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4even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Pressing toward the Goal

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.


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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.

7. What things were gain to me He says, that those things were gain to him, for ignorance of Christ is the sole reason why we are puffed up with a vain confidence. Hence, where we see a false estimate of one’s own excellence, where we see arrogance, where we see pride, there let us be assured that Christ is not known. On the other hand, so soon as Christ shines forth all those things that formerly dazzled our eyes with a false splendor instantly vanish, or at least are disesteemed. Those things, accordingly, which had been gain to Paul when he was as yet blind, or rather had imposed upon him under an appearance of gain, he acknowledges to have been loss to him, when he has been enlightened. Why loss? Because they were hinderances in the way of his coming to Christ. What is more hurtful than anything that keeps us back from drawing near to Christ? Now he speaks chiefly of his own righteousness, for we are not received by Christ, except as naked and emptied of our own righteousness. Paul, accordingly, acknowledges that nothing was so injurious to him as his own righteousness, inasmuch as he was by means of it shut out from Christ.

8. Nay more, I reckon. He means, that he continues to be of the same mind, because it often happens, that, transported with delight in new things, we forget everything else, and afterwards we regret it. Hence Paul, having said that he renounced all hinderances, that he might gain Christ, now adds, that he continues to be of this mind.

For the sake of the excellency of the knowledge He extols the gospel in opposition to all such notions as tend to beguile us. For there are many things that have an appearance of excellence, but the knowledge of Christ surpasses to such a degree everything else by its sublimity 183183     Par son excellence et hautesso;” — “By its excellence and loftiness.” , that, as compared with it, there is nothing that is not contemptible. Let us, therefore, learn from this, what value we ought to set upon the knowledge of Christ alone. As to his calling him his Lord, he does this to express the intensity of his feeling.

For whom I have suffered the loss of all things He expresses more than he had done previously; at least he expresses himself with greater distinctness. It is a similitude taken from seamen, who, when urged on by danger of shipwreck, throw everything overboard, that, the ship being lightened, they may reach the harbour in safety. Paul, then, was prepared to lose everything that he had, rather than be deprived of Christ.

But it is asked, whether it is necessary for us to renounce riches, and honors, and nobility of descent, and even external righteousness, that we may become partakers of Christ, (Hebrews 3:14,) for all these things are gifts of God, which, in themselves, are not to be despised? I answer, that the Apostle does not speak here so much of the things themselves, as of the quality of them. It is, indeed, true, that the kingdom of heaven is like a precious pearl, for the purchase of which no one should hesitate to sell everything that he has (Matthew 13:46.) There is, however, a difference between the substance of things and the quality. Paul did not reckon it necessary to disown connection with his own tribe and with the race of Abraham, and make himself an alien, that he might become a Christian, but to renounce dependence upon his descent. It was not befitting, that from being chaste he should become unchaste; that from being sober, he should become intemperate; and that from being respectable and honorable, he should become dissolute; but that he should divest himself of a false estimate of his own righteousness, and treat it with contempt. We, too, when treating of the righteousness of faith, do not contend against the substance of works, but against that quality with which the sophists invest them, inasmuch as they contend that men are justified by them. Paul, therefore, divested himself — not of works, but of that mistaken confidence in works, with which he had been puffed up.

As to riches and honors, when we have divested ourselves of attachment to them, we will be prepared, also, to renounce the things themselves, whenever the Lord will require this from us, and so it ought to be. It is not expressly necessary that you be a poor man, in order that you may be Christian; but if it please the Lord that it should be so, you ought to be prepared to endure poverty. In fine, it is not lawful for Christians to have anything apart from Christ. I consider as apart from Christ everything that is a hinderance in the way of Christ alone being our ground of glorying, and having an entire sway over us.

And I count them but refuse. Here he not merely by words, but also by realities, amplifies greatly what he had before stated. For those who cast their merchandise and other things into the sea, that they may escape in safety, do not, therefore, despise riches, but act as persons prepared rather to live in misery and want 184184     Pierce adduces the two following instances of the same form of expression as made use of among the Romans—Plautus says, (Trucul. Act 2, sc 7, ver. 5,) when speaking of one that was chargeable with prodigality — “Qui bona sua pro stercore habet, foras jubet ferri,” (“who counts his goods but dung, and orders them to be carried out of the house.”) Thus, also, Apuleius, (Florid, c. 14,) speaks of Crates, when he turned Cynic: Rem familiarem a.bjicit velut onus sterootis, magis labori quant usui;(“He casts away his goods as a heap of dung, that was more troublesome than useful.”) — Ed. , than to be drowned along with their riches. They part with them, indeed, but it is with regret and with a sigh; and when they have escaped, they bewail the loss of them. Paul, however, declares, on the other hand, that he had not merely abandoned everything that he formerly reckoned precious, but that they were like dung, offensive to him, or were disesteemed like things that are thrown awayin contempt. Chrysostom renders the word—straws. Grammarians, however, are of opinion, that σκύβαλον is employed as though it were κυσίβαλονwhat is thrown to dogs. 185185     Such is the etymology given by Suidas, τὸ τοῖς κυσὶ βαλλόμενον — “what is thrown to dogs.”Ed. And certainly there is good reason why everything that is opposed to Christ should be offensive to us, inasmuch as it is an abomination in, the sight of God. (Luke 16:15.) There is good reason why it should be offensive to us also, on the ground of its being an unfounded imagination.

That I may gain Christ. By this expression he intimates that we cannot gain Christ otherwise than by losing everything that we have. For he would have us rich by his grace alone: he would have him alone be our entire blessedness. Now, in what way we must suffer the loss of all things, has been already stated — in such a manner that nothing will turn us aside from confidence in Christ alone. But if Paul, with such innocence and integrity of life, did not hesitate to reckon his own righteousness to be loss and dung, what mean those Pharisees of the present day, who, while covered over with every kind of wickedness, do nevertheless feel no shame in extolling their own merits in opposition to Christ?

9. And may find them in him The verb is in the passive voice, and hence all others have rendered it, I may be found. They pass over the context, however, in a very indifferent manner, as though it had no peculiar force. If you read it in the passive voice, an antithesis must be understood — thatPaul was lost before he was found in Christ, as a rich merchant is like one lost, so long as he has his vessel laden with riches; but when they have been thrown overboard, he is found? 186186     “Mais apres que les richesses sont lettees en la mer, il est trouue, pource qu’il commence a avoir esperance d’eschapper, d’autant que le vaisseau est allege;” — “But after his riches have been thrown into the sea, he is found, inasmuch as he begins to have hope of escaping, because the vessel has been lightened.” For here that saying 187187     “Le prouerbe ancien;” — “The ancient proverb.” is admirably in point — “I had been lost, if I had not been lost.” But as the verb εὐρίσκομαι, while it has a passive termination, has an active signification, and means — to recover what you have voluntarily given up, (as Budaeus shews by various examples,) I have not hesitated to differ from the opinion of others. For, in this way, the meaning will be more complete, and the doctrine the more ample — that Paul renounced everything that he had, that he might recover them in Christ; and this corresponds better with the word gain, for it means that it was no trivial or ordinary gain, inasmuch as Christ contains everything in himself. And, unquestionably, we lose nothing when we come to Christ naked and stript of everything, for those things which we previously imagined, on false grounds, that we possessed, we then begin really to acquire. He, accordingly, shews more fully, how great the riches of Christ, because we obtain and find all things in him.

Not having mine own righteousness Here we have a remarkable passage, if any one is desirous to have a particular description of the righteousness of faith, and to understand its true nature. For Paul here makes a comparison between two kinds of righteousness. The one he speaks of as belonging to the man, while he calls it at the same time the righteousness of the law; the other, he tells us, is from God, is obtained through faith, and rests upon faith in Christ. These he represents as so directly opposed to each other, that they cannot stand together. Hence there are two things that are to be observed here. In the first place, that the righteousness of the law must be given up and renounced, that you may be righteous through faith; and secondly, that the righteousness of faith comes forth from God, and does not belong to the individual. As to both of these we have in the present day a great controversy with Papists; for on the one hand, they do not allow that the righteousness of faith is altogether from God, but ascribe it partly to man; and, on the other hand, they mix them together, as if the one did not destroy the other. Hence we must carefully examine the several words made use of by Paul, for there is not one of them that is not very emphatic.

He says, that believers have no righteousness of their own. Now, it cannot be denied, that if there were any righteousness of works, it might with propriety be said to be ours. Hence he leaves no room whatever for the righteousness of works. Why he calls it the righteousness of the law, he shows in Romans 10:5; because this is the sentence of the law, He that doeth these things shall live in them. The law, therefore, pronounces the man to be righteous through works. Nor is there any ground for the cavil of Papists, that all this must be restricted to ceremonies. For in the first place, it is a contemptible frivolity to affirm that Paul was righteous only through ceremonies; and secondly, he in this way draws a contrast between those two kinds of righteousness — the one being of man, the other, from God. He intimates, accordingly, that the one is the reward of works, while the other is a free gift from God. He thus, in a general way, places man’s merit in opposition to Christ’s grace; for while the law brings works, faith presents man before God as naked, that he may be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When, therefore, he declares that the righteousness of faith is from God, it is not simply because faith is the gift of God, but because God justifies us by his goodness, or because we receive by faith the righteousness which he has conferred upon us.

10 That I may know him He points out the efficacy and nature of faith — that it is the knowledge of Christ, and that, too, not bare or indistinct, but in such a manner that the power of his resurrection is felt. Resurrection he employs as meaning, the completion of redemption, so that it comprehends in it at the same time the idea of death. But as it is not enough to know Christ as crucified and raised up from the dead, unless you experience, also, the fruit of this, he speaks expressly of efficacy. 188188     “De l’efficace ou puissance;” — “Of the efficacy or power.” Christ therefore is rightly known, when we feel how powerful his death and resurrection are, and how efficacious they are in us. Now all things are there furnished to us — expiation and destruction of sin, freedom from condemnation, satisfaction, victory over death, the attainment of righteousness, and the hope of a blessed immortality.

And the fellowship of his sufferings Having spoken of that freely-conferred righteousness, which was procured for us through the resurrection of Christ, and is obtained by us through faith, he proceeds to treat of the exercises of the pious, and that in order that it might not seem as though he introduced an inactive faith, which produces no effects in the life. He also intimates, indirectly, that these are the exercises in which the Lord would have his people employ themselves; while the false Apostles pressed forward upon them the useless elements of ceremonies. Let every one, therefore, who has become through faith a partaker of all Christ’s benefits, acknowledge that a condition is presented to him — that his whole life be conformed to his death.

There is, however, a twofold participation and fellowship in the death of Christ. The one is inward — what the Scripture is wont to term the mortification of the flesh, or the crucifixion of the old man, of which Paul treats in the sixth chapter of the Romans; the other is outward — what is termed the mortification of the outward man. It is the endurance of the Cross, of which he treats in the eighth chapter of the same Epistle, and here also, if I do not mistake. For after introducing along with this the power of his resurrection, Christ crucified is set before us, that we may follow him through tribulations and distresses; and hence the resurrection of the dead is expressly made mention of, that we may know that we must die before we live. This is a continued subject of meditation to believers so long as they sojourn in this world.

This, however, is a choice consolation, that in all our miseries we are partakers of Christ’s Cross, if we are his members; so that through afflictions the way is opened up for us to everlasting blessedness, as we read elsewhere,

If we die with him, we shall also live with him; if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:11,)

We must all therefore be prepared for this — that our whole life shall represent nothing else than the image of death, until it produce death itself, as the life of Christ is nothing else than a prelude of death. We enjoy, however, in the mean time, this consolation — that the end is everlasting blessedness. For the death of Christ is connected with the resurrection. Hence Paul says, that he is conformed to his death, that he may attain the glory of the resurrection. The phrase, if by any means, does not indicate doubt, but expresses difficulty, with a view to stimulate our earnest endeavor 189189     “Afin de nous resueiller et aiguiser a nous y addonner de tant plus grande affection;” — “That it may arouse and stimulate us to devote ourselves to it with so much greater zeal.” for it is no light contest, inasmuch as we must struggle against so many and so serious hinderances.

12 Not as though I had already apprehended Paul insists upon this, that he may convince the Philippians that he thinks of nothing but Christ — knows nothing else — desires nothing else — is occupied with no other subject of meditation. In connection with this, there is much weight in what he now adds — that he himself, while he had given up all hinderances, had nevertheless not attained that object of aim, and that, on this account, he always aimed and eagerly aspired at something further. How much more was this incumbent on the Philippians, who were still far behind him?

It is asked, however, what it is that Paul says he has not yet attained? For unquestionably, so soon as we are by faith ingrafted into the body of Christ, we have already entered the kingdom of God, and, as it is stated in Ephesians 2:6, we already, in hope, sit in heavenly places. I answer, that our salvation, in the mean time, is in hope, so that the inheritance indeed is secure; but we nevertheless have it not as yet in possession. At the same time, Paul here looks at something else — the advancement of faith, and of that mortification of which he had made mention. He had said that he aimed and eagerly aspired at the resurrection of the dead through fellowship in the Cross of Christ. He adds, that he has not as yet arrived at this. At what? At the attainment of having entire fellowship in Christ’s sufferings, having a full taste of the power of his resurrection, and knowing him perfectly. He teaches, therefore, by his own example, that we ought to make progress, and that the knowledge of Christ is an attainment of such difficulty, that even those who apply themselves exclusively to it, do nevertheless not attain perfection in it so long as they live. This, however, does not detract in any degree from the authority of Paul’s doctrine, inasmuch as he had acquired as much as was sufficient for discharging the office committed to him. In the mean time, it was necessary for him to make progress, that this divinely-furnished instructor of all might be trained to humility.

As also I have been apprehended This clause he has inserted by way of correction, that he might ascribe all his endeavors to the grace of God. It is not of much importance whether you read as, or in so far as; for the meaning in either case remains the same — that Paul was apprehended by Christ, that he might apprehend Christ; that is, that he did nothing except under Christ’s influence and guidance. I have chosen, however, the more distinct rendering, as it seemed to be optional.

13 I reckon not myself to have as yet apprehended He does not here call in question the certainty of his salvation, as though he were still in suspense, but repeats what he had said before — that he still aimed at making farther progress, because he had not yet attained the end of his calling. He shews this immediately after, by saying that he was intent on this one thing, leaving off everything else. Now, he compares our life to a race-course, the limits of which God has marked out to us for running in. For as it would profit the runner nothing to have left the starting-point, unless he went forward to the goal, so we must also pursue the course of our calling until death, and must not cease until we have obtained what we seek. Farther, as the way is marked out to the runner, that he may not fatigue himself to no purpose by wandering in this direction or in that, so there is also a goal set before us, towards which we ought to direct our course undeviatingly; and God does not permit us to wander about heedlessly. Thirdly, as the runner requires to be free from entanglement, and not stop his course on account of any impediment, but must continue his course, surmounting every obstacle, so we must take heed that we do not apply our mind or heart to anything that may divert the attention, but must, on the contrary, make it our endeavor, that, free from every distraction, we may apply the whole bent of our mind exclusively to God’s calling. These three things Paul comprehends in one similitude. When he says that he does this one thing, and forgets all things that are behind, he intimates his assiduity, and excludes everything fitted to distract. When he says that he presses toward the mark, he intimates that he is not wandering from the way.

Forgetting those things that are behind He alludes to runners, who do not turn their eyes aside in any direction, lest they should slacken the speed of their course, and, more especially, do not look behind to see how much ground they have gone over, but hasten forward unremittingly towards the goal, Thus Paul teaches us, that he does not think of what he has been, or of what he has done, but simply presses forward towards the appointed goal, and that, too, with such ardor, that he runs forward to it, as it were, with outstretched arms. For a metaphor of this nature is implied in the participle which he employs. 191191     The participle referred to is ἐπεκτεινόμενος, which, as is remarked by Dr. Bloomfield, “is highly appropriate to the racer, whether on foot, or on horseback, or in the chariot; since the racer stretches his head and hands forward in anxiety to reach the goal.” — Ed.

Should any one remark, by way of objection, that the remembrance of our past life is of use for stirring us up, both because the favors that have been already conferred upon us give us encouragement to entertain hope, and because we are admonished by our sins to amend our course of life, I answer, that thoughts of this nature do not turn away our view from what is before us to what is behind, but rather help our vision, so that we discern more distinctly the goal. Paul, however, condemns here such looking back, as either destroys or impairs alacrity. Thus, for example, should any one persuade himself that he has made sufficiently great progress, reckoning that he has done enough, he will become indolent, and feel inclined to deliver up the lamp 192192     A proverbial expression, founded on the circumstance that in certain games at Athens the runners had to carry a lamp, or burning torch, in such a way that it should not go out, and, on any one of the competitors giving up the contest, he delivered up the lamp, or torch, to his successor, See Auct. ad Herenn. 1. 4, c. 46; Lucret. I. 2, 5:77 — Ed. to others; or, if any one looks back with a feeling of regret for the situation that he has abandoned, he cannot apply the whole bent of his mind to what he is engaged in. Such was the nature of the thoughts from which Paul’s mind required to be turned away, if he would in good earnest follow out Christ’s calling. As, however, there has been mention made here of endeavor, aim, course, perseverance, lest any one should imagine that salvation consists in these things, or should even ascribe to human industry what comes from another quarter, with the view of pointing out the cause of all these things, he adds — in Christ Jesus




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