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the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 3

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

Php 3:1. Finally is from LOIPOS and one term Thayer uses in his definition is "moreover," signifying that Paul has something more to say; or, that he is going to repeat what has been said previously. Rejoice in the Lord. There are two important thoughts in this expression. One is in the first word, and indicates that Christians should be joyful. The other is that it is in the Lord that rejoicing may be had. To write the same things. To repeat what has been said at various times, giving such wholesome exhortation as this one about rejoicing in the Lord. Such a repetition was not any unpleasant task for Paul, and besides it was a safe kind of advice for the readers.

Verse 2

Php 3:2. Dogs is from KUON, and Thayer defines it at this place, "a man of impure mind, an impudent man." The editor of Thayer's lexicon says the word is always used in a reproachful sense when it is used figuratively. Robinson gives the same definition, and says it is used figuratively in Php 3:2, "where it is spoken of Judaizing teachers." Paul literally calls them evil workers. The original for concision is KATATOME which Thayer defines with the one word "mutilation." We know Paul is writing about the rite of circumcision, but he designates it by the other word because of the unlawful use that the Judaizers were making of it. Circumcision was given to the descendant of Abraham as a national mark, and later was included in the Jewish system as a religious ordinance. When that was replaced by the Gospel system, the religious feature of circumcision was taken away and the rite was left just where it was in the beginning, namely, a fleshly mark for the Jews only. The Gentiles were never given the rite for any reason, hence it is unlawful to perform it on any of them. When a doctor circumcises a new born infant he violates the law of Christ, and Paul would accuse him of mutilation.

Verse 3

Php 3:3. We are the circumcision. The original word for the rite in this phrase is the one for the fleshly act, but Paul is using it in a spiritual sense. The Judaizers taught that fleshly circumcision was necessary to make one a part of God's true people. The apostle is teaching that since physical circumcision has lost its religious significance, true circumcision is of a spiritual kind. It is the action of those who worship God in the Spirit, or according to the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:2), and not after "the law of sin and death," which called for fleshly circumcision, and which was the system the Judaizers were trying to impose upon the Gentile Christians. (See Rom 2:29; Col 2:11.)

Verse 4

Php 3:4. Confidence in the flesh. This phrase occurs in the preceding verse as well as the present one. Such an expression usually refers to the evil desires of the carnal mind. However, such desires have been regarded as wrong all through the Bible. But Paul is using the phrase in a special application, based on the fleshly relation the Jews bear to Abraham, which is indicated by the rite of circumcision, a fleshly performance. The Jews laid much stress on this relationship and even felt such a "confidence" in the time of John the Baptist (Mat 3:9). The Judaizers might say that Paul's attitude against them was from envy, or prompted by the feeling that is familiarly expressed by the figure, "sour grapes." He asserts that such is not the case, but that instead, he could truthfully boast of greater accomplishments while professing the religion that included this fleshly rite, than others; he then proceeds in two verses to enumerate them. (See also the comments at Gal 1:13-14.)

Verse 5

Php 3:5. Circumcised the eighth day (Lev 12:3). The parents of Paul had attended to this rite according to the detail as to the exact age when it should be done. Even Moses was not that faithful (Exo 4:24-26). Stock of Israel or Jacob. He was the descendant of Abraham who was selected even before he was born to be in the blood line for the Messiah. (See Rom 9:7-12.) Tribe of Benjamin. He (Benjamin) was the son of Rachel, of tender memory, and his tribe gave the nation its first king (Act 13:21). Hebrew of the Hebrews. Both parents of Paul were of that race, whereas some members of the nation were not full blooded (Act 16:1). Touching the law, a Pharisee. Among the various sects of the Jews, the Pharisees were regarded as the most exacting in their demands of religious duty. (See Act 26:5.) There is a lengthy comment on this sect at Mat 16:12, in the first volume of the New Testament Commentary, which also includes information concerning the Sadducees.

Verse 6

Php 3:6. The Greek word for zeal is used in both a good and bad sense in the New Testament. When used in the former, it means ardor or enthusiasm, and that is its meaning in this verse. The reader may be surprised that I would say this, when 1- aul used his zeal in persecuting the church. Yes, he had the right kind of zeal, but made a wrong use of it, even as a man might have the right kind of money but make a wrong use of it. Paul believed the church was an unscriptural institution, and to be consistent, he was required to oppose it. Blameless. This means Paul lived up to all requirements of the law, which proves that it was not physically impossible to do so as some teach. The parents of John the Baptist lived up to them according to Luk 1:6.

Verse 7

Php 3:7. In the lexicon the original for gain is defined "advantage," and that for loss is defined "damage." There was a time when Paul thought it was a great advantage to have all of the fleshly accomplishments named above to his credit. But after learning what it means to have Christ, he could realize that it would have been a disadvantage or loss to him, had he clung' to them. Indeed, the "damage" would have been to the extent of losing the grace or favor of God (Gal 5:4).

Verse 8

Php 3:8. The first half of this verse reneats the thoughts of the preceding one, and Paul extends it to include all things, not only those Jewish claims which he once trusted. He became aware of this great advantage through the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, Suffered the loss of all things. This denotes a complete sacrifice by Paul of whatever would hinder him from wholehearted service to Christ, regardless of how near and precious they may have seemed. Yea, he did not count his own life valuable enough to sacrifice Christ for It (Act 20:24). Do count them but dung. The last word is used figuratively, meaning something that is worthless and objectionable. It is not enough for a disciple of Christ Just to "ease up" or lessen his interest in the things of the world, he must snurn them as he would a vessel of filth.

Verse 9

Php 3:9. Be found in him: now or at any time the Lord calls him to account. Paul's desire was to be found acceptable to his Lord, in that he would not be having or holding on to the form of righteousness that was prescribed by the law. He designates this form as mine own righteousness, although he says it is of the law, a document that came from God. Here is set forth a very significant principle. When God changes his own law and calls upon man to receive the new one, if that man persists in clinging to the old one, he is guilty of wanting to have his own way.

Verse 10

Php 3:10. The word know means more than a mere acquaintance of one's identity; it includes a personal realization of whatever is being considered. Paul wanted to know what it means to have experimental knowledge of Christ by serving Him wholeheartedly. Power of his resurrection. That power first demonstrated itself by inducing man to repent of sin and follow a spiritual life in Him. It will be finally demonstrated when it brings the "dead in Christ" from the grave to die no more. Fellowship of his sufferings. A faithful Christian will suffer persecution for the sake of Christ, and in so doing he is a partner (having fellowship) with Him In his tribulations. Conformable unto his death. Christ died for sin, and if Paul serves Him faithfully even with the possibility of dying in the Cause, his experience would partake of a like death.

Verse 11

Php 3:11. Resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of all mankind whether good or bad, is clearly taught in Joh 5:28-29; Act 24:15. Since this will not depend on the kind of life a man has lived, we know Paul is using the word in a special sense. He therefore means the resurrection of the just as mentioned in the passages cited in this paragraph. In order to take part in that kind of resurrection, one must die in Christ; and that will be true only of those who have been faithful until death.

Verse 12

Php 3:12. The gain or advantage that Paul obtained immediately upon his becoming a Christian, was not considered as the complete experience he expected. Lest his readers might get the wrong impression, the apostle explains that he had not yet attained to it, or that he was perfect which means complete as regards the good things to be enjoyed through Christ. Follow after is from the Greek word DIOKO, and the Englishman's Greek New Testament renders it, "am pursuing." Apprehend is from KATALAMBANO, and Thayer defines it at this place, "to lay hold of so as to make one's own, to obtain, to attain to." Christ Jesus had laid hold upon Paul, and through the obedience to the Gospel, He wished that the convert would finally "lay hold on eternal life" (1Ti 6:12). Paul is declaring that his reason for this "pursuing" is that he may lay hold upon the reward for which Christ had laid hold on him.

Verse 13

Php 3:13. The first sentence of this verse is a repetition in thought of the preceding verse. The apostle makes no claim to a victory he has not won, but he can and does affirm what are his determinations. Forgetting means to cease cherishing a memory of the things he once loved, not that his memory would become a blank on the subject. The apostle now adopts the ancient foot race for an illustration of the Christian life. Reaching forth is from EPEKTEINO which Thayer defines, "to stretch out to or towards." A runner in a race will lean toward the goal for which he is contesting.

Verse 14

Php 3:14. Press is from the same word as follow after in verse 12, and is a somewhat stronger word than the one for reaching forth in the verse preceding our present one. That term indicates the direction toward a man's goal, while the one here denotes that he will use pressure in progressing toward that goal. Every foot race has a goal which the contestant wishes to reach in time to win the prize or stake. That is what Is meant by the mark in this verse. Needless to say that no literal thing or specific date constitutes that mark or goal in the Christian race. It may well be expressed by the words, "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev 2:10). This passage states the goal (death), and also the prize which is the crown of life. A calling is a man's chief occupation in life, and the one Paul had chosen was the service for Christ. It is called high because it came from God through Christ. This occupation does not promise any temporal prize or reward, but assures every "faithful" (not successful) worker a prize that is fadeless.

Verse 15

Php 3:15. Perfect means mature in spiritual matters, such as those described in Heb 5:14. Paul believed such disciples were able to be thus minded; that is, were prepared to make the same resolution that he just declared for himself. Otherwise minded. If some among them had not yet reached that point in their Christian growth, they need not despair; if they will continue partaking of the truth of God, this advanced thought possessed by Paul will finally be revealed unto them.

Verse 16

Php 3:16. Nevertheless, as to those who have not attained that degree of perfection or maturity of thought that Paul has, they should use what knowledge they have to guide them in their walk. Same rule and same thing means that their conduct must differ• in degree only, and not in kind.

Verse 17

Php 3:17. To be a follower means to be an imitator. Paul told his brethren at Corinth to be followers (imitators) of him as he was of Christ (1Co 11:1), and the same restriction holds good on our present verse. Mark means to take note of certain ones who were walking so--were following the pattern set by Paul--as ye have, or since ye have the apostles as examples.

Verse 18

Php 3:18. Not all professed Christians were walking after the example Paul was setting before them. The conduct of some was so evil that it caused the apostle to weep as he told them about it. It was not because of any personal loss to him that he wept, but because such characters were the enemies of the cross of Christ.

Verse 19

Php 3:19. End means fate or final outcome, and that which is awaiting those characters described in the preceding verse is eternal destruction. The word god should not be capitalized, for it refers to a wrong object of devotion, namely, the belly. The original Greek word has different shades of meaning, but it is here used in reference to the fleshly desires. Some people are more devoted to such interests than they are to the true God, who wishes His children to make their devotion to Him first in their lives, and all other matters (even those that are right of themselves) secondary. Glory in their shame. Not that they admit having pride in their shame, but Paul is asserting that the things these evil workers take glory in, are truly shameful. The reason such people act as here described is due to the fact they mind (care) earthly things.

Verse 20

Php 3:20. Conversation is from POLITEUMA, which is not used anywhere else in the Greek New Testament. Thayer defines it, "a state, commonwealth." Robinson defines it in virutally the same way, then adds the following explanation of his definition: "Figuratively, of Christians in reference to their spiritual community, the New Jerusalem in heaven." The idea is well expressed by some words of an old hymn: "I'm but a stranger here; Heaven is my home." (See Hebrews 1.1:13-16; 13:14; 1Pe 2:11.) Our stay on the earth should be used in preparing for the eternal residence in our true Home, for this world is to pass away. From whence denotes that Jesus is now in that Country, but will come from it sometime to call His own from the earth.

Verse 21

Php 3:21. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1Co 15:50), hence the fleshly bodies of faithful children of God must be changed from a fleshly to a spiritual form. This will apply to both the living and the dead when Christ comes (1Co 15:51-54; 1Th 4:14-17). Change is from META-SCHEMATIZO, which Thayer defines at this place, "to change the figure of, to transform." The original for vile is defined by Thayer, "lowness, low estate"; it is applied to the body because it is fleshly and subject to decay. Let it be noted that it (the body) is to be changed and fashioned like unto that of Christ. The possibility of making such a change is accounted for by the fact that He has been able to subdue all things unto himself.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Philippians 3". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/philippians-3.html. 1952.
 
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