A Study Of The Book Of Philippians:
A verse by verse examination of the apostle Paul's epistle of joy to the beloved Philippian church.




Introduction


Chapter One


Chapter Two


Chapter Three


Chapter Four



Chapter Three
February, 1999


by: Allan Turner

All For Christ—3:1-11


(1) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you {is} not tedious, but for you {it is} safe. (2) Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! (3) For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, (4) though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: (5) circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, {of} the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; (6) concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (7) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (8) But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which {is} from the law, but that which {is} through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (11) if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.


1. Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. He encourages them to rejoice in the Lord. “In the Lord” marks the true ground for rejoicing and is to be contrasted with “confidence in the flesh” (verse 3). For me to write the same things to you {is} not tedious, but for you {it is} safe. The “same things” to which Paul is referring is probably found in 1:27-30. There he warns the Philippians to stand against opponents. Now he issues the same warnings against another set of opponents. The word translated “tedious” also means “slothful.” In other words, Paul was not being slothful by repeating the same things over and over again, but was doing so for their own good. He wasn't just an old negative preacher, born in the kickative mood; he was, instead, a conscientious servant who was not going to fail to warn the Philippians concerning the problems they faced.

2. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!. These are very strong words addressed toward the Judaizers. The Jews referred to the Gentiles as “dogs” and Paul hurls this name back at them. As evil workers, their motives and actions are base. They are the kind of people who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Furthermore, their circumcision (peritome), something the Judaizers took great pride in and were trying to bind on the Gentiles, was nothing other than mutilation (katatome). Changing the prefix of their favorite word, Paul stigmatized these people as the “mutilation party.” They were not the true circumcision at all!

3. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,. In the Old Testament, circumcision was a symbol of faithfulness. The Judaizers were arguing that in order to be faithful to God one needed to be circumcised in his flesh. Paul is saying that under Christ circumcision of the flesh has nothing to do with one's faithfulness to the Lord. In the New Testament, faithfulness is to be judged solely by one's reliance on Christ. Consequently, those who are obedient to Christ are the true circumcision or faithful. This expression is used in other places: “For he is not a Jew who {is one} outwardly, nor {is} that circumcision {which is} outward in the flesh; but {he is} a Jew who {is one} inwardly, and circumcision {is that} of the heart, in the Spirit, {and} not in the letter; whose praise {is} not from men but from God” (Romans 2:28,29).

4. Though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:. Here Paul argues that if anyone with a Jewish background had a right to have confidence in the flesh, it was him. Nevertheless, he disclaimed all such confidence (verses 3,7), and every Judaizer was bound to do the same (cf. II Corinthians 11:22,23).

5. Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, {of} the tribe of Benjamin,. The fact that he was circumcised on the eighth day in strict conformity to the law shows that he was neither a heathen or Ishmaelite, but was born of law-observing Jewish parents. (Converts to Judaism were circumcised in maturity and Ishmaelites in their thirteenth year.) He was a descendent of the patriarch Israel, or Jacob. Therefore, he could trace his genealogy back as far as any other Jew. The tribe of which he was a member was not one of the tribes that apostatized in the time of Rehoboam, but maintained its allegiance to Judah. A Hebrew of the Hebrews;. Even though Paul was a Jew, he could have been a child of Greek-speaking Jews. But this was not the case. His parents were Hebrews who had retained their native tongue and customs (cf. II Corinthians 11:22; Acts 6:1). Concerning the law, a Pharisee;. Paul had been a member of what he called “the strictest sect of our religion” (Acts 26:5).

6. Concerning zeal, persecuting the church;. Paul had not just been a follower of Judaism, but he was very zealous in persecuting those who he thought believed and taught things contrary to the law of Moses. Concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. Paul was not saying he had not violated the law and therefore was not a sinner; to do so would be a contradiction of what he taught elsewhere (Romans 3:9,10,19,20,23; Galatians 3:10,11; 3:12). It seems evident then that he is saying that his observance of the law was so strict that in the eyes of men he was held blameless.

7. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Having found the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), he now counted all the things associated with his Jewish heritage as loss.

8. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,. Not only did he consider all things associated with his Jewish heritage as loss, but also all other things that could come between him and his Lord, such as material possessions, the esteem of his fellow men, family acceptance, etc. Everything pales in significance to his relationship with Jesus Christ his Lord. For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. Not only did he consider all as loss for the knowledge of Christ, he actually lost them. When he embraced Christianity, he gave up or lost all things that stood between him and his Lord. The word translated “rubbish” can mean excrement or what is thrown away from the table. Everything he gave up he considered so worthless as to be considered “dung,” as this word is translated in the KJV.

9. And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which {is} from the law, but that which {is} through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;. Any righteousness that Paul had as a Jew (through the perfect keeping of the law) was imaginary. But now, in connection with Christ, he had a righteousness that was given to him by God as a result of his faith in Christ (Romans 3:22).

10. That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,. The knowledge of Christ that Paul is here writing of is not mere intellectual recognition. It is, instead, a personal, intimate, trusting, loving relationship with the living Christ. The power of His resurrection probably speaks to its redemptive effect. By His resurrection He was made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). As such, He is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). As Jesus suffered for righteousness' sake while on earth, all who know Him, walk with Him, and follow His example will also suffer for righteousness' sake (cf. 1:21; 4:13; Galatians 2:20; II Corinthians 2:14). This is what Paul is referring to when he mentions the “fellowship of His sufferings.” The death Paul wanted to be conformed to was the Lord's pouring Himself out unto death, which was comprised of an entire earthly life of denying self in order to serve others.

11. If, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Paul's goal was the “resurrection from the dead.” Obviously, the apostle is not referring to the general resurrection of all the dead, but to the resurrection of the righteous to eternal life (cf. Luke 20:35; 14:14).

Pressing Toward The Goal—3:12-16


(12) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (13) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing {I do}, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (15) Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. (16) Nevertheless, to {the degree} that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.


12. Not that I have already attained,. Salvation in heaven is in the future. True, there is a sense in which we are saved now (from past sins), but eternal salvation is something yet to be obtained. (The idea of “Once saved, always saved,” is simply not taught in the Bible.) Or am already perfected;. Paul says he had not yet reached a state of perfection. Only when he receives the crown of righteousness will he have been made perfect (II Timothy 4:7,8). (The idea that one would be perfectly holy in this life is not taught in the Bible.) But I press on,. The verb “press” in the Greek indicates the intense action of a runner in a stadium. Paul was intensely running toward a fixed goal. That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. The Lord seized Paul to serve Him and go to heaven. Paul was determined to seize that for which the Lord seized him.

13. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended;. Again, he repeats that he had not yet laid hold of all those things for which the Lord had laid hold on him, but in order to attain it, he made it the one supreme end of his life. But one thing {I do}, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,. Forgetting all earthly aspirations, honors, and desires, he pressed ahead to obtain his goal.

14. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. With heaven as his goal and eternal life his prize, Paul pressed onward and upward: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1,2).

15. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind;. To be intensely engaged in the spiritual race is the mind-set of which Paul here writes. This, then, is the sign of a mature Christian. And if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Paul has just articulated the principle (i.e., we are still far from perfect, but in Christ we ought to be striving for perfection). In the meantime, it seems that he is saying that if there is some minor differences on the specific application of this principle to a particular situation, then, as one continues to mature in Christ, the correct application will be revealed. The ability to make the correct application is called “wisdom.” Wisdom comes from a study of God's word (cf. Proverbs 8:33; 9:8; II Timothy 3:15; Colossians 3:16) and prayer (James 1:5). Either way, the revealing of the right application is from God.

16. Nevertheless, to {the degree} that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Whatever we have already learned, let us walk in light of that knowledge. We must remember that our religion does not consist so much of precept upon precept, as it does upon the application of various principles taught throughout the Scriptures. Spiritual maturity is a process, and the more spiritually mature we are, the more enlightened we become, and the more enlightened we become, the more spiritually mature we are—“For everyone who partakes {only} of milk {is} unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, {that is,} those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13,14). If this is fully understood, then there will be less problems among Christians. What do we mean? Sometimes folks think they know more than they do and, therefore, think they are spiritually mature. Consequently, they make their conscience the standard for judging everyone else. In doing so, they are proving themselves to be “babes” who are still thinking carnally (cf. I Corinthians 3:1-5). Speaking to the spiritually mature Christian in Romans 14, as he does here, Paul warned against receiving a spiritually immature Christian into the fellowship if he engages in disputes over doubtful things (Romans 14:1). He then goes on to write of the “law of liberty” that is to be applied by the mature Christian. Let each of us who thinks himself to be mature spiritually be determined to learn all the truth we can, weigh all the difficulties, look upon every side of the question, teach others what we learn, sacrifice no truth, but be patient and forebearing in teaching it, and give the other person time to grow or mature. This, we think, is what Paul is teaching in these passages.

Our Citizenship In Heaven—3:17-21


(17) Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. (18) For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, {that they are} the enemies of the cross of Christ: (19) whose end {is} destruction, whose god {is their} belly, and {whose} glory {is} in their shame - who set their mind on earthly things. (20) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (21) who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.


17. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. Paul and others, who imitate Christ (I Corinthians 11:1), are themselves to be imitated. This is not said in any self-asserting, self-confident, egotistical spirit. However, neither is he filled with false modesty. He recognized that to the extent that he and others (like Timothy and Epaphroditus) patterned their lives after Christ's it was worthy of imitation (cf. I Corinthians 2:16). What a wonderful learning experience it is for us to have those around us who are imitators of Christ who we can, in turn, imitate.

18. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, {that they are} the enemies of the cross of Christ:. Paul appears to be writing of those Peter mentions in II Peter 2:1-22 and Jude identifies in Jude 1-16. These kinds of folks are not to be imitated. The message of the cross is humiliation. The gospel calls on all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) and humbly submit to Jesus Christ as Lord of one's life. In contrast, these enemies of the cross “allure through the lusts of the flesh” (II Peter 2:18). Their's was a feel-good religion that promised liberty but actually retangled them and those that heard them into bondage to sin (II Peter 2:19). No doubt, the pagan philosophies prevalent at that time provided the “great swelling words of emptiness” (II Peter 2:18) that deluded these people and their converts. Paul's sorrow about all this may have been in the fact that these errorists sheltered themselves under his own teaching about the liberty we have in Christ and the superiority of the gospel of Christ over the law of Moses. These, Peter wrote, had wrested some things Paul had written in his epistles to their own destruction (II Peter 3:15-17).

19. Whose end {is} destruction,. The unrepentant end result of these “ungodly men” who turn “the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4) is the destruction that consists of eternal misery in hell. Whose god {is their} belly,. If Paul is using “belly” literally, then he has in mind gluttony. Probably, he is using this term metaphorically, which would include gluttony and every other appetite driven sin (e.g., fornication, drunkenness, etc., cf. Galatians 5:19-21; II Timothy 3:2-4). And {whose} glory {is} in their shame - who set their mind on earthly things. Instead of being ashamed of their carnality, these “lovers of themselves” (II Timothy 3:2) were so depraved and perverted that they took pride in their shameful conduct (cf. I Corinthians 5:1,2). In minding earthly things, they had given themselves over to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (I John 2:16). We are reminded of Romans 8:5,6, which says: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those {who live} according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded {is} death, but to be spiritually minded {is} life and peace.”

20. For our citizenship is in heaven,. In contrast to those who set their minds on earthly things, the spiritually minded set their things on the things that are above (Colossians 3:1,2). The commonwealth to which we belong, and this is the meaning of the word translated “citizenship,” is the New Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 11:13-16; 12:22; Revelation 3:12; 21:3). As citizens of this heavenly commonwealth, we, as resident aliens here on earth, must be constantly moving spiritually toward our heavenly home. This, as Paul has already pointed out to us, is the goal of every maturing Christian. From which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,. In John 14:2,3, our Lord said: “In My Father's house are many mansions; if {it were} not {so}, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, {there} you may be also.” Therefore, the true Christian eagerly awaits the Lord's return with great expectation. The goal toward which we are all eagerly running (eternal salvation in heaven) is dependent upon the Lord's return (Hebrews 9:28). Therefore, with great anticipation we are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

21. Who will transform our lowly body. Paul is referring to what the Lord will do to those who are raised to eternal life. Our earthly mortal body that goes down to the grave he calls our “lowly body” or, as some other translations say, “vile body” or “the body of our humiliation.” It is this body that is subject to all the earthly woes of weariness, pain, sickness, sorrow, tears, sin, etc., and finally the corruption of death. The fleshly body must be turned into a spiritual body so that our immortal souls will have a fit habitation in which to live in the spiritual realm of heaven. Such a transformed body will be free from all the woes that we are subject to during our earthly state (Revelation 21:4; cf. I Corinthians 15:35-58; II Corinthians 5:1-5). That it may be conformed to His glorious body,. The resurrected body of the faithful Christian will be conformed to the Lord's glorified body. Now, we don't know just what this body will be like, but when the Lord returns for us, we shall be like Him (I John 3:2). According to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. The word translated “working” is used only of superhuman power, whether of God or the devil. By virtue of the fact that the Lord is able to bring all things in subjection to Himself, He has the power to raise us incorruptibly, conforming us to the body of His glory (cf. I Corinthians 15:27,28).

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