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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 3

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

Finally, [ to (G3588) loipon (G3063)] - or (not time, but a transition to another general subject) "Furthermore" (Bengel), as in 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 'as to what remains,' etc. It often, at the conclusion of letters, means "finally" (Ephesians 6:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). But it is not restricted to this, as Alford thinks, supposing that Paul used it here intending to close his letter, but was led by mention of Judaizers into a longer dissertation.

The same things - concerning 'rejoicing,' the key-note of the letter: the more remarkable from one writing from prison (Philippians 1:18; Philippians 1:25; Philippians 2:17; Philippians 4:4, where cf. "again I say" with "the same things" here). "In the Lord" marks the true sphere of joy, in contrast with "confidence in the flesh," or in any outward matter of boasting (Philippians 3:3) or carnal joy.

Not grievous - `irksome.'

For you it is safe. Lest amidst trials (Philippians 1:29) you should ever despond, spiritual joy is our safety against error (Philippians 3:2; Nehemiah 8:10, end).

Verse 2

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

Beware, [ blepete (G991)] - 'Have your eye on' so as to beware of. Contrast "mark," namely, so as to follow (Philippians 3:17).

Dogs, [ tous (G3588) kunas (G2965)] - 'the dogs;' namely, those impure persons "of whom I have told you often" (Philippians 3:18-19); "the abominable" (cf. Revelation 21:8 with Revelation 22:15; Matthew 7:6; Matthew 15:26-27, paganish in spirit; Titus 1:15-16): "dogs" in filthiness and snarling (Deuteronomy 23:18; Psalms 22:16; Psalms 22:20; Psalms 59:6; Psalms 59:14-15; 2 Peter 2:22). The Jews regarded the Gentiles as "dogs" (Matthew 15:26); but by their own unbelief they ceased to be the true Israel, and are become "dogs" (cf. Isaiah 56:10-11; Isaiah 66:3).

Evil workers (2 Corinthians 11:13); Not simply 'evil-doers,' but men who 'worked' ostensibly for the Gospel, but really for evil (Philippians 3:19: cf. Romans 16:18): [ tous (G3588) kakous (G2556) ergatas (G2040)] 'the evil workmen; i:e., bad teachers (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15).

Concision, [ katatomeen (G2699)]. Paul digresses at this word. Circumcision [ peritomee (G4061)] had now lost its spiritual significance, and was to those who rested on it at all for justification a senseless mutilation. Christians have the true circumcision-namely, of the heart; legalists have only "concision" - i:e., the cutting off of the flesh. To make "cuttings in the flesh" was prohibited (Leviticus 21:5): it was a paganish practice (1 Kings 18:28): yet this, writes Paul indignantly, is what these legalists are virtually doing in violation of the law. There is a gradation (Birks) in Paul's language as to circumcision. In his first discourse (Acts 13:39) circumcision is not named, but included in "the law of Moses," which cannot justify. Six or seven years later, in Galatians 3:3, where first it is named, its inefficiency is maintained against those Gentiles who, beginning in the spirit, thought to be perfected in the flesh. Later, in Romans 2:28-29, he goes further, and claims its substance for every believer, assigning the shadow only to the unbelieving Jew. In Colossians 2:11; Colossians 3:11; also Ephesians 2:11, still later, he expounds the true circumcision as the believer's exclusive privilege. Last of all, here, the very name is denied to the legalist: a term of reproach is substituted - "concision." Once obligatory on all the covenant people, then reduced to a national distinction, it was more and more associated with the open hostility of the Jews, and the perverse teaching of false brethren.

Verse 3

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

'We are the (real) circumcision (Romans 2:25-29).

Worship God in the Spirit. So C, Vulgate. But 'Aleph (') A B G read 'worship by the Spirit of God.' The Spirit is the influence whereby our religious service [ latreia (G2999)] is rendered (John 4:23-24). Legal worship consisted in outward acts, restricted to certain times and places. Christian worship is spiritual, flowing from the inworking Holy Spirit; not restricted to isolated acts, but embracing the whole life (Romans 12:1). In the former, men trusted in something human, whether descent from the theocratic nation, or the righteousness of the law, or mortification of "the flesh" (Romans 1:9).

Rejoice (make our boast) in Christ Jesus - not in the law.

Have no confidence in the flesh - the outward and earthly, but in the Spirit.

Verse 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:

'Although I (emphatic) possess materials of confidence even in the flesh' (as well as in Christ); literally 'I, having,' etc., but not using.

I more - I have more 'whereof I might have confidence in the flesh.'

Verse 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;

In three particulars he 'might have confidence in the flesh:'

(1) His pure Jewish blood (2 Corinthians 11:22);

(2) His legal preciseness and high status;

(3) His zeal for the law [ peritomee (G4061) oktaeemeros (G3637)] - 'being in circumcision an eighth day person;' i:e., not circumcised in later life as a proselyte, but on the eighth day after birth, as the law directed as to Jew-born infants: not after the thirteenth year, as an Ishmaelite.

Of the tribe of Benjamin - son of Rachel, not of the maid-servant: one of the two tribes that returned from Babylon (Ezra 4:1).

Hebrew of the Hebrews - neither, one or other parent Gentile. The "Hebrew," wherever he dwelt, retained the language. Thus Paul, though settled in Tarsus, a Greek city, calls himself a Hebrew. A 'Grecian,' or Hellenist, is the term used for a Greek-speaking Jew (Trench).

Touching the law - i:e., as to legal status and strictness.

A Pharisee - `of the straitest sect' (Acts 26:5).

Verse 6

Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Concerning - `As touching zeal' (cf. Acts 22:3; Acts 26:9). Sad irony. Even in this mournful Judaist zeal, he can, if they will, set himself on a level with them (Ellicott) (Galatians 1:14).

Blameless, [ genomenos (G1096) amemptos (G273), 'one in whom nothing is wanting that can be desired: amoomos (G299), 'one in whom there is nothing to blame'] - 'having become blameless' as to ceremonial righteousness: having attained in man's eyes legal perfection. As to holiness before God, which is the inner spirit of the law, and which flows from "the righteousness of God by faith," he declares (Philippians 3:12-14) that he has not attained perfection.

Verse 7

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Gain, [ kerdee (G2771)] - 'gains:' all possible advantages of outward status which he heretofore enjoyed.

I counted, [ heegeemai (G2233)] - 'I have counted for Christ's sake loss.' Not plural, as 'gains;' for he counts them all but one great "loss" (Matthew 16:26; Luke 9:25).

Verse 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,

Yea, doubtless, [ alla (G235) menoun (G3304) (A adds: ge (G1065)) kai (G2532)] - 'nay more.' Not only 'have I counted' those things 'loss for Christ's sake, but, moreover, I even DO count ALL things but loss,' etc.

For the excellency, [ dia (G1223) to (G3588) huperechon (G5242)] - 'on account of the super-excellency (above them all, including the law) of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.'

My Lord - believing and loving appropriation (Psalms 63:1; John 20:28).

For (the sake of) whom I have suffered the loss. Not merely have I "counted" them "loss," but "have" actually 'lost them.'

All things, [ ta (G3588) panta (G3956)] - 'them all.' The Greek has the article, referring to the preceding "all things."

Dung, [ skubala (G4657), from kusi balein] - 'refuse (excrements, dregs) cast to the dogs,' as the derivation expresses. A "loss" is of something having value; but 'refuse' is thrown away as a nuisance.

Win - "gain," as Philippians 3:7; 1 Timothy 6:6; A man cannot make other things his "gain," and also 'gain Christ.' He who loses all, and even himself, on account of Christ, gains Christ: Christ is His, and He is Christ's (Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 6:3; Luke 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 3:23).

Verse 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:

Be found in him (Ephesians 2:6) - as the element of my life, at His coming again. Once lost, I have been "found;" and I hope to be perfectly "found" by Him (Luke 15:8).

Own righteousness, which is of, [ ek (G1537), from: such as I strove after from my own obeying]

The law (Philippians 3:6; Romans 10:3; Romans 10:5).

Righteousness which is of God by faith - `which is from [ ek (G1537)] God, (resting) upon [ epi (G1909)] faith.' Paul was transported from legal bondage into Christian freedom without gradual transition. instantaneously opposition to Pharisaic Judaism took the place of opposition to the Gospel. God's providence fitly prepared him for overthrowing legal justification. 'The righteousness of faith,' in Paul's sense, is the righteousness of Christ appropriated by faith, as the objective ground of confidence, and also as a new subjective principle of life. It includes the essence of a new disposition, and so of sanctification, though the two ideas are distinct. It is not any arbitrary act, as if God treated as sinless a man persisting in sin, simply because he believes in Christ; but the objective on the part of God corresponds to the subjective on the part of man-namely, faith. The realization of the archetype of holiness by Christ is the pledge that this shall be realized in all who are one with Him by faith, and are become the organs of His Spirit. Its germ is imparted in believing, although the fruit of a life perfectly conformed to the Redeemer can here be only gradually developed.

Verse 10

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

That I may know him - experimentally; not merely know the doctrine concerning Him: the aim of the "righteousness" (Philippians 3:9). This verse resumes and explains "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ" (Philippians 3:8). Believers are brought, not only to redemption, But to the Redeemer Himself.

The power of (flowing from) his resurrection - assuring believers of justification (Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:17): raising them up spiritually with Him, by virtue of identification with Him in this, as in all the acts of His redeeming work (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1); and about to raise their bodies with His at His coming (Isaiah 26:19; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11). The Divine Spirit which raised Him from literal death is the same "power" which raises believers from spiritual death (Ephesians 1:19-20), and shall raise their bodies from literal death (Romans 8:11).

The fellowship of his sufferings - by identification with Him in His sufferings and death, by imputation; also, in actually bearing the cross laid on us, after His example, so 'filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ' (Colossians 1:24); and in the will to bear anything for His sake (Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; 2 Timothy 2:11; 1 Peter 4:13). As He bore all our sufferings (Isaiah 53:4), so we participate in His.

Conformable unto his death - `formed to the likeness of His death;' namely, by continued sufferings for His sake, and mortifying the carnal self (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:31; 2 Corinthians 4:10-12; Galatians 2:20).

Verse 11

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

If by any means - not implying uncertainty of the issue, But the earnestness of the struggle (1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Corinthians 9:27), the need of jealous self-watchfulness (1 Corinthians 10:12), and indefatigable use of means at all costs.

Attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 'Aleph (') A B Delta f g, Vulgate, read [ teen (G3588) exanastasin (G1815) teen (G3588) ek (G1537) (for ton (G3588)) nekron (G3498)] 'the resurrection from (out of) the dead;' namely, the first resurrection: that of believers at Christ's coming (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; Revelation 20:5-6). [ Exanastasis (G1815) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.] 'The power of Christ's resurrection' (Romans 1:4) ensures the believer's attainment of it (cf. Philippians 3:20-21). Compare "accounted worthy to obtain ... the resurrection from the dead," Luke 20:35; Luke 14:14, "the resurrection of the just."

Verse 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.

'Not that I,' etc. (let me not be misunderstood as saying that, etc.)

Attained - `obtained;' namely, a perfect knowledge of Christ, the power of His death, the fellowship of His sufferings, and conformity to His death.

Either were already perfect - `or am already (spiritually) perfected' [ teteleioomai (G5048)], crowned with the garland of victory, my course completed, and perfection absolutely reached. The image is that of a race-course (see 1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:23).

I follow after - `I press on.'

Apprehend ... apprehended - `If so be that I may lay hold on [ Katalaboo (G2638)] that (namely, the prize, Philippians 3:14) for obtaining which also I was laid hold on by Christ;' namely, at my conversion (Song of Solomon 1:4; 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Jesus. So 'Aleph (') A, Vulgate. Omitted in B Delta G f g. Christ, the Author, is also the Finisher of His people's 'race.'

Verse 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,

I count not myself - whatever others count as to themselves. He who counts himself perfect must deceive himself (1 John 1:8); yet each must aim at perfection to be a Christian at all (Matthew 5:48).

Forgetting those things which are behind. Looking back ends in going back: so Lot's wife (Luke 9:62; Luke 17:32). If we cease pulling the oar against the current, we are carried back. God's word is, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward" (Exodus 14:15). The Bible, as our landmark, shows whether we are progressing or retrograding.

Reaching forth, [ epekteinomenos (G1901)] - 'stretching out after the things in front,' after higher stages of holiness, with hand and foot, like a runner in a race the body bent forward. Christians are humbled by the contrast between what they are and what they desire to be. The eye reaches before, drawing on the hand; the hand reaches before, drawing on the foot (Bengel) (Hebrews 6:1).

Verse 14

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

High calling, [ tees (G3588) anoo (G507) kleeseoos (G2821)] - 'the calling that is above' (Galatians 4:26; Colossians 3:1); the "heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1). "The prize" is the "crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:7-8; Revelation 2:10, "crown of life;" 1 Peter 5:4 "a crown of glory that fadeth not away.") "The high calling" is not Paul's calling as an apostle by God from heaven, but that of all Christians to salvation in Christ, which coming from, invites us to, heaven, where accordingly our minds ought to he uplifted (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

Verse 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.

Therefore - resuming Philippians 3:3. Perfect - full-grown (no longer 'babes') in the Christian life (Philippians 3:3, 'worshipping God in the Spirit, having no confidence in the flesh') (1 Corinthians 2:6): established in the things of God; or, one fully fit for running (Bengel), observing the laws of the course (2 Timothy 2:5); sincere in seeking justification through Christ (Genesis 17:1). Though "perfect" in this sense, he was not yet 'made perfect' in the sense of Philippians 3:12; namely, 'crowned with complete victory,' and absolutely perfect.

Thus minded - having the mind described, Philippians 3:7-14: renouncing as loss all self-dependencies and legal confidences.

Otherwise minded - deficient somewhat in knowledge of self, and of the entirely gratuitous nature of the Gospel. 'He who thinks he has attained everything, hath nothing' (Chrysostom) Some thought to attain perfection by the law (Galatians 3:3), who needed the warning, Philippians 3:2, 'though, on account of their sincerity, Paul hopes confidently (as in Galatians 5:10) that God will reveal right-mindedness to them' (Philippians 1:9; Ephesians 1:17). Paul taught externally: God 'reveals' the truth internally by His Spirit (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 3:6).

Unto you - who sincerely strive to do God's will (John 7:17; Ephesians 1:17).

Verse 16

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

The expectation of further (Philippians 3:15), 'revelation' is not to make you less careful in walking according to whatever knowledge and perfection you have already attained. God reveals more to those who walk up to the revelations they already have (Hosea 6:3).

Rule, let us mind the same thing. So C Vulgate. Omitted in 'Aleph (') A B. Perhaps inserted from Galatians 6:16 and Philippians 2:2. 'Whereunto we have attained, let us walk on [a military term: march in order: stoichein (G4748)] in the same' (measure of knowledge already attained).

Verse 17

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

Be [ ginesthe (G1096), 'become']

Followers, [ summimeetai (G4831)] - 'imitators together.

Of me - as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Imitate me no further than as I imitate Christ. Bengel's translation better brings out this': 'Become my fellow-imitators of Christ;' 'imitators of Christ together with me' (note, Philippians 2:22; Ephesians 5:1).

Mark - for imitation, Timothy, Epaphras, and all such.

Which walk so as [ kathoos (G2531 )] ye have us for an ensample. 'Mark those who are walking so as ye have an example in us' (Ellicott). I prefer, 'inasmuch as,' instead of "as." The context implies (Philippians 3:8; Philippians 3:10; Philippians 3:12; Philippians 3:14) that it is Christ who is to be imitated.

Verse 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:

Many walk. Follow not evildoers, because they are "many" (Exodus 23:2). Their numbers are rather a presumption against their being Christ's "little flock" (Luke 12:32).

Often. There is need of constant warning. The Lord and His apostles speak more against empty professors (as the Pharisees) than against open scoffers.

Weeping (Romans 9:2). A hard tone in speaking of the inconsistencies of professors is the opposite of Paul's spirit and Jeremiah's (Jeremiah 13:17: cf. Psalms 119:136).

Enemies of the cross of Christ - in practice, not in doctrine: practically denying 'that they who are Christ's have crucified the flesh' (Galatians 5:24; Galatians 6:14; Hebrews 6:6; Hebrews 10:29).

Verse 19

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

End - fixed doom (2 Corinthians 11:15). Contrast Romans 6:22.

Destruction - everlasting, at Christ's coming (Philippians 1:28): contrast to "Saviour" (Philippians 3:20).

Whose god is their belly (Romans 16:18) - hereafter to be destroyed by; God (1 Corinthians 6:13): in contrast to our "body" (Philippians 3:21), which our God, the Lord Jesus, shall 'fashion like unto His glorious body.' Their belly is now pampered, our body now wasted: then the states of both shall be reversed.

Glory is in their shame. As "glory" often in the Old Testament means 'god' (Psalms 106:20), so here it answers to "whose god," in the parallel clause. "Shame" is the Old Testament term contemptuously given to an idol (Judges 6:32, margin). Hosea 4:7 seems referred to (cf. Romans 1:32). Their glory is in what is really matter of shame-sensuality and carnality.

Mind earthly things, [ ta (G3588) epigeia (G1919) fronountes (G5426)] (Romans 8:5). Contrast Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:2 [ ta (G3588) anoo (G507) phroneite (G5426)], 'Set your mind on things above.' The earthly are, like Sisera, nailed to the earth while asleep.

Verse 20

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

Our conversation - our life as citizens [ politeuma (G4175), from politeuomai (G4176): Philippians 1:27; Acts 23:1 ]. The antithesis to Philippians 3:19 favours this translation, rather than 'our citizenship' [which would be politeia (G4174)], or than 'our commonwealth' (Ellicott): which last would require 'is heaven' instead of "is IN heaven" (cf. Ephesians 2:6; Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10). We are but pilgrims on earth; how then should we "mind earthly things?" (Hebrews 11:9-10; Hebrews 11:13-16; Acts 22:28: cf. Luke 10:20.) Two circumstances make the frequent use of 'citizenship' (Philippians 1:27; Philippians 4:3) an appropriate image in writing to Philippi:

(1) It was a Roman colony, possessing, besides local privileges, Roman citizenship, of which the people were naturally proud.

(2) Paul himself at Philippi had made a remarkable use of his citizenship (Acts 16:37-39): a happy illustration of our state absent on earth, but enjoying the protection and civic privileges of heaven.

The grand distinction between the worldly and believers is, these alone regard earth as their temporary, heaven as their true and everlasting home.

Is, [ huparchei (G5225)] - 'has its existence.'

In heaven - Greek, 'in the heavens.'

Look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus - `We wait for [so apekdechetai, constantly and patiently, Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23 ] the Lord Jesus as a (i:e., in the capacity of a) Saviour;' completing "salvation" by redeeming the body (Hebrews 9:28; 1 Corinthians 1:7). That He is "the Lord," now exalted above every name, assures our expectation (Philippians 2:9-11). Our High Priest has gone up into the Holy of holies not made with hands, there to atone for us. As the Israelites stood outside the tabernacle, expecting Aaron's return (cf. Luke 1:21), so must we look unto the heavens, expecting Christ thence.

Verse 21

Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

[ Metascheematisei (G3345) to (G3588) sooma (G4983) tees (G3588) tapeinooseoos (G5014)] 'Who shall transfigure the body of our humiliation (in which our humiliation has place, 2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Timothy 2:11-12: 'not vile, nothing that He made is vile' (Dr. Whately on his deathbed), that it may be conformed [ summorphon (G4832) to (G3588) soomati (G4983) tees (G3588) doxees (G1391)] unto the body of His glory (in which His glory is manifested), according to the effectual working [ energeian (G1753)] whereby,' etc. (Ephesians 1:19.)

Even - not only to make the body like His own, but "to subdue all things," even death itself, Satan, and sin. He gave a sample of the coming transfiguration on the mount, (Matthew 17:1, etc.) Not a change of identity, but of fashion or form (Psalms 17:15; 1 Corinthians 15:25; 1 Corinthians 15:51). Our spiritual resurrection now is the pledge of our bodily resurrection to glory hereafter (Philippians 3:20; Romans 8:11). As Christ's glorified body was essentially identical with His body of humiliation, so believers' resurrection bodies, being like His, shall be identical essentially with our present bodies, yet "spiritual" (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Our 'hope' is, that Christ, by His rising from the dead, hath obtained the power, and is become the pattern, of our resurrection (Micah 2:13; Titus 2:13).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Philippians 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/philippians-3.html. 1871-8.
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