Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 42: Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but you it is safe.
1. Quod reliquum est, fratres, mei, gaudete in Domino; eadem scribere vobis, me equidem, haud piget, vobis autem tutm est.
2. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
2. Videte canes, videte malos operarios, videte concisionem.
3. For we are the cirmcumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
3. Nos enim sumus cicrcumcisio, qui spiritu Deum colimus, et gloriamur in Christo Iesu, non autem in carne confidimus.
4. Though 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:
4. Tametsi ego etiam in carne fiduciam habeo. Si qauis alius videtur confidere in carne, ego magis:
5. Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
5. Circumcisus die occtavo, ex genere Israel, tribu Beniamin, Hebraeus ex Hebraeis, secundum legem Pharisaeus:
6. Concerning zeal, persecuting the Church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
6. Secundum zelum persequens Ecclesiam, secundum iustitiam, quae est in lege, irreprehensibilis.
1 Rejoice in the Lord This is a conclusion from what goes before, for as Satan never ceased to distress them with daily rumors, he bids them divest themselves of anxiety and be of good courage. In this way he exhorts them to constancy, that they may not fall back from the doctrine which they have once received. The phrase henceforward denotes a continued course, that, in the midst of many hinderances, they may not cease to exercise holy joy. It is a rare excellence when Satan endeavors to exasperate us 164 by means of the bitterness of the cross, so as to make God’s name unpleasant 165 , to take such satisfaction in the simple tasting of God’s grace, that all annoyances, sorrows, anxieties, and griefs are sweetened.
To write the same thing to you. Here he begins to speak of the false Apostles, with whom, however, he does not fight hand to hand, as in the Epistle to the Galatians, but in a few words severely 166 exposes them, as far as was sufficient. For as they had simply made an attempt upon the Philippians, and had not made an inroad upon them, 167 it was not so necessary to enter into any regular disputation with the view of refuting errors, to which they had never lent an ear. Hence he simply admonishes them to be diligent and attentive in detecting impostors and guarding against them.
In the first place, however, he calls them dogs; the metaphor being grounded upon this — that, for the sake of filling their belly, they assailed true doctrine with their impure barking. Accordingly, it is as though he had said, — impure or profane persons; for I do not agree with those who think that they are so called on the ground of envying others, or biting them 168
In the second place, he calls them evil workers, meaning, that, under the pretext of building up the Church, they did nothing but ruin and destroy everything; for many are busily occupied 169 who would do better to remain idle. As the public crier 170 on being asked by Gracchus in mockery, on the ground of his sitting idle, what he was doing? had his answer ready, “Nay, but what are you doing?” for he was the ringleader of a ruinous sedition. Hence Paul would have a distinction made among workers, that believers may be on their guard against those that are evil.
In the third term employed, there is an elegant (προσωνομασία) play upon words. They boasted that they were the circumcision: he turns aside this boasting by calling them the concision 171 , inasmuch as they tore asunder the unity of the Church. In this we have an instance tending to shew that the Holy Spirit in his organs 172 has not in every case avoided wit and humor, yet so as at the same time to keep at a distance from such pleasantry as were unworthy of his majesty. There are innumerable examples in the Prophets, and especially in Isaiah, so that there is no profane author that abounds more in agreeable plays upon words, and figurative forms of expression. We ought, however, more carefully still to observe the vehemence with which Paul inveighs against the false Apostles, which will assuredly break forth wherever there is the ardor of pious zeal. But in the mean time we must be on our guard lest any undue warmth or excessive bitterness should creep in under a pretext of zeal.
When he says, that to write the same things is not grievous to him, he seems to intimate that he had already written on some other occasion to the Philippians. There would, however, be no inconsistency in understanding him as meaning, that he now by his writings reminds them of the same things as they had frequently heard him say, when he was with them. For there can be no doubt that he had often intimated to them in words, when he was with them, how much they ought to be on their guard against such pests: yet he does not grudge to repeat these things, because the Philippians would have incurred danger in the event of his silence. And, unquestionably, it is the part of a good pastor, not merely to supply the flock with pasture, and to rule the sheep by his guidance, but to drive away the wolves when threatening to make an attack upon the fold, and that not merely on one occasion, but so as to be constantly on the watch, and to be indefatigable. For as thieves and robbers (Joh 10:8) are constantly on the watch for the destruction of the Church, what excuse will the pastor have if, after courageously repelling them in several instances, he gives way on occasion of the ninth or tenth attack?
He says also, that a repetition of this nature is profitable to the Philippians, lest they should be—as is wont to happen occasionally—of an exceedingly fastidious humor, and despise it as a thing that was superfluous. For many are so difficult to please, that they cannot bear that the same thing should be said to them a second time, and, in the mean time, they do not consider that what is inculcated upon them daily is with difficulty retained in their memory ten years afterwards. But if it was profitable to the Philippians to listen to this exhortation of Paul—to be on their guard against wolves, what do Papists mean who will not allow that any judgment should be formed as to their doctrine? For to whom, I pray you, did Paul address himself when he said, Beware? Was it not to those whom they do not allow to possess any right to judge? And of the same persons Christ says, in like manner,
My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me; they flee from, a stranger, and they hear not his voice. (John 10:5, 27.)
3. For we are the circumcision—that is, we are the true seed of Abraham, and heirs of the testament which was confirmed by the sign of circumcision. For the true circumcision is of the spirit and not of the letter, inward, and situated in the heart, not visible according to the flesh. (Ro 2:29.)
By spiritual worship he means that which is recommended to us in the gospel, and consists of confidence in God, and invocation of him, self-renunciation, and a pure conscience. We must supply an antithesis, for he censures, on the other hand, legal worship, which was exclusively pressed upon them by the false Apostles.
“They command that God should be worshipped with outward observances, and because they observe the ceremonies of the law, they boast on false grounds that they are the people of God; but we are the truly circumcised, who worship God in spirit and in truth.” (Joh 4:23.)
But here some one will ask, whether truth excludes the sacraments, for the same thing might be said as to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I answer, that this principle must always be kept in view, that figures were abolished by the advent of Christ, and that circumcision gave way to baptism. It follows, also, from this principle, that the pure and genuine worship of God is free from the legal ceremonies, and that believers have the true circumcision without any figure.
And we glory in Christ We must always keep in view the antithesis. “We have to do with the reality, while they rest in the symbols: we have to do with the substance, while they look to the shadows.” And this suits sufficiently well with the corresponding clause, which he adds by way of contrast— We have no confidence in the flesh For under the term flesh he includes everything of an external kind in which an individual is prepared to glory, as will appear from the context, or, to express it in fewer words, he gives the name of flesh to everything that is apart from Christ. He thus reproves, and in no slight manner, the perverse zealots the law, because, not satisfied with Christ, they have recourse to grounds of glorying apart from him. He has employed the terms glorying, and having confidence, to denote the same thing. For confidence lifts up a man, so that he ventures even to glory, and thus the two things are connected.
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 173 . 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 174 , — 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. (Ge 14:13.) 175 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 176 ; but I approve rather of what I learned at one time from Capito, a man of sacred memory 177 , 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. 178 While others declared themselves to be literals 179 , they preferred to be regarded as Pharisees 180 , 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 181 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. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
7. Verum quae mihi lucra erant, ea existimavi propter Christum iacturam.
8. Yea 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,
8. Quin etiam omnia existimo iacturam esse, propter eminentiam cognitionis Christi Iesu Domini mei: propter quem omnium iacturam feci et existimo reiectamenta esse, ut Christum lucri faciam.
9. And 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:
9. Et inveniam 182 in ipso, non habens meam iustitiam que ex Lege est, sed quae est per fidem Christi: quae, inquam, ex Deo est iustitia in fide.
10. That I may knowhim, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable unto his death;
10. Ut cognoscam ipsu, et potentiam resurrectionis eius, et communicationem passionumeius, dum configuror morti eius,
11. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
11. Si quo modo perveniam ad resurrectionem mortuorum.
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 183 , 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, (Heb 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 (Mt 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 184 , 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 κυσίβαλον — what is thrown to dogs. 185 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. (Lu 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? 186 For here that saying 187 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 Ro 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. 188 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 Ro 6; 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 Ro 8 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. (2Ti 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 189 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 attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
12. Non quod iam apprehenerim, aut iam perfectus sim; sequor autem, si ego quoque appreehendam, quemadmodum 190 et apprehensus sum a Christo Iesu.
13. Brethren, 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,
13. Fratres, ego me ipsum nondum arbitror apprehendisse, unum autem, eq que retro sunt oblitus, ad ea quae ante sunt me extendens,
14. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
14. Secundum scopum sequor ad palmam supernae vocataionis Dei in Christo Iesu
15. Let 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.
15. Quicunque perfecti sumus, hoc sentiamus: et si quod aliter sentitis, etiam hoc vobis Deus revelabit.
16. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
16. Caeterum quo perveniamus, ut idem sentiamus, eadem procedamus regula.
17. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
17. Simul imitatorres mei estote, fratres, et considerate eos qui sic ambulant: quemadmodum nos habetis pro exemplari.
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 Eph 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. 191
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 192 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
15 As many as are perfect Lest any one should understand this as spoken of the generality of mankind, as though he were explaining the simple elements to those that are mere children in Christ, he declares that it is a rule which all that are perfect ought to follow. Now, the rule is this — that we must renounce confidence in all things, that we may glory in Christ’s righteousness alone, and preferring it to everything else, aspire after a participation in his sufferings, which may be the means of conducting us to a blessed resurrection. Where now will be that state of perfection which monks dream of — where the confused medley of such contrivances — where, in short, the whole system of Popery, which is nothing else than an imaginary perfection, that has nothing in common with this rule of Paul? Undoubtedly, whoever will understand this single term, will clearly perceive that everything that is taught in the Papacy, as to the attainment of righteousness and salvation, is nauseous dung.
If in anything otherwise By the same means he both humbles them, and inspires them with good hope, for he admonishes them not to be elated in their ignorance, and at the same time he bids them be of good courage, when he says that we must wait for the revelation of God. For we know how great an obstacle to truth obstinacy is. This, therefore, is the best preparation for docility — when we do not take pleasure in error. Paul, accordingly, teaches indirectly, that we must make way for the revelation of God, if we have not yet attained what we seek. Farther, when he teaches that we must advance by degrees, he encourages them not to draw back in the middle of the course. At the same time, he maintains beyond all controversy what he has previously taught, when he teaches that others who differ from him will have a revelation given to them of what they do not as yet know. For it is as though he had said, — “The Lord will one day shew you that the very thing which I have stated is a perfect rule of true knowledge and of right living.” No one could speak in this manner, if he were not fully assured of the reasonableness and accuracy of his doctrine. Let us in the mean time learn also from this passage, that we must bear for a time with ignorance in our weak brethren, and forgive them, if it is not given them immediately to be altogether of one mind with us. Paul felt assured as to his doctrine, and yet he allows those who could not as yet receive it time to make progress, and he does not cease on that account to regard them as brethren, only he cautions them against flattering themselves in their ignorance. The rendering of the Latin copies 193 in the preterite, revelavit, (he has revealed,) I have no hesitation in rejecting as unsuitable and inappropriate.
16 Nevertheless, so far as we have attained Even the Greek manuscripts themselves differ as to the dividing of the clauses, for in some of them there are two complete sentences. If any one, however, prefer to divide the verse, the meaning will be as Erasmus has rendered it. 194 For my part, I rather prefer a different reading, implying that Paul exhorts the Philipplans to imitate him, that they may at last reach the same goal, so as to think the same thing, and walk by the same rule For where sincere affection exists, such as reigned in Paul, the way is easy to a holy and pious concord, As, therefore, they had not yet learned what true perfection was, in order that they might attain it he wishes them to be imitators of him; that is, to seek God with a pure conscience, (2Ti 1:3,) to arrogate nothing to themselves, and calmly to subject their understandings to Christ. For in the imitating of Paul all these excellences are included — pure zeal, fear of the Lord, modesty, self-renunciation, docility, love, and desire of concord. He bids them, however, be at one and the same time imitators of him; that is, all with one consent, and with one mind.
Observe, that the goal of perfection to which he invites the Philippians, by his example, is, that they think the same thing, and walk by the same rule He has, however, assigned the first place to the doctrine in which they ought to harmonize, and the rule to which they should conform themselves.
17 Mark them By this expression he means, that it is all one to him what persons they single out for themselves for imitation, provided they conform themselves to that purity of which he was a pattern. By this means all suspicion of ambition is taken away, for the man that is devoted to his own interests wishes to have no rival. At the same time he warns them that all are not to be imitated indiscriminately, as he afterwards explains more fully.
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 195 , 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 196 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, 197 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.
(2Co 5:17.) 198
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 199 , 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. 200
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, 201 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.” 202 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 203 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.
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 204 . 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 Ro 8. 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 205 , 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 206 in his transfiguration, (Mt 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 207 , 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.
“De nous troubler et effaroucher;” — “To trouble and frighten us.”
“Fascheux et ennuyeux;” — “Disagreeable and irksome.”
“Il les rembarre rudement et auec authorite;” — “He baffles them sternly and with authority."
“Pource qu’ils auoyent seulement fait leurs efforts, et essaye de diuer-tir les Philippiens, et ne les auoyent gaignez et abbatus;” — “As they had merely employed their efforts, and had attempted to turn aside the Philippians, and had not prevailed over them and subdued them."
“Pour autant qu’ils portoyent enuie auec autres, ou les mordoyent et detractoyent d’eux;” — “On the ground of their bearing envy to others, and biting and calumniating them."
“Car il yen a plusieurs qui se tourmentent tant et plus, et se meslent de beaucoup de choses;” — “For there are many that torture themselves on this occasion and on that, and intermeddle with many things.
“Comme anciennement a Rome ce crier public;” — “As anciently at Rome that public crier."
“The Concision--that is, those who rend and divide the Church. Compare Rom. 16:17, 18. They gloried in being the περιτομὴ (the circumcision,) which name and character St. Paul will not here allow them, but claims it for Christians in the next words, and calls them the κατατομὴ or concision, expressing his contempt of their pretences, and censure of their practices.” — Pierce. — Ed.
“En ses organes et instrumens c’est a dire ses seruiteurs par lesquels il a parle;" — “In his organs and instruments, that is to say, his servants, by whom he has spoken.”
“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.”
“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.”
See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, p. 357, 358.
“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.”
See Calvin On the Corinthians, vol. 2, p. 82.
The reader will find the etymology of the term Pharisees, discussed at considerable length in the Harmony, vol. 1, p. 281, n. 4. — Ed.
The meaning is, that in interpreting Scripture, they did not go beyond the bare letter.— Ed.
See Harmony, vol. 1, pp. 281, 282, and vol. 3, p. 74.
“Exercez en l’Ecriture;” — “Exercised in Scripture.”
“Et que ie les retrouue en iceluy, on, soye trouue en iceluy;” — “And that I may find them in him, or, be found in him.”
“Par son excellence et hautesso;” — “By its excellence and loftiness.”
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.
Such is the etymology given by Suidas, τὸ τοῖς κυσὶ βαλλόμενον — “what is thrown to dogs.” — Ed.
“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.”
“Le prouerbe ancien;” — “The ancient proverb.”
“De l’efficace ou puissance;” — “Of the efficacy or power.”
“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.”
“Comme, ou, pour laquelle cause;” —”As, or, for which cause.”
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.
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.
The rendering of the Vulgate (revelavit) is followed in the Rheims version — (1582) — hath revealed.—Ed.
The rendering of Erasmus is as follows:— “Eadem incedamus regula, ut simus concordes;” — “Let us walk by the same rule, that we may be of the same mind.” The words inserted in the common text κανόνι τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖν rule—mind the same thing,) are omitted, as is noticed by Granville Penn, in the Vat. and Alex. MSS., the Copt. and Ethiop. versions, and by Hilary and Augustine. — Ed
“Qui ont leurs affections enracines en la terre;” — “Who have their affections rooted in the earth.”
“Perdue et ruinee;” — “Destroyed and ruined.”
“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.”
Such is Calvin’s rendering of the passage referred to. See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, pp. 229, 233.—Ed.
“Hardiment et d’vne grande asseurance;” — “Boldly, and with great confidence.”
“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.
“Toutes leurs inuentions et facons de faire;” — “All their contrivances and modes of acting.”
“Que nous soyons diuisez et separez d’auec eux;” — “That we be divided and separated from them.”
Politiam — a term corresponding to that employed in the original,.—Ed.
“Que nous soyons occupez et enueloppez en terre;” — “That we should be occupied and entangled with the earth.”
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.
“De sa Gloire;” — “Of his glory.”
“Qu’il leur auoit donne en garde;” — “What he had given to them to keep.”