5. Warnings and appeals, 3:1-21

iv] Stand firm in the Lord


The passage before us is part of a larger section in Paul's letter which serves to warn the Philippians about the false teachings of the Circumcision Party who, in their teachings, undermine "the righteousness which comes from faith in / faithfulness of Christ", 3:1-21. In the passage before us Paul calls on his readers to not imitate these "enemies of the cross of Christ", but rather, imitate their founding apostle and so realize the fullness of new life in Christ, now and into eternity.


i] Context: See 3:1-4a.


ii] Background: See 1:1-11.


iii] Structure: Stand firm in the Lord:

Exhortation, v17:

"join in imitating me."


The characteristics of the false teachers, v18-19;

The characteristics of true believers, 3:20-21.


Some commentators argue that Paul concludes with an appeal to his readers that they remain steadfast in their relationship with the Lord, 4:1, although this appeal may well serve to introduce the next section on pastoral matters.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul begins by asking his readers to imitate him, their founding apostle, v17, and goes on to explain why, namely, because the many whose "walk" does not conform to the truth face destruction, v18-19, while those whose "walk" does conform to the truth will be blessed - theirs is "the eschatological prize", Fee, v20-21.


Who are the enemies of the cross of Christ? Not all commentators hold the view that the "enemies" in v17-21 are the same as v1-16. For example, Beare thinks Paul is addressing "the danger of antinomianism, the casting aside of all restraints, the degeneration of freedom into license." This was Lightfoot's view, arguing that Paul directs his criticism toward those "who professed the Apostle's doctrine but did not follow his example" - they were libertines, antinomian. We are probably on safer ground if we follow Koester who, writing in NTS 8, 1961, argued that "they believed that a complete fulfillment of the Law was possible - they had achieved it already and could boast about it! - and brought about the possession of the eschatological promises in full, that is, the Spirit and spiritual experiences of such heavenly gifts as resurrection and freedom from suffering and death." Paul is still focused on law-bound believers, the Judaizers, members of the circumcision party. "Their god is their stomach" = eat not, touch not ......; "their glory is in their shame" = circumcision; "their mind is set on earthly things" = insect law, the tradition of the elders, the finer points of the Law, ......, v18.

Although it is not clear from this passage that the law-bound are acting lawlessly, Silva is surely right when he notes that there is a "compatibility" between "the fulfillment of the Jewish law and a less than commendable lifestyle." Nomists are easily blind-sided by their self-righteousness - "they devour widow's houses and for a show make lengthy prayers", Mk.12:40. So, Paul sets out to expose this evil pattern of behavior, v17-19, before moving on in 3:20-4:1 to encourage his readers to stand firm in the knowledge that the full appropriation of the promised covenant blessings are already theirs in Christ.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:17

Standing firm in the Lord, 3:17-21: i] Paul exhorts his readers to follow his example, v17. Paul encourages his readers to follow the example of Christian living set by himself and his team. Given the context, this example is a life of faith that strive to "hold true to what we have attained", 3:16.

ginesqe (ginomai) pres. imp. "-" - become, be. "Make a united effort to follow the example I have given you", Barclay.

summimhtai (hV ou) "join with others in following [my] example" - fellow imitators, imitators together. This compound word, "fellow-imitators", is a hapax legomenon, a once only use in the NT. The idea is of putting into practice / imitating ones teacher under the Lord as they themselves imitate the Lord. "Do your best imitation of me in your lives", Junkins.

mou gen. pro. "my" - of me. Possibly a genitive of association, "fellow imitators with me", so Wallace, or adjectival, possessive, as NIV, or verbal, subjective, "the example set by me", or objective, "be united in imitating me", O'Brien, so Varner.

adelfoi (oV) "brothers / brothers and sisters" - Vocative. "Brothers and sisters, join with ......"

skopeite (skopew) pres. imp. "take note of" - keep an eye on, pay attention to, take notice of. "Mark well", Cassirer.

touV peripatountaV (peripatew) pres. part. "those who live" - the ones waking about = conducting oneself. The participle serves as a substantive, as NIV. Reflecting OT language, "walk in the way of the Lord". "Who behave", Berkeley.

kaqwV adv. "according to" - as, just as. Comparative.

tupon (oV) "the pattern / model" - [you have us] an example, type, pattern, model. Complement of the accusative direct object hJmaV, "us", standing in a double accusative construction. "Let my example be the standard by which you can tell who are the genuine Christians", Phillips.


ii] The characteristics of the false teachers, v18-19. Paul now provides the negative reasons as to why the Philippians should follow his example rather than those whose "walk" leads to death. This "many" refers to the Judaizers in general, some of whom are obviously active in the Philippian congregation. Whether these "enemies of the cross" are in the congregation or not, Paul is determined to warn the Philippian believers of the ever-present danger of this heresy, cf., v19.

The Greek sentence covering v18-19 is somewhat complex. "Whose destiny is destruction" and "whose god is their stomach" are probably not standing in apposition to "the enemies of the cross", but serves as adjectival relative clauses modifying / limiting polloi, "many", "many ....... whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly." Similarly the nominative participial construction "the ones thinking earthly things", v19, is not an independent nominative, but is also adjectival, attributive, modifying / limiting polloi, "many", "many .... who think on earthy things." The accusative direct object of the verb peripatousin, "walk", is the accusative pronoun ouJV, introducing the relative clause "whom often I was saying to you", with its accusative complement touV ecqrouV, "the enemies", introducing the noun clause "the enemies of the cross of Christ", serving to form a double accusative construction. The NIV sorts out this complexity nicely.

gar "for" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the Philippians should follow Paul's example, "because there are many whose walk is the exact opposite", Fee.

pollakiV adv. "[as I have] often" - many times, often.

elegon (legw) imperf. "told" - i was telling, saying. The imperfect is iterative expressing repeated action; "mentioned".

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

de kai "and [now tell you again] even" - but/and [now i say] and = also. A transitional de and an ascensive or adjunctive kia.

klaiwn (klaiw) pres. part. "with tears" - weeping. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his communication, "tearfully"; "with tears in my eyes", CEV.

polloi adj. "many" - many. The "many" being "the dogs", "the mutilators of the flesh", judaizers, those who have adopted the heretical nomism promoted by the circumcision party, as noted above. Paul's language at times implies that these enemies are outside the Philippian congregation, but at other times, within the congregation. This fact is often used to support the argument that Paul is speaking of different groups of people in this passage. If we are dealing with a judaizing influence upon the Philippian congregation, then those who promote the nomistic heresy (probably from the Jerusalem church) are obviously visitors, outsiders, but their "converts", those who have adopted their teaching, are obviously inside the Philippian congregation.

peripatousin (peripatew) pres. "live" - walk = conduct themselves. This word is often used of living the Christian life and so supports the view that these "enemies of the cross" are members of the Christian church, rather than Jews or secular persecutors.

touV ecqrouV (oV) "enemies" - as the enemies. Taking the accusative after ou}V, "whom .... I say the enemies of the cross of Christ".

tou staurou (oV) gen. "of the cross [of Christ]" - The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, but it can be taken as adjectival, attributive / epexegetic, limiting "the enemies." The genitive "Christ" is also adjectival, possessive, although often classified as verbal, subjective. The cross of Christ has its enemies. This is the first of five descriptors for these "false teachers." Presumably they are enemies of the cross in that by their teaching they undermine the redemptive power of the cross.


The Judaizers are now described in some detail:

• Their end is ruin; lost spiritually. Their false doctrine will result in the loss of their standing in Christ.

• They are legalistic law-keepers - "their god is their stomach". That is, they are into the minutiae of the law as a means of progressing their Christian life for the appropriation of God's blessings. For them it is "touch not and taste not; eat and eat not."

• Their pride is in their circumcision - "their glory is in their shame (nakedness)". They despise those who are uncircumcised.

• "Their mind is on earthly things", ie., pietistic regulations.

w|n gen. "their" - of whom = whose. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. Forming the first of two relative clauses, functioning adjectivally by limiting polloi "many", "many whose end [is] destruction, whose god [is] their stomach and glory [is] in their shame".

to teloV (oV) "destiny" - end, goal [is destruction]. Taking the nominative case in agreement with polloi, although some suggest an anacoluthon, ie., Paul has lost track of his syntax, so Reumann. The sense "goal" is probably intended. The nomists seek to progress their Christian lives by submission to the law, thus moving themselves toward holiness, but all they are doing is moving themselves toward "destruction". This is the second descriptor for the "false teachers". "They are doomed to destruction", Barclay.

hJ koilia (a) "stomach" - [whose god is] the belly. This third descriptor is allusive to say the least. Possibly:

• "physical satisfaction", Bruce ("the flesh", as opposed to "the Spirit", O'Brien, Silva), "appetite", Phillips. Although certainly understood this way by many commentators and translations, it seems unlikely that Paul sees a libertine / hedonistic problem in the Philippian congregation such that they "have failed to accept the death of the old life", O'Brien;

• Deuteronomic food laws. If these "enemies of the cross" are the judaizers then the "appetite" possibly has to do with strict adherence to food laws; their god is law-obedience. Taking Paul's cryptic comment as a reference to food laws, dietary laws, has both ancient and modern precedence, eg., Augustine, Barth, Melick, Hawthorne, Muller, cf., Rom.16:17-18. This seems the best way to understand what Paul is saying;

• Sexual appetite. There is the suggestion that the word can be used to mean "lust", the problem then being "sexual license", Bruce, Martin, Fowl; iv] Circumcision. The word is sometimes used in the LXX for the male sexual organ and thus both koilia and aiscunh may be serving as euphemisms for the circumcised male organ. This view is not widely held;

• General. At least we can say "these people have set their minds on earthly things", Fee, "that sphere of things which is opposed by Christ and which is passing away", Houlden.

en + dat. "in" - [and the = their glory is] in. Local; expressing space, metaphorical.

autwn gen. pro. "their" - [the shame] of them. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or verbal, objective.

th/ aiscunh/ (h) "shame" - As with "stomach", Paul's intended sense is unclear. Similar arguments are developed for this word as for "stomach", but it does seem likely that Paul is alluding to circumcision. This serves as the fourth descriptor. They see their Christian lives progressed by their scrupulous observance of the Mosaic law; they have come to glory in their own rectitude rather than the righteousness / faithfulness of Christ.

oiJ .... fronounteV (fronew) pres. part. "who mind [earthly things] / [their mind [is set on earthly things]" - the ones thinking, considering [earthly things]. The participle serves as a substantive, standing in apposition to polloi, "many", v18. The fifth descriptor. The nomists are concerned with values which pass away, values that are without eternal qualities. "These men of earthly mind", Moffatt.


iii] The characteristics of true believers, v20-21. Paul now provides the positive reasons why the Philippians should follow his example, and does so by explaining the substance of a "walk" that leads to life. Unlike the earthly-minded enemies of Christ whose walk leads to death, Paul's walk leads to the reward of heavenly citizenship, namely, sharing in Christ's glory. "What better reason is available than the reminder that their true citizenship is a heavenly one?" Silva. The point that Paul is making, in contrast to the "enemies of the cross", is that for Paul, and those of us who follow his example / his thinking, we are already saved and possess in full God's promised blessings. In short, these two verses detail what constitutes the true Christian hope. Note: those who argue that 2:6-11 was originally derived from a Christian hymn / poem also argue that v20-21 derive from the same hymn.

gar "for / but" - for. Most likely transitional here, indicating a step to a contrasting point, even argumentative; "on the other hand", Zerwick #472. "As for ourselves however", Cassirer.

hJmwn "our" - Emphatic by position. Possessive genitive.

to politeuma (a) "citizenship" - society, community, commonwealth, state. Nominative subject of the verb "to exist." "The state as a constitutive force regulating its citizens, Lincoln", but particularly here of membership in a heavenly commonwealth / "civic association", Reumann; "we are citizens of heaven", CEV, so NAB.

en + dat. "in" - [exists] in [heaven]. Locative; expressing space, "in". "Heaven" = the dwelling place of God.

kai "and" - [from where] and = also. Probably adjunctive; "from there we also eagerly await ...."

apekdecomeqa (apekdecomai) pres. "we eagerly await" - "We never stop anticipating the return of the Master", Junkins.

swthra (hr hroV) "a Savior" - a savior [lord jesus christ]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to eagerly await." Moule suggests a version of Colwell's rule applies here where the article is assumed; "the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." So, Paul is probably using "Savior" as a title, rather than a function, although as Savior, Christ saves.

ex + gen. "from [there]" - out [of which]. Expressing source / origin; out of heaven, not out of the heavenly commonwealth. "From there", NRSV.


This heavenly citizenship involves a dramatic transformation. The lowly body will be transformed into a glorious body; the lowly body, broken by sin, weak and subjected to decay, will be transformed into a perfect spiritual body. This does not mean that human createdness is abandoned. Christ rose in human form and he has taken that humanity to the very throne of God. What we are, reflects much of what we shall be. Our transformation is into Christ-likeness. Paul deals with this transformation more fully in his first letter to the Corinthians, 1Cor.15:42-44, 49, 51-54. As for the means of this transformation, it is through the power of the risen Christ, the power that brings everything under his control. This power is the divine power that creates, transforms, and is now at work uniting all things in heaven and on earth.

o}V "who" - who [will transform the body of humiliation of us into conformity with the body of the glory of him]. Nominative subject of "will transform", the antecedent being "Christ".

kata + acc. "by" - according to. The NIV (as do many translations) opts for a causal sense, "by = because." With the accusative, it primarily means "in accordance with", sometimes leaning toward "because of", cf., BAGD. "Effectively exercising that power which he has to make everything subject to himself", Bruce.

tou dunasqai (dunamai) pres. pas. inf. "[the power] that enables" - [the working] to the ability, power [of him]. The genitive articular infinitive usually introduces a purpose clause, but sometimes it is adjectival, epexegetic, and even rarely just a simple infinitive. Here epexegetic, explaining the substantive "power"; "in accord with the power that enables him."

kai "-" - and = even / also. Here either ascensive, "even", or adjunctive, "also"; "in accord with the power that enables him even / also to subject everything to himself."

uJpataxai (uJpotassw) aor. inf. "to bring" - to subject, subdue, subordinate, put under. The infinitive is complementary, completing the verbal sense of the infinitive "to be able".

autw/ dat. pro. "his [control]" - [everything, all things] to himself. Dative of indirect object / interest. Taking a reflective sense, "to himself."

metaschmatisei (metaschmatizw) fut. "will transform" - transform, refashion, change. Obviously transform into the resurrection body as possessed by Christ.

thV tapeinwsewV (iV ewV) gen. "[our] lowly [body]" - [the body] of humiliation [of ours]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "body", "insignificant / humble / lowly body"; "the body that belongs to our lowly estate", Moffatt.

summorfon acc. adj. "so that they will be like" - into conforming, sharing. Predicate adjective. "Similar in form", BAGD. This adjective modifies to swma, "the body", so "the body that belongs to our lowly estate, a body similar in form to / with the body of his glory." Probably Paul intends "exactly like", Barclay, rather than "resemble", Goodspeed. Christ's glorious body is obviously his resurrected body.

doxhV (a) gen. "glorious" - of glory. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "body".

tw/ swmati (a atoV) dat. "body" - The dative is instrumental, expressing association / accompaniment, although summorfon can naturally take the sense of "conforming to, sharing with", in which case it takes a dative of direct object; "a body which is similar in form to/with his glorious body."


Philippians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]