Philippians 3

Philippians 3:1

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

(a) Brethren. In the New Testament, the word brethren typically refers to Christian brothers and sisters (see entry for Heb. 2:11).

(b) A safeguard for you. Many of Paul’s letters contain warnings: “Watch out for those who put obstacles in your way contrary to what you have been taught” (Rom. 16:17). “See that no one takes you captive through philosophy which depends on men rather than Christ” (Col. 2:8). “If anyone preaches a different gospel, let him be cursed” (Gal. 1:8). “Charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3).

In addition to preaching the good news, Paul warned his readers about false teachings that cause us to drift from faith in Jesus and lead us down the path of dead works. The issue facing the Philippians was the old covenant law of circumcision.

Philippians 3:2

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;

(a) Beware of the dogs. Paul warned the Ephesians to beware savage wolves and he warned the Philippians to beware of Judaizing dogs. Dog was a derogatory term normally applied to the Gentiles (Matt. 7:6, 15:26). Here Paul uses the term to describe snarling men bearing circumcision knives.

(b) Evil workers. We tend to think of evil workers as people who do bad things, but in scripture an evil worker or evildoer is anyone who promotes unbelief in the finished work of the cross.

(c) The false circumcision done with knives can be contrasted with the true circumcision of the heart done by the Spirit (Rom. 2:29).

Further reading: “Beware the dogs of law

Philippians 3:3

for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,

No confidence in the flesh. Not trusting in our own performance or pedigree. A religious Jew might be tempted to boast of his ancestors (“a Hebrew of Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin”) and his law-keeping performance (“as to the Law, a Pharisee”).

Philippians 3:4

although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:

(a) Confidence even in the flesh. Trusting in our own performance or pedigree.

(b) If anyone thought they had good reasons for trusting in their performance or pedigree, Paul had better reasons.

(c) I far more. If anyone had reason to brag about his accomplishments it was Paul (see next verse).

A self-righteous man justifies himself by comparing himself with others. “Thank God I’m not like other men” (Luke 18:11). A self-righteous man is proud of his reputation (“a persecutor of the church”), pedigree (“a Hebrew of Hebrews”), and performance (“blameless in the law”). See entry for Self-righteousness.

Philippians 3:5

circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;

(a) A Pharisee. Paul knew how to boast like the Pharisee he once was.

The Pharisees had high opinions of themselves because they were more devout and law-abiding than others. If our righteousness was based on the comparative performance of others, the Pharisees would have been the most righteous people around. But Jesus was not impressed (see entry for Luke 18:9), and neither was Paul (see Php. 3:7).

(b) The Law. Saul the Pharisee zealously obeyed the law of Moses, but Paul the apostle delighted in the law or word of God. He traded the old way of the written code for the new way of the Spirit (see entry for Rom. 7:22).

Philippians 3:6

as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

(a) Righteousness which is in the Law. The kind of righteousness that comes by observing the law is not true righteousness because it is not based on faith (Gal. 3:11-12). The righteousness which is in the law can be distinguished from the righteousness which is by faith (Rom. 4:13, 9:30, 10:6).

(b) Found blameless. The self-righteous man boasts about his law-keeping and blamelessness. “I have kept the commands of God from my youth” (Luke 18:21). He does not realize that he is an idolater glorifying in himself and a law-breaker to boot.

Philippians 3:9

and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

(a) A righteousness of my own. The law is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7:12), but no one was ever made righteous by keeping it (Rom. 3:20, 9:31, Gal. 2:21, 3:21). All of us fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). None of us is righteous on our own merits (Rom. 3:10).

(b) The righteousness which comes from God. The gospel reveals another kind of righteousness which comes from God and is received by faith (Rom. 1:17, 3:21-22, 26, 4:13, 9:30, 10:6, 10, Gal. 3:6, 11, Heb. 11:7, 2 Pet. 1:1). This divine righteousness is sometimes referred to as “the righteousness of faith” or faith righteousness (Rom. 4:11,13, 9:30, 10:6, Heb. 11:7).

See entry for Righteousness.

(c) On the basis of faith. All of God’s blessings, including forgiveness, salvation, righteousness and sanctification, come to us freely by grace and are received by faith. Faith does not compel God to forgive us or sanctify us. But faith is the conduit through which grace flows. See entry for Eph. 2:8.

Philippians 3:10

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

Being conformed to His death. Paul sensed that his life would probably end in martyrdom and he saw this as a fitting conclusion to his ministry.

Philippians 3:13

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

(a) Forgetting what lies behind. Don’t let the past distract you from your glorious future.

Paul had been a law-loving Hebrew of Hebrews and a persecutor of the early church (Php. 3:5, 6). Then he had been a church-planter and an epistle-writer. But Paul wasted little energy reviewing past accomplishments and failures. He had no time for trophies and regrets. His focus was the future.

(b) Reaching forward to what lies ahead. Eternity with Jesus awaits.

Philippians 3:14

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

(a) The prize is Jesus and finally seeing him face to face.

Paul was not unsure of his salvation. He wanted to see Jesus, to embrace him and be embraced by him (see Php. 3:8–9 in the Message Bible). Every good thing Paul had done was done in response to the love of Christ. Paul had met Jesus on the Road to Damascus, but now he was about to meet him face to face and he was excited.

(b) The upward call or highest calling of God is for all to come home and find our resting place in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:19

whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.

(a) Whose end is destruction. Those who sow to the flesh reap corruption and death. See entry for Rom. 8:13.

(b) Set their minds on earthly things. Earthly or worldly concerns are those thing which are valued in the world such as human effort, reputation and accomplishments.

Philippians 3:20

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;

(a) Our citizenship is in heaven. Citizens of heaven enjoy certain privileges such as the assurance that wherever they go, Jesus will never leave or forsake them (Heb. 13:5).

Those who have been born again are brand new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15), members of a new family and a new race and citizens of another kingdom (Eph. 2:19).

(b) We eagerly wait. In his eschatological parables Jesus told stories of masters, noblemen, and bridegrooms being gone “a long time” (Matt. 24:48, 25:5, 25:19). Since Jesus has been gone a long time, he exhorts us to “be like servants waiting for their master” (Luke 12:36). The need to wait is echoed by the epistle writers. “Wait eagerly for our adoption as sons” (Rom 8:23); “We hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Rom 8:25); “We eagerly await a Savior” (Php. 3:20); “Be patient brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits…” (Jas. 5:7); “Wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (Jude 1:21).

Jesus and every New Testament writer spoke of the need to wait patiently and eagerly for the Lord’s return. We are to be watchful and ready, but we are not to put life on hold. Plant trees and raise families, and do whatever God put you on this earth to do. Invest, build, dig deep and go long. Let your light shine so others may praise your Father in heaven.

Philippians 3:21

who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

(a) Our humble state. Our earthly bodies are lowly or humble. They are a burden that cause us to groan (2 Cor. 5:4). They are the battleground where we experience the temptation to sin and where we suffer all the afflictions of a fallen world from tooth decay to arthritis.

Further reading: “Why do people still die?

(b) The body of His glory. Our resurrection bodies will be as glorious as Christ’s body.

One day we shall be clothed with glorious bodies that will be strikingly beautiful, ageless and immortal (1 Cor. 15:52–53).

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