John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 3:20 - 3:20

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 3:20 - 3:20


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20But our conversation is in heaven This statement overturns all empty shows, in which pretended ministers of the gospel are accustomed to glory, and he indirectly holds up to odium all their objects of aim, (201) because, by flying about above the earth, they do not aspire towards heaven. For he teaches that nothing is to be reckoned of any value except God’ spiritual kingdom, because believers ought to lead a heavenly life in this world. “ mind earthly things: it is therefore befitting that we, whose conversation is in heaven, should be separated from them.” (202) We are, it is true, intermingled here with unbelievers and hypocrites; nay more, the chaff has more of appearance in the granary of the Lord than wheat. Farther, we are exposed to the common inconveniences of this earthly life; we require, also, meat and drink, and other necessaries, but we must, nevertheless, be conversant with heaven in mind and affection. For, on the one hand, we must pass quietly through this life, and, on the other hand, we must be dead to the world that Christ may live in us, and that we, in our turn, may live to him. This passage is a most abundant source of many exhortations, which it were easy for any one to elicit from it.

Whence also. From the connection that we have with Christ, he proves that our citizenship (203) is in heaven, for it is not seemly that the members should be separated from their Head. Accordingly, as Christ is in heaven, in order that we may be conjoined with him, it is necessary that we should in spirit dwell apart from this world. Besides,

where our treasure is, there is our heart also.

(Mat_6:21.)

Christ, who is our blessedness and glory, is in heaven: let our souls, therefore, dwell with him on high. On this account he expressly calIs him Savior. Whence does salvation come to us? Christ will come to us from heaven as a Savior. Hence it were unbefitting that we should be taken up with this earth (204). This epithet, Savior, is suited to the connection of the passage; for we are said to be in heaven in respect of our minds on this account, that it is from that source alone that the hope of salvation beams forth upon us. As the coming of Christ will be terrible to the wicked, so it rather turns away their minds from heaven than draws them thither: for they know that he will come to them as a Judge, and they shun him so far as is in their power. From these words of Paul pious minds derive the sweetest consolation, as instructing them that the coming of Christ is to be desired by them, inasmuch as it will bring salvation to them. On the other hand, it is a sure token of incredulity, when persons tremble on any mention being made of it. See Rom_8:0. While, however, others are transported with vain desires, Paul would have believers contented with Christ alone.

Farther, we learn from this passage that nothing mean or earthly is to be conceived of as to Christ, inasmuch as Paul bids us look upward to heaven, that we may seek him. Now, those that reason with subtlety that Christ is not shut up or hid in some corner of heaven, with the view of proving that his body is everywhere, and fills heaven and earth, say indeed something that is true, but not the whole: for as it were rash and foolish to mount up beyond the heavens, and assign to Christ a station, or seat, or place of walking, in this or that region, so it is a foolish and destructive madness to draw him down from heaven by any carnal consideration, so as to seek him upon earth. Up, then, with our hearts (205), that they may be with the Lord.



(201) “Toutes leurs inuentions et facons de faire;” — “ their contrivances and modes of acting.”

(202) “Que nous soyons diuisez et separez d’ eux;” — “ we be divided and separated from them.”

(203) Politiam a term corresponding to that employed in the original,.—

(204) “Que nous soyons occupez et enueloppez en terre;” — “ we should be occupied and entangled with the earth.”

(205) Sursum corda Our Author most probably alludes to the circumstance, that this expression was wont to be made use of among Christians in ancient times, when the ordinance of the supper was about to be administered. See Calvin’ Institutes, vol. 3, p. 440 — Ed.