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Philippians 3:1-6

1. Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but you it is safe.

1. Quod reliquum est, fratres, mei, gaudete in Domino; eadem scribere vobis, me equidem, haud piget, vobis autem tutm est.

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

2. Videte canes, videte malos operarios, videte concisionem.

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

3. Nos enim sumus cicrcumcisio, qui spiritu Deum colimus, et gloriamur in Christo Iesu, non autem in carne confidimus.

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:

4. Tametsi ego etiam in carne fiduciam habeo. Si qauis alius videtur confidere in carne, ego magis:

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;

5. Circumcisus die occtavo, ex genere Israel, tribu Beniamin, Hebraeus ex Hebraeis, secundum legem Pharisaeus:

6. Concerning zeal, persecuting the Church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

6. Secundum zelum persequens Ecclesiam, secundum iustitiam, quae est in lege, irreprehensibilis.


1 Rejoice in the Lord This is a conclusion from what goes before, for as Satan never ceased to distress them with daily rumors, he bids them divest themselves of anxiety and be of good courage. In this way he exhorts them to constancy, that they may not fall back from the doctrine which they have once received. The phrase henceforward denotes a continued course, that, in the midst of many hinderances, they may not cease to exercise holy joy. It is a rare excellence when Satan endeavors to exasperate us 164164     “De nous troubler et effaroucher;” — “To trouble and frighten us.” by means of the bitterness of the cross, so as to make God’s name unpleasant 165165     “Fascheux et ennuyeux;” — “Disagreeable and irksome.” , to take such satisfaction in the simple tasting of God’s grace, that all annoyances, sorrows, anxieties, and griefs are sweetened.

To write the same thing to you. Here he begins to speak of the false Apostles, with whom, however, he does not fight hand to hand, as in the Epistle to the Galatians, but in a few words severely 166166     “Il les rembarre rudement et auec authorite;” — “He baffles them sternly and with authority." exposes them, as far as was sufficient. For as they had simply made an attempt upon the Philippians, and had not made an inroad upon them, 167167     “Pource qu’ils auoyent seulement fait leurs efforts, et essaye de diuer-tir les Philippiens, et ne les auoyent gaignez et abbatus;” — “As they had merely employed their efforts, and had attempted to turn aside the Philippians, and had not prevailed over them and subdued them." it was not so necessary to enter into any regular disputation with the view of refuting errors, to which they had never lent an ear. Hence he simply admonishes them to be diligent and attentive in detecting impostors and guarding against them.

In the first place, however, he calls them dogs; the metaphor being grounded upon this — that, for the sake of filling their belly, they assailed true doctrine with their impure barking. Accordingly, it is as though he had said, — impure or profane persons; for I do not agree with those who think that they are so called on the ground of envying others, or biting them 168168     “Pour autant qu’ils portoyent enuie auec autres, ou les mordoyent et detractoyent d’eux;” — “On the ground of their bearing envy to others, and biting and calumniating them."

In the second place, he calls them evil workers, meaning, that, under the pretext of building up the Church, they did nothing but ruin and destroy everything; for many are busily occupied 169169     “Car il yen a plusieurs qui se tourmentent tant et plus, et se meslent de beaucoup de choses;” — “For there are many that torture themselves on this occasion and on that, and intermeddle with many things. who would do better to remain idle. As the public crier 170170     “Comme anciennement a Rome ce crier public;” — “As anciently at Rome that public crier." on being asked by Gracchus in mockery, on the ground of his sitting idle, what he was doing? had his answer ready, “Nay, but what are you doing?” for he was the ringleader of a ruinous sedition. Hence Paul would have a distinction made among workers, that believers may be on their guard against those that are evil.

In the third term employed, there is an elegant (προσωνομασία) play upon words. They boasted that they were the circumcision: he turns aside this boasting by calling them the concision 171171     “The Concision--that is, those who rend and divide the Church. Compare Romans 16:17, 18. They gloried in being the περιτομὴ (the circumcision,) which name and character St. Paul will not here allow them, but claims it for Christians in the next words, and calls them the κατατομὴ or concision, expressing his contempt of their pretences, and censure of their practices.”Pierce.Ed. , inasmuch as they tore asunder the unity of the Church. In this we have an instance tending to shew that the Holy Spirit in his organs 172172     “En ses organes et instrumens c’est a dire ses seruiteurs par lesquels il a parle;" — “In his organs and instruments, that is to say, his servants, by whom he has spoken.” has not in every case avoided wit and humor, yet so as at the same time to keep at a distance from such pleasantry as were unworthy of his majesty. There are innumerable examples in the Prophets, and especially in Isaiah, so that there is no profane author that abounds more in agreeable plays upon words, and figurative forms of expression. We ought, however, more carefully still to observe the vehemence with which Paul inveighs against the false Apostles, which will assuredly break forth wherever there is the ardor of pious zeal. But in the mean time we must be on our guard lest any undue warmth or excessive bitterness should creep in under a pretext of zeal.

When he says, that to write the same things is not grievous to him, he seems to intimate that he had already written on some other occasion to the Philippians. There would, however, be no inconsistency in understanding him as meaning, that he now by his writings reminds them of the same things as they had frequently heard him say, when he was with them. For there can be no doubt that he had often intimated to them in words, when he was with them, how much they ought to be on their guard against such pests: yet he does not grudge to repeat these things, because the Philippians would have incurred danger in the event of his silence. And, unquestionably, it is the part of a good pastor, not merely to supply the flock with pasture, and to rule the sheep by his guidance, but to drive away the wolves when threatening to make an attack upon the fold, and that not merely on one occasion, but so as to be constantly on the watch, and to be indefatigable. For as thieves and robbers (John 10:8) are constantly on the watch for the destruction of the Church, what excuse will the pastor have if, after courageously repelling them in several instances, he gives way on occasion of the ninth or tenth attack?

He says also, that a repetition of this nature is profitable to the Philippians, lest they should be—as is wont to happen occasionally—of an exceedingly fastidious humor, and despise it as a thing that was superfluous. For many are so difficult to please, that they cannot bear that the same thing should be said to them a second time, and, in the mean time, they do not consider that what is inculcated upon them daily is with difficulty retained in their memory ten years afterwards. But if it was profitable to the Philippians to listen to this exhortation of Paul—to be on their guard against wolves, what do Papists mean who will not allow that any judgment should be formed as to their doctrine? For to whom, I pray you, did Paul address himself when he said, Beware? Was it not to those whom they do not allow to possess any right to judge? And of the same persons Christ says, in like manner,

My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me; they flee from, a stranger, and they hear not his voice. (John 10:5, 27.)

3. For we are the circumcision—that is, we are the true seed of Abraham, and heirs of the testament which was confirmed by the sign of circumcision. For the true circumcision is of the spirit and not of the letter, inward, and situated in the heart, not visible according to the flesh. (Romans 2:29.)

By spiritual worship he means that which is recommended to us in the gospel, and consists of confidence in God, and invocation of him, self-renunciation, and a pure conscience. We must supply an antithesis, for he censures, on the other hand, legal worship, which was exclusively pressed upon them by the false Apostles.

“They command that God should be worshipped with outward observances, and because they observe the ceremonies of the law, they boast on false grounds that they are the people of God; but we are the truly circumcised, who worship God in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23.)

But here some one will ask, whether truth excludes the sacraments, for the same thing might be said as to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I answer, that this principle must always be kept in view, that figures were abolished by the advent of Christ, and that circumcision gave way to baptism. It follows, also, from this principle, that the pure and genuine worship of God is free from the legal ceremonies, and that believers have the true circumcision without any figure.

And we glory in Christ We must always keep in view the antithesis. “We have to do with the reality, while they rest in the symbols: we have to do with the substance, while they look to the shadows.” And this suits sufficiently well with the corresponding clause, which he adds by way of contrast— We have no confidence in the flesh For under the term flesh he includes everything of an external kind in which an individual is prepared to glory, as will appear from the context, or, to express it in fewer words, he gives the name of flesh to everything that is apart from Christ. He thus reproves, and in no slight manner, the perverse zealots the law, because, not satisfied with Christ, they have recourse to grounds of glorying apart from him. He has employed the terms glorying, and having confidence, to denote the same thing. For confidence lifts up a man, so that he ventures even to glory, and thus the two things are connected.

4 Though I might also He does not speak of the disposition exercised by him, but he intimates, that he has also ground of glorying, if he were inclined to imitate their folly. The meaning therefore is, “My glorying, indeed, is placed in Christ, but, were it warrantable to glory in the flesh, I have also no want of materials.” And from this we learn in what manner to reprove the arrogance of those who glory in something apart from Christ. If we are ourselves in possession of those very things in which they glory, let us not allow them to triumph over Christ by an unseemly boasting, without retorting upon them also our grounds of glorying, that they may understand that it is not through envy that we reckon of no value, nay, even voluntarily renounce those things on which they set the highest value. Let, however, the conclusion be always of this nature — that all confidence in the flesh is vain and preposterous.

If any one has confidence in the flesh, I more Not satisfied with putting himself on a level with any one of them, he even gives himself the preference to them. Hence he cannot on this account be suspected, as though he were envious of their excellence, and extolled Christ with the view of making his own deficiencies appear the less inconsiderable. He says, therefore, that, if it were coming to be matter of dispute, he would be superior to others. For they had nothing (as we shall see erelong) that he had not on his part equally with them, while in some things he greatly excelled them. He says, not using the term in its strict sense, that he has confidence in the flesh, on the ground that, while not placing confidence in them, he was furnished with those grounds of fleshly glorying, on account of which they were puffed up.

5. Circumcised on the eighth day It is literally— “The circumcision of the eighth day.” There is no difference, however, in the sense, for the meaning is, that he was circumcised in the proper manner, and according to the appointment of the law 173173     “Circoncis deuement et selon l’ordonnance et les obseruations de la loy;” — “Circumcised duly and according to the appointment and the observances of the law.” . Now this customary circumcision was reckoned of superior value; and, besides, it was a token of the race to which he belonged; on which he touches immediately afterwards. For the case was not the same as to foreigners, for after they had become proselytes they were circumcised in youth, or when grown up to manhood, and sometimes even in old age. He says, accordingly, that he is of the race of Israel He names the tribe 174174     “Il note la tribu et le chef de la lignee de laquelle il estoit descendu;” — “He names the tribe and the head of the line from which he was descended.” , — not, in my opinion, on the ground that the tribe of Benjamin had a superiorityof excellence above others, but for shewing more fully that he belonged to the race of Israel, as it was the custom that every one was numbered according to his particular tribe. With the same view he adds still farther, that he is an Hebrew of the Hebrews For this name was the most ancient, as being that by which Abraham himself is designated by Moses. (Genesis 14:13.) 175175     See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, p. 357, 358. The sum, therefore, is this — that Paul was descended from the seed of Jacob from the most ancient date, so that he could reckon up grandfathers and great-grandfathers, and could even go still farther back.

According to the law, a Pharisee Having spoken of the nobility of his descent, he now proceeds to speak of special endowments of persons, as they are called. It is very generally known, that the sect of the Pharisees was celebrated above the others for the renown in which it was held for sanctity and for doctrine. He states, that he belonged to that sect. The common opinion is, that the Pharisees were so called from a term signifying separation 176176     “Que les Pharisiens ont este ainsi nommez, pource qu’ils estoyent separez d’auec les autres, comme estans saincts;” — “That the Pharisees were so called, because they were separated from others, as being holy.” ; but I approve rather of what I learned at one time from Capito, a man of sacred memory 177177     See Calvin On the Corinthians, vol. 2, p. 82. , that it was because they boasted that they were endowed with the gift of interpreting Scripture, for פרש (parash,) among the Hebrews, conveys the idea of interpretation. 178178     The reader will find the etymology of the term Pharisees, discussed at considerable length in the Harmony, vol. 1, p. 281, n. 4. — Ed. While others declared themselves to be literals 179179     The meaning is, that in interpreting Scripture, they did not go beyond the bare letter.— Ed. , they preferred to be regarded as Pharisees 180180     See Harmony, vol. 1, pp. 281, 282, and vol. 3, p. 74. , as being in possession of the interpretations of the ancients. And assuredly it is manifest that, under the pretext of antiquity, they corrupted the whole of Scripture by their inventions; but as they, at the same time, retained some sound interpretations, handed down by the ancients, they were held in the highest esteem.

But what is meant by the clause, according to the law? For unquestionably nothing is more opposed to the law of God than sects, for in it is communicated the truth of God, which is the bond of unity. Besides this, Josephus tells us in the 13th book of his Antiquities, that all the sects took their rise during the high priesthood of Jonathan. Paul employs the term law, not in its strict sense, to denote the doctrine of religion, however much corrupted it was at that time, as Christianity is at this day in the Papacy. As, however, there were many that were in the rank of teachers, who were less skillful, and exercised 181181     “Exercez en l’Ecriture;” — “Exercised in Scripture.” he makes mention also of his zeal. It was, indeed, a very heinous sin on the part of Paul to persecute the Church, but as he had to dispute with unprincipled persons, who, by mixing up Christ with Moses, pretended zeal for the law, he mentions, on the other hand, that he was so keen a zealot of the law, that on that ground he persecuted the Church

6. As to the righteousness which is in the law There can be no doubt he means by this the entire righteousness of the law, for it were too meagre a sense to understand it exclusively of the ceremonies. The meaning, therefore, is more general — that he cultivated an integrity of life, such as might be required on the part of a man that was devoted to the law. To this, again, it is objected, that the righteousness of the law is perfect in the sight of God. For the sum of it is — that men be fully devoted to God, and what beyond this can be desired for the attainment of perfection? I answer, that Paul speaks here of that righteousness which would satisfy the common opinion of mankind. For he separates the law from Christ. Now, what is the law without Christ but a dead letter? To make the matter plainer, I observe, that there are two righteousnesses of the law. The one is spiritual — perfect love to God, and our neighbors: it is contained in doctrine, and had never an existence in the life of any man. The other is literal — such as appears in the view of men, while, in the mean time, hypocrisy reigns in the heart, and there is in the sight of God nothing but iniquity. Thus, the law has two aspects; the one has an eye to God, the other to men. Paul, then, was in the judgment of men holy, and free from all censure — a rare commendation, certainly, and almost unrivalled; yet let us observe in what esteem he held it.

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