Notes on Chapter 3

3:1    To write the same things to you (1:18, 25; 2:17-18; 3:1; 4:4, 10)

3:2    dogs, concision    Here Paul's tone is very similar to his tone in Gal. 5:12. Compare the context there with the context here. What parallels can you cite between Galatians 4-5 and Phil. 3?

3:3    The true circumcision is not fleshly. Compare Rom. 2:28-29. Paul glories in Christ, not in the flesh, Compare Gal. 6:12-13.

3:4     Who had as much right as anyone to have confidence in the flesh?

Compare 2 Cor. 11:21-22.

3:5    circumcised the eighth day    Compare Gen. 17:12.

    of the stock of Israel, i.e., not a proselyte.

    of the tribe of Benjamin    Paul could specify the very tribe of his ancestry. Paul was not of one of those tribes which had rebelled against the house of David.

    a Hebrew of Hebrews   i.e., a Jew who adhered to his ethnic culture. Cf. Acts 6:1. (While Paul could say such things as in 1 Cor. 9:21 after his conversion, in Phil. 3, he contrasts the advantage he has in Christ (3:7ff) with what advantage he had otherwise (3:4-6). Hence it is particularly his life before conversion that is characterized in vss. 4-6.

    as touching the law, a Pharisee    Cf. Acts 26:5.

3:8    refuse     Greek: σκύβαλα, i.e., leavings, or dung. Such is all that Paul's fleshly glories amounted to.

3:9    A true righteousness through the law would have been one's own doing. Cf. Rom. 4:1-6. But Paul's righteousness was not his own through the law, but was of God through faith in Christ. Cf. Gal. 2:16, 21, 3:11.

3:10    power of his resurrection is the power over death. Cf. Heb. 2:14, Jn. 10:18. Satan had the power to bring death upon us through sin, but in Jesus, we have the power over death.

    fellowship of his sufferings pertains to the theme of this letter.

    becoming conformed unto his death    Cf. Rom. 6:5-11.

3:11    attain unto the resurrection of the dead    This is what Paul seeks to gain in Christ.

3:12    Not that I have already obtained or am already made perfect   i.e., not that I have already reached my goal of overcoming death - rather I must press on to that goal. On the word "perfect", see notes on 1:6. Also compare with this passage 2 Tim. 2:18.

3:13    I count not myself to have laid hold means the same thing as "not that I have already obtained or am already made perfect."

    forgetting the things that are behind i.e., the things of the flesh which he has counted as skubala (3:5-7). Paul's example is one to be followed (cf. Gal. 4:9, 5:1).

    stretching forward to things that are before - the things in Christ. Cf. Gal. 6:14.

3:14    The goal Paul presses on toward is in Christ, not in the law.

3:15    Paul has spoken of being perfect (complete) in one sense which is not yet true of Christians and will not be accomplished until the resurrection (1:6, 3:12). Now however, he speaks to those who are perfect or complete in the sense of being mature Christians. Compare Heb. 5:14.

3:16    Cf. Gal. 6:16.


    "Only whereunto we have attained, by that same rule let us walk" (Phil. 3:16). Attempting to establish a basis for confidence in one's salvation, and not being content to simply accept the assurances of God without further explanation, several have cited this passage as evidence that one who sins out of a lack of knowledge of God's will is acceptable to God as long as he is at least obedient with respect to what he does know about God's will. It is argued that the Christian grows, and therefore is at different levels of knowledge and understanding at various points. This passage, it is urged, tells us that as long as we walk according to whatever level of knowledge and understanding we have attained, we are acceptable to God, even though we may be living in sin, for example, adultery, ignorant that such is sin. Briefly, we intend to show that such a use of Phil. 3:16 is a misuse, taking the passage out of its context.

    The context is a rebuke of the Judaizers, and an exhortation to "press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ," not in the law of Moses. The thoughts expressed in Philippians 3 are very similar to those expressed in Paul's epistle to the Galatians. And it is significant that in Galatians, we find a phrase similar to the one in Phil. 3:16: "And as many as shall walk by this rule peace be upon them," (Gal. 6:16). Note the parallels between the two contexts:

Paul's strong language in rebuking Judaizers Gal. 5:12 Phil. 3:2
no confidence or glory in the flesh, rather in Christ Gal. 6:12-13 Phil. 3:2-3
righteousness not of the law, but of God in Christ Gal. 2:16,21; 3:11 Phil. 3:9
don't turn back to the law Gal. 4:9; 5:1 Phil. 3:13
I glory in / press on to Christ Gal. 6:14 Phil. 3:14
walk by this same rule (Christ, as opposed to the Law) Gal. 6:16 Phil. 3:16

    When Paul speaks of some who might be "in anything...otherwise minded," (Phil. 3:15) he has reference to the same thing as when he wrote to the Galatians. "I have confidence...that ye will be none otherwise minded," (Gal. 5:10), i.e., otherwise minded refers to those who are minded to glory in the law, rather than in Christ. Then that to which "we have attained" is Jesus Christ, not whatever level of understanding we currently have. If it were the latter, we would have Paul's fierce rebuke of the Judaizers (Phil. 3:2) followed by a statement which would imply that a Judaizer who was performing to his current level of understanding was acceptable. If he just didn't understand the high calling of God in Christ Jesus yet, his glorying in the law and circumcision, his confidence in the flesh, et al., would not be held against him. Such an interpretation just doesn't fit the context.

    Note the contrast in Phil. 3:13: "forgetting the things which are behind" - for example, having been "circumcised the eighth day. of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee,...Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ." On the other hand, Paul was "stretching forward to the things which are before," - for example: "I press on toward the goal unto the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The things behind were the things of the law. The things before are the things in Christ Jesus.    JTS

Notes on Chapter 2