Philippians 3 Commentary

v.1 “There is a certain indestructibility in Christian joy; and it is so, because Christian joy is in the Lord.  Its basis is that the Christian lives forever in the presence of Jesus Christ.  He can lose all things, and he can lose all people, but he can never lose Christ.  And, therefore, even in circumstances where joy would seem to be impossible and there seem to be nothing but pain and discomfort, Christian joy remains, because not all the threats and terrors and discomforts of life can separate the Christian from the love of God in Christ Jesus his Lord (Romans 8:35-39).”[1]

vv. 2-3 “It was the teaching of Paul that we are saved by grace alone, that salvation is the free gift of God, that we can never earn it but can only humbly and adoringly accept what God has offered to us; and, further, that the offer of God is to all men of all nations and that none is excluded.  It was the teaching of these Jews that, if a man wished to be saved, he must earn credit in the sight of God by countless deeds of the law; and, further that salvation belonged to the Jews and to no one else”[2]

“Physical circumcision was a visible mark that identified those who bore it as members of Israel, God’s chosen people (Gen 17).  At times, however, the Israelites placed such confidence in possession of the physical mark itself that they felt their election was secure even if their hearts strayed after other gods.  In these instances, the writers of the Old Testament reminded them that the physical rite should be symbolic of a deeper commitment.”[3]

vv. 4-6 “So Paul sets out his credentials, not in order to boast but to show that he had enjoyed every privilege which a Jew could enjoy and had risen to every attainment to which a Jew could rise.  He knew what it was to be a Jew in the highest sense of the term, and had deliberately abandoned it all for the sake of Jesus Christ.”[4]

vv. 7-9 “The great basic problem of life is to find fellowship with God and to be at peace and in friendship with him.  The way to that fellowship is through righteousness, through the kind of life and spirit and attitude to himself which God desires.  Because of that, righteousness nearly always for Paul has the meaning of a right relationship with God […] So, then, Paul is saying, ‘I found the Law and all its ways of no more use than the refuse thrown on the garbage heap to help me to get into a right relationship with God…’  Paul had discovered that a right relationship with God is based not on Law but on faith in Jesus Christ.  It is not achieved by any man but given by God; not won by works but accepted in trust.”[5]

“By saying that he considers everything to be a loss, Paul does not mean that his Jewish upbringing, the law, and ‘everything’ else were evil, but that his attitude toward them was evil.  At his conversion, he had to drop the notion that he and God were partners in the project of justification and to accept the means for righteousness that God alone provided”[6]

vv. 10-11 “It is important to note the verb which [Paul] uses for to know.  It is part of the verb ginoskein, which almost always indicated personal knowledge.  It is not simply intellectual knowledge, the knowledge of certain facts or even principles.  It is the personal experience of another person […] This verb indicates the most intimate knowledge of another person.  It is not Paul’s aim to know about Christ, but personally to know him.”[7]

vv. 12-14 “When Paul uses the word [‘perfect’] in verse 12, he is saying that he is not by any means a complete Christian but is forever pressing on.  Then he uses two vivid pictures.  He says that he is trying to grasp that for which he has been grasped by Christ […] Every man is grasped by Christ for some purpose; and therefore, every man should all his life press on so that he may grasp that purpose for which Christ grasped him.

To that end Paul says two things.  He is forgetting the things which are behind.  That is to say, he will never glory in any of his achievements or use them as an excuse for relaxation.  In effect Paul is saying that the Christian must forget all that he has done and remember only what he has still to do.  In the Christian life there is no room for a person who desires to rest upon his laurels.  He is also reaching out for the things which are in front.  The word he uses for reaching out (epekteinomenos) is very vivid and is used of a racer going hard for the tape.  It describes him with eyes for nothing but the goal.  It describes him with eyes flat out for the finish.”[8]

vv. 15-16 “In Philippians 3:15, then, maturity is a matter of refusing to focus on the spiritual attainments of the past and of realizing how much effort must be expended on the course that lies ahead.”[9]

vv. 17-21 “Whoever they were, Paul reminds them of one great truth; ‘Our citizenship,’ he says, ‘is in heaven.’  Here was a picture the Philippians could understand.  Philippi was a Roman colony […] the great characteristic of these colonies was that, wherever they were, they remained fragments of Rome […] Paul says to the Philippians, ‘Just as Roman colonists never forget that they belong to Rome, you must never forget that you are citizens of heaven; and your conduct must match your citizenship.’”[10]

“As we are just now, our bodies are subject to change and decay, illness and death, the bodies of a state of humiliation compared with the glorious state of the Risen Christ; but the day will come when we will lay aside this mortal body which we now possess and become like Jesus Christ himself.  The hope of the Christian is that the day will come when his humanity will be changed into nothing less that the divinity of Christ, and when the necessary lowliness of mortality will be changed into the essential splendor of deathless life.”[11]


[1]William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, The Daily Bible Study Series (Louisville, KY: The Westminster Press, 1975) 51.

[2] Ibid., 53.

[3] Frank E. Thielman, Philippians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995) 167.

[4] William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, The Daily Bible Study Series (Louisville, KY: The Westminster Press, 1975) 57.

[5] Ibid., 62-63.

[6] Frank E. Thielman, Philippians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995) 170.

[7] William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, The Daily Bible Study Series (Louisville, KY: The Westminster Press, 1975) 63.

[8] Ibid., 66.

[9] Frank E. Thielman, Philippians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995) 197.

[10] William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, The Daily Bible Study Series (Louisville, KY: The Westminster Press, 1975) 69.

[11] Ibid.

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One Response to “Philippians 3 Commentary”

  1. Gift Munsaka says:

    i want these commentary on philippians,commentary on the whole of Old
    testament,the whole ot New Testament,Beble bavkground commentary on Old and New testament and other theological books like christian theology and Greek books.i am a student at Trans-Africa Theological collage in Zambia Africa. tell me what i should do.God bless you.

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