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Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 3

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

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Verses 1-21


This chapter opens with a warning against the Judaizing teachers whom we have met before (Philippians 3:1-3 ), and who followed Paul everywhere teaching that the keeping of the ceremonial law of Moses was necessary to salvation. The “dogs,” the “evil workers” and the “concision” of Philippians 3:2 all refer to them, the last word being a parody of what circumcision meant in the Old Testament. These false teachers were not the true circumcision, or the true Israelites, who are described in Philippians 3:3 .

This reference to the true circumcision leads Paul to speak of himself (Philippians 3:4-14 ). If any spiritual value lay in pedigree or outward zeal, he might well claim it (Philippians 3:5-6 ); but his estimate of these things since his conversion to Christ is expressed in what follows. He counts them not merely worthless but ruinous, being a “loss,” “a robbery of the true blessing.” “That I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8 ) might be rendered “that I might win.” “He thinks the past over again,” says Bishop Moule. “The righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9 ) is expounded in our treatment of Romans 1:17 . “That I may know Him” (Philippians 3:10 ), means with an inward spiritual intuition, as the One whose resurrection assures me of justification and coming glory, for whom I daily take up the cross of suffering, being thus brought more and more into harmony (“conformity”) with that surrender He made in achieving my salvation. The outcome of this knowledge is an attainment “unto the resurrection out from the dead” (Philippians 3:11 RV). The reference is to the first resurrection, that of the saints which takes place at Christ’s second coming (1 Corinthians 15:23 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ; Revelation 20:4-6 ). This is that for which Christ had laid hold of Paul at his salvation, and toward which he was ever pressing (Philippians 3:12-14 ).

The reference to himself and his purpose eventuates in an exhortation (Philippians 3:15-21 ). “Perfect” (Philippians 3:15 ), means not sinlessness which Paul himself had not reached (Philippians 3:12 ) and which no saint reaches in this life, but rather “Christian maturity and entirety of experience,” which those in Christ as long as these Philippians were should have known. “Thus-minded,” means of the same mind as Paul, who rested immovably on Christ for His acceptance with God, and pressed forward without rest in the path of obedience. Did they not see eye to eye with him on all these matters it would yet be revealed to them (Philippians 3:15 ), but in the meantime let them fully live up to the light they had (Philippians 3:16 ). From the above it will be seen that Paul has in mind another class of false teachers besides the legalists (Judaizers). These were those with false notions of holiness, who so presumed on the atoning merits of Christ as to disclaim any need of seeking conformity to His life. They walked as enemies of Christ, though professing His name, and indulged in gross sins (Philippians 3:18-19 ) on the ground that it made no difference if their spirits soared in a higher region. This was the teaching of a false philosophy known as “Gnosticism” of which we shall learn more in Colossians. Some of the “Gnostics” were ascetics while others were libertines both practices springing from the same root of error, viz: a wrong conception of the human body in the scheme of redemption (compare 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 ). To both schools, spirit was good and matter evil; but one sought to wear out the body by beating and abusing it, while the other let it have its own way as that which was soon to perish. These all minded “earthly things,” but the true Christian the heavenly things (Philippians 3:20 ). The latter is a citizen of the heavenly city, where he will be forever with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17 ), and is therefore “obliged by his nobility” to live as one who belongs to and represents it. When our Lord comes out of that city for us, He will not destroy or annihilate our present bodies, but wonderfully change them like unto His own “glorious body” (Philippians 3:21 ).


1. With what does this chapter open, and why?

2. What does the apostle count “loss”?

3. What does “perfect” mean in Philippians 3:15 ?

4. Define “Gnosticism.”

5. Give an interpretation of Philippians 3:21 .

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Philippians 3". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/philippians-3.html. 1897-1910.
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