continue rejoicing in the Lord: In his letter to the Philippians, Paul several times expresses his own joy and encourages his fellow believers to rejoice. (Php 1:18; 2:17, 18, 28, 29; 4:1, 4, 10) Paul’s emphasis on joy is striking, since he apparently wrote this letter while under house arrest. The expression “in the Lord” may convey such meanings as “in connection with [or “in union with”] the Lord” or “because of the Lord.” While the title “Lord” in this context could refer either to Jehovah God or to Jesus Christ, Paul may be echoing similar admonitions that are found in the Hebrew Scriptures and that refer to Jehovah.—Ps 32:11; 97:12; see “Introduction to Philippians” and study note on Php 4:4.
Look out for: In this verse, Paul repeats the Greek verb rendered “look out for” three times. Each time, it is followed by words beginning with the same Greek consonant. (See Kingdom Interlinear.) This literary technique added emphasis and urgency to his words. Also, the threefold description of the group who endangered the faith of the Philippians contrasts with the threefold description of the faithful ones in the following verse.
the dogs: Paul here uses the word “dogs” in a figurative sense to warn the Philippians against false teachers, many of whom were Judaizers. Dogs were unclean according to the Mosaic Law, and the Scriptures often use the term in a derogatory sense. (Le 11:27; see study note on Mt 7:6.) In the cities, dogs often subsisted on what they could scavenge, so they were known to consume food that was repulsive, particularly to those trained to respect the precepts of the Mosaic Law. (Ex 22:31; 1Ki 14:11; 21:19; Pr 26:11) In the Hebrew Scriptures, enemies of faithful servants of Jehovah are sometimes likened to dogs. (Ps 22:16; 59:5, 6) By describing the false teachers as dogs, Paul intended to expose those men as unclean and unfit to dispense Christian teachings.
those who mutilate the flesh: Referring to supporters of circumcision, Paul uses the expression “those who mutilate the flesh” (lit., “the cutting down”) perhaps as a play on words with the expression “those with the real circumcision” (lit., “the cutting around”) in the next verse.—See study note on Php 3:3.
we are those with the real circumcision: This phrase may literally be rendered “we are the circumcision.” Paul here refers to Christians as the group who have the only circumcision that is now required and approved by God, the circumcision of the heart. (See study note on Ro 2:29.) Paul may here be completing a play on words that began in the preceding verse.—See study note on Php 3:2.
are rendering sacred service: Or “are serving (worshipping).” The Greek verb la·treuʹo basically describes the act of serving. As used in the Scriptures, it refers to serving God or performing an action in connection with the worship of God.—Mt 4:10; Lu 2:37; Ac 7:7; Ro 1:9; 2Ti 1:3; Heb 9:14; Re 22:3.
I . . . do have grounds for confidence in the flesh: In using the expression “flesh,” Paul refers to things that would have given him advantages from a human, or physical, point of view, such as those he lists at Php 3:5, 6.
of the tribe of Benjamin: In this verse and at Ro 11:1, Paul reveals that he is of the tribe of Benjamin. Here he does so in order to emphasize an aspect of his Jewish heritage. Benjamin was an honored tribe. Regarding the descendants of Benjamin, the patriarch Jacob had prophesied on his deathbed: “Benjamin will keep on tearing like a wolf. In the morning he will eat the prey, and in the evening he will divide spoil.” (Ge 49:27) That tribe did indeed produce many fearless and able warriors who fought like wolves to defend Jehovah’s people. Some Benjaminites fulfilled that prophecy “in the morning,” or at the dawn of the kingship that Jehovah established in Israel; others did so “in the evening,” or after the sun had set on that kingship. (1Sa 9:15-17; 1Ch 12:2; Es 2:5-7) Paul too proved to be a fierce fighter; he engaged in spiritual warfare against false doctrine and practice. He was also instrumental in teaching countless Christians how to wage such warfare.—Eph 6:11-17.
a Hebrew born from Hebrews: Here Paul makes a point similar to the one he makes at 2Co 11:22, emphasizing his Jewish heritage. (See study note.) Paul is saying, in effect, that he is a genuine Hebrew, not of any non-Jewish stock. This statement may have been prompted by false teachers who questioned Paul’s Jewish background and boasted of their own. However, Paul stresses that such physical factors mean little to him.—See study notes on Php 3:7, 8.
regarding law, a Pharisee: Paul writes here of his background in Judaism. He likely means that he was raised by parents who adhered to the Pharisaic branch of Judaism. (See study note on Ac 23:6.) There were also other Christians who had formerly been Pharisees. At Ac 15:5 (see study note), they are referred to as “those of the sect of the Pharisees.”
gains . . . loss: Paul uses the common business terms for “gains” and “loss” in this reference to his perceived advantages in life. Paul was brought up a Jewish Pharisee. (Php 3:5, 6) He was born into all the advantages and rights of a Roman citizen. (Ac 22:28) As a student of Gamaliel, he was highly educated and was fluent in both Greek and Hebrew; he might have become very prominent in Judaism. (Ac 21:37, 40; 22:3) However, Paul turned his back on such advantages and prospects, counting them now as loss in order to become a devoted follower of Christ. Paul’s course was in harmony with the counsel Jesus gave his disciples, namely, that they should carefully evaluate their priorities regarding gains and losses.—Mt 16:26.
a lot of refuse: The word rendered “a lot of refuse,” which occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, may also be translated “garbage,” “rubbish,” or even “dung.” Paul thus vividly expresses the relative value he now places on the prospects and achievements that he valued so highly before becoming a Christian. (See study note on Php 3:5.) He expresses determination never to look back with regret on his choice to give up such advantages. Rather, all those things that were once so important to him, he now views as mere rubbish when compared to “the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.”
the righteousness that is through faith in Christ: See study note on Ga 2:16.
submitting myself to a death like his: Spirit-anointed Christians submit themselves to a death like that of Jesus in that they enter into a life of sacrifice, which includes giving up any hope of everlasting life on earth. Throughout their life, they keep their integrity under test; they share in Christ’s sufferings, and some of them even face death daily. This course of life will lead to their death as integrity-keepers, a death like that of Christ. Afterward, they are raised to life as spirit creatures.—Mr 10:38, 39; Ro 6:4, 5; see study note on Ro 6:3.
the earlier resurrection: Many translations simply use the word “resurrection.” However, Paul does not use the usual Greek word for resurrection (a·naʹsta·sis), but he uses a closely related word (e·xa·naʹsta·sis; lit., “out-resurrection,” Kingdom Interlinear) that occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. For this reason, a number of scholars comment that this expression refers to a special resurrection. The term was used in classical Greek literature to refer to getting up early in the morning. Paul’s use of this specialized word suggests that he has in mind a resurrection that comes early in the stream of time (1Co 15:23; 1Th 4:16), before the general resurrection of the dead to life on earth (Joh 5:28, 29; Ac 24:15). This early resurrection is also called “the first resurrection,” and it involves the raising of Christ’s spirit-anointed followers to life in heaven.—Re 20:4-6.
Christ Jesus: Although some manuscripts omit “Jesus,” the longer reading has strong manuscript support.
forgetting the things behind: The Greek word for “forgetting” that Paul here uses can mean “to be unconcerned about.” Obviously, “the things behind” had not been erased from Paul’s memory, for he had just listed some of them. (See study note on Php 3:5.) Rather, on becoming a Christian, Paul focused on what lay ahead of him, much as a runner focuses on the part of the racecourse that lies before him. (See study note on stretching forward to the things ahead in this verse.) Paul’s choice of focus helped him to forget, or to be unconcerned about, “the things behind,” namely, the advantages and prospects that he had once enjoyed as a staunch proponent of Judaism. He refused to dwell on them because they no longer mattered to him.—See study note on Php 3:8.
stretching forward to the things ahead: Paul’s wording suggests that he is likening himself to a runner, perhaps indirectly referring to athletes in the Greek games. (See study notes on 1Co 9:24.) This imagery was familiar to the Greco-Roman world, and runners were often represented in statues or portrayed on vases. A runner in a footrace would not focus on what was behind him; doing so would only slow him down. Second-century Greek writer Lucian used similar imagery, saying: “A good runner from the moment that the [starting] barrier falls thinks only of getting forward, sets his mind on the finish and counts on his legs to win for him.” The runner would strenuously put forth every effort to reach his goal, the finish line. Paul remained focused, not on the worldly goals he had left behind, but on the reward ahead of him.—See study note on Php 3:14.
the prize of the upward call: Paul understood that his hope, like that of his fellow anointed Christians, was to rule with Christ in heaven as part of the Messianic Kingdom. (2Ti 2:12; Re 20:6) “The upward call” [or “calling”] is, in effect, an invitation to be part of that heavenly Kingdom. However, the “partakers of the heavenly calling [or “invitation,” ftn.]” (Heb 3:1, 2) need to make their “calling and choosing sure” (2Pe 1:10) by proving “faithful” to that calling (Re 17:14). Only then can they receive “the prize” associated with that invitation.—See study note on Php 3:20.
let us go on walking orderly in this same course: The Greek verb here rendered “walking orderly in the same course” has the basic meaning “to be in a row or line.” It was used in a military sense to describe the orderly and unified marching of the front line of soldiers in ancient armies. It came to be used figuratively in the sense of “to follow; to be in line with; to hold to” a certain course or standard. Paul apparently had in mind a set course of forward movement. The Philippian Christians needed to continue in their Christian course of life, to hold on to the truths and standards of conduct they had learned. The expressions “walk orderly” and “walking orderly” are also used to render the other occurrences of the Greek verb in the Christian Greek Scriptures.—Ac 21:24; Ro 4:12; Ga 5:25; 6:16.
enemies of the torture stake of the Christ: The expression refers to those who had once embraced Christianity but who had afterward abandoned it and turned to a sinful, selfish way of life. This made them, in effect, enemies of true worship. (Php 3:19) Here the term “torture stake” (Greek, stau·rosʹ) is used to represent Jesus’ sacrificial death on the stake. (See Glossary, “Stake”; “Torture stake.”) Jesus died in this way so that mankind would no longer be enslaved to sin but could become reconciled to God and enjoy a good relationship with Him. However, the actions of those “enemies of the torture stake” demonstrated that they had no appreciation for the benefits resulting from Jesus’ death.—Heb 10:29.
end: Or “final end; complete end.” That is, the final outcome for the “enemies of the torture stake of the Christ” is “destruction.”—Php 3:18.
their god is their belly: In a literal sense, the Greek word koi·liʹa, rendered “belly,” refers to a person’s “stomach” or inward parts. Here it is used figuratively to denote a person’s fleshly appetite, or desire. (See study note on Ro 16:18.) In Paul’s day, some Greek theater plays referred to a “belly god,” and characters in such plays said that their belly was “the greatest of divinities.” Latin philosopher Seneca, a contemporary of Paul, reproached a person who was “a slave to his belly.” It appears that for those whom Paul refers to at Php 3:18, indulging in fleshly desires was more important than serving Jehovah. Some may have overindulged in food or drink to the point of gluttony or drunkenness. (Pr 23:20, 21; compare De 21:18-21.) Others may have chosen to put the pursuing of opportunities available in the first-century world ahead of serving Jehovah. Some scholars suggest that Paul may here be referring to those who were scrupulously observing Jewish dietary laws. They were so concerned about observing such laws that what they ate became all important to them, became their god.
our citizenship: The city of Philippi was a Roman colony, and its inhabitants were granted many privileges. (See study notes on Ac 16:12, 21.) Some members of the congregation in Philippi may have had a form of Roman citizenship, which was highly prized. The distinction between citizens and noncitizens was an important issue. However, Paul here refers to citizenship in heaven, which was far superior. (Eph 2:19) He urges anointed Christians to focus, not on earthly things (Php 3:19), but on their future life as “citizens” of heaven.—See study note on Php 1:27.
will transform our humble body to be like his glorious body: Paul here refers to the transformation that anointed Christians must undergo in order to live in the spirit realm as joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. They must first die as humans. Then God, at his appointed time, will bring them back to life in entirely new bodies. (2Co 5:1, 2) They will receive spirit bodies that are incorruptible, having immortality. (1Co 15:42-44, 53; see study note on 1Co 15:38.) In that way, their humble, imperfect human body will be replaced with one that is “like” (lit., “conformed to”) Christ’s glorious spirit body.—Ro 8:14-18; 1Jo 3:2.