John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 3:1 - 3:1

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 3:1 - 3:1


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1Rejoice in the Lord This is a conclusion from what goes before, for as Satan never ceased to distress them with daily rumors, he bids them divest themselves of anxiety and be of good courage. In this way he exhorts them to constancy, that they may not fall back from the doctrine which they have once received. The phrase henceforward denotes a continued course, that, in the midst of many hinderances, they may not cease to exercise holy joy. It is a rare excellence when Satan endeavors to exasperate us (164) by means of the bitterness of the cross, so as to make God’ name unpleasant (165), to take such satisfaction in the simple tasting of God’ grace, that all annoyances, sorrows, anxieties, and griefs are sweetened.

To write the same thing to you. Here he begins to speak of the false Apostles, with whom, however, he does not fight hand to hand, as in the Epistle to the Galatians, but in a few words severely (166) exposes them, as far as was sufficient. For as they had simply made an attempt upon the Philippians, and had not made an inroad upon them, (167) it was not so necessary to enter into any regular disputation with the view of refuting errors, to which they had never lent an ear. Hence he simply admonishes them to be diligent and attentive in detecting impostors and guarding against them.

In the first place, however, he calls them dogs; the metaphor being grounded upon this — that, for the sake of filling their belly, they assailed true doctrine with their impure barking. Accordingly, it is as though he had said, — impure or profane persons; for I do not agree with those who think that they are so called on the ground of envying others, or biting them (168)

In the second place, he calls them evil workers, meaning, that, under the pretext of building up the Church, they did nothing but ruin and destroy everything; for many are busily occupied (169) who would do better to remain idle. As the public crier (170) on being asked by Gracchus in mockery, on the ground of his sitting idle, what he was doing? had his answer ready, “ but what are you doing?” for he was the ringleader of a ruinous sedition. Hence Paul would have a distinction made among workers, that believers may be on their guard against those that are evil.

In the third term employed, there is an elegant ( προσωνομασία play upon words. They boasted that they were the circumcision: he turns aside this boasting by calling them the concision (171) inasmuch as they tore asunder the unity of the Church. In this we have an instance tending to shew that the Holy Spirit in his organs (172) has not in every case avoided wit and humor, yet so as at the same time to keep at a distance from such pleasantry as were unworthy of his majesty. There are innumerable examples in the Prophets, and especially in Isaiah, so that there is no profane author that abounds more in agreeable plays upon words, and figurative forms of expression. We ought, however, more carefully still to observe the vehemence with which Paul inveighs against the false Apostles, which will assuredly break forth wherever there is the ardor of pious zeal. But in the mean time we must be on our guard lest any undue warmth or excessive bitterness should creep in under a pretext of zeal.

When he says, that to write the same things is not grievous to him, he seems to intimate that he had already written on some other occasion to the Philippians. There would, however, be no inconsistency in understanding him as meaning, that he now by his writings reminds them of the same things as they had frequently heard him say, when he was with them. For there can be no doubt that he had often intimated to them in words, when he was with them, how much they ought to be on their guard against such pests: yet he does not grudge to repeat these things, because the Philippians would have incurred danger in the event of his silence. And, unquestionably, it is the part of a good pastor, not merely to supply the flock with pasture, and to rule the sheep by his guidance, but to drive away the wolves when threatening to make an attack upon the fold, and that not merely on one occasion, but so as to be constantly on the watch, and to be indefatigable. For as thieves and robbers (Joh_10:8) are constantly on the watch for the destruction of the Church, what excuse will the pastor have if, after courageously repelling them in several instances, he gives way on occasion of the ninth or tenth attack?

He says also, that a repetition of this nature is profitable to the Philippians, lest they should be— is wont to happen occasionally— an exceedingly fastidious humor, and despise it as a thing that was superfluous. For many are so difficult to please, that they cannot bear that the same thing should be said to them a second time, and, in the mean time, they do not consider that what is inculcated upon them daily is with difficulty retained in their memory ten years afterwards. But if it was profitable to the Philippians to listen to this exhortation of Paul— be on their guard against wolves, what do Papists mean who will not allow that any judgment should be formed as to their doctrine? For to whom, I pray you, did Paul address himself when he said, Beware? Was it not to those whom they do not allow to possess any right to judge? And of the same persons Christ says, in like manner,

My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me; they flee from, a stranger, and they hear not his voice. (Joh_10:5.)



(164) “De nous troubler et effaroucher;” — “ trouble and frighten us.”

(165) “Fascheux et ennuyeux;” — “ and irksome.”

(166) “Il les rembarre rudement et auec authorite;” — “ baffles them sternly and with authority."

(167) “Pource qu’ auoyent seulement fait leurs efforts, et essaye de diuer-tir les Philippiens, et ne les auoyent gaignez et abbatus;” — “ they had merely employed their efforts, and had attempted to turn aside the Philippians, and had not prevailed over them and subdued them."

(168) “Pour autant qu’ portoyent enuie auec autres, ou les mordoyent et detractoyent d’;” — “ the ground of their bearing envy to others, and biting and calumniating them."

(169) “Car il yen a plusieurs qui se tourmentent tant et plus, et se meslent de beaucoup de choses;” — “ there are many that torture themselves on this occasion and on that, and intermeddle with many things.

(170) “Comme anciennement a Rome ce crier public;” — “ anciently at Rome that public crier."

(171)The Concision-- that is, those who rend and divide the Church. Compare Rom_16:17. They gloried in being the περιτομὴ (the circumcision,) which name and character St. Paul will not here allow them, but claims it for Christians in the next words, and calls them the κατατομὴ or concision, expressing his contempt of their pretences, and censure of their practices.” Pierce. Ed.

(172) “En ses organes et instrumens c’ a dire ses seruiteurs par lesquels il a parle;" — “ his organs and instruments, that is to say, his servants, by whom he has spoken.”