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Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, [1886], at

Philippians Chapter 3

Philippians 3:1

phi 3:1

Finally (τὸ λοιπόν)

Lit., for the rest. Frequent in Paul's writings in introducing the conclusions of his letters. See Th1 4:1; Th2 3:1; Co2 13:11, note. Evidently Paul was about to close his letter, when his thought was directed into another channel - the Judaizing teachers, and their attempts to undermine his influence.

Rejoice (χαίρετε)

See on Co2 13:11.

The same things

It is doubtful what is referred to. Possibly previous letters, or the dissensions in the Church.

Grievous (ὀκνηρόν)

Only here, Mat 25:26; Rom 12:11, in both instances rendered slothful. From ὀκνέω to delay. Hence, in classical Greek, shrinking, backward, unready. The idea of delay underlies the secondary sense, burdensome, troublesome. It is the vexation arising from weary waiting, and which appears in the middle English irken to tire or to become tired, cognate with the Latin urgere to press, and English irk, irksome, work.

Philippians 3:2

phi 3:2

Beware (βλέπετε)

Lit., look to. Compare Mar 4:24; Mar 8:15; Luk 21:8.


Rev., correctly, the dogs, referring to a well-known party - the Judaizers. These were nominally Christians who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but as the Savior of Israel only. They insisted that Christ's kingdom could be entered only through the gate of Judaism. Only circumcised converts were fully accepted by God. They appeared quite early in the history of the Church, and are those referred to in Act 15:1. Paul was the object of their special hatred and abuse. They challenged his birth, his authority, and his motives. "'Paul must be destroyed,' was as truly their watchword as the cry for the destruction of Carthage had been of old to the Roman senator" (Stanley, "Sermons and Lectures on the Apostolic Age"). These are referred to in Phi 1:16; and the whole passage in the present chapter, from Phi 3:3 to Phi 3:11, is worthy of study, being full of incidental hints lurking in single words, and not always apparent in our versions; hints which, while they illustrate the main point of the discussion, are also aimed at the assertions of the Judaizers. Dogs was a term of reproach among both Greeks and Jews. Homer uses it of both women and men, implying shamelessness in the one, and recklessness in the other. Thus Helen: "Brother-in-law of me, a mischief devising dog" ("Iliad," vi., 344). Teucer of Hector: "I cannot hit this raging dog" ("Iliad," viii., 298). Dr. Thomson says of the dogs in oriental towns: "They lie about the streets in such numbers as to render it difficult and often dangerous to pick one's way over and amongst them - a lean, hungry, and sinister brood. They have no owners, but upon some principle known only to themselves, they combine into gangs, each of which assumes jurisdiction over a particular street; and they attack with the utmost ferocity all canine intruders into their territory. In those contests, and especially during the night, they keep up an incessant barking and howling, such as is rarely heard in any European city. The imprecations of David upon his enemies derive their significance, therefore, from this reference to one of the most odious of oriental annoyances" ("Land and Book," Central palestine and Phoenicia, 593). See Psa 59:6; Psa 22:16. Being unclean animals, dogs were used to denote what was unholy or profane. So Mat 7:6; Rev 22:15. The Israelites are forbidden in Deuteronomy to bring the price of a dog into the house of God for any vow: Deu 23:18. The Gentiles of the Christian era were denominated "dogs" by the Jews, see Mat 15:26. Paul here retorts upon them their own epithet.

Evil workers

Compare deceitful workers, Co2 11:13.

Concision (κατατομήν)

Only here in the New Testament. The kindred verb occurs in the Septuagint only, of mutilations forbidden by the Mosaic law. See Lev 21:5. The noun here is a play upon περιτομή circumcision. It means mutilation. Paul bitterly characterizes those who were not of the true circumcision (Rom 2:28, Rom 2:29; Col 2:11; Eph 2:11) as merely mutilated. Compare Gal 5:12, where he uses ἀποκόπτειν to cut off, of those who would impose circumcision upon the Christian converts: "I would they would cut themselves off who trouble you;" that is, not merely circumcise, but mutilate themselves like the priests of Cybele.

Philippians 3:3

phi 3:3

The circumcision

The abstract term for those who are circumcised. In the Old Testament, circumcision was a metaphor for purity. See Lev 26:41; Deu 10:16; Deu 30:6; Eze 44:7, etc.

Worship God in the spirit (πνεύματι Θεῷ λατρεύοντες)

The correct reading is θεοῦ of God. Render, as Rev., worship by the Spirit of God. Worship. See on Rev 22:3. Paul uses the Jews' word which denoted their own service of Jehovah as His peculiar people. Compare Act 26:7. A Jew would be scandalized by the application of this term to Christian worship.

Rejoice in Christ Jesus (καυχώμενοι)

Rev., better, glory. Compare Jer 9:23, Jer 9:24, and Co1 1:31; Co2 10:17.

In the flesh

External privileges of every kind.

Philippians 3:4

phi 3:4

Though I might also have confidence (καίπερ ἐγὼ ἔχων πεποίθησιν)

Lit., even though myself having confidence. Also should be joined with the flesh and rendered even. Rev., though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. The sense of the translation might have is correct; but Paul puts it that he actually has confidence in the flesh, placing himself at the Jews' stand-point.

Thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust (δοκεῖ πεποιθέναι).

The A.V. is needlessly verbose. Rev., much better, thinketh to have confidence.

Philippians 3:5

phi 3:5

Circumcised the eighth day (περιτομῇ ὀκταήμερος)

Lit., eight days old in circumcision; or passing the eighth day. For the idiom, see on Joh 11:39, and compare Act 28:13. Converts to Judaism were circumcised in maturity: Ishmaelites in their thirteenth year. He was thus shown to be neither a heathen nor an Ishmaelite.

Of the stock of Israel

Not a proselyte, but of the original stock (γένους); not grafted into the covenant race. A descendant of Jacob, not an Idumaean nor an Ishmaelite. For Israel, see on Act 3:12, and compare Rom 9:4; Rom 11:1; Joh 1:47. Descended not from Jacob, the supplanter, but from Israel, the prince of God. See Gen 32:28.

Of the tribe of Benjamin

Not from one of the lost tribes, but from that which gave to Israel its first king; which alone was faithful to Judah at the separation under Rehoboam, and which had always held the post of honor in the army. See Jdg 5:14; Hos 5:8. Benjamin only of the twelve patriarchs was born in the land of promise. Mordecai, the deliverer of the Jews from Haman was a Benjamite. Paul's own original name, Saul, was probably derived from Saul the son of Kish, the Benjamite.

A Hebrew of the Hebrews (Ἑβραῖος ἐξ Ἑβραίων)

The (Hebrews) of the A.V. gives a wrong coloring to the phrase, as if Paul were claiming to be preeminently a Hebrew among other Hebrews. He means a Hebrew from (ἐξ) Hebrew parents. Rev., a Hebrew of Hebrews, which is no special improvement. The expression implies characteristics of language and manners. He might be an Israelite and yet a child of Greek-speaking Jews: but his parents had retained their native tongue and customs, and he himself, while understanding and speaking Greek, also spoke in Hebrew on occasion. See Act 21:40; Act 22:2.

The law

The Mosaic law. See on Rom 2:12. The validity of that law was the principle upheld by the Judaizers.

A Pharisee

See Act 23:6; Gal 1:14. Compare on the whole verse, Co2 11:22.

Philippians 3:6

phi 3:6



Blameless (γενόμενος ἄμεμπτος)

The A.V. does not render the participle, proven or found. Rev., correctly, found blameless.

Philippians 3:7

phi 3:7

What things (ἅτινα)

The double relative classifies; things which came under the category of gain. Compare Gal 4:24; Col 2:23.

Gain (κέρδη)

Lit., gains. So Rev., in margin, and better. The various items of privilege are regarded separately.

I counted loss (ἥγημαι ζημίαν)

Better, as Rev., have counted. The perfect tense implies that he still counts them as loss. See on Phi 3:8. Notice the singular number loss, and the plural gains. The various gains are all counted as one loss.

Philippians 3:8

phi 3:8

Yea doubtless (ἀλλὰ μὲν οὖν)

Ἁλλὰ but, Phi 3:7, puts that verse in direct contrast with the preceding verse. Ἁλλὰ yea or verily, in this verse affirms more than the preceding statement, while οὖν therefore (not rendered), collects and concludes from what has been previously said: Yea verily therefore.

All things

An advance on those (things) of Phi 3:7.

For the excellency, etc. (διὰ)

On account of: because the knowledge of Christ is so much greater than all things else.

I have suffered the loss (ἐζημιώθην)

Rev., better, I suffered; when I embraced Christianity. Lit., was mulcted. See on Mat 16:26, and see on cast away, Luk 9:25.

All things (τὰ πάντα)

Collectively. All things mentioned in Phi 3:5-7.

Dung (σκύβαλα)

Rev., refuse. Either excrement or what is thrown away from the table; leavings. The derivation is uncertain. According to some it is a contraction from ἐς κύνας βάλλω to throw to the dogs. See on filth, Co1 4:13. Notice the repetition of gain, count, loss, all things, Christ.

Win (κερδήσω)

Rev., better, gain, corresponding with gain, Phi 3:7.

Philippians 3:9

phi 3:9

Be found (εὑρεθῶ)

Discovered or proved to be. See on Phi 2:8. Compare Rom 7:10; Gal 2:17.

Mine own righteousness (ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην)

Rev., correctly, a righteousness of mine own. The A.V. would require the article with ἐμὴν mine, and assumes the existence of a personal righteousness; whereas Paul says, not having any righteousness which can be called mine.

Which is of the law (τὴν ἐκ νόμου)

Rev., better, even that which is of the law; thus bringing out the force of the article which defines the character of that righteousness which alone could be personal, viz., righteousness consisting in the strict fulfillment of the law.

Through the faith of Christ (διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ)

Rev., better, through faith in Christ. Faith as opposed to the law. The change of prepositions, through (διὰ) faith, and of (ἐκ) the law, as turning on the distinction between faith represented as the medium, and the law as the source of justification, cannot be insisted upon as a rule, since both the prepositions are used with faith, as in Gal 2:16. Compare Rom 3:30; Rom 5:1.

Of God

Contrasted with my own.

By faith (ἐπὶ)

Resting upon faith, or on the condition of. Compare Act 3:16.

Philippians 3:10

phi 3:10

That I may know Him (τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν)

Know is taken up from knowledge, Phi 3:8, and is joined with be found in Him, qualified by not having, etc. That I may be found in Him not having, etc., but having the righteousness which is of God so as to know him, etc.

The power of His resurrection (τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ)

Power of His resurrection and fellowship of His sufferings furnish two specific points further defining the knowledge of Him. By the power of Christ's resurrection is meant the power which it exerts over believers. Here, more especially, according to the context, in assuring their present justification, and its outcome in their final glorification. See Rom 4:24, Rom 4:25; Rom 8:11, Rom 8:30; Co1 15:17; Col 3:4; Phi 3:21.

Fellowship of His sufferings

Participation in Christ's sufferings. See Mat 20:22, Mat 20:23; and on Col 1:24. Compare Co2 1:5; Pe1 4:13. Faith makes a believer one with a suffering Christ.

Being made conformable (συμμορφιζόμενος)

Explaining the previous clause: by my becoming conformed, etc. Rev., becoming conformed. Compare Co2 4:10; Rom 6:5. For conformed see on Mat 17:2, and see on form, Phi 2:6. The most radical conformity is thus indicated: not merely undergoing physical death like Christ, but conformity to the spirit and temper, the meekness and submissiveness of Christ; to His unselfish love and devotion, and His anguish over human sin.

Philippians 3:11

phi 3:11

If by any means (εἴ πως)

For the form of expression compare Rom 1:10; Rom 11:14. Not an expression of doubt, but of humility.

I might attain (καταντήσω)

See on Act 26:7.

The resurrection of the dead (τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν).

Rev., more correctly, from the dead. Lit., the resurrection, that, namely, from the dead. Compare Act 4:2. This compound noun for resurrection is found only here, and expresses the rising from or from among (ἐξ), which is further emphasized by the repetition of the preposition ἐκ (from). The kindred compound verb occurs Mar 12:19; Luk 20:28; Act 15:5, but in neither passage of raising the dead. The word here does not differ in meaning from ἀνάστασις, commonly used, except that the idea is more vividly conceived as a rising from the earth. See Mat 22:31; Luk 20:35. The phrase resurrection of or from the dead does not often occur in the Gospels, and resurrection ἐκ from the dead only twice in the New Testament, Act 4:2; Pe1 1:3. For the phrase, see on Luk 16:31. Resurrection of the dead is a generic phrase, denoting the general resurrection of the dead, bad and good. Resurrection from the dead, in the only two passages where it occurs, signifies resurrection unto life. In Pe1 1:3, it is applied to Christ.

Philippians 3:12

phi 3:12

Not as though (οὐχ ὅτι)

Lit., not that, as Rev. By this I do not mean to say that. For similar usage, see Joh 7:22; Co2 1:24; Phi 4:17.

Had attained - were perfect (ἔλαβον - τετελείωμαι)

Rev., have attained, am made perfect. There is a change of tenses which may be intentional; the aorist attained pointing to the definite period of his conversion, the perfect, am made perfect, referring to his present state. Neither when I became Christ's did I attain, nor, up to this time, have I been perfected. With attained supply the prize from Phi 3:14. Rev., am made perfect, is preferable, as preserving the passive form of the verb.

I follow after (διώκω)

Rev., better, press on. The A.V. gives the sense of chasing; whereas the apostle's meaning is the pressing toward a fixed point. The continuous present would be better, I am pressing.

May apprehend (καταλάβω)

American Rev., lay hold on. Neither A.V. nor Rev. give the force of καὶ also; if I may also apprehend as well as pursue. For the verb, see on Joh 1:5.

For which also I am apprehended

Rev., correctly, was apprehended. American Rev., laid hold on. Paul's meaning is, "I would grasp that for which Christ grasped me. Paul's conversion was literally of the nature of a seizure. That for which Christ laid hold of him was indeed his mission to the Gentiles, but it was also his personal salvation, and it is of this that the context treats. Some render, seeing that also I was apprehended. Rev., in margin.

Philippians 3:13

phi 3:13


As others count themselves.

Philippians 3:14

phi 3:14

One thing

I do is supplied. Some supply I count, which is less appropriate, since what follows is concerned with action rather than with thinking or reckoning.

Reaching forth (ἐπεκτεινόμενος)

Only here in the New Testament. Ἑπί direction, after; ἐκ forth; τείνω to stretch. Rev., stretching forward. The metaphor is that of the footrace. Bengel says: "The eye outstrips and draws onward the hand, and the hand the foot."

Philippians 3:15

phi 3:15

Toward the mark (κατὰ σκοπὸν)

Rev., goal. Bear down upon (κατά). Σκοπός mark, only here in the New Testament. See on look, Phi 2:4. Used in the classics of a mark for shooting at, or as a moral or intellectual end. A somewhat similar figure occurs Ti1 1:6; Ti1 6:21; Ti2 2:18, in the verb ἀστοχέω to miss the aim or the shot. A.V., swerved and erred.

Prize (βραβεῖον)

See on Co1 9:24. Ignatius uses the word θέμα that which is deposited as a prize: a prize of money as distinct from the crown. "Be temperate as God's athlete. The prize is incorruption and eternal life" (to Polycarp, 2). Chrysostom says: "He that runs looks not at the spectators, but at the prize. Whether they be rich or poor, if one mock them, applaud them, insult them, throw stones at them - if one plunder their house, if they see children or wife or anything whatsoever - the runner is not turned aside, but is concerned only with his running and winning the prize. He that runneth stoppeth nowhere; since, if he be a little remiss, all is lost. He that runneth relaxeth in no respect before the end, but then, most of all, stretcheth over the course."

High calling (ἄνω κλήσεως)

Lit., upward calling. A calling which is from heaven and to heaven. Κλῆσις calling, is habitually used in the New Testament of the act of calling. Compare Heb 3:1. The prize is bound up with the calling; promised when the call is issued, and given when the call is fulfilled.

Perfect (τέλειοι)

Mature Christians. See on Co1 2:6.

Be thus minded

Lit., think this, or have this mind, namely, to forget the past and to press forward.

Philippians 3:16

phi 3:16


Rev., only. Notwithstanding the minor points in which you may be otherwise minded.

Whereto we have already attained (εἰς ὃ ἐφθάσαμεν)

Whatever real christian and moral attainment you may have made, let that serve as a rule for your further advance. The character of this standard of attainment is illustrated by the words in Phi 3:15, be thus minded, and by those in Phi 3:17, as ye have us for an example. The individual variations are not considered. He regards rather the collective development, and assumes the essentials of christian attainment on the part of his readers. For attained, see on we are come, Co2 10:14.

Let us walk by the same rule (τῷ αὐτῷ στοιχεῖν)

The idea of a regulative standard is implied, but rule κανόνι must be omitted from the Greek text. Rev. brings out the antithesis better: whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let us walk. Omit let us mind the same thing.

Philippians 3:17

phi 3:17

Followers together of me (συμμιμηταί μου)

Only here in the New Testament. Rev., more correctly, imitators. Compare Co1 11:1. Not imitators of Christ in common with me, but be together, jointly, imitators of me.

Mark (σκοπεῖτε)

See on looking, Phi 2:4.

So as (οὕτως καθὼς)

Rev., "which so walk even as ye have," etc. The two words are correlative. Briefly, imitate me and those who follow my example.

Philippians 3:18

phi 3:18

Many walk

No word is supplied describing the character of their walk; but this is brought out by enemies of the cross of Christ, and in the details of Phi 3:19. The persons alluded to were probably those of Epicurean tendencies. This and Judaic formalism were the two prominent errors in the Philippian church.

Philippians 3:19

phi 3:19


Rom 16:18. So the Cyclops in Euripides: "My flocks which I sacrifice to no one but myself, and not to the gods, and to this my belly the greatest of the gods: for to eat and drink each day, and to give one's self no trouble, this is the god for wise men" ("Cyclops," 334-338).


That which they esteem glory.

Earthly things (τὰ ἐπίγεια)

See on Co2 5:1. Compare Col 3:2.

Philippians 3:20

phi 3:20

Conversation (παλίτευμα)

Only here in the New Testament. Rev., citizenship, commonwealth in margin. The rendering conversation, in the sense of manner of life (see on Pe1 1:15), has no sufficient warrant; and that πολίτευμα commonwealth, is used interchangeably with πολιτεία citizenship, is not beyond question. Commonwealth gives a good and consistent sense. The state of which we are citizens is in heaven. See on Phi 1:27. Compare Plato: "That city of which we are the founders, and which exists in idea only; for I do not believe that there is such an one anywhere on earth. In Heaven, I replied, there is laid up the pattern of it methinks, which he who desires may behold, and beholding may settle himself there" ("Republic," 592).

Is in heaven (ὑπάρχει)

The use of this word instead of ἐστι is is peculiar. See on being, Phi 2:6. It has a backward look. It exists now in heaven, having been established there of old. Compare Heb 11:16; Joh 14:2.

We look for (ἀπεκδεχόμεθα)

Rev., wait for. See on Co1 1:7. Used only by Paul, and in Heb 9:28. Compare Rom 8:19, Rom 8:23, Rom 8:25; Gal 5:5. It indicates earnest, patient waiting and expectation. As in ἀποκαραδοκια earnest expectation, Phi 1:20, the compounded preposition ἀπό denotes the withdrawal of attention from inferior objects. The word is habitually used in the New Testament with reference to a future manifestation of the glory of Christ or of His people.

The Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (σωτῆρα)

Savior has no article, and its emphatic position in the sentence indicates that it is to be taken predicatively with Jesus Christ, and not as the direct object of the verb. Hence render: we await as Savior the Lord, etc. Compare Heb 9:28, "To them that wait for Him will He appear a second time unto salvation."

Philippians 3:21

phi 3:21

Shall change (μετασχηματίσει)

See on Mat 17:2; see on Co1 4:6; Co1 11:13. Also see on form, Phi 2:6; and see on fashion, Phi 2:8. The word thus indicates a change in what is outward and shifting - the body. Rev., correctly, shall fashion anew. Refashion (?).

Our vile body (τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν)

Wrong. Render, as Rev., the body of our humiliation. See, for the vicious use of hendiadys in A.V., on Eph 1:19. Lightfoot observes that the A.V. seems to countenance the stoic contempt of the body. Compare Col 1:22. The biographer of Archbishop Whately relates that, during his last illness, one of his chaplains, watching, during the night at his bedside, in making some remark expressive of sympathy for his sufferings, quoted these words: "Who shall change our vile body." The Archbishop interrupted him with the request "Read the words." The chaplain read them from the English Bible; but he reiterated, "Read his own words." The chaplain gave the literal translation, "this body of our humiliation." "That's right, interrupted the Archbishop, "not vile - nothing that He made is vile."

That it may be fashioned like (εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτὸ σύμμορφον).

The words that it may be, or become, are omitted from the correct Greek text, so that the strict rendering is the body of our humiliation conformed, etc. The words are, however, properly inserted in A.V. and Rev. for the sake of perspicuity. Rev., correctly, conformed for fashioned like. Fashion belongs to the preceding verb. See on shall change. The adjective conformed is compounded with μορφή form (see on Phi 2:6, and see on made conformable, Phi 3:10). As the body of Christ's glory is a spiritual body, this word is appropriate to describe a conformation to what is more essential, permanent, and characteristic. See 1 Corinthians 15:35-53.

His glorious body (τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ)

Wrong. Rev., correctly, the body of His glory. The body in which He appears in His present glorified state. See on Col 2:9.

The working whereby He is able (τὴν ἐνέργειαν τοῦ δύνασθαι)

Lit., the energy of His being able. Δύνασθαι expresses ability, faculty, natural ability, not necessarily manifest. Ἑνέργεια is power in exercise, used only of superhuman power. See on Joh 1:12; see on Pe2 2:11. Hence, as Calvin remarks, "Paul notes not only the power of God as it resides in Him, but the power as it puts itself into act." See Eph 1:19, where four of the six words for power are used.

Subdue (ὑποτάξαι)

Rev., subject. See on Jam 4:7. It is more than merely subdue. It is to bring all things within His divine economy; to marshal them all under Himself in the new heaven and the new earth in which shall dwell righteousness. Hence the perfected heavenly state as depicted by John is thrown into the figure of a city, an organized commonwealth. The verb is thus in harmony with Phi 3:20. The work of God in Christ is therefore not only to transform, but to subject, and that not only the body, but all things. See Co1 15:25-27; Rom 8:19, Rom 8:20; Eph 1:10, Eph 1:21, Eph 1:22; Eph 4:10.

Next: Philippians Chapter 4