Bible Commentary

Philippians 3

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Philippians 3)

Verse 1

[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.

The same things — Which you have heard before.

Verse 2

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

Beware of dogs — Unclean, unholy, rapacious men. The title which the Jews usually gave the gentiles, he returns upon themselves.

The concision — Circumcision being now ceased, the apostle will not call them the circumcision, but coins a term on purpose, taken from a Greek word used by the LXX, Leviticus 21:5, for such a cutting as God had forbidden.

Verse 3

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

For we — Christians. Are the only true circumcision - The people now in covenant with God.

Who worship God in spirit — Not barely in the letter, but with the spiritual worship of inward holiness.

And glory in Christ Jesus — As the only cause of all our blessings.

And have no confidence in the flesh — In any outward advantage or prerogative.

Verse 4

[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:

Though I — He subjoins this in the singular number, because the Philippians could not say thus.

Verse 5

[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;

Circumcised the eighth day — Not at ripe age, as a proselyte.

Of the tribe of Benjamin — Sprung from the wife, not the handmaid.

An Hebrew of Hebrews — By both my parents; in everything, nation, religion, language.

Touching the law, a pharisee — One of that sect who most accurately observe it.

Verse 6

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

Having such a zeal for it as to persecute to the death those who did not observe it. Touching the righteousness which is described and enjoined by the Law - That is, external observances, blameless.

Verse 7

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

But all these things, which I then accounted gain, which were once my confidence, my glory, and joy, those, ever since I have believed, I have accounted loss, nothing worth in comparison of Christ.

Verse 8

[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,

Yea, I still account both all these and all things else to be mere loss, compared to the inward, experimental knowledge of Christ, as my Lord, as my prophet, priest, and king, as teaching me wisdom, atoning for my sins, and reigning in my heart. To refer this to justification only, is miserably to pervert the whole scope of the words. They manifestly relate to sanctification also; yea, to that chiefly. For whom I have actually suffered the loss of all things - Which the world loves, esteems, or admires; of which I am so far from repenting, that I still account them but dung - The discourse rises. Loss is sustained with patience, but dung is cast away with abhorrence. The Greek word signifies any, the vilest refuse of things, the dross of metals, the dregs of liquors, the excrements of animals, the most worthless scraps of meat, the basest offals, fit only for dogs.

That I may gain Christ — He that loses all things, not excepting himself, gains Christ, and is gained by Christ. And still there is more; which even St. Paul speaks of his having not yet gained.

Verse 9

[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:

And be found by God ingrafted in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law - That merely outward righteousness prescribed by the law, and performed by my own strength. But that inward righteousness which is through faith - Which can flow from no other fountain.

The righteousness which is from God — From his almighty Spirit, not by my own strength, but by faith alone. Here also the apostle is far from speaking of justification only.

Verse 10

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

The knowledge of Christ, mentioned in the eighth verse, is here more largely explained.

That I may know him — As my complete Saviour.

And the power of his resurrection — Raising me from the death of sin, into all the life of love.

And the fellowship of his sufferings — Being crucified with him.

And made conformable to his death — So as to be dead to all things here below.

Verse 11

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

The resurrection of the dead — That is, the resurrection to glory.

Verse 12

[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.

Not that I have already attained — The prize. He here enters on a new set of metaphors, taken from a race. But observe how, in the utmost fervour, he retains his sobriety of spirit.

Or am already perfected — There is a difference between one that is perfect, and one that is perfected. The one is fitted for the race, Philippians 3:15; the other, ready to receive the prize.

But I pursue, if I may apprehend that — Perfect holiness, preparatory to glory. For, in order to which I was apprehended by Christ Jesus - Appearing to me in the way, Acts 26:14. The speaking conditionally both here and in the preceding verse, implies no uncertainty, but only the difficulty of attaining.

Verse 13

[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,

I do not account myself to have apprehended this already; to be already possessed of perfect holiness.

Verse 14

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

Forgetting the things that are behind — Even that part of the race which is already run.

And reaching forth unto — Literally, stretched out over the things that are before - Pursuing with the whole bent and vigour of my soul, perfect holiness and eternal glory.

In Christ Jesus — The author and finisher of every good thing.

Verse 15

[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.

Let us, as many as are perfect — Fit for the race, strong in faith; so it means here.

Be thus minded — Apply wholly to this one thing.

And if in anything ye — Who are not perfect, who are weak in faith.

Be otherwise minded — Pursuing other things. God, if ye desire it, shall reveal even this unto you - Will convince you of it.

Verse 16

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

But let us take care not to lose the ground we have already gained. Let us walk by the same rule we have done hitherto.

Verse 17

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

Mark them — For your imitation.

Verse 18

[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:

Weeping — As he wrote.

Enemies of the cross of Christ — Such are all cowardly, all shamefaced, all delicate Christians.

Verse 19

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

Whose end is destruction — This is placed in the front, that what follows may be read with the greater horror.

Whose god is their belly — Whose supreme happiness lies in gratifying their sensual appetites.

Who mind — Relish, desire, seek, earthly things.

Verse 20

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

Our conversation — The Greek word is of a very extenslve meaning: our citizenship, our thoughts, our affections, are already in heaven.

Verse 21

[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.

Who will transform our vile body — Into the most perfect state, and the most beauteous form. It will then be purer than the unspotted firmament, brighter than the lustre of the stars and, which exceeds all parallel, which comprehends all perfection, like unto his glorious body - Like that wonderfully glorious body which he wears in his heavenly kingdom, and on his triumphant throne.

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