Chrysostom Philippians 1000
1000 To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Ph 3,1-7)
1001 Dejection and care, whenever they strain the soul beyond due measure, bereave it of its native force. And therefore Paul relieves the Philippians, who were in great despondency, and they were in despondency because they did not know how matters were with Paul; they were in despondency because they thought that it was already over with him, because of the preaching, because of Epaphroditus. It is in giving them assurance on all these points that he introduces the words, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice.” “You no longer have,” he says, “cause for despondency. You have Epaphroditus, for whose sake you were grieved; you have Timothy; I am myself coming to you; the Gospel is gaining ground. What is henceforth wanting to you? Rejoice!”
Now he calls the Galatians indeed “children” (Ga 4,19), but these “brethren.” For when he aims either to correct anything or to show his fondness, he calls them “children”; but when he addresses them with greater honor, “brethren” is the title. “Finally, my brethren,” he says, “rejoice in the Lord.” He said rightly “in the Lord,” not “after the world.” for this is no rejoicing. These tribulations, he says, which are according to Christ bring joy. “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe. Beware of the dogs.” Dost thou mark how he forbears to bring in the exhortation at the beginning? But after he had given them much commendation, after he had shown his admiration of them, then he does this, and again repeats his commendation. For this mode of speech seems to bear somewhat hard upon them. Wherefore he overshadows it on every side. But whom does he style “dogs”? There were at this place some of those, whom he hints at in all his Epistles, base and contemptible Jews, greedy of vile lucre and fond of power, who, desiring to draw aside many of the faithful, preached both Christianity and Judaism at the same time, corrupting the Gospel. As then they were not easily discernible, therefore he says, “beware of the dogs”: the Jews are no longer children; once the Gentiles were called dogs, but now the Jews. Wherefore? because as the Gentiles were strangers both to God and to Christ, even so are these become this now. And he shows forth their shamelessness and violence, and their infinite distance from the relation of children, for that the Gentiles were once called “dogs,” hear what the Canaanitish woman says, “Yea, Lord: for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (Mt 15,27). But that they might not have this advantage, since even dogs are at the table, he adds that, whereby he makes them aliens also, saying, “Beware of the evil workers”; he admirably expressed himself, “beware of the evil workers”; they work, he means, but for a bad end, and a work that is much worse than idleness, plucking up what is laid in goodly order.
“Beware,” he says, “of the concision.” The rite of circumcision was venerable in the Jews’ account, forasmuch as the Law itself gave way thereto, and the Sabbath was less esteemed than circumcision. For that circumcision might be performed the Sabbath was broken; but that the Sabbath might be kept, circumcision was never broken; and mark, I pray, the dispensation of God. This is found to be even more solemn than the Sabbath, as not being omitted at certain times. When then it is done away, much more is the Sabbath. Wherefore Paul makes a concision of the name, and says, “Beware of the concision”; and he did not say “that circumcision is evil, that it is superfluous,” lest he should strike the men with dismay, but he manages it more wisely, withdrawing them from the thing, but gratifying them with the word, nay, rather with the thing too, in a more serious way. But not so in the case of the Galatians, for since in that case the disease was great, he forthwith adopts the remedy of amputation with open front and with all boldness; but in this case, as they had done nothing of the sort, he vouchsafes them the gratification of the title, he casts out the others, and says, “Beware of the concision; for we are the circumcision”—how?—“who worship God in spirit, and have no confidence in the flesh.” He said not that “we test the one circumcision and the other, which is the better of the two”; but he would not even allow it a share in the name; but what does he say? That that circumcision is “concision.” Why? Because they do nothing but cut the flesh up. For when what is done is not of the law, it is nothing else than a concision and cutting up of the flesh; it was then either for this reason that he called it so, or because they were trying to cut the Church in twain; and we call the thing “cutting up” in those who do this at random, without aim and without skill.
1002 Now if you must seek circumcision, he says, you will find it among us, “who worship God in spirit,” i.e. who worship spiritually.
For answer me, which is superior, the soul or the body? Evidently the former. Therefore that circumcision is also superior, or rather, no longer superior, but this is the only circumcision; for while the type stood, He rightly brought it forward in conjunction, writing, “For ye shall circumcise the foreskins of your hearts.” (Jr 4,4). In the same way in the Epistle to the Romans he does away with it, saying, “for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter.” (Rm 2,28-29). And lastly, he takes from it the very name, “neither is it circumcision,” he maintains; for the type while the reality is yet to come, is called this, but when the reality has come, it no longer retains the title. As in delineation, a man has drawn a king in outline; so long as the colors are not put on we say, Lo, there is the king, but when they are added, the type is lost in the reality, and ceases to show. And he said not, “for the circumcision is in us,” but “we are the circumcision,” and justly; for this is the Man, the circumcision in virtue, this is really the Man. And he did not say, “For among them is the concision”; for they themselves are henceforth in a condition of ruin and of wickedness. But no longer, says he, is circumcision performed in the body, but in the heart. “And have no confidence,” says he, “in the flesh; though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh.” (v. 4). What does he call “confidence” here, and “in the flesh”? Boasting, boldness, a high tone. And he did well to add this; for if he had been of the Gentiles, and had condemned circumcision, and not only circumcision, but all those that adopted it out of place, it would have seemed that he was running it down, because he lacked the high ancestry of Judaism, as being a stranger to its solemn rites, and having no part therein. But as it is, he, who, though a sharer, yet blames them, will not therefore blame them as having no share in them, but as disowning them; not from ignorance, but most especially from acquaintance with them. Accordingly observe what he says in his Epistle to the Galatians also; having been brought into a necessity of saying great things about himself, how even in these circumstances does he manifest nought but humility. “For ye have heard, of my manner of life in time past,” he says, “in the Jews’ religion” (Ga 1,13); and again here; “if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I more.” (v. 4). And he immediately added, “a Hebrew of Hebrews.” But “if any other man,” says he, showing the necessity, showing that it was on their account that he spoke. “If ye have confidence,” he says, I also say so, since I am silent. And observe the absence of all ungraciousness in the reproofs; by forbearing to do it by name, he gave even them the opportunity of retracing their steps. “If any one thinketh to have confidence”; and it was well to say “thinketh,” either inasmuch as they really had no such confidence, or as that confidence was no real confidence, for all was by necessity, and not of choice. “Circumcised on the eighth day”; and he sets down the first that wherein they chiefly boasted, viz. the ordinance of circumcision. “Of the stock of Israel.” He pointed out both these circumstances, that he was neither a proselyte, nor born of proselytes; for from his being circumcised on the eighth day, it follows that he was not a proselyte, and from his being of the stock of Israel, that he wasnot of proselyte parents. But that you may not imagine that he was of the stock of Israel as coming of the ten tribes, he says, “of the tribe of Benjamin.” So that he was of the more approved portion, for the place of the priests was in the lot of this tribe. “An Hebrew ofHebrews.” Because he was not a proselyte, but from of old, of distinguished Jews; for he might have been of Israel, and yet not “an Hebrew of Hebrews,” for many were already corrupting the matter, and were strangers to the language, being encircled by other nations; it is either this then, or the great superiority of his birth, that he shows. “According to the law a Pharisee.” He is coming now to the circumstances dependent on his own will; for all those things were apart from the will, for his being circumcised was not of himself, nor that he was of the stock of Israel, nor that he was of the tribe of Benjamin. So that, even among these he has a larger share, even though there were really many who partook with him. Where then are we to place the “rather”? Particularly herein that he was not a proselyte; for to be of the most distinguished tribe and sect, and this from his ancestors of old, was a thing which belonged not to many. But he comes to the things which are matters of choice, wherein we have the “rather.” “As touching the law, a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the Church.” But this is not sufficient; for it is possible to be a Pharisee even, and yet not very zealous. But this also he adds; behold the “rather.” “According to righteousness.” It is possible, however, to be adventurous, or to act thus from ambition, and not out of zeal for the law, as the chief priests did. Yet neither was this the case, but, “according to the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.” If then both for purity of descent, and earnestness, and habits, and mode of life, I surpassed all, why have I renounced all those dignities, he asks, but because I found that the things of Christ are better, and better far? Wherefore he added; “howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ.” (Ph 3,7).
1003 Such a course of life, so strictly regulated, and entered upon from earliest childhood, such unblemished extraction, such dangers, plots, labors, forwardness, did Paul renounce, “counting them but loss,” which before were “gain,” that he might “win Christ.” But we do not even contemn money, that we may “win Christ,” but prefer to fail of the life to come rather than of the good things of the present life. And yet this is nothing else than loss; for tell me now, let us examine in detail the conditions of riches, and see whether it be not loss accompanied with trouble, and without any gain. For tell me, what is the advantage of those stores of costly garments, what good do we gain when we are arrayed in them? None, nay, we are only losers. How so? Because even the poor man, in his cheap and threadbare clothing, does not bear the scorching in time of heat any wise worse than yourself; nay, rather he bears it better, for clothes that are threadbare and worn single allow more ease to the body, but not so with those which are new made, though they be finer than the spider’s web. Besides, you, from your excessive self-importance, wear even two and often three inner garments, and a cloak and girdle, and breeches too, but no one blames him if he wears but a single inner garment; so that he is the man that endures most easily. It is owing to this that we see rich men sweating, but the poor subject to nothing of the sort. Since then his cheap clothing, which is sold for a trifle, answers the same or even a better purpose to him, and those clothes, which oblige a man to pay down much gold, do only the same thing, is not this great superabundance so much loss? For it has added nothing in respect of its use and service, but your purse is emptied of so much the more gold, and the same use and service. You who have riches have purchased for a hundred pieces of gold, or even more, but the poor man for a trifling sum of silver. Do you perceive the loss? No, for your pride will not let you see it. Would you have us make out this account in the case of the gold ornaments too, which men put alike about their horses and their wives? For besides the other evils, the possession of money makes fools of men; they account their wives and horses to be worthy of the same honor, and the ornamentation of both is the same; and they would make themselves finer by the same means as the very beasts that carry them, or as the very skins of the awnings, wherein they are borne. What now is the use of decking out a mule or a horse with gold? or the lady, that has such a weight of gold and jewels about her person, what does she gain? “But the golden ornaments are never worn out,” he answers. Assuredly this also is said that in the baths and many places both precious stones and gold ornaments lose much of their value. But be it so, and grant that they are not injured, tell me, what is the gain? And how is it when they drop out, and are lost? is there no loss sustained? And how when they draw down upon you envy and intrigues? is there no loss then? For when they do the wearer no good, but rather inflame the eyes of the envious, and act as an incitement to the robber, do they not become loss? And again, say, when a man may use them for a serviceable purpose, but is unable on account of the extravagance of his wife, and is obliged to starve and to stint himself, that he may see her arrayed in gold, is it not a matter of loss? For it was on this account that goods have their name from use, not that we should use them thus like goldsmiths’ samples, but that we should do some good therewith; so then when love of gold does not allow this, is not the whole thing loss? for he that dares not use them forbears the use as if they were another’s property, and there is no use of them in any way.
Again, how is it when we erect splendid and spacious mansions, decorated with columns, marbles, porticos, arcades, and in every possible way, setting images and statues everywhere? Many indeed even call demons out of these, i.e. the images, but let us omit the examination of those points. What too is the meaning of the gilded ceiling? Does it not supply the same need as to him, whose house is on a moderate scale? “But there is great delight in it,” he says. Yes, for the first or second day, and afterwards, none at all, but it stands merely for nothing. For if the sun does not strike us with wonder, from its being customary, much more do works of art fail, and we only look at them like things of clay. For tell me, what does a range of pillars contribute to make your dwelling superior to others, or the finest statues, or the gilding spread over the wall? Nothing; rather, these come of luxury and insolence, and overweening pride and folly; for everything there ought to be necessary and useful, not superfluous things. Do you see that the thing is loss? Do you see that it is superfluous and unprofitable? for if it supplies no further use or delight, (and it “does,” in the course of time, bring satiety,) it is nothing else than loss, and vainglory is the hindrance, which will not let us see this.
Did Paul then forsake those things which he “counted gain,” and shall not we even quit our loss, for Christ’s sake?
1004 How long shall we be riveted to the earth? How long till we shall look up to heaven? Do ye not mark the aged, what little perception they have of the past? Do ye not mark those that are finishing their course, both men in age, and men in youth? Do ye not see persons in the midst of life bereft of them? Why are we so wedded to unstable objects? Why are we linked to things that are shifting? How long before we lay hold of the things that last? What would not the old give, were it granted them to divest themselves of their old age? How irrational then to wish to return to our former youth, and gladly to give everything for the sake of this, that we might become younger, and yet when it is ours to receive a youth that knows no old age, a youth too, which, joined with great riches, hath far more of spirit, to be unwilling to give up a little trifle, but to hold fast things that contribute not a whit to the present life. They can never rescue you from death, they have no power to drive away disease, to stay old age, or any one of those events, which happen by necessity and according to the law of nature. And do you still hold to them? Tell me, what do you gain? Drunkenness, gluttony, pleasures contrary to nature and various in kind, which are far worse torturers than the hardest masters.
These are the advantages which we gain from riches, nor is there one besides, since we are not so minded, for if we had had the mind, we might have won heaven itself for our inheritance by our riches. “So then riches are good,” he says. It is not riches, but the will of the possessor that effects this, for because it is the will that does this, it is in the power even of a poor man to win heaven. For, as I have often said, God does not regard the amount of the gifts, but the will of the givers; it is possible even for one in poverty, who has given but little, to bear off all, for God requires a measure proportioned to our ability, neither will riches secure heaven to us, nor poverty, hell; but a good or a bad will, either one or the other. This then let us correct, this let us repossess, this let us regulate, and all will then be easy to us.
For as the artificer works the wood the same, whether his axe be of iron or of gold, or rather he does it the better with an implement of iron, so here too, the straight path of virtue is more easily kept in a state of poverty. For touching riches we read, “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt 19,24). But He has made no such declarations about poverty; nay, the very reverse. “Sell thy goods, and give to the poor, and come follow Me” (Mt 19,21); as if the act of following were to spring from the selling.
1005 Never then let us flee from poverty as an evil, for it is the procurer of heaven. Again, let us never follow riches as a good; for they are the ruin of such as walk unwarily, but in everything directing our eyes to God, let us, as occasion requires, use those gifts which He has vouchsafed us, both strength of body, and abundance of money, and every other gift; for it is unnatural that we, who have our being for Him, should make these things serviceable to others, yet not to Him who has made us. He formed thine eye: make it serviceable to Him, not to the devil. But how serviceable to Him? By contemplating His creatures and praising and glorifying Him, and by withdrawing it from all gaze at women. Did He make thy hands? Preserve them for His use, not for the devil, not putting them out for robbery and rapine, but for His commandments and for good deeds, for earnest prayers, for holding out help to the fallen. Hath He made thine ears? Give these to Him, and not to effeminate strains nor to disgraceful tales; but “let all thy communication be in the law of the Most High.” (Si 9,15). For “stand,” he says, “in the multitude of the elders, and whoever is wise, cleave unto him.” (Si 6,34). Did he make thy mouth? Let it do nought that is displeasing to Him, but sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth,” says the Apostle, “but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear” (Ep 4,29); for edification and not for subversion, for fair words and not for evil speaking and plotting against other, but the very opposite. He hath made thy feet, not that thou shouldest run to do evil, but to do good. He made thy belly, not that thou shouldest cram it to bursting, but to practice lessons of wisdom. For the production of children, He implanted desire in thy mind, not for fornication, nor for adultery. He gave thee understanding, not to make of thee a blasphemer or a reviler, but that thou mightest be without falsehood. He gave us both money to be used on fitting occasion, and strength likewise tobe used on fitting occasion. He instituted arts, that our present state of existence might be held together by them, not that we should separate ourselves from spiritual things, not that we should devote ourselves to the base arts but to the necessary ones, that we might minister to one another’s good, and not that we should plot one against another. He gave us a roof, that it might afford shelter from the rain, and no more, not that it should be decked out with gold, while the poor man perishes with hunger. He gave clothing to cover us, not to make a display withal, not that things like these should have much gold lavished upon them, and that Christ should perish naked. He gave you a place of shelter, not that you should keep it to yourself, but to offer it to others also. He gave thee land, not that, cutting off the chief portion of it, you should spend the good gifts of God upon harlots, and dancers, and actors, and flute players, and harp players, but upon those that hunger and are in want. He gave you the sea to sail on, that you might not be wearied with journeying, not that you should pry into its depths, and bring up thence precious stones and all the other things of the same kind, nor that you should make this your business.
“Why then are there precious stones?” he says. Nay, do you tell me why these stones are such, and why one class are regarded as of great value, while the others are more useful? For these may be conducive to building, but those to no purpose; and these are stronger than those “But they,” he says, “produce a beautiful effect.” How so? it is a matter of fancy. Are they whiter? No, they are not whiter than pure white marble, nor nearly equal to it. But are they stronger? Not even this can be said for them. Well then, are they more useful? are they larger? Not even this. Whence then are they so admired, save from fancy? For if they are neither more beautiful, (for we shall find others more shining and more white,) nor useful, nor stronger, whence came they to be so admired? Was it not from mere fancy? Why then did God give them? They were not His gift, but it is your own imagination that they are anything great. “How is it, then,” he answers, “that even the Scripture shows admiration of them?” So far it addresses itself to your fancy. As a master too in talking to a child often admires the same object as it does, when he desires to attract and engage it.
Why do you aim at finery in your clothing? He clothed thee with a garment and with sandals. But where is there any reason for these things? “The judgments of God,” he says, “are more to be desired than gold; yea than much fine gold.” (Ps 19,10). These, beloved, are of no use. Had they been of use, he would not have bidden us despise them. And for Holy Scripture, it speaks with reference to our notion, and this too is an instance of God’s lovingkindness. “Why then,” he asks, “did He give purple and the like?” These things are products of God’s gift. For He has willed by other things also to show forth His own riches. And He gave you corn too by itself; but from this you make many things, cakes and sweetmeats, of every sort and variety, having much enjoyment. Pleasure and vainglory give rise to all these inventions. It pleased you to set them before everything. For if a foreigner or a rustic, who was ignorant of the land, should put the question, and, seeing your admiration, were to say, “Why do you admire these?” What have you to say? that they are fair to look at? But not so. Let us then give up such notions; let us lay hold of the things that are truly real. These are not, but simply pass away, only flowing past like a river. Wherefore I charge you, let us take our stand upon the rock, that we both escape being easily turned about, and that we may obtain the good things to come, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
1100 Yea verily, and I counted all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God.” (Ph 3,7-13)
1101 In our contests with heretics, we must make the attack with minds in vigor, that they may be able to give exact attention. I will therefore begin nay present discourse where the last ended. And what was that? Having enumerated every Jewish boast, both those from his birth, and those that were from choice, he added, “Howbeit, what things were gain to me, these have I counted to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ.” Here the heretics spring to their attack: for even this comes of the wisdom of the Spirit, to suggest to them hopes of victory, that they may undertake the fight.
For if it had been spoken plainly, they would have acted here as they have done in other places, they would have blotted out the words, they would have denied the Scripture, when they were unable at all to look it in the face. But as in the case of fishes, that which can take them is concealed so that they may swim up, and does not lie open to view; this in truth hath come to pass here too. The Law, they say, is called “dung” by Paul, it is called “loss.” He says, it was not possible to gain Christ except I “suffered” this “loss.” All these things induced the heretics to accept this passage, thinking it to be favorable to them: but when they had taken it, then did he enclose them on all sides with his nets. For what do they themselves say? Lo! the Law is “loss,” is “dung”; how then do ye say that it is of God?
But these very words are favorable to the Law, and how they are so, shall be hence manifest. Let us attend accurately to his very words. He said not, The Law is loss: but “I counted it loss.” But when he spake of gain, he said not, I counted them, but “they were gain.” But when he spake of loss he said, “I counted”: and this rightly; for the former was naturally so, but the latter became so, from my opinion. “What then? Is it not so?” says he. It is loss for Christ.
And how has the law become gain? And it was not counted gain, but was so. For consider how great a thing it was, to bring men, brutalized in their nature, to the shape of men. If the law had not been, grace would not have been given. Wherefore? Because it became a sort of bridge; for when it was impossible to mount on high from a state of great abasement, a ladder was formed. But he who has ascended has no longer need of the ladder; yet he does not despise it, but is even grateful to it. For it has placed him in such a position, as no longer to require it. And yet for this very reason, that he doth not require it, it is just that he should acknowledge his obligation, for he could not fly up. And thus is it with the Law, it hath led us up on high; wherefore it was gain, but for the future we esteem it loss. How? Not because it is loss, but because grace is far greater. For as a poor man, that was in hunger, as long as he has silver, escapes hunger, but when he finds gold, and it is not allowable to keep both, considers it loss to retain the former, and having thrown it away, takes the gold coin; so also here; not because the silver is loss, for it is not; but because it is impossible to take both at once, but it is necessary to leave one. Not the Law then is loss, but for a man to cleave to the Law, and desert Christ. Wherefore it is then loss when it leads us away from Christ. But if it sends us on to Him, it is no longer so. For this cause he saith “loss for Christ”; if for Christ, it is not so naturally. But why doth not the Law suffer us to come to Christ? For this very cause, he tells us, was it given. And Christ is the fulfilling of the Law, and Christ is the end of the Law. It doth suffer us if we will. “For Christ is the end of the Law.” He who obeyeth the Law, leaves the Law itself. It suffers, if we take heed to it, but if we do not take heed, it suffers not. “Yea verily, and I have counted all things but loss.” Why, he means, do I say this of the Law? Is not the world good? Is not the present life good? but if they draw me away from Christ, I count these things loss. Why? “for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord.” For when the sun hath appeared, it is loss to sit by a candle: so that the loss comes by comparison, by the superiority of the other. You see that Paul makes a comparison from superiority, not from diversity of kind; for that which is superior, is superior to somewhat of like nature to itself. So that he shows the connection of that knowledge by the same means, by which he draws the superiority from the comparison. “For whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them dung, that I may gain Christ.” It is not yet manifest, whether he speaks of the Law, for it is likely that he applies it to the things of this world. For when he says, “the things which were gain to me, those I have counted loss for Christ; yea verily,” he adds, “I count all things loss.” Although he said all things, yet it is things present; and if you wish it to be the Law too, not even so is it insulted. For dung comes from wheat, and the strength of the wheat is the dung, I mean, the chaff. But as the dung was useful in its former state, so that we gather it together with the wheat, and had there been no dung, there would have been no wheat, thus too is it with the Law.
Seest thou, how everywhere he calls it “loss,” not in itself, but for Christ. “Yea verily, and I count all things but loss.” Wherefore again? “For the excellency of the knowledge (of Him), for whom I suffered the loss of all things.” Again, “wherefore too I count all things to be loss, that I may gain Christ.”
See how, from every point, he lays hold of Christ as his foundation, and suffers not the Law to be anywhere exposed, or receive a blow, but guards it on every side.
1102 “And that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the Law.” If he who had righteousness, ran to this other righteousness because his own was nothing, how much rather ought they, who have it not, to run to Him? And he well said, “a righteousness of mine own,” not that which I gained by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then he who was so excellent is saved by grace, much more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other? That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence.
But what is “By faith that I may know Him”? So then knowledge is through faith, and without faith it is impossible to know Him. Why how? Through it we must “know the power of His resurrection.” For what reason can demonstrate to us the Resurrection? None, but faith only. For if the resurrection of Christ, who was according to the flesh, is known by faith, how can the generation of the Word of God be comprehended by reasoning? For the resurrection is less than the generation. Why? Because of that there have been many examples, but of this none ever; for many dead arose before Christ, though after their resurrection they died, but no one was ever born of a virgin. If then we must comprehend by faith that which is inferior to the generation according to the flesh, how can that which is far greater, immeasurably and incomparably greater, be comprehended by reason? These things make the righteousness; this must we believe that He was able to do, but how He was able we cannot prove. For from faith is the fellowship of His sufferings. But how? Had we not believed, neither should we have suffered: had we not believed, that “if we endure with Him, we shall also reign with Him” (2Tm 2,12), we should not have endured the sufferings. Both the generation and the resurrection is comprehended by faith. Seest thou, that faith must not be absolutely, but through good works; for he especially believes that Christ hath risen, who in like sort gives himself up to dangers, who hath fellowship with Him in His sufferings. For he hath fellowship with Him who rose again, with Him who liveth; wherefore he saith, “And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming conformed unto His death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.” He saith, being made conformable unto His death, i.e. having fellowship; whereas He suffered from men, thus I too; wherefore he said, “becoming conformed” and again in another place, “and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh.” (Col 1,24). That is, these persecutions and sufferings work the image of His death, for He sought not His own, but the good of many.
Therefore persecutions, and afflictions, and straits, ought not to disturb you, but ought even to make you glad, because through them we are “conformed to His death.” As if he had said, We are molded to His likeness; as he says in another place, where he writeth, “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” (2Co 4,10). And this too comes from great faith. For we not only believe that He arose, but that after His resurrection also He hath great power: wherefore we travel the same road which He travelled, i.e. we become brethren to Him in this respect also. As if he had said, We become Christs in this respect. O how great is the dignity of sufferings! We believe that we become “conformed to His death” through sufferings! For as in baptism, we were “buried with the likeness of His death,” so here, with His death. There did he rightly say, “The likeness of His death” (Rm 6,4-5), for there we died not entirely, we died not in the flesh, to the body, but to sin. Since then a death is spoken of, and a death; but He indeed died in the body, whilst we died to sin, and there the Man died which He assumed, who was in our flesh, but here the man of sin; for this cause he saith, “the likeness of His death,” but here, no longer the likeness of His death, but His death itself.
1103 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” (1Co 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.” (1Co 9,27)).
Ph 3,12. “Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus.”
“Not that I have already obtained.” What means “already obtained”? He speaks of the prize, but if he who had endured such sufferings, he who was persecuted, he “who had in him the dying of the Lord Jesus,” was not yet confident about that resurrection, what can we say? What meaneth, “if I may apprehend”? What he before said, “If I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.” (2Co 4,10) If I may apprehend, he saith, His resurrection; i.e. if I may be able to endure so great things, if I may be able to imitate Him, if I may be able to become conformed to Him. For example, Christ suffered many things, He was spit upon, He was stricken, was scourged, at last He suffered what things he suffered. This is the entire course. Through all these things it is needful that men should endure the whole contest, and so come to His resurrection. Or he means this, if I am thought worthy to attain the glorious resurrection, which is a matter of confidence, in order to His resurrection. For if I am able to endure all the contests, I shall be able also to have His resurrection, and to rise with glory. For not as yet, saith he, am I worthy, but “I press on, if so be that I may apprehend.” My life is still one of contest, I am still far from the end, I am still distant from the prize, still I run, still I pursue. And He said not, I run, but “I pursue.” For you know with what eagerness a man pursues. He sees no one, he thrusts aside with great violence all who would interrupt his pursuit. He collects together his mind, and sight, and strength, and soul, and body, looking to nothing else than the prize. But if Paul, who so pursued, who had suffered so many things, yet saith, “if I may attain,” what should we say, who have relaxed our efforts? Then to show that the thing is of debt, he saith, “For which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus.” I was, he saith, of the number of the lost, I gasped for breath, I was nigh dead, God apprehended me. For He pursued us, when we fled from Him, with all speed. So that he points out all those things; for the words, “I was apprehended,” show the earnestness of Him who wishes to apprehend us, and our great aversion to Him, our wandering, our flight from Him.
1104 (So that we are liable for a vast debt, and no one grieves, no one weeps, no one groans, all having returned to their former state. For as before the appearance of Christ we fled from God, so now also. For we can flee from God, not in place, for He is everywhere; and hear the Prophet, when he says, “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence”? (Ps 139,7) How then can we flee from God? Even as we can become distant from God, even as we can be removed afar off. “They that are far from Thee,” it says, “shall perish.” (Ps 73,27) And again, “Have not your iniquities separated between Me and you?” (Is 59,2) How then comes this removal, how comes this separation? In purpose and soul: for it cannot be in place. For how could one fly from Him who is everywhere present? The sinner then flies. This is what the Scripture saith, “The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth him.” (Pr 28,1) We eagerly fly from God, although He always pursueth us. The Apostle hasted, that he might be near Him. We haste, that we may be far off.
Are not these things then worthy of lamentation? Are they not worthy of tears? Whither fliest thou, wretched and miserable man? Whither fliest thou from thy Life and thy Salvation? If thou fly from God, with whom wilt thou take refuge? If thou fly from the Light, whither wilt thou cast thine eyes? If thou fly from thy Life, whence wilt thou henceforth live? Let us fly from the enemy of our Salvation! Whensoever we sin we fly from God, we are as runaways, we depart to a foreign land, as he who consumed his paternal goods and departed into a foreign land, who wasted all his father’s substance, and lived in want. We too have substance from our Father; and what is this? He hath freed us from our sins; He hath freely given to us power, strength for works of virtue; He hath freely given to us readiness, patience; He hath freely given to us the Holy Ghost in our baptism; if we waste these things we shall henceforth be in want. For as the sick, as long as they are troubled with fevers, and badness of their juices, are unable to arise or work, or do anything, but if any one sets them free, and brings them to health, if they then work not, this comes from their own sloth; thus too is it with us. For the disease was heavy and the fever excessive. And we lay not upon a bed, but upon wickedness itself, cast away in crime, as on a dunghill, full of sores, and evil odors, squalid, wasting away, more like ghosts than men. Evil spirits encompassed us about, the Prince of this world deriding and assaulting us; the Only-Begotten Son of God came, sent forth the rays of His Presence, and straightway dispelled the darkness. The King, who is on His Father’s throne, came to us, having left His Father’s throne. And when I say having left, think not of any removal, for He filleth the heavens and the earth, but I speak of the economy; He came to an enemy, who hated Him, who turned himself away, who could not endure to behold Him, who blasphemed Him every day. He saw him lying on a dunghill, eaten with worms, afflicted with fever and hunger, having every sort of disease; for both fever vexed him, which is evil desire; and inflammation lay heavy on him, this is pride; and gnawing hunger had hold of him, which is covetousness; and putrefying sores on every side, for this is fornication; and blindness of eyes, which is idolatry; and dumbness, and madness, which is to worship stocks and stones, and address them; and great deformity, for wickedness is this, foul to behold, and a most heavy disease. And he saw us speaking more foolishly than the mad, and calling stocks our God, and stones likewise; He saw us in such great guilt, he did not reject us; was not wroth, turned not away, hated us not, for He was a Master, and could not hate His own creation. But what does he do? As a most excellent physician, He prepareth medicines of great price, and Himself tastes them first. For He Himself first followed after virtue, and thus gave it to us. And He first gave us the washing, like some antidote, and thus we vomited up all our guilt, and all things took their flight at once, and our inflammation ceased, and our fever was quenched, and our sores were dried up. For all the evils which are from covetousness, and anger, and all the rest, were dissipated by the Spirit. Our eyes were opened, our ears were opened, our tongue spake holy words: our soul received strength, our body received such beauty and bloom, as it is like that he who is born a son of God should have from the grace of the Spirit; such glory as it is like that the new-born son of a king should have, nurtured in purple. Alas! How great nobility did He confer on us!
We were born, we were nurtured, why do we again fly from our Benefactor? He then, who hath done all these things, giveth us strength too, for it was not possible, for a soul bowed down by the disease to endure it, did not He Himself give us the strength. He gave us remission of our sins. We devoured all things. He gave us strength, we wasted it. He gave us grace, we quenched it; and how? we consumed it upon nought that was fitting, we used it for no useful end. These things have destroyed us, and what is more dreadful than all, when we are in a foreign country, and feeding on husks, we say not, Let us return to our Father, and say, “We have sinned against Heaven, and against Thee.” (Lc 15,18) And that too, when we have so loving a Father, who eagerly desires our return. If we will only return to Him, He does not even bear to call in question our former deeds, only let us quit them. It is sufficient apology with Him, that we have returned. Not only He Himself calls not in question, but if another does so, He stops his mouth, though the accuser be one of good repute. Let us return! How long do we stand afar off? Let us perceive our dishonor, let us be sensible of our vileness. Sin makes us swine, sin brings famine to the soul; let us regain ourselves, and be sober again, and return to our former high birth, that we may obtain the good things which are to come, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Spirit be glory, might, honor, now and ever and world without end.
Chrysostom Philippians 1000