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Study Notes on Philippians 3

Philippians 3

1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

"Finally" he still has two more chapters to go but he's now getting to his primary point or original intent of sending this letter. Once again we see the word rejoice as he sits in prison.

The write the same things to them likely refers to what Paul had previously taught them in person before but now is writing it down. It is not bothersome to him at all to do this, but beneficial to the church. It will contribute to their security and firmness in the faith.

What we see in the next few verses are warnings against false teachers. This is an important message frequently seen in the New Testament.

2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

These three labels refer to the same group which is clearly the Jews. The Jews called the Gentiles "dogs" but here Paul turns it around as referring to the unbelieving Jews who have ceased to be the true Israel.

Paul gives an insult to the Jews who took such pride in their physical circumcision, by referring to them as the “concision”, meaning “the cutters”. But true circumcision is of the heart, and BELIEVERS are the people of God today!

Romans 2:29, But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

"The word rendered “concision” means properly a cutting off, a mutilation. It is used here contemptuously for the Jewish circumcision in contrast with the true circumcision." - Albert Barnes

3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

The true circumcision is of the heart and belongs to genuine Christians, the spiritual seed of Abraham.

We have no confidence in the flesh, meaning our heritage, or any physical marks (like circumcision), or any credentials or accomplishments, are irrelevant. Paul expands on this point in the following several verses.

John 4:24, God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

The judaizers boasted about their pedigree and alleged authority in matters of faith in attempting to persuade believers away from the sufficiency of Christ, but Paul shows that counts for nothing.

If anyone could have boasted in the flesh, Paul could have. He shows why in verses 5-6.

2 Corinthians 11:22, Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.

5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

Paul provides his credentials just to say they count for nothing. The tribe of Benjamin was special because they had remained with Judah in the southern kingdom, as well as providing the first king of Israel.

Titus 3:9, But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

He had essentially reached the highest levels he could reach as a Jew and was exceedingly passionate about his religion. Blameless concerning the law means nobody could point out fault with him.

Galatians 1:13-14, For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

All those things he previously considered to be advantageous for him, he lumps together in one whole and counts them loss and tossed aside.

He used to regard these outward privileges, one by one, as so many items of gain; now he has learned to regard them, all in the aggregate, as so much loss because of Christ. They were loss because confidence in outward things tends to keep the soul from Christ. - TPC

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

He counts all things as loss, not just the things mentioned but everything that exists is worthless compared to knowing Christ. And for his service to Christ he has lost all worldly things he had and considers all those things as garbage.

9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Nothing to do with Paul's own merits or attempts at righteousness, but the true righteousness which of God which comes only by faith.

Romans 10:3, For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Paul desires an intimate close knowledge, a knowledge leading to sanctification which is his thrust of thought through the next few verses. Paul wants to know Christ so closely that he essentially desires to walk in His shoes even regarding the sufferings that Jesus endured.

He wants to live as Christ did and even die as He did. As Christ was obedient to the Father (see Philippians 2:8), Paul desires to be conformed to Christ in every way including martyrdom.

Luke 22:42, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

There are numerous opinions on the proper understanding of this verse, but one thing it cannot mean is that Paul had doubts about being part of the general resurrection of believers' bodies. Per 1 Corinthians 15 (especially 42-44, 51-53) Paul makes it clear that "we will all" be changed, including himself amongst the troubled church at Corinth with their numerous sin problems yet having eternal salvation (also see Acts 24:15).

Considering the context of this passage, two options (though not mutually exclusive) seem most likely for this verse.

  1. Since Paul is reaching for perfection, he is showing his desire (which we all should have) to have more that just being part of the resurrection, but to receive rewards with it as well. He hopes to hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" and be part of the "better resurrection" (see Hebrews 11:35).

  2. Or, with special consideration to the next two verses, Paul desires to attain to the perfection that will only be fully realized at the resurrection. He desired his complete sanctification and wasn't satisfied (in a good way) with just being saved from hell.

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

There was no perfectionism for Paul. Yet that is what he pursues. He desires to lay hold of what Christ has set before him and to glorify him with his whole life. See verse 14 below.

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Incredible single-mindedness and urgency in Paul's desire to live his life for God. He is not at where he would like to be and isn't resting on what he's done so far whether good or bad. See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

As many as would be perfect (complete, mature, sanctified), should have the same zealous attitude Paul just described.

If you have some other ideas, God will correct you. If you think you are already perfect, God will show you that you're wrong. There's a connection between right doctrine and right living.

John 7:17, If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

Regardless of what level of attainment each of you have reached in the church at Philippi, let us walk together on the same path.

Romans 12:10, Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another

17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

In other words, live as Paul does in his pursuit of perfection for the glory of the Lord.

In Romans 16:17 we read, Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Here we read to also mark those that worth emulating and following. There are countless great pastors out there who live godly separated lives that we are to look up to as examples.

1 Corinthians 11:1, Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

Speaking here of false teachers, we see both great sympathy for them, as well as a strong rebuke at their wicked ways. Their god is their belly, meaning their self satisfaction. They are self-centered. They glory in their shame, just like the "pride" perversion that we see so often; they take glory in their shameful ways.

20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Paul refers back to 3:17, essentially saying "Follow us, not those enemies of the cross. For our citizenship is in heaven; they mind earthly things and walk toward hell." Jesus will be coming down from Heaven! Let's act like the citizens we are!

We are current citizens of Heaven as saved people, and that is where we will be at the moment of our death.

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Our humble simple bodies will be changed and glorified at the coming of the Lord. We will no longer have a frail body prone to sickness and death. Such things will be subdued by Christ at His coming.


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