1Rejoice in the Lord This is a conclusion from what goes before, for as Satan never ceased to distress them with daily rumors, he bids them divest themselves of anxiety and be of good courage. In this way he exhorts them to constancy, that they may not fall back from the doctrine which they have once received. The phrase henceforward denotes a continued course, that, in the midst of many hinderances, they may not cease to exercise holy joy. It is a rare excellence when Satan endeavors to exasperate us by means of the bitterness of the cross, so as to make God’s name unpleasant, to take such satisfaction in the simple tasting of God’s grace, that all annoyances, sorrows, anxieties, and griefs are sweetened.
To write the same thing to you. Here he begins to speak of the false Apostles, with whom, however, he does not fight hand to hand, as in the Epistle to the Galatians, but in a few words severely exposes them, as far as was sufficient. For as they had simply made an attempt upon the Philippians, and had not made an inroad upon them, it was not so necessary to enter into any regular disputation with the view of refuting errors, to which they had never lent an ear. Hence he simply admonishes them to be diligent and attentive in detecting impostors and guarding against them.
When he says, that to write the same things is not grievous to him, he seems to intimate that he had already written on some other occasion to the Philippians. There would, however, be no inconsistency in understanding him as meaning, that he now by his writings reminds them of the same things as they had frequently heard him say, when he was with them. For there can be no doubt that he had often intimated to them in words, when he was with them, how much they ought to be on their guard against such pests: yet he does not grudge to repeat these things, because the Philippians would have incurred danger in the event of his silence. And, unquestionably, it is the part of a good pastor, not merely to supply the flock with pasture, and to rule the sheep by his guidance, but to drive away the wolves when threatening to make an attack upon the fold, and that not merely on one occasion, but so as to be constantly on the watch, and to be indefatigable. For as thieves and robbers (Joh_10:8 ) are constantly on the watch for the destruction of the Church, what excuse will the pastor have if, after courageously repelling them in several instances, he gives way on occasion of the ninth or tenth attack?
He says also, that a repetition of this nature is profitable to the Philippians, lest they should be—as is wont to happen occasionally—of an exceedingly fastidious humor, and despise it as a thing that was superfluous. For many are so difficult to please, that they cannot bear that the same thing should be said to them a second time, and, in the mean time, they do not consider that what is inculcated upon them daily is with difficulty retained in their memory ten years afterwards. But if it was profitable to the Philippians to listen to this exhortation of Paul—to be on their guard against wolves, what do Papists mean who will not allow that any judgment should be formed as to their doctrine? For to whom, I pray you, did Paul address himself when he said, Beware? Was it not to those whom they do not allow to possess any right to judge? And of the same persons Christ says, in like manner, My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me; they flee from, a stranger, and they hear not his voice. (Joh_10:5.)
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.
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord – That is, in the Lord Jesus; see Phi_3:3; compare the Act_1:24 note, and 1Th_5:16 note. The idea here is, that it is the duty of Christians to rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ. This duty implies the following things:
(1) They should rejoice that they have such a Saviour. People everywhere have felt the need of a Saviour, and to us it should be a subject of unfeigned joy that one has been provided for us. When we think of our sins, we may now rejoice that there is one who can deliver us from them; when we think of the worth of the soul, we may rejoice that there is one who can save it from death; when we think of our danger, we can rejoice that there is one who can rescue us from all peril, and bring us to a world where we shall be for ever safe.
(2) we may rejoice that we have such a Saviour. He is just such as we need. He accomplishes just what we want a Saviour to do. We need one to make known to us a way of pardon, and he does it. We need one to make an atonement for sin, and he does it. We need one to give us peace from a troubled conscience, and he does it. We need one to support us in trials and bereavements, and he does it. We need one who can comfort us on the bed of death, and guide us through the dark valley, and the Lord Jesus is just what we want. When we look at his character, it is just such as it should be to win our hearts, and to make us love him; and when we look at what he has done, we see that he has accomplished all that we can desire, and why should we not rejoice?
(3) we may and should rejoice in him. The principal joy of the true Christian should be in the Lord. He should find his happiness not in riches, or gaiety, or vanity, or ambition, or books, or in the world in any form, but in communion with the Lord Jesus, and in the hope of eternal life through him. In his friendship, and in his service, should be the highest of our joys, and in these we may always be happy. It is the privilege, therefore, of a Christian to rejoice. He has more sources of joy than any other man – sources which do not fail when all others fail. Religion is not sadness or melancholy, it is joy; and the Christian should never leave the impression on others that his religion makes him either gloomy or morose. A cheerful countenance, an eye of benignity, a conversation pleasant and kind, should always evince the joy of his heart, and in all his contact with the world around hint he should show that his heart is full of joy.
To write the same things – That is, to repeat the same truths and admonitions. Perhaps he refers in this to the exhortations which he had given them when he was with them, on the same topics on which he is now writing to them. He says, that for him to record these exhortations, and transmit them by a letter, might be the means of permanent welfare to them, and would not be burdensome or oppressive to him. It was not absolutely necessary for them, but still it would be conducive to their order and comfort as a church. We may suppose that this chapter is a summary of what he had often inculcated when he was with them.
To me indeed is not grievous – It is not burdensome or oppressive to me to repeat these exhortations in this manner. They might suppose that in the multitude of cares which he had, and in his trials in Rome, it might be too great a burden for him to bestow so much attention on their interests.
But for you it is safe – It will contribute to your security as Christians, to have these sentiments and admonitions on record. They were exposed to dangers which made them proper. What those dangers were, the apostle specifies in the following verses.
Finally (to loipon). Accusative of general reference, literally, “as for the rest.” So again in Phi_4:8. It (or just loipon) is a common phrase towards the close of Paul’s Epistles (2Th_3:1; 2Co_13:11). In Eph_6:10 we have tou loipou (genitive case). But Paul uses the idiom elsewhere also as in 1Co_7:29; 1Th_4:1 before the close of the letter is in sight. It is wholly needless to understand Paul as about to finish and then suddenly changing his mind like some preachers who announce the end a half dozen times.
To write the same things (ta auta graphein). Present active articular infinitive, “the going on writing the same things.” What things? He has just used chairete (go on rejoicing) again and he will repeat it in Phi_4:4. But in Phi_3:2 he uses blepete three times. At any rate Paul, as a true teacher, is not afraid of repetition.
Irksome (okneron). Old adjective from okneo, to delay, to hesitate. It is not tiresome to me to repeat what is “safe” (asphales) for you. Old adjective from a privative and sphallo, to totter, to reel.
7.What things were gain to me He says, that those things were gain to him, for ignorance of Christ is the sole reason why we are puffed up with a vain confidence. Hence, where we see a false estimate of one’s own excellence, where we see arrogance, where we see pride, there let us be assured that Christ is not known. On the other hand, so soon as Christ shines forth all those things that formerly dazzled our eyes with a false splendor instantly vanish, or at least are disesteemed. Those things, accordingly, which had been gain to Paul when he was as yet blind, or rather had imposed upon him under an appearance of gain, he acknowledges to have been loss to him, when he has been enlightened. Why loss? Because they were hinderances in the way of his coming to Christ. What is more hurtful than anything that keeps us back from drawing near to Christ? Now he speaks chiefly of his own righteousness, for we are not received by Christ, except as naked and emptied of our own righteousness. Paul, accordingly, acknowledges that nothing was so injurious to him as his own righteousness, inasmuch as he was by means of it shut out from Christ.
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.
But what things were gain to me – The advantages of birth, of education, and of external conformity to the law. “I thought these to be gain – that is, to be of vast advantage in the matter of salvation. I valued myself on these things, and supposed that I was rich in all that pertained to moral character and to religion.” Perhaps, also, he refers to these things as laying the foundation of a hope of future advancement in honor and in wealth in this world. They commended him to the rulers of the nation; they opened before him a brilliant prospect of distinction; they made it certain that he could rise to posts of honor and of office, and could easily gratify all the aspirings of his ambition.
Those I counted loss – “I now regard them all as so much loss. They were really a disadvantage – a hindrance – an injury. I look upon them, not as gain or an advantage, but as an obstacle to my salvation.” He had relied on them. He had been led by these things to an improper estimate of his own character, and he had been thus hindered from embracing the true religion. He says, therefore, that he now renounced all dependence on them; that he esteemed them not as contributing to his salvation, but, so far as any reliance should be placed on them, as in fact so much loss.
For Christ – Greek, “On account of Christ.” That is, so far as Christ and his religion were concerned, they were to be regarded as worthless. In order to obtain salvation by him, it was necessary to renounce all dependence on these things.
8.Nay more, I reckon. He means, that he continues to be of the same mind, because it often happens, that, transported with delight in new things, we forget everything else, and afterwards we regret it. Hence Paul, having said that he renounced all hinderances, that he might gain Christ, now adds, that he continues to be of this mind.
For the sake of the excellency of the knowledge He extols the gospel in opposition to all such notions as tend to beguile us. For there are many things that have an appearance of excellence, but the knowledge of Christ surpasses to such a degree everything else by its sublimity, that, as compared with it, there is nothing that is not contemptible. Let us, therefore, learn from this, what value we ought to set upon the knowledge of Christ alone. As to his calling him his Lord, he does this to express the intensity of his feeling.
For whom I have suffered the loss of all things He expresses more than he had done previously; at least he expresses himself with greater distinctness. It is a similitude taken from seamen, who, when urged on by danger of shipwreck, throw everything overboard, that, the ship being lightened, they may reach the harbour in safety. Paul, then, was prepared to lose everything that he had, rather than be deprived of Christ.
But it is asked, whether it is necessary for us to renounce riches, and honors, and nobility of descent, and even external righteousness, that we may become partakers of Christ, (Heb_3:14,) for all these things are gifts of God, which, in themselves, are not to be despised? I answer, that the Apostle does not speak here so much of the things themselves, as of the quality of them. It is, indeed, true, that the kingdom of heaven is like a precious pearl, for the purchase of which no one should hesitate to sell everything that he has (Mat_13:46.) There is, however, a difference between the substance of things and the quality. Paul did not reckon it necessary to disown connection with his own tribe and with the race of Abraham, and make himself an alien, that he might become a Christian, but to renounce dependence upon his descent. It was not befitting, that from being chaste he should become unchaste; that from being sober, he should become intemperate; and that from being respectable and honorable, he should become dissolute; but that he should divest himself of a false estimate of his own righteousness, and treat it with contempt. We, too, when treating of the righteousness of faith, do not contend against the substance of works, but against that quality with which the sophists invest them, inasmuch as they contend that men are justified by them. Paul, therefore, divested himself — not of works, but of that mistaken confidence in works, with which he had been puffed up.
As to riches and honors, when we have divested ourselves of attachment to them, we will be prepared, also, to renounce the things themselves, whenever the Lord will require this from us, and so it ought to be. It is not expressly necessary that you be a poor man, in order that you may be Christian; but if it please the Lord that it should be so, you ought to be prepared to endure poverty. In fine, it is not lawful for Christians to have anything apart from Christ. I consider as apart from Christ everything that is a hinderance in the way of Christ alone being our ground of glorying, and having an entire sway over us.
And I count them but refuse. Here he not merely by words, but also by realities, amplifies greatly what he had before stated. For those who cast their merchandise and other things into the sea, that they may escape in safety, do not, therefore, despise riches, but act as persons prepared rather to live in misery and want, than to be drowned along with their riches. They part with them, indeed, but it is with regret and with a sigh; and when they have escaped, they bewail the loss of them. Paul, however, declares, on the other hand, that he had not merely abandoned everything that he formerly reckoned precious, but that they were like dung, offensive to him, or were disesteemed like things that are thrown away in contempt. Chrysostom renders the word—straws. Grammarians, however, are of opinion, that σκύβαλον is employed as though it were κυσίβαλον— what is thrown to dogs. And certainly there is good reason why everything that is opposed to Christ should be offensive to us, inasmuch as it is an abomination in, the sight of God. (Luk_16:15.) There is good reason why it should be offensive to us also, on the ground of its being an unfounded imagination.
That I may gain Christ.By this expression he intimates that we cannot gain Christ otherwise than by losing everything that we have. For he would have us rich by his grace alone: he would have him alone be our entire blessedness. Now, in what way we must suffer the loss of all things, has been already stated — in such a manner that nothing will turn us aside from confidence in Christ alone. But if Paul, with such innocence and integrity of life, did not hesitate to reckon his own righteousness to be loss and dung, what mean those Pharisees of the present day, who, while covered over with every kind of wickedness, do nevertheless feel no shame in extolling their own merits in opposition to Christ?
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 salvation.
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 δι’ ον τα παντα εζημιωθην, 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, (Act_9:43 (note)) on the character of St. Paul.
Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss – Not only those things which he had just specified, and which he had himself possessed, he says he would be willing to renounce in order to obtain an interest in the Saviour, but everything which could be imagined. Were all the wealth and honor which could be conceived of his, he would be willing to renounce them in order that he might obtain the knowledge of the Redeemer. He would be a gainer who should sacrifice everything in order to win Christ. Paul had not only acted on this principle when he became a Christian, but had ever afterward continued to be ready to give up everything in order that he might obtain an interest in the Saviour. He uses here the same word – ζημίαν zemian – which he does in the Acts of the Apostles, Act_27:21, when speaking of the loss which had been sustained by loosing from Crete, contrary to his advice, on the voyage to Rome. The idea here seems to be, “What I might obtain, or did possess, I regard as loss in comparison with the knowledge of Christ, even as seamen do the goods on which they set a high value, in comparison with their lives. Valuable as they may be, they are willing to throw them all overboard in order to save themselves.” Burder, in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc.
For the excellency of the knowledge – A Hebrew expression to denote excellent knowledge. The idea is, that he held everything else to be worthless in comparison with that knowledge, and he was willing to sacrifice everything else in order to obtain it. On the value of this knowledge of the Saviour, see the notes at Eph_3:19.
For whom I have suffered the loss of all things – Paul, when he became a Christian, gave up his brilliant prospects in regard to this life, and everything indeed on which his heart had been placed. He abandoned the hope of honor and distinction; he sacrificed every prospect of gain or ease; and he gave up his dearest friends and separated himself from those whom he tenderly loved. He might have risen to the highest posts of honor in his native land, and the path which an ambitious young man desires was fully open before him. But all this had been cheerfully sacrificed in order that he might obtain an interest in the Saviour, and partake of the blessings of his religion. He has not, indeed, informed us of the exact extent of his loss in becoming a Christian. It is by no means improbable that he had been excommunicated by the Jews; and that he had been disowned by his own family.
And do count them but dung – The word used here – σκύβαλον skubalon – occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, dregs; refuse; what is thrown away as worthless; chaff; offal, or the refuse of a table or of slaughtered animals, and then filth of any kind. No language could express a more deep sense of the utter worthlessness of all that external advantages can confer in the matter of salvation. In the question of justification before God, all reliance on birth, and blood, and external morality, and forms of religion, and prayers, and alms, is to be renounced, and, in comparison with the merits of the great Redeemer, to be esteemed as vile. Such were Paul’s views, and we may remark that if this was so in his case, it should he in ours. Such things can no more avail for our salvation than they could for his. We can no more be justified by them than he could. Nor will they do anything more in our case to commend us to God than they did in his.
Yea, verily, and (alla men oun ge kai). Five particles before Paul proceeds (yea, indeed, therefore, at least, even), showing the force and passion of his conviction. He repeats his affirmation with the present middle indicative (hegoumai), “I still count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge (to huperechon, the surpassingness, neuter articular participle of huperecho, Phi_2:3) of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Dung (skubala). Late word of uncertain etymology, either connected with skor (dung) or from es kunas ballo, to fling to the dogs and so refuse of any kind. It occurs in the papyri. Here only in the N.T.
That I may gain Christ (hina Christon kerdeso). First aorist active subjunctive of kerdao, Ionic form for kerdaino with hina in purpose clause. Paul was never satisfied with his knowledge of Christ and always craved more fellowship with him.
9.And may find them in him The verb is in the passive voice, and hence all others have rendered it, I may be found. They pass over the context, however, in a very indifferent manner, as though it had no peculiar force. If you read it in the passive voice, an antithesis must be understood — that Paul was lost before he was found in Christ, as a rich merchant is like one lost, so long as he has his vessel laden with riches; but when they have been thrown overboard, he is found? For here that saying is admirably in point — “I had been lost, if I had not been lost.” But as the verb εὐρίσκομαι, while it has a passive termination, has an active signification, and means — to recover what you have voluntarily given up, (as Budaeus shews by various examples,) I have not hesitated to differ from the opinion of others. For, in this way, the meaning will be more complete, and the doctrine the more ample — that Paul renounced everything that he had, that he might recover them in Christ; and this corresponds better with the word gain, for it means that it was no trivial or ordinary gain, inasmuch as Christ contains everything in himself. And, unquestionably, we lose nothing when we come to Christ naked and stript of everything, for those things which we previously imagined, on false grounds, that we possessed, we then begin really to acquire. He, accordingly, shews more fully, how great the riches of Christ, because we obtain and find all things in him.
Not having mine own righteousness Here we have a remarkable passage, if any one is desirous to have a particular description of the righteousness of faith, and to understand its true nature. For Paul here makes a comparison between two kinds of righteousness. The one he speaks of as belonging to the man, while he calls it at the same time the righteousness of the law; the other, he tells us, is from God, is obtained through faith, and rests upon faith in Christ. These he represents as so directly opposed to each other, that they cannot stand together. Hence there are two things that are to be observed here. In the first place, that the righteousness of the law must be given up and renounced, that you may be righteous through faith; and secondly, that the righteousness of faith comes forth from God, and does not belong to the individual. As to both of these we have in the present day a great controversy with Papists; for on the one hand, they do not allow that the righteousness of faith is altogether from God, but ascribe it partly to man; and, on the other hand, they mix them together, as if the one did not destroy the other. Hence we must carefully examine the several words made use of by Paul, for there is not one of them that is not very emphatic.
He says, that believers have no righteousness of their own. Now, it cannot be denied, that if there were any righteousness of works, it might with propriety be said to be ours. Hence he leaves no room whatever for the righteousness of works. Why he calls it the righteousness of the law, he shows in Rom_10:5; because this is the sentence of the law, He that doeth these things shall live in them. The law, therefore, pronounces the man to be righteous through works. Nor is there any ground for the cavil of Papists, that all this must be restricted to ceremonies. For in the first place, it is a contemptible frivolity to affirm that Paul was righteous only through ceremonies; and secondly, he in this way draws a contrast between those two kinds of righteousness — the one being of man, the other, from God. He intimates, accordingly, that the one is the reward of works, while the other is a free gift from God. He thus, in a general way, places man’s merit in opposition to Christ’s grace; for while the law brings works, faith presents man before God as naked, that he may be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When, therefore, he declares that the righteousness of faith is from God, it is not simply because faith is the gift of God, but because God justifies us by his goodness, or because we receive by faith the righteousness which he has conferred upon us.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
be found in him — “be found” at His coming again, living spiritually “in Him” as the element of my life. Once lost, I have been “found,” and I hope to be perfectly “found” by Him (Luk_15:8).
own righteousness … of the law — (Phi_3:6; Rom_10:3, Rom_10:5). “Of,” that is, from.
righteousness … of God by faith — Greek, “which is from God (resting) upon faith.” Paul was transported from legal bondage into Christian freedom at once, and without any gradual transition. Hence, the bands of Pharisaism were loosed instantaneously; and opposition to Pharisaic Judaism took the place of opposition to the Gospel. Thus God’s providence fitly prepared him for the work of overthrowing all idea of legal justification. “The righteousness of faith,” in Paul’s sense, is the righteousness or perfect holiness of Christ appropriated by faith, as the objective ground of confidence for the believer, and also as a new subjective principle of life. Hence it includes the essence of a new disposition, and may easily pass into the idea of sanctification, though the two ideas are originally distinct. It is not any arbitrary act of God, as if he treated as sinless a man persisting in sin, simply because he believes in Christ; but the objective on the part of God corresponds to the subjective on the part of man, namely, faith. The realization of the archetype of holiness through Christ contains the pledge that this shall be realized in all who are one with Him by faith, and are become the organs of His Spirit. Its germ is imparted to them in believing although the fruit of a life perfectly conformed to the Redeemer, can only be gradually developed in this life [Neander].
And be found in him – That is, united to him by a living faith. The idea is, that when the investigations of the great day should take place in regard to the ground of salvation, it might be found that he was united to the Redeemer and depended solely on his merits for salvation; compare the notes at Joh_6:56.
Not having mine own righteousness – That is, not relying on that for salvation. This was now the great aim of Paul, that it might be found at last that he was not trusting to his own merits, but to those of the Lord Jesus.
Which is of the law – see the notes at Rom_10:3. The “righteousness which is of the law” is that which could be obtained by conformity to the precepts of the Jewish religion, such as Paul had endeavored to obtain before he became a Christian. He now saw that no one complied perfectly with the holy law of God, and that all dependence on such a righteousness was vain. All people by nature seek salvation by the law. They set up some standard which they mean to comply with, and expect to be saved by conformity to that. With some it is the law of honor, with others the law of honesty, with others the law of kindness and courtesy, and with others the law of God. If they comply with the requirements of these laws, they suppose that they will be safe, and it is only the grace of God showing them how defective their standard is, or how far they come from complying with its demands, that can ever bring them from this dangerous dependence. Paul in early life depended on his compliance with the laws of God as he understood them, and supposed that he was safe. When he was brought to realize his true condition, he saw how far short he had come of what the law of God required, and that all dependence on his own works was vain.
But that which is through the faith of Christ – That justification which is obtained by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ; see at Rom_1:17, note; Rom_3:24, note; Rom_4:5, note.
Righteousness which is of God by faith – Which proceeds from God, or of which he is the great source and fountain. This may include the following things:
(1) God is the author of pardon – and this is a part of the righteousness which the man who is justified has.
(2) God purposes to treat the justified sinner as if he had not sinned – and thus his righteousness is of God.
(3) God is the source of all the grace that will be imparted to the soul, making it really holy. In this way, all the righteousness which the Christian has is “of God.” The idea of Paul is, that he now saw that it was far more desirable to be saved by righteousness obtained from God than by his own. That obtained from God was perfect, and glorious, and sufficient; that which he had attempted to work out was defective, impure, and wholly insufficient to save the soul. It is far more honorable to be saved by God than to save ourselves; it is more glorious to depend on him than to depend on anything that we can do.
Be found in him (heuretho en autoi). First aorist (effective) passive subjunctive with hina of heurisko. At death (2Co_5:3) or when Christ comes. Cf. Phi_2:8; Gal_2:17.
Through faith in Christ (dia pisteos Christou). The objective genitive Christou, not subjective, as in Gal_2:16, Gal_2:20; Rom_3:22. Explained further by epi tei pistei (on the basis of faith) as in Act_3:16.
10That I may know him He points out the efficacy and nature of faith — that it is the knowledge of Christ, and that, too, not bare or indistinct, but in such a manner that the power of his resurrection is felt. Resurrection he employs as meaning, the completion of redemption, so that it comprehends in it at the same time the idea of death. But as it is not enough to know Christ as crucified and raised up from the dead, unless you experience, also, the fruit of this, he speaks expressly of efficacy. Christ therefore is rightly known, when we feel how powerful his death and resurrection are, and how efficacious they are in us. Now all things are there furnished to us — expiation and destruction of sin, freedom from condemnation, satisfaction, victory over death, the attainment of righteousness, and the hope of a blessed immortality.
And the fellowship of his sufferings Having spoken of that freely-conferred righteousness, which was procured for us through the resurrection of Christ, and is obtained by us through faith, he proceeds to treat of the exercises of the pious, and that in order that it might not seem as though he introduced an inactive faith, which produces no effects in the life. He also intimates, indirectly, that these are the exercises in which the Lord would have his people employ themselves; while the false Apostles pressed forward upon them the useless elements of ceremonies. Let every one, therefore, who has become through faith a partaker of all Christ’s benefits, acknowledge that a condition is presented to him — that his whole life be conformed to his death.
There is, however, a twofold participation and fellowship in the death of Christ. The one is inward — what the Scripture is wont to term the mortification of the flesh, or the crucifixion of the old man, of which Paul treats in Rom_6:0; the other is outward — what is termed the mortification of the outward man. It is the endurance of the Cross, of which he treats in Rom_8:0 of the same Epistle, and here also, if I do not mistake. For after introducing along with this the power of his resurrection, Christ crucified is set before us, that we may follow him through tribulations and distresses; and hence the resurrection of the dead is expressly made mention of, that we may know that we must die before we live. This is a continued subject of meditation to believers so long as they sojourn in this world.
This, however, is a choice consolation, that in all our miseries we are partakers of Christ’s Cross, if we are his members; so that through afflictions the way is opened up for us to everlasting blessedness, as we read elsewhere, If we die with him, we shall also live with him; if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him. (2Ti_2:11,)
We must all therefore be prepared for this — that our whole life shall represent nothing else than the image of death, until it produce death itself, as the life of Christ is nothing else than a prelude of death.
We enjoy, however, in the mean time, this consolation — that the end is everlasting blessedness. For the death of Christ is connected with the resurrection. Hence Paul says, that he is conformed to his death, that he may attain the glory of the resurrection. The phrase, if by any means, does not indicate doubt, but expresses difficulty, with a view to stimulate our earnest endeavor for it is no light contest, inasmuch as we must struggle against so many and so serious hinderances.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
That I may know him — experimentally. The aim of the “righteousness” just mentioned. This verse resumes, and more fully explains, “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ” (Phi_3:8). To know HIM is more than merely to know a doctrine about Him. Believers are brought not only to redemption, but to the Redeemer Himself.
the power of his resurrection — assuring believers of their justification (Rom_4:25; 1Co_15:17), and raising them up spiritually with Him, by virtue of their identification with Him in this, as in all the acts of His redeeming work for us (Rom_6:4; Col_2:12; Col_3:1). The power of the Divine Spirit, which raised Him from literal death, is the same which raises believers from spiritual death now (Eph_1:19, Eph_1:20), and shall raise their bodies from literal death hereafter (Rom_8:11).
the fellowship of his sufferings — by identification with Him in His sufferings and death, by imputation; also, in actually bearing the cross whatever is laid on us, after His example, and so “filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ” (Col_1:24); and in the will to bear aught for His sake (Mat_10:38; Mat_16:24; 2Ti_2:11). As He bore all our sufferings (Isa_53:4), so we participate in His.
made conformable unto his death — “conformed to the likeness of His death,” namely, by continued sufferings for His sake, and mortifying of the carnal self (Rom_8:29; 1Co_15:31; 2Co_4:10-12; Gal_2:20).
That I may know him – That I may be fully acquainted with his nature, his character, his work, and with the salvation which he has worked out. It is one of the highest objects of desire in the mind of the Christian to know Christ; see the notes at Eph_3:19.
And the power of his resurrection – That is, that I may understand and experience the proper influence which the fact of his resurrection should have on the mind. That influence would he felt in imparting the hope of immortality; in sustaining the soul in the prospect of death, by the expectation of being raised from the grave in like manner; and in raising the mind above the world; Rom_6:11. There is no one truth that will have greater power over us, when properly believed, than the truth that Christ has risen from the dead. His resurrection confirms the truth of the Christian religion (notes, 1 Cor. 15); makes it certain that there is a future state, and that the dead will also rise; dispels the darkness that was around the grave, and shows us that our great interests are in the future world. The fact that Christ has risen from the dead, when fully believed, will produce a sure hope that we also shall be raised, and will animate us to bear trials for his sake, with the assurance that we shall be raised up as he was. One of the things which a Christian ought most earnestly to desire is, to feel the power of this truth on his soul – that his great Redeemer has burst the bands of death; has brought life and immortality to light, and has given us the pledge that our bodies shall rise. What trials may we not bear with this assurance? What is to be dreaded in death, if this is so? What glories rise to the view when we think of the resurrection! And what trifles are all the things which people seek here, when compared with the glory that shall be ours when we shall be raised from the dead!
And the fellowship of his sufferings – That I may participate in the same kind of sufferings that he endured; that is, that I may in all things be identified with him. Paul wished to be just like his Saviour. He felt that it was an honor to live as he did; to evince the spirit that he did, and to suffer in the same manner. All that Christ did and suffered was glorious in his view, and he wished in all things to resemble him. He did not desire merely to share his honors and triumphs in heaven, but, regarding his whole work as glorious, he wished to be wholly conformed to that, and, as far as possible, to be just like Christ. Many are willing to reign with Christ, out they would not be willing to suffer with him; many would be willing to wear a crown of glory like him, but not the crown of thorns; many would be willing to put on the robes of splendor which will be worn in heaven, but not the scarlet robe of contempt and mockery.
They would desire to share the glories and triumphs of redemption, but not its poverty, contempt, and persecution. This was not the feeling of Paul. He wished in all things to be just like Christ, and hence he counted it an honor to be permitted to suffer as he did. So Peter says, “Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings;” 1Pe_4:13. So Paul says Col_1:24 that he rejoiced in his sufferings in behalf of his brethren, and desired “to fill up that which was behind, of the afflictions of Christ,” or that in which he had hitherto come short of the afflictions which Christ endured. The idea is, that it is an honor to suffer as Christ suffered; and that the true Christian will esteem it a privilege to be made just like him, not only in glory, but in trial. To do this, is one evidence of piety; and we may ask ourselves, therefore, whether these are the feelings of our hearts. Are we seeking merely the honors of heaven, or should we esteem it a privilege to be reproached and reviled as Christ was – to have our names cast out as his was – to be made the object of sport and derision as he was – and to be held up to the contempt of a world as he was? If so, it is an evidence that we love him; if not so, and we are merely seeking the crown of glory, we should doubt whether we have ever known anything of the nature of true religion.
Being made conformable to his death – In all things, being just like Christ – to live as he did, and to die as he did. There can be no doubt that Paul means to say that he esteemed it so desirable to be just like Christ, that he would regard it as an honor to die in the same manner. He would rejoice to go with him to the cross, and to pass through the circumstances of scorn and pain which attended such a death. Yet how few there are who would be willing to die as Christ died, and how little would the mass of people regard it as a privilege and honor! Indeed, it requires an elevated state of pious feeling to be able to say that it would be regarded as a privilege and honor to die like Christ to have such a sense of the loveliness of his character in all things, and such ardent attachment to him, as to rejoice in the opportunity of dying as he did! When we think of dying, we wish to have our departure made as comfortable as possible. We would have our sun go down without a cloud. We would wish to lie on a bed of down; we would have our head sustained by the kind arm of a friend, and not left to fall, in the intensity of suffering, on the breast; we would wish to have the place where we die surrounded by sympathizing kindred, and not by those who would mock our dying agonies. And, if such is the will of God, it is not improper to desire that our end may be peaceful and happy; but we should also feel, if God should order it otherwise, that it would be an honor, in the cause of the Redeemer, to die amidst reproaches – to be led to the stake, as the martyrs have been – or to die, as our Master did, on a cross. They who are most like him in the scenes of humiliation here, will be most like him in the realms of glory.
That I may know him (tou gnonai auton). Genitive of the articular second aorist (ingressive) active infinitive (purpose) of ginosko, to have personal acquaintance or experience with. This is Paul’s major passion, to get more knowledge of Christ by experience.
The power of his resurrection (ten dunamin tes anastaseos autou). Power (Lightfoot) in the sense of assurance to believers in immortality (1Co_15:14.; Rom_8:11), in the triumph over sin (Rom_4:24.), in the dignity of the body (1Co_6:13.; Phi_3:21), in stimulating the moral and spiritual life (Gal_2:20; Rom_6:4.; Col_2:12; Eph_2:5). See Westcott’s The Gospel of the Resurrection, ii, 31.
The fellowship of his sufferings (ten Koinéonian ton pathematon autou). Partnership in (objective genitive) his sufferings, an honour prized by Paul (2Co_1:24).
Becoming conformed to his death (summorphizomenos toi thanatoi autou). Present passive participle of summorphizo, late verb from summorphos, found only here and ecclesiastical writers quoting it. The Latin Vulgate uses configuro. See note on Rom_6:4 for sumphutoi in like sense and 2Co_4:10. “The agony of Gethsemane, not less than the agony of Calvary, will be reproduced however faintly in the faithful servant of Christ” (Lightfoot). “In this passage we have the deepest secrets of the Apostle’s Christian experience unveiled” (Kennedy).
The resurrection of the dead – That is, the resurrection of those who, having died in the Lord, rise to glory and honor; 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: εις την εξαναστασιν την εκ νεκρων, 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.
If by any means – Implying, that he meant to make use of the most strenuous exertions to obtain the object.
I might attain unto – I may come to, or may secure this object.
The resurrection of the dead – Paul believed that all the dead would be raised Act_24:15; Act_26:6-8; and in this respect he would certainly attain to the resurrection of the dead, in common with all mankind. But the phrase, “the resurrection of the dead,” also might be used, in a more limited sense, to denote the resurrection of the righteous as a most desirable object; and this might be secured by effort. It was this which Paul sought – this for which he strove – this that was so bright an object in his eye that it was to be secured at any sacrifice. To rise with the saints; to enter with them into the blessedness of the heavenly inheritance, was an object that the apostle thought was worth every effort which could he made. The doctrine of the resurrection was, in his view, that which distinguished the true religion, and which made it of such inestimable value Act_26:6-7; Act_23:6; 1 Cor. 15; and he sought to participate in the full honor and glory of such a resurrection.
If by any means I may attain (ei pos katanteso). Not an expression of doubt, but of humility (Vincent), a modest hope (Lightfoot). For ei pos, see note on Rom_1:10; and note on Rom_11:14 where parazeloso can be either future indicative or aorist subjunctive like katanteso here (see subjunctive katalabo in Phi_3:12), late compound verb katantao.
Resurrection (exanastasin). Late word, not in lxx, but in Polybius and one papyrus example. Apparently Paul is thinking here only of the resurrection of believers out from the dead and so double ex (ten exanastasin ten ek nekron). Paul is not denying a general resurrection by this language, but emphasizing that of believers.
12Not as though I had already apprehended Paul insists upon this, that he may convince the Philippians that he thinks of nothing but Christ — knows nothing else — desires nothing else — is occupied with no other subject of meditation. In connection with this, there is much weight in what he now adds — that he himself, while he had given up all hinderances, had nevertheless not attained that object of aim, and that, on this account, he always aimed and eagerly aspired at something further. How much more was this incumbent on the Philippians, who were still far behind him?
It is asked, however, what it is that Paul says he has not yet attained? For unquestionably, so soon as we are by faith ingrafted into the body of Christ, we have already entered the kingdom of God, and, as it is stated in Eph_2:6, we already, in hope, sit in heavenly places. I answer, that our salvation, in the mean time, is in hope, so that the inheritance indeed is secure; but we nevertheless have it not as yet in possession. At the same time, Paul here looks at something else — the advancement of faith, and of that mortification of which he had made mention. He had said that he aimed and eagerly aspired at the resurrection of the dead through fellowship in the Cross of Christ. He adds, that he has not as yet arrived at this. At what? At the attainment of having entire fellowship in Christ’s sufferings, having a full taste of the power of his resurrection, and knowing him perfectly. He teaches, therefore, by his own example, that we ought to make progress, and that the knowledge of Christ is an attainment of such difficulty, that even those who apply themselves exclusively to it, do nevertheless not attain perfection in it so long as they live. This, however, does not detract in any degree from the authority of Paul’s doctrine, inasmuch as he had acquired as much as was sufficient for discharging the office committed to him. In the mean time, it was necessary for him to make progress, that this divinely-furnished instructor of all might be trained to humility.
As also I have been apprehended This clause he has inserted by way of correction, that he might ascribe all his endeavors to the grace of God. It is not of much importance whether you read as, or in so far as; for the meaning in either case remains the same — that Paul was apprehended by Christ, that he might apprehend Christ; that is, that he did nothing except under Christ’s influence and guidance. I have chosen, however, the more distinct rendering, as it seemed to be optional.
Not as though I had already attained – Ουχ οτι ηδη 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.
Either were already perfect – Η ηδη τετελειωμαι· 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 honored with the prize. Thus it is used by Philo, Allegoriar. lib. iii. page 101, edit. Mangey:
Ποτε ουν, ω ψυχη, μαλιστα νεκροφορειν (νικοφορειν) σεαυτην υποληψη· αραγε ουχ οταν τελειωθης και βραβειων και στεφανων αξιωθης
“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 honored 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: –
τελειωσιν μαρτυριον καλουμεν, ουχ οτι τελος του βιου ο ανθρωπος ελεβεν, ως οι λοιποι, αλλ’ οτι τελειον εργον αγαπης ενεδειξατο·
“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.”
Not as though I had already attained – This verse and the two following are full of allusions to the Grecian races. “The word rendered ‘attained’ signifies, to have arrived at the goal and won the prize, but without having as yet received it” – The Pictorial Bible. The meaning here is, I do not pretend to have attained to what I wish or hope to be. He had indeed been converted; he had been raised up from the death of sin; he had been imbued with spiritual life and peace; but there was a glorious object before him which he had not yet received. There was to be a kind of resurrection which he had not arrived at. It is possible that Paul here may have had his eye on an error which prevailed to some extent in the early church, that “the resurrection was already past” 2Ti_2:18, by which the faith of some had been perverted. How far this error had spread, or on what it was founded, is not now known; but it is possible that it might have found advocates extensively in the churches. Paul says, however, that he entertained no such opinion. He looked forward to a resurrection which had not yet occurred. He anticipated it as a glorious event yet to come, and he purposed to secure it by every effort which he could make.
Either were already perfect – This is a distinct assertion of the apostle Paul that he did not regard himself as a perfect man. He had not reached that state where he was free from sin. It is not indeed a declaration that no one was perfect, or that no one could be in this life but it is a declaration that he did not regard himself as having attained to it. Yet who can urge better claims to having attained perfection than Paul could have done? Who has surpassed him in love, and zeal, and self-denial, and true devotedness to the service of the Redeemer? Who has more elevated views of God, and of the plan of salvation? Who prays more, or lives nearer to God than he did? That must be extraordinary piety which surpasses that of the apostle Paul; and he who lays claim to a degree of holiness which even Paul did not pretend to, gives little evidence that he has any true knowledge of himself, or has ever been imbued with the true humility which the gospel produces.
It should be observed, however, that many critics, as Bloomfield, Koppe, Rosenmuller, Robinson (Lexicon), Clarke, the editor of The Pictorial Bible, and others, suppose the word used here – τελειόω teleioo – not to refer to moral or Christian perfection, but to be an allusion to the games that were celebrated in Greece, and to mean that he had not completed his course and arrived at the goal, so as to receive the prize. According to this, the sense would be, that he had not yet received the crown which he aspired after as the result of his efforts in this life. It is of importance to understand precisely what he meant by the declaration here; and, in order to this, it will be proper to look at the meaning of the word elsewhere in the New Testament. The word properly means, to complete, to make perfect, so as to be full, or so that nothing shall be wanting. In the New Testament it is used in the following places, and is translated in the following manner: It is rendered “fulfilled” in Luk_2:23; Joh_19:28; “perfect,” and “perfected,” in Luk_13:32; Joh_17:23; 2Co_12:9; Phi_3:12; Heb_2:10; Heb_5:9; Heb_7:19; Heb_9:9; Heb_10:1, Heb_10:14; Heb_11:40; Heb_12:23; Jam_2:22; 1Jo_2:5; 1Jo_4:12, 1Jo_4:17-18; “finish,” and “finished,” Joh_5:36; Act_20:24; and “consecrated,” Heb_7:28.
In one case Act_20:24, it is applied to a race or course that is run – “That I might finish my course with joy;” but this is the only instance, unless it be in the case before us. The proper sense of the word is that of bringing to an end, or rendering complete, so that nothing shall be wanting. The idea of Paul evidently is, that he had not yet attained that which would be the completion of his hopes. There was something which he was striving after, which he had not obtained, and which was needful to render him perfect, or complete. He lacked now what he hoped yet to attain to; and that which he lacked may refer to all those things which were wanting in his character and condition then, which he expected to secure in the resurrection. What he would then obtain, would be – perfect freedom from sin, deliverance from trials and temptations, victory over the grave, and the possession of immortal life.
As those things were needful in order to the completion of his happiness, we may suppose that he referred to them now, when he says that he was not yet “perfect.” This word, therefore, while it will embrace an allusion to moral character, need not be understood of that only, but may include all those things which were necessary to be observed in order to his complete felicity. Though there may be, therefore, an allusion in the passage to the Grecian foot-races, yet still it would teach that he did not regard himself as in any sense perfect in all respects, there were things wanting to render his character and condition complete, or what he desired they might ultimately be. The same is true of all Christians now. We are imperfect in our moral and religious character, in our joys, in our condition. Our state here is far different from that which will exist in heaven; and no Christian can say, anymore than Paul could, that he has obtained that which is requisite to the completion or perfection of his character and condition. He looks for something brighter and purer in the world beyond the grave. Though, therefore, there may be – as I think the connection and phraseology seem to demand – a reference to the Grecian games, yet the sense of the passage is not materially varied. It was still a struggle for the crown of perfection – a crown which the apostle says he had not yet obtained.
But I follow after – I pursue the object, striving to obtain it. The prize was seen in the distance, and he diligently sought to obtain it. There is a reference here to the Grecian races, and the meaning is, “I steadily pursue my course;” compare the notes at 1Co_9:24.
If that I may apprehend – If I may obtain, or reach, the heavenly prize. There was a glorious object in view, and he made most strenuous exertions to obtain it. The idea in the word “apprehend” is that of taking hold of, or of seizing suddenly and with eagerness; and, since there is no doubt of its being used in an allusion to the Grecian foot-races, it is not improbable that there is a reference to the laying hold of the pole or post which marked the goal, by the racer who had outstripped the other competitors, and who, by that act, might claim the victory and the reward.
That for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus – By Christ Jesus. The idea is, that he had been called into the service of the Lord Jesus, with a view to the obtaining of an important object. He recognized:
(1) the fact that the Lord Jesus had, as it were, laid hold on him, or seized him with eagerness or suddenness, for so the word used here – κατελήμφθην katelēmphthēn – means (compare Mar_9:18; Joh_8:3-4; Joh_12:35; 1Th_5:4; and,
(2) the fact that the Lord Jesus had laid hold on him, with a view to his obtaining the prize. He had done it in order that he might obtain the crown of life, that he might serve him faithfully here, and then be rewarded in heaven.
We may learn, from this:
(1) That Christians are seized, or laid hold on, when they are converted, by the power of Christ, to be employed in his service.
(2) that there is an object or purpose which he has in view. He designs that they shall obtain a glorious prize, and he “apprehends” them with reference to its attainment.
(3) that the fact that Christ has called us into his service with reference to such an object, and designs to bestow the crown upon us, need not and should not dampen our exertions, or diminish our zeal. It should rather, as in the case of Paul, excite our ardor, and urge us forward. We should seek diligently to gain that, for the securing of which, Christ has called us into his service. The fact that he has thus arrested us in our mad career of sin; that he has by his grace constrained us to enter into his service, and that he contemplates the bestowment upon us of the immortal crown, should be the highest motive for effort. The true Christian, then, who feels that heaven is to be his home, and who believes that Christ means to bestow it upon him, will make the most strenuous efforts to obtain it. The prize is so beautiful and glorious, that he will exert every power of body and soul that it may be his. The belief, therefore, that God means to save us, is one of the highest incentives to effort in the cause of religion.
13I reckon not myself to have as yet apprehended He does not here call in question the certainty of his salvation, as though he were still in suspense, but repeats what he had said before — that he still aimed at making farther progress, because he had not yet attained the end of his calling. He shews this immediately after, by saying that he was intent on this one thing, leaving off everything else. Now, he compares our life to a race-course, the limits of which God has marked out to us for running in. For as it would profit the runner nothing to have left the starting-point, unless he went forward to the goal, so we must also pursue the course of our calling until death, and must not cease until we have obtained what we seek. Farther, as the way is marked out to the runner, that he may not fatigue himself to no purpose by wandering in this direction or in that, so there is also a goal set before us, towards which we ought to direct our course undeviatingly; and God does not permit us to wander about heedlessly. Thirdly, as the runner requires to be free from entanglement, and not stop his course on account of any impediment, but must continue his course, surmounting every obstacle, so we must take heed that we do not apply our mind or heart to anything that may divert the attention, but must, on the contrary, make it our endeavor, that, free from every distraction, we may apply the whole bent of our mind exclusively to God’s calling. These three things Paul comprehends in one similitude. When he says that he does this one thing, and forgets all things that are behind, he intimates his assiduity, and excludes everything fitted to distract. When he says that he presses toward the mark, he intimates that he is not wandering from the way.
Forgetting those things that are behind He alludes to runners, who do not turn their eyes aside in any direction, lest they should slacken the speed of their course, and, more especially, do not look behind to see how much ground they have gone over, but hasten forward unremittingly towards the goal, Thus Paul teaches us, that he does not think of what he has been, or of what he has done, but simply presses forward towards the appointed goal, and that, too, with such ardor, that he runs forward to it, as it were, with outstretched arms. For a metaphor of this nature is implied in the participle which he employs.
Should any one remark, by way of objection, that the remembrance of our past life is of use for stirring us up, both because the favors that have been already conferred upon us give us encouragement to entertain hope, and because we are admonished by our sins to amend our course of life, I answer, that thoughts of this nature do not turn away our view from what is before us to what is behind, but rather help our vision, so that we discern more distinctly the goal. Paul, however, condemns here such looking back, as either destroys or impairs alacrity. Thus, for example, should any one persuade himself that he has made sufficiently great progress, reckoning that he has done enough, he will become indolent, and feel inclined to deliver up the lamp to others; or, if any one looks back with a feeling of regret for the situation that he has abandoned, he cannot apply the whole bent of his mind to what he is engaged in. Such was the nature of the thoughts from which Paul’s mind required to be turned away, if he would in good earnest follow out Christ’s calling. As, however, there has been mention made here of endeavor, aim, course, perseverance, lest any one should imagine that salvation consists in these things, or should even ascribe to human industry what comes from another quarter, with the view of pointing out the cause of all these things, he adds — in Christ Jesus
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended – That is, to have obtained that for which I have been called into the service of the Redeemer. There is something which I strive after which I have not yet gained. This statement is a confirmation of the opinion that in the previous verse, where he says that he was not “already perfect,” he includes a moral perfection, and not merely the obtainment of the prize or reward; for no one could suppose that he meant to be understood as saying that he had obtained the crown of glory.
This one thing I do – Paul had one great aim and purpose of life. He did not attempt to mingle the world and religion, and to gain both. He did not seek to obtain wealth and salvation too; or honor here and the crown of glory hereafter, but he had one object, one aim, one great purpose of soul. To this singleness of purpose he owed his extraordinary attainments in piety, and his uncommon success as a minister. A man will accomplish little who allows his mind to be distracted by a multiplicity of objects. A Christian will accomplish nothing who has not a single great aim and purpose of soul. That purpose should be to secure the prize, and to renounce everything that would be in the way to its attainment. Let us then so live that we may be able to say, that there is one great object which we always have in view, and that we mean to avoid everything which would interfere with that.
Forgetting those things which are behind – There is an allusion here undoubtedly to the Grecian races. One running to secure the prize would not stop to look behind him to see how much ground he had run over, or who of his competitors had fallen or lingered in the way. He would keep his eye steadily on the prize, and strain every nerve that he might obtain it. If his attention was diverted for a moment from that, it would hinder his flight, and might be the means of his losing the crown. So the apostle says it was with him. He looked onward to the prize. He fixed the eye intently on that. It was the single object in his view, and he did not allow his mind to be diverted from that by anything – not even by the contemplation of the past. He did not stop to think of the difficulties which he had overcome, or the troubles which he had met, but he thought of what was yet to be accomplished.
This does not mean that he would not have regarded a proper contemplation of the past life as useful and profitable for a Christian (compare the notes at Eph_2:11), but that he would not allow any reference to the past to interfere with the one great effort to win the prize. It may be, and is, profitable for a Christian to look over the past mercies of God to his soul, in order to awaken emotions of gratitude in the heart, and to think of his shortcomings and errors, to produce penitence and humility. But none of these things should be allowed for one moment to divert the mind from the purpose to win the incorruptible crown. And it may be remarked in general, that a Christian will make more rapid advances in piety by looking forward than by looking backward. Forward we see everything to cheer and animate us – the crown of victory, the joys of heaven, the society of the blessed – the Saviour beckoning to us and encouraging us.
Backward, we see everything to dishearten and to humble. Our own unfaithfulness; our coldness, deadness, and dullness; the little zeal and ardor which we have, all are fitted to humble and discourage. He is the most cheerful Christian who looks onward, and who keeps heaven always in view; he who is accustomed much to dwell on the past, though he may be a true Christian, will be likely to be melancholy and dispirited, to be a recluse rather than a warm-hearted and active friend of the Saviour. Or if he looks backward to contemplate what he has done – the space that he has run over – the difficulties which he has surmounted – and his own rapidity in the race, he will be likely to become self-complacent and self-satisfied. He will trust his past endeavors, and feel that the prize is now secure, and will relax his future efforts. Let us then look onward. Let us not spend our time either in pondering the gloomy past, and our own unfaithfulness, or in thinking of what we have done, and thus becoming puffed up with self-complacency; but let us keep the eye steadily on the prize, and run the race as though we had just commenced it.
And reaching forth – As one does in a race.
Unto those things which are before – Before the racer there was a crown or garland to be bestowed by the judges of the games. Before the Christian there is a crown of glory, the eternal reward of heaven. There is the favor of God, victory over sin and death, the society of the redeemed and of angelic beings, and the assurance of perfect and eternal freedom from all evil. These are enough to animate the soul, and to urge it on with ever-increasing vigor in the christian race.
I press toward the mark – Κατα σκοπον διωκω· 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, Phi_3:16. When it was said to Diogenes, the cynic, “Thou art now an old man, rest from thy labors;” to this he answered: Ει δολιχον εδραμον, προς τω τελει εδει με ανειναι, και μη μαλλον επιτειναι; “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 resurrection.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
high calling — literally, “the calling that is above” (Gal_4:26; Col_3:1): “the heavenly calling” (Heb_3:1). “The prize” is “the crown of righteousness” (1Co_9:24; 2Ti_4:8). Rev_2:10, “crown of life.” 1Pe_5:4, “a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” “The high,” or “heavenly calling,” is not restricted, as Alford thinks, to Paul’s own calling as an apostle by the summons of God from heaven; but the common calling of all Christians to salvation in Christ, which coming from heaven invites us to heaven, whither accordingly our minds ought to be uplifted.
I press toward the mark – As he who was running a race did. The “mark” means properly the object set up at a distance at which one looks or aims, and hence the goal, or post which was set up at the end of a race-course, and which was to be reached in order that the prize might be won. Here it means that which is at the end of the Christian race – in heaven.
For the prize – The prize of the racer was a crown or garland of olive, laurel, pine, or apple; see the notes at 1Co_9:24. The prize of the Christian is the crown that is incorruptible in heaven.
Of the high calling of God – Which is the end or result of that calling. God has called us to great and noble efforts; to a career of true honor and glory; to the obtainment of a bright and imperishable crown. It is a calling which is “high,” or “upward” – (άνω ano) – that is, which tends to the skies. The calling of the Christian is from heaven, and to heaven; compare Pro_15:24. He has been summoned by God through the gospel of the Lord Jesus to secure the crown. It is placed before and above him in heaven. It may be his, if he will not faint or tire or look backward. It demands his highest efforts, and it is worth all the exertions which a mortal can make even in the longest life.
16Nevertheless, so far as we have attained Even the Greek manuscripts themselves differ as to the dividing of the clauses, for in some of them there are two complete sentences. If any one, however, prefer to divide the verse, the meaning will be as Erasmus has rendered it. For my part, I rather prefer a different reading, implying that Paul exhorts the Philippians to imitate him, that they may at last reach the same goal, so as to think the same thing, and walk by the same rule For where sincere affection exists, such as reigned in Paul, the way is easy to a holy and pious concord, As, therefore, they had not yet learned what true perfection was, in order that they might attain it he wishes them to be imitators of him; that is, to seek God with a pure conscience, (2Ti_1:3,) to arrogate nothing to themselves, and calmly to subject their understandings to Christ. For in the imitating of Paul all these excellences are included — pure zeal, fear of the Lord, modesty, self-renunciation, docility, love, and desire of concord. He bids them, however, be at one and the same time imitators of him; that is, all with one consent, and with one mind.
Observe, that the goal of perfection to which he invites the Philippians, by his example, is, that they think the same thing, and walk by the same rule He has, however, assigned the first place to the doctrine in which they ought to harmonize, and the rule to which they should conform themselves.
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 κανονι, το αυτο φρονειν, 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., etc., 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.”
Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule – This is a most wise and valuable rule, and a rule that would save much difficulty and contention in the church, if it were honestly applied. The meaning is this, that though there might be different degrees of attainment among Christians, and different views on many subjects, yet there were points in which all could agree; there were attainments which they all had made, and in reference to them they should walk in harmony and love. It might be that some had made much greater advances than others. They had more elevated views of religion; they had higher knowledge; they were nearer perfection. Others had had less advantages of education and instruction, had had fewer opportunities of making progress in the divine life, and would less understand the higher mysteries of the Christian life. They might not see the truth or propriety of many things which those in advance of them would see clearly.
But it was not worth while to quarrel about these things. There should be no angry feeling, and no fault-finding on either side. There were many things in which they could see alike, and where there were no jarring sentiments. In those things they could walk harmoniously; and they who were in advance of others should not complain of their less informed brethren as lacking all evidence of piety; nor should those who had not made such advances complain of those before them as fanatical, or as disposed to push things to extremes. They who had the higher views should, as Paul did, believe that God will yet communicate them to the church at large, and in the meantime should not denounce others; and those who had less elevated attainments should not censure their brethren as wild and visionary. There were common grounds on which they might unite, and thus the harmony of the church would be secured.
No better rule than this could be applied to the subjects of inquiry which spring up among Christians respecting temperance, slavery, moral reform, and the various doctrines of religion; and, if this rule had been always observed, the church would have been always saved from harsh contention and from schism. If a man does not see things just as I do, let me try with mildness to Teach him, and let me believe that, if he is a Christian, God will make this known to him yet; but let me not quarrel with him, for neither of us would be benefited by that, nor would the object be likely to be attained. In the meantime, there are many things in which we can agree. In them let us work together, and strive, as far as we can, to promote the common object. Thus we shall save our temper, give no occasion to the world to reproach us, and be much more likely to come together in all our views. The best way to make true Christians harmonious is, to labor together in the common cause of saying souls. As far as we can agree, let us go and labor together; and where we cannot yet, let us “agree to differ.” We shall all think alike by-and-by.
By that same rule let us walk (toi autoi stoichein) Aleph A B do not have kanoni (rule). Besides stoichein is the absolute present active infinitive which sometimes occurs instead of the principal verb as in Rom_12:15. Paul means simply this that, having come thus far, the thing to do is to go “in the same path” (toi autoi) in which we have been travelling so far. A needed lesson for Christians weary with the monotony of routine in religious life and work.
17Mark them By this expression he means, that it is all one to him what persons they single out for themselves for imitation, provided they conform themselves to that purity of which he was a pattern. By this means all suspicion of ambition is taken away, for the man that is devoted to his own interests wishes to have no rival. At the same time he warns them that all are not to be imitated indiscriminately, as he afterwards explains more fully.
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 example.
Brethren, be followers together of me – That is, live as I do. A minister of the gospel, a parent, or a Christian of any age or condition, ought so to live that he can refer to his own example, and exhort others to imitate the course of life which he had led. Paul could do this without ostentation or impropriety. They knew that he lived so as to be a proper example for others; and he knew that they would feel that his life had been such that there would be no impropriety in his referring to it in this manner. But, alas, how few are there who can safely imitate Paul in this!
And mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an example – There were those in the church who endeavored to live as he had done, renouncing all confidence in the flesh, and aiming to win the prize. There were others, it would seem, who were actuated by different views; see Phi_3:18. There are usually two kinds of professing Christians in every church – those who imitate the Saviour, and those who are worldly and vain. The exhortation here is, to “mark” – that is, to observe with a view to imitate – those who lived as the apostles did. We should set before our minds the best examples, and endeavor to imitate the most holy people. A worldly and fashionable professor of religion is a very bad example to follow; and especially young Christians should set before their minds for imitation, and associate with, the purest and most spiritual members of the church. Our religion takes its form and complexion much from those with whom we associate; and he will usually be the most holy man who associates with the most holy companions.
18For many walk The simple statement, in my opinion, is this — Many walk who mind earthly things, meaning by this, that there are many who creep upon the ground, not feeling the power of God’s kingdom. He mentions, however, in connection with this, the marks by which such persons may be distinguished. These we will examine, each in its order. By earthly things some understand ceremonies, and the outward elements of the world, which cause true piety to be forgotten, I prefer, however, to view the term as referring to carnal affection, as meaning that those who are not regenerated by the Spirit of God think of nothing but the world. This will appear more distinctly from what follows; for he holds them up to odium on this ground — that, being desirous exclusively of their own honor, ease, and gain, they had no regard to the edification of the Church.
Of whom I have told you often He shews that it is not without good reason that he has often warned the Philippians, inasmuch as he now endeavors to remind them by letter of the same things as he had formerly spoken of to them when present with them. His tears, also, are an evidence that he is not influenced by envy or hatred of men, nor by any disposition to revile, nor by insolence of temper, but by pious zeal, inasmuch as he sees that the Church is miserably destroyed by such pests. It becomes us, assuredly, to be affected in such a manner, that on seeing that the place of pastors is occupied by wicked and worthless persons, we shall sigh, and give evidence, at least by our tears, that we feel deeply grieved for the calamity of the Church.
It is of importance, also, to take notice of whom Paul speaks — not of open enemies, who were avowedly desirous that doctrine might be undermined — but of impostors and profligates, who trampled under foot the power of the gospel, for the sake of ambition or of their own belly. And unquestionably persons of this sort, who weaken the influence of the ministry by seeking their own interests, sometimes do more injury than if they openly opposed Christ. We must, therefore, by no means spare them, but must point them out with the finger, as often as there is occasion. Let them complain afterwards, as much as they choose, of our severity, provided they do not allege anything against us that it is not in our power to justify from Paul’s example.
That they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Some explain cross to mean the whole mystery of redemption, and they explain that this is said of them, because, by preaching the law, they made void the benefit of Christ’s death. Others, however, understand it as meaning, that they shunned the cross, and were not prepared to expose themselves to dangers for the sake of Christ. I understand it, however, in a more general way, as meaning that, while they pretended to be friends, they were, nevertheless, the worst enemies of the gospel. For it is no unusual thing for Paul to employ the term cross to mean the entire preaching of the gospel. For as he says elsewhere, If any man is in Christ, let him be a new creature.
For many walk – Many live, the Christian life being often in the Scriptures compared with a journey. In order to induce them to imitate those who were the most holy, the apostle says that there were many, even in the church, whom it would not be safe for them to imitate. He evidently here refers mainly to the church at Philippi, though it may be that he meant to make the declaration general, and to say that the same thing existed in other churches. There has not probably been any time yet in the Christian church when the same thing might not be said.
Of whom I have told you often – When he preached in Philippi. Paul was not afraid to speak of church members when they did wrong, and to warn others not to imitate their example. He did not attempt to cover up or excuse guilt because it was in the church, or to apologize for the defects and errors of those who professed to be Christians. The true way is, to admit that there are those in the church who do not honor their religion, and to warn others against following their example. But this fact does not make religion any the less true or valuable, anymore than the fact that there is counterfeit money makes all money bad, or makes genuine coin of no value.
And now tell you even weeping – This is the true spirit with which to speak of the errors and faults of Christians. It is not to go and blazon their inconsistencies abroad. It is not to find pleasure in the fact that they are inconsistent. It is not to reproach religion on that account, and to say that all religion is false and hollow, and that all professors are hypocrites. We should rather speak of the fact with tears; for, if there is anything that should make us weep, it is, that there are those in the church who are hypocrites, or who dishonor their profession. We should weep:
(1) because they are in danger of destroying their own souls;
(2) because they are destined to certain disappointment when they come to appear before God; and,
(3) because they injure the cause of religion, and give occasion to the “enemies of the Lord to speak reproachfully.” He who loves religion. will weep over the inconsistencies of its friends; he who does not, will exult and triumph.
That they are the enemies of the cross of Christ – The “cross” was the instrument of death on which the Redeemer died to make atonement for sin. As the atonement made by Christ for sin is that which especially distinguishes his religion from all others, the “cross” comes to be used to denote his religion; and the phrase here means, that they were the enemies of his religion, or were strangers to the gospel. It is not to be supposed that they were open and avowed enemies of the cross, or that they denied that the Lord Jesus died on the cross to make an atonement. The characteristic of those persons mentioned in the following verse is, rather, that they were living in a manner which showed that they were strangers to his pure gospel. An immoral life is enmity to the cross of Christ; for he died to make us holy. A life where there is no evidence that the heart is renewed, is enmity to the cross; for he died that we might be renewed. They are the enemies of the cross, in the church:
(1) who have never been born again;
(2) who are living in the indulgence of known sin;
(3) who manifest none of the peculiarities of those who truly love him;
(4) who have a deeper interest in worldly affairs than they have in the cause of the Redeemer;
(5) whom nothing can induce to give up their worldly concerns when God demands it;
(6) who are opposed to all the unique doctrines of Christianity; and,
(7) who are opposed to all the special duties of religion, or who live in the habitual neglect of them.
It is to be feared that at all times there are such enemies of the cross in the church, and the language of the apostle implies that it is a proper subject of grief and tears. He wept over it, and so should we. It is from this cause that so much injury is done to the true religion in the world. One secret enemy in a camp may do more harm than fifty men who are open foes; and a single unholy or inconstant member in a church may do much more injury than many men who are avowedly opposed to religion. It is not by infidels, and scoffers, and blasphemers, so much, that injury is done to the cause of religion; it is by the unholy lives of its professed friends – the worldliness, inconsistency, and want of the proper spirit of religion, among those who are in the church. Nearly all the objections that are made to religion are from this quarter; and, if this objection were taken away, the religion of Christ would soon spread its triumphs around the globe.
19Whose end is destruction He adds this in order that the Philippians, appalled by the danger, may be so much the more carefully on their guard, that they may not involve themselves in the ruin of those persons. As, however, profligates of this description, by means of show and various artifices, frequently dazzle the eyes of the simple for a time, in such a manner that they are preferred even to the most eminent servants of Christ, the Apostle declares, with great confidence, that the glory with which they are now puffed up will be exchanged for ignominy.
Whose god is the belly As they pressed the observance of circumcision and other ceremonies, he says that they did not do so from zeal for the law, but with a view to the favor of men, and that they might live peacefully and free from annoyance. For they saw that the Jews burned with a fierce rage against Paul, and those like him, and that Christ could not be proclaimed by them in purity with any other result, than that of arousing against themselves the same rage. Accordingly, consulting their own ease and advantage, they mixed up these corruptions with the view of mitigating the flames of others.
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.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
destruction — everlasting at Christ’s coming. Phi_1:28, “perdition”; the opposite word is “Savior” (Phi_3:20).
end — fixed doom.
whose god is their belly — (Rom_16:18); hereafter to be destroyed by God (1Co_6:13). In contrast to our “body” (Phi_3:21), which our God, the Lord Jesus, shall “fashion like unto His glorious body.” Their belly is now pampered, our body now wasted; then the respective states of both shall be reversed.
glory is in their shame — As “glory” is often used in the Old Testament for God (Psa_106:20), so here it answers to “whose God,” in the parallel clause; and “shame” is the Old Testament term contemptuously given to an idol (Jdg_6:32, Margin). Hos_4:7 seems to be referred to by Paul (compare Rom_1:32). There seems no allusion to circumcision, as no longer glorious, but a shame to them (Phi_3:2). The reference of the immediate context is to sensuality, and carnality in general.
mind earthly things — (Rom_8:5). In contrast to Phi_3:20; Col_3:2.
Whose end is destruction – That is, as they have no true religion, they must perish in the same manner as all sinners. A mere profession will not save them. Unless they are converted, and become the true friends of the cross, they cannot enter heaven.
Whose God is their belly – Who worship their own appetites; or who live not to adore and honor God, but for self-indulgence and sensual gratifications; see Rom_16:18.
And whose glory is in their shame – That is, they glory in things of which they ought to be ashamed. They indulge in modes of living which ought to cover them with confusion.
Who mind earthly things – That is, whose hearts are set on earthly things, or who live to obtain them. Their attention is directed to honor, gain, or pleasure, and their chief anxiety is that they may secure these objects. This is mentioned as one of the characteristics of enmity to the cross of Christ; and if this be so, how many are there in the church now who are the real enemies of the cross! How many professing Christians are there who regard little else than worldly things! How many who live only to acquire wealth. to gain honor, or to enjoy the pleasures of the world! How many are there who have no interest in a prayer meeting, in a Sunday school, in religious conversation, and in the advancement of true religion on the earth! These are the real enemies of the cross. It is not so much those who deny the doctrines of the cross, as it is those who oppose its influence on their hearts; not so much those who live to scoff and deride religion, as it is those who “mind earthly things,” that injure this holy cause in the world.
20But our conversation is in heaven This statement overturns all empty shows, in which pretended ministers of the gospel are accustomed to glory, and he indirectly holds up to odium all their objects of aim, because, by flying about above the earth, they do not aspire towards heaven. For he teaches that nothing is to be reckoned of any value except God’s spiritual kingdom, because believers ought to lead a heavenly life in this world. “They mind earthly things: it is therefore befitting that we, whose conversation is in heaven, should be separated from them.” We are, it is true, intermingled here with unbelievers and hypocrites; nay more, the chaff has more of appearance in the granary of the Lord than wheat. Farther, we are exposed to the common inconveniences of this earthly life; we require, also, meat and drink, and other necessaries, but we must, nevertheless, be conversant with heaven in mind and affection. For, on the one hand, we must pass quietly through this life, and, on the other hand, we must be dead to the world that Christ may live in us, and that we, in our turn, may live to him. This passage is a most abundant source of many exhortations, which it were easy for any one to elicit from it.
Whence also.From the connection that we have with Christ, he proves that our citizenship is in heaven, for it is not seemly that the members should be separated from their Head. Accordingly, as Christ is in heaven, in order that we may be conjoined with him, it is necessary that we should in spirit dwell apart from this world. Besides, where our treasure is, there is our heart also.(Mat_6:21.)
Christ, who is our blessedness and glory, is in heaven: let our souls, therefore, dwell with him on high. On this account he expressly calIs him Savior. Whence does salvation come to us? Christ will come to us from heaven as a Savior. Hence it were unbefitting that we should be taken up with this earth. This epithet, Savior, is suited to the connection of the passage; for we are said to be in heaven in respect of our minds on this account, that it is from that source alone that the hope of salvation beams forth upon us. As the coming of Christ will be terrible to the wicked, so it rather turns away their minds from heaven than draws them thither: for they know that he will come to them as a Judge, and they shun him so far as is in their power. From these words of Paul pious minds derive the sweetest consolation, as instructing them that the coming of Christ is to be desired by them, inasmuch as it will bring salvation to them. On the other hand, it is a sure token of incredulity, when persons tremble on any mention being made of it. See Rom_8:0. While, however, others are transported with vain desires, Paul would have believers contented with Christ alone.
Farther, we learn from this passage that nothing mean or earthly is to be conceived of as to Christ, inasmuch as Paul bids us look upward to heaven, that we may seek him. Now, those that reason with subtlety that Christ is not shut up or hid in some corner of heaven, with the view of proving that his body is everywhere, and fills heaven and earth, say indeed something that is true, but not the whole: for as it were rash and foolish to mount up beyond the heavens, and assign to Christ a station, or seat, or place of walking, in this or that region, so it is a foolish and destructive madness to draw him down from heaven by any carnal consideration, so as to seek him upon earth. Up, then, with our hearts, that they may be with the Lord.
Our conversation is in heaven – Ημως – το πολιτευμα· 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.
For our conversation is in heaven – That is, this is true of all who are sincere Christians. It is a characteristic of Christians, in contradistinction from those who are the “enemies of the cross,” that their conversation is in heaven. The word “conversation” we now apply almost entirely to oral discourse. It formerly, however, meant conduct in general, and it is usually employed in this sense in the Scriptures; see the notes at Phi_1:27, where the verb occurs, from which the noun here is derived. The word used here – πολίτευμα politeuma – is found nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, any public measure, administration of the state, the manner in which the affairs of a state are administered; and then the state itself, the community, commonwealth, those who are hound under the same laws, and associated in the same society. Here it cannot mean that their “conversation,” in the sense of discourse or talking, was in heaven; nor that their “conduct” was in heaven – for this would convey no idea, and the original word does not demand it; but the idea is, that they were heavenly citizens, or citizens of the heavenly world, in contradistinction from a worldly community, They were governed by the laws of heaven; they were a community associated as citizens of that world, and expecting there to dwell.
The idea is, that there are two great communities in the universe – that of the world, and that of heaven: that governed by worldly laws and institutions, and that by the laws of heaven; that associated for worldly purposes, and that associated for heavenly or religious purposes; and that the Christian belonged to the latter – the enemy of the cross, though in the church, belonged to the former. Between true Christians, therefore, and others, there is all the difference which arises from belonging to different communities; being bound together for different purposes; subject to different laws; and altogether under a different administration. There is more difference between them than there is between the subjects of two earthly governments; compare Eph_2:6, note 19, note.
From whence also we look for the Saviour – From heaven. That is, it is one of the characteristics of the Christian that he believes that the Lord Jesus will return from heaven, and that he looks and waits for it. Other men do not believe this 2Pe_3:4, but the Christian confidently expects it. His Saviour has been taken away from the earth, and is now in heaven, but it is a great and standing article of his faith that that same Saviour will again come, and take the believer to himself; see the Joh_14:2-3, note; 1Th_4:1, note. This was the firm belief of the early Christians, and this expectation with them was allowed to exert a constant influence on their hearts and lives. It led them:
(1) to desire to be prepared for his coming;
(2) to feel that earthly affairs were of little importance, as the scene here was soon to close;
(3) to live above the world, and in the desire of the appearing of the Lord Jesus.
This was one of the elementary doctrines of their faith, and one of the means of producing deadness to the world among them; and among the early Christians there was, perhaps, no doctrine that was more the object of firm belief, and the ground of more delightful contemplation, than that their ascended Master would return. In regard to the certainty of their belief on this point, and the effect which it had on their minds, see the following texts of the New Testament; Mat_24:42, Mat_24:44; Luk_12:37; Joh_14:3; Act_1:11; 1Co_4:5; Col_3:4; 1Th_2:19; 2Th_2:1; Heb_10:37; Jam_5:7-8; 1Jo_3:2; Rev_22:7, Rev_22:12, Rev_22:20. It may be asked, with great force, whether Christians in general have now any such expectation of the second appearing of the Lord Jesus, or whether they have not fallen into the dangerous error of prevailing unbelief, so that the expectation of his coming is allowed to exert almost no influence on the soul.
In the passage before us, Paul says that it was one of the distinct characteristics of Christians that they looked for the coming of the Saviour from heaven. They believed that he would return. They anticipated that important effects would follow to them from his second coming. So we should look. There may be, indeed, a difference of opinion about the time when he will come, and about the question whether he will come to reign “literally, on the earth – but the fact that Christ will return to our world is common ground on which all Christians may meet, and is a fact which should be allowed to exert its full influence on the heart. It is a glorious truth – for what a sad world would this be, and what a sad prospect would be before the Christian, if the Saviour were never to come to raise his people from their graves, and to gather his redeemed to himself! The fact that he will come is identified with all our hopes. It is fitted to cheer us in trial; to guard us in temptation; to make us dead to the world; to lead us to keep the eye turned toward heaven.
Our citizenship (hemon to politeuma). Old word from piliteuo (Phi_1:27), but only here in N.T. The inscriptions use it either for citizenship or for commonwealth. Paul was proud of his Roman citizenship and found it a protection. The Philippians were also proud of their Roman citizenship. But Christians are citizens of a kingdom not of this world (Joh_18:36). Milligan (Vocabulary) doubts if commentators are entitled to translate it here: “We are a colony of heaven,” because such a translation reverses the relation between the colony and the mother city. But certainly here Paul’s heart is in heaven.
We wait for (apekdechometha). Rare and late double compound (perfective use of prepositions like wait out) which vividly pictures Paul’s eagerness for the second coming of Christ as the normal attitude of the Christian colonist whose home is heaven.
21Who will change By this argument he stirs up the Philippians still farther to lift up their minds to heaven, and be wholly attached to Christ — because this body which we carry about with us is not an everlasting abode, but a frail tabernacle, which will in a short time be reduced to nothing. Besides, it is liable to so many miseries, and so many dishonorable infirmities, that it may justly be spoken of as vile and full of ignominy. Whence, then, is its restoration to be hoped for? From heaven, at Christ’s coming. Hence there is no part of us that ought not to aspire after heaven with undivided affection. We see, on the one hand, in life, but chiefly in death, the present meanness of our bodies; the glory which they will have, conformably to Christ’s body, is incomprehensible by us: for if the disciples could not endure the slight taste which he afforded in his transfiguration, (Mat_17:6,) which of us could attain its fullness? Let us for the present be contented with the evidence of our adoption, being destined to know the riches of our inheritance when we shall come to the enjoyment of them.
According to the efficacy As nothing is more difficult to believe, or more at variance with carnal perception, than the resurrection, Paul on this account places before our eyes the boundless power of God, that it may entirely remove all doubt; for distrust arises from this — that we measure the thing itself by the narrowness of our own understanding. Nor does he simply make mention of power, but also of efficacy, which is the effect, or power showing itself in action, so to speak. Now, when we bear in mind that God, who created all things out of nothing, can command the earth, and the sea, and the other elements, to render back what has been committed to them , our minds are imrnediately roused up to a firm hope — nay, even to a spiritual contemplation of the resurrection.
But it is of importance to take notice, also, that the right and power of raising the dead, nay more, of doing everything according to his own pleasure, is assigned to the person of Christ — an encomium by which his Divine majesty is illustriously set forth. Nay, farther, we gather from this, that the world was created by him, for to subject all things to himself belongs to the Creator alone.
Who shall change our vile body – Ος μετασχηματισει το σωμα της ταπεινωσες ημων· 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 – Εις το γενεσθαι αυτο συμμορφον τω σωματι της δοξης αυτου· 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 – Κατα την ενεργειαν· 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.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Greek, “Who shall transfigure the body of our humiliation (namely, in which our humiliation has place, 2Co_4:10; Eph_2:19; 2Ti_2:12), that it may be conformed unto the body of His glory (namely, in which His glory is manifested), according to the effectual working whereby,” etc. Not only shall He come as our “Savior,” but also as our Glorifier.
even — not only to make the body like His own, but “to subdue all things,” even death itself, as well as Satan and sin. He gave a sample of the coming transfiguration on the mount (Mat_17:1, etc.). Not a change of identity, but of fashion or form (Psa_17:15; 1Co_15:51). Our spiritual resurrection now is the pledge of our bodily resurrection to glory hereafter (Phi_3:20; Rom_8:11). As Christ’s glorified body was essentially identical with His body of humiliation; so our resurrection bodies as believers, since they shall be like His, shall be identical essentially with our present bodies, and yet “spiritual bodies” (1Co_15:42-44). Our “hope” is, that Christ, by His rising from the dead, hath obtained the power, and is become the pattern, of our resurrection (Mic_2:13).
Who shall change our vile body – compare the notes at 1 Cor. 15: The original words, which are rendered here as “vile body,” properly mean “the body of humiliation;” that is, our humble body. It refers to the body as it is in its present state, as subject to infirmities, disease, and death. It is different far from what it was when man was created, and from what it will be in the future world. Paul says that it is one of the objects of the Christian hope and expectation, that this body, so subject to infirmities and sicknesses, will be changed.
That it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body – Greek, “The body Of his glory;” that is, the body which he has in his glorified state. What change the body of the Redeemer underwent when he ascended to heaven, we are not informed – nor do we know what is the nature, size, appearance, or form of the body which he now has. It is certain that it is adapted to the glorious world where he dwells; that it has none of the infirmities to which it was liable when here; that it is not subject; as here, to pain or death; that it is not sustained in the same manner. The body of Christ in heaven is of the same nature as the bodies of the saints will be in the resurrection, and which the apostle calls “spiritual bodies,” (notes, 1Co_15:44); and it is doubtless accompanied with all the circumstances of splendor and glory which are appropriate to the Son of God. The idea here is, that it is the object of the desire and anticipation of the Christian, to be made just like Christ in all things. He desires to resemble him in moral character here, and to be like him in heaven. Nothing else will satisfy him but such conformity to the Son of God; and when he shall resemble him in all things, the wishes of his soul will all be met and fulfilled.
According to the working … – That is, such a change demands the exertion of vast power. No creature can do it. But there is One who has power entrusted to him over all things, and he can effect this great transformation in the bodies of people; compare 1Co_15:26-27. He can mould the mind and the heart to conformity to his own image, and thus also he can transform the body so that it shall resemble his. Everything he can make subject to his will. (Mat_28:18, note; Joh_17:2, note.) And he that has this power can change our humbled and debased bodies, so that they shall put on the glorious appearance and form of that of the Son of God himself. What a contrast between our bodies here – frail, feeble, subject to sickness, decay, and corruption – and the body as it will be in heaven! And what a glorious prospect awaits the weak and dying believer, in the future world!
Remarks On Philippians 3
1. It is a privilege of the Christian to rejoice; Phi_3:1. He has more sources of real joy than any other persons; see 1Th_5:16. He has a Saviour in whom he may always find peace; a God whose character he can always contemplate with pleasure a heaven to look forward to where there is nothing but happiness; a Bible that is full of precious promises, and at all times the opportunity of prayer, in which he may roll all Iris sorrows on the arms of an unchanging friend. If there is anyone on earth who ought to be happy, it is the Christian.
2. The Christian should so live as to leave on others the impression that religion produces happiness. In our contact with our friends, we should show them that religion does not cause sadness or gloom, sourness or misanthropy, but that it produces cheerfulness, contentment, and peace. This may be shown by the countenance, and by the whole demeanour – by a calm brow, and a benignant eye, and by a cheerful aspect. The internal peace of the soul should be evinced by every proper external expression. A Christian may thus be always doing good – for he is always doing good who leaves the impression on others that religion makes its possessors happy.
3. The nature of religion is almost always mistaken by the world. They suppose that it makes its possessors melancholy and sad. The reason is, not that they are told so by those who are religious, and not that even they can see anything in religion to produce misery, but because they have fixed their affections on certain things which they suppose to be essential to happiness, and which they suppose religion would require them to give up without substituting anything in their place. But never was there a greater mistake. Let them go and ask Christians, and they will obtain but one answer from them. It is, that they never knew what true happiness was until they found it in the Saviour. This question may be proposed to a Christian of any denomination, or in any land, and the answer will be uniformly the same. Why is it, then, that the mass of persons regard religion as adapted only to make them unhappy? Why will they not take the testimony of their friends in the case, and believe those whom they would believe on any other subject, when they declare that it is only true religion that ever gives them solid peace?
4. We cannot depend on any external advantages of birth or blood for salvation; Phi_3:4-6. Few or no persons have as much in this respect to rely on as Paul had. Indeed, if salvation were to be obtained at all by such external advantages, it is impossible to conceive that more could have been united in one case than there was in his. He had not only the advantage of having been born a Hebrew; of having been early trained in the Jewish religion; of being instructed in the ablest manner, but also the advantage of entire blamelessness in his moral deportment. He had showed in every way possible that he was heartily attached to the religion of his fathers, and he began life with a zeal in the cause which seemed to justify the warmest expectations of his friends. But all this was renounced, when he came to see the true method of salvation, and saw the better way by which eternal life is to be obtained.
And if Paul could not depend on this, we cannot safely do it. It will not save us that we have been born in the church; that we have had pious parents; that we were early baptized and consecrated to God; that we were trained in the Sunday school. Nor will it save us that we attend regularly on the place of worship, or that we are amiable, correct, honest, and upright in our lives. We can no more depend on these things than Saul of Tarsus could, and if all his eminent advantages failed to give him a solid ground of hope, our advantages will be equally vain in regard to our salvation. It almost seems as if God designed in the case of Saul of Tarsus, that there should be one instance where every possible external advantage for salvation should be found, and there should be everything that people ever could rely on in moral character, in order to show that no such things could be sufficient to save the soul. All these may exist, and yet there may not be a particle of love to God, and the heart may be full of selfishness, pride, and ambition, as it was in his case.
5. Religion demands humility; Phi_3:7-8. It requires us to renounce all dependence on our own merits, and to rely simply on the merits of another – the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are ever saved, we must be brought to esteem all the advantages which birth and blood and our own righteousness can bestow as worthless, and even vile, in the matter of justification. We shall not despise these things in themselves, nor shall we consider that vice is as desirable as virtue, nor that a bad temper is to be sought rather than an amiable disposition, nor that dishonesty is as commendable as honesty; but we shall feel that in comparison with the merits of the Redeemer all these are worthless. But the mind is not brought to this condition without great humiliation. Nothing but the power of God can bring a proud and haughty and self-righteous sinner to this state, where he is willing to renounce all dependence on his own merits, and to be saved in the same way as the vilest of the species.
6. Let us seek to obtain an interest in the righteousness of the Redeemer; Phi_3:9. Our own righteousness cannot save us. But in him there is enough. There is all that we want, and if we have that righteousness which is by faith, we have all that is needful to render us accepted with God, and to prepare us for heaven. When there is such a way of salvation – so easy, so free, so glorious, so ample for all, how unwise is anyone to rest on his own works, and to expect to be saved by what he has done! The highest honor of man is to be saved by the merits of the Son of God, and he has reached the most elevated rank in the human condition who has the most certain hope of salvation through him.
7. There is enough to be gained to excite us to the utmost diligence and effort in the Christian life; Phi_3:10-14. If people can be excited to effort by the prospect of an earthly crown in a race or a game, how much more should we be urged forward by the prospect of the eternal prize! To seek to know the Redeemer; to be raised up from the degradation of sin to have part in the resurrection of the just: to obtain the prize of the high calling in heaven – to be made everlastingly happy and glorious there – what object was ever placed before the mind like this? What ardor should it excite that we may gain it! Surely, the hope of obtaining such a prize as is before the Christian, should call forth all our powers. The struggle will not be long. The race will soon be won. The victory will be glorious; the defeat would be overwhelming and awful. No one need fear that he can put forth too much effort to obtain the prize. It is worth every exertion, and we should never relax our efforts, or give over in despair.
8. Let us, like Paul, ever cherish an humble sense of our attainments in religion; Phi_3:12-13. If Paul had not reached the point of perfection, it is not to be presumed that we have; if he could not say that he had “attained,” it is presumption in us to suppose that we have, if he had occasion for humiliation, we have more; if he felt that he was far short of the object which he sought, and was pressed down with the consciousness of imperfection, such a feeling becomes us also. Yet let us not sink down in despondency and inaction. Like him, let us strain every nerve that we may overcome our imperfections and win the prize. That prize is before us. It is glorious. We may be sensible that we, as yet, have not reached it, but if we will strive to obtain it, it will soon be certainly ours. We may feel that we are far distant from it now in the degree of our attainments, but we are not far from it in fact. It will be but a short period before the Christian will lay hold on that immortal crown, and before his brow will be encircled with the diadem of glory. For the race of life, whether we win or lose, is soon run; and when a Christian begins a day, he knows not but he may end it in heaven; when he lies down on his bed at night, he knows not but he may awake with the “prize” in his hand, and with the diadem of glory sparkling on his brow.
9. Our thoughts should be much in heaven; Phi_3:20. Our home is there, our citizenship is there. Here we are strangers and pilgrims. We are away from home, in a cold and unfriendly world. Our great interests are in the skies; our eternal dwelling is to be there; our best friends are already there. There is our glorious Saviour with a body adapted to those pure abodes, and there are many whom we have loved on earth already with him. They are happy now, and we should not love them less because they are in heaven. Since, therefore, our great interests are there, and our best friends there; and since we ourselves are citizens of that heavenly world, our best affections should be there.
10. We look for the Saviour; Phi_3:20-21. He will return to our world. He will change our vile bodies, and make them like his own glorious body And since this is so, let us:
(a) bear with patience the trials and infirmities to which our bodies here are subject. These trials will be short, and we may well bear them for a few days, knowing that soon all pain will cease, and that all that is humiliating in the body will be exchanged for glory.
(b) Let us not think too highly or too much of our bodies here. They may be now beautiful and comely, but they are “vile” and degraded, compared with what they will soon be. They are subject to infirmity and to numerous pains and sicknesses. Soon the most beautiful body may become loathsome to our best friends. Soon, too offensive to be looked upon, it will be hidden in the grave. Why then should we seek to pamper and adorn these mortal frames? Why live only to decorate them? Why should we idolize a mass of moulded and animated clay? Yet,
(c) let us learn to honor the body in a true sense. It is soon to be changed. It will be made like the glorified body of Christ. Yes, this frail, diseased, corruptible, and humbled body; this body, that is soon to be laid in the grave, and to return to the dust, is soon to put on a new form, and to be clothed with immortality. It will be what the body of Christ now is – glorious and immortal. What a change! Christian, go and look on the creeping caterpillar, and see it changed to the happy and gilded butterfly – yesterday, a crawling and offensive insect; today, with gaudy colors an inhabitant of the air, and a dweller amidst flowers; and see an image of what thy body shall be, and of the mighty transformation which thou wilt soon undergo. See the change from the cold death of winter to the fragrance and life of spring, and behold an image of the change which thou thyself wilt ere long experience and a proof that some such change awaits thee.
11. Let us look for the coming of the Lord; Phi_3:21. All that we hope for depends on his reappearing. Our day of triumph and of the fulness of our joy is to be when he shall return. Then we shall be raised from the grave; then our vile bodies shall be changed; then we shall be acknowledged as his friends; then we shall go to be forever with him. The earth is not our home; nor is the grave to he our everlasting bed of rest. Our home is heaven – and the Saviour will come, that he may raise us up to that blessed abode. And who knows when he may appear? He himself commanded us to be ready, for he said he would come at an hour when we think not. We should so desire his coming, that the hours of his delay would seem to be heavy and long and should so live that we can breathe forth with sincerity, at all times, the fervent prayer of the beloved disciple, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly;” Rev_22:20.