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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 3

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-21


Warning against Judaistic teachers and wicked deceivers

Philippians 3:1 to Philippians 4:1

1. The disposition of these teachers in contrast with that of the Apostle

(Philippians 3:1-16)

(1) The Apostle warns his readers against the disposition of these false teachers, especially their pride (Philippians 3:2-7); points out plainly the opposition between righteousness which is of the law and that which is of faith (Philippians 3:8-11); declares with humility that he is yet striving after perfection (Philippians 3:12-14), and concludes by exhorting them to unity (Philippians 3:15-16).

1Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to 2me indeed is not grievous, [irksome] but for you it is safe. Beware of [the] dogs, beware of [the] evil workers, beware of the concision. 3For we are the circumcision, who worship (God) in the Spirit [of God1] and rejoice [glory] in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 4Though I might [can] have confidence (also) in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he 5might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised2 the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee: 6concerning zeal,3 persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7But what things were gain to me, those I [have] counted 8loss for Christ. 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 [refuse] that I may win Christ, 9and 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 [upon] faith; 10that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable 4 [being conformed] unto his death: 11if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.5 12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, that I may apprehend [lay hold upon] that for which also I am apprehended 13[was laid hold upon] of [by] Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended6 [to have laid hold upon] but (this) one thing: (I do,) forgetting 14those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule,7 let us mind the same thing [in the same let us walk].


Philippians 3:1. Finally (τὸ λοιπόν) as formula progrediendi begins (Bengel) as in Philippians 4:8; Ephesians 6:10; 2Co 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:1), a section usually near the end. Hence in the glow of feeling the Apostle always adds “my brethren” (ἀδελφοί μου or ἀδελφοί). It does not conclude what immediately precedes (Schenkel), nor does it so necessarily indicate the end, that Philippians 3:2 follows as a digression (Meyer).—Rejoice in the Lord (χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ). This is of the first importance, and corresponds with the ground-tone of the letter (see Introd. § § 1, 2, p. 4; and comp. Philippians 4:4; Philippians 2:17-18; Philippians 2:28; Philippians 1:18; Philippians 1:25). Their joy should have its origin and element in Christ (Romans 14:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). That the emphasis falls upon this expression is shown by the final exhortation (Philippians 4:1) στήκετε ἐν κυρίῳ (Philippians 4:2), which lies at the foundation of that given here, and appropriately follows the warning against the false teachers who would separate them from the Lord.—To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome but for you it is safe (τὰ αὐτὰ γράφειν ὑμῖν, ἐμοὶ μὲν οὐκ ὀκνηρόν, ὑμῖν δὲ�). We infer from ὀκνηρόν (from ὄκνος ‘sluggishness,’ ‘delay,’ like πονηρός, qui aliis πόνους facit), which in Matthew 25:26; Romans 12:11, signifies ‘slothful,’ that an unpleasant task is meant, and that may consist in a formal repetition of his words. Ἀσφαλές (from σφάλλω, labo, vacillare facio), properly “firm, secure,” (Hebrews 6:19; Acts 21:34; Acts 22:30; Acts 25:26), or ‘adapted to secure,’ ‘make safe,’ presupposes warnings against imminent dangers. It is clear that Paul, ‘who writes the same things’ (τὰ αὐτὰ γράφει), only for the sake of the Philippians, would prefer not to be compelled to do so; it is, therefore, no feeling or confession of poverty of thought (Baur). It is also evident that τὰ αὐτὰ γράφειν does not refer to consolation, exhortation, which would not be to him burdensome (ὀκνηρόν). Hence it is not the preceding exhortation to rejoice that is meant (Bengel, Wiesinger, and others). Both adjectives lead us to think of the warning as directed against false teachers in Philippi. But in this letter Paul as yet has written nothing about these teachers, since those mentioned in Philippians 1:15; Philippians 1:17 sq. are in Rome and may be endured, whereas those here are of the most dangerous character. It is most natural to think of another letter of Paul’s to Philippi, especially as Polycarp says of Paul (Philippians 3:0): ἀπὼν ὑμῖν ἔγραψεν ἒπιστολάς, εἰς ἃς ἐὰν ἐγκύπτητε δυνήσεσθε οἰκοδομεῖσθαι. He also says in another passage (Philippians 2:0), preserved only in a Latin translation.: Ego autem, nil tale sensi in vobis vel audivi, in quibus laboravit beatus Paulus, qui estis in principio epistolæ ejus, de vobis enim gloriatur in omnibus ecclesiis. The meaning of this is not: “Ye are in the beginning of his letter,” but according to 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 : “Ye are from the beginning, in the beginning, his letters, letters of recommendation.” Why may not an epistle to the Philippians have been lost, as well as that to the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16), and one to the Corinthians (Bleek, Studien und Kritiken, 1830, p. 625; Winer’s Realw.; p. 673)? The view that quæ præsens dixeram should be supplied (Pelagius, Erasmus, and others) is untenable; for he does not say καὶ γράφειν, nor can we suppose, with Heinrichs and Paulus, that from τὰ αὐτὰ γράφειν to Philippians 4:20, we have an esoteric letter to his more intimate friends, while the remainder is an exoteric letter to the church. This is an arbitrary notion, and does not help us at all to explain the language; “it is a manifest historical and psychological misconception,” says Meyer, “if we only think of Paul’s relations to the Philippians.” [Paul had been at Philippi twice after his founding of the church there (Acts 20:1-2) where this city must have been among “those parts” mentioned in that passage, and again on his return to Macedonia after the three months in Greece, (Philippians 3:3; Philippians 3:6); and on these occasions he must have given to the Philippian Christians much and varied oral instruction. The γράφειν as present will bear the emphasis—“to be writing as I now do”—and this could be opposed to the warnings which they had heard from his lips, when among them. The act of dictating and writing to them would thus be tacitly opposed to the easier task of merely speaking to them. He would submit cheerfully (οὐκ ὀκνηρόν) to the trouble of repeating his instructions in every form, with the pen or the voice, if he could only by such or any other means secure them against the dangers to which they were exposed. So, among others, Calvin and Wiesinger. Prof. Lightfoot understands the expression as referring to the Apostle’s reiterated warnings against dissension in this letter, and Bishop Ellicott of his exhortations, expressed or implied, to rejoice in the Lord.—H.] In χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ we see Paul’s aim, in οὐκ ὀκνηρόν his readiness, in ἀσφαλές the church’s danger and want, and in τὰ αὐτά (not τὸ αὐτό) the variety or compass of his teachings.

Philippians 3:2. Beware of [the] dogs, beware of [the] evil-workers, beware of [the] concision. Βλέπετε, followed as here by a direct accusative, strictly means ‘behold,’ ‘fix your eye upon;’ and so in 1 Corinthians 10:18; 1 Corinthians 1:26. See Winer’s Gram., p. 223. The proper Greek for ‘beware of, would require ἀπό With the genit. after βλέπετε (Mark 8:15; Mark 12:38). The one sense here involves the other; videte et cavebitis (Bengel). The threefold repetition marks the Apostle’s earnestness and the importance of the warning (Winer’s Gram., p. 609), while it corresponds gradatione retrograda (Bengel) to the three clauses (Philippians 3:3) which describe only a single class of teachers, and hence not three different kinds of false teachers (Van Hengel). The first substantive (τοὺς κύνας) was a term of reproach with heathen and Jews, and implies ‘impudence, shamelessness’ (in Matthew 15:26, τοῖς κυναρίοις, less severe); among the Jews it (κύνας) implied also uncleanness (Matthew 7:6; Revelation 22:15), and among the heathen that of ferocity and malevolence. It is most natural to retain here the biblical idea, viz., profane, impure, shameless, thereby indicating the moral character of the teachers in question. Hence it is not to be understood of mere shamelessness (Chrysostom), or this together with covetousness (Grotius), or ferocity or violence (Rilliet), and least of all a special class: homines a Christi professione ad Judæorum superstitionem reversi, imitatores canum ad vomitum suum redeuntium (Van Hengel). Τοὺς κακοὺς ἐργάτας designates their activity, not as πονηρόν, evil to others, but as evil in itself, unprofitable, injurious (comp. δόλιοι ἐργάται, 2 Corinthians 11:13). See the contrast in 2 Timothy 2:15. Van Hengel is incorrect: qui se a Christo quidem non avertunt, sed superstitione illa divinam corrumpunt doctrinam. Τὴν κατατομήν, paranomasia nam gloriosam appellationem περιτομῆς vindicat Christianis Philippians 3:3, κατατὲμνα de concisione vetita, Leviticus 21:5; Leviticus 1:0 Reg. Leviticus 18:28; non sine indignatione loquitur (Bengel). See Winer’s Gram., p. 638. The language here states the result of their activity; with their circumcision they effect only an outward mutilation. This ironical and sarcastic paranomasia (found often in Paul as well as in Luther) marks only the quality, not the quantity (Baur), of the circumcision, and is to be taken passively in its concrete sense, i.e., the mutilated, not the mutilators. The reference is not to idolatry (Beza, et al.), or to a separation of faith from the heart (Luther), a sundering of the church (Calvin, et al.), and still less to a class of teachers: Judæi, fiduciam suam in carnis circumcisione potentes atque ita ad Christum venire nolentes, sed illum contemnentes et spernentes (Van Hengel). It is certain that they were Judaists, as in Galatia, and were active at Philippi, and though they had no success and no adherents at Philippi, yet were dangerous opponents of Paul’s view of Christianity. The severity of the Apostle’s language contrasts strongly with his joy and friendliness with reference to the Philippians, but was justified by the fact that a spiritual field so fair and hopeful was threatened and endangered by such disturbers. The condition itself of the church furnished a reason for his sharpness against them. The contrast in Philippians 3:3 sheds further light on this point.

Philippians 3:3. For we are the circumcision (ἡμεῖς γάρ ἐσμεν ἡ περιτομή). Causa, cur, Philippians 3:2, alios tam longe secludat (Bengel). [Paul justifies here (γάρ) his refusing to recognize the Judaists as the advocates of true circumcision. They are destitute of the marks of those who answer to that character. They substitute an outward form for the spirit of true worship, and rely upon their own works for acceptance, instead of the righteousness offered to them in the gospel; whereas the circumcision that God accepts is that of the heart and not of the letter (Romans 2:29), and is the seal or evidence of the justification which man obtains by faith and not by deeds of the law (Romans 4:11 sq.). Christians fulfilled both of these requisitions for obtaining the favor of God, and hence they also were entitled to be called the circumcision.—H.] Ἡμεῖς precedes with emphasis. The Apostle means himself and his beloved church, which was composed for the most part of Gentiles. Hence ἡ περιτομή is to be understood in the purely spiritual sense, that is, Christians who have received circumcision of the heart (Colossians 2:11; Romans 2:25-29). Comp. 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 3:28; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15.—These are further characterized: who worship in the Spirit of God (οἱ πνεύματι θεοῦ λατρεύοντες). The verb is used absolutely, as Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:2; Acts 26:1; Luke 2:31, of the worship of God which the instrumental dative defines more fully as spiritual, and the genit. θεοῦ refers to the Holy Spirit in opposition to the human spirit. It is contrasted with the σάρξ in its moral sense. Comp. John 4:23-24; Hebrews 9:14; Galatians 3:3; Romans 12:1 (τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν). Hence the dative does not designate the rule (Van Hengel). Winer’s Gram., p. 216. Comp. 1 Corinthians 9:7.—And rejoice [glory] in Christ Jesus (καὶ καυχώμενοι ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ). For the form of expression see Romans 2:17; Romans 5:11; 1Co 1:31; 1 Corinthians 3:21; 2 Corinthians 10:17. They are here contrasted with the κακοὶ ἐργάται.—And have no confidence in the flesh (καὶ οὐκ ἐν σαρκὶ πεποιθότες) denotes their moral position as οpposed to the κύνας, the impure, insolent, while that which precedes marks their religious sphere. Οὐκ implies a direct negative: qui non confisi sunt, whereas μή would have made it hypothetical (si non confisi sunt). See Winer’s Gram., p. 485.

Philippians 3:4. Although I might have (more strictly am having = have) confidence also in the flesh. Καίπερ is restrictive here only in Paul, more frequently in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 7:8; Hebrews 12:17). Ἐγώ singled out from ἡμεῖς, Philippians 3:3 (the truly circumcised whether outwardly or not), places the Apostle, who is a Jew as the false teachers were (Philippians 3:2), not one of the heathen as was the greater part of the Philippian Church, in contrast with these teachers, as having confidence in the flesh (ἔχων πεποίθησιν ἐν σαρκί) de jure, not de facto. His actual confidence is based not upon the flesh, upon outward advantages, but upon Christ (hence καί before ἐν σαρκί i.e., also in it as well as Him), though not without his reasons for that other confidence and a right to it. Hence the participle does not denote the past (Van Hengel), nor is it to be resolved into ‘could have’ (Schenkel), nor is πεποίθησις merely argumentum fiduciæ (Beza, Calvin, et al.). In σαρκί special reference is made to circumcision. [This rite is named because it was the watchword, as it were, of those who, in their system of salvation, exalted good works above the merits of Christ (see Gal.) —H.]—If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more, introduces a comparison between Paul’s condition and that of the others. Ἐι τις ἄλλος is entirely general, leaving his readers to apply it to the Judaists. Δοκεῖ denotes the subjective, arbitrary judgment, as in Galatians 6:3; 1Co 3:18; 1 Corinthians 8:2. No appeal can be made to Galatians 2:6; Galatians 2:9 (Schenkel), for there the meaning is ‘to be found such by others, to have that repute.’ Πεποιθέναι ἐν σαρκί denotes the actual πεποιθησιν ἔχειν, contained in the perf. With ἐγὼ μᾶλλον we are to supply δωκῶ πεποιθέναι ἐν σαρκί; comp. 2 Corinthians 11:23.

Philippians 3:5. Now follow the specifications which justify this claim. His first advantage is: Circumcised the eighth day (περιτομῇ ὀκταήμερος). The dative (not nominative, as if the abstract were used for circumcisus (Bengel), which is true only in the collective sense) denotes the respect in which (Ephesians 2:3 : τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς). Winer’s Gram., p. 215. The adjective designates Paul in contrast with proselytes, as a Jew by birth, who had been circumcised on the eighth day, according to the law (Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3).—In censum nunc venit splendor natalium (Van Hengel), the second advantage: Of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews (ἐκ γένους Ἰσραήλ, φυλῆς Βενιαμίν, Ἑβραῖος ἐκ Ἑβραίων). These all belong together according to the sense and the construction, for the preposition is not repeated before φυλῆς. As Schenkel well remarks: The theocratic full-blood (Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22) is contrasted with the Idumean half-blood. Comp. Ephesians 2:12. The tribe of Benjamin enjoyed and conferred a distinction, because unlike the Ephraimites it had remained faithful to the theocracy. Besides this his Jewish extraction (εὐγένεια) was also perfect: his mother also was a Jew, and not a foreigner. It is incorrect to understand this of Hebrew-speaking parents (the Greek interpreters), which the context does not support, or of a tota majorum series ex Ebræis (Grotius), which would be unnecessary if he sprung from the people of Israel, from the tribe of Benjamin.—The third advantage: As touching the law a Pharisee. Κατά denotes the reference, as τὰ κατ’ ἐμέ (Ephesians 6:21). Winer’s Gram., p. 401. Comp. Acts 22:3; Acts 26:5. His religious position, his relation to the law, is marked as strict, rigorous; for the Pharisees observed it conscientiously and scrupulously. Νόμος is not = αἴρεσις, disciplina, θεσμοί (Grotius and others).

Philippians 3:6. The fourth advantage: Concerning zeal, persecuting the Church (κατὰ ζήλος διώκων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν) describes his moral conduct in the relations above mentioned. The participle is to be taken substantively as οἱ ζητοῦντες in Matthew 2:20. It is not equivalent to διώξας (Grotius). That which is the greatest sin of the Apostle’s life, in his own estimation (1 Corinthians 15:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:13-16), he reckons by a sort of irony in this controversy with the Judaizers, as a glory to himself.—The fifth advantage: Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless (κατὰ δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐν νόμῳ γενόμενος ἄμεμπτος) presents the moral result. The righteousness referred to here (as the result of his conduct) is that which rests in the law, is based upon and determined by it; hence essentially that which is ἐκ νόμου (Philippians 3:9), and not ‘righteousness under or in the condition of law’ (De Wette). In this respect he is ‘blameless’ (ἄμεμπτος) according to men’s judgment (communi hominum existimatione, Calvin). It does not fully embrace Paul’s meaning to say: se nihil fecisse, quod morte aut verberibus castigandum esset (Grotius). Γενόμενος, put for emphasis before the adjective, signifies ‘becoming, striving himself to be,’ upon which, as the context teaches, he places value in the presence of God, but only when he opposes the carnal pride of these false teachers. To find here an obvious, though weak and lifeless imitation of 2 Corinthians 11:18-27, and to call this passage tame and without interest (Baur), indicates a perverted taste (Meyer).

Philippians 3:7. But what things were gain to me, presents forcibly Paul’s own position in contrast with (ἀλλά) that of these teachers. In ἅτινα, quæcunque, which is emphatic as the following ταῦτα shows, are included the preceding privileges and others of the same class.—These formerly ἦν μοι κέρδη, were actually gains, as the verb, emphatic by position, indicates. By μοί Paul means himself, as when he was Saul of Tarsus, and there is no need of weakening the sense by taking the pronoun (μοί) as the dative of judgment (Erasmus, et al.) The plural κερδή is used ob rerum varietatem, but there is no reason for supplying non vera lucra, sed opinata (Van Hengel) which is no more implied in the plural than in μοί, since ἧν precedes.—These [have] I counted loss for Christ (ταῦτα ἥγημαι διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν ζημίαν). The perfect, after the emphatic ταῦτα, denotes an actio præterita, quæ per effectus suos durat, and implies the inward decision which has resulted in action. It does not refer to the act in itself, but to the act as a result of conscious freedom. Hence it is not abjeci, repudiari (Van Hengel), which Philippians 2:3 does not confirm. Both the collocation and the signification of the words are to be observed. As to the order, we notice that διὰ τὸν Χριστόν stands between ἥγημαι and ζημίαν: Christ must first be known, then the ταῦτα are esteemed ζημία. With respect to the words we remark the following: (1) that with the accusative διά marks the reason (Winer’s. Gram., p. 398); (2) that τὸν Χριστόν denotes the well known, historical Christ, and (3) that ζημίαν calls to mind Acts 27:10 (πολλῆς ζημίας οὐ μόνον τοῦ φορτίου καὶ τοῦ πλοίου, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν), and Philippians 3:21, where reference is made to what had been thrown into the sea. Hence it is jactura, after the figure of a merchant who throws his κέρδη overboard, as ζημίαν, in order to save his life. The various kinds of gain (κέρδη) are esteemed as one loss of life, so far as these (ταῦτα) separate and keep one away from Christ.

Philippians 3:8. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things loss. Ἀλλά contrasts the present (ἡγοῦμαι) with the perfect (ἥγημαι). Mev rem præesentem confirmat, οὐ̄ν conclusionem ex rebus ita comparatis conficit, (so also Meyer) and καί connects the present with the preceding perfect. Winer’s Gram., p. 442. [The stricter translation according to this view, is: ‘But therefore also I count,’ etc. The present (ἡγοῦμαι) reaffirms his former judgment: He has still the same view of the worthlessness of all reliance on outward forms and privileges.—H]. The contrast does not lie in πάντα (Rilliet), for this only embraces the ἅτινα in its widest scope.—The reason why he thus holds all things to be ‘loss’ (ζημίαν εἶναι) the subsequent clause unfolds: For the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord (διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου). The explanation which belongs to διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν does not lie in the relation defined by the preposition (that being simply repeated), but in that with whom it effects the relation. The substantive participle (τὸ ὑπερέχον) designates in comparison with those gains (κέρδη) one of far surpassing value, which results from a knowledge (τῆς γνώσεως) of the Redeemer both in His Person (Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ) and in His relation to each individual (τοῦ κυρίου μοῦ). Calvin wrongly takes it ad exprimendam affectus vehementiam.—For whom I have suffered the loss of all things. [It is the aorist in Greek, ‘suffered,’ which refers to the definite epoch in Paul’s life when he experienced the change in his views and relations which he here describes.—H]. In διʼ ὅν he returns again to the person of Christ, on which, after all, everything depends, not on the subjective knowledge. Τὰ πάντα, where the article recalls πάντα just mentioned, is the limiting accusative after the passive ἐζημιώθην, which states a result consequent on this altered view of his character and wants. Luther incorrectly renders it: ‘I have counted loss;’ and Van Hengel: cujus causa factum est, ut me illis privarem omnibus.—But the Apostle has not merely endured this passively, for he adds: And do count them refuse that I may win Christ. Καὶ ἡγοῦμαι indicates his activity, conviction, knowledge, the ground of which is still for whom (διʼ ὅν). Σκύβαλα (from κυσὶ βαλεῖν) εἶναι marks the absolute worthlessness more strongly than ζημίαν εἶναι which concedes a relative value: ζημία, jactura fit æquo animo, σκύβαλα properi abjiciuntur, posthac neque tactu, neque adspectu dignanda. (Bengel). [Another derivation is that from σκῶρ, σκατός, ‘dung,’ ‘filth,’ which some good etymologists adopt, though the other is generally preferred.—H]. The aim and purpose of such a judgment is ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδήσω, that I may gain Christ, who replaces all losses.—The future does not exclude present possession, but yet implies a fuller appropriation, which the present does not satisfy. Χριστόν is stronger than simply Christi favorem (Grotius).

Philippians 3:9 attaches itself closely to that which precedes.—And may be found in him, καὶ εὑρεθῶ ἐν αὐτῷ. Bengel well observes: qui omnia, ne se ipso quidem excepto, amittit, Christum lucrifacit et in Christo lucrifit; Christus est illius et ille est Christi. Plus ultra loquitur, Paulus quasi adhuc non lucrifecerit. It is incorrect to take the objective gaining of Christ. (ἰνα κερδήσω) placed emphatically after the subjective, i.e., the being found (εὑρηθῶ) opposed to ἡγοῦμαι, as equivalent to sim, (Grotius) or to restrict it to judicum dei (Beza). How he will be found is stated in what follows.—Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law. Μή is used with ἔχων in the first place, because it belongs to a final clause, but also because it expresses a judgment concerning Paul: ‘as one who does not have.’ See Winer’s Gram., p. 482 sq. Van Hengel incorrectly joins it closely with εὑρέθω: ut deprehendar in ejus communione non meam qualemcunque habere probitatem, while Rheinwald and others explain it as ‘holding fast.’ It is habens as a specific modal-limitation of εὑρέθω ἐν αὐτῶ.—Ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐκ νόμου describes the righteousness (δικαιοσύνην) under two aspects: first, ἐμήν, emphatic by position, corresponding to τὴν ἱδίαν δικαιοσύνην (Romans 10:3) ‘his own,’ ‘self-acquired,’ to which is opposed ἡ ἐκ θεοῦor ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ (Romans 10:3); secondly, τὴν ἐκ νόμου with reference to the medium, as in like manner δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως (Romans 3:26) and answering to τὴν διὰ πίστεως (comp. Romans 3:21-22; Romans 3:26; Romans 4:5; Romans 9:32; Romans 10:3; Romans 10:5-6).—Hence he at once adds to the latter the opposite characteristic. But that which is through the faith of Christ, ἀλλὰ τὴν διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ. Here righteousness (i.e., of faith) is described as the causa apprehendens or means of securing the benefits of Christ’s work.—But for the sake of completeness he now adds still under the antithetic ἀλλά: The righteousness which is of God upon faith (τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσόνην ἐπὶ τῆ πίστει). It is not a righteousness proceeding from the subject, but from God (causa efficiens), which rests on faith as its basis. The article τῇ renders the gen. objecti (Χριστοῦ or εἰς Χριστόν), and the article τήν before ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει unnecessary, because this limitation is immanent in the conception as the faith-righteousness. Winer’s Gram. p. 135. Meyer incorrectly connects this clause (τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ, etc.) with ἔχων, and Schenkel, with εὐρέθω ἐν αὐτῷ. So remote a connection is itself against both views. We reject also the following: In fide (Vulg.), per fidem(Grotius), propter fidem (De Wette), conditione hujus ipsius fidei posita (Van Hengel).

Philippians 3:10. That I may know him (τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτόν). This knowing of Christ is what the righteousness of faith proposes, without which such knowing is impossible, in the possession of which therefore he would be found, that he may be able to know Christ. In like manner in Romans 6:6, one clause with ἵνα is joined to another with τοῦ and the infinitive. Thus the process of the knowledge of Christ (Philippians 3:8) is given. Calvin, Bengel, and others, join this clause incorrectly with ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει. The excellence of this knowledge lies first of all in its object, the person of the Lord, a practical, experimental acquaintance with Him. What follows αὐτόν is epexegetical.—And the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings (καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς�). The first denotes the vis et efficacia which the resurrection of Christ has upon those who know Him, which they experience when they embrace by faith the resurrection of the Lord; whereby God declared Him to be the author of justification and righteousness to all and every one who believes, (Romans 4:25; Romans 8:11; 1Co 15:17; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; Colossians 3:1-2). Hence the new life, the striving for that which is above, the conversation in heaven (Philippians 3:20), spring up in and with the righteousness of faith. Hence ἀνάστασις is not to be regarded as exortus (Bengel); or δύναμις to be understood as the power which effects the resurrection (Grotius); nor is reference had to the certainty of our resurrection and exaltation (Hölemann, et al.) The other expression, τὴν κοινωνίαν τῶν παθημάτων αὐτοῦ, indicates a participation in the sufferings of Christ, a συμπάσ̣χειν (Romans 7:17. See Galatians 2:20 : Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι; 2 Timothy 2:11) a suffering for Christ’s sake and in fellowship with Him. Thus suffering alone does not lead to glory as dying does not save or make us blessed. With Him! But as there is no resurrection without death, so also is there none without suffering (Wiesinger). Hence this thought, which logically should come first, takes the second place, emphatically intimating that the second is something not to be overlooked if one desires the first. The reference is not merely to a similar disposition in suffering (Van Hengel), or to an appropriation by faith of the merit of Christ, (Calov), nor is it to be explained as if it were written τὴν δύναμιν τῆς κοινωνίας (Hölemann), These two things, the power of the resurrection of Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings, are objects of the knowledge which only the righteous by faith possess. Hence such knowledge transcends all other advantages (Philippians 3:8).—Being conformed unto his death, συμμορφιζόμενος τῷ θανά τῳ αὐτοῦ. The nominative with τοῦ γνῶναι, without its relation to the subject being more closely defined is unusual. It would properly be the accusative of the subject, but is a constructio ad sensum, as if it had been ἵνα γνῶ. Comp. John 8:54; and for the opposite construction Acts 27:10. Winer’s Gram., p. 572; see on Ephesians 4:2. The present participle points to an incipient present accomplishment, which the verb shows to be outwardly similar to the death of Christ. Paul had been exposed in the cause of the gospel more immediately to a violent death, at the hands of the heathen in league with the Jews; he might at length die a martyr’s death. It is not therefore to be carried forward beyond the nearer clause, to which it actually belongs, to one more remote, which has its own limitations; nor does it denote a condition yet to be attained, or an inward ethical relation of likeness to the death of the sinless Redeemer (Schenkel).

Philippians 3:11. If by any means or perchance, εἴ πως, si forte, denotes a hope which naturally connects itself with what has been said of the power of the resurrection of Christ, of fellowship with His sufferings, and of the Apostle’s, own impending death by martyrdom. The problematical form of the expression shows his humility in view of the glory which is the object of this hope. We are not to suppose any hesitation, or doubt, but only the exclusion of moral certainty.—I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Καταντήσω as in Acts 26:7. Εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν is simply the resurrection of the righteous to blessedness. The first preposition in the substantive ἐξανάστασις, found only here, (the verb ἐξαναστῆσαν in Mark 12:19; Luke 20:28; Acts 15:5), points to the place whence the dead come forth (ἐκ τῆς γῆς). Bengel hypercritically refers ἐξανάστασις to the resurrection of Christians, and ἀνάστασις to Christ’s resurrection. Our passage gives no support to the distinction between a first and second resurrection. Comp. 1Co 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16. [“The general resurrection of the dead,” says Prof. Lightfoot, “whether good or bad, is ἡ� (e.g, 1 Corinthians 15:42); on the other hand, the resurrection of Christ and of those who rise with Christ, is generally [ἡ] ἀνάστασις [ἡ] ἐκ νεκρῶν (Luke 20:35; Acts 4:2; 1 Peter 1:3); the former includes both the ἀνάστασις ζωῆς and the ἀνάστασις κρίσεως (John 5:29); the latter is confined to the ἀνάστασις ζωῆς.” To infer that the righteous only are to be raised at the last day would contradict the express declaration of Christ in John 5:26-29; and of Paul in Acts 24:14; Acts 24:16.—H]. Van Hengel’s view is singular: si forte perveniam ad tempus hujus eventi, hence: live to the time when the dead shall rise.

Philippians 3:12. Not that I have already attained [laid hold of] or am already [or have become] perfect. Οὐχ ὅτι guards against the error of supposing that Paul would say of himself ἥδη ἔλαβον ἤδη τετελείωμαι. The object of ἔλάβον is not named, hence is to be drawn from the context: τὸ γνῶναι αὐτὸν (Philippians 3:10), τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνῶσεως Χριστοῦ Ιησοῦ (Philippians 3:8). Ἔλαβον naturally denotes complete, secure possession; as if he were entirely penetrated by such knowledge, and it had entirely penetrated him, as if it had accomplished in him its perfect moral effect. The explanatory τετελείωμαι defines the meaning. With this modest literal account of his experience we are not to connect the figurative βραβεῖον in Philippians 3:14, which does not come forward till after the intervention of several other clauses (the Greek interpreters, Bengel, Meter, and others); and also not τὴν� (Rheinwald), jus ad resurrectionem beatam (Grotius), καταντᾶ̣ν (Matthies), all of which belong to the future, or Χριστόυ (Theodoret), moral perfection (Hölemann). Bengel well remarks: in summo fervore sobrietatem spiritualem non dimittit apostolus.—But I follow after if I may also apprehend [lay hold of] that (διώκω δὲ, εἰ καὶ καταλάβω). Διώκω means (as in Romans 9:30; 1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 2:22) studiosi appeto, in contrast with (δέ) ἕλαβον, and having the same object. The εἰ shows the striving to be with humility. Καί points back to ἕλαβον; καταλάβω is stronger: cum quis plene potitur (Bengel); laying hold firmly (Meyer), Comp. Romans 9:30; 1 Corinthians 9:27.—Because also I was apprehended [laid hold of]. The ground on which he hopes to lay hold of (ἐφ ᾦ), as in Romans 5:12; 2 Corinthians 5:4 (Winer’s Gram., p. 394), hence equivalent to διότι. It is inappropriate to supply τοῦτο as the object of καταλάβω, for which, καὶ κατελήμφθην ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ (Rilliet, Wiesinger, and others); for the Apostle’s thought relates not so much to the reciprocal acts of ‘laying hold,’ and ‘being laid hold of,’ as to the effectual initiative which Christ has taken; and equally out of place is the idea of ‘being laid hold of for Christian perfection.’ The tone of the passage, which is not dialectic, reflective, speaks against such interpretations as: ‘under the condition,’ (Matthies), quo ut pervenire possim (Grotius). Luther’s rendering is unphilological. ‘After that,’ and Calvin’s quem adn modum. We are to recognize a suggestive and fine allusion in κατελήμφθην to the manner of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:3 ff.). [This reference appears to me doubtful.—H.]

Philippians 3:13. Brethren, ἀδελφοί. Familiariter fatelur (Bengel). I count not myself to have laid hold of, ἐγὼ ἐμαυτὸν οὐ λογίζομαι κατειληφέναι. A repetition of Philippians 3:12, which emphatically excludes himself (Acts 26:9; John 5:30; John 5:32; John 7:17; John 8:54). The perfect as distinguished from καταλαβεῖν, denotes the having laid hold and kept hold. He resolutely discards all certainty and self-conceit, not so much on account of his readers and of their conduct (Philippians 2:2-4), as Wiesinger thinks, but for their sakes in view of false teachers among them, or who might appear among them.

Philippians 3:14 answers to Philippians 3:12 b. But one thing, ἕν δέ, introduces the antithesis of οὐ λογί ζομαι; hence we are to supply λέγω (Luther), or λογἱζομαι κατεληφέναι brought forward; for what follows he maintains to be true of himself in opposition to what he has denied to be so. There is no ground for inserting ποιῶ (Bengel, Winer’s Gram., p. 620, et al.); nor διώκω (Van Hengel). Ἕν refers to the whole following sentence, not merely to one member of it, viz., the two participial clauses (Meyer).—Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, (τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος, τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμενος κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω). The finite verb, as in Philippians 3:12, is first of all defined more closely by two participles, which stand emphatically before it. The first clause is negative: ‘forgetting that which lies behind;’ the second is positive: ‘reaching out to what lies before;’ the first designates a purely spiritual act; the second describes a spiritual act by the posture of the body. Ἐπεκτεινόμενος indicates the bent-forward posture of one stretching himself out towards an object. Bengel: Oculus manum, manus pedem prævertit et trahit. The concrete expressions (ἔλαβον, διώκω, καταλάβω, τὰ ὀπίσω, τὰ ἔμπροσθεν, ἐπεκτεινόμενος, σκοπόν) gradually pass over more and more into the figure of a runner who in view of the goal before him and in thinking of the prize, forgets the space that lies behind. At first these expressions are such as readily attach themselves to the figure—perhaps it already lay at the bottom of them—in the end they are borrowed directly from the figure, so that τὸ βραβεῖον naturally follows as a part of the description. Hence in τὰ ὀπίσω the reference is not to the advantages mentioned, Philippians 3:5-6 (Pelagius, et al.), for these as attributes of the flesh (σάρξ) must be given up before the race begins, nor is it to the labors of the apostleship (Theodoret), but to the past attainments of the Christian life (Meyer). Τὰ ἔμπροσθεν, according to the figure the space yet to be traversed, is the life: future experience, not the goal itself, which is pointed out by κατὰ σκοπόν. The dative (τοῖς ἔμπροσθεν) shows upon what the gaze is fixed, while the preposition (κατά) indicates the direction, so that the goal is always thought of beyond the intermediate steps: it is thus = goalward (Meyer), versus metam (Winer’s Gram., p. 400).—For the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον presents now the object towards which his thoughts and efforts are directed. See 1 Corinthians 9:27; comp. Colossians 3:15. How the genitive τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως τοῦ θεοῦ ἐυ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ is to be understood, a due attention to the subject and the figure shows. By ἡ ἄνω κλῆσις is meant the heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1 : κλῆσις ἐπουράνιος) in opposition to τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς (Colossians 3:2), and as usual κλῆσις denotes an action (Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:4; Romans 11:29; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 7:20). If its nature and character are thus determined, so now is its author (τοῦ θεοῦ). Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:12. The medium is presented by ἐν χριστῷ Ιησοῦ (Winer’s Gram., p. 135 sq. Comp. Colossians 1:4.) To connect this clause with διώκω (Chrysostom, Meyer) is against both the sense and the construction. Accordingly τῆς κλήσεως is genitive of the subject, which holds forth to τὸ βραβεῖον, but not the genitive of apposition (Schenkel). [On the games of the Greeks and Romans, from which the Apostle has drawn his illustration, see Games in Dr. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible.—H].

Philippians 3:15. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded. Ὅσοι οὖν τέλειοι begins the practical application as an inference (οὖν) from the preceding. Τέλειος is to be distinguished from τετελειωμένος: ille, cursui habilis, hic, brabeo proximus, jam jam accepturus (Bengel). The first word designates a character or condition objectively determined without measuring its subjective development or degree; whereas the second determines the measure of that growth or progression. It designates like ἅγιος (Ephesians 1:1) the Christian state of which the context treats, Philippians 3:12 (τελείωσις), Hebrews 7:11. See 1 Corinthians 14:20; Matthew 5:48; Colossians 4:12; James 1:4; James 3:2; Hebrews 5:14. “As the ἅγιον εἶναι is the strongest obligation to ἁγιωσμός, so the τέλειον εἴναι presents the strongest incentive to strive after the τελειοῦσθαι” (Wiesinger). The nature or extent of the perfection (τέλειοι) appears in Philippians 3:9-10. The question is one not of absolute, but only of relative perfection. Οὖν points back to the entire passage (1–14), not merely to 12–14 (Meyer). By ὅσοι each individual is left to judge for himself whether he belongs to the τέλειοι or not. There is no reason for understanding the expression as ironical, and since he includes himself, as self-irony (Schenkel). Nor can the Apostle refer to intelligence only (Grotius, et al.), for the point under remark is the righteousness of faith. Hence, too, a comparison with immature believers or beginners in the Christian life, νήπιοι (1Co 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Hebrews 5:13-14) as Meyer supposes, is irrelevant. Τοῦτο φρονῶμεν has reference to the moral disposition. Bengel: hoc unum (Philippians 3:14). Unlike the false teachers the church should be of the same mind as the Apostle. The reference is not to τὸ βραβεῖον (Van Hengel); the point in question is the true way of striving after the βραβεῖον.—And if in anything ye be otherwise minded, (καὶ εἴ τι ἑτέρως φρονεῖτε) supposes a case in which the members of the church differ among themselves in their views or spirit in regard to points which are incidental or formal, and not essential, (it is ἑτέρως, not ἕτερον, as if to distinguish between form and substance), but Still not rightly, as surely might be the case according to Philippians 1:9-11. The context does not indicate in any way how this has taken place.—Those of whom Paul speaks are not νήπιοι (aliter ac perfecti, Bengel) nor those who have been led astray (Grotius); nor yet are the errors entirely indifferent (Schenkel), for ἀποκαλύψει authorizes hope of correction or recovery; nor is it: si quid boni per aliam viam expetitis (Van Hengel).—God shall reveal also this unto you (καὶ τοῦτο ὁ θεὸς ὑμῖν� is a confident hope, not a wish (Luther). Καί also points to other things that He has already revealed. The verb indicates an immediate disclosing to the human spirit by the Spirit of God, which next to the teaching (διδάσκειν) of the church men need in order to understand ethical truth. See Ephesians 1:17.

Philippians 3:16. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk in the same. [For the rendering of this verse, see remarks on the text.—H]. Πλήν (as in Philippians 1:14; and Philippians 4:14) limits the hope by a conditio sine qua non, which is εἰς ὃ ἐφθάσαμεν τῷ αὐτῷ στοιχεῖν. The infinitive as in German: ‘nurwandeln!’ is to be construed as an imperative (Winer’s Gram. p. 316), but not connected with ἀποκαλύψει (Œcumenius), or with what follows (Rilliet). The verb, according to its derivation from στοῖχος, row, order, (from στέχω, to ascend), signifies ‘to walk with and after one another,’ and is construed with the dative (Galatians 5:25, πνεύματι; Galatians 6:16, τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ; Romans 4:12, τοῖς ἴχνεσιν). Hence the meaning of τῷ αὐτῷ στοιχεῖν is: ‘to walk together with each other according to or in the same.’ Τῷ αὐτῷ is more closely defined by εἰς ὃ ἐφθάσαμεν. This verb means to arrive at, to reach, hence has to do with an act completed at a definite time, which the tense marks as belonging to the past, while the act denoted by στοιχεῖν is continuous, reaching from the present into the future. The common rule by which they are to act is that which they have experienced or gained in the Christian life—the gospel, truth, Christ, God’s Spirit and life—and indeed in its entire range as the indefiniteness of the expression indicates. Thus there is no reference to the βραβεῖον, or any single thing, and the sense is: Should energy become even violence; mildness, softness; earnestness, stubbornness; reserve, exclusiveness; fidelity, narrowness; freedom, laxity; in any one point (all which is τὶ ἑτέρως φρονεῖν), only hold fast to the gospel, the Lord and His word, to the essential truth of the same, to that of which we have become partakers.


1. Christianity plants and nourishes essentially and chiefly joy, true joy, joy in the Lord, in His word and work, His life and gifts, His excellence and glory.

2. Irony and humor in sacred things (Philippians 3:2 : κατατομή—περιτομή)hold almost the same place that the imprecatory Psalms hold among the prophetic; the former invoke on the enemies of God and His kingdom what the latter predict. Irony and humor are an expression of the difference which exists between reality and truth, a difference sharply recognized and as sharply uttered, without mercy for the delinquent, but with a tender regard for those who are to be instructed. They occur especially in the style and thoughts of genial men distinguished for faith, at the same time full of deep earnestness as well as tender love, like Paul and Luther (whose Drecket Drecketal, instead of Dekret Dekretal, Meyer compares here with Paul’s sarcastic paranomasia). They are to be distinguished from ridicule which only seeks to provoke laughter against one, and thus to achieve a petty triumph, and from derision and scorn which have their origin in contempt. It is not an allowed ridicule or scorn—allowed to an Apostle, even a duty, but in general to be condemned (Schenkel)—that is here employed. The greatness of the danger and of the interests at stake, the hot struggle at an endangered post, a true and lively sense of justice, the deepest sympathy with those for and around whom the contest is raging, and great spiritual keenness, sagacity, and depth of feeling, occasion the hard, telling, crushing expression (see Philippians 3:3).

3. Two things are as important as they are difficult: to determine the extent of one’s advantages and gifts, and the worth and relation of the same. Birth and lineage, family, tribe and nationality on the one hand, and the moral character determined by them on the other, Paul reckons together as excellencies and gifts of the same kind, and holds them all in slight esteem compared with what he has in Christ. The morality of men belongs to the province of the natural life; it depends on birth, family, position, culture, time and circumstances, and gives reason, as does every favor for humble thankfulness, but not for proud boasting (Philippians 3:3-5).

4. The righteousness of faith has its advantage over righteousness of the law in the author to whom it owes its origin, that is God Himself; in the medium through which it is wrought, faith which embraces and clings to the Mediator; and in the experiences which it works, and which reach into the eternal glory, that is, Christ’s life and sufferings, with whom the believer has sympathy (Philippians 3:10).—The worthlessness of the righteousness of the law does not consist in this, that law and advantages, such as birth, family, nation, morality, are in themselves valueless, but in the fact that man of himself, the natural man, without Christ, in his perverseness, does not rightly estimate them (Philippians 3:7-9, and Romans 7:7-24).

5. Progress consists in advancing from the possession of faith to that of knowledge, which is not merely an intellectual thing, but an experience of the whole man, a transforming of impressions into views or judgments, and then onward through suffering with Christ to glorification with Him who perfects His servants even as He completed His own course. The first points out the material or means of progress, the second its form or sphere, while the end is the permeating of the entire man by the dead and again risen Lord (Philippians 3:11-14).

6. The progress of the Christian to eternal glory has its origin in the fact, that he has been called from above by God in Christ, and has been laid hold of by Him; its continuance in the fact, that he holds firmly to Christ without contentedly looking back upon what has been already won, but with his face earnestly set towards the goal with the feeling that he has not yet reached it; and its end in the fact, that the exalted Lord receives him into His glory. It is thus an onward movement in one direction, without elation or depression, or a deviation to the right or left (Philippians 3:13-14). To him belongs the χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ who obeys the στήκετε ἐν κυρίῳ (Philippians 4:1).

7. He who has the truth-loving heart will never want the helping guidance and revelation of the Spirit of truth; and as certainly will he have his waverings and his need of this help (Philippians 3:15-16).

8. [It seems appointed that much of the highest instruction should come to us (even in the Bible) through the sufferings and struggles of individual men. Perseverance in the Christian life is, after all, the basis of St. Paul’s character. “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” “Not as though I had already attained, but I follow after. This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Dr. Howson’s Lectures on the Character of St. Paul, p. 212 f.)—H].


Warn thy hearers constantly by holding up before them first of all what the Lord commands, and by leading them to observe what they have lost, and by whom they have been deprived of it.—Never glory in the gifts of the Lord, but only in the Lord of the gifts.—Do not leap over the valley of sorrows through which the way to the heights of glory passes.—Thou art never complete, never think thyself complete; what thou hast and art is ever less than what thou shouldest have and be.—Far-seeing, circumspect, self-inspecting, watch all waverings in thyself, that thou mayest not depart from the one way of salvation.

Luther:—Thoughtless, full, surfeited souls, if they have once heard a word of God’s, act as if it were an old thing, and yawn for something new, as if they were able to do all that they have heard. This is a dangerous plague and wicked artifice of the devil, who thereby renders men confident, secure, over-curious, and ready for every error and schism; and they are guilty of the vice of slothfulness (ἀκηδία) in the service of God (Philippians 3:1).—Flesh and blood say: Something new, else it becomes tiresome. Nay, says Christ, but think of me. The word of God rightly received into the heart, produces neither fulness nor satiety, but greater desire the longer it is known (Philippians 3:1).

Jerome Schurf:—Sic mutatam et corruptam esse ecclesiæ doctrinam, quia concionatores existimarint gloriosum esse, non repetere eadem, sed alia et nova afferre redeuntibus iisdem festis.

Starke:—God has no respect of persons; before Him the slave has as much worth as the master, the peasant as the noble, the subject as the prince. We see this, indeed, in death, which is God’s provost, who uses even justice, and punishes the master with the slave.—It is a humility which becomes those to whom God has lent many talents, and who have also increased them by usury, to act as if they knew it not, and so to give God all the glory.—To boast of one’s race, lineage, rank, and external advantages, is a vain ostentation; but we may well praise those on account of their family and descent, who also possess the faith and virtues of their ancestors.—False prophets may perhaps be blameless in their outward walk; but without circumcision of the heart, it is only a coat of whitewash over an old, unsightly wall.—Righteousness of the law is good, but it does not merit blessedness, which is bestowed as a gift only through faith in Christ.—Whoever fancies that he has advanced so far in Christianity that he needs nothing more, may perhaps in God’s school hardly sit upon the lowest form. Christians have ever to be learning, and cannot finish their education during their entire life (Philippians 3:15).—In religious matters we ought not to depart a hair’s breadth from the prophetic and apostolic doctrine; and thus many errors may be prevented.

Rieger:—As with the two scales of a balance, when one rises the other falls; and what I add to one, diminishes the relative weight of the other; so as one adds to himself he takes away from the pre-eminence which the knowledge of Christ should have. what he concedes to Christ makes him willing to abase himself, to resign all confidence in his own works. Therefore the sharp expressions, ‘to count as loss, as dung,’ become in experience not too severe; for to reject the grace of Christ, to regard the great plan of God in sending His Son, as fruitless, were indeed far more terrible (Philippians 3:8).

Gerlach:—The inner and outer life of the Christian upon earth, is a life of suffering in the sorrow which he feels for the sins of others, for his own, and for the distress of others, and for the oppression, conflicts, and even apparent defeats of the children of God. These sufferings are the sufferings of Christ Himself, not merely similar to His; He bears them with His members. His conflicts and their conflicts are the same; it is one cause for which, and one strength in which, they strive; it is one victory and one crown which He has won, and which He gives to them (Philippians 3:10).—‘What is behind’ signifies in this figure not merely the world and sin, which we have forsaken, but also our own virtue, the actual progress which we have made, on which we are prone to dwell with self-complacency, and so to become unmindful of our great deficiencies and sins (Philippians 3:14).—True Christian perfection, therefore, in this world, the token of a mature Christian, is that, certain of his election in Christ he yet does not regard himself perfect, but painfully perceives the wide space which still intervenes between the righteousness imputed to faith and the sanctification of his entire heart and life, and unceasingly strives to reach the goal.

Schleiermacher:—Are now the expression of the Apostle John, “Little children, love one another,” as he explains it, and the expression of the apostle Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord,” one and the same? And are both such that one can say of them with confidence, that they never weary the speaker, and that they always strengthen the hearer?

Menken:—The ever recurring exhortation of the apostle to rejoice in the Lord, was adapted to assure them that Christianity is something bright, cheerful, and joyful, to make them certain, confident in their knowledge and walk in opposition to those who imagine that one must mix a bitterness, narrowness, and legal servitude with the mildness, breadth and freedom of the new covenant and its gospel.—There is no one among us, however limited his powers may be, whose weakness and incapacity may not be changed into wisdom and knowledge; his timidity into firmness and fearlessness; his hardness and unloveliness into gentleness and amiability, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Hence the Christian religion is vastly different from human morality.—The choice of the best part is never repented of.—As in the life of the body the question is not, whether the man will breathe or not, whether he will make use of the light that is in the world to see or not; but as it is understood, that according to the laws of nature he must breathe, if he will live, and must open his eye to the light, if he will see; and as there is no way of supporting life outside of the atmosphere, and no medium for perceiving the world of matter, except the light; so is there no other way of becoming partakers of the divine light and life except Christ, and no room for the question whether man can do without Christ or not.—All men are under sin and death, and no one comes to the divine light and life, to his own source and end—to God, except through Christ.—The forgiveness of sins is not indeed deliverance from sin, but it is the sure pledge and earnest of future complete deliverance, and is necessary, and must form the beginning.

Heubner:—The preacher should not be ever thinking of something new, but of what is useful, edifying. The Sophists made it a charge against Socrates that he repeated the same things.—Lavater’s principle of saying at least something in every sermon, which he was certain he had never said before, i.e., something that he had never before spoken either so plainly, or so urgently, or with such a particular application (though the kernel of the sermon must always be the same) is not at variance with that of the Reformers; for they also do not exclude variety in the contents, or diversity in the form of the sermon.—Spiritual sloth may creep over even the converted, so that the Bible becomes dull to them. Bunyan himself complained of this.—What a vast difference between blamelessness before God, and legal blamelessness before men! How can one deceive himself therein!—How many an ecclesiastic buries himself in his studies, while he might be sowing seed for eternity by oral instruction, visits, and the teaching of children. The more earnest in conversion and sanctification, the humbler is our state of mind, and clearer our knowledge of our imperfections, because we then first see and understand how lofty and distant is this goal of perfection, and how great is the work of sanctification. The Christian does not please himself with the conceit that he has already laid hold of, or attained it; this folly is far from him.—The influence of grace is mighty, but not irresistible.—The most advanced Christian thinks least of himself.—The Christian is not yet in quiet possession; he should not rest on his laurels.—The Christian knows that he is ever in arrears, and so long as there are debts still remaining, so long must he also work.—I look not back like Lot’s wife towards the Sodom I have left, nor long like the Israelites after the flesh pots of Egypt. Both kinds of looking back are idle and ruinous, for they make us slothful, they lead to unfaithfulness.—Perfect Christians, in the proper sense of that language, are those who know the goal and the way thither, i.e., Christ, and have begun with earnestness to press towards it.—The hope of spiritual growth is conditioned on fidelity, conscientiousness, and adherence to known truth.

Passavant:—Every one who will not deceive God or himself knows in his own heart out of what darkness the light broke forth with him, and out of what darkness old and new, it has long continued to break forth.—Paul forgets what is behind, viz., three things: 1) those objects of pride which he formerly regarded as gain and glory; 2) the sins of his past life in general, and especially the many and great sins which he had committed as a persecutor and blasphemer of the Church; and 3) his progress hitherto in the new divine way of life.

Ahlfeld:—The genuine warrior of Christ may not stand still: 1) he knows that he has not yet obtained the prize; 2) in the pursuit of it he never becomes weary; 3) he journeys towards the city of God, having the same mind as his brother.

Harless:—Three great foes of Christian and social virtue; 1) the conceit of being perfect; 2) the weakness of looking back; 3) obstinacy and destructiveness of self-will.

Lehmann:—True progress in the Christian life. 1) From what origin must it proceed? Laid hold of by Christ! 2) By what rule must it shape itself? I have not yet obtained! 3) What end must it seek? The prize of the heavenly calling (Philippians 3:12-14).

[Robert Hall:—As every person either has, or expects to have some spring of joy or source of consolation, there is nothing which so much determines our character as that from which we expect this to rise. So if we wish to know ourselves we must examine where this spring or source lies.—We see from the Apostle’s account of his experience, that it is very possible for a person to have great zeal for modes, and forms, and ceremonies, and yet be totally ignorant of the spirit of true religion. Real religion is one thing; an attachment to forms and ceremonies another. We may be very zealous for one particular creed, opinion, sect or denomination, and with the credit and conceit of our wisdom yet be very defective in the Christian spirit. This temper leads to malignity of feeling. There may be sufficient in such religion for us to hate one another, but not enough to cause us to love each other. Let us “worship God in spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus,” and be taught to value the great truths and promises of the Gospel as all in all (Philippians 3:1-2; Philippians 3:6).—H].


Philippians 3:3; Philippians 3:3. Θεοῦ is found in א A B C, and most of the authorities, whereas θεῷ has but slight support, and is evidently a correction. [The evidence, says Tischendorf, is clearly on the side of the former.—H].

Philippians 3:5; Philippians 3:5. [The approved text is περιτομῇ and not the nominative περιτομή. See the notes below.—H].

Philippians 3:6; Philippians 3:6. ζῆλος has the support of א A B D* F G, et al. A few manuscripts have ζῆλον. Is it a copyist’s error (comp. 2 Corinthians 9:2. Meyer)? The passage here would seem rather to require τὸ ζῆλος in 2 Corinthians 9:2, [instead of ὁ ζῆλος, masculine. See Winer’s Gram. p. 65].

Philippians 3:10; Philippians 3:10. Συμμορφιζομενος is found in א A B, et al. On the other hand, συμμορφούμενος (E K L, et al.) and συνφορτειζόμενος (F G, et al.), cooneratus, have but slight support.

Philippians 3:11; Philippians 3:11. Τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν, is well attested by א A B D E et al., better than τῶν νεκρῶν, and need not appear strange after ἐξανάστασις, though Paul has elsewhere ἀνάστασις τῶν νεκρῶν. [See the exegetical notes infra.—H.]

[6][Apprehend meant formerly “to take in the hand,” or “by the hand” (a Latin sense of the word). Thus Jeremy Taylor (Holy Living, ii. 6) says: “There is nothing but hath a double handle, or at least we have two hands to apprehend it.”—H].

Philippians 3:16; Philippians 3:16. Στοιχεῖν, for which συνστοιχεῖν also occurs, has after it κανόνι, τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖν, in א C, but in some other copies has the worlds before it, while in others again the words appear only in part. No doubt Philippians 2:2, and Galatians 6:16, have led the copyists to change the text for the sake of uniformity.

Verses 17-21

(2). The destiny of false Christians in contrast with that of true believers

( Philippians 3:17 to Philippians 4:1)

17Brethren, be followers together of me [become imitators of me] and mark them 18who walk so as ye have us for an ensample. For many walk, of whom I (have) told you often, and [but] now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; 19whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. 820For our conversation [citizenship 21] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the [a] Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall [will] change [transform] our vile body [the body of our humiliation], that it may be fashioned like9 unto his glorious body [the body of his glory], according to the working whereby he is able even [also] to subdue all Philippians 4:1 things unto himself.10 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.


Philippians 3:17. Brethren, become imitators of me, συμμιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, ἀδελφοί. 1 Corinthians 4:16 : μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε. They are to look to the Apostle, to follow him, with him to act on the principle of following the light which they have (τῷ αὐτῷ στοιχεῖν, Philippians 3:16). This result is not achieved at once, but by degrees (hence γίνεσθε, ‘become’). The συν refers to the Apostle’s associates, as is evident from what immediately follows (Theophylact: συγκολλᾷ αὐτοὺς τοῖς καλῶς περιπατοῦσιν). [The “associates” are those whom the Apostle would have the Philippians to imitate, together with himself (τύπον ἡμᾶς); and the import of συν more naturally is=‘be ye all a company of imitators’ (Ellicott).—H]. Hence it is not: una cum Paulo (Bengel), omnes uno consensu et una mente (Calvin), or superfluous (Heinrichs). Brethren, ἀδελφοί, indicates the fervor of the appeal.—And mark them who walk so, (καὶ σκοπεῖτε τοὺς οὕτως περιπατοῦντες) associates others with Paul, who are models for the church, since they walk as he does.—As ye have us for an ensample (καθὼς ἐχετε τύπον ἡμᾶς) embraces Paul and those who walk like him. Ἡμᾶς is thus neither Paul alone, especially as it stands after μου, while besides, we should have in that case ἐχουσιν, instead of ἔχετε, nor Paul and Timothy (Schenkel), nor Paul and all approved Christians (Matthies), nor ut ego meique socii (Van Hengel). The singular (τύπον) is found not only where one is spoken of (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7), but also in regard to a plurality (1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9). In 1 Peter 5:3 τύποι occurs where several are meant. The singular here indicates that they all present the same image, belong to the same category. In καθώς lies unquestionably an argumentative force=‘in the measure’ (Meyer).

Philippians 3:18. The Apostle confirms his exhortation by two contrasts (Philippians 3:18-21).—For many walk (πολλοὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦσιν), since there are many wicked persons who strive to lead others astray, consider us, not them. [They should heed his expostulations the more because there were so many (πολλοί) whom they could not safely imitate. “The persons here meant are not the Judaizing teachers, but the anti-Roman reactionists. This view is borne out by the parallel expression, Romans 16:18 : τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν Χριστῳ οὐ δουλευουσιν�, where the same persons seem to be intended; for they are described as creating divisions and offences (Romans 3:17), as holding plausible language (Romans 3:18), as professing to be wise beyond others (Romans 3:19), and yet not innocent in their wisdom: this last reproach being implied in the words θέλω δὲ ἡμᾶς σοφοὺς εἶναι εἰς τὸ�, ἀκεραίους δὲ εἰς τὸ κακόν. They appear therefore to belong to the same party to which the passages Romans 6:1-23; Romans 14:1 to Romans 15:6, of that epistle are chiefly addressed. For the profession of “wisdom” in these faithless disciples of St. Paul, see 1 Corinthians 1:17 sqq.; 1 Corinthians 4:18 sqq.; 1 Corinthians 8:1 sqq.; 1 Corinthians 10:15” (Lightfoot). See the remarks on Philippians 3:18.—H]. Περιπατεῖν is not neutral here as in 1 Peter 5:8, circulantur (Heinrichs), ‘go about’ (Meyer). It could not stand absolutely after οὕτως περιπατοῦντες. Paul wishes to describe more closely the moral walk of those in question, but he is led away from the adverbial construction by the first relative clause, and proceeds in relative clauses to speak of the end, motive, and character of this walk. Hence neither κακῶς (Œcumen.) nor longe aliter (Grotius), is to be supplied, nor is the concluding limitation (οἱ τὰ ἐπίγεια φρονοῦντες) to be joined with the verb to relieve the difficulty (Calvin); nor are we to assume that since περιπατοῦσιν in itself needs no qualifying term, the sentence proceeds with entire correctness with the subjoined limitations of the subject (Meyer). Those, whose example the Philippians should shun (πολλοί) are according to the entire description members of the church, not false teachers, as in Philippians 3:2; at the most they are those who, led astray by such teachers, have become in turn corrupters of others.—Of whom I told you often, but now tell you even weeping, (οὓς πολλάκις ἕλεγον ὑμῖν, νῦν δὲ καὶ κλαίων λέγω.) [The imperf. shows the habit=“was accustomed to speak of.” This is an instance of Paul’s repeating in his letter what he had said in person when he was among the Philippians. See the remarks on Philippians 3:1. The Apostle in this passage, refers evidently to his former warnings, when he was at Philippi.—H]. To understand the remark of passages in the letter itself (Philippians 3:2; Philippians 1:15), is untenable; for these here are different persons from those referred to in the passages mentioned. To πολλοί corresponds πολλάκις. Why he now weeping repeats that which he had formerly said without tears, is well explained by Chrysostom, ὅτι ἐπέτεινε τὸ κακόν. [The evil in the meantime had become more serious.—H]. He writes with deeper emotion, with streaming eyes.—That they are the enemies of the cross of Christ (τοὺς ἐχθροὺς τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῦ Χριστοῦ) we are to join with οὓς έλεγον. [On this construction see Winer’s Gram., p. 530.—H]. Paul thus designates those to whom the cross is an offence or foolishness; formerly they may have been Jews or heathen, but now they are Christians, who wish to know nothing of the “fellowship of Christ’s sufferings,” (κοινωνία τῶν παθημάτων Χριστοῦ, Philippians 3:10), to whom the ‘sufferings of Christ’ (παθήματα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 2 Corinthians 1:5) are offensive, who are not willing to suffer with Him, (συμπάσχειν, Romans 8:17), nor allow the world to be crucified to them and themselves to the world (Galatians 6:14), nor crucify their flesh together with its lusts and desires (Galatians 5:24). The Apostle is speaking of immorality of life, ethical errors, while Philippians 3:19 (ω̇͂ν ὁ θεὀς ἡ κοιλία) indicates an Epicurean, careless life (ἐν�, Chrysostom). No reference is made to their doctrine of the cross (Theodoret); or even to theoretical errors, or intellectual misconceptions. The reference is not to those who are not Christians (Rilliet) or hostes evangelii (Calvin).

Philippians 3:19. Whose end is destruction (ω̇͂ν τὸ τέλος�) is first mentioned. Hoc ponitur ante alia, quo majore cum horrore hsæ legantur; in fine videbitur. Finis, ad quem cujusvis rationes tendunt, ostendit sane, quæ sit ejus conditio (Bengel). Ἀπωλεία, the opposite of σωτηρία (Philippians 1:26) is passive. Bengel incorrectly regards salvator as the equivalent term, and Heinrichs takes the meaning to be: their end is to destroy Christianity. The end is described by τὸ τέλος (2 Corinthians 11:12-15) as their own peculiar, appointed end.—Whose God is their belly, (ω̇͂ν ὁ θεὸς ἡ κοιλία). The belly is termed their God, as being their highest concern, the master whom they serve (Romans 16:18). Κοιλία from κοῖλος, cavus, is venter (Matthew 15:17; Mark 7:19; Luke 15:16) uterus (Luke 1:41; Luke 1:44; Luke 2:21; John 3:4; Matthew 19:12), and also intirma hominis (John 7:38). It embraces here the organs of sensual desire and of gluttony, not excluding licentiousness, nor referring exclusively to it: so that this passage comprehends more than 1 Corinthians 15:32.—And whose glory is in their shame (καὶ ἡ δόξα ἐν τῇ αἰσχύνῃ αὐτῶν). Καί takes the place of ω̇͂ν. Ἡ δόξα signifies the honor and glory which belong peculiarly to them; that which they conceive to be glory, but which is actually and truly their shame, and will in the end prove to be such. Bengel well remarks: Deus et gloria ponuntur ut parallela. Sic venter et pudor sunt affinia. Id colunt isti, cujus ipsos maxime pudere debebat et suo tempore pudebit misere. But there is no reference to circumcision, the genitals (Bengel, et al.) It is not intimated that they have perverted Christian truth to palliate their moral laxity (Wiesinger).—Who mind earthly things. The individualizing article οἱ introduces the comprehensive characteristic: τὰ ἐπίγεια φρονοῦντες. The nominative is the logical subject (Meyer), and it is not vocative (Winer’s Gram., p. 183).

Philippians 3:20. For our citizenship is in heaven (ἡμῶν γὰρ τὸ πολίτευμα ἐν οὐρανοῖς ὑπόρχει). The confirmatory sentence (γάρ) points back like Philippians 3:18-19, to Philippians 3:17, and states why the Philippians should look to Paul and to those who walk as he does (ἡμῶν as in Philippians 3:17 ἡμᾶς). [Their souls are mundane and grovelling. They have no fellowship with us; for we are citizens of a heavenly commonwealth. The emphatic position of ἡμῶν contrasts the false adherents of St. Paul with the true (Lightfoot). On the state of the text see the notes.—H.] Πολίτευμα, found only here, in the N. T., denotes according to its termination and its derivation (from πολιτεύεσθαι Philippians 1:27) citizenship, commonwealth, the rank and rights of a citizen. Comp. πολιτείαν ταύτην ἐκτησάμην, Acts 22:28. True Christians have nothing to do with an earthly possession and existence simply, but are citizens of the heavenly (ἐν οὐρανοῖς) Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26; Romans 5:2; Romans 8:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Hebrews 12:22-23) even here. We are not to join ὑπάρχει with ἐν οὐρανοῖς, as if the citizenship did not exist here at all, but to regard ἐν οὐρανοῖς as descriptive of the character of the πολίτευμα rather than the place. Hence this sentence does not confirm the conclusion of Philippians 3:19 (Winer’s Gram. p. 453, Meyer, et al.); for it is not pertinent to say ‘for this very reason I warn you against them,’ since he does not warn but exhorts them. It does not confirm καθὼς ἔχετε τύπον ἡμᾶς (Wiesinger), but συμμιμηταί μου γίνεσθε καὶ σκοπεῖτε τοὺς οὕτως περιπατοῦντες (Philippians 3:17). Nor does it present the higher glory of the true Christian as the cause of his deep sorrow over the misconduct of the enemies of the cross (Schenkel), since καὶ κλαίων is too subordinate a remark. Again, πολίτευμα is not άναστροφή, walk, (Luther) nor does it refer to the Messiah’s kingdom which has not yet appeared (Meyer), for it exists already even upon earth, and only waits for its completion.—From whence also we look for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Ἐξ οὗ, an adverbial expression, equivalent to unde (Vulg., Winer’s Gram., p. 141 sq.) refers to ἐν οὐρανοῖς, not to πολίτευμα (Bengel); but is not equivalent to ex quo (Erasmus), nor even to ἐκ ω̇͂ν (Matthies). Καί before σωτῆρα indicates that He is looked for (άπεκδεχόμεθα, an awaiting, ad finem usque, perseveranter exspectare, Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23; Romans 8:25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5) not merely as κύριος in their πολίτευμα, in contrast with the θεός of the enemies of the cross, but also as a Saviour, in contrast with their ‘destruction’ (ἀπώλεια). Comp. Luke 18:7-8; Luke 21:28. Καί points neither to a relation corresponding to what has been said of their citizenship (Meyer), nor to ‘conduct’ (Wiesinger), which does not agree with ἀπεκδεχόμεθα.

Philippians 3:21. Who will transform the body of our humiliation (ὃς μετασχηματίσει τὸ σῶμα τῆς τατεινώσεως ἡμῶν) explains how the Lord will manifest Himself as σωτήρ. The reference is to a future transformation which relates to the σχῆμα or fashion of the body (Philippians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 11:13-14; 1 Corinthians 4:6); and not to its identity. Hence Paul does not speak of the body alone as the object of the change (τὸ σῶμα) but adds the genitive of characterization (Winer’s Gram., p. 187 sq.), namely, τῆς ταπεινώσεως, as in Colossians 1:22 : σῶμα τῆς σαρκός; Romans 6:8; τῆς ἁμαρτίας; Romans 7:24; τοῦ θανάτου τούτου. Chrysostom well observes: πολλὰ πάσχει νῦν τὸ σῶμα, δεσμεῖται, μαστίζεται, μνρία πάσχει δεινά. But we must also include here the carnal, the sinful in man’s nature; for it is that especially which makes up the τατείνωσις ἡμῶν. Not merely the body, but we ourselves (note the ἡμῶν) suffer these things, which constitute this humiliation, that cleaves to the body. The object or result of the transformation is now stated,—That it may be fashioned like unto the body of his glory, σύμμορφον τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ. The breviloquence (or adj., instead of a sentence) is like 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Matthew 12:13. See Winer’s Gram., p. 624 sq. Out of this arose the variation noted in the critical remarks. The body is now no longer σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως, but has become σῶμα τῆς δόξης, and as that was ours (ἡμῶν) so this is his (αὐτοῦ). The body comes forth from our present humiliation, and becomes a participant in the glory of Him who has transformed it. This is to be effected by the change which makes it like, conformed to, the body of His glory; hence through a transformation into His image (Romans 8:29), which begins even here (2 Corinthians 3:18 : μεταμορφούμεθα). [The body is that which exhibits His glory not merely because He has it in His glorified state, but because His glory in that state so pre-eminently appears in the spiritual body with which He is there clothed, and which stands forth as the type of the spiritual body into which every one of His true followers will be transformed.—H.] Hölemann joins ἡμῶν with σῶμα, αὐτοῦ with σώματι. Hammond explains σῶμα as the church; Luther supposes only the weakness and frailty of the body to be meant, Meyer, the change which first begins at the time of Christ’s second advent. All of these views are more or less faulty. He has the power necessary to produce such a transformation.—According to the working whereby he is able also to subdue all things unto himself. On κατἀ τὴν ἐνέργειαν, see Ephesians 1:19, where τοῦ κράτους τῆς ἴσχυος αὐτοῦ is added, while here we have τοῦ δύνασθαι αὐτὸν καὶ ὑποτάξαι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. Since all things are and must be subject to Him, He can also (καί) transform the (body μετασχηματίζειν); for the καί connects that verb with ὑποτάξαι. It is an argumentum a majori (ὑποτάξαι αὐτῳ τὰ πάντα) ad minus (μετασχηματίζειν). Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:25-28; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57. It is incorrect for Hölemann to connect δίνασθαι and ὑποτάξαι by καί, as if Paul would say that He is able to do all things and subject all things to Himself. [Τὰ πάντα is stronger with the article: not only this, but all the things together which require infinite power (comp. Philippians 3:8).—H.]

Philippians 4:1. Therefore (ὥστε) introduces the conclusion, as in Philippians 2:12. The section extends from Philippians 3:1 to Philippians 4:1, not merely from Philippians 3:17 to Philippians 3:21 (Meyer); for στήκετε ἐν κυρίῳ points back to χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ. [So extended a reference of ὥστε is uncommon and not necessary here. In view of the glorious destiny which awaits those whose citizenship is above, they should persevere and not frustrate such a hope (Philippians 4:20-21). Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:58.—H.]—My brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, is an expression of his love and recognition of them. Ἀδελφοί μου indicates the relation of fellow-believers with respect to the personal fellowship, which not only renders the Philippians an object of special love (ἀγαπητοί), but also of earnest longing (καί ἐπιπόθητοι; comp. Philippians 1:8). [The Apostle’s separation from them was so painful because his affection for them was so strong.—H.] Χαρά marks the personal, στέφανός μου the official relation: they are the joy of his heart and the honor of his office (Schenkel). The first expression refers to the present, the second reaches onward into the future. [The στέφανος among the Greeks was the emblem of victory, and not of regal power or dignity, which was denoted by διάδημα. On this distinction see Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. i. p. 597 (Amer. ed.) Hence “his converts will be his wreath of victory;” for it will appear that he “did not run in vain,” (Philippians 2:26), and he will receive the successful athlete’s reward. Comp. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (Lightfoot).—H.]—So stand fast in the Lord (οὕτως στήκετε ἐν κυριῳ); i.e., as I and those who walk with me stand (Philippians 3:17) and as I have exhorted you (Philippians 3:1 sq.) Comp. Philippians 1:27. Bengel, incorrectly, ita, ut statis, state [which disagrees with Philippians 2:17.—H.].—Beloved (ἀγαπητοί) thus repeated shows his ardent affection for them.


1. The instinct of imitation gives force to the power of example; and the Apostle here does not present merely his own apostolic character, but joins with himself those who walk with him.—Sympathy and community of feeling render specially effective an example which embodies ethical views and principles. Hence precisely in the section where the citizenship of Christians in heaven is brought forward, this appeal is specially appropriate. Manifold as may be the forms of life in individuals, they are yet features of one image; they harmonize with each other, are not discordant; the many reflect one type (τυπός). The power and frequency of evil example (1 Corinthians 15:33) make it the more necessary to regard the Apostle’s exhortation.

2. Enmity to the cross of Christ, which takes offence at Christ’s form as a sufferer, and His path of suffering wherein His followers ought to walk, has its ground not exclusively indeed, but to a great extent, in a sensual character, subject to the lust of the world, by which many are governed even in the church. From an occasional, easy, and subtle service of the senses it may come to be uninterrupted and overbearing. Gentleness towards the natural man is cruelty towards the spiritual. Forbearance towards sensual desire ends in the loss of eternal glory, and that which passes current under the forms of conventional propriety, is in truth often a shame and disgrace.
3. The stand-point in the Christian life which fixes the eye on the future, the familiarity with God which maintains a close connection with the church, militant on earth but triumphant in heaven, and does not suffer the child of God to forget his eternal inheritance, affords the surest protection against evil example, and gives to good example its strongest attractive power.
4. [Neander:—The earthly mind Paul would say (Philippians 4:19-21) must be far from us, who are Christians; ‘for our conversation,’ (more correctly ‘citizenship’) is in heaven.’ His meaning is, that Christians, as to their life, their walk, belong even now to heaven; in the whole direction of their life existing there already.—This he deduces from their relation to Christ, their fellowship with Him to whom they are inseparably united, so that where He is there are they also. While here, they are sustained by the consciousness that Christ now lives in heaven, manifested to believers, though hidden from the world. Thither is their gaze directed, as their longings rise towards a Saviour, who will come again from thence to make them wholly like Himself, to fashion them wholly after His own glorious pattern, to transform them wholly into the heavenly. Hence Paul says: “From whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change the body of our humiliation, 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.” There is not presented here a resurrection, as a restoration merely of the same earthly body in the same earthly form; but, on the contrary, a glorious transformation, proceeding from the divine, the all-subduing power of Christ; so that believers, free from all the defects of the earthly existence, released from all its barriers, may reflect the full image of the heavenly Christ in their whole glorified personality, in the soul pervaded by the divine life and its now perfectly assimilated glorified organ.—H.]

5. [Chr. Wordsworth:—Christ, at His own transfiguration, gave a pledge and glimpse of the future glorious transformation of the risen body, and thus prepared the apostles to suffer with Him on earth, in order that they may be glorified forever with Him, in body and soul, in heaven (N. T. Commentary, vol. 2. p. 357).—H.]


In lack of faith is found the cause of lack of joy.—There is no true renewal without humbly going to the cross of Christ. The bodies of many who profess to be renewed, are temples of the god of the belly and of his servants to whom Christ’s cross is so entirely an offence, that they are even its enemies.—He who does not see the Easter sun rising behind the cross on Golgotha is no true Christian, does not cling fast to the good example of the apostles, and the faithful in the church, and becomes himself an evil example which may frighten away and even destroy others.

Starke:—Not all who point out the way to heaven will themselves be received into it. Many helped to build the ark of Noah who did not enter it.—Thou rejoicest when thou canst lay off an old garment and put on a new one: why art thou troubled because thy body shall experience corruption? By this means it lays aside not only what is worthless but attains to a glorious transformation (Philippians 3:21).

Rieger:—Our house, home, city, and fatherland where we belong, the seeking and hoping for which govern all our thoughts, are not mere fancies to be grasped only by the imagination, but exist in heaven; God has prepared them there; and faith in His word affords us a complete representation of them.

Gerlach:—Every one who is not redeemed by Christ’s cross from sin and from the present evil world, serves his flesh and minds earthly things, though his imagination take ever so exalted flights, though he be a philosopher, or a slave to grovelling lusts.—No Christian can find perfect rest until even the last trace of sin is overcome and destroyed: hence his life upon earth is a life of waiting and longing.

Schleiermacher:—If a man still values and seeks sensual good he is then an enemy of the cross of Christ. If he has earthly honor in view, and desires to distinguish himself before the world, he is then an enemy of the shame of Christ which accompanied His sufferings.—Eternal life is not to be thought of apart from a man’s reconciliation with himself and with Christ, who has left peace as His most beautiful legacy to His followers.

Heubner:—They who will not recognize the crucified Redeemer as their only righteousness, who are proud of their legal virtue, are as much enemies of the cross of Christ as those who from a fleshly mind will not follow the crucified Redeemer, nor crucify their flesh together with its lusts and desires.—Pride and the lust of the world can make a man an enemy of the cross of Christ.—The holiest thing may become an offence to a corrupt heart, and excite violent opposition.—Even evil examples must be salutary to the Christian, because they deter him from evil: they present it to him in all its fearfulness and render him anxious for himself.—The man who opposes the cross of Christ, labors for his own ruin.—That which is honorable with God, the worldly man does not understand at all.—The present body disturbs the heavenly life; and hence this body is to be glorified. The future body will promote, facilitate the spiritual life. We are to attain to a complete likeness to Christ, even the body is to become like His; but as the condition of this the soul here must first resemble His soul. The power of Christ extends to the new creation of our bodies and of the world.—-Though difficult, the Christian may guard himself against the destructive influence of evil examples. 1) He has no lack of good examples around him; 2) He sees the fearfulness of evil examples; 3) He has a heavenly calling.—There is a Christian use of bad examples as well as good.

Passavant:—This is the three-fold divine working of the one Redeemer; He has redeemed His people from the curse of sin through His blood; He redeems them more and more by His Holy Spirit from the power of sin, and He will finally redeem them from all misery and all oppression in this evil, godless world, and bring them to His heavenly kingdom.

[Neander:—Each one is required to apply to his own life the measure of spiritual discernment bestowed upon him (Philippians 3:16).—All progressive revelation of the Spirit, all new light of which man is made partaker, presupposes a faithful application of what has previously been given (Philippians 3:15).—If each one were careful to put in practice with strict fidelity his own measure of Christian knowledge, without contending with others about matters wherein they differ from himself, how many schisms might have been avoided in the church, how many differences might for its interest have been, overcome and adjusted!—H.]


Philippians 3:20; Philippians 3:20. [The γάρ here has the support of all the oldest manuscripts, though the passage is cited by many early writers, as if δέ was the connective.—H].

Philippians 3:21; Philippians 3:21. Before σύμμορφον some codices insert εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτό manifestly an interpretation.

[10]Ibid. א A B et al. have αὐτῷ. A few copies read ἑαυτῷ [adopted in the received text.—H].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Philippians 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/philippians-3.html. 1857-84.
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