Philippians 3:1-9

1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

[Rejoice in the Lord] Be always happy; but let that happiness be such as you derive from the Lord.

[To write the same things] He means those which he had formerly preached to them or to other Churches, for he had but one Gospel; and we may rest assured that the doctrine of this epistle was the same as his preaching.

[For you it is safe] It is much better to have these Divine things committed to writing than to rely upon memory. By the latter they may be either lost or corrupted, by the former they will be preserved.

2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

[Beware of dogs] Unbelieving, hostile-toward-Christ Jews, who have here the same appellative which they formerly gave to the Gentiles. Because the Gentiles were not included in the covenant, the Jews called them dogs, and themselves, the children of the Most High. Now, they (the unbelievers) are not part of the family of Christ, therefore they are the dogs, and the Gentiles the children. See Psalms 22:16 and Revelation 22:15.

[Evil workers] Judaizing teachers, who endeavored to pervert the Gospel.

[The concision] The cutting or excision; not the circumcision. The word is used by the apostle to degrade the pretensions which the Jews made to sanctity by the cutting in their flesh. Circumcision was an honorable thing, for it was a sign of the covenant; but as they had now rejected the new covenant, their circumcision was rendered uncincumcision, and is termed a cutting, by way of degredation.

3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

[We are the circumcision] We, who have embraced the faith of Christ crucified, are now entered into the new covenant, and, according to that new covenant, worship God in the Spirit, exulting, making our boast of Christ Jesus as our only Savior, having no confidence in the flesh - in any outward rite or ceremony prescribed by the Jewish institutions.

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:

[Thought I might also have confidence] If any of them have any cause to boast in outward rites and privileges, I have as much; yea more.

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;

[Circumcised the eight day] This was the time when the law required the males to be circumcised; and we find, from Genesis 17:9-14, both in the Samaritan Pentateuch and in the Septuagint, though the clause is now lost out of the common Hebrew text, that the male child which is not circumcised the eighth day shall be cut off from among his people; this precept was literally observed in the case of Paul.

[Of the stock of Israel] Regularly descended from the patriarch, Jacob.

[Of the tribe of Benjamin] The most favorite son of that patriarch; and a tribe that did not revolt with Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12:21, nor pollute the worship of God by idolatry.

[A Hebrew of the Hebrews] Though born in a heathen country, Tarsus, yet both my parents were Hebrews; nor has there ever been any strange blood mixed with that of our family.

[Touching the law] One that not only received the law and the prophets as coming from God, but belonged to that sect which, of all others, was most scrupulously attached to it.

6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

[Concerning zeal] As to my zeal for Pharisaism, I gave the fullest proof of it by persecuting the Church of Christ; and this is known to all my countrymen.

[Touching the righteousness] And as to that plan of justification, which justification the Jews say is to be obtained by an observance of the law, I have done everything so conscientiously from my youth up that, in this respect, I am blameless; and may, with more confidence than most of them, expect that justification which the law appears to promise.

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

[But what things were gain] The credit and respect which I had, as being zealously attached to the law and to the tradition of the elders, I counted loss for Christ - I saw that this could stand me in no stead; that all my acts of righteousness were nothing on which I could depend for salvation; and that Christ crucified could alone profit me; for I found that it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin.

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,

[I count all things but loss] Not only my Jewish privileges, but all others of every kind; with every thing that men count valuable or gainful, or on which they usually depend for salvation.

[The excellency of the knowledge of Christ] That superior light, information and blessedness which come through the Gospel of Jesus Christ; justification through his blood, sanctification by his Spirit and eternal glory through his merits and intercession. These are the blessings held out to us by the Gospel, of which, and also of the law, Jesus Christ is the sum and substance.

[I have suffered the loss of all things] Some translate For whom I have thrown away all things - I have made a voluntry choice of Christ, his cross, his poverty and his reproach; and for these I have freely sacrificed all I had from the world, and all I could expect from it.

[And do count them but dung] The vilest dross or refuse of any thing; the worst excrement. The word shows how utterly insignificant and unavailing, in point of salvation, the Apostle esteemed everything but the Gospel of Jesus. With his best things he freely parted, judging them all loss while put in the place of Christ crucified; and Christ crucified he esteemed infinite gain when compared with all the rest. Of the utter unavailableness of anything but Christ to save the soul the Apostle stands as an incontrovertable proof. Could the law have done anything, the Apostle must have known it. He tried, and found it vanity; he tried the Gospel system and found it the power of God to his salvation. Of the glorious influence of the Gospel he stands as an unimpeachable witness.

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:

[And be found in him] Be found as a believer in Christ, not depending upon my own righteousness - not trusting in anything I have done or could do toward my own salvation; relying on no scheme of justification set up either formerly by myself or by others.

[But that which is through the faith of Christ] That justification which is received by faith through the atonement made by Christ.

[The righteousness which is of God] God's method of justifying sinners through faith in his Son. See Romans 3:21-25.

Historical information drawn from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 10/15/2006

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