Some Notes on Philippians 3:7-12
Posted by Dim Bulb on October 13, 2012
Background~St Paul and his companions fight the good fight for the defense and confirmation of the Gospel(1:7), like soldiers (2:25), constantly facing death in their service to it (1:20-23; 2:17, 25-27). In this they imitate Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (Literally, “plundered,” something a soldier does. RSV 2:6). The Philippian’s Hymn of 2:6-11 is a major interpretive key to the entire letter.
Phil 3:7 But the things that were gain to me, the same I have counted loss for Christ.
Phil 3:8 Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ.
The things that were gain. It is often thought that St Paul is here referring to his status as a Jew under the law, which he has just written of in (Phil 3:4-6). This is not incorrect, and this is certainly the meaning of verse 7, but the current verse builds upon verse 7 and surpasses it. everything and all things must be taken as including Paul’s freedom (Phil 1:7, Phil 1:17), and even his life (Phil 1:21-23).
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ.
The italicized words in the previous paragraph represent Greek accounting terms which Paul has employed in this verse (some also appear in verse 7). This fits in well with St Paul’s emphasis on the gratuitous nature of Justification in the following verses. It also fits in well with what Paul said concerning the mind of Christ in the Hymn of chapter 2:6ff. What Paul once held dear he has had to surrender.
Knowledge. “The knowledge of Christ accorded to the Apostle in the revelation on the road to Damascus inaugurated a relationship between him and Christ that far surpassed all former advantages” (Jerome Biblical Commentary 50:23)
Phil 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith;
Found is in the passive, indicating that it is an initiative that comes from God.
Concerning this verse Mother Kathryn Sullivan, R.S.C.J. writes: “Paul then examines the great theme of his letters to the Galatians and the Romans: the distinction between the justice that comes from the Law and the justice that comes from Christ; God gave the Chosen People the Law of Moses, circumcision, etc., in order to prepare them for Christ and to show them how much they needed Him. With His coming, all these privileges ceased to have meaning and the nature of true justice was made plain, as St Paul shows in four vigorous statements. (1) It is through our incorporation with Christ that we are justified. (2) It is not possible to be saved through our own efforts or through the Law. (3) Faith in Christ is the efficient cause of and foundation for justification. (4) Justification comes from God” (New Testament Reading Guide, Vol. 9, pg. 22).
Phil 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Father Charles Callan: “Here in verse 10 he assigns a threefold end or purpose he had in seeking to “gain Christ” and to “be found in him,” having that justice which is through faith in Christ: (a) “That I may know him,” i.e., that he might have an intimate, practical knowledge of Christ, God and Man, the source of all knowledge and the model of all virtues; (b) that he might know “the power of his resurrection,” i.e., the power of the risen, glorified, immortal Christ, by whom we have been reconciled with God (Rom 4:24-25), who is the earnest of our own resurrection (1 Cor 15:20; 1 Thess 4:14), and who has sent us the Holy Spirit with his manifold graces, thus uniting us intimately to Himself (John 7:39; John 20:22; Acts 2:33); (c) that he might have “the fellowship of his sufferings, etc.,” i.e., that eh might bear his own afflictions and sufferings, etc.,” i.e., that he might bear his own afflictions and sufferings for the sake of Christ, and with the help of Christ’s Holy Spirit, as his Mater had borne His cross for him, and this he desires as a means of entering into a full, practical and fruitful knowledge here on earth of the risen, glorified Christ. The way to the living Christ is that marked out by Christ Himself: “If we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him” (Rom 8:17); “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26).
Sufferings, patiently borne for Christ and in union with Christ, are the royal way that leads to Christ now reigning in glory after His triumph over sufferings and death through the power of His resurrection; and it is by thus entering upon and continuing in this way of suffering that one’s life becomes “conformable” to the death of the Master: “Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:10).”
Pope John Paul II:
One can say that with the Passion of Christ all human suffering has found itself in a new situation. And it is as though Job has foreseen this when he said: “I know that my Redeemer lives …”, and as though he had directed towards it his own suffering, which without the Redemption could not have revealed to him the fullness of its meaning.
In the Cross of Christ not only is the Redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed,. Christ, – without any fault of his own – took on himself “the total evil of sin”. The experience of this evil determined the incomparable extent of Christ’s suffering, which became the price of the Redemption. The Song of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah speaks of this. In later times, the witnesses of the New Covenant, sealed in the Blood of Christ, will speak of this.
These are the words of the Apostle Peter in his First Letter: “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with the perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”.
And the Apostle Paul in the Letter to the Galatians will say: “He gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age,” and in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body”.
With these and similar words the witnesses of the New Covenant speak of the greatness of the Redemption, accomplished through the suffering of Christ. The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.
The texts of the New Testament express this concept in many places. In the Second Letter to the Corinthians the Apostle writes: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh …. knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus”.
Saint Paul speaks of various sufferings and, in particular, of those in which the first Christians became sharers “for the sake of Christ “. These sufferings enable the recipients of that Letter to share in the work of the Redemption, accomplished through the suffering and death of the Redeemer. The eloquence of the Cross and death is, however, completed by the eloquence of the Resurrection. Man finds in the Resurrection a completely new light, which helps him to go forward through the thick darkness of humiliations, doubts, hopelessness and persecution. Therefore the Apostle will also write in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” Elsewhere he addresses to his recipients words of encouragement: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” And in the Letter to the Romans he writes: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
The very participation in Christ’s suffering finds, in these apostolic expressions, as it were a twofold dimension. If one becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ, this happens because Christ has opened his suffering to man, because he himself in his redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings. Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them, through faith, enriched with a new content and new meaning.
This discovery caused Saint Paul to write particularly strong words in the Letter to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Faith enables the author of these words to know that love which led Christ to the Cross. And if he loved us in this way, suffering and dying, then with this suffering and death of his he lives in the one whom he loved in this way; he lives in the man: in Paul. And living in him-to the degree that Paul, conscious of this through faith, responds to his love with love-Christ also becomes in a particular way united to the man, to Paul, through the Cross. This union caused Paul to write, in the same Letter to the Galatians, other words as well, no less strong: “But far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
The Cross of Christ throws salvific light, in a most penetrating way, on man’s life and in particular on his suffering. For through faith the Cross reaches man together with the Resurrection: the mystery of the Passion is contained in the Paschal Mystery. The witnesses of Christ’s Passion are at the same time witnesses of his Resurrection. Paul writes: “That I may know him (Christ) and the power of his Resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead”(64). Truly, the Apostle first experienced the “power of the Resurrection” of Christ, on the road to Damascus, and only later, in this paschal light, reached that ” sharing in his sufferings” of which he speaks, for example, in the Letter to the Galatians. The path of Paul is clearly paschal: sharing in the Cross of Christ comes about through the experience of the Risen One, therefore through a special sharing in the Resurrection. Thus, even in the Apostle’s expressions on the subject of suffering there so often appears the motif of glory, which finds its beginning in Christ’s Cross.” (Salvifici Doloris, see articles 19-21)
Phil 3:11 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
St John Chrysostom commenting on the verse in this rendering-If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead, writes: “For Paul, in his persecutions, no longer died to sin, but in his very body. Wherefore, he endured the same death. “If by any means,” saith he, “I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.” What sayest thou? All men will have a share in that. “For we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1Cor 15:51), and shall all share not only in the Resurrection, but in incorruption. Some indeed to honor, but others as a means of punishment. If therefore all have a share in the Resurrection, and not in the Resurrection only, but also in incorruption, how said he, “If by any means I may attain,” as if about to share in some especial thing? “For this cause,” saith he, “I endure these things, if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.” For if thou hadst not died, thou wouldest not arise. What is it then? Some great thing seems here to be hinted at. So great was it, that he dared not openly assert it, but saith, “If by any means.” I have believed in Him and His resurrection, nay, moreover, I suffer for Him, yet I am unable to be confident concerning the Resurrection. What resurrection doth he here mention? That which leads to Christ Himself. I said, that I believed in “Him, and in the power of His resurrection,” and that I “have fellowship with His sufferings,” and that I “become conformed to His death.” Yet after all these things I am by no means confident; as he said elsewhere, “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” (1Co 10,12). And again, “I fear test by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.” (1 Cor 9:27).”
The Haydock Commentary captures the meaning of St Paul and St John Chrysostom’s comments when it states: “This manner of expression does not betray any distrust or fear, but merely insinuates the difficulty of the enterprise, the uncertainty of success, and the ardent desire of the apostle, who sought by every means to arrive at this happiness, either by sufferings and labours, or even by martyrdom. (St. John Chrysostom; Estius).”
Phil 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect: but I follow after, if I may by any means apprehend, wherein I am also apprehended by Christ Jesus.
Bishop MacEvily paraphrases this as follows: “In recounting the sacrifices which I made for Christ, and the advantages accruing to me therefrom, I by no means wish to imply that I have already attained the summit of Christian knowledge and perfection; but I eagerly aspire after it, that I may in some way secure the prize, on account of which I was forcibly seized upon by Christ in his mrecy and pressed into his service.”
In his commentary on the verse Bishop MacEvily wrote: “This verse is to be connected with the passage, where the Apostle speaks of the sacrifices which he made for Christ, and the advantages he received therefrom. He does not wish to imply, by saying these things, that he attained the goal of perfection in this life, or acquired a perfect degree of knowledge and Christian virtue, but he is eagerly stretching forward to arrive at it; for, it was for this end that Christ, by the abundance of grace, almost forced him into his service, on his way to Damascus; on which occasion he exclaimed: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” In the Greek word for “apprehended,” κατεληφθην, there is an allusion to the practice of pressing soldiers and sailors into service.