5. Warnings and appeals, 3:1-21

ii] Seek the prize of knowing Christ


The particular passage before us is part of a larger section where Paul warns the church about false teachers, 3:1-21. Unlike the members of the circumcision party who continually trouble the church with their work-based piety, Paul has willingly abandoned his reliance on law-obedience to access the fullness of God's promised new life, and now looks to God's grace in Christ, and this through faith.


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


ii] Background: See 1:1-11..


iii] Structure: Seek the prize of knowing Christ:

Paul's personal achievements, v4a-6;

Spiritual credentials apart from Christ are worthless;

The essence of Pauline theology - the real source of worth, v7-11.

Everything is mere refuse compared to gaining Christ, v7-8;

The blessing of gaining Christ, v9-11


iv] Interpretation:

Paul has just criticized the members of the circumcision party / the judaizers, and has done so using the strongest of language, v2-4a. These believers from the Jerusalem church have been following up on Paul's missionary work, correcting his supposed overemphasis on grace, as opposed to law. For these nomist believers, submission to the law of God was a necessary requisite for progressing holiness in order to access the full blessings of new life in Christ.

Using himself as an example, Paul "draws back the curtain on his past religious life so as to permit the Philippians to understand, not abstractly, but concretely, what it means to consider oneself no longer religious except through the Spirit, no longer able to boast except in Christ Jesus, and no longer able to rely on human privilege or achievement to gain favor with God", Hawthorne, v4b-6.

Having stated that he, of all people, has reason to boast "in the flesh" ("human achievements", Barclay, as they relate to law-obedience, both cultic [circumcision] and moral), Paul goes on to point out that he has found a righteousness that is apart from the law, a righteousness found in the faithfulness of Christ appropriated through faith, a righteousness that brings with it the promised blessings of the covenant, namely, new life, v7-9. These verses encapsulate the essence of Pauline theology; in them "Paul describes the total reorientation of his life that has occurred because of Jesus Christ", O'Brien. In v10 Paul describes this new life in Christ as:

• knowing Christ, in the sense of becoming at one with the divine;

• experiencing the complete transforming power of the risen Christ;

• identifying with the suffering Christ in his death for the ultimate victory over sin and self.

All this, of course, encapsulated in the resurrection of the dead, v11.

For the Judaizers / members of the circumcision party / nomists / the Jerusalem church pietists, who constantly interfered in Paul's missionary churches, the full appropriation of the promised blessings of the covenant could only be attained by a strict adherence to the Law (the Torah, probably + the ethic of Jesus). The heresy of sanctification by obedience seems logically sound; a believer wipes the slate clean through faith in Christ and then presses forward in the Christian life for divine blessings by means of faithful obedience:


For Paul, the full appropriation of the promised blessings of the covenant were already his in Christ through faith apart from works of the Law. Nothing needs to be added to the righteousness which is through faith (Christ's faithfulness + our faith response) to appropriate the promised blessings of the covenant, the fullness of new life in Christ:



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

Text - 3:4b

Seek the prize of knowing Christ, v4b-11: i] Paul's credentials; his standing in God's people Israel, his inherited privileges and achievements, v4b-6. Having warned the Philippians to keep clear of the "mutilators of the flesh" (members of the circumcision party, law-bound believers), Paul points out that if anyone has the right to claim any status in the presence of God it is he himself.

ei "if" - if, as is the case, [any other person thinks to have confidence in the flesh, then i more]. Introducing a conditional clause 1st. class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ...... then ...."

pepoiqenai (peiqw) perf. inf. "[thinks] they have reasons to put confidence" - to place confidence in. The infinitive, following a cognitive verb, introduces a dependent statement of perception expressing what they "think / assume / consider."

en + dat. "in [the flesh]" - Adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to the flesh (Law)."

mallon adv. "[I have] more" - more / rather. Here with the sense of "more" - "[I have] to a greater degree."


In v5-6 Paul goes on to detail the quality of his legalistic righteousness: his race (Israel), religion (temple worship), law-obedience, ritual and legal purity (Pharisaic traditions).

peritomh/ (h) "circumcised [on the eighth day]" - to circumcision [an eighth day one]. The dative is probably adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to / as to circumcision." Circumcised when he was a week old, ie., he was circumcised in strict conformity with the law. Lev.12:3.

ek + gen. " of [the people]" - of [race, of israel]. Expressing source / origin. Paul is an Israelite by birth.

Israhl gen. proper. "of Israel" - The genitive is adjectival, probably attributive / idiomatic, "the people who are descended from Israel", or epexegetic, so Varner.

fulhV (h) gen. "of the tribe" - Obviously ek + gen. is assumed, so ablative, source / origin, "from".

Beniamin gen. "of Benjamin" - The assumed genitive is again adjectival, as for "Israel", limiting "tribe"; "of the tribe which is named after Benjamin."

EbraioV ex Ebraiwn " a Hebrew of Hebrews" - Meaning, a Hebrew ek, "out of, from" = "son of" Hebrew parents.

kata + acc. " in regard to [the law, a Pharisee]" - according to [law a pharisee]. Here expressing reference / respect; "with respect to / with reference to the law" = "with regard to the law." Although there is no definite article before "law", the Torah is intended. The way Paul approached the law, and particularly the way he strove to keep it, was according to the ethical and ceremonial purity of the sect of the Pharisees. That is, his standard of "righteousness" was high.


kata + acc. "as for" - according to. Again expressing reference / respect; "with respect to / with reference to." Of course, as such, the preposition with "zeal" forms the adverbial phrase "with regard to zeal", which may be treated as an adverbial periphrastic construction with the sense "zealously"; "I zealously persecuted the church."

zhloV (oV) " zeal" - zeal, jealousy. The positive sense is intended here, "ardor" instead of "envy". When it came to the traditions of Israel, Paul's zeal went as far as persecuting those who undermined Israel's traditions.

diwkwn (diwkw) pres. part. "persecuting" - We could treat the participle as a substantive, "with regard zeal, a persecutor of the church", predicate nominative, so Varner, but its verbal aspect seems prominent. Zerwick suggests the participle is used to express iterative action - repeated and habitual action; "zealously persecuting the church."

thn ekklhsian (a) "the church" - The assembly / congregation of believers." Accusative direct object of the participle "persecuting".

kata dikaiosunhn "as for [legalistic] righteousness / as for righteousness [based on the law]" - according to / in relation to / with respect to the righteousness. There is some debate as to what type of "righteousness" Paul has in mind. The word "righteousness" has many meanings depending on the context: uprightness, justice, what is right, what God requires, ritual purity, or Paul's favorite, standing in a right-relationship with God / covenant compliant. Possibly "uprightness", the upright behavior of a child of God achieved by means of attention to the demands of the law. Of such, Paul is exemplary (as far as Pharisaic standards are concerned). Yet, he is probably using the word "righteousness" in his typical sense of covenant compliant, but qualified by "based on the Law", which qualification means he is not covenant compliant / right with God / "rectified", Martyn.

thn "-" - the. An anaphoric use of the article, ie., referencing forward; "with regard to righteousness, the righteousness ....."

en + dat. "based on [the law]" - in [the law]. The preposition is probably local, expressing sphere, "the righteousness that is achieved in the sphere of the law"; "I did everything the Law demanded", CEV. As noted above, Paul is not claiming his obedience to the law made him righteous before God.

genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "[faultless]" - having become [blameless]. The participle with the adjective amemptoV, "blameless", probably serves to form the substantive phrase "a faultless man." Paul is not saying he is sinless, but rather that as to the legalistic requirements of the law as understood by the Pharisaic party, he was faultless; "I don't think anyone could have found fault with me", Phillips.


ii] The essence of Paul's theology, v7-11. Paul now speaks of "the great reversal in his life because of the risen Christ", Reumann, of the privileges and blessings that are now his, gains which transcend all that he had before.

a) Everything is mere refuse compared to gaining Christ, v7-8. Yet, Paul states that he regards his religious purity, encapsulated in his obedience to the law, as nothing and this because of his association with Christ. He regards this "confidence in the flesh", v4, as mere refuse / valueless, for the sake of Christ.

alla "but" - Strong adversative. A possible textual variant; "however, nevertheless ..."

aJtina pro. "whatever" - what things. Subject of the verb to-be; "But all such assets", REB.

moi dat. pro. "[was] to my" - [were gains] to me. Dative of interest, advantage; "what was once an advantage for me."

kerdh (oV) "profit / gains" - Predicate nominative. An accountancy term; Paul now regards the advantage of his law-keeping as no advantage.

h{ghmai (hJgeomai) perf. "I now consider [loss]" - have considered, regarded, counted [a loss]. The perfect here expressing a state or condition.

dia + acc. "for the sake of Christ" - because of / on account of christ. This preposition, followed by the accusative, is causal, "because of", ie., because of what Christ has done for the provision of free grace, Paul now sees no advantage in the law; "because of Christ", NRSV. The NIV, along with the RSV and others, reads it as "for the sake of", "for Christ's sake." This translation is still causal, explaining what has motivated Paul, but the advantage has shifted from Paul to Christ, here his desire to affirm Christ. "Because of" is to be preferred.


In fact, as a believer, Paul regards "everything" of little value in comparison with the far greater worth / the supreme advantage of knowing Christ - "knowing" in the sense of understanding and experiencing him. It is not just his religious purity that Paul regards as refuse, but "even of esteem and friendship and enjoyment and rest and relations", Greijdanus (Dutch theologian, 1871-1948). Paul casts away everything, because first of all, to gain Christ is of far greater value.

menounge "what is more" - [but] on the other hand [and = also]. The alla is not adversative here but presents an accessory idea, made more emphatic by menounge kai, cf., BDF 448.6, as NIV.

hJgoumai (hJgeomai) pres. "I consider" - The present tense has durative / imperfective force; "I continue to consider", O'Brien.

panta pro. "everything" - all things. Accusative direct object of the verb "to consider", but at the same time serving as the accusative subject of the infinitive of the verb to-be. In v7 it was "whatever" (which things), referring to the religious inheritance of Israel as interpreted and applied by the strict sect of the Pharisees. The "everything" (all things) most likely applies to everything else that gives Paul standing / self worth, namely, Roman citizenship, status in society, wealth....

ei\nai (eimi) pres. inf. "[a loss]" - to be [a loss]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception after a cognitive verb; "I consider that everything (that provides status, power, wealth, ....) is a dead loss."

dia + acc. "because of" - because of, on account of. Causal. As in v7, "because of" is better than "for the sake of."

to uJperecon (uJerecw) pres. part. "the surpassing greatness / worth" - the rising above, the excellency. The participle here is best read as a substantive, "matchless greatness / ultimate value / supreme advantage", indicating the worth of that for which Paul gave everything up. "Compared to the supreme value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord", Moffatt.

thV gnwsewV (iV ewV) gen. "of knowing" - of the knowledge. The genitive is adjectival, possibly appositional, limiting "matchless greatness" which means that the surpassing greatness is the knowledge, ie., they are one and the same thing, but possibly better attributed, "the surpassing knowledge", so Wallace. "Knowledge" is a highly charged word with many possible meanings and it is obviously important to identify Paul's intended sense because in comparison with it, everything else is "rubbish". Obviously not just intellectual information about God, possibly mystical union with the divine, although better, the Old Testament sense of "knowing", best illustrated in marriage where a man knows his wife. "Knowing" is an intimate personal union where the other is both understood and experienced. We know God in his gracious kindness and mercy toward us, a grace which we access through repentance and faith.

Cristou Ihsou gen. " Christ Jesus" - of christ jesus. Most commentators opt for an objective genitive, ie., Christ is the object of the knowledge, he is the one who is known, although it could be subjective, ie., Christ does the knowing, and therefore, here Paul is expressing the wonder of being known by Christ. None-the-less, it is more likely that the genitive "of Christ Jesus" is epexegetic, limiting "the knowledge" by defining it; "the surpassing knowledge which is all about Jesus Christ."

mou gen. pro. "my [Lord]" - the lord of me. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. The genitive "the Lord" probably stands in apposition to "Christ Jesus". "This Lord, the knowledge of whom is of ultimate value, is my Lord." Paul expresses an intimate acquaintance with Christ which is quite unique in his writings.

di (dia) + acc. "for [whose sake]" - because of, on account of [whom all things i suffered loss]. Causal; "on account of whom I experienced loss of everything", Reumann.

kai "-" - and [i consider]. Coordinative; "I have willingly given up all this and consider it rubbish", Berkeley.

skubala (on) "rubbish" - garbage, refuse. Accusative complement of the assumed direct object "them", "[I consider] them refuse", standing in a double accusative construction. A stronger sense may be intended, "excrement", so possibly "and of no more value than a heap of dung."

iJna + subj. "that" - that [i may gain christ]. Introducing a purpose clause, with the aorist indicating a complete gain in the future. This statement indicates the motive for counting "everything a loss." Paul goes on to say, "and be found in him (Christ), not having a righteousness ......" v9. It seems likely that the kai is epexegetic; "that is, be found in him ....." The subjunctive kerdhsw, "I may gain", is interesting. The word means to gain by one's activity, or investment - to earn, to gain, to make a profit*. Obviously, Paul is continuing with the accountancy profit / loss imagery. Paul once strove to earn many things, now he recognizes only one worthwhile earner. Of course, the image should not be pushed to argue that we gain Christ though our own effort.


b) The blessing of gaining Christ, v9-11. What we have in these three verses is an explanation as to what it means to "gain Christ." To gain Christ is "to be found in him", united to him, righteous before God, v9. There is one's own kind of imperfect covenant compliance / righteousness which relies on law obedience and there is God's kind of covenant compliance / righteousness which relies on the faithfulness of Christ. Paul wants to be found in (in union with) Christ and so possess a perfect covenant compliance / righteousness, and with it God's promised covenant blessings - life.

euJreqw (euJriskw) aor. subj. "to be found" - [and] to be found. Still controlled by iJna, v8, so forming a purpose clause; "in order to be found." "To be found in him and to be justified are the same", Bonnard, so here taking the "eschatological meaning of vindication at the divine court by possessing an acceptable righteousness", Martin.

en + dat. "in him" - Local, sphere / incorporative union; "in union with him."

mh ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "not having" - The participle is adverbial, probably causal, "because I have ...", O'Brien, although possibly concessive "although I have ....", or modal, as NIV, or result, so Varner.

dikaiosunhn (h) "a righteousness" - [my own] righteousness. Accusative direct object of the participle "having". Probably "old covenant righteousness", Fee, covenant compliance / right-standing before God, qualified by "of my own making" (self-righteousness)" and "that which comes from the law", cf., "righteousness", v6. The problem with a covenant compliance established by law-obedience is that it is not a perfect covenant compliance, it is a self-made, limited / compromised compliance and is therefore not recognized by God.

emhn possessive adj. "of my own" - Expressing the form of the righteousness that Paul does not want to have, ie., self-righteousness.

thn "that" - the one. The article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase "from the law" into an attributive modifier of the noun "righteousness"; "a righteousness of my own which comes from the law."

ek + gen. "comes from [the law]" - out of / comes from [law]. Probably expressing origin / source; "that comes from law", NRSV, so NIV, imaging "from God." Best expressed as "based on observance of the law", NAB. "Law" = "the law of Moses", "the Torah."

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction.

thn dikaiosunhn (h) "[having] the righteousness" - the righteousness. "New covenant righteousness", Fee, of being "set right before God", Bruce.

dia + gen. "through" - through, by means of. Instrumental, expressing means; "by means of."

dia pistewV Cristou "faith in Christ" - faith / faithfulness of christ. "The faithfulness of Christ (subjective / possessive genitive), OR that which is through faith in Christ (objective genitive). Subjective / possessive seems best, expressing the faithful obedience of Christ to the Father's will upon which we rest in faith and which thus serves as the basis of our justification; see Faith of Christ, Gal.2:16. "Mediated through the faithfulness of Christ.

ek" + gen. from" - out of / comes from [god] - The preposition expresses separation, "away from", or origin / source, possibly author, of the righteousness that Paul wants to have, as opposed to "my own" source. This certainly supports the idea of "gift". See The righteousness of God. "Which has God as its source", Cassirer.

epi + dat. "by [faith] / on the basis of [faith]" - [the righteousness of god] upon [faith]. Here probably expressing basis / ground: "on the basis of / which is based on faith", ie., the TNIV is to be preferred. "Faith" as above, Christ's faithfulness upon which we rest in faith.


This verse expands on what it means to be "found in Christ" and so further explains what it means to "gain Christ": to be found in Christ means to know him - experience an intimate association with Christ. We experience this knowing of Christ in the following ways: First, through his power; We experience the power that raised Christ from the dead, a power that aids us in our struggle with the realm of darkness; Second, through participation in Christ's suffering on our behalf; We experience forgiveness of sins. Paul then expands on the idea of a believers identification with Christ in the terms of dying with him, "becoming like him in his death, and rising with him, "attaining to the resurrection of the dead."

tou gnwnai (ginwskw) aor. inf. "I want to know [Christ]" - of the to know [him]. A genitive article followed by an infinitive may be read a number of ways. It may be an epexegetic infinitive, further explaining the meaning of "to gain Christ", v8, or more immediately "to be found in him." The construction would normally form a final clause, expressing purpose; "in order that we may know Christ". The construction can also be read to express consequence, or result; "we believe with the result that we know Christ." It is probably best to read the construction as paralleling the hina clause "to gain Christ": "I consider everything lost .... in order to gain Christ, .... in order to be found in him, ..... and in order "to know him ..." The 2nd. clause expands on the 1st., and the 3rd. expands on the 2nd; "to gain Christ, that is, to be found in him ..... to know him."

kai "and / yes, to know"" - It is generally felt that kai should not be read here as coordinative, but rather epexegetic; Christ is known in the power of his resurrection and in the sharing of his sufferings. Both Goodspeed and Moffatt suggest "I want to know him in the power of his resurrection" and also in participating in his sufferings." So, TNIV.

thn dunamin (iV ewV) acc. "the power" - the power. The first object of "to know" was "him = Christ", the second is "power"; "to know the power ...."

thV anastasewV (iV ewV) gen. "of [his] resurrection" - of the resurrection [of him]. The genitive, as usual, causes trouble. Is it a genitive of apposition, meaning that power and resurrection are the same; "the power that is his resurrection"? Is it an ablative genitive, of origin; "the power that emanates from his resurrection"? Christ's resurrection is then a source of power that attaches to a believer and empowers their life. The genitive could also be taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting "power"; "the power that is evident in his resurrection." Of course, the power is God's power, the power that raised Christ to life, and it is this power that Paul wants to "know". Paul wants to understand and experience the life-transforming, renewing, enlivening... power that was operative in the resurrection of Christ, a power that is accessed through identification with (in) Christ in his resurrection. cf. Eph.1:19-20.

kai "and" - Coordinative, as NIV.

thn koinwnian (a) "the fellowship of sharing / participation" - the fellowship. Here the third object of "to know"; "and to know the fellowship of sharing ....."

twn paqhmatwn (ma atoV) gen. "in [his] sufferings" - of the sufferings [of him]. The genitive is usually treated as objective such that the genitive substantive "sufferings" receives the action of the verbal noun "participation", as NIV. Yet, it is possible that the genitive "of sufferings", in the phrase "the fellowship of his sufferings", is ablative, source / origin; "the fellowship created by Christ's sufferings", so the German commentator Lohmeyer. The definite articles with "power" and "resurrection" carry over to "fellowship" and "sufferings", indicating a close link between both phrases, although not necessarily suggesting that they are one in the same. The link, of course, is the death and resurrection of Christ. Participation in Christ's sufferings does not mean suffering for the gospel as Christ suffered, but rather identification with Christ in his death on the cross. We die with Christ, we rise with Christ, cf., Rom.6:8.

summorfizomonoV (summorfizw) pres. pas. part. "becoming like him" - being conformed. The participle is probably adjectival, epexegetic, explaining / specifying / amplifying what is meant by "sharing in his sufferings", although Varner opts for attributive. Fee suggests it is adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "being conformed to his death" - the present tense giving the sense "being continually conformed to his death." Possibly temporal, "while being conformed." Paul is speaking about our identification with Christ in his death, Rom.6:6.

tw/ qanatw/ (oV) dat. "in [his] death" - to the death [of him]. The dative may be taken as local, expressing incorporation, such the whole participial phrase serves as a "metaphor of incorporation", O'Brien, but also it serves as a dative of direct object of the sun prefix verb "to confirm with" / participle "being confirmed."


The ultimate blessing - the triumphant consummation of all things in the resurrection of the dead, v11.

ei pwV "and so, somehow," - if somehow, in some way, perhaps. This conditional construction serves to unite v11 with the final cause of v10, "being conformed to his death", so Meyer. The enclitic particle pwV here expresses deference, not doubt, forming "an expression of expectation", BDF; The conditional conjunction ei, "if", is best taken as "introducing a clause of purpose where the attainment of the purpose is not altogether within the subjects power", Bruce, p119, NIBC. Note Paul's use of this construction in Romans 1:10, 11:14. "In the hope of attaining", Goodspeed.

katanthsw (katantaw) aor. subj. / fut. "attaining" - i may obtain / i shall obtain. "And so achieve the resurrection from the dead."

eiV + acc. "to" - into. Expressing the direction of the action and arrival at, here particularly goal.

thn exanastasin (iV ewV) "the resurrection" - Paul has possibly created this word himself by adding ex, "out of", to the normal word for "resurrection". This serves to underline the fact that he is now speaking about the resurrection from the dead in the last day, rather than our identification with Christ in his resurrection.

thn "-" - the. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "from the dead" into an attributive modifier of the noun "the resurrection"; "the resurrection which is from the dead."

ek + gen. "from [the dead]" - Expressing source / origin, or separation, of being removed from the realm of the dead.


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