The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4

Philippians 3

Phi 3:1

FINALLY: Or "furthermore": cp 1Th 4:1; 2Th 3:1; 1Co 1:16; 4:2; 2Co 13:1; Gal 6:17. Usually this word does not mark a conclusion so much as a transition on the way to a conclusion. It introduces what remains to be said. Anyone who has listened to much preaching knows that Christian communicators often say "finally" long before the message ends!

REJOICE: Joy is the prevailing mood of the whole letter (Phi 1:3,4,18,25; 2:1,2,17-19,28,29; cf Phi 4:1,4,10,18). "This joy of the disciple of Christ is meant to be unquenchable, an inner joy which is essentially a part of the individual, a joy which in its strength presents a striking contrast with the gaiety of the world, so effervescent and dependent upon external stimuli. It is this kind of joy that Paul possessed. He wanted the Philippians to develop it" (BPh 28)).

IN THE LORD: Regardless of circumstances the Christian can and should always rejoice in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the basis of true joy and the sphere in which it thrives.

There is a transition here, of sorts: rejoicing is tremendously important, but -- Paul reminds them -- false teachers can rob the brethren of joy...

IT IS NO TROUBLE FOR ME TO WRITE THE SAME THINGS TO YOU AGAIN: 'I don't mind repeating this because it is so important to you.' "The same things" refer to the warnings about the Judaizers in the verses that follow: this, evidently, has been a continual theme of Paul's exhortations to them, and to others.

Phi 3:2

DOGS: A term of reproach and contempt (1Sa 17:43; 24:14; 2Sa 16:9; 2Ki 8:13; Deut 23:18; Prov 26:11; Isa 56:10,11; cp Psa 22:16,20; Mat 7:6; 15:26; Mar 7:27; Rev 22:15). In ancient times, dogs were unclean, wild, vicious creatures that threatened the peace and safety of everyone. Like "dogs", these Judaizers tore the flesh!

"The use of the noun 'kuon' in the disparaging sense in which it appears throughout the NT must be distinguished from 'kunarion', the diminutive form, which denoted the 'house dog' as distinct from the 'yard dog' or the 'dog of the streets'. Jesus referred to the 'kunarion', or house dog, in his discourse with the Gentile woman (Mat 15:26,27; Mark 7:27,28)" (EBCn).

" 'Beware of dogs, beware of the concision,' wrote Paul in curt contempt (Phi 3:2). It was obviously a slighting reference to Judaists with their confidence in circumcision (see v 3). But the point of it comes out so much more when the same Greek word is traced to the ordeal of Elijah on mount Carmel. Then the priests of Baal sought to commend themselves to the attention of their god by the way they 'cut themselves... with knives and lancets' (1Ki 18:28). To liken dedicated Judaists to such men was an act of temerity. Yet what fundamental difference was there? For these zealots for the Law also sought the favour of Jehovah by 'cutting themselves with knives and lancets.' Paul rubbed the point well in by his other jibe: 'Beware of dogs.' Let a man be never so zealous for Moses, he makes himself into a mere dog of a Gentile if he relies on his own observance of forms and rites to earn his salvation. Or were those priests of Baal 'dogs' of a different sort? (Deu 23:18)" (WBS).

THOSE MEN WHO DO EVIL: Or, more precisely, "evil WORKERS": ie, stressing the word "worker": these are men who do "works" of the Law so as to put God in their debt -- they believe that man may be justified by his WORKS (cp Acts 15:15; Rom 3:27,28). These Judaizers taught that people could only enter the ecclesia of Christ through the entryway of Judaism, and that once inside they still needed to submit to the Mosaic Law. They emphasized circumcision because it was the rite that brought a person into Judaism, which they viewed as a prerequisite to justification (cf Acts 15:1). So, in effect, they promoted circumcision for the wrong reasons, contrary to the revelation of God in Scripture.

Paul's metaphor of "dogs" is full of "bite". In effect, Paul reverses the epithet (of unclean, Gentile "dog") so commonly used by Jews to describe Gentiles; by trying to make Gentiles "clean" through circumcision, the Judaizers were making themselves the unclean "dogs"!

MUTILATORS: Gr "katatomee", "excision" (Vine, Diag), "concision" (KJV), merely cutting, in ct "peritomee" (true circumcision) of v 3. Prohibited in Lev 21:5 (LXX: katatomee). Sw also 1Ki 18:28: the prophets of Baal, cutting themselves! Also see Isa 15:2 (sw, LXX). (An even bolder term -- "emasculate themselves" -- appears in Gal 5:12). For those who had lost the significance of circumcision and insisted on it as a rite for Christians, it was nothing more than a mutilation of the flesh. There is real irony here: Paul says that even ritual circumcision, IF performed in the spirit of "earning salvation", is nothing more than a wanton tearing and ripping of the flesh -- such as wild dogs would do!

Phi 3:3

FOR IT IS WE WHO ARE THE CIRCUMCISION: Here, for contrast, Paul describes the true spiritual circumcision: that which speaks of confidence in God, not in the flesh nor in the works of the Law (cp Col 2:11). "Of itself, circumcision profited not. It was an apt symbol of the truth that the 'flesh profits nothing (for it was 'cut off'), but the Spirit gives life'. [John 6:63] By its very nature, in being hidden, it should have been perceived that it spoke of the inward condition of the heart (Rom 2:28,29). It is a paradox that it should ever have become an outward symbol of human pride and even boasting!" (LPh 44). Even the OT has much to say about "circumcision" of the heart rather than of the flesh: Lev 26:41; Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; Ezek 44:7.

WE WHO WORSHIP BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD: As Jesus told the Samaritan woman: "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Worship with the mind and intellect is the true way, and it is quite independent of such external aspects as place (such as Samaria or Jerusalem), circumcision, or Law (John 4:21-24).

WHO GLORY IN CHRIST JESUS: "Glory" is a different word from "rejoice" in v 1: "kauchema" means to boast, or vaunt oneself. The Philippians were to boast in Christ Jesus, not in the works of the Law, such as outward circumcision, for "a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified" (Gal 2:16; Psa 143:2). True believers boast, not in their own "achievements", but in the mercies of God in Jesus Christ, "who has become for us wisdom from God -- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1Co 1:29-31; cp Jer 9:23; 2Co 10:17).

AND PUT NOT CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH: This lesson is traceable all the way back in Gen 17, where circumcision was instituted. Because it was impossible, on natural grounds, for Abraham to produce an heir -- all the "work" was of God, who blessed Abraham with the covenant of circumcision, and miraculously brought about the birth of Isaac. Thus, all of Abraham's subsequent hope, and all the covenants of promise, and any prospect of eternal life, was a gift from God -- and not dependent upon any works of Law. Circumcision itself was but the token of what God had already done, and would continue to do Himself, to bless Abraham.

THE FLESH: The NT writers used the term "flesh" (Gr "sarx") in a literal and in a metaphorical sense. Literally it refers to our bodies (Luke 24:39). Figuratively it refers to human nature (John 1:14), which is prone to sin (cf Rom 7:5; 8:9,19). Paul often uses this term in his controversies with Judaizers, esp in Rom and Gal (Rom 3:20; 7:18, 25; Gal 2:16; 3:3; 5:19, 24).

Phi 3:4

THOUGH I MYSELF HAVE REASONS FOR SUCH CONFIDENCE. IF ANYONE ELSE THINKS HE HAS REASONS TO PUT CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH, I HAVE MORE: "If confidence in the fleshly achievements and background were worth anything, then Paul was well qualified to boast. He was sufficiently acquainted with the background of the leading Judaizers to know that his own history of achievement in the Jews' religion eclipsed theirs (cp Acts 26:4,5,10-12). If he repudiated 'the flesh', then it must be for very good reasons!" (LPh 45).

For the sake of the argument Paul adopted the Judaizers' attitude of confidence in the flesh. He did this to show that his rejection of Jewish advantages was not because he lacked them. The same approach is used in 2Co 11:26--12:12.

Phi 3:5

Vv 5,6: Seven characteristics of Paul's old nature.

CIRCUMCISED ON THE EIGHTH DAY: "He was no proselyte: in common with his Lord (cf Luke 2:21) and in strict accord with the covenant requirements imposed on Abraham and Moses (cf Gen 17:9-13; Lev 12:3), he had been circumcised on the appointed day" (BPh 81,82). He had not received circumcision later in life as many people did who converted to Judaism (eg, Acts 16:3).

OF THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL: The new name which God bestowed on Jacob (Gen 32:28), indicative of the promises.

BENJAMIN: Cp Rom 11:1. The first kingly tribe. Benjamin was the only one of Jacob's sons actually born in the Land (Gen 35:16-20) -- a source of pride in itself. Moreover he was born of Rachel, a free woman and Jacob's favorite wife. The territory of Benjamin included Jerusalem and the Temple Mount (Josh 18:16). This tribe alone, beside Judah, remained loyal to David's house when the monarchy divided. The feast of Purim celebrated the salvation of the Jews by a Benjamite, Mordecai. After the Exile, Benjamin and Judah formed the core of the restoration community.

A HEBREW OF HEBREWS: (1) "A Hebrew born of Hebrew parents" (Moffatt) -- with absolutely no question as to his ancestry, as if God would respect such credentials (ct Mat 3:9; John 8:33,34)! Or (2) Not just a Jew, but one fluent in the Heb language, who also retained Heb customs. Not a Hellenist (Trench, cited in SB 13:54; cp Act 21:40; 22:2).

IN REGARD TO THE LAW, A PHARISEE: As Paul was not hesitant to proclaim to others (Acts 23:6; 26:4,5 -- "the strictest sect of our religion"). In Jerusalem, where he completed his education, he was instructed by the renowned teacher of the Pharisees, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). " 'Pharisee' for Paul was not a term of reproach, but a title of honor, a claim to 'the highest degree of faithfulness and sincerity in the fulfilment of duty to God as prescribed by the divine Torah' (Beare)" (Const).

"How easily Paul might have fallen into the simple but tragic error of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 who congratulated himself with such nauseating self-satisfaction on being superior to other men. Paul, however, was cast in a different mould and even when his view of God's ways were bounded by the Law he was still pursuing an ideal outside himself" (BPh 143).

Phi 3:6

AS FOR ZEAL, PERSECUTING THE CHURCH: "For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it" (Gal 1:13; cp Acts 9:13,21). "Bitter experience had brought home to him the futility of human achievement and the vanity of racial privilege. It was the Jews, the recipients and custodians of the divine oracles (cf Rom 3:2; 9:3-5), who had slain the Lord Jesus. And it was a Jew, Saul of Tarsus, highly distinguished among his own generation, who had been a leading persecutor of the infant church. These were historical facts against which no dialectic could prevail" (BPh 80).

AS FOR LEGALISTIC RIGHTEOUSNESS, FAULTLESS: "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Gal 1:14). "Here is the evidence, if we required it, that even in his unenlightened days, he had felt the claims of the law upon himself as an individual... he had striven with might and main to satisfy all the minutiae of the law. His use of the term 'blameless' shows that in this respect he was above criticism... While Christ has taught us to be aware of Pharisaic humbug (Luk 12:1), let us not forget that Pharisees like Paul had only one ambition: to serve and please God. From his earliest conscious moments, Paul was surrounded by influences directing his mind towards the God of Israel. His roots were deep in the OT. If later he found himself obliged to repudiate much in Pharisaism, it is significant that he said to the Sanhedrin: 'I AM a Pharisee' (Acts 23:6)" (BPh 85,86).

FAULTLESS: Or "blameless" (AV). The Gr is "amemptos", irreproachable (Phi 2:15, sw). As a Pharisee, Paul had enough morality to keep him away from the grosser sins, but not enough righteousness to get him into the Kingdom of God! It was not bad things that kept Paul away from Jesus -- it was good things! His zeal and his purity were barriers to accepting Christ; thinking himself well, he felt he needed no "physician" (Mat 9:12; Mar 2:17; Luke 5:31). He had to lose his "religion" to find salvation!

In Christ, by contrast, true blamelessness is possible only thru the forgiveness of sins (1Th 3:13; 5:23).

Phi 3:7

WHATEVER WAS TO MY PROFIT: All earthly advantages (lit, "all gains" -- plural) constitute a challenge to the disciple of Christ, because his master demands complete submission. And for Paul, every fleshly advantage served only to strengthen his false hope of salvation. So there must be a repudiation of all these fleshly entanglements (Gal 5:24; Rom 8:13) -- since he cannot serve both God and Mammon (Mat 6:24). "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Mat 16:26). An echo of the Lord's words can be detected in this verse.

I NOW CONSIDER LOSS FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST: All the merits, privileges, and attainments are lumped together and cast away in a single gesture of contempt. Paul has come to regard all the "gains" of the past as but a single "loss"! All Paul needs -- all he yearns for -- is the "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8). He has found the "pearl of great price", and willingly gives everything else in order to possess it (Mat 13:45,46).

Phi 3:8

I CONSIDER EVERYTHING A LOSS: Now, if possible, Paul broadens the scope even more. There is not a single, solitary thing that he does not consider "loss" when compared to...

THE SURPASSING GREATNESS OF KNOWING CHRIST JESUS MY LORD: This involved justification and the hope of eternal life. This "knowledge" was both intellectual and experiential.

I CONSIDER THEM RUBBISH: This Gr word -- "skubalon" -- "occurs only here in the NT. Its derivation is uncertain, but it appears to have referred to excrement, food gone bad, scraps left over after a meal, and refuse. In extrabiblical Greek it describes a half-eaten corpse and lumps of manure" (Const). Thus it is not unreasonably translated "dung" (AV), and "vile refuse" (Diag) -- that which is not only worthless but strongly offensive and potentially dangerous.

Ironically, "skubalon" here may be thought of as that which is thrown to the "dogs" (v 2)! To paraphrase Paul: 'I cast away as the vilest trash all the privileges and honors of my earlier life: let the unclean "dogs" of the Judaizers revel in such things!'

"This is in fact the true position, but only those who have thought long and hard about the real values of human life can agree with Paul. To arrive at this judgment one must have faith in the exceeding great promises of God. In comparison with God's promises, 'the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared' (Rom 8:18; 2Co 4:16-18)" (LPh 49).

THAT I MAY GAIN CHRIST: Here the striving, urgency and strong feeling of the Truth are paramount. In the fullness and solemnity of the words we can see the evidence of Paul's intense devotion to Christ. There can be no wavering or indifference. There are essentially only two choices: total commitment or complete indifference -- it won't do to jump halfway across the chasm! What choice have we made? In Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Col 2:3), but to search them out and appropriate them personally requires a lifetime.

"Paul concentrated on his aim of knowing Christ with all the earnestness of his ardent nature. In his poem 'The Scholar-Gipsy' Matthew Arnold tells the story of one who forsook his former haunts in order to master the secrets of gipsy lore. He surrendered all to realize this one object. The poet thinks wistfully of the man who early left society...
'with powers
Fresh, undiverted to the world without,
Firm to their mark, not spent on other things.'

"Arnold sees the contrast between himself and his contemporaries, with their 'divided aims', and the scholar-gipsy with his one controlling purpose in life:
'Thou hast one aim, one business, one desire:
Else hadst thou spent, like other men, thy fire.'

"How eminently does Paul merit such a tribute! Richly endowed, he could have won for himself a distinguished place in Jewish society, but he had come to see that in comparison with the richer prize offered in Christ, all the world could give was but refuse... This does not mean that the apostle practised asceticism or was in any way a crank (cf Col 2:20-23). He did not choose to live in a tub, as Diogenes is sometimes reputed to have done, nor on the top of a pillar like Simeon Stylites. Life was full of legitimate pleasures, for he knew how to abound (Phi 4:12). Yet all the time his gaze was fixed on Christ. Extraneous influences may cause the needle of a compass to oscillate for a time, but it comes to rest looking in one direction. So it was with Paul; the whole orientation of his life was Christward" (BPh 23,24).

Phi 3:9

AND BE FOUND IN HIM: With stress on the "in". For Paul, Christ was a whole "universe": there was no existence -- at least, no meaningful existence -- apart from, or outside of, him!

A RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MY OWN THAT COMES FROM THE LAW: A meticulous performance of all the ordinances of the Law of Moses. Such obedience might win the admiration of men, but it could never achieve the absolute perfection God requires (Gal 3:10,11; James 2:10). And anyway, it was impossible for sinful man to keep that law perfectly; it served primarily as the "guide" or "schoolmaster", to lead men to Christ (Rom 3:19; 5:13; 7:7-14; Gal 3:24).

THAT WHICH IS THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST -- THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES FROM GOD AND IS BY FAITH: "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished -- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Rom 3:22-26). Notice that, here, "righteousness" is equated with "faith in Christ": it is only thru him, and upon the accepted basis, that God can and will meet with man and forgive his sins.

Phi 3:10

See VL, Christ's resurrection, reality.

Vv 10,11: "The thought that Christ offers an example to imitate as well as salvation to be accepted in humble gratitude is surely the key to the understanding of this verse. Paul has not replaced one legalistic concept of salvation by another. He does not believe that Christ has presented him with a blank cheque to be drawn on an account which is inexhaustible... Knowing Christ involves sharing in his sufferings (this is implicit in Mat 16:24,25)... We would suggest that Paul has in mind the moral and spiritual implications of Christ's death and resurrection... All that has been exemplified in the experience of Christ must be enshrined anew in the life of the believer" (BPh 145; cp Rom 6; Eph 2:5,6; Col 3:1).

Exemplified in family of Bethany: Martha ('know him': Luk 10:38), Lazarus ('power of resur': Joh 11:44), and Mary ('suffering': Joh 12:3).

I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST: The Gr means "to fully know". Ref knowledge gained thru personal experience. More than just a casual acquaintance and "head knowledge": cp John 17:3; Jer 22:16; 9:24.

THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION: "Resurrection" seems to be out of order in the sequence here, unless we see it as the spiritual implications of a new life in Christ: raised up from the waters of baptism, the believer walks in a new life, conforming to the moral perfection of his Lord (Rom 6:1-6; Col 3:12; Eph 2:5,6).

THE FELLOWSHIP OF SHARING IN HIS SUFFERINGS: All sufferings for Christ's sake were in effect a continuation of his sufferings, since the believers were one body with their Lord. So Paul spoke of his own sufferings as "filling up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions" (Col 1:24). And Peter spoke of "participating in the sufferings of Christ" (1Pe 4:13).

BECOMING LIKE HIM IN HIS DEATH: Gr "summorphoumenos" = to have the same form ("morphe": status, rank, circumstances) along with another. Thus the completeness of the identity of the believers with Christ is stressed (Heb 2:13,14). The theological import of union with Christ must be demonstrated in life experience. This is the process of sanctification and is intended to bring the believer's present state into ever-increasing conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29; 2Co 3:18; Phi 3:21). Therefore, those who died with him and rose with him (Col 2:20; 3:1-3) must exhibit this truth by a separation from their old life and a continual walking in the power supplied by Christ's resurrection life.

Consider, generally, Gal 2:20; 5:24; 6:14; Rom 6:8,11; 1Pe 2:24; 1Co 15:31; Mark 11:24,25.

Phi 3:11

Resurrection here = a complete process. Cp Heb 11:35; 1Co 15:52; Joh 5:28,29. Here is "ek-anastasis" (once in NT): "a coming out of the dead ones" -- suggesting, perhaps, a resurrection out of dead ones which are not resurrected: "the resurrection from among the dead" (NASB).

Paul wanted his resurrection to culminate in "everlasting life", not merely the "second death" (John 5:29; Dan 12:2; Rev 2:11; 20:6).

Phi 3:12

NOT THAT I HAVE ALREADY OBTAINED ALL THIS: In this verse too, there is an underlying notion of resurrection as a figure of the new life in Christ Jesus. "Perhaps there were perfectionists in Philippi who had resisted the Judaizers with their emphasis on works and ceremonies by going to the extreme of claiming to have acquired already the consummation of spiritual blessings" (EBC). But this erroneous view must be countered: the attaining, or obtaining, of this new life is an ongoing struggle. "He who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Mat 10:22). There could be no letting up short of the final goal. Even Christ was made perfect thru suffering, and esp the final suffering of the cross (Heb 2:10; 5:8,9). Not until the final impulses of sin were subjugated could the Saviour say, "It is finished" (John 19:30). For examples of Paul's internal battles against sin, see 1Co 9:27; Rom 7:15-25; 2Co 10:4,5.

OR HAVE ALREADY BEEN MADE PERFECT: Gr "teleios" (see how this sw is used in v 15). There were, and are, some Christians who believe that after conversion they do not sin (1Jo 1:6-10).

BUT I PRESS ON TO TAKE HOLD OF THAT FOR WHICH CHRIST JESUS TOOK HOLD OF ME: "Practical sanctification does not come automatically by faith as justification [does]. We must pursue it diligently by following the Lord (vv 13-15; cf Gal 5:16; 2Pe 1:5-11)" (Const). Paul had been literally "taken hold of" on the Damascus road -- by the vision of the Lord (Acts 9:3-5,15,16). Now his life's ambition, his consuming desire, is to "take hold" (cp sw 1Co 9:24; Rom 9:30) of the precious promises of God, to make his calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10).

Phi 3:13

I DO NOT CONSIDER MYSELF YET TO HAVE TAKEN HOLD OF IT: None must think themselves perfect. Such are smug and will never improve or grow. Those who think they stand will at last fall (1Co 10). We must look in the "mirror" of God's Word and become aware of our imperfections (James 1:21-25). Laodicea's grave sin arose because they knew not that they were wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked (Rev 3:17).

BUT ONE THING I DO: FORGETTING WHAT IS BEHIND AND STRAINING TOWARD WHAT IS AHEAD: Paul does not mean that he refuses to remember things that had happened to him in the past. He has just reviewed some of those things. He means that he does not rest in his heritage (vv 5-7) or in his past attainments (vv 9-12). He had abandoned the unworthy goal that he had pursued in the past. Now he had a new goal toward which he was looking and running. He does not concentrate on the past, but he fixes his mind firmly on the future! Concentrating on past failures might discourage him, whilst exulting in past successes might make him complacent; either is a trap.

BUT ONE THING I DO: The phrase recalls Psa 27:4: "One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple."

STRAINING TOWARD: The figure is that of an athlete, straining every fiber of his being to reach the finish line that looms ahead of him.

WHAT IS AHEAD: Lit, "what is in your face", ie immediately accessible in front of you.

Phi 3:14

I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL: "Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny" (C Schurz).

GOAL: Gr "skopos", lit the goal marker, the post at the end of the course on which the runner fixes his gaze.

TO WIN THE PRIZE: Gr "braberon" = the prize awarded at the Olympic Games (sw 1Co 9:24). ). The prize refers to the reward faithful believers will receive at the judgment seat of Christ (2Co 5:10). It is the "stephanos", or coronal wreath of righteousness, which Christ will bestow on Paul and other spiritual "athletes" (2Ti 4:7,8).

CALLED ME HEAVENWARD: But the word "heaven" is not in the original mss. The phrase is best rendered "high calling" (KJV) or even "calling upward" (RV, RSV) -- but as to being physically taken up to heaven, not at all!

"In keeping with the vivid imagery drawn from the Greek games that pervades this section there is still another explanation of the 'upward call' that seems the most reasonable explanation of all. It sees in the expression 'the upward call' an allusion to the fact that the Olympian games, which included foot-races, were organized and presided over by 'agonothetes', highly respected officers called 'Hellenodikai'. 'After each event they had a herald announce the name of the victor, his father's name and his country, and the athlete or charioteer would come [up to a podium, elevated stand, or seat of judgment?] and receive a palm branch at their hands' (Glotz). This is the call to which Paul is now alluding" (Const).

Phi 3:15

ALL OF US WHO ARE MATURE: The Gr is "teleios", which is often translated "perfect" or "perfection". This can be misleading: "teleios" does not mean "without sin", but rather "mature" (RSV, NIV), "of full age" (Heb 5:14, KJV). Cp Paul's other uses of the word: 1Co 2:6; 14:20; Eph 4:13; Col 1:28; 4:12.

Considering the sw occurs in v 12 here, Paul may be using irony in v 15 -- as if to say: 'Some of you may think you are already "perfect" [complete, mature], but you are mistaken... those of us who really are "perfect" [ie, mature] know how far from "perfection" [completeness, maturity] we REALLY are!' Or, in other words, 'For the time being true Christian perfection consists only in striving for perfection!'

SHOULD TAKE SUCH A VIEW OF THINGS: That is, should recognize that they were well short of "perfection" in the absolute sense, as regards personal righteousness, and should realize that one's life in the Truth is a continual effort and struggle toward spiritual development.

AND IF ON SOME POINT YOU THINK DIFFERENTLY, THAT TOO GOD WILL MAKE CLEAR TO YOU: Those who cannot appreciate this should seek guidance from God. He will reveal their weaknesses and needs, and so encourage them to strive to be holy as He is holy. Cp Mat 16:17.

Phi 3:16

ONLY LET US LIVE UP TO WHAT WE HAVE ALREADY ATTAINED: All Christians, but especially the immature who are in view here, need to maintain a consistent life in harmony with their understanding of God's truth. They should not wait until they have a complete knowledge of what God has revealed to put into practice what they do understand.

LET US LIVE UP TO: Or, "let us walk by the same rule" (AV): When we walk in the army of Christ, we do not walk alone. No soldier does. We walk with others, we 'advance in a line'. Soldiers walk in rank. This means a number of things: They are united in purpose and goal. They are aware of each other, and their positions with regard to others. They support each other. They have the same commander, and obey the same commands. The ability of the soldier to march in line, and perform complex battle maneuvers in the field whilst maintaining formation, is only acquired by means of constant drilling. (The camp of Israel in the wilderness was organized in camps, and marched accordingly, and by ranks.)

The sw for "walk" ("stoicheo") is used also in Gal 5:25; 6:16.

Phi 3:17

FOLLOWING MY EXAMPLE: Cp Phi 4:9; 1Co 4:16; 11:1.

TAKE NOTE OF THOSE WHO LIVE ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WE GAVE YOU: Brethren like Timothy (Phi 2:19-24) and Epaphroditus (Phi 2:25-30).

PATTERN: Gr "tupos": type, model, example. God is the great "archetype", and Jesus has revealed His character to perfection (John 1:14). Paul speaks of God being "pleased to reveal his Son in me" (Gal 1:15,16). Timothy was to "set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (1Ti 4:12).

Phi 3:18

Vv 18,19: The fact that Paul uses the word "walk" of these men, and his exceeding sorrow at their conduct, implies that they were nominally "brethren" of Christ. What made them "enemies of the cross of Christ"? The cross was the means whereby Christ conclusively put to death the lusts of the flesh, and it is the invitation and the challenge to us to do the same: to crucify "the world" (Gal 6:14) within each one of us. Any who aspire to put on the name of Christ, yet make no meaningful attempt to live as he did, are really his "enemies" and not his friends. They profess friendship, but their actions make them liars. Their God is not Yahweh -- it is their "belly"; their mind is not on heavenly, spiritual things -- but upon "earthly" things! They see all the enticements of the world. Like Eve did with the fruit of the tree, they desire, they take, and they "enjoy"; like the serpent, their "end is destruction."

AS I HAVE OFTEN TOLD YOU BEFORE AND NOW SAY AGAIN EVEN WITH TEARS: "Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31).

ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST: In emphasizing physical cutting off of flesh, they downplayed spiritual cutting-off in Xt's crucifixion. "How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb 10:29).

Phi 3:19

DESTRUCTION: Mirrored in the cutting off of the flesh of circumcision.

THEIR GOD IS THEIR STOMACH: The mark of circumcision in their loins, which they "worshiped". Paul uses similar language elsewhere: "For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites" (Rom 16:18).

THEIR GLORY IS IN THEIR SHAME: The mark of circumcision, in the "unseemly" part of the body!

Phi 3:20

CITIZENSHIP: The Greek word translated "citizenship" is "politeuma": it refers to a colony of a mother-city. The saints in Christ form such a "politeuma": they are a community -- the colony or outpost of heaven, where their true Ruler lives, and from whence he will come one day (v 21).

Rome settled communities of army veterans, called colonies, as garrisons in conquered territory. The Emperor Augustus extended this practice by giving full Roman citizenship not only to settlements of veterans but to important provincial cities and to men who had distinguished themselves in public service. These provincial communities held equal rights and privileges with the citizens of Rome itself. In return they were expected to represent Rome and all things Roman to their neighbors, so that the Roman way of life might permeate their province. This policy proved extremely successful. In AD 212 the Emperor Caracalla was able to issue a decree admitting all his subjects to Roman citizenship. Philippi was such a colony of mother-Rome, and the lesson Paul was teaching would be easily grasped: though you live on earth, reckon yourselves to be "citizens" of God's heavenly kingdom -- which one day will be established on the earth!

A Roman citizen did not necessarily reside in Rome (Act 16:37; 22:25); but he was considered a citizen of Rome nonetheless, and he could claim privileges pertaining thereto. Though Paul used his Roman citizenship (Act 16:37), he did so only to further the gospel.

Cp Mat 5:48; 6:10; WS 127.

We may also be "citizens of heaven" in that our names are written in the "book of life", kept (metaphorically) by God in heaven: Phi 4:3; Rev 3:5;13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27; 22:19. Also, Psa 69:28; 56:8; 87:6; Dan 12:1; Isa 4:3; Eze 13:9; Luk 10:20; Heb 12:23; Mal 3:16.

Phi 3:21

BY THE POWER THAT ENABLES HIM TO BRING EVERYTHING UNDER HIS CONTROL: Cit Psa 8:6. God promised dominion to the Son of man over all things (Gen 1:26; 1Co 15:24). Thru Jesus this purpose is being accomplished (Mat 28:18; Eph 1:22; Heb 2:8). The last enemy that will be destroyed is death (1Co 15:26; cp Rev 19:11-15; 20: 1-8).

WILL TRANSFORM OUR LOWLY BODIES SO THAT THEY WILL BE LIKE HIS GLORIOUS BODY: "The bodies of those who are found faithful at his judgment seat, whether they are dead or living at his appearing, will be fashioned like unto the body of his glory by the working of that energy whereby he will be able to subdue all things to himself. He will change these mortal bodies: this mortal must put on immortality. The suffering and the trial of the present are real enough: but when the saints 'receive in body according to that they have done' [2Co 5:10], those who have striven to enter the Kingdom will know in body the greater realities of an energy drawn from the source of all power. 'They shall run and not be weary; walk and not faint' [Isa 40:31], because they are one in nature with Him who faints not, neither is weary. The place of trial will be the place of reward. The twelve will be with Jesus, known of the twelve tribes as David and Solomon were known in the past. The saints over five or over ten cities will be no less real than the mayors and lord mayors of today" (CJo 223).

LOWLY BODIES: "Body of our humiliation" (RV, Diag). The translation "vile" (KJV) for "tapeinoseos" conveys a wrong idea. Emphasis is not on sinfulness, but on lowliness or humble status.

THEY WILL BE LIKE HIS GLORIOUS BODY: It is the believer's ultimate hope to share in this glory (1Co 15:51-56; 1Th 5:9,10). This amazing change will transpire because of the same divine power by which God will eventually subject everything in the universe to Himself. may also be "citizens of heaven" in that our names are written in the "book of life", kept (metaphorically) by God in heaven: Phi 4:3; Rev 3:5;13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27; 22:19. Also, Psa 69:28; 56:8; 87:6; Dan 12:1; Isa 4:3; Eze 13:9; Luk 10:20; Heb 12:23; Mal 3:16.

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