About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapter 3
In verse 1 Paul says that
it’s no bother to him to remind the Philippians of “the same
things”. The words “same
things” don’t refer to the word rejoice,
but to the things that Paul will say in the following verses.
He considers these things a safe guard, or a reminder.
It is not burdensome to him to repeat himself if it will help his
readers stay on the right track.
Verse 2 begins the
warning or the reminder to Paul’s readers.
Paul says, “watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil,
those mutilators of the flesh”.
We have 3 statements here
concerning men that Paul warns the Philippians about.
They have not yet reached Philippi but they had already
infiltrated the churches in the
Here in verse 2 Paul
calls these men “dogs”. The
word “dog” was used by Jews in reference to Gentiles.
They called Gentiles “dogs” because Jews did not like
Gentiles. This was a
In the middle east in
those days large dogs were wild street scavengers.
Small dogs were pets. So
when Jews called a Gentiles
“dogs” they were calling them
“wild street scavengers”, implying that the Jews sat at the
table of the Lord while the Gentiles would beg for scraps of food after
the meal. You might remember
Jesus talking about this in Matt. 15:26-27.
Paul was using this
derogatory name to represent these Judaizers, those men who distorted
the real gospel of Christ. But
he continues and calls them evil men.
These men weren’t nice. They
weren’t simply mistaken in their thinking.
They were evil. They
knew well what they were teaching and their motives were far from pure.
Paul then refers to these
Judaizers as “mutilators of the flesh”.
This is a direct reference to circumcision.
Circumcision is an Old Testament concept, something that God
required men of
The point to be made here
is that the Law was nailed to the cross with Jesus.
The Law ended with Jesus’ death on the cross and therefore
circumcision had no place in New Testament thinking. (Rom. 10:4 and Col.
What the Judaizers were
doing was mixing law with grace which is not New Testament thinking.
Salvation has nothing to do with obeying the Law of Moses, or any other
law as far as that goes. Salvation
is by faith and not by any kind of works so none of us can boast of
attaining this salvation on our own account. Jesus
did all the work for us
on the cross. We simply
trust Him and what He did for us.
It is human tendency to
want to attain to God’s salvation through our own good works.
We’ve done this throughout the history of the church. There’s
been so many rules made to help us get saved, but they are all
meaningless. Then beyond that, we’ve made rules to keep us saved.
But staying saved is all about continuing to trust Jesus with
your life which includes your salvation.
Paul clearly teaches this in all of his writings.
When we add rules to
getting saved or staying saved, we are telling Jesus that what He did on
the cross was not good enough. We
just need to add a few things to improve on his work.
I cannot think of a worse sin that a Christian can commit.
This was the sin of the Judaizers.
It’s the sin of many people and groups today. Paul calls this
another gospel, and he calls such promoters of this thinking dogs.
We need to remain pure in the gospel message we preach.
In verse 3 Paul calls
true believers in Jesus who don’t add rules as the real circumcised
people. New Testament circumcision is all about the Holy Spirit entering
one’s life. Paul calls
this circumcision a circumcision of the heart, because in New Testament
terms, issues of the heart are the important issues.
Outward issues are secondary.
The fact of the matter is
that if Jesus can change a heart, then all the outward things, all the
outward sins get changed as well, because that which is in the heart
will show itself in our outward actions.
The Old Testament dealt more with outward things while the New
Testament majors on inner things. This is one reason why the Holy Spirit
comes to live within us.
Also in verse 3 Paul says
that the true believers “put no confidence in the flesh”, something
he begins to explain in the next few verses.
If anyone has good reason to put confidence in the flesh, our
outward activity it is Paul, and for the following reasons.
In verse 5 Paul says that
he was “circumcised on the eighth day”. According
to the Law of Moses male babies had to be circumcised on the eighth day
of their lives, and so right away Paul was found to be in obedience to
the Law before he even knew there was a Law to be obeyed.
“Of the people of
He then goes on to say
that he was born into the tribe of Benjamin.
Paul points this out for a reason.
was captured and sent off to Babylon,
10 out of the 12 tribes were lost and dispersed but there were 2 tribes
that survived the Babylonian captivity, and they were Judah and Benjamin.
So in one sense of the word he was a pure Jew, with no mixture,
and was born into one of
the two tribes where you could see a clear heritage with no
mixture. This is why Paul
calls himself “a Hebrew of Hebrews”.
He’s saying that He is one of the most pure Jew alive.
Paul's Hebrew name was
Saul. Many people think that
God changed his name from Saul to Paul after he became a Christian but
that is not the case. Acts
13:9 says, "then Saul, also named Paul."
Saul was his Hebrew name while Paul was the Greek equivalent.
Remember, Paul was raised a Jew in a Greek community in
Then he says, “as in
regard to the Law, a Pharisee”. A
Pharisee was one group in the ruling class of
In verse 6 Paul speaks to
the issue of zeal, something that these Judaizers had lots of. But Paul
says that he had so much zeal that he persecuted the church. Paul went
out of his way to have Christians arrested and even killed.
Paul closes verses 6 by
saying, “as for legalistic righteousness, faultless”.
Paul was blameless. You
could not find fault with him in his strict obedience to the Law.
When Paul associates the
word “legalistic” with the word “righteousness” he is saying
there is more than one type of righteousness.
“Legalistic righteousness” is attained “legally”, by
following certain “legal rules”, and in this case the rules are from
the Law of Moses. The book
of Romans shows that there is another type of righteousness that is
“apart from the Law”, as Paul puts it.
This righteousness is by faith in God’s grace.
Simply put, when we trust in what Jesus has done for us, since
He’s done the work, He sees us as righteous.
This righteousness is a free gift.
You do not work for it. You
simply trust in what Jesus has done.
Paul tells his readers
that when it comes to “legalistic righteousness” he is indeed
righteous. We will now see
that this means nothing to Paul any longer.
So what Paul has just
done here is to measure his past life with the lives of the Judaizers
who were attempting to make Christians into Old Testament Jews as well.
They had nothing on Paul in these outward issues of righteousness.
By far Paul wins the battle of outward righteousness if one was going to
make a comparison.
In verse 7 Paul says that
all these things that he has just mentioned, things that were very
important to him and to the society in which he lived, he now considered
a loss. He gladly forsook
all of these glamorous things for Jesus.
To him there was no contest between Jesus and the prestigious
life he lived. He gave it
all up. It was worth
absolutely nothing in his eyes after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus.
In verse 8 Paul goes even
farther in considering things loss.
He just said that his past religious life means nothing to him
any longer. Now he says that
he considers all of life a loss when compared to his relationship with
Jesus. There’s nothing
more important to Paul in life than Jesus. It does not matter what it
is. There’s nothing in
life that even comes close to being as important as Jesus.
He goes on to say that he
“has lost all things’. And
Paul was right. When he was
in house arrest as he wrote these words, he had next to nothing.
He had no prestige, no money, and to use bad grammar, “no
nothing”. Paul was poverty
stricken in every since of the word except spiritually. Some
scholars even believe that Paul was once married and that because of his
conversion to Jesus his wife left him.
We can’t say this for sure, but some reputable scholars believe
this to be so.
Also in verse 8 he says,
“I consider them all rubbish that I might gain Christ. The King James
Bible translates the word “rubbish” as “dung” and in this case
the KJV translators are more accurate while the NIV translators who have
attempted to be a bit more diplomatic and culturally correct in their
In verse 9 Paul comes
back to the matter of “righteousness” that the Judaizers were saying
comes from obeying the Law of Moses.
Paul simply says that he’s forsaken all of that.
He does not want that outward righteousness any longer and in
fact that is not part of the gospel.
He’d rather have the righteousness that comes from Jesus.
This righteousness is a free gift that is given from Jesus to
those who believe, to those who have given their life to Jesus.
Jesus can give us this
righteousness because He lived the perfect life for us.
This is why Jesus obeyed the Law while on earth.
He obeyed it on our behalf. He
obeyed it for us. And now
God looks on the obedience of Jesus and says that finally someone has
obeyed the Law as I wanted and it’s Jesus my Son.
If we place ourselves in the arms of Jesus then we are found to
be righteous just as He is righteous even though we are far from being
righteous. This is the good
news of the gospel. The Jews
understood this to be good news because
they understood being righteous as attempting to follow all the
rules which was extremely hard.
The Gentiles did not
understand the gospel as good news as the Jews did because they were
never under the Law and knew little about the Law of Moses.
This is important to know
because as Christians we should never institute any rule that tries to
make someone righteous. Real
righteousness come from trusting Jesus with your life. It can’t be
found anywhere else no matter how religious the rule may look, and the
Judaizers looked pretty religious. But
in Paul’s mind they were evil.
In verse 10 Paul says he
wants to know Christ. Knowing Jesus is the most important thing to Paul.
But he continues. Knowing
Jesus is also knowing two other things.
The first is knowing “the power of His resurrection”.
Paul wants that same power that was demonstrated when the rock
was blown away from the mouth of the tomb of Jesus. He wants this in his
own life, and I think we can clearly see that in his life.
But Paul didn’t stop
with the power stuff. We’d
all like that kind of power in our lives, but Paul knew that Jesus
experienced more than power. He
also experienced great suffering and that was the other thing that Paul
embraced once knowing Jesus. Knowing
Jesus to Paul meant having the power of the Spirit but it also meant
suffering throughout his whole life as Jesus did while he was on earth.
Also in verse 10 Paul
says, “becoming like Him in His death”.
The suffering of Jesus reached its climax when Jesus was killed
as a criminal. Paul was more
than willing to die the same death as Jesus. He was willing to have his
head cut off as a criminal even though he wasn’t, and that’s what
eventually happened to Paul.
This section ends with
the words, “and so somehow to attain to the resurrection of the
dead”. Through all these
things Paul wanted to end up on the right side of Jesus when the Day of
the Lord came and life eternal would be given to all those who gave
themselves to Jesus. The
word “somehow” suggest to us that maybe Paul had doubts, but I
don’t think he did. Somehow
we can reach that place of resurrection, and that somehow is only by
trusting our lives with Jesus implicitly.
Also concerning this word
“somehow”, many commentators suggest that this does not express
doubt but more of an
Paul has just told his
readers to what degree he’s dedicated to following Jesus.
Now in verse 12 he tells the Philippians that he has not attained
to these things as yet. He
is not perfect, and this from a man that most of us would consider
pretty close to having perfection and dedication to his Lord.
But we know that perfection only comes in the next life.
In the second half of
verse 12 Paul says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ
Jesus took hold of me”. This
might be seen as a bit of a tongue twister here, but simply put, God
took hold of Paul for a specific reason.
Acts 9:15 makes this very clear.
Jesus had work for Paul to do and he was pressing on to the work
that Jesus had for him. And
not just doing God’s work, but being the person that Jesus called him
Just to note what Acts
9:15 says. Paul learns that he is
called by Jesus to proclaim Him to the Jews, to the Gentiles and their
kings, and along the way he’d suffer lots for the sake of Christ.
The word “press”
suggests effort. Paul was
one who put great effort into being a follower of Jesus.
Yes, he preached faith and not works, but that does not mean he
didn’t work as a result of his faith.
His faith, or trust in Jesus drove him to do God’s will for his
life. Too often some have
stressed salvation by faith and not by works, which is very Biblical,
but in so doing forget about works altogether.
True works follow real faith.
If there are no works of faith, then you might question if there
is any faith in the person who has no works.
This is the message of James.
In verse 13 Paul calls
the Philippian Christians brothers. Once again we see that Paul
views these people as brothers, not as subjects under his
He goes on to say in
verse 13 that he doesn’t consider that he’s taken hold of what he
wants to take hold of. He
hasn’t quite done all that there is to do. Paul fully expects to be
released from house arrest and finish the job that Jesus asked him to
do. Paul’s desire was to
Continuing in verse 13
Paul says that he forgets what is behind him.
Much of what Paul is forgetting is from his past life of rigid
legal living. Paul left the
institution of religion, never to return.
He had no intension to duplicate legalistic Judaism into his new
Christian life. He forgot
about all the legalism. Now
he is “straining towards that which is ahead”.
Once again see the word “straining”.
It is clear that Paul is putting extremely great effort into his
life as a Christian. He is
not lax. He is not sitting
back doing nothing.
religion, Paul gave it all up. It
was now worthless to him. That which was once his life was now flushed down the toilet so to speak.
There is no way that he’d want to implement such legalistic
religion into the church, the “ekklesia of Jesus”, and he never did.
But we’ve done it since. It’s
my thinking that Paul would be extremely disappointed with the
institutional church as we know it today.
To him that would be to re-introduce legalistic Judaism back into
“That which is ahead”
speaks of the work that he needs to do that culminates at the day he
will stand before his Lord and give account of his life.
In verse 14 Paul says
that he is making all this effort because he wants to win the prize.
He uses the word “heavenward”. This tells us that the prize
is in the next life. He also
uses the word “called”. Paul
was called by Jesus in Acts 9 to a certain ministry, but in another real
sense his final calling is to Jesus Himself in the next life.
This is the final calling of all Christians.
In our thinking we need a proper balance between our earthly
calling and our heavenly calling. Often
we get out of balance and promote one over the other.
In verse 15 Paul says
“that all of us who are mature should take such a view of things”
The view of things that Paul is talking about are the things he just
said. A mature Christian is
thus one that strains to do the work of the Lord here on earth with the
goal of one day standing before Jesus his Lord to give an account of his
life and receive the prize Jesus has for him. This is a mature
understanding of the Christian life.
In the last part of verse
15 Paul says that “if on some point you think differently, God will
make that clear to you”. Paul is suggesting that there might be some
issue, probably a secondary issue that his readers may think differently
than him on. He views these
people as mature but that doesn’t mean they agree on every last
detail. So what does Paul
do? Does he try to figure
out where the difference is and try to make them think like he does?
No, he doesn’t do that. He
leaves it all up to the Lord. God
will reveal to his readers what needs to be revealed.
The idea that Paul is
leaving such things to God to reveal to the Philippians is interesting
to me. Many view apostolic
authority as being to heavily authoritarian in nature.
But Paul does not use his authority as an apostle here. He’s
not straining to make these people understand every last detail as he
does. He leaves this up to
God and the Holy Spirit, and he has to, because he can’t be with these
people long enough to make sure they believe every last detail to how he
believes. This shows that
Paul knows that in the final analysis the growth of these people
doesn’t totally depend on him but on God.
In verse 16 Paul says
that “we should live to that which we have already obtained”.
Simply put, “put in practice that which you already know”.
When you do that, what you don’t know will some day become
clear to you by the Lord. Or another possible way to view this is that
Jesus has placed us in a certain place along side of Him in the Spirit.
We should thus live accordingly.
In verse 17 Paul says,
“join with others in following my example”.
Paul clearly tells his readers that they should follow his
example. I think Paul was
able to say such a thing because he is a good example to follow.
If any of us says such a thing we better make sure our example is
I think Paul was telling
his readers to follow him in the things he just said,
These things include making a great effort to do God’s will,
whatever that would be in an individual’s life.
Not everyone was called to do what Paul did, but we are all
called, and the same effort that Paul put into his calling should be
found in our lives as well. So
Paul is not asking these people to do as he does.
He’s asking them “to be as he is”.
There’s a big difference between the two thoughts.
Then he says to “take
note of others who follow the pattern” we’ve given.
What pattern is Paul speaking of here?
He’s speaking of one’s
dedication to the Lord. He’s
not speaking of a list of rules to run a church by.
He’s talking about living a dedicated life for Jesus.
Pattern doesn’t suggest a formal blueprint.
It suggests a living example of one who follows Jesus, and Paul
is that example.
“Take note” means to
acknowledge or watch for the sake of showing others that this is the way
the Christian life should be lived.
Don’t let a good example go unnoticed.
In verse 18 Paul reminds
his readers with tears something he’s said over and over again, that
many “are enemies of the cross of Christ”.
I believe the enemies of
the cross of Christ are the Judaizers that he has warn these people
about. They are the enemies
of the cross because what they teach degrades the cross.
They taught that people had to obey the Law of Moses in order to
be a Christian. This
degrades the cross because it takes away from its importance.
The cross is so important that it is the only way in which one
can be saved. Obeying any
rule, whether an Old Testament Law or some man made rule is not
acceptable for the purposes of salvation. If
you say that you have to be circumcised to be saved, then you are adding
a rule to the cross and that weakens the place of the cross in
In verse 19 Paul says
that “their destiny is destruction”.
Final destruction will come to these enemies of the cross in the
next life after the Great White Throne Judgment of God. Some
use this verse to suggest that there is no eternal judgment.
The enemies of God simply are destroyed forever, not eternally
living in the Lake
of Fire. I think there are
sufficient balancing Scriptures that show that eternal death for the
enemies of God is always being in the process
dying, but never really dying.
Paul also says “that
their god is their stomach and their glory is in their shame”.
“There god is their stomach” suggests that their motivation
is purely selfish, driven by money to feed their selfish desires.
All the things these
people do are shameful and only glory they have is found in these
shameful activities. They have noting else to glory in.
Then Paul says that these
men are earthly All of what
they do is all about earthly success, fame and importance and has no
In verse 20 Paul says
that the Christian citizenship is in heaven. We may reside and be
citizens of a particular country but as Christians our main citizenship
is with God in heaven. Our first alliance is not to an earthly country
but to the Kingdom
The last part of verse 20
says that “we eagerly await a Saviour from there”, meaning from
heaven, who is the Lord Jesus. Paul
is “eagerly awaiting” the return of Jesus to this earth.
Here you see the balance between this life and the next.
We’ve just seen Paul speak about straining with all his might
to do God’s will on earth, yet as he works, he is eagerly awaiting the
return of Jesus to earth.
In verse 21 Paul says
that at the return of Jesus He will transform these earthly bodies that
we have into a glorious heavenly body, that which Jesus Himself has.
We will have a glorified body just like Jesus.
This is something we can look forward to, and it is clear that
Paul is doing just that.
In the first part of
verse 21 Paul says that Jesus will put everything under his control.
Jesus has this power, and He will do just that.
1 Cor.15 is all about the future resurrection of the dead when
the time will come that Jesus will subject everything under His power,
and the last thing to come under His authority is death itself.
At that point Jesus will come to His Father and hand it all over
to Him. Final victory will
have been won.
The NIV puts chapter 4
verse 1 in this section. Paul
tells his dearly beloved brothers that he loves them immensely. He says
this is how you should live. “This”
refers to all that he has said in this chapter.
All the things from putting great effort into doing God’s will,
imitating him, expecting the great things to come; all these things are
a part of the true Christian life.