The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on Philippians 3:17-4:3

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 5, 2010

I’ve included Father Callan’s summaries of 3:17-21 and 4:1-9 to help provide context. The latter summary follows the comments on 3:21. Text in red are my additions

A WARNING AGAINST BAD EXAMPLE: A Summary of 3:17-21. St. Paul feels obliged to place before his readers as a standard of life and conduct his own example and that of his companions. He has warned them before with sorrow of those whose worldly excesses are a contradiction of their profession, who are enemies of the cross of Christ, and whose end is destruction. As a safeguard against such debasing influences, he reminds the Philippians of their high destiny as to their bodies as well as their souls; for their home is in heaven, whence in due time their Saviour will come to transform by His almighty power their present fleshy tabernacles into spiritual and imperishable bodies like His own.

Phil 3:17. Be ye united followers of me, brethren, and observe them who so walk even as you have our model.

And observe them who so walk, etc., i.e., take note of those Christians who live according to the model we have given them. The Apostle is referring to the example he and his companions and associates have given.

In the Vulgate imitatores should be co-imitatores, to agree with the Greek.

Phil 3:18. For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ;
Phil 3:19. Whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things.

For many walk, etc (verse 18). It Is disputed whether the “many” here means Judaizers or bad Christians, but most probably the latter are in question. Both indeed would be “enemies of the cross of Christ”—the former, by insisting on legal observances, for if justice is from the Law then Christ died in vain (Gal 2:21), and the latter, by their moral excesses, for those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its vices and evil desires (Gal 5:24). But it is much more natural to understand St. Paul to be moved to tears over those who had once been good Christians and had degenerated, than over those like the Judaizers who had never been true to Christ. (Note: “Judaizer” refers to Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentiles adopt the Mosaic Law in order to be saved).

I have told you often, when at Philippi.

Verse 19) Whose end is destruction, i.e., for whom final and eternal ruin and loss is reserved. “Destruction” or perdition (απωλεια = apōleia) here is the same as in Phil 1:28. It means the utter loss of blessedness, the very antithesis of salvation (σωτηρία = sōtēria); and as blessedness or salvation is eternal, so must be this “destruction” or perdition of the damned: “And these shall go into everlasting punishment; but the just, into life everlasting” (Matt 25:46). See on 2 Thess 1:9.

Whose glory is in their shame, i.e., who glory in the very things of which they ought to be ashamed. Those who think the Judaizers are meant here take “shame” to be circumcision (St. Augustine); St. Chrysostom thinks “shame” refers to sins of uncleanness.

Phil 3:20. But our conversation is in heaven: from whence also we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ,

Having mentioned the characteristics of bad Christians, the Apostle will now give the marks of those who are faithful.

But. The Greek has (γάρ = gar) here; but since St. Paul is contrasting the lives of good and bad Christians, the sense requires a particle of contrast, like “but” or “whereas”; the thought of this verse goes back to verse 17.

Our conversation, literally means “our manner of living,” but the Apostle means “our home,” “our country”; the true Christian walks the earth, but his thoughts, aims, hopes, and desires are in heaven and in things that lead thereto.

We look for. Better, “we eagerly expect,” as with “outstretched neck and upturned eyes” (Rickaby).

Phil 3:21. Who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of his glory, according to the operation whereby also he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

The true Christian looks forward to the glorious time of his complete deliverance, both of body and of soul; when Christ will come at the end of the world and transform our present miserable, suffering bodies into glorious, immortal temples like His own glorified body (1 Cor 15:40-49); when the risen Saviour will exercise that power in our regard by which, as God, He will rule and dominate all things (1 Cor 15:25-27).

EXHORTATION TO VARIOUS VIRTUES AND HOLY THOUGHTS:
A Summary of Philippians 4:1-9.

After all the Apostle has said in the last part of the preceding Chapter, his exceeding love for the Philippians manifests itself in endearing terms, asserting that they will be his garland of victory and joy in the day of Christ’s coming to judge the world. He exhorts them to steadfastness; he entreats Evodia and Syntyche, especially, to have no dissension, asking his loyal comrade to assist these latter, since they, like Clement and his other fellow-workers, have been so faithful to him in labors for the Gospel. Then to all he recommends joy in the Lord, forbearance towards all men, freedom from anxiety, prayerfulness and thankfulness; and he assures them that, if they practise these virtues, the peace of God will take up its abode in their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (ver. 1-7). Finally, recapitulating, he begs them to feed their minds on all that is true and good, wherever it may be found, asking them in practice to obey his precepts and imitate his example as a sure way to heavenly peace (ver. 8-9).

Phil 4:1. Therefore, my beloved brethren, and my desired; my joy and my crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Therefore. This verse concludes what the Apostle has been saying in the preceding Chapter, most probably in verses 17-21.

My beloved . . . my desired. The corresponding words in the Vulgate here should be in the positive, instead of the superlative degree, to harmonize with the Greek. The Apostle is exhorting the Philippians to steadfastness in Christian life and conduct as inculcated by him and his companions, for he wishes to present them to Christ as his achievement in the final judgment.

Phil 4:2. I beg of Evodia, and I beseech Syntyche, to be of one mind in the Lord.

This verse seems to show that the two ladies mentioned occupied a prominent place in the work of the Philippian Church, and that some dissension had arisen between them. They are not mentioned elsewhere.

Phil 4:3. And I entreat thee also, my sincere companion, help those women who have labored with me in the gospel, with Clement and the rest of my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.

Companion. Literally, “yoke-fellow,” i.e., fellow-worker. It is unknown who he was. Perhaps he was Epaphroditus; or possibly the Greek word here (σύζυγε⸃, = syzge) is a proper name, and should be rendered “Syzygus.”

Those women. Literally, “them” (αὐταῖς, = autais), i.e., the two ladies spoken of in the preceding verse.

Clement, perhaps a resident of Philippi, though he is identified with Clement of Rome by many of the Fathers.

The book of life, i.e., God’s eternal register in heaven (Rev 13:8, 20:12); it is God’s certain knowledge of those who are predestined (St. Thomas). The metaphor is taken from the custom in antiquity of keeping in a register the names of all the people of a country or town (cf. Ex 32:32; Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1).

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One Response to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Philippians 3:17-4:3”

  1. […] Father Callan on Today’s 1st Reading. Available 12:05 AM EST. […]

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