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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Philippians 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

No confidence in the flesh

Philippians 3:1-11

Philippians 3:1. Paul begins chapter 3 with the theme and watchword of every believer: ‘Rejoice in our Lord.' Christ Jesus is our chief joy:

1. In the greatness of his person, very God of very God;

2. In the fitness of his incarnation, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh;

3. In the sufficiency of his righteousness and atonement;

4. In the comforts of his providence and purpose;

5. In the glory of his intercession and return.

‘To write the same things to you is not tiresome.’ He rejoices to repeat the gospel of Christ over and over, for it is necessary.

1. It keeps your thoughts and hearts on Christ, the founda-tion.

2. It keeps you from the errors of false teachers.

3. When truth is repeated, it guards you against self right-eousness and other errors.

Philippians 3:2. These are the false teachers from the Jews, who were imposing the works and ceremonies of the law upon the Gentiles as being necessary to salvation. Paul uses the same name on them which they used to give to the Gentiles– ‘dogs!’ He calls them ‘evil workers’ because they misled the people, deceived them and perverted the gospel of Christ.

‘Beware of the circumcisers’ (those who mutilate the flesh for sanctifying purposes). Circumcision served its day as a token of the covenant and may be recommended as a hygienic measure, but it has no place or meaning in the covenant of grace.

Philippians 3:3. ‘We are the true circumcision, not they. They have the name, the form, the outward sign. We have in Christ and in the new birth its fulfillment.’ It is the difference between having the lamb of the Old Testament sacrifice and having Christ, the Lamb of God.

1. True circumcision is having the heart pricked and laid open by the Spirit.

2. True circumcision is a renouncing of our own righteousness.

3. True circumcision is of the heart, not the flesh.

4. It is to draw nigh to God with the heart, not the body.

5. It is to rejoice in our completeness in Christ, having no confidence in carnal descent, tribe or family, ceremony or law.

Our salvation and acceptance by God are only in Christ, not in anything connected with this flesh. We worship God in heart and in spirit, not in outward rituals and ceremonies. We rejoice in Christ, in whom we are complete (Colossians 2:9-10). We have no confidence in our own fleshly works nor in anyone else.

Philippians 3:4. Paul illustrates the point using himself: ‘If there is any value in our family ties, ceremonies, religious works and performances, outward obedience to law and rites, I have more room to boast than any of these false teachers.’

Philippians 3:5-6. Paul was circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel (not an Ishmaelite or a proselyte, but a natural Israelite), of the tribe of Benjamin (this tribe was from Jacob and Rachel and kept true worship when ten revolted), had a Hebrew mother and a Hebrew father, was a Pharisee (the strictest sect of the Jews, held in highest esteem), persecuted the church, and with respect to the observance of the outward law, was blameless.

Philippians 3:7. At one time he felt that all these things were necessary for acceptance with God, were necessary for righteousness and entitled him to the favour of God. When God revealed Christ to him, he saw all these things to be worthless in themselves. Christ is our sacrifice, our sanctification and our righteousness. He is the fulfillment of all these. That which was everything to Paul became nothing; Christ became everything (Colossians 3:11).

Philippians 3:8. ‘Furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to that priceless privilege (that overwhelming advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake I lost everything in order that I may have Christ, the Redeemer.’

1. He renounced not only the Jewish ceremonies, but worldly honor, reputation, substance, comforts and advantages.

2. He lost self-righteousness and gained Christ's righteousness.

3. He lost ceremonial bondage and gained his freedom.

4. He lost false peace and gained true peace with God.

5. He lost pretended glory and gained eternal glory (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

Philippians 3:9-11. This is my determined purpose, my one desire, my soul and heart's sincere hope, which is threefold:

1. ‘That I may win Christ and be found in him,’ not trusting or having any self-achieved righteousness in works and deeds, possessing that genuine righteousness of God which comes through faith in Christ - that holiness and perfect righteousness which he gives to his own (Col. l: 22).

2. ‘That I may really know him.’ I do know him, but I want progressively to become more deeply and intimately acquainted with him and the wonders of his person; that I may come to know the power flowing from his resurrection and the strength it gives to believers; that I may so know and share his sufferings as to be transformed continually into his likeness, daily dying to sin and the world.

3. ‘That I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.’ Paul may be referring here to the resurrection of the body in the likeness of Christ in the great day of our Lord. However (because of the next verse), I believe he is talking about a moral and spiritual resurrection that lifts us out of the death and darkness of the world and sin. The world, the flesh and all of this human life are death. In Christ there is real life, real love, real holiness. There is communion with God and perfect righteousness. This is what I want. By whatever means it pleases God to bring me to this place, I want to be like Christ in attitude, spirit and heart.


Verses 12-21

Forgetting the past
Holding the present
Anticipating the future

Philippians 3:12-21

Philippians 3:12. I have not attained to perfect holiness, perfect knowledge, nor perfect happiness. Though my sanctification is perfect in Christ, it is not perfected in me. I know in part, sin dwells in me, my faith is imperfect, but I press on. I long to lay hold on that for which Christ laid hold of me. I want what the Lord purposed and purchased for me on Calvary - to be like him! (Ephesians 1:3-6.)

Philippians 3:13. ‘Brethren, I don't claim to have arrived at perfection in doctrine, spirit, nor deed. I am not yet all that Christ would have me to be. I am not all that I would like to be, nor even all that I ought to be. Thank God, however, I am not what I used to be! One thing I do: I forget what lies behind me - my struggles and attempts at self-righteousness in false religion, my experiences and revelations in spiritual infancy, my works and labors since conversion, my recent growth and revelations. Now I reach forth for present and future blessings and revelations of his grace.’ The illustration is taken from runners in a race, who do not stop to look behind them to see how far they have come nor to determine how far they are in front of others, but they are concerned for what they are doing now and for what lies ahead.

Philippians 3:14. ‘My goal and aim is to finish the race and obtain the supreme and heavenly prize - the incorruptible crown of life, righteousness and glory!’ (Psalms 17:15.) We look to Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2). We follow and depend on Christ (1 John 3:1-3).

Philippians 3:15. ‘Let all of us who are spiritually mature (who are taught of God) have this same mind and hold these same convictions:

1. To count all heritage, ceremony, tradition and works of religion as rubbish that we may win Christ and be found in him.

2. To be willing to suffer the loss of all things for a knowledge of Christ.

3. To disclaim perfection in ourselves, but to aim for it.

4. To desire to be found in him, having his righteousness.

5. To desire above all things to be like Christ and press forward in perseverance to attain that incorruptible crown.’

Philippians 3:16. Nevertheless, whatever degree of the knowledge of Christ and the truth of the gospel and the light we have received, let us walk therein! As we walk in the light that God gives us, he will give more light.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;

Hither by thy help I'm come.

My spiritual growth may be slow, even discouraging. Sometimes I may feel that I am standing still. But I know that God has revealed Christ in me, and I know whom I have believed. I will hold fast to this until he reveals more of himself.

Philippians 3:17. ‘Follow me,’ Paul says, ‘as I follow Christ.’ Paul would not have any man follow him as the head of a party or sect. He condemned others for that. He wanted them to have the same goal he had – to win Christ and be found in him! ‘Also, observe others who live after this pattern I have set for you.’ Believers should encourage and be examples to one another in the pursuit of righteousness (Matthew 5:16; Titus 2:10).

Philippians 3:18-19. ‘I have told you often and now tell you with great sorrow that many religious people walk a road which reveals them as enemies of the cross. They hold to ceremony and circumcision, not Christ alone. They glory in the flesh, making merchandise of you. They are more interested in converts than in conversions, more interested in statistics than in spirituality, more interested in gifts than in the Giver. They turn the grace of God into a license to sin. Their end is destruction. Their god is not the living God, but their own desires and passions. What they glory in is really what they ought to be ashamed of; they are concerned for carnal, earthly, fleshly things.’ Someone said, ‘God created us to love people and use things, but sinful men love things and use people.’

Philippians 3:20-21. Our citizenship and interests are in heaven, not tied to this world. In Christ we are sons of God, seated in him, heirs of eternal glory and we patiently wait for his return. All we are, have and hope to be is in Christ. He will complete the work he has begun by changing our vile bodies into the glory and majesty of his own body, exerting the power which enables him to subject everything to himself (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Philippians 3:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/philippians-3.html. 2013.

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