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3. No Confidence in the Flesh

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.

2Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 4Though 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: 5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8Yea 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, 9And 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: 10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12Not 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. 13Brethren, 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, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let 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. 16Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 17Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 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: 19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who 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.

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.


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