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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Philippians 3

Verse 1

Finally (το λοιπον). Accusative of general reference, literally, "as for the rest." So again in Philippians 4:8. It (or just λοιπον) is a common phrase towards the close of Paul's Epistles (2 Thessalonians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 13:11). In Ephesians 6:10 we have του λοιπου (genitive case). But Paul uses the idiom elsewhere also as in 1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:1 before the close of the letter is in sight. It is wholly needless to understand Paul as about to finish and then suddenly changing his mind like some preachers who announce the end a half dozen times.

To write the same things (τα αυτα γραφειν). Present active articular infinitive, "the going on writing the same things." What things? He has just used χαιρετε (go on rejoicing) again and he will repeat it in Philippians 4:4. But in verse Philippians 3:2 he uses βλεπετε three times. At any rate Paul, as a true teacher, is not afraid of repetition.

Irksome (οκνηρον). Old adjective from οκνεω, to delay, to hesitate. It is not tiresome to me to repeat what is "safe" (ασφαλες) for you. Old adjective from α privative and σφαλλω, to totter, to reel. See Acts 21:34.

Verse 2

Beware (βλεπετε). Three times for urgency and with different epithet for the Judaizers each time.

The dogs (τους κυνας). The Jews so termed the Gentiles which Jesus uses in a playful mood (κυναριοις, little dogs) to the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:26). Paul here turns the phrase on the Judaizers themselves.

The evil workers (τους κακους εργατας). He had already called the Judaizers "deceitful workers" (εργατα δολιο) in 2 Corinthians 11:13.

The concision (την κατατομην). Late word for incision, mutilation (in contrast with περιτομη, circumcision). In Symmachus and an inscription. The verb κατατεμνω is used in the LXX only of mutilations (Leviticus 21:5; 1 Kings 18:28).

Verse 3

For we (ημεις γαρ). We believers in Christ, the children of Abraham by faith, whether Jew or Gentile, the spiritual circumcision in contrast to the merely physical (Romans 2:25-29; Colossians 2:11; Ephesians 2:11). See Galatians 5:12 for αποτεμνειν (to cut off) in sense of mutilation also.

By the Spirit of God (πνευματ θεου). Instrumental case, though the dative case as the object of λατρευω makes good sense also (worshipping the Spirit of God) or even the locative (worshipping in the Spirit of God).

No (ουκ). Actual condition rather than μη with the participle.

In the flesh (εν σαρκ). Technical term in Paul's controversy with the Judaizers (2 Corinthians 11:18; Galatians 6:13). External privileges beyond mere flesh.

Verse 4

Might have (εχων). Rather, "even though myself having."

Confidence (πεποιθησιν). Late word, condemned by the Atticists, from πεποιθα (just used). See 2 Corinthians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 3:4.

Verse 5

Thinketh to have confidence (δοκε πεποιθενα). Second perfect active infinitive. Old idiom, "seems to himself to have confidence." Later idiom like Matthew 3:9 "think not to say" and 1 Corinthians 11:16, "thinks that he has ground of confidence in himself."

I yet more (εγω μαλλον). "I have more ground for boasting than he" and Paul proceeds to prove it in the rest of verses Philippians 3:5; Philippians 3:6.

Circumcised the eighth day (περιτομη οκταημερος). "In circumcision (locative case) an eighth day man." Use of the ordinal with persons like τεταρταιος (John 11:39). Ishmaelites were circumcised in the thirteenth year, proselytes from Gentiles in mature age, Jews on the eighth day (Luke 2:21).

Of the stock of Israel (εκ γενους Ισραηλ). Of the original stock, not a proselyte.

Benjamin (Βενιαμιν). Son of the right hand (that is, left-handed), son of Rachel. The first King, Saul (Paul's own Hebrew name) was from this little tribe. The battle cry of Israel was "After thee, O Benjamin" (Judges 5:14).

A Hebrew of the Hebrews (Εβραιος εξ Εβραιων). Of Hebrew parents who retained the characteristic qualities in language and custom as distinct from the Hellenistic Jews (Acts 6:1). Paul was from Tarsus and knew Greek as well as Aramaic (Acts 21:40; Acts 22:2) and Hebrew, but he had not become Hellenized.

A Pharisee (Φαρισαιος). In distinction from the Sadducees (Galatians 1:14) and he continued a Pharisee in many essential matters like the doctrine of the resurrection (Acts 23:6). Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:22.

Verse 6

As touching zeal (κατα ζηλος). So the old MSS. treating ζηλος as neuter, not masculine. He was a zealot against Christianity, "persecuting the church" (διωκων την εκκλησιαν). He was the ringleader in the persecution from the death of Stephen till his own conversion (Acts 8:1-9).

Found blameless (γενομενος αμεμπτος). "Having become blameless" (Galatians 1:14). He knew and practised all the rules of the rabbis. A marvellous record, scoring a hundred in Judaism.

Verse 7

Were gain to me (εν μο κερδη). "Were gains (plural, see on Philippians 1:21) to me (ethical dative)." Paul had natural pride in his Jewish attainments. He was the star of hope for Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin.

Have I counted (ηγημα). Perfect middle indicative, state of completion and still true.

Loss (ζημιαν). Old word for damage, loss. In N.T. only in Phil. and Acts 27:10; Acts 27:21. Debit side of the ledger, not credit.

Verse 8

Yea, verily, and (αλλα μεν ουν γε κα). Five particles before Paul proceeds (yea, indeed, therefore, at least, even), showing the force and passion of his conviction. He repeats his affirmation with the present middle indicative (ηγουμα), "I still count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge (το υπερεχον, the surpassingness, neuter articular participle of υπερεχω, Philippians 2:3) of Christ Jesus my Lord."

Dung (σκυβαλα). Late word of uncertain etymology, either connected with σκωρ (dung) or from ες κυνας βαλλω, to fling to the dogs and so refuse of any kind. It occurs in the papyri. Here only in the N.T.

That I may gain Christ (ινα Χριστον κερδησω). First aorist active subjunctive of κερδαω, Ionic form for κερδαινω with ινα in purpose clause. Paul was never satisfied with his knowledge of Christ and always craved more fellowship with him.

Verse 9

Be found in him (ευρεθω εν αυτω). First aorist (effective) passive subjunctive with ινα of ευρισκω. At death (2 Corinthians 5:3) or when Christ comes. Cf. Philippians 2:8; Galatians 2:17.

Through faith in Christ (δια πιστεως Χριστου). The objective genitive Χριστου, not subjective, as in Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:20; Romans 3:22. Explained further by επ τη πιστε (on the basis of faith) as in Acts 3:16.

Verse 10

That I may know him (του γνωνα αυτον). Genitive of the articular second aorist (ingressive) active infinitive (purpose) of γινωσκω, to have personal acquaintance or experience with. This is Paul's major passion, to get more knowledge of Christ by experience.

The power of his resurrection (την δυναμιν της αναστασεως αυτου). Power (Lightfoot) in the sense of assurance to believers in immortality (1 Corinthians 15:14; Romans 8:11), in the triumph over sin (Romans 4:24), in the dignity of the body (1 Corinthians 6:13; Philippians 3:21), in stimulating the moral and spiritual life (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; Ephesians 2:5). See Westcott's The Gospel of the Resurrection, ii, 31.

The fellowship of his sufferings (την κοινωνιαν των παθηματων αυτου). Partnership in (objective genitive) his sufferings, an honour prized by Paul (Colossians 1:24).

Becoming conformed to his death (συμμορφιζομενος τω θανατω αυτου). Present passive participle of συμμορφιζω, late verb from συμμορφος, found only here and ecclesiastical writers quoting it. The Latin Vulgate uses configuro. See Romans 6:4 for συμφυτο in like sense and 2 Corinthians 4:10. "The agony of Gethsemane, not less than the agony of Calvary, will be reproduced however faintly in the faithful servant of Christ" (Lightfoot). "In this passage we have the deepest secrets of the Apostle's Christian experience unveiled" (Kennedy).

Verse 11

If by any means I may attain (ε πως καταντησω). Not an expression of doubt, but of humility (Vincent), a modest hope (Lightfoot). For ε πως, see Romans 1:10; Romans 11:14 where παραζηλωσω can be either future indicative or aorist subjunctive like καταντησω here (see subjunctive καταλαβω in verse Philippians 3:12), late compound verb κατανταω.

Resurrection (εξαναστασιν). Late word, not in LXX, but in Polybius and one papyrus example. Apparently Paul is thinking here only of the resurrection of believers out from the dead and so double εξ (τεν εξαναστασιν την εκ νεκρων). Paul is not denying a general resurrection by this language, but emphasizing that of believers.

Verse 12

Not that (ουχ οτ). To guard against a misunderstanding as in John 6:26; John 12:6; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 4:11; Philippians 4:17.

I have already obtained (ηδη ελαβον). Rather, "I did already obtain," constative second aorist active indicative of λαμβανω, summing up all his previous experiences as a single event.

Or am already made perfect (η ηδη τετελειωμα). Perfect passive indicative (state of completion) of τελειοω, old verb from τελειος and that from τελος (end). Paul pointedly denies that he has reached a spiritual impasse of non- development. Certainly he knew nothing of so-called sudden absolute perfection by any single experience. Paul has made great progress in Christlikeness, but the goal is still before him, not behind him.

But I press on (διωκω δε). He is not discouraged, but encouraged. He keeps up the chase (real idea in διωκω, as in 1 Corinthians 14:1; Romans 9:30; 1 Timothy 6:11).

If so be that (ε κα). "I follow after." The condition (third class, ει--καταλαβω, second aorist active subjunctive of καταλαμβανω) is really a sort of purpose clause or aim. There are plenty of examples in the Koine of the use of ε and the subjunctive as here (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1017), "if I also may lay hold of that for which (εφ' ω, purpose expressed by επ) I was laid hold of (κατελημφθην, first aorist passive of the same verb καταλαμβανω) by Christ Jesus." His conversion was the beginning, not the end of the chase.

Verse 13

Not yet (ουπω). But some MSS. read ου (not).

To have apprehended (κατειληφενα). Perfect active infinitive of same verb καταλαμβανω (perfective use of κατα, to grasp completely). Surely denial enough.

But one thing (εν δε). No verb in the Greek. We can supply ποιω (I do) or διωκω (I keep on in the chase), but no verb is really needed. "When all is said, the greatest art is to limit and isolate oneself" (Goethe), concentration.

Forgetting the things which are behind (τα μεν οπισω επιλανθανομενος). Common verb, usually with the genitive, but the accusative in the Koine is greatly revived with verbs. Paul can mean either his old pre-Christian life, his previous progress as a Christian, or both (all of it).

Stretching forward (επεκτεινομενος). Present direct middle participle of the old double compound επεκτεινω (stretching myself out towards). Metaphor of a runner leaning forward as he runs.

Verse 14

Toward the goal (κατα σκοπον). "Down upon the goal," who is Jesus himself to whom we must continually look as we run (Hebrews 12:2). The word means a watchman, then the goal or mark. Only here in N.T.

Unto the prize (εις το βραβειον). Late word (Menander and inscriptions) from βραβευς (umpire who awards the prize). In N.T. only here and 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Of the high calling (της ανω κλησεως). Literally, "of the upward calling." The goal continually moves forward as we press on, but yet never out of sight.

Verse 15

As many as be perfect (οσο τελειο). Here the term τελειο means relative perfection, not the absolute perfection so pointedly denied in verse Philippians 3:12. Paul here includes himself in the group of spiritual adults (see Hebrews 5:13).

Let us be thus minded (τουτο φρονωμεν). Present active volitive subjunctive of φρονεω. "Let us keep on thinking this," viz. that we have not yet attained absolute perfection.

If ye are otherwise minded (ε τ ετερως φρονειτε). Condition of first class, assumed as true. That is, if ye think that ye are absolutely perfect.

Shall God reveal unto you (ο θεος υμιν αποκαλυψε). He turns such cases over to God. What else can he do with them?

Whereunto we have already come (εις ο εφθασαμεν). First aorist active indicative of φθανω, originally to come before as in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, but usually in the Koine simply to arrive, attain to, as here.

Verse 16

By that same rule let us walk (τω αυτω στοιχειν) Aleph A B do not have κανον (rule). Besides στοιχειν is the absolute present active infinitive which sometimes occurs instead of the principal verb as in Romans 12:15. Paul means simply this that, having come thus far, the thing to do is to go "in the same path" (τω αυτω) in which we have been travelling so far. A needed lesson for Christians weary with the monotony of routine in religious life and work.

Verse 17

Imitators together of me (συνμιμητα μου). Found only here so far, though Plato uses συμμιμεισθα. "Vie with each other in imitating me" (Lightfoot).

Mark (σκοπειτε). Old verb from σκοπος (verse Philippians 3:14). "Keep your eyes on me as goal." Mark and follow, not avoid as in Romans 16:17.

An ensample (τυπον). Originally the impression left by a stroke (John 20:25), then a pattern (mould) as here (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 5:14; Romans 6:17).

Verse 18

I told you often (πολλακις ελεγον). Imperfect active, repetition in Paul s warnings to them.

Even weeping (κα κλαιων). Deep emotion as he dictated the letter and recalled these recreant followers of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:4).

The enemies of the cross of Christ (τους εχθρους του σταυρου του Χριστου). Either the Judaizers who denied the value of the cross of Christ (Galatians 5:11; Galatians 6:12; Galatians 6:14) or Epicurean antinomians whose loose living gave the lie to the cross of Christ (1 John 2:4).

Verse 19

Whose god is the belly (ου το θεος η κοιλια). The comic poet Eupolis uses the rare word Κοιλιοδαιμων for one who makes a god of his belly and Seneca speaks of one who abdomini servit. Sensuality in food, drink, sex then as now mastered some men. These men posed as Christians and gloried in their shame.

Who mind earthly things (ο τα επιγεια φρονουντες). Anacoluthon. The nominative does not refer to πολλο at the beginning, but with the accusative τους εχθρους in between. See Mark 12:40.

Verse 20

Our citizenship (ημων το πολιτευμα). Old word from πιλιτευω (Philippians 1:27), but only here in N.T. The inscriptions use it either for citizenship or for commonwealth. Paul was proud of his Roman citizenship and found it a protection. The Philippians were also proud of their Roman citizenship. But Christians are citizens of a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36). Milligan (Vocabulary) doubts if commentators are entitled to translate it here: "We are a colony of heaven," because such a translation reverses the relation between the colony and the mother city. But certainly here Paul's heart is in heaven.

We wait for (απεκδεχομεθα). Rare and late double compound (perfective use of prepositions like wait out) which vividly pictures Paul's eagerness for the second coming of Christ as the normal attitude of the Christian colonist whose home is heaven.

Verse 21

Shall fashion anew (μετασχηματισε). Future active indicative of μετασχηματιζω for which see 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 11:13.

Conformed to (συμμορφον). For which (συν, μορφη) see Romans 8:29, only N.T. examples. With associative instrumental case. The body of our state of humiliation will be made suitable to associate with the body of Christ's glory (1 Corinthians 15:54).

According to the working (κατα την ενεργειαν). "According to the energy." If any one doubts the power of Christ to do this transformation, Paul replies that he has power "even to subject all things unto himself."

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Philippians 3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/philippians-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.