Philippians 3


The apostle exhorts the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, 1.

And to beware of false teachers, 2.

Shows that Christians are the true circumcision, who worship

God in the Spirit, 3.

And that himself had more reason to trust in the flesh than any

of the Jews, 4-6.

But that he counted all things loss for Christ, 7-11.

He longs after a conformity to Christ in his death, and presses

onward to the attainment of his high calling, 12-14.

Exhorts them to be like-minded, 15-17.

Warns them against certain persons who were enemies to the cross

of Christ, 18, 19.

Shows the nature of their heavenly privileges, and the

resurrection and glorification of the human body, 20, 21.


Verse 1. Rejoice in the Lord.] Be always happy; but let that

happiness be such as you derive from the Lord.

To write the same things] He means those which he had formerly

preached to them or to other Churches, for he had but one Gospel;

and we may rest assured that the doctrine of this epistle was the

same with his preaching.

For you it is safe.] It is much better to have these Divine

things committed to writing than confided to memory. By the

latter they may be either lost or corrupted, by the former they

will be preserved.

Verse 2. Beware of dogs] The Jews, who have here the same

appellative which they formerly gave to the Gentiles: because the

Gentiles were not included in the covenant, they called them DOGS;

and themselves, the children of the Most High. Now, they are cast

out of the covenant and the Gentiles taken in; therefore they are

the dogs, and the Gentiles the children.

Evil workers] Judaizing teachers, who endeavoured to pervert

the Gospel.

The concision.] κατατομην. The cutting or excision; not

περιτομην, the circumcision: the word is used by the apostle to

degrade the pretensions which the Jews made to sanctity by the

cutting in their flesh. Circumcision was an honourable thing, for

it was a sign of the covenant; but as they now had rejected the

new covenant, their circumcision was rendered uncircumcision, and

is termed a cutting, by way of degradation.

Verse 3. We are the circumcision] WE, who have embraced the

faith of Christ crucified, are now entered into the new covenant,

and according to that new covenant, worship God in the Spirit,

exulting, καυχωμενοι, making our boast of Christ Jesus, as

our only Saviour, having no confidence in the flesh-in any outward

rite or ceremony prescribed by the Jewish institutions.

Verse 4. Though I might also have confidence] If any of them

have any cause to boast in outward rites and privileges, I have as

much; yea, more.

Verse 5. Circumcised the eighth day] This was the time that

the law required the males to be circumcised; and we find, from

Ge 17:14,

both in the Samaritan Pentateuch and in the Septuagint, though the

clause is now lost out of the common Hebrew text, that the male

child, which is not circumcised the eighth day, shall be cut off

from among his people: this precept was literally observed in the

case of St. Paul.

Of the stock of Israel] Regularly descended from the patriarch


Of the tribe of Benjamin] The most favourite son of that

patriarch and a tribe that did not revolt with Jeroboam,

1Ki 12:21, nor pollute the worship of God by idolatry.

A Hebrew of the Hebrews] Though born in a heathen country,

Tarsus, yet both my parents were Hebrews; nor has there ever been

any strange blood mixed with that of our family.

Touching the law, a Pharisee] One that not only received the

law and the prophets as coming from God; but belonged to that sect

which, of all others, was most scrupulously attached to it.

Verse 6. Concerning zeal] As to my zeal for Pharisaism, I gave

the fullest proof of it by persecuting the Church of Christ; and

this is known to all my countrymen.

Touching the righteousness] And as to that plan of

justification, which justification the Jews say is to be obtained

by an observance of the law, I have done every thing so

conscientiously from my youth up, that in this respect I am

blameless; and may, with more confidence than most of them; expect

that justification which the law appears to promise.

Verse 7. But what things were gain] The credit and respect

which I had, as being zealously attached to the law, and to the

traditions of the elders, I counted loss for Christ-I saw that

this could stand me in no stead; that all my acts of righteousness

were nothing on which I could depend for salvation; and that

Christ crucified could alone profit me; for I found that it is

impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin.

Verse 8. I count all things but loss] Not only my Jewish

privileges, but all others of every kind; with every thing that

men count valuable or gainful, or on which they usually depend for


The excellency of the knowledge of Christ] That superior light,

information, and blessedness which come through the Gospel of

Jesus Christ; justification through his blood, sanctification by

his Spirit, and eternal glory through his merits and intercession.

These are the blessings held out to us by the Gospel, of which,

and the law, Jesus Christ is the sum and substance.

I have suffered the loss of all things] Some translate διον

ταπανταεζημιωθην, for whom I have thrown away all things-I have

made a voluntary choice of Christ, his cross, his poverty, and his

reproach; and for these I have freely sacrificed all I had from

the world, and all I could expect from it.

And do count them but dung] The word σκυβαλα means the vilest

dross or refuse of any thing; the worst excrement. The word shows

how utterly insignificant and unavailing, in point of salvation,

the apostle esteemed every thing but the Gospel of Jesus. With

his best things he freely parted, judging them all loss while put

in the place of Christ crucified; and Christ crucified he esteemed

infinite gain, when compared with all the rest. Of the utter

unavailableness of any thing but Christ to save the soul the

Apostle Paul stands as an incontrovertible proof. Could the law

have done any thing, the apostle must have known it. He tried,

and found it vanity; he tried the Gospel system, and found it the

power of God to his salvation. By losing all that the world calls

excellent, he gained Christ, and endless salvation through him.

Of the glorious influence of the Gospel he is an unimpeachable

witness. See the concluding observations on the 9th chapter of

the Acts, on the character of St. Paul. "Ac 9:43"

Verse 9. And be found in him] Be found a believer in Christ,

not having mine own righteousness-not trusting in any thing I have

done or could do, in order to my salvation; relying on no scheme

of justification, set up either formerly by myself or by others.

But that which is through the faith of Christ] That

justification which is received by faith through the atonement

made by Christ.

The righteousness which is of God] God's method of justifying

sinners through faith in his Son. See the notes on

Ro 3:21, 23, 25, where this subject is treated at large.

Verse 10. That I may know him] To be the true and promised

Messiah, and experience all that salvation which he has bought by

his blood.

The power of his resurrection] In having this body of my

humiliation raised from death, and made like unto his glorious

body. This seems to be the sole meaning of the apostle; for it is

in virtue of Christ's resurrection that we are to be raised

incorruptible and immortal.

And the fellowship of his sufferings] Christ died, not only as

a victim for sin, but as a martyr to the truth. No creature can

have fellowship with him in his vicarious sufferings; as a martyr

to the truth, St. Paul wished to imitate him. Not only in the

apostle, but in the primitive Christians generally, there seems to

have been a strong desire after martyrdom.

Verse 11. The resurrection of the dead.] That is, the

resurrection of those who, having died in the Lord, rise to glory

and honour; and hence St. Paul uses a peculiar word which occurs

no where else in the New Testament, εξαναστασις. The words, as

they stand in the best MSS., are as follow: ειςτηνεξαναστασιν

τηνεκνεκων, to that resurrection which is of the dead. This

glorious resurrection, and perhaps peculiarly glorious in the case

of martyrs, is that to which St. Paul aspired. The word αναστασις

signifies the resurrection in general, both of the just and

unjust; εξαναστασις may signify that of the blessed only.

Verse 12. Not as though I had already attained] ουχοτιηδη

ελαβον. For I have not yet received the prize; I am not

glorified, for I have not finished my course; and I have a conflict

still to maintain, and the issue will prove whether I should be

crowned. From the beginning of the 11th to the end of the 17th

verse there is one continued allusion to the contests at the

Olympic games; exercises with which, and their laws, the

Philippians were well acquainted. Php 3:11-17

Either were already perfect] ηηδητετελειωμαι. Nor am I yet

perfect; I am not yet crowned, in consequence of having suffered

martyrdom. I am quite satisfied that the apostle here alludes to

the Olympic games, and the word τετελειωμαι is the proof; for

τελειωθηναι is spoken of those who have completed their race,

reached the goal, and are honoured with the prize. Thus it is

used by Philo, Allegoriar. lib. iii. page 101, edit. Mangey: ποτε


αραγεουχοταντελειωθηςκαιβραβειωνκαιστεφανωναξιωθης "When

is it, O soul, that thou shalt appear to have the victory? Is it

not when thou shalt be perfected, (have completed thy course by

death,) and be honoured with prizes and crowns?"

That τελειωσις signified martyrdom, we learn most expressly from

Clemens Alexand., Stromata, lib. iii. page 480, where he has these

remarkable words:-τελειωσινμαρτυριονκαλουμενουχοτιτελοςτου


αγαπηςενεδειξατο. "We call martyrdom τελειωσις, or

perfection, not because man receives it as the end, τελος, or

completion of life; but because it is the consummation τελειος, of

the work of charity."

So Basil the great, Hom. in Ps 116:13: ποτηριονσωτηριου

ληψομαι. τουτεστιδιψωνεπιτηνδιατουμαρτυριουτελειωσιν

ερχομαι. "I will receive the cup of salvation; that is,

thirsting and earnestly desiring to come, by martyrdom, to the


So OEcumenius, on Acts 28: πανταετηαποτηςκλησεωςτουπαυλου

μεχριτηςτελειωσεωςαυτουτριακοντακαιπεντε. "All the years

of Paul, from his calling to his martyrdom, were thirty and five."

And in Balsamon, Can. i. Ancyran., page 764: τοντηςτελειωσεως

στεφανοναναδησασθαι is, "To be crowned with the crown of


Eusebius, Hist. Eccles, lib. vii. cap. 13, uses the word

τελειουσθαι to express to suffer martyrdom. I have been the

more particular here, because some critics have denied that the

word has any such signification. See Suicer, Rosenmuller,

Macknight, &c.

St. Paul, therefore, is not speaking here of any deficiency in

his own grace, or spiritual state; he does not mean by not being

yet perfect, that he had a body of sin and death cleaving to him,

and was still polluted with indwelling sin, as some have most

falsely and dangerously imagined; he speaks of his not having

terminated his course by martyrdom, which he knew would sooner or

later be the case. This he considered as the τελειωσις, or

perfection, of his whole career, and was led to view every thing

as imperfect or unfinished till this had taken place.

But I follow after] διοωκωδε. But I pursue; several are gone

before me in this glorious way, and have obtained the crown of

martyrdom; I am hurrying after them.

That I may apprehend] That I may receive those blessings to

which I am called by Christ Jesus. There is still an allusion

here to the stadium, and exercises there: the apostle considers

Christ as the brabeus, or judge in the games, who proclaimed the

victor, and distributed the prizes; and he represents himself as

being introduced by this very brabeus, or judge, into the contest;

and this brabeus brought him in with the design to crown him, if

he contended faithfully. To complete this faithful contention is

what he has in view; that he may apprehend, or lay hold on that

for which he had been apprehended, or taken by the hand by Christ

who had converted, strengthened, and endowed him with apostolical

powers, that he might fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold

on eternal life.

Verse 13. I count not myself to have apprehended] Whatever

gifts, graces, or honours I may have received from Jesus Christ, I

consider every thing as incomplete till I have finished my course,

got this crown, and have my body raised and fashioned after his

glorious body.

This one thing I do] This is the concern, as it is the sole

business, of my life.

Forgetting those things which are behind] My conduct is not

regulated nor influenced by that of others; I consider my calling,

my Master, my work, and my end. If others think they have time

to loiter or trifle, I have none: time is flying; eternity is at

hand; and my all is at stake.

Reaching forth] The Greek word επεκτεινομενος points out the

strong exertions made in the race; every muscle and nerve is

exerted, and he puts forth every particle of his strength in

running. He was running for life, and running for his life.

Verse 14. I press toward the mark] κατασκοπονδιωκω. I

pursue along the line; this is a reference to the white line that

marked the ground in the stadium, from the starting place to the

goal, on which the runners were obliged to keep their eye fixed;

for they who transgressed or went beyond this line did not run

lawfully, and were not crowned, even though they got first to the

goal. See the concluding observations on "1Co 9:27".

What is called σκοπος, mark or scope, here, is called κανων

the line, i.e. the marked line, Php 3:16. When it was said to

Diogenes, the cynic, "Thou art now an old man, rest from thy

labours;" to this he answered: ειδολιχουεδραμονπροςτωτελει

μεανειναικαιμημαλλονεπιτειναι; "If I have run long in the

race, will it become me to slacken my pace when come near the end;

should I not rather stretch forward?" Diog. Laert., lib. vi. cap.

2. sec. 6.

For the prize of the high calling of God] The reward which God

from above calls me, by Christ Jesus, to receive. The apostle

still keeps in view his crown of martyrdom and his glorious


Verse 15. As many as be perfect] As many as are thoroughly

instructed in Divine things, who have cast off all dependence on

the law and on every other system for salvation, and who discern

God calling them from above by Christ Jesus; be thus minded; be

intensely in earnest for eternal life, nor ever halt till the race

is finished.

The word τελειοι, perfect, is taken here in the same sense in

which it is taken 1Co 14:20:-

Be not CHILDREN in understanding-but in understanding be ye MEN,

τελειοιγινεσθε, be ye perfect-thoroughly instructed, deeply

experienced. 1Co 2:6:-

We speak wisdom among the perfect, εντοιςτελειοις, among those

who are fully instructed, adults in Christian knowledge.

Eph 4:13:-

Till we all come-unto a perfect man, ειςανδρατελειον, to the

state of adults in Christianity. Heb 5:14:-

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, τελειων,

the perfect-those who are thoroughly instructed and experienced in

Divine things. Let us therefore, says the apostle, as many as be

perfect-as have entered fully into the spirit and design of the

Gospel, be thus minded, viz. Forget the things which are behind,

and stretch forward along the mark for the prize.

If in any thing ye be otherwise minded] If ye have not yet

entered into the full spirit and design of this Gospel, if any of

you have yet remaining any doubts relative to Jewish ordinances,

or their expediency in Christianity, God shall reveal even this

unto you; for while you are sincere and upright, God will take

care that ye shall have full instruction in these Divine things.

Verse 16. Whereto we have already attained] Let us not lose

that part of the race which we have already run, let us walk by

the same rule-let us keep the white line continually in view, let

us mind the same thing, always considering the glorious prize

which is held out by God through Christ Jesus to animate and

encourage us.

The MSS., versions and fathers of the Alexandrian recension or

edition, and which are supposed by Griesbach and others to contain

the purest text, omit the words κανονιτοαυτοπρονειν, and read

the verse thus: Whereunto we have already attained let us walk;

or, according to what we have already attained, let us regulate

our life, There is so much disagreement about the above words in

the MSS., &c., that most critics consider them as a sort of gloss,

which never made an original part of the text. Dr. White says,

Certissime delenda; "Most certainly they should be obliterated."

Verse 17. Brethren, be followers-of me] In the things of

Christ let me be your line, and my writings preaching, and

conduct, your rule.

And mark them] σκοπειτε. Still alluding to the line in the

stadium, keep your eye steadily fixed on those who walk-live, as

ye have us-myself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus, for an ensample.

Verse 18. For many walk, &c.] The Judaizing teachers continue

to preach, who wish to incorporate circumcision, and other

ordinances of the law, with the Gospel.

They are the enemies of the cross of Christ] They rather

attribute justification to the Levitical sacrifices, than to the

sacrificial death of Christ; and thus they are enemies to that

cross, and will not suffer persecution for its sake. They please

the world, and are in no danger of reproach.

Verse 19. Whose end is destruction] This is the issue of

their doctrine and of their conduct. They are here described by

three characters: 1. Their god is their belly-they live not in

any reference to eternity; their religion is for time; they make a

gain of godliness; and live only to eat, drink, and be merry. 2.

Their glory is in their shame-they lay it down as a proof of their

address, that they can fare sumptuously every day, in consequence

of preaching a doctrine which flatters the passions of their

hearers. 3. They mind earthly things-their whole study and

attention are taken up with earthly matters; they are given to the

flesh and its lusts; they have no spirituality, nor do they

believe that there is or can be any intercourse between God and

the souls of men. But their lasciviousness and uncleanness seem

to be principally intended. See Kypke. Despicable as these men

were, the apostle's heart was deeply pained on their account: 1.

Because they held and taught a false creed; 2. Because they

perverted many by that teaching; and, 3. Because they themselves

were perishing through it.

Verse 20. Our conversation is in heaven] ημωςτοπολιτευμα.

Our city, or citizenship, or civil rights. The word properly

signifies the administration, government, or form of a republic or

state; and is thus used by Demosthenes, page 107, 25, and 262, 27.

Edit. Reiske. It signifies also a republic, a city, or the

inhabitants of any city or place; or a society of persons living

in the same place, and under the same rules and laws. See more

in Schleusner.

While those gross and Jewish teachers have no city but what is

on earth; no rights but what are derived from their secular

connections; no society but what is made up of men like

themselves, who mind earthly things, and whose belly is their

god, WE have a heavenly city, the New Jerusalem; we have rights

and privileges which are heavenly and eternal; and our society

or fellowship is with God the Father, Son, and Spirit, the spirits

of just men made perfect, and the whole Church of the first-born. We

have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts; and regard

not the body, which we know must perish, but which we confidently

expect shall be raised from death and corruption into a state of

immortal glory.

Verse 21. Who shall change our vile body] Οςμετασχηματισει

τοσωματηςταπεινωσεςημων. Who will refashion, or alter the

fashion and condition of, the body of our humiliation; this body

that is dead-adjudged to death because of sin, and must be

putrefied, dissolved, and decomposed.

That it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body] ειςτο

γενεσθαιαυτοσυμμορφοντωσωματιτηςδοξηςαυτου. That it may

bear a similar form to the body of his glory. That is: the bodies

of true believers shall be raised up at the great day in the same

likeness, immortality, and glory, of the glorified humanity of

Jesus Christ; and be so thoroughly changed, as to be not only

capable through their immortality of eternally existing, but also

of the infinite spiritual enjoyments at the right hand of God.

According to the working] κατατηνενεργειαν. According to

that energy, by which he can bring all things under subjection to

himself. Thus we find that the resurrection of the body is

attributed to that power which governs and subdues all things, for

nothing less than the energy that produced the human body at the

beginning, can restore it from its lapsed and degraded state into

that state of glory which it had at its creation, and render it

capable of enjoying God throughout eternity. The thought of this

glorious consummation was a subject of the highest joy and

confidence amongst the primitive Christian. This earth was not

their home; and they passed through things temporal so as not to

lose those which were eternal.

1. THE preceding chapter, to which the first verse of the

succeeding should be joined, contains a fund of matter the most

interesting that can well be conceived. The apostle seems to

stand on the verge of eternity, and to have both worlds opened to

his view. The one he sees to be the place in which a preparation

for the other is to be attained. In the one he sees the starting

place, where the Christian is to commence his race; in the other

the goal at which his course terminates, and the prize which he is

there to obtain. One is the place from and over which the

Christian is to run; the other is that to which he is to direct

his course, and in which he is to receive infinite blessedness.

In the one he sees all manner of temptations and hinderances, and

dangers standing thick through all the ground; in the other he

sees the forerunner, the Lord Jesus, who has entered into the

heaven of heavens for him, through whom God calls him from above,

τηςανωκλησεωςτουθεον, Php 3:14: for what he hears in the

Gospel, and what he sees by faith, is the calling of God from

above; and therefore he departs from this, for this is not his


2. The nearer a faithful soul comes to the verge of eternity,

the more the light and influence of heaven are poured out upon it:

time and life are fast sinking away into the shades of death and

darkness; and the effulgence of the dawning glory of the eternal

world is beginning to illustrate the blessed state of the genuine

Christian, and to render clear and intelligible those counsels of

God, partly displayed in various inextricable providences, and

partly revealed and seen as through a glass darkly in his own

sacred word. Unutterable glories now begin to burst forth; pains,

afflictions, persecutions, wants, distresses, sickness, and death,

in any or all of its forms, are exhibited as the way to the

kingdom, and as having in the order of God an ineffable glory for

their result. Here are the wisdom, power, and mercy of God!

Here, the patience, perseverance, and glory of the saints!

Reader, is not earth and its concerns lost in the effulgence of

this glory? Arise and depart, for this is not thy rest.

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