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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Philippians 3

 

 

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Verse 1

V. COUNSELS AGAINST PERILS, Philippians 3:1 to Philippians 4:1.

1. Warning against Judaizing teachers, Philippians 3:1-2.

1. Finally—The apostle seems to have been about closing the epistle with a caution against the Judaizers, but at the mention of them as the concision, he goes off into the discussion which follows.

Rejoice—This is the keynote of the whole epistle, but it is to be in the Lord.

The same things—Namely, this frequent mention of joy. See Philippians 1:18; Philippians 1:25-26; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 2:17-18; Philippians 2:28; Philippians 4:4; Philippians 4:10. It was not irksome to him, while it would certainly tend to their safety, if it should lead them to seek their happiness in Christ.


Verse 2

2. Beware of dogsLook to the dogs. Keep them in view, in order to learn their true character. Note, Matthew 7:6. The epithet implies religious impurity; and to this day dogs is the Moslem term for Christians. The evil workers—The same persons, agitators for mischief.

The concision—The word means an excision, or cutting off. Note, Galatians 5:12. The term defines the opponents of whom they were to beware, as Judaizing teachers who sought to enforce the Mosaic law on Gentile Christians, beginning with circumcision as necessary to salvation. They do not appear to have made, as yet, any inroads upon the Philippian Church, but the caution here given implies danger from that quarter. The contemptuous name here employed, plain in the Greek with the play on words, implies that having lost sight of the spiritual import of the rite, they were mere outward manglers of the flesh.


Verse 3

2. Paul’s contrast of the Judaizers and himself, Philippians 3:3-16.

3. We—We Christians, whether formerly circumcised Jews or uncircumcised Gentiles.

Are the circumcision—The genuine circumcision, possessing in Christ all that the ancient Abrahamic rite symbolized. Three characteristics of the real circumcision follow, which, by contrast, define the false circumcision, called here the concision.

Worship God in the Spirit—The best text reads θεου, meaning, by the Spirit of God, that is, their service is rendered under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice in Christ Jesus—Better, glory in him, and not in the flesh, as did the perverters. Galatians 6:13.

No confidence in the flesh—Better, though I am possessing confidence also in the flesh. The primary reference is to circumcision as a mere bodily rite, but the meaning broadens out to the earthly and external, as in Philippians 3:5-6. Neither separately nor together can they make one morally better.


Verse 4

4. I might also—Having disavowed all actual trust in external advantages, the apostle now, in order to guard against the supposition that he has no right to these claims, affirms that he has a right to confidence in the flesh, but does not use it, as it is of no real value; and in such right he claims to have all that any of the Judaizers could boast himself to have, and more, as he proceeds to show.

Trust—Better, have confidence, as it is the same Greek word already twice used.


Verse 5

5. Circumcised the eighth day—So a born Jew, and not a proselyte circumcised in adult years, or, like Ishmael, after the age of thirteen.

Stock of Israel—Of the true theocratic race, and no son of proselytes. Tribe of Benjamin, which never revolted, and, united with Judah, perpetuated the nationality.

Hebrew of the Hebrews—Of pure Hebrew ancestry on both sides, with no admixture of foreign blood for near two thousand years. The genealogical tables would show this. As to purity of lineage, no Jew could claim more, and few so much. A proselyte, a descendant of a proselyte, a Jew in whose ancestry, however remote, was a Gentile, like Ruth the Moabitess, or one who had lost his tribal record, or could not prove his descent, would fail here; and here is where the apostle’s zealous opponents failed. In blood and birth he was their superior, as he also was in fidelity to his religion. Touching the law of Moses, that is, as to the regard paid to it, he was a Pharisee, whose distinction was, the closest observance of its minutest precepts.


Verse 6

6. Concerning… touching, and touching of Philippians 3:5, should have the same translation, meaning as regards, or in respect of. His zeal for the law was shown by his career as a persecutor, when, to save its supremacy, he gave all his energies to the destruction of the Church.

Righteousness—In the rightness, the right conduct, which consisted in observance of the law, he was perfect. Such he was down to the period of his journey to Damascus. All this is said from his old Judaic point of view; and assuredly if there was any value in scrupulous obedience, in persecuting zeal, and in rigorous, unvarying fidelity, it was his. But his estimate of things has now greatly changed; and his persecution of the Church in which he had once gloried he has come to regard as his greatest sin.


Verse 7

7. What things were gain—The whole class of things above-mentioned, which he had once deemed of great advantage, and upon which he had relied for acceptance with God, he had come to consider as of no real worth in that respect, but rather as injurious, for they shut him off from Christ.


Verse 8

8. I count all things—At his conversion the apostle esteemed them all loss, and now, anticipating a question as to his present judgment, he affirms that he continues to so esteem them.

The excellency—The supereminence of the knowledge of Christ above blood, birth, legal zeal, and observance.

Loss of all things—In those terrible three days of darkness at Damascus he absolutely forsook all in surrendering to Christ, and on going forth he found all actually gone; his earthly prospects were blasted, his high fame withered, his name covered with scorn, and his life in peril from his countrymen. And now, after years of a life of toil, suffering, and trial, he esteems them only as dung—mere worthless refuse—as respects their power for the salvation of the soul.

That I may win Christ—Better, gain Christ, thus preserving the contrast. The for Christ, and for whom, are now explained. To receive and possess him as a Saviour, and to be joined to him in a vital union, is a gain in comparison with which all else is truly vanity.


Verse 9

9. Found in him—Now, by both God and men, in him, as the element in whom the soul lives and moves.

Righteousness—Legal and evangelical justification are put in sharp contrast. One originates in the law, the other in God. The former is mine own; the result of personal obedience to the law’s commands, as possessing power or merit toward procuring acceptance with God; the latter is obtained through faith in Christ, inspired by God, on account of the merit of Christ, and through faith as the condition. That self-righteousness in which Saul of Tarsus had been so confident he had found utterly vain; and renouncing all hope therefrom, he turned to Christ, receiving his justification as a flee gift of divine grace. By faith, or, upon faith, shows it to be God’s plan to bestow acceptance on the condition of faith in his Son. (See notes on Romans 3:21-25.)


Verse 10

10. Know him—Freely justified, and in union with Christ, the great aim was to know him in the soul’s ever-deepening experience of his love, giving that inner knowledge of him which is realized only in union with him. Additional to this, the apostle would also know the power which Christ’s resurrection possesses, in the fullest experience of the new and holy life which the risen Christ through the Holy Spirit effects in them that believe; and, still more, he would in his union with his Lord know a participation in his sufferings as well as in his love, being made like him even in death. If he wished for martyrdom, he found it; yet this conformity to Christ’s death was not future but present, and was the characteristic of his sufferings. “I die daily,” (1 Corinthians 15:31,) and “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,” (2 Corinthians 4:10,) are parallel declarations.


Verse 11

11. Attain unto the resurrection—No doubt is implied of the resurrection of all men, “both of the just and unjust,” for on this point the apostle had put himself on record. Acts 24:15. But as Paul here uses for resurrection not simply the ordinary Greek word anastasis, uprising, but exanastasis, out-uprising, millenarians have found a reference to a supposed first resurrection in order of time. Note, 1 Corinthians 15:24.

This they find confirmed in the Greek preposition before the dead, a true rendering of the phrase being the out-uprising from (without the article) deads. But of the phrase from deads we have shown that the meaning may be a resurrection from their own dead selves, (Luke 20:35; 1 Corinthians 15:12,) that is, a resurrection from being dead. The prefix ex in exanastasis is, we suppose, as is often the case, simply intensive or emphatic, and brings out the meaning of extra-resurrection; that is, the glorious resurrection, or glorious side of the resurrection simultaneous with the inglorious resurrection of the wicked, as in John 5:26-29. It was to this glorious extra-resurrection that St. Paul aspired.


Verse 12

12. Not as though—The apostle here guards against a construing of his words (8-10) into over high profession. He has not attained; his is yet only a follow after; namely, after that conformableness to Christ’s death which will be attained at his own exanastasis.

Already perfect—Rather, already perfected, referring not, as Clarke, to his martyrdom, nor to the physical resurrection change only; but to that perfected holiness of soul, that completing of the regeneration, which takes place at the exanastasis, by which the being passes out of the sphere of possible sin. This a higher being perfect, which is different from, but does not contradict, the lower perfect of Philippians 3:15, which belongs to the earthly Christian life, and to which St. Paul had attained, and which was an earnest follow after.


Verse 13

13. Count not myself—Whatever estimate the Philippians may have put upon the apostle, or whatever may be ours of him, his estimate of himself was a very humble one. Perhaps to avoid misapprehension on the part of those whom he has (Philippians 2:3) rebuked for their self-conceit, he reiterates with greater plainness what he has already said, both as to what he has gained, and his striving for something higher.

One thing—All else is secondary. Then arises before Paul’s mind the image of one running a race.


Verse 14

14. I press—It is the same word with follow after in Philippians 3:12, and in both cases it sets forth the unceasing earnestness of the pursuit.

The mark— The goal, which is neither more nor less than absolute conformity to Christ. Time and space are excluded, yet from the nature of the case the close of life is the end of the race.

The prize—The object of the race is the incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:25) which the apostle was called by Christ from heaven to run for and win. This was the full compensation for his losses, the glorious reward of his fidelity.


Verse 15

15. As many as be perfect—Including himself in the class thus designated, and leaving each member of the Philippian Church to decide whether or not he himself belonged to it. See note on Philippians 3:12. The perfection here is a moral perfection, and, therefore, a different thing from that in Philippians 3:12, which the apostle declares himself not to have attained. The perfect are the true circumcision, as defined in Philippians 3:3, and stand in contrast with those who depend upon the flesh, and thereby fail of an acceptable righteousness.


Verse 16

16. Walk by the same rule—Different persons have reached different points along the common path in which all genuine believers are walking, and, however it may be as to any future enlightenment, all are to walk onward in the same direction. Only those who use the light they have, have a right to expect more. The last clause of this verse, beginning with the word rule, is rejected from the best texts.


Verse 17

3. Warning against immoral examples, Philippians 3:17 to Philippians 4:1.

17. Followers together—That is, unitedly imitators of the apostle in his life, as described in the preceding context, and as they knew it from personal observation. Furthermore, they were to studiously mark those holy men among themselves whose lives were such as they saw his own to be.


Verse 18

18. Many walk—In broad contrast with this exemplar were the sensual lives of many in that Church. They are not to be confounded with the false teachers, already spoken of; nor were they pagans. Doctrinally orthodox, their lives proved them to be practically Epicurean, and really enemies of the cross of Christ.


Verse 19

19. Whose end—Eternal perdition instead of the heaven for which the cross would have prepared them.

Their belly—Finding their highest happiness in the sensuality of eating and drinking. The classics furnish many like expressions.

Whose glory—The low and grovelling pleasures which they delighted in, and boasted over, were really their shame, though they did not think it so.

Who mind—They thought, loved, and cared for only earthly things, and of even them they were chiefly intent upon the most debasing.


Verse 20

20. For our conversation—Rather, our country, our citizenship. The persons just described belong to the earth, and walk in earthliness; do you walk as we walk, for our country is in heaven. We belong to the heavenly commonwealth; we obey its laws; we think, feel, and live in accordance with them. Heaven has locality, as the place where the glorified Jesus is, and from which he shall come at his second advent.


Verse 21

21. Change—The future destiny of the body involves a condemnation of the sensuality with which the “belly-worshippers” degraded and besotted it, and requires that it be kept in honour and purity. It is now, indeed, a vile body; that is, the body of our humiliation, our weakness, diseases, corruption, and mortality. It is to become like the body of glory of our ascended Lord. This passage, the purpose of which is to inculcate a pure life, incidentally supplies a key to some of the problems in the doctrine of the resurrection. The statement is general, and embraces both the dead and the living, describing the bodily transformation which will come upon all alike. We are to have a body like the risen and glorified body of Christ. It is not a substitution of one body for another; it is a change, but not an exchange.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Philippians 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/philippians-3.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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