Philippians 3:4
The Judaists arrogated to themselves high privileges by virtue of their descent. The apostle shows that they can claim no superiority of privilege above himself, though he finds in these very privileges a quite insufficient ground of religious confidence.

I. HE REPUDIATES SACRAMENTAL EFFICACY. "Circumcised the eighth day." He was thus distinguished alike from the proselyte, who was circumcised on his conversion, and from the Ishmaelite, who was circumcised in his thirteenth year. He was a pure Jew.

II. HE REPUDIATES THE RELIGIOUS IMPORT OF AN HONOURED PARENTAGE.

1. "Of the stock of Israel. For he was no proselyte, but directly descended from Israel.

2. He was a member of the illustrious tribe of Benjamin," which gave the first king to Israel, and had a foremost place among its armies. He did not, therefore, belong to any mere renegade tribe.

3. He was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews. Not only of pure blood, but untinged by Hellenistic tendencies.

III. HE REPUDIATES RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY. As touching the Law, a Pharisee;" a member of the strictest and most authoritative sect of the Jews.

IV. HE REPUDIATES INTENSE EARNESTNESS, "As touching zeal, persecuting the Church."

V. HE REPUDIATES THE WORTH OF CEREMONIAL BLAMELESSNESS. "As touching the righteousness which is in the Law, showing myself blameless;" that is, the righteousness of formal precept as contrasted with the righteousness which is by faith (ver. 9). All these characteristics and prerogatives, which "were gains to me," because I set them down to my credit religiously, my conversion changed into loss "for Christ's sake," because their repudiation was necessary "that I might gain Christ." - T.C.







Though I might also have confidence in the flesh
St. Paul is here speaking of himself. Generally this is not wise, but circumstances may sometimes justify it,

1. The man who has been healed has a right to speak of the remedy, and ought to do so. St. Paul had been changed; the selfish man had become unselfish; the wild persecutor had been tamed.

2. The experience of St. Paul was very profitable. If you can do good by telling your experience, tell it. It is a delicate thing to speak of one's self; people who have little experience are often the greatest speakers; but there is a false delicacy which must be overcome.

3. Paul's purpose was also to glorify his Master. These verses resemble a tree with many branches, but they have but one root. The central thought is —

I. FAITH.

1. It was of the right nature. There is a faith which never goes deeper than the intellect. It is like the smile of some people who do not know how to smile, and which only touches certain places on the face. There is another faith that breaks right through the soul, and moves the man to his very centre. Such was Paul's; it took possession of heart, soul, and mind.

2. It was a mighty faith. There is a faith right enough in its way, but very feeble. It resembles a man who is walking in a path about which he has some doubt. He looks to the right, to the left; behind and before; he proceeds slowly, hesitatingly, but he does proceed. But Paul received Christ with open arms, without caution or reserve.

II. THE WORKING OF THIS FAITH and what it did in Paul. On faith taking possession of the heart two things are sure to follow.

1. Self-renunciation. If your faith has not made you cast anything away, you ought to look into it. Now Paul had three things of which he was very proud.(1) Jewish extraction. Men in all ages have been proud of their ancestors. The Jews had many things of which they could boast. They were the chosen people. They had Divine revelation. The worship of the true God was established among them. They had a great history. Angels walked their valleys; wondrous things were done on their mountain tops. They have had greater influence over the world than any other nation. It is a great thing to belong to such a stock, and to belong to it was regarded as being safe forever. St. Paul, however, cast it aside as loss for Christ.(2) Legal righteousness. Paul was a Pharisee, and as such —

(a)He knew the laws of Moses well. He had a most correct creed.

(b)He practised the religion of the Pharisees. There was a two-fold righteousness; real as before God, love to God and man; apparent as before man, the observance of rites and public duties. Paul had little of the former; he had the latter to perfection, but he cast it out.(3) Religious zeal. Zeal is about the strongest word you can use to express a warm state of mind, and if there is anything of which a man is proud it is this. It is one of the noblest of virtues, but do not seek to display it as Jehu — it will come out of itself. Better do with your zeal what Paul did. "I count it loss for Christ; I will not hope for salvation from it."

2. Reception of Jesus Christ. Observe —(1) His estimate of the knowledge of Christ. There are three things in this which make all other knowledge dim, and all other possessions worthless; the Fatherhood of God, the mediation of Christ, and immortality with Christ in heaven. These destroy man's three great enemies.

(a)The mediation of Christ — sin;

(b)immortality — death;

(c)the Fatherhood of God — fear.(2) He desired to be united to Christ. How can a person be united to another? You have friends in Australia, but you are as near them as ever, by confidence, sympathy, and the deepest feelings of your nature. To be united to Christ is for you to love Him, and for Him to send forth His sympathy towards you. In the one case you are "found in Him," in the other He is "in you."(3) He believed that there was an infinite fulness of blessing in Christ, and that by union with Christ this would become His. The soul that is united to Christ shall not want.

(a)It shall have full and free pardon.

(b)It shall be justified before God through the sacrifice of Christ.

(c)Be quickened with the life that is in Christ.

(d)Have a true rightness which is produced by God in and on the soul, that will bear the test of judgment, and be beautiful in the light of heaven.

(e)End its journey by sitting with Christ, and enjoying His glory.

(T. Jones, D. D.)

The list sounds much as if you or I were to say something of this kind: "I am of a good Presbyterian stock. One of my ancestors fought at Bothwell Bridge for 'Christ's crown and covenant,' and another died as a martyr in the same cause in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh. There have been several ministers in my line, and many elders. I was baptized in a Presbyterian church, attended the Sabbath school, and became a communicant when I was eighteen. I have always attended the church regularly, kept up family worship, and lived a decorous life. I am well read in sound theology; hold rigidly in my opinions by the Westminster Confession; and have now and again taken a part in controversies about election, or the extent of the atonement." This is all well, very well, so far as it goes. But if you or I be in any degree looking to these things — to any of them, or to all of them taken together — as a ground of hope for eternity, we are, in so far, occupying a religious position corresponding very exactly with that of Paul before his conversion to Christ.

(R. Johnstone, LL. D.)

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