in heaven, “‘Dear Lord, Look! Help me Lord! How come all these brethren know me so well including all of my names? No Lord, I have never been here and never met them. But how come they know my name Lord?!!!...’ ...Jesus held my right hand and answered me saying, ‘My dear Julius, you are not new here. Heaven is your home land and everybody whose name is in the Book of Life is a citizen of heaven!’ Before He could continue I shouted Alleluia. Then He laughed over and over again after which He said, ‘Even these saints before they came here they were known in heaven the first time their names were written in the Book of Life.’” [78]

[78] Julius Peter Oyet, I Visited Heaven (Kampala, Uganda: Bezalel Design Studio, 1997), 70-1.

Illustration - On May 16, 2002, we were on vacation in Texas from the mission field. We had been in the U.S. for almost one month, and Elisabeth, being 3 years old, was getting homesick for Uganda, where she had grown up. She began to ask us often when we were going home. Sensing in our answers our lack of excitement in returning to Uganda, she finally asked me, “Daddy, where is home?” I quickly said, “I don’t know.” Thinking further, I said, “I guess our home is in heaven.”

Philippians 3:20 Comments - It is interesting to note that the city of Philippi was a Roman colony. As a colony, it held a political advantage to its neighboring cities. A Roman colony was simply a military outpost used to protect the Empire as well as “Romanize” the region in which it was located. It was the only Roman colony in the province of Macedonia. In return for this service from the citizens of a colony, its inhabitants held special privileges, such as immunity from taxes, an autonomous government and Roman citizenship.

We can imagine such a city receiving royal visits from Roman dignitaries on a regular basis. Preparations and excitement must have preceded such visits. Thus, Paul uses this image to paint a clear picture to these believers of how they have a similar relationship to the capital city in Heaven called Jerusalem. As citizens of this royal city, they too can look for a visit from their king, Jesus Christ; they are blessed with special privileges above others.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Philippians 3". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/philippians-3.html. 2013.
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