What does Philippians 3 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Philippians chapter 3 speaks about Christ as the proper focus during times of suffering. Philippians 2 sets this passage up in the context of persecution and oppression for the sake of the gospel. First, Paul discusses the importance of righteousness through faith in Christ rather than by works (Philippians 3:1–11). Second, Paul talks about straining toward the goal of following Christ (Philippians 3:12–21).

In Philippians 3:1–11, Paul begins with a reminder to "rejoice in the Lord" (Philippians 3:1). He also warns his readers to "look out" for certain specific types of false teachers (Philippians 3:2). Those who required Jewish circumcision, or other rituals, as part of salvation were not part of the true family of faith. The true "circumcision" are those who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:3).

Paul then adds his own spiritual resume, noting his reasons to boast "in the flesh" (Philippians 3:4). They included: circumcision on the eighth day; being from Israel, specifically the tribe of Benjamin; being a Pharisee; persecuting the church; and living according to the law (Philippians 3:5–6). Paul's point is that if any human being could be justified by the law, he would be—and yet, he considers all of that wasted in comparison to Christ (Philippians 3:7–8). Nothing was more important than knowing Jesus.

Paul's focus is to be "found in [Christ]," finding a righteousness not based on works of the law but on faith (Philippians 3:9). His goal is to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. He wants to also share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death (Philippians 3:10).

In the second half of the chapter, Paul speaks of pressing on or straining toward Christ-like living (Philippians 3:12–21). He begins by stating that he is not yet perfect, but is working toward living more like Christ (Philippians 3:12). He does not focus on the past, but on the future (Philippians 3:13). He is committed to the goal of the calling of Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). All mature believers are to live this way (Philippians 3:15), holding on to the progress they have already attained (Philippians 3:16).

Paul then calls the believers to imitate him (Philippians 3:17). In contrast, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ (Philippians 3:18), something that brought tears to Paul. These people were focused on their own satisfaction and were set on earthly things (Philippians 3:19). In contrast, the believer's citizenship is in heaven. Believers await the return of Christ (Philippians 3:20). Christ will change the human bodies of believers into a new body like Christ has, something that should bring believers joy (Philippians 3:21).
Verse Context:
Philippians 3:1–11 warns Christians about the influence of false teachers, particularly those who add legalism on top of the gospel. Paul describes his impressive credentials, showing that he has the right to consider himself ''justified'' according to the traditional Jewish view. And yet, knowing what he does of Christ, Paul sees all of those accomplishments as garbage. Faith alone saves, and fellowship with Christ is all that truly matters.
Philippians 3:12—4:1 explains the proper attitude Christians ought to have on the process of ''sanctification.'' This is the gradual, lifelong path of becoming more and more like Jesus. Our place in eternity is secure from the moment we trust in Christ, but it takes time to see our actions and attitudes change to be like His. Paul notes that he is not perfect, but encourages Christians to mimic his singular focus on pursuing Jesus. Paul also weeps for those who reject the gospel, a choice that will result in their destruction.
Chapter Summary:
Paul details his impressive Jewish resume. None of his critics or challengers could boast the pedigree carried by Paul. He mentions this only to emphasize how little such things mean, next to faith in Christ. Paul's language here is sharp and to the point. He then explains how a Christian's focus ought to be purely on Christ, just as a runner concentrates on their goal in order to run effectively. Rather than looking to the past, or to ourselves, we ought to look forward, to an eternity with the Lord.
Chapter Context:
In chapters 1 and 2, Paul explained how Christians should respond to hardships. Since Christ was willing to obey God, even to the point of death, we should do the same. Complaining and worry have no place in the life of a saved believer. Chapter 3 makes a bold contrast. Paul's credentials, according to Jewish tradition, were impeccable. And yet, for him, none of those accomplishments are worth anything next to fellowship with Christ. For this reason, Christ is to be the sole focus of the believer. This sets up Paul's final greetings and instructions in chapter 4.
Book Summary:
Philippians is Paul's discussion of living the Christian life. In this letter to the church of Philippi, Paul highlights themes such as joy and glory. He also puts great emphasis on how a Christian's thinking—their attitude—affects the way they live out their faith. Paul is very thankful for the support of the Philippian church, but is also concerned about the influence of various false teachers. This letter is less theological than most of his other writings, and more practical.
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