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Philippians 3:1-11 Loss and Gain

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. It is no trouble for me to write this to you; it is a safeguard for you.

Behold the dogs! Behold the evil-doers! Behold the mutilation!

For we are the circumcision, we who serve God by the Spirit and boast in Christ Jesus and who do not put confidence in flesh -- although I have confidence also in flesh. If anyone else has grounds for confidence in flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of Israel's lineage, of Benjamin's tribe -- A Hebrew among Hebrews, I was! -- by law, a Pharisee; by zeal, a persecutor of the church; by righteousness in the Law I was blameless.

But all this which was to my gain, I deemed it loss. Moreover, rather, I deem everything to be loss because of that which is worth more: the knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord, because of whom I lost everything and deem everything to be offal, so that I may gain Christ, so that I may be found in him. Not with my own righteousness from the Law, but the one which comes from Jesus Christ, the righteousness which comes from God in faith. Oh, to know him and the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, to be conformed to his death, that I may somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead!

___Translation Notes
1. "mutilation." This word looks a lot like the word for circumcision, and there is a word play here. It wouldn't surprise me if Gentiles often referring to circumcision ("cutting around") as mutilation ("cutting off") as an antisemitic slur.
2. "in flesh." I'm experimenting with "in flesh" as opposed to "in the flesh" here. It seems Paul is using these nouns as as qualitative instead of definite, so it seems appropriate to translate this way.
3. "by law... by zeal... by righteousness." I tried to capture the triple-repetition of found in Greek, which uses the same preposition. It's a little strange-sounding, I admit.
4. "offal." To be blunt, the word means sh*t. It's not just "dung." It's crap. Offal is what the body gives off. It is your impurities. It's worse than "rubbish." "Rubbish" is a left over aluminum can that you can leave in the trash can indoors until it's time to take out the trash. Offal is something you get rid of immediately.

___ Commentary
It almost feels as if 3:1 is a closing. Indeed, the last section felt like a closing. That's normally where you expect to find an explanation of the courier. The switch from 3:1 to 3:2 is quite striking. Some people believe that Philippians is two letters spliced together. While I can sympathize with that theory, there is a method to this madness. This section is intensely passionate, much like 1:15-30. Most other parts of the letter feel either soft and warm, or else the default voice a preacher has. 3:1-11, however, is a sudden burst of energy that slowly levels off by the beginning of chapter 4.

Continuing our chronicle of thematic development, Pride makes a serious appearance here. Indeed, our very identity is that we boast in Christ Jesus and not in flesh. He is our great treasure and our hope. We seek conformity with his example, his sufferings, and his resurrection. Note also the fiscal language of gain and loss. Christ is our gain, and our loss is everything else.