Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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Philippians 3

Supplemental Commentary:


Some Jewish converts to the faith wished to retain the Mosaic Law in the Church and taught that circumcision was necessary to salvation, or at least that its observance made one a better Christian.  Such adversaries appear in other letters, especially that to the Galatians.

3, 1-6:  The Christian Spirit.    V.2 shows an abrupt change.  Probably news had just reached Paul that danger from Judaizing Christians threatened his beloved church.  He characterizes the adversaries as dogs, either because he casts into their teeth the reproach they uttered against all Gentiles, or because, like mad dogs, they rage shamelessly against the converted Saul.  They are evil workers who claim to lead men to salvation, but actually harm them.  They would advocate mutilation---here the Apostle uses a play on words, as if in English one substituted incision for circumcision---because they insist upon circumcision after its religious meaning has been abrogated by the New Law.  Cf. 2 Cor. 5, 12.

3.  We are the circumcision: of the heart and not the flesh, the true Israel or Chosen People of God.  Glory in Christ Jesus: as the sole and sufficient source of salvation.  Have no confidence in the flesh: i.e., on our descent from Abraham or any privileges of birth or natural advantages.    5.  Circumcised on the eighth day: as the Law prescribed.  Of the race of Israel: i.e., not a Gentile proselyte.  Of the tribe of Benjamin: the only one of the twelve patriarchs born in the Promised Land, from whom descended Saul the first king, the tribe which with Juda alone remained faithful after the schism.  Hebrew: in race and language, brought up in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel.  To these advantages of birth and training he adds his own accomplishments.  He was a strict Pharisee, zealous even to persecuting the Christians, a blameless observer of the minutiae of the Law.  His brow wore a halo of legal sanctity (Huby).

3, 7-16:  Renunciation for the Sake of Christ.    7.  On becoming a Christian, St. Paul realized these former advantages were useless for salvation, in fact they were a real obstacle because they hindered him from seeing that all justice and grace come only from Christ.    9.  I may . . . be found in him: as the branch in the vine, not with any justice I could acquire by my own merits, but only with the justice which comes from God through faith in Christ.    10.  To come to know Him, experience His power and the might of the risen Christ.  For we are risen again with Christ, living the life of the Spirit, although this life has not yet unfolded itself in its full beauty.  Fellowship of his sufferings: one with Christ in Gethsemani and on Calvary, in order to live with Him the life of Easter and Pentecost.    12.  Christ Jesus has laid hold of me: Saul had sought to do many things against the name of Jesus.  Overpowered by the vision on the road to Damascus, Paul now pursues Christ that he may be like Him.

3, 17 -- 4, 1:  Followers and Opponents of the Cross.    18.  Enemies of the cross of Christ: either Judaizers (see note to text), or bad Christians who refuse to accept the obligations of their state.    19.  Their God is their belly: sensual sins such as gluttony and lust.    20.  Our citizenship: our true country is heaven.  The Greek word for citizenship may designate a commonwealth and have the sense, "we are a colony of heaven, our true country."  The Philippians enjoyed the rights of jus italicum, citizenship rights equal to the rights of those dwelling in Italy itself.  Await a Savior: at the end of the world, who will perfect the salvation of His chosen ones, freeing them from the infirmities and limitations of corruptible and mortal flesh.    21.  Who will refashion the body of our lowliness: as members of Christ's Mystical Body we are made like Him in suffering and shall also be similar to Him in glory, even in body.

Confraternity Bible:

The Christian Spirit  1 For the rest, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.  To write you the same things indeed is not irksome to me, but it is necessary for you.  2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the mutilation.  3 For we are the circumcision, we who serve God in spirit, who glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh--- 4 though I too might have confidence even in the flesh.  If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, yet more may I: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as regards the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as regards zeal, a persecutor of the Church of God; as regards the justice of the Law, leading a blameless life.

Renunciation for the Sake of Christ  7 But the things that were gain to me, these, for the sake of Christ, I have counted loss.  8 Nay more, I count everything loss because of the excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I count them as dung that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a justice of my own, which is from the Law, but that which is from faith in Christ, the justice from God based upon faith; 10 so that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings: become like to him in death, 11 in the hope that somehow I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  12 Not that I have already obtained this, or already have been made perfect, but I press on hoping that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me.  13 Brethren, I do not consider that I have laid hold of it already.  But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind, I strain forward to what is before, 14 I press on towards the goal, to the prize of God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

15 Let us then, as many as are perfect, be of this mind; and if in any point you are minded otherwise, this also God will reveal to you.  16 Still in what we have attained let us be of the same mind, and let us also continue in this same rule.

Followers and Opponents of the Cross  17 Brethren, be imitators of me, and mark those who work after the pattern you have in us.  18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ.  19 Their end is ruin, their god is their belly, their glory is in their shame, they mind the things of earth.  20 But our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly await a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of his glory by exerting the power by which he is able also to subject all things to himself.