Philippians 3

The Word Made Fresh

1So, my friends, be joyful in the Lord. I don’t mind repeating things to you if it helps keep you focused. 2Watch out for those dogs, the people who do evil things and insist on mutilating the flesh through circumcision. 3We, the ones who serve by God’s Spirit, the ones who boast in Christ Jesus, we are the circumcision. We have no confidence in rituals that mutilate the body, 4although I have good reason to have it. If someone thinks they can put their confidence in the flesh, I have even more:

5I was circumcised when I was eight days old.
I am from the people of Israel, and the tribe of Benjamin.
I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews.
Regarding the law, I’m a Pharisee.
6As far as being devoted to the faith,
I have harassed the church.
As far as the Law is concerned, I am without blame.
7All these things I was proud of, but I discarded them for the sake of Christ.

8What is more, I believe everything is lost compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but it was no more than trash to be discarded so that I could gain Christ 9and be found in him, for in Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own, nor does it come through the Law. No, it is through Christ’s faithfulness. The righteousness that comes from God is based on faith, 10and the righteousness that I possess comes from knowing Christ, and knowing the power of his resurrection by participating in his sufferings and becoming like him through his death. 11That is how I might achieve the goal of resurrection from the dead.

12Not that I have reached the goal, or that I have been made perfect, but it is what I am after, so that I can take hold of it, because that is why Christ took hold of me. 13I’m not saying I have reached it, but I can forget about what is behind me and reach for the things ahead for me. 14I am chasing the goal of God’s call in Jesus Christ. 15Everyone who is spiritually mature ought to think like that. If any think otherwise, God will reveal it to them. 16But we try to live in a way that reflects whatever level of faith we have reached.

17Watch and try to be like me and others who live in this way. Use us as examples. 18I have said over and over that there are people who are enemies of the cross, 19and they will be destroyed in the end. Their stomach is their god, and they are proud of the disgraceful thoughts that focus on earthly things. 20But we are citizens of heaven, and we look forward to the coming of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He will transform our earthly bodies into bodies that are glorious like his own, and he’ll do it by the power that makes him able to bring all things under his subjection.


1-3: As he has in others of his letters, Paul warns them against those who would “mutilate the flesh,” a reference to circumcision. Paul was convinced that for Gentiles, being circumcised was tantamount to trusting in a human ritual instead of in God. There is no reason to be “confident in the flesh,” he says.

4-6: The so-called “circumcision party” has nothing on Paul. He is as genuinely Jewish as they come. He lists the proofs of his pedigree (see 2 Corinthians 11:22 for a similar sidebar) – a genuine circumcised Jewish Pharisee who persecuted the church.

7-11: None of his striving to obey the law means anything at all, he says, compared to the value of knowing Christ Jesus as his Lord, and he is willing to give up everything in order to share in the resurrection of Christ.

12-16: The goal Paul is speaking of is the salvation that comes through faith in Christ, which means relinquishing any reliance on the stipulations of the law (such as circumcision) which do not have the power to save but only to condemn.

17-21: He entreats them to stand strong in the faith, and not be swayed by the “enemies of the cross.” Heavenly things, not earthly things, are the things for which we are to strive. “But we are citizens of heaven” is a striking phrase. If one is a citizen of heaven, then one’s fellow citizens are also fellow believers. That is why in Christ there are no divisions, no Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free (Galatians 3:28).


Paul insists repeatedly that following the law (referring to the Ten Commandments and other laws in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament) cannot save us. The law only has the power to condemn. But if we follow Jesus Christ in all we say and do, we automatically obey all the teachings of the law. Believe in Christ and have faith in his presence and guidance, and everything else falls into place.