Bible Gateway Recommendations
View more titles
Our Price: $25.99
Save: $13.96 (35%)
Although Paul's focus is altogether on the heavenly prize, his running shoes make regular contact with terra firma. So in the same way he did with Christ's story in 2:13-18, he applies his story to the situation in Philippi. Twice over he urges the Philippians to follow his example: first by having the same "mindset" as in his story (3:15-16), second by "joining together" in "walking" in his ways (v. 17). This is followed with a concluding set of stark contrasts: there are some who "walk" as enemies of the cross, whose mind is on earthly things and whose "future" is destruction (vv. 18-19), whereas as citizens of heaven we await from there our Lord and Savior, who at his coming will transform our earthly bodies into the likeness of his present heavenly glory (vv. 20-21).
Following this glorious wrap-up of his second excursion into the Philippians' "affairs," Paul concludes with two final appeals, which connect this one to the first one. He returns first (4:1) to the primary appeal from 1:27 to stand firm in the Lord and second (4:2-3) to its accompanying appeal from 2:2-5 to "have one mindset," this time specifically applying it to two leaders of the community. Thus Paul's final application of his story recalls the two major concerns addressed in the two sections of the letter given to their affairs: steadfastness (including their keeping a steady gaze on Christ and their sure future) and unity in the face of opposition.
The glue that holds together this application and final appeal is friendship and the three-way bond (between him, them and Christ) that gives the whole letter cohesion. Paul's story (3:4-14) was devoted altogether to his relationship with Christ; these appeals now link that with the other two sides of the triangle (see figure 1 in commentary on page 21). First, his secure relationship with the Philippians allows him to tell his story for purposes of imitation, as he now explicitly tells them (indeed, he begins [vv. 15-16] and ends [vv. 20-21] with first-person plural verbs [see commentary on 3:3], thus reinforcing that he and they are in this together). Second, the clear aim of all this has to do with the Philippians' relationship with Christ, which is specifically picked up in the final application (3:20-21) and two final appeals (4:1, 2-3). Also like the preceding narrative, all of this is placed in the context of friends having enemies in common (vv. 18-19): some who have rejected imitating Paul are in this case enemies of the cross.
Paul begins with an inferential "therefore" (omitted in the NIV), which explains why Paul tells his story. "In consequence of what I have been narrating," he says, "let us now hear the application." Which begins: All of us who are teleioi, a play on "I have not yet arrived at the goal" in verse 12. This appears to be a bit tongue in cheek, since he includes himself in the present designation: he who is "not yet" teleios ("completed") in the sense of eschatological hope is "already" teleios ("mature"), along with them, in terms of how he lives in the present as he awaits the final glory. Such a view of things translates a simple "this," which probably refers to the whole narrative, including the rejection of his Jewish past. But it especially includes his "participation in Christ's sufferings by being conformed to his death" and his eager pursuit of the eschatological prize, since that is the focus of verses 18-19 and 20-21: those who are enemies of the cross and who have set their mind . . . on earthly things are set in sharp contrast to us, whose citizenship is in heaven, from whence we eagerly await the Savior.
But then Paul makes a surprising qualification: And if on some point you think [phroneite] differently, that too God will make clear to you. Although some have seen here a hint of conflict between Paul and some in the community, that is most unlikely since Paul's tone carries not a whiff of the odor of controversy. Indeed, his words are almost nonchalant--a kind of "throwaway" sentence--which makes one think that no great issue can be in view. That not all of them would necessarily see things his way is implied, but that much has been implied throughout the letter.
Most likely this is another matter to be understood in the context of friendship. Paul is especially concerned that they follow his example, which happens also to be part and parcel of a patron-client friendship. But throughout the letter he studiously avoids any hint of this kind of superior-to-inferior expression of friendship; in fact he goes out of his way to make sure that their friendship is understood in terms of mutuality. That seems to be what is also going on here. He really is exhorting them to follow his example (as v. 17 will make even more clear); but exhortation in this case is not command, nor does it assume that all will see eye to eye with him on all matters. The emphasis in this sentence, after all, is on God's continuing to work among them through divine revelation. This would suggest that on some point does not so much reflect specifics that Paul has in mind, but generalities. Here is the offer of friendship; they may freely disagree with him at points--on many matters--and if any matter counts for something, Paul trusts God to bring them up to speed there as well.
Having allowed friends a difference of opinion, but stipulating that God will redirect their collective frame of mind in any case, Paul returns to his first point, expressed now in terms of behavior. "In any case," he rejoins, "on the matter at hand you need not wait for divine revelation." At the same time he returns also to the first-person plural, only let us live up to what we have already attained. Paul seems to be calling them to live in keeping with how they have already followed Christ, before they ever received this letter. Given his longtime--and loving--relationship with this church, and his frequent stops there, it is hard to imagine that in this letter he is telling them anything new. In fact in 3:1 he has said quite the opposite, that it is not burdensome for him to "write the same things" again as a "safeguard." Thus both the Christ narrative, which is foundational for his, and his own story are not new; rather they tell the "old, old story" all over again. This is what he and they have already attained, even if some are now slacking off in some way and for some reason.
The best explanation of the "why" of all this is the one suggested before, that in the face of opposition and some internal dissension, some of the Philippians have lost their vision for and focus on their crucified and risen Lord, including his coming again. Even in a Roman prison Paul has not lost his vision; here he urges them to follow his example and to see their participation in Christ's sufferings as Christ's way of "conforming them to his death," so that they, with Paul, may joyously gain the prize of his eternal presence.
What is in view from his heritage is the pupil who learned not simply by receiving instruction but by putting into practice the example of the teacher; the one who so imitates, internalizes and lives out the model presented by the teacher. Also in that heritage ethical life was thought of in terms of "walking in the ways of the Lord." Thus Paul urges the Philippians to take note of those who "walk just as you have us as a model." The grammar and language of this clause imply a group of people that extends beyond the Philippians themselves. Along with "watching out for" the itinerants who would "mutilate" them (3:2), they are to "take note of" or "be on the lookout for" people (probably other itinerants) who, like themselves, walk in keeping with the example they find in Paul.
Three matters are thus brought together in this second application: (1) that their behavior conform to the pattern Paul has just given them in his story (3:4-14); (2) that they corporately join together in imitating Paul in this way; and (3) that they take note of others who come along who "walk" this way, precisely because, as he will spell out in the next sentence, there are many who walk otherwise.
In calling them enemies of the cross of Christ Paul is, as the first matter, intentionally setting them over against both Christ (2:8) and himself (2:10-11). According to 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, the cross stands as God's utter contradiction to human wisdom and power, and therefore inevitably creates enemies of those who refuse to go that route (which is why the triumphalists in Corinth opposed Paul's gospel and apostleship; see Fee 1987:165-82). Since any of two or three kinds of people would fit the description, the phrase helps very little with a specific identification. That their destiny is destruction makes it clear that Paul does not consider them to be followers of Christ at all; whether they once were so would at least make sense of his telling the Philippians about them once again even with tears (probably tears of sorrow for those who should know better; cf. Jer 9:1 in light of Phil 3:3 and 8). But in any case, as in 1:28, which it echoes, the language cannot be softened to mean anything other than eternal destruction. The contextual reason for its appearing second in this listing, as over against its logical place at the end, is probably rhetorical effect. Since the way of the cross is central to Paul's concern, the "end" for those who are enemies of the cross is brought forward to a place immediately following.
Their god is their stomach and its companion, their glory is in their shame, are especially difficult and therefore have led to all kinds of speculation. Only one thing seems certain: that these two phrases belong with the final one, giving concrete expression to what that one generalizes, namely that they live only for the present; they have set their minds on earthly, not on heavenly, things. The first phrase is very close to what Paul says of some divisive people in Romans 16:17-18 ("such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites"); in both instances the imagery probably refers to some specific behavior. But to what? "Stomach" may be a metonymy for the craving after sumptuous fare, or perhaps for surfeiting. One cannot be sure. Perhaps it is intended to be more representative--of those who are so given over to present bodily desires of all kinds, represented by the appetites, that such has become a god to them.From our distance, their glory is in their shame is even more cryptic. It is connected to their god is their stomach by a single relative pronoun, suggesting that this is the flip side of whatever that one means. Glory is what they delight in; shame is how they should perceive their behavior. The word glory is undoubtedly another wordplay, setting up the contrast to our being transformed into the likeness of Christ's present body "of glory" in Philippians 3:21. Hence it is an especially striking bit of irony, where not only are they not destined for glory at all, because of their present enmity to the cross, but what glory they have in the present lies precisely in what should be for them a matter of shame. But beyond that, in terms of specifics, we are largely in the dark.
With the final phrase, their mind is on earthly things, we come to where the whole indictment has been heading right along. Two things are significant for understanding. First, Paul once more uses the crucial verb from 2:2-5 and 3:15. They do not simply "think about" earthly things; their "minds are set on" (phronountes) such things, which stands in pointed antithesis to Paul's own mindset as portrayed in his personal story. His mind is set altogether on Christ, whose cross serves as pattern for his own life. Second, the earthly things their minds are set on sum up the former two; this is what it means finally to be given over to the stomach as one's deity and to glory in what should be shameful. By their fruit, Paul says, you will know them; by their focus you will also recognize that they are not walking according to the pattern of Christ and his apostle.
At the same time it sets up the contrast that follows. Here is the second crucial matter. These people over whom Paul weeps are first of all enemies of the cross; they are now characterized as those who have abandoned the pursuit of the heavenly prize, in favor of what belongs only to the present scheme of things.
Who these people are can only be speculated. Some things remind us of the "dogs" with which the section began; but their (apparently) libertine ways clearly do not. Most likely Paul is here picking up on the major concerns of his personal narrative in 3:4-14, by reminding the Philippians again of some about whom he has often told them in the past, who have left the way of the cross and are pursuing present, earthly concerns. He is probably describing some itinerants whose view of the faith allows them a great deal of undisciplined self-indulgence. In any case, they have not appeared heretofore in the letter and do not appear again. They have served their immediate purpose of standing in sharp relief to Paul's own "walk" and to his heavenly pursuit, so crucial to this letter, and toward which Paul now turns once more as he begins to draw this appeal to an end.
All kinds of contrasts mark the sentence: the inclusive we (cf. 3:3, 15-16) over against "them"; heaven over against earthly things; a glorious future over against destruction; and true glory over against the shame they glory in. Paul begins by emphasizing that our citizenship is in heaven, thus offering the ultimate reason for following his example and for looking out for others who do so as well (v. 17), while at the same time returning to the wordplay on citizenship from 1:27. In a classic expression of the "already/not yet" framework of his theology, Paul says in effect that "we are a colony of heaven" as we live the life of the future, our true homeland, while living presently in the Roman colony of Philippi.
Because heaven is our true homeland, we eagerly await our Savior from there, he goes on--in yet one more play on their Roman citizenship and clear attempt to encourage them in their present suffering. The primary title for the Roman emperor was "lord and savior"; Paul now puts those two words side by side: our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, who will not only transform our present humiliation into glory but do this in keeping with the power that enables him to bring everything under his control (including the Roman lord and savior, Nero Caesar!). All of this to reassure the Philippians that the heavenly prize is absolutely worth pursuing (vv. 12-14).
Now, however, instead of thinking about "attaining to the resurrection" (v. 11), Paul thinks in terms of Christ's return. The net result is the same. Our present earthly existence is expressed in terms of (literally) "the body of our [present] humble station" (NIV lowly bodies, same word as in 2:3 and 8), which for many of us is a constant reminder of our creatureliness. These Christ will transform so that they are (again literally) "conformed [symmorphon; cf. symmorphizomenos in 3:10] to the body of his glory." Therefore, just as knowing Christ now means being conformed into the likeness of his death (v. 10), so in our final glory we will be conformed into the likeness of his resurrection.
Christ's present existence is bodily in the sense of 1 Corinthians 15, that the body is the point of continuity between the present and the future. The form of that body is the point of discontinuity--a "mystery," Paul says--but adapted to the final life of the Spirit; hence it is a "supernatural body," or as here, "the body of his [present] glory." The good new is that the same future awaits those who are his, which is Paul's present concern. Our current lot, he has argued in 1:29-30 (cf. 2:17), is to suffer for Christ's sake. But we can "rejoice in the Lord" in the midst of such suffering (2:18; 3:1; 4:4) because our suffering itself is enabled by "the power of his resurrection" (3:10), which resurrection at the same time guarantees our certain future. Hence in our present "humiliation" we await the coming of the Savior, and with that coming the transformation of our humiliation into the likeness of his glory.
Moreover, the power by which Christ will bring about this transformation is "in keeping with [NIV by] the working" that enables him "also to subject all things to himself" (NIV to bring everything under his control). In some ways this is the most remarkable transformation of all, in that Paul here uses language about Christ that he elsewhere uses only of God the Father. The phrase "able to subject all things to himself" is Paul's eschatological interpretation of Psalm 8:7, where God will "subject all things" to his Messiah, who in turn, according to 1 Corinthians 15:28, will turn over all things to God the Father so that "God might be all and in all." Remarkably, in the present passage the subjecting of all things to himself is said to be by Christ's own power.
The little word "also" has unfortunately been omitted from many English translations, including the NIV. Here is the final word of assurance to the Philippians. By the same power by which he will transform their present bodies that are suffering at the hand of opposition in Philippi, Christ will likewise subject "all things" to himself, including the emperor and all those who in his name are causing the Philippians to suffer. As Paul has already said in 1:28, their own salvation from God will at the same time result in the destruction of the opposition.
It simply cannot be put any better than that. This passage reminds us that despite appearances often to the contrary, God is in control, that our salvation is not just for today but forever, that Christ is coming again, and that at his coming we inherit the final glory that belongs to Christ alone--and to those who are his. It means the final subjugation of all the "powers" to him as well, especially those responsible for the present affliction of God's people. With Paul we would do well not merely to await the end but eagerly to press on toward the goal, since the final prize is but the consummation of what God has already accomplished through the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.
The first appeal is directed toward the whole community; simultaneously it applies the preceding word of future hope, recalls the primary exhortation of 1:27 with which the "their affairs" sections of the letter began, and leads into the specific appeal of 4:2-3.
Friendship here takes the form of a remarkable elaboration of Paul's ordinary vocative, brothers [and sisters]: it becomes my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown. This profusion of modifiers reminds them once again of his deep feelings for them and his deep concern for their present and future. The first set (whom I love and long for) recalls their primary relationship: his love for them accompanied by a deep longing for them. So much does this relational concern matter to him that he repeats--awkwardly from the perspective of grammar, but effectively from the perspective of relationship--the vocative "beloved" at the end of the sentence (NIV dear friends, evidence that English is not comfortable with such repetition). The second set is eschatological and is as prospective as the former is retrospective, looking toward the time when 3:20-21 will have come to fulfillment and the Philippians stand before Christ with Paul as my joy and crown (cf. 1 Thess 2:19), his "boast on the day of Christ" (2:16).
Nearly getting lost in this piling up of endearing vocatives is the appeal itself, stand firm (recalling 1:27), now modified with "thus" (NIV this is how) and in the Lord. During the Philippians' present distress they are to stand firm in the Lord, firmly planted in relationship with the same Lord whose coming they eagerly await and who will then subject all things to himself (3:20-21). And they are "thus" to stand firm, referring probably to the whole of 3:1-21, but especially to their imitation of Paul by their upright "walk" even as they bend every effort to attain the final prize.
These longtime friends and coworkers, who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, are no longer seeing eye to eye with each other. We know very little more about them. Syntyche was named after the goddess of fortune, indicating pagan origins; both were given names (roughly "Success" and "Lucky") indicative of parental desire for their making good in the world. That Paul had women as coworkers in Philippi should surprise us none, since the church there had its origins among some Gentile women who, as "God-fearers," met by the river on the Jewish sabbath for prayer (Acts 16:13-15). The evidence from Acts indicates that at her conversion Lydia became patron both of the small apostolic band and of the nascent Christian community. By the very nature of things, that meant she was also a leader in the church, since heads of households automatically assumed the same role in the church that was centered in that household. Moreover, Macedonian women in general had a much larger role in public life than one finds elsewhere in the Empire; in Philippi in particular they were also well-known for their religious devotion.
Paul now entreats these two leaders to agree with each other (phronein, "have the same mindset") in the Lord. Given (a) the brevity of this letter, (b) that the letter would have been read aloud in the gathered community in a single sitting, and (c) that appeals to "have the same mindset" are part of the stuff of letters of friendship, one can be sure that the present appeal is to be understood as the specific application of the earlier ones in Philippians 2:2 and 3:15. Given its position at the end, it is also probably related to the foregoing warning and appeal (3:1-21).
Paul refuses to take sides, thus maintaining friendship with all. He appeals to both women--indeed the identical repetition of their names followed by the verb has rhetorical effect--to bury their differences by adopting the "same mindset." As in the immediately preceding appeal, it is qualified in the Lord, evidence that we are not dealing with a personal matter but with "doing the gospel" in Philippi. Having "the same mindset" in the Lord has been specifically spelled out in the preceding paradigmatic narratives, where Christ (2:6-11) has humbled himself by taking the "form of a slave" and thus becoming obedient unto death on a cross, and Paul (3:4-14) has expressed his longing to know Christ in a cruciform way.
In another intriguing moment, Paul turns momentarily to address another coworker, asking him to help Euodia and Syntyche respond to the appeal: Yes, and I ask you [singular] also, loyal yokefellow ( "genuine companion"), help these women. What intrigues is that in a letter addressed to the whole church he should single out one person in this way (which he does nowhere else in his community-directed letters). Since the Philippians knew him well, rather than naming him Paul "authorizes" his assistance with the epithet "genuine companion." The appellation yokefellow, along with the adjective "genuine" (which he uses elsewhere to refer to intimate coworkers), indicates the closest kind of partnership between him and Paul. Although well-known and currently living there, he is almost certainly not a native of Philippi (since the others named and unnamed certainly are). Most likely he is one of Paul's itinerant coworkers who is presently on the scene there. Luke would fit the description perfectly. Not only was he such a "true companion," but in Acts 16 the "we" narrative takes Luke to Philippi, where it leaves off until Paul's return to Philippi some four to six years later in 20:1-5. The author of Acts surely intends his readers to understand that he had spent these intervening years in Philippi. If so, then as one of Paul's most trusted companions, he had given oversight to that work for some years in the past.
Paul's erstwhile companion is thus asked to help Euodia and Syntyche, obviously to "be of the same mind" in the Lord. It is perhaps significant for our day to note the mediatorial role that Paul's yokefellow was expected to play, rather than leaving the two women to work out the problem on their own. Even so, Paul's focus is still on Euodia and Syntyche, not on his yokefellow, and especially, as throughout the letter, their (including the whole community) partnership with him in the gospel. His word order tells the story: inasmuch as in the gospel they have contended by my side. (On the athletic/military metaphor contended at my side, see commentary on 1:27; cf. 2:13-14.)
About Clement and the rest of my fellow workers we know nothing. The context demands that they are fellow Philippians. Why Paul should single out Clement is a singular mystery, made all the more so by the unusual way the phrase is attached to the former clause, along with Clement and the rest. This can only mean that these have also contended at my side along with Euodia and Syntyche in the cause of the gospel in Philippi. This is probably as close to an "aside" as one gets in Paul's letters. Having just mentioned Euodia and Syntyche in particular, he includes the others who were with him in that ministry from the beginning, for some good reason mentioning Clement in particular, perhaps not wanting to mention the rest by name lest he exclude any. In its own way, therefore, the clause probably functions as a gentle reminder to all who lead the believing community in Philippi to "have the same mindset in the Lord," even though that is not specifically said of or to them.
As so often in this letter, even here Paul concludes on an eschatological note. The ultimate reason for all of them (Euodia, Syntyche, Clement and the rest) to get it together in Philippi, as they await from heaven the coming of their Lord and Savior (3:20), is that their names are in the book of life. This unusual (for Paul) language is common stock from his Jewish heritage, where the faithful were understood to have their names recorded in the heavenly "book of the living," meaning the book that has recorded in it those who have received divine life (thus "the book of the living," Ps 68:29) and are thus destined for glory.
With these words Paul brings the specific hortatory sections of the letter to conclusion. In both verses 1 and 2-3 he has picked up the eschatological note from 3:20-21 that immediately precedes; and in both cases the note is affirmation and reassurance. If his concern in these exhortations is with the present--the believers' steadfastness and unity for the sake of the gospel in Philippi--his focus has regularly been on their certain future. He and they together have their names recorded in the book of life, and for that reason, as a colony of heaven in the Roman colony of Philippi, they need to live the life of the future now as they await its consummation.
When the dust clears and one gets beyond the specifics about names and "women in leadership," it is hard to imagine New Testament exhortations that are more contemporary--for every age and clime--than these. To stand firm in the Lord is not just a word for the individual believer, as such words are often taken, but for any local body of believers. The gospel is ever and always at stake in our world, and the call to God's people, whose names are written in the book of life, is to live that life now in whatever "Philippi" and in the face of whatever opposition it is found. But to do so effectively, its people, especially those in leadership, must learn to subordinate personal agendas to the larger agenda of the gospel, "to have the same mindset in the Lord." This means humbling, sacrificial giving of oneself for the sake of others; but then that is what the gospel is all about. So in effect these exhortations merely call us to genuine Christian life in the face of every form of pagan and religious opposition.
At the same time, here is one of those pieces of "mute" evidence for women in leadership in the New Testament, significant in this case for its offhanded, presuppositional way of speaking about them. To deny women's role in the church in Philippi is to fly full in the face of the text. Here is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is gender-blind, that he gifts as he wills. Our task is to recognize his gifting and to assist all such people, male and female, to "have the same mindset in the Lord," so that together they will be effective in doing the gospel.