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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Philippians 3

 

 

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Verse 1

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

Ver. 1. Rejoice] Or farewell in the Lord. Salutem in sospitatore.

To write the same things to you] So 1 Corinthians 5:9; John 15:1-5. Some gather out of Matthew 5:1; cf. Luke 6:20, that our Saviour preached the same sermon twice over. Men are dull to conceive, hard to believe, apt to forget, and slow to practise heavenly truths, and had therefore great need to have them much pressed, and often inculcated. Neither let any cry out, Occidit miseros crambe repetita magistros. Surfeit not of God’s manna, say not it is a light meat, because lightly come by, or the same again. Austin persuades the preacher so long to pursue and stand upon the beating and repeating of one and the same point, till by the gesture and countenance of the hearers he perceives that they understand and relish it. It was Melancthon’s wish, that men did not only teach the same things, but in iisdem verbis, in iisdem syllabis, in the same words, in the same syllables. He himself went over the Epistle to the Romans ten different times in his ordinary lectures. (Scultet. Annal.) Hippias liked not to have αει παυτα, ever the same things; but Socrates desired to have ου μονον αει ταυτα, αλλα και περι των αυτω, not only always the same words, but about the very same matters; since a good thing cannot be heard too often.


Verse 2

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

Ver. 2. Beware of dogs] That is, seducers and sectarians, who though dead dogs, yet will be barking at godly ministers. And though the dogs of Egypt would not move their tongues against Israel, Exodus 11:7, yet these greedy dogs, Isaiah 56:11, can both bark and bite better men than themselves, being set on by the devil. Homines perfrictae frontis, impudent as dogs. Ravenous also when they get among the flocks, Ezekiel 22:25. Farther, they are crouching, colloguing creatures, 2 Timothy 3:4 : but believe them not; receive them not; for like dirty dogs they will but bemire you with fawning; yea, like cur-dogs, they will suck your blood with licking, and in the end kill you, and cut your throats without biting. Beware of them, therefore, beware, saith the apostle here.

Beware of evil workers] Deceitful workers, 2 Corinthians 11:13, that seem to build staircases for heaven, when indeed they dig descents down to hell, taking great pains to very evil purpose.

Beware of the concision] For circumcision; as Diogenes called Zeno’s διατριβην κατατριβην and Euclid’s αχολην χολην. (Laert.) The Holy Scriptures have many such elegant and pleasant passages, as Proverbs 25:27; Hosea 4:15; Galatians 5:12; Isaiah 5:7, &c. There is one that senseth it thus, Beware of the concision, that is, of those that make divisions and out the Church into little pieces, and sacking congregations, making separation. So Piscator, Qui conantur vos ab ecclesia Dei rescindere, who seek to sunder you from the Church. The Donatists affirmed that there were no true Churches but theirs, and were also divided among themselves, in minutula frustula, into small factions, as Austin saith.


Verse 3

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

Ver. 3. For we are the circumcision] Such as have our luxuriancies lopped off, our unruly passions mortified, Colossians 2:11, casting them away as a wretched foreskin.


Verse 4

4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

Ver. 4. Confidence in the flesh] That is, in external privileges, which yet profit not those that rest in them. An empty title yields but an empty comfort at last. God cares for no retainers, that only wear his livery but serve themselves. A man may go to hell with baptismal water on his face; yea, the sooner for his abused privileges.


Verse 5

5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

Ver. 5. A Hebrew of the Hebrews] That is, by both father’s and mother’s side. Some think that hereby he argueth the ancientness of his stock and lineage, as being continued from Abraham, called the Hebrew; or from Eber. (Dr Airay.) Sed genus et proavos, &c. Of some ancient families it may be said as of some books, that they are adorandae rubiginis, of more antiquity than authority or respect.


Verse 6

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

Ver. 6. Concerning zeal] A blind misguided zeal. {See Trapp on "Romans 10:2"} If zeal be not qualified with knowledge all will be on fire, as the primum mobile, first easily swayed, they say, would be with its swift turning about, but for the countermotion of the lower spheres.


Verse 7

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

Ver. 7. Loss for Christ] Christ is to be sought and bought at any hand, at any rate. This is to play the wise merchant, Matthew 13:44-46. {See Trapp on "Matthew 13:44"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 13:45"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 13:46"} Esteem we Christ, as the people did David, 2 Samuel 18:3, more worth than ten thousand; as Naomi did Ruth, better than seven sons, Ruth 4:15; as Pharaoh did Joseph, There is none so wise and worthy as thou, said he, Genesis 41:39. Let burning, hanging, all the torments of hell befall me, tantummodo ut Iesum nansciscar, so that I may get my Jesus, said Ignatius. None but Christ, none but Christ, said Lambert, lifting up such hands as he had, and his fingers’ ends flaming. We cannot buy this gold too dear. Paul is well content to part with a sky full of stars for one Sun of righteousness. Nazianzen put this price upon his Athenian learning (wherein he was very famous), that he had something of value to part with for Christ. So did Galeacius Caraeciolus abandon all to enjoy the pure ordinances of Christ at Geneva. See that famous epistle written to him by Mr Calvin, prefixed before his Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians.


Verse 8

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Ver. 8. And do count them but dung] Dog’s dung (as some interpret the word σκυβαλα, quasi κυσιβαλα), or dog’s meat, coarse and contemptible. Paul’s sublime spirit counts all dung, yet is content, for Christ, to be counted the offscouring of all things.


Verse 9

9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Ver. 9. And be found in him] Out of whom all are lost in the wilderness of worldly lusts, and woefully wander; yet not so wide, as to miss hell. Paul’s desire is therefore to be found in Christ, at such time as he is sought for by the justice of God, to be brought to condign punishment.


Verse 10

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

Ver. 10. And may know him] Not notionally only (for so a man may do out of every catechism), but practically; not apprehensively only, but affectively; not with that knowledge that is cognoscitiva, only standing in speculation, but that is directiva vitae, as the apostle here expounds himself. A natural man may have a disciplinary knowledge of Christ, that is, by hearsay, as a blind man hath of colour, not an intuitive, i.e. per speciem propriam, &c.


Verse 11

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

Ver. 11. I might attain to the resurrection] That is (by a metonomy of the subject for the adjunct), that perfection of holiness that accompanieth the estate of the resurrection. True grace never aims at a pitch, but aspireth to perfection. It is a low and unworthy strain in some to labour after no more grace than will keep life and soul together, that is, soul and hell asunder (as one speaketh). But that man for heaven, and heaven for him, that sets up for his mark the resurrection of the dead, that would be as perfect now as the glorified saints shall be at the day of judgment.


Verse 12

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Ver. 12. But I follow after] Gr. διωκω, I persecute, I follow hot footed with utmost eagerness. By this then he signifieth how greedily and incessantly he pursued after the perfect knowledge of Christ, having it as it were in chase, and resolved not to rest till he had attained unto it. (Airay.) Well might Chrysostom call St Paul an insatiable, greedy, devouring worshipper of God.


Verse 13

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

Ver. 13. I count not myself] Si dixisti satis est, periisti. Satiety is a dangerous disease, and the next step to a declension. The eagle’s emblem is sublimius; a loftier position, the sun’s celerius, swifter, Psalms 19:3; the wheat’s perfectius, more ripened, Mark 4:28; Ezekiel’s profundius, more depth, Ezekiel 47:4; Christ’s superius, more exaltation, Luke 14:10; and Paul’s ulterius more humiliation.

Reaching forth] επεκτεινομενος, straining and stretching out head and hands and whole body to lay hold on the mark or prize proposed. A manifest metaphor from runners in a race, qui caput, totumque corpus, et vires exerunt, ae praecipites ad scopum ruunt, who throw themselves forward like a dart, and stretch out their arms to take hold of the mark. Prone et quasi praecipiti corpore ferri ad scopum. (Beza a Lapide.)


Verse 14

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

Ver. 14. I press toward, &c.] The ark of the covenant was but a cubit and a half high; so were likewise the wheels of the caldron. Now we know that a cubit and a half is but an imperfect measure, which shows (saith one) that no man in this life is perfectly perfect. Let us strive to perfection, as Paul did; and then, Summum culmen affectantes, satis honesti vel in secundo fastigio conspiciemur. A man may fully fall in with the most forward followers of Jesus Christ, and yet fall short of perfection. It is with Christians (saith Columel well) as with Jonathan’s signal arrows, two fell short, and but one beyond the mark; so where one shoots home to the mark of the high calling in Christ, many fail to attain to it.


Verse 15

15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

Ver. 15. As many as be perfect] Comparatively, or conceitedly so.

God shall reveal] Different measures of knowledge and holiness are given to the saints at different times. We are narrow mouthed vessels, and cannot receive all at once. "Whither I go thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards," John 13:36. {See Trapp on "John 13:36"}


Verse 16

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

Ver. 16. Let us walk by the same rule] To wit, of the word; and then you may say, Lord, if I be deceived, thou hast deceived me. Or it may be rendered thus, Let us proceed by one rule; for the word στοιχωμεν is military, and signifies to go on in order, according to the general’s commands; who else may justly punish our prosperous disobediences, our disorderly successes.


Verse 17

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

Ver. 17. Be followers together of me] Longum iter per praecepta, brevius per exempla. Everything in a minister should be exemplary, τυπος. We must propound to ourselves the highest pitch and the best patterns of perfection; even those of most raised parts and graces, of unwearied industry in services, and undaunted magnanimity in suffering; follow the most forward Christians with a desire to overtake them; dwell upon their exemplary lives till ye be changed into the same image.


Verse 18

18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

Ver. 18. And now tell you weeping] Non tam atramento quam lachrymis chartas inficiebat Paulus. {a} Paul was a man of many tears, and might well say here, as Master Fox concludes the story of Lady Jane Grey, Tu quibus illa legas incertum est, Lector ocellis; Ipse quidem siccis scribere non potui.

{a} Lotin in Acts 22:19.


Verse 19

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

Ver. 19. Whose god is their belly] A scavenger, whose living is to empty, is to be preferred before him that liveth but to fill privies; as they do that make their gut their god, that dunghill deity. Such a one was that Pamphagus, Nabal, Dives, and others, that digested in hell what they ate on earth. They say the locust is all belly, which is joined to his mouth and endeth at his tail. The spider also is little else than belly. The dolphin hath his mouth almost in his very belly; the ass-fish hath his heart in his belly. (Solinus. Aristot.) In mea patria Deus venter est, et in diem vivitur. In my country (saith Jerome) their belly is their god, they live from hand to mouth, &c. Epicurus said, that eternal life was nothing else but an eternal eating and drinking; ωστε παντα χρονον διαγειν μεθυοντας. See my Common Place of Abstinence.

Who mind earthly things] As they have their hands elbow deep in the world, so their minds are shut in their chests, as dead bodies are buried in coffins; they are interred in the Golgotha of this world, as moles in their hillocks.


Verse 20

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

Ver. 20. For our conversation] Our civil conversation, or our burgessship, {a} while we live by heaven’s laws, and go about our earthly businesses with heavenly minds; this a carnal man cannot skill of. {b} A fly cannot make of a flower what a bee can. There is a generation whose names are written in the earth, Jeremiah 17:13; these make earth their throne, heaven their footstool, Isaiah 66:1, and are loth to die, because they have treasures in the field. But the saints, though their commoration be on earth, yet their conversation is in heaven; as the pearl grows in the sea, but shines in the sky; as stars, though seen sometimes in a puddle, yet have their situation in heaven; as a wise man may sport with children, but that is not his main business. Corpore ambulamus in terra corde habitamus in caelo, saith Austin. Our bodies are on earth, our hearts in heaven (as his was that did even eat and drink and sleep eternal life). We live by the same laws as saints and angels in heaven do. If Satan offer us outward things in a temptation (as he did Luther a cardinalship), we send them away from whence they came, as Pelican sent back the silver bowl (which the bishop had sent him for a token) with this answer, Astricti sunt quotquot Tiguri cives et inquilini, bis singulis annis, solenni iuramento, &c. We, the citizens and inhabitants of Zurich, are twice a year solemnly sworn to receive no gift from any foreign prince; so we, the citizens of heaven, are bound by solemn and sacred covenants not to accept Satan’s cut-throat kindnesses. Serpens ille capite blanditur, ventre oblectat, cauda ligat. (Rupert.)

"- Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.

We like not the devil’s donatives."

{a} The status and privileges of a burgess; the ‘freedom’ of a borough, citizenship. ŒD

{b} πολιτευμα. Ut municipes caelorum nos gerimus. Sic reddit Piscator.


Verse 21

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

Ver. 21. Like unto his glorious body] Which is the standard. {See Trapp on "1 Corinthians 15:38"} {See Trapp on "1 Corinthians 15:44"} Now we may say to our souls as he did to his, O anima, quam deforme hospitium nacta es? Poor soul, what an ill lodging room hast thou gotten! But at the resurrection all shall be mended. Then these vile bodies shall shine as the sun, and be so clear and transparent, that all the veins, humours, nerves, and bowels shall be seen as in a glass, saith Aquinas, that the soul may sally out at every part, and sparkle through the body as the wine through the glass, saith another author. Three glimpses of glory were seen, 1. In Moses’ face; 2. In Christ’s transfiguration; 3. In Stephen’s countenance.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Philippians 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/philippians-3.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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