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Philippians 3:12-4:1 What Lies Ahead

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

Not that I've already gotten a handle on everything or that I've fully matured. I seek that I may take hold, since Christ took hold of me. Brothers, I don't consider myself to have taken hold of but one thing: forgetting what lies behind and reaching for what lies ahead. Fixated on the goal, I run toward the prize of God's heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. For those of us who are "mature," let us think this. And if you think something to the contrary, God will reveal that to you. Nevertheless: let us live by what we've attained.

Imitate me, brothers, and observe those who conduct themselves in accordance with the example we've set for you. For many conduct themselves in a way that -- I've told you several times about them, and now I say this in tears -- makes them enemies of the cross of Christ. Their final destination is destruction, their god is the belly, their glory is in their shame; they think of early things. Yet our citizenship is in Heaven, from whence we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform our meager bodies in conformity with his glorious body, in accordance with the power by which he is able even to subject everything to himself. So then, my beloved and longed-for brothers, stand firm in the Lord in this way.

___ Translation Notes
1. "Gotten a handle... take hold." These verbs, along with the idea of maturity, refer to mastery. Paul is saying that he hasn't mastered everything there is in Christ, but he knows that Christ is his master. The one thing he has gotten a handle on is that he needs to let go of the past and reach for what's soon to come.
2. "Mature." I think this fits teleios better than "perfect" here. People don't often delude themselves into thinking they're absolutely perfect, but we sure have a habit of thinking we have the hang of things when we don't.
3. "the belly." This is better English than "their belly" or "their stomach." It's actually more literal, too. Since the belly is a body part, and therefore an inalienable possession, a possessive pronoun is not always necessary. I think it looks better without it.
4. "meager." Elsewhere in the letter, similar words are translated as "humble." I may change this word to "humble" for the sake of concordance, but meager is more idiomatic and still conveys the idea of lowliness, so I may keep it this way.
5. The inclusion of 4:1. This transition could start the beginning of the next section, or be tagged on here at the end of chapter 3. I follow the UBS text here in putting it with chapter 3.

Verses 12-16 give us the example of how to view our own identity: the past is left behind. Our identity, the center of our thoughts, is concentrated on "what lies ahead." The simplicity and commonality of this precludes any attempt at self-glorification or foolish pride. Throughout this letter, pride has been subverted. Instead of boasting (in ourselves), we boast in Christ and what he has accomplished for us. If we all take this mindset, then we will have unity in purpose and identity.

Now that Paul set an example in 12-16, in verse 17 Paul calls us to imitate that example. Suddenly, Paul switches his thoughts to some unnamed others who have fallen from the Way and have become enemies of the Cross. Indeed, he mourns for those lost and paints a depression picture of their condition and their fate. He clings close to the Philippians, warning them against the same fate because of how much he longs for them (1:8, 4:1).

Right now, I'm only making the bare bones of commentary and translation notes. The main point, for now, is to practice my translation skills. And also, I want feedback. If you have any comments about the way I've translated things, or about anything else I've said, let me know. As much as I love to read what I type, I'm doing this so I can interact with others.