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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Philippians 3



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Verse 1

Finally (το λοιπονto loipon). Accusative of general reference, literally, “as for the rest.” So again in Phlippians 4:8. It (or just λοιπονloipon) 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 λοιπουtou loipou (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 γραπεινta auta graphein). Present active articular infinitive, “the going on writing the same things.” What things? He has just used χαιρετεchairete (go on rejoicing) again and he will repeat it in Phlippians 4:4. But in Phlippians 3:2 he uses βλεπετεblepete three times. At any rate Paul, as a true teacher, is not afraid of repetition.

Irksome (οκνηρονoknēron). Old adjective from οκνεωokneō to delay, to hesitate. It is not tiresome to me to repeat what is “safe” (ασπαλεςasphales) for you. Old adjective from αa privative and σπαλλωsphallō to totter, to reel. See note on Acts 21:34.

Verse 2

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

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

The evil workers (τους κακους εργαταςtous kakous ergatas). He had already called the Judaizers “deceitful workers” (εργαται δολιοιergatai dolioi) in 2 Corinthians 11:13.

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

Verse 3

For we (ημεις γαρhēmeis gar). 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 note on Galatians 5:12 for αποτεμνεινapotemnein (to cut off) in sense of mutilation also.

By the Spirit of God (πνευματι τεουpneumati theou). Instrumental case, though the dative case as the object of λατρευωlatreuō makes good sense also (worshipping the Spirit of God) or even the locative (worshipping in the Spirit of God).

No (ουκouk). Actual condition rather than μηmē with the participle.

In the flesh (εν σαρκιen sarki). 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 (εχωνechōn). Rather, “even though myself having.”

Confidence (πεποιτησινpepoithēsin). Late word, condemned by the Atticists, from πεποιταpepoitha (just used). See note on 2 Corinthians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 3:4.

Verse 5

Thinketh to have confidence (δοκει πεποιτεναιdokei pepoithenai). 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 μαλλονegō mallon). “I have more ground for boasting than he” and Paul proceeds to prove it in the rest of Phlippians 3:5, Phlippians 3:6.

Circumcised the eighth day (περιτομηι οκταημεροςperitomēi oktaēmeros). “In circumcision (locative case) an eighth day man.” Use of the ordinal with persons like τεταρταιοςtetartaios (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 Ισραηλek genous Israēl). Of the original stock, not a proselyte.

Benjamin (ενιαμινBeniamin). 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 εχ ΕβραιωνEbraios ex Ebraiōn). 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 (ΠαρισαιοςPharisaios). 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 ζηλοςkata zēlos). So the old MSS. treating ζηλοςzēlos as neuter, not masculine. He was a zealot against Christianity, “persecuting the church” (διωκων την εκκλησιανdiōkōn tēn ekklēsian). He was the ringleader in the persecution from the death of Stephen till his own conversion (Acts 8:1-9:9).

Found blameless (γενομενος αμεμπτοςgenomenos amemptos). “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 μοι κερδηen moi kerdē). “Were gains (plural, see note on Phlippians 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 (ηγημαιhēgēmai). Perfect middle indicative, state of completion and still true.

Loss (ζημιανzēmian). 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 καιalla men oun ge kai). 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 (ηγουμαιhēgoumai), “I still count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge (το υπερεχονto huperechon the surpassingness, neuter articular participle of υπερεχωhuperechō Phlippians 2:3) of Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Dung (σκυβαλαskubala). Late word of uncertain etymology, either connected with σκωρskōr (dung) or from ες κυνας βαλλωes kunas ballō 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 κερδησωhina Christon kerdēsō). First aorist active subjunctive of κερδαωkerdaō Ionic form for κερδαινωkerdainō with ιναhina 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 (ευρετω εν αυτωιheurethō en autōi). First aorist (effective) passive subjunctive with ιναhina of ευρισκωheuriskō At death (2 Corinthians 5:3) or when Christ comes. Cf. Phlippians 2:8; Galatians 2:17.

Through faith in Christ (δια πιστεως Χριστουdia pisteōs Christou). The objective genitive ΧριστουChristou not subjective, as in Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:20; Romans 3:22. Explained further by επι τηι πιστειepi tēi pistei (on the basis of faith) as in Acts 3:16.

Verse 10

That I may know him (του γνωναι αυτονtou gnōnai auton). Genitive of the articular second aorist (ingressive) active infinitive (purpose) of γινωσκωginōskō 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 αυτουtēn dunamin tēs anastaseōs autou). 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.; Phlippians 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 πατηματων αυτουtēn Koinéōnian tōn pathēmatōn autou). Partnership in (objective genitive) his sufferings, an honour prized by Paul (2 Corinthians 1:24).

Becoming conformed to his death (συμμορπιζομενος τωι τανατωι αυτουsummorphizomenos tōi thanatōi autou). Present passive participle of συμμορπιζωsummorphizō late verb from συμμορποςsummorphos found only here and ecclesiastical writers quoting it. The Latin Vulgate uses configuro. See note on Romans 6:4 for συμπυτοιsumphutoi 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 (ει πως καταντησωei pōs katantēsō). Not an expression of doubt, but of humility (Vincent), a modest hope (Lightfoot). For ει πωςei pōs see note on Romans 1:10; and note on Romans 11:14 where παραζηλωσωparazēlōsō can be either future indicative or aorist subjunctive like καταντησωkatantēsō here (see subjunctive καταλαβωkatalabō in Phlippians 3:12), late compound verb κατανταωkatantaō (εχαναστασινexanastasin). 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 εχex (τεν εχαναστασιν την εκ νεκρωνten exanastasin tēn ek nekrōn). Paul is not denying a general resurrection by this language, but emphasizing that of believers.

Verse 12

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

I have already obtained (ηδη ελαβονēdē elabon). Rather, “I did already obtain,” constative second aorist active indicative of λαμβανωlambanō summing up all his previous experiences as a single event.

Or am already made perfect (η ηδη τετελειωμαιē ēdē teteleiōmai). Perfect passive indicative (state of completion) of τελειοωteleioō old verb from τελειοςteleios and that from τελοςtelos (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 δεdiōkō de). He is not discouraged, but encouraged. He keeps up the chase (real idea in διωκωdiōkō as in 1 Corinthians 14:1; Romans 9:30; 1 Timothy 6:11).

If so be that (ει καιei kai). “I follow after.” The condition (third class, εικαταλαβωei̇̇katalabō second aorist active subjunctive of καταλαμβανωkatalambanō) is really a sort of purpose clause or aim. There are plenty of examples in the Koiné{[28928]}š of the use of ειei and the subjunctive as here (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1017), “if I also may lay hold of that for which (επ ωιEphesians' hōi purpose expressed by επιepi) I was laid hold of (κατελημπτηνkatelēmphthēn first aorist passive of the same verb καταλαμβανωkatalambanō) by Christ Jesus.” His conversion was the beginning, not the end of the chase.

Verse 13

Not yet (ουπωoupō). But some MSS. read ουou (not).

To have apprehended (κατειληπεναιkateilēphenai). Perfect active infinitive of same verb καταλαμβανωkatalambanō (perfective use of καταkata to grasp completely). Surely denial enough.

But one thing (εν δεhen de). No verb in the Greek. We can supply ποιωpoiō (I do) or διωκωdiōkō (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 επιλαντανομενοςta men opisō epilanthanomenos). Common verb, usually with the genitive, but the accusative in the Koiné{[28928]}š 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 (επεκτεινομενοςepekteinomenos). Present direct middle participle of the old double compound επεκτεινωepekteinō (stretching myself out towards). Metaphor of a runner leaning forward as he runs.

Verse 14

Toward the goal (κατα σκοπονkata skopon). “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 βραβειονeis to brabeion). Late word (Menander and inscriptions) from βραβευςbrabeus (umpire who awards the prize). In N.T. only here and 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Of the high calling (της ανω κλησεωςtēs anō klēseōs). 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 (οσοι τελειοιhosoi teleioi). Here the term τελειοιteleioi means relative perfection, not the absolute perfection so pointedly denied in Phlippians 3:12. Paul here includes himself in the group of spiritual adults (see Hebrews 5:13).

Let us be thus minded (τουτο προνωμενtouto phronōmen). Present active volitive subjunctive of προνεωphroneō “Let us keep on thinking this,” viz. that we have not yet attained absolute perfection.

If ye are otherwise minded (ει τι ετερως προνειτεei ti heterōs phroneite). Condition of first class, assumed as true. That is, if ye think that ye are absolutely perfect.

Shall God reveal unto you (ο τεος υμιν αποκαλυπσειho theos humin apokalupsei). He turns such cases over to God. What else can he do with them?

Whereunto we have already come (εις ο επτασαμενeis ho ephthasamen). First aorist active indicative of πτανωphthanō originally to come before as in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, but usually in the Koiné{[28928]}š simply to arrive, attain to, as here.

Verse 16

By that same rule let us walk (τωι αυτωι στοιχεινtōi autōi stoichein) Aleph A B do not have κανονιkanoni (rule). Besides στοιχεινstoichein 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” (τωι αυτωιtōi autōi) 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 (συνμιμηται μουsunmimētai mou). Found only here so far, though Plato uses συμμιμεισταιsummimeisthai “Vie with each other in imitating me” (Lightfoot).

Mark (σκοπειτεskopeite). Old verb from σκοποςskopos (Phlippians 3:14). “Keep your eyes on me as goal.” Mark and follow, not avoid as in Romans 16:17.

An ensample (τυπονtupon). 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 ελεγονpollakis elegon). Imperfect active, repetition in Paul s warnings to them.

Even weeping (και κλαιωνkai klaiōn). 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 εχτρους του σταυρου του Χριστουtous echthrous tou staurou tou Christou). 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 τεος η κοιλιαhou to theos hē koilia). The comic poet Eupolis uses the rare word ΚοιλιοδαιμωνKoiliodaimōn 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 (οι τα επιγεια προνουντεςhoi ta epigeia phronountes). Anacoluthon. The nominative does not refer to πολλοιpolloi at the beginning, but with the accusative τους εχτρουςtous echthrous in between. See note on Mark 12:40.

Verse 20

Our citizenship (ημων το πολιτευμαhēmōn to politeuma). Old word from πιλιτευωpiliteuō (Phlippians 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 (απεκδεχομεταapekdechometha). 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 (μετασχηματισειmetaschēmatisei). Future active indicative of μετασχηματιζωmetaschēmatizō for which see note on 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 11:13.

Conformed to (συμμορπονsummorphon). For which (συν μορπηsunκατα την ενεργειανmorphē) see note on 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 (kata tēn energeian). “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)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Philippians 3:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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