Philippians 3:10-21

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

[That I may know him] To be the true and promised Messiah and experience that salvation which he has bought by his blood.

[The power of his resurrection] In having this body of my humiliation raised from death, and made like unto his glorious body. This seems to be the sole meaning of the Apostle; for it is in virtue of Christ's resurrection that we are to be raised incorruptible and immortal.

[And the fellowship of his sufferings] Christ died, not only as a victim for sin, but as a martyr to the truth. As a martyr to the truth, Paul wished to imitate him. Not only in the apostle, but in primitive Christians generally, there seems to have been a strong desire for martyrdom.

11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

[The resurrection of the dead] That is, the resurrection of those who, having died in the Lord, rise to glory and honor; and hence Paul uses a word which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. [Transliteration of the greek word is exanastasis] The word [anastasis] signified resurrection in general, both of the just and the unjust: [exanastasis] may signify that of the blessed only.

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.

[Not as though I had already attained] For I have not received the prize; I am not yet glorified, for I have not yet finished my course; I have a conflict still to maintain. From the beginning of the 11th to the end of the 17th verse there is one continued allusion to the contests at the Olympic games; exercises with which, and their laws, the Philippians were well acquainted.

[Either were already perfect] Nor am I yet perfect; I am not yet crowned in consequence of having suffered martyrdom. I am quite satisfied that the Apostle here alludes to the Olympic games for the word here translated perfect is spoken of those who have finished their race, reached the goal, and are honored with the prize. Paul is not speaking here of any deficiency in his own grace or spiritual state; he does not mean that by not yet being perfect that he had a body of sin and death cleaving unto him and was still polluted by indwelling sin, as some have most falsely and dangerously imagined; he speaks of his not having terminated his course by martyrdom, which he knew would sooner or later be his case. This he considered as the perfection, or completion, of his whole career, and was led to view everything as imperfect or unfinished till this had taken place.

[But I follow after] But I persue; several are gone before me in this way and have obtained the crown of myrterdom; I am hurrying after them.

[That I may apprhend] That I may receive those blessings to which I am called by Christ Jesus. There is still an allusion here to the stadium, and exercises there: the Apostle considers Christ as the brabeus, or judge of the games, who proclaimed the victor and distributed the prizes; and he represents himself as being introduced by this very brabeus, or judge, into the contest; and this brabeus brought him in with the design to crown him, if he contended faithfully. To complete this faithful contention is what he has in view; that he may apprehend, or lay hold on that for which he had been apprehended, or taken by the hand by Christ, who had converted, strengthened and endowed him with apostolical powers that he might fight the good fight.

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,

[I count not myself to have apprehended] Whatever gifts, graces or honors I may have received from Jesus Christ, I consider everything as incomplete till I have finished my course, got this crown, and have my body raised and fashioned after his glorious body.

[This one thing I do] This is the concern, as it is the sole business of my life.

[Forgetting those things which are behind] My conduct is not regulated nor influenced by that of others; I consider my calling, my Master, my work and my end. If others think they have time to loiter or trifle, I have none: time is flying, eternity is at hand and my all is at stake.

[Reaching forth] The greek word points out the strong exertions made in the race; every muscle and nerve is exerted, and he puts forth every particle of strength in running.

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

[I press toward the mark] I persue along the line; this is a reference to the white line that marked the ground in the stadium from the starting place to the goal, on which the runners were obliged to keep their eye fixed; for they who transgressed, or went away from the this line did not run lawfully, and were not crowned, even though they got first to the goal.

[For the prize of the high calling of God] The reward which God from above calls me, by Christ Jesus, to receive. The apostle still keeps in view his crown or martyrdom and his glorious resurrection.

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.

[As many as be perfect] As many as are thoroughly instructed in Divine things, who have cast off all dependence on the law and every other system for salvation and who discern God calling them from above by Christ Jesus; be thus minded; be intensly in earnest for eternal life, do not halt till the race is finished. The word here translated perfect is taken in the same sense in which it is taken in 1 Corinthians 14:20,. Be not children in understanding, ...but in understanding be ye men. Be ye perfect, thoroughly instructed, deeply experienced. See also Ephesians 4:11-14, Hebrews 5:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 2:4-13.

[If in any thing ye be otherwise minded] If ye have not entered into the full spirit and design of this Gospel, if any of you have yet remaining any doubts relative to Jewish ordinances or their expediency in Christianity, God shall reveal even this unto you; for while ye are sincere and upright, God will take care that ye shall have full instruction in these Divine things.

16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

[Whereto we have already attained] Let us not lose that part of the race which we have already run, let us walk by the same rule - let us keep the white line continually in view, let us mind the same thing, always considering the glorious prize which is held out by God through Christ Jesus to animate and encourage us.

17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

[Brethren, be followers...of me] In the things of Christ let me be your line, and my writing, preaching and conduct, your rule.

[And mark them] Notice that all do not walk as we do - myself, Timothy and Epaphroditus - use us as your example.

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:

[For many walk] The Judaizing teachers continue to preach, who wish to incorporate circumcision and other ordinances of the law, with the Gospel.

[They are the enemies of the Cross of Christ] They rather attribute justification to the Levitical sacrifices than to the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus; and thus are enemies to that cross, and will not suffer persecution for it's sake. They please the world and are in no danger of reproach.

19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

[Whose end is destruction] This is the result of their doctrine and conduct. They are here described by three characters: 1. Their god is their belly - they live not in any reference to eternity; their religion is for time; they make a gain of godliness; and live only to eat, drink and be merry. 2. Their glory is in their shame - they lay it down as a proof of their address, that they can fare sumptuously every day, in consequence of preaching a doctrine which flatters the passions of their hearers. 3. They mind earthly things - their whole study and attention are taken up with earthly matters; they are given to the flesh and it's lusts; they have no spirituality, nor do they believe that there can be any intercourse between God and the souls of men.
Despicable as these men were, the Apostle's heart was deeply pained on their account because 1. they held and taught a false creed; 2. they perverted many by that teaching, and 3. they themselves perished through it.

20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
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.

While those false teachers have no city but what is on earth, no rights but what are derived from their secular connections, no society but what is made up of men like themselves; who mind earthly things, and whose belly is their god; we have a heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, we have rights and privileges which are heavenly and eternal; and our society or fellowship is with God the Father, Son and Spirit, the spirits of just men made perfect and the whole chruch of the first-born. We have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts; and regard not the body, which we know must perish. We confidently expect the Lord Jesus Christ to return and raise us from death and corruption into a state of immortal glory. See John 14:1-3.

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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