1Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.
A theme that begins to emerge in this letter is that of joy. Paul wants his joy to be made complete, he wants the Philippians to rejoice, and he wants to bring joy to the heart of God. Apparently, he had written to the Philippians before about some things, and they are important enough for him to repeat now as a safeguard to them. When something is of a particular danger to a church, it is worth a shepherd reminding his sheep as to what the danger is.
2Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;
3for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,
It is not those who are circumcised only outwardly who are the children of the kingdom, but it is those who have been circumcised of their hearts, trusting in Christ to save them (Romans 2:29). There are those who put their confidence in the flesh (the Judaizers) and what rituals and laws they have kept in their own ability, being self-absorbed and self-interested. Yet the true circumcision is those who worship in Spirit and glory in Christ, rather than worshipping in ritual and glorying in the flesh. The Philippians are to be wary of those who put confidence in their own worth and merit apart from Christ, and Paul calls these men evil workers, the false circumcision, and dogs. They were those who feasted on the leftovers and gloried in the garbage of their flesh (c.f. Matthew 7:6).
4although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:
5circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;
6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
If anyone could have put confidence in the flesh, it would have been Paul, for he was born a Hebrew, circumcised on the eighth day according to tradition, of the tribe of Benjamin (a son of Jacob’s preferred wife Rachel), and a Pharisee. He knew the Law and probably had it all memorized. He studied under the best teacher of the Law, Gamaliel (c.f. Acts 22:3, Acts 5:34). He kept all of the fine extra-biblical regulations of the Law, and he more fervently than any other Jew persecuted the church of Jesus Christ. Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Jew’s Jew, defending the “purity” of the Law against the gospel of Christ. He had far more to boast in in terms of fleshly achievements than many of the Judaizers.
7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
But for Paul, what was far more valuable was knowing Christ. All these things that he had viewed as success, gain, and self-worth he now viewed as loss.
8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
In fact, for Paul, all things were loss when compared to knowing Christ which was of a far surpassing value to anything else. It was for Christ’s name and glory that he quit his life of fame, notoriety, and power. All the things he once took pride in and devoted his life to he now viewed as refuse, mere excrement. It was all waste in light of Christ Who brings true joy, true purpose, true worth, and true righteousness.
9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
Paul wanted to be known as a child of God, being associated and known as Christ’s rather than as a Jew’s Jew. He didn’t want the “righteousness” that was of his own attempted making based on keeping the fine letters of the Law, but he wanted the righteousness of God which comes through faith. He realized that he had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and that he needed to give praise to the true Savior of the world. He had been wrong, and now he wanted all the world to know the truth.
10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul’s hope was to know Christ intimately and to be acquainted and in tune with the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. If he could be conformed to his death, then he believed that he could attain to the resurrection of the dead. In other words, he was willing to die to himself and to lose all that he had held dear so that he could be born again and be infused with the resurrected Christ and the power to advance His kingdom. He was willing to take up his cross and die to sin and self daily if only he could have eternal life, which he would by faith in Christ. Such a decision would certainly lead to persecution which would demonstrate his love and fellowship with Christ (1 John 1:6).
12Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Though in a legal, positional sense, Paul was clothed in the righteousness of Christ, he knew that practically he was not perfect yet. Christ laid hold of Paul, revealing Himself to him while he was on the road to Damascus, and this changed him from the inside out. He was forgiven and washed clean, seen by God through the perfection of Christ. The rest of his life had been for the purpose of laying hold of a practical holiness as he walking in obedient faith. Paul’s goal was not mediocrity or half-heartedness. The same fervor, if not moreso, that he had taken against Christ, he now invested in the glory of Christ. Paul knew he wasn’t perfect yet, though he believed Christ would ultimately finish the good work which he started (see 1:6). Yet, what he knew he needed to do was to forget his past failures and sins which had been forgiven him and to press on and reach forward to what lay ahead. What was ahead was the final goal of perfection, and he sought this as an athlete seeks to win a prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). Yet this was no earthly, fleshly prize but everlasting rewards in the name of Christ for the glory of Christ. God’s call was upward toward increased holiness and the pleasure of God. Before his pleasure had been in his own glory, and now it was in the glory of God.
15Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
16however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
Those who are perfected positionally and legally in Jesus Christ, which is any true believer, are to have a similar attitude to Paul’s regarding approaching life after salvation as we as believers are sanctified. Paul forgot his past failures and the sins which had been forgiven him, and he pressed on toward perfection in Jesus, keeping his eyes on the prize of eternal life and eternal rewards, bringing glory and joy to His Savior. If any believer did not have this perspective, Paul believed that God would reveal that to them such that they could repent and begin seeking God wholeheartedly. Paul did not want any backsliding but only growth toward perfection. The level to which the believers had attained, they needed to maintain and then grow from there.
17Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.
Paul desires that the Philippians would follow his example (see also 4:9, Hebrews 13:7, 3 John 1:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). There is a major theme in the New Testament of the apostles desiring those who would come after them to do as they did as they followed Christ. There was much in their lives worthy of being imitated, or else they wouldn’t have made such an assertion. Many were already walking after them in the pattern which they had set according to obedience to Christ, and these were worthy of imitation as well.
18For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ,
19whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.
The sad reality is that there are counterfeits in the professing church of Jesus Christ. Many have walked after Christ’s example for a time before falling away, revealing who they truly were all along (c.f. 1 John 2:19). They were enemies of Christ and the cross, denying Him and His gospel. This greatly grieved Paul and caused him to weep, for he knew what their destination would be and how they might lead others astray. Apostasy (not mere backsliding but never having been reborn) destines one’s soul for hell. These who had professed Christ eventually reveal themselves as not serving God but themselves. It is the fulfillment of their own fleshly, sinful, and selfish appetites that drives them and motivates them in life. They worship their shameful acts and desires, even gloating and glorying in them. Their sin is their boast, not Christ. Their minds are not being transformed unto the mind of Christ, for they do not have the mind of Christ. They have a mind set on the ways of the world, and their mental preoccupation is with evil (c.f. Romans 1:28-31, Proverbs 6:12-15).
20For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;
21who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Believers, on the other hand, have a citizenship in heaven. Their home is not here, and their focus is to be on the glory to come, not on base, worldly, passing appetites. We are to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and for Christ (Psalm 37:4). Holiness and righteousness is our blessing and glory. We look forward to the return of Christ the Lord, Who, when He comes, will transform our weak and feeble bodies into conformity with the body of His glory (see also 1 Thessalonians 4:14-19, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, Romans 8:14). Christ’s resurrection body was far better and different than His earthly body had been. We know from the Scripture that He could appear and disappear (John 20:19), move from place to place instantaneously, eat (John 21:15), and yet still be tangible (John 20:27). This is very likely similar if not identical to what our resurrected bodies will be like. It will be the power and work of Christ on our behalf that will change our bodies from corruptible and mortal to incorruptible and immortal so that they will be fit for heaven, free of the effects of sin, and able to endure forever.