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Philippians 3:18-21

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:

18. Multi enim ambulant (quos saepe dicebam vobis, ac nunc etiam flens dico, inimicos esse crucis Christi:

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

19. Quorum finis perditio, quorum deus venter est, et gloria in confusione ipsorum terrena cogitantes.)

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

20. Nostra qutem conversatio in coelis est, e quibus etiam salvatorem respectamus, Dominum Iesum Christum.

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.

21. Qui transformabit corpus nostrum humile, ut sit conforme corpori suo glorioso, secundum efficaciam, qua potest etiam sibi subiicere omnia.

 

18 For many walk The simple statement, in my opinion, is this — Many walk who mind earthly things, meaning by this, that there are many who creep upon the ground 195195     “Qui ont leurs affections enracines en la terre;” — “Who have their affections rooted in the earth.” , not feeling the power of God’s kingdom. He mentions, however, in connection with this, the marks by which such persons may be distinguished. These we will examine, each in its order. By earthly things some understand ceremonies, and the outward elements of the world, which cause true piety to be forgotten, I prefer, however, to view the term as referring to carnal affection, as meaning that those who are not regenerated by the Spirit of God think of nothing but the world. This will appear more distinctly from what follows; for he holds them up to odium on this ground — that, being desirous exclusively of their own honor, ease, and gain, they had no regard to the edification of the Church.

Of whom I have told you often He shews that it is not without good reason that he has often warned the Philippians, inasmuch as he now endeavors to remind them by letter of the same things as he had formerly spoken of to them when present with them. His tears, also, are an evidence that he is not influenced by envy or hatred of men, nor by any disposition to revile, nor by insolence of temper, but by pious zeal, inasmuch as he sees that the Church is miserably destroyed 196196     “Perdue et ruinee;” — “Destroyed and ruined.” by such pests. It becomes us, assuredly, to be affected in such a manner, that on seeing that the place of pastors is occupied by wicked and worthless persons, we shall sigh, and give evidence, at least by our tears, that we feel deeply grieved for the calamity of the Church.

It is of importance, also, to take notice of whom Paul speaks — not of open enemies, who were avowedly desirous that doctrine might be undermined — but of impostors and profligates, who trampled under foot the power of the gospel, for the sake of ambition or of their own belly. And unquestionably persons of this sort, who weaken the influence of the ministry by seeking their own interests, 197197     Ne regardans qu’a eux-mesmes et a leur proufit, font perdre toutela faueur et la force du ministere;” — “Looking merely to themselves and their own advantage, undermine all the influence and power of the ministry.” sometimes do more injury than if they openly opposed Christ. We must, therefore, by no means spare them, but must point them out with the finger, as often as there is occasion. Let them complain afterwards, as much as they choose, of our severity, provided they do not allege anything against us that it is not in our power to justify from Paul’s example.

That they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Some explain cross to mean the whole mystery of redemption, and they explain that this is said of them, because, by preaching the law, they made void the benefit of Christ’s death. Others, however, understand it as meaning, that they shunned the cross, and were not prepared to expose themselves to dangers for the sake of Christ. I understand it, however, in a more general way, as meaning that, while they pretended to be friends, they were, nevertheless, the worst enemies of the gospel. For it is no unusual thing for Paul to employ the term cross to mean the entire preaching of the gospel. For as he says elsewhere,

If any man is in Christ, let him be a new creature.
(2 Corinthians 5:17.) 198198     Such is Calvin’s rendering of the passage referred to. See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, pp. 229, 233.—Ed.

19 Whose end is destruction He adds this in order that the Philippians, appalled by the danger, may be so much the more carefully on their guard, that they may not involve themselves in the ruin of those persons. As, however, profligates of this description, by means of show and various artifices, frequently dazzle the eyes of the simple for a time, in such a manner that they are preferred even to the most eminent servants of Christ, the Apostle declares, with great confidence 199199     Hardiment et d’vne grande asseurance;” — “Boldly, and with great confidence.” , that the glory with which they are now puffed up will be exchanged for ignominy.

Whose god is the belly As they pressed the observance of circumcision and other ceremonies, he says that they did not do so from zeal for the law, but with a view to the favor of men, and that they might live peacefully and free from annoyance. For they saw that the Jews burned with a fierce rage against Paul, and those like him, and that Christ could not be proclaimed by them in purity with any other result, than that of arousing against themselves the same rage. Accordingly, consulting their own ease and advantage, they mixed up these corruptions with the view of mitigating the flames of others. 200200     “Pour esteindre et appaiser le feu des nutres;” — “For the sake of mitigating and allaying the fire of others.” Calvin’s meaning appears to be, that they made it their endeavor to screen themselves as far as possible from the fiery rage of those around them. — Ed.

20 But our conversation is in heaven This statement overturns all empty shows, in which pretended ministers of the gospel are accustomed to glory, and he indirectly holds up to odium all their objects of aim, 201201     “Toutes leurs inuentions et facons de faire;” — “All their contrivances and modes of acting.” because, by flying about above the earth, they do not aspire towards heaven. For he teaches that nothing is to be reckoned of any value except God’s spiritual kingdom, because believers ought to lead a heavenly life in this world. “They mind earthly things: it is therefore befitting that we, whose conversation is in heaven, should be separated from them.” 202202     “Que nous soyons diuisez et separez d’auec eux;” — “That we be divided and separated from them.” We are, it is true, intermingled here with unbelievers and hypocrites; nay more, the chaff has more of appearance in the granary of the Lord than wheat. Farther, we are exposed to the common inconveniences of this earthly life; we require, also, meat and drink, and other necessaries, but we must, nevertheless, be conversant with heaven in mind and affection. For, on the one hand, we must pass quietly through this life, and, on the other hand, we must be dead to the world that Christ may live in us, and that we, in our turn, may live to him. This passage is a most abundant source of many exhortations, which it were easy for any one to elicit from it.

Whence also. From the connection that we have with Christ, he proves that our citizenship 203203     Politiama term corresponding to that employed in the original,.—Ed. is in heaven, for it is not seemly that the members should be separated from their Head. Accordingly, as Christ is in heaven, in order that we may be conjoined with him, it is necessary that we should in spirit dwell apart from this world. Besides,

where our treasure is, there is our heart also.
(Matthew 6:21.)

Christ, who is our blessedness and glory, is in heaven: let our souls, therefore, dwell with him on high. On this account he expressly calIs him Savior. Whence does salvation come to us? Christ will come to us from heaven as a Savior. Hence it were unbefitting that we should be taken up with this earth 204204     “Que nous soyons occupez et enueloppez en terre;” — “That we should be occupied and entangled with the earth.” . This epithet, Savior, is suited to the connection of the passage; for we are said to be in heaven in respect of our minds on this account, that it is from that source alone that the hope of salvation beams forth upon us. As the coming of Christ will be terrible to the wicked, so it rather turns away their minds from heaven than draws them thither: for they know that he will come to them as a Judge, and they shun him so far as is in their power. From these words of Paul pious minds derive the sweetest consolation, as instructing them that the coming of Christ is to be desired by them, inasmuch as it will bring salvation to them. On the other hand, it is a sure token of incredulity, when persons tremble on any mention being made of it. See the eighth chapter of the Romans. While, however, others are transported with vain desires, Paul would have believers contented with Christ alone.

Farther, we learn from this passage that nothing mean or earthly is to be conceived of as to Christ, inasmuch as Paul bids us look upward to heaven, that we may seek him. Now, those that reason with subtlety that Christ is not shut up or hid in some corner of heaven, with the view of proving that his body is everywhere, and fills heaven and earth, say indeed something that is true, but not the whole: for as it were rash and foolish to mount up beyond the heavens, and assign to Christ a station, or seat, or place of walking, in this or that region, so it is a foolish and destructive madness to draw him down from heaven by any carnal consideration, so as to seek him upon earth. Up, then, with our hearts 205205     Sursum corda Our Author most probably alludes to the circumstance, that this expression was wont to be made use of among Christians in ancient times, when the ordinance of the supper was about to be administered. See Calvin’s Institutes, vol. 3, p. 440 — Ed. , that they may be with the Lord.

21 Who will change By this argument he stirs up the Philippians still farther to lift up their minds to heaven, and be wholly attached to Christ — because this body which we carry about with us is not an everlasting abode, but a frail tabernacle, which will in a short time be reduced to nothing. Besides, it is liable to so many miseries, and so many dishonorable infirmities, that it may justly be spoken of as vile and full of ignominy. Whence, then, is its restoration to be hoped for? From heaven, at Christ’s coming. Hence there is no part of us that ought not to aspire after heaven with undivided affection. We see, on the one hand, in life, but chiefly in death, the present meanness of our bodies; the glory which they will have, conformably to Christ’s body, is incomprehensible by us: for if the disciples could not endure the slight taste which he afforded 206206     “De sa Gloire;” — “Of his glory.” in his transfiguration, (Matthew 17:6,) which of us could attain its fullness? Let us for the present be contented with the evidence of our adoption, being destined to know the riches of our inheritance when we shall come to the enjoyment of them.

According to the efficacy As nothing is more difficult to believe, or more at variance with carnal perception, than the resurrection, Paul on this account places before our eyes the boundless power of God, that it may entirely remove all doubt; for distrust arises from this — that we measure the thing itself by the narrowness of our own understanding. Nor does he simply make mention of power, but also of efficacy, which is the effect, or power showing itself in action, so to speak. Now, when we bear in mind that God, who created all things out of nothing, can command the earth, and the sea, and the other elements, to render back what has been committed to them 207207     “Qu’il leur auoit donne en garde;” — “What he had given to them to keep.” , our minds are imrnediately roused up to a firm hope — nay, even to a spiritual contemplation of the resurrection.

But it is of importance to take notice, also, that the right and power of raising the dead, nay more, of doing everything according to his own pleasure, is assigned to the person of Christ — an encomium by which his Divine majesty is illustriously set forth. Nay, farther, we gather from this, that the world was created by him, for to subject all things to himself belongs to the Creator alone.


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