Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Philippians 3:21

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Who shall change our vile body - Ὁς μετασχηματισει το σωμα της ταπεινωσες ἡμων· Who will refashion, or alter the fashion and condition of, the body of our humiliation; this body that is dead - adjudged to death because of sin, and must be putrefied, dissolved, and decomposed.

That it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body - Εις το γενεσθαι αυτο συμμορφον τῳ σωματι της δοξης αυτου· That it may bear a similar form to the body of his glory. That is: the bodies of true believers shall be raised up at the great day in the same likeness, immortality, and glory, of the glorified humanity of Jesus Christ; and be so thoroughly changed, as to be not only capable through their immortality of eternally existing, but also of the infinite spiritual enjoyments at the right hand of God.

According to the working - Κατα την ενεργειαν· According to that energy, by which he can bring all things under subjection to himself. Thus we find that the resurrection of the body is attributed to that power which governs and subdues all things, for nothing less than the energy that produced the human body at the beginning, can restore it from its lapsed and degraded state into that state of glory which it had at its creation, and render it capable of enjoying God throughout eternity. The thought of this glorious consummation was a subject of the highest joy and confidence amongst the primitive Christian. This earth was not their home; and they passed through things temporal so as not to lose those which were eternal.

  1. The preceding chapter, to which the first verse of the succeeding should be joined, contains a fund of matter the most interesting that can well be conceived. The apostle seems to stand on the verge of eternity, and to have both worlds opened to his view. The one he sees to be the place in which a preparation for the other is to be attained. In the one he sees the starting place, where the Christian is to commence his race; in the other the goal at which his course terminates, and the prize which he is there to obtain. One is the place from and over which the Christian is to run; the other is that to which he is to direct his course, and in which he is to receive infinite blessedness. In the one he sees all manner of temptations and hinderances, and dangers standing thick through all the ground; in the other he sees the forerunner, the Lord Jesus, who has entered into the heaven of heavens for him, through whom God calls him from above, της ανω κλησεως του Θεου, Philemon 3:14; : for what he hears in the Gospel, and what he sees by faith, is the calling of God from above; and therefore he departs from this, for this is not his rest.
  • The nearer a faithful soul comes to the verge of eternity, the more the light and influence of heaven are poured out upon it: time and life are fast sinking away into the shades of death and darkness; and the effulgence of the dawning glory of the eternal world is beginning to illustrate the blessed state of the genuine Christian, and to render clear and intelligible those counsels of God, partly displayed in various inextricable providences, and partly revealed and seen as through a glass darkly in his own sacred word. Unutterable glories now begin to burst forth; pains, afflictions, persecutions, wants, distresses, sickness, and death, in any or all of its forms, are exhibited as the way to the kingdom, and as having in the order of God an ineffable glory for their result. Here are the wisdom, power, and mercy of God! Here, the patience, perseverance, and glory of the saints! Reader, is not earth and its concerns lost in the effulgence of this glory? Arise and depart, for this is not thy rest.
  • Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Who shall change our vile body - compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:44); and it is doubtless accompanied with all the circumstances of splendor and glory which are appropriate to the Son of God. The idea here is, that it is the object of the desire and anticipation of the Christian, to be made just like Christ in all things. He desires to resemble him in moral character here, and to be like him in heaven. Nothing else will satisfy him but such conformity to the Son of God; and when he shall resemble him in all things, the wishes of his soul will all be met and fulfilled.

    According to the working … - That is, such a change demands the exertion of vast power. No creature can do it. But there is One who has power entrusted to him over all things, and he can effect this great transformation in the bodies of people; compare 1 Corinthians 15:26-27. He can mould the mind and the heart to conformity to his own image, and thus also he can transform the body so that it shall resemble his. Everything he can make subject to his will. (Matthew 28:18, note; John 17:2, note.) And he that has this power can change our humbled and debased bodies, so that they shall put on the glorious appearance and form of that of the Son of God himself. What a contrast between our bodies here - frail, feeble, subject to sickness, decay, and corruption - and the body as it will be in heaven! And what a glorious prospect awaits the weak and dying believer, in the future world!

    Remarks On Phlippians 3:1. He has more sources of real joy than any other persons; see 1 Thessalonians 5:16. He has a Saviour in whom he may always find peace; a God whose character he can always contemplate with pleasure a heaven to look forward to where there is nothing but happiness; a Bible that is full of precious promises, and at all times the opportunity of prayer, in which he may roll all Iris sorrows on the arms of an unchanging friend. If there is anyone on earth who ought to be happy, it is the Christian.

    2. The Christian should so live as to leave on others the impression that religion produces happiness. In our contact with our friends, we should show them that religion does not cause sadness or gloom, sourness or misanthropy, but that it produces cheerfulness, contentment, and peace. This may be shown by the countenance, and by the whole demeanour - by a calm brow, and a benignant eye, and by a cheerful aspect. The internal peace of the soul should be evinced by every proper external expression. A Christian may thus be always doing good - for he is always doing good who leaves the impression on others that religion makes its possessors happy.

    3. The nature of religion is almost always mistaken by the world. They suppose that it makes its possessors melancholy and sad. The reason is, not that they are told so by those who are religious, and not that even they can see anything in religion to produce misery, but because they have fixed their affections on certain things which they suppose to be essential to happiness, and which they suppose religion would require them to give up without substituting anything in their place. But never was there a greater mistake. Let them go and ask Christians, and they will obtain but one answer from them. It is, that they never knew what true happiness was until they found it in the Saviour. This question may be proposed to a Christian of any denomination, or in any land, and the answer will be uniformly the same. Why is it, then, that the mass of persons regard religion as adapted only to make them unhappy? Why will they not take the testimony of their friends in the case, and believe those whom they would believe on any other subject, when they declare that it is only true religion that ever gives them solid peace?

    4. We cannot depend on any external advantages of birth or blood for salvation; Phlippians 3:4-6. Few or no persons have as much in this respect to rely on as Paul had. Indeed, if salvation were to be obtained at all by such external advantages, it is impossible to conceive that more could have been united in one case than there was in his. He had not only the advantage of having been born a Hebrew; of having been early trained in the Jewish religion; of being instructed in the ablest manner, but also the advantage of entire blamelessness in his moral deportment. He had showed in every way possible that he was heartily attached to the religion of his fathers, and he began life with a zeal in the cause which seemed to justify the warmest expectations of his friends. But all this was renounced, when he came to see the true method of salvation, and saw the better way by which eternal life is to be obtained.

    And if Paul could not depend on this, we cannot safely do it. It will not save us that we have been born in the church; that we have had pious parents; that we were early baptized and consecrated to God; that we were trained in the Sunday school. Nor will it save us that we attend regularly on the place of worship, or that we are amiable, correct, honest, and upright in our lives. We can no more depend on these things than Saul of Tarsus could, and if all his eminent advantages failed to give him a solid ground of hope, our advantages will be equally vain in regard to our salvation. It almost seems as if God designed in the case of Saul of Tarsus, that there should be one instance where every possible external advantage for salvation should be found, and there should be everything that people ever could rely on in moral character, in order to show that no such things could be sufficient to save the soul. All these may exist, and yet there may not be a particle of love to God, and the heart may be full of selfishness, pride, and ambition, as it was in his case.

    5. Religion demands humility; Phlippians 3:7-8. It requires us to renounce all dependence on our own merits, and to rely simply on the merits of another - the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are ever saved, we must be brought to esteem all the advantages which birth and blood and our own righteousness can bestow as worthless, and even vile, in the matter of justification. We shall not despise these things in themselves, nor shall we consider that vice is as desirable as virtue, nor that a bad temper is to be sought rather than an amiable disposition, nor that dishonesty is as commendable as honesty; but we shall feel that in comparison with the merits of the Redeemer all these are worthless. But the mind is not brought to this condition without great humiliation. Nothing but the power of God can bring a proud and haughty and self-righteous sinner to this state, where he is willing to renounce all dependence on his own merits, and to be saved in the same way as the vilest of the species.

    6. Let us seek to obtain an interest in the righteousness of the Redeemer; Phlippians 3:9. Our own righteousness cannot save us. But in him there is enough. There is all that we want, and if we have that righteousness which is by faith, we have all that is needful to render us accepted with God, and to prepare us for heaven. When there is such a way of salvation - so easy, so free, so glorious, so ample for all, how unwise is anyone to rest on his own works, and to expect to be saved by what he has done! The highest honor of man is to be saved by the merits of the Son of God, and he has reached the most elevated rank in the human condition who has the most certain hope of salvation through him.

    7. There is enough to be gained to excite us to the utmost diligence and effort in the Christian life; Phlippians 3:10-14. If people can be excited to effort by the prospect of an earthly crown in a race or a game, how much more should we be urged forward by the prospect of the eternal prize! To seek to know the Redeemer; to be raised up from the degradation of sin to have part in the resurrection of the just: to obtain the prize of the high calling in heaven - to be made everlastingly happy and glorious there - what object was ever placed before the mind like this? What ardor should it excite that we may gain it! Surely, the hope of obtaining such a prize as is before the Christian, should call forth all our powers. The struggle will not be long. The race will soon be won. The victory will be glorious; the defeat would be overwhelming and awful. No one need fear that he can put forth too much effort to obtain the prize. It is worth every exertion, and we should never relax our efforts, or give over in despair.

    8. Let us, like Paul, ever cherish an humble sense of our attainments in religion; Phlippians 3:12-13. If Paul had not reached the point of perfection, it is not to be presumed that we have; if he could not say that he had “attained,” it is presumption in us to suppose that we have, if he had occasion for humiliation, we have more; if he felt that he was far short of the object which he sought, and was pressed down with the consciousness of imperfection, such a feeling becomes us also. Yet let us not sink down in despondency and inaction. Like him, let us strain every nerve that we may overcome our imperfections and win the prize. That prize is before us. It is glorious. We may be sensible that we, as yet, have not reached it, but if we will strive to obtain it, it will soon be certainly ours. We may feel that we are far distant from it now in the degree of our attainments, but we are not far from it in fact. It will be but a short period before the Christian will lay hold on that immortal crown, and before his brow will be encircled with the diadem of glory. For the race of life, whether we win or lose, is soon run; and when a Christian begins a day, he knows not but he may end it in heaven; when he lies down on his bed at night, he knows not but he may awake with the “prize” in his hand, and with the diadem of glory sparkling on his brow.

    9. Our thoughts should be much in heaven; Phlippians 3:20. Our home is there, our citizenship is there. Here we are strangers and pilgrims. We are away from home, in a cold and unfriendly world. Our great interests are in the skies; our eternal dwelling is to be there; our best friends are already there. There is our glorious Saviour with a body adapted to those pure abodes, and there are many whom we have loved on earth already with him. They are happy now, and we should not love them less because they are in heaven. Since, therefore, our great interests are there, and our best friends there; and since we ourselves are citizens of that heavenly world, our best affections should be there.

    10. We look for the Saviour; Phlippians 3:20-21. He will return to our world. He will change our vile bodies, and make them like his own glorious body And since this is so, let us:

    (a) bear with patience the trials and infirmities to which our bodies here are subject. These trials will be short, and we may well bear them for a few days, knowing that soon all pain will cease, and that all that is humiliating in the body will be exchanged for glory.

    (b) Let us not think too highly or too much of our bodies here. They may be now beautiful and comely, but they are “vile” and degraded, compared with what they will soon be. They are subject to infirmity and to numerous pains and sicknesses. Soon the most beautiful body may become loathsome to our best friends. Soon, too offensive to be looked upon, it will be hidden in the grave. Why then should we seek to pamper and adorn these mortal frames? Why live only to decorate them? Why should we idolize a mass of moulded and animated clay? Yet,

    (c) let us learn to honor the body in a true sense. It is soon to be changed. It will be made like the glorified body of Christ. Yes, this frail, diseased, corruptible, and humbled body; this body, that is soon to be laid in the grave, and to return to the dust, is soon to put on a new form, and to be clothed with immortality. It will be what the body of Christ now is - glorious and immortal. What a change! Christian, go and look on the creeping caterpillar, and see it changed to the happy and gilded butterfly - yesterday, a crawling and offensive insect; today, with gaudy colors an inhabitant of the air, and a dweller amidst flowers; and see an image of what thy body shall be, and of the mighty transformation which thou wilt soon undergo. See the change from the cold death of winter to the fragrance and life of spring, and behold an image of the change which thou thyself wilt ere long experience and a proof that some such change awaits thee.

    “Shall spring the faded world revive?

    Shall waning moons their light renew?

    Again shall setting suns ascend.

    And chase the darkness from our view?

    Shall life revisit dying worms.

    And spread the joyful insect‘s wing?

    And, oh, shall man awake no more,

    To see thy face, thy name to sing?

    Faith sees the bright, eternal doors.

    Unfold to make her children way;

    They shall be cloth‘d with endless life,

    And shine in everlasting day.”


    11. Let us look for the coming of the Lord; Phlippians 3:21. All that we hope for depends on his reappearing. Our day of triumph and of the fulness of our joy is to be when he shall return. Then we shall be raised from the grave; then our vile bodies shall be changed; then we shall be acknowledged as his friends; then we shall go to be forever with him. The earth is not our home; nor is the grave to he our everlasting bed of rest. Our home is heaven - and the Saviour will come, that he may raise us up to that blessed abode. And who knows when he may appear? He himself commanded us to be ready, for he said he would come at an hour when we think not. We should so desire his coming, that the hours of his delay would seem to be heavy and long and should so live that we can breathe forth with sincerity, at all times, the fervent prayer of the beloved disciple, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly;” Revelation 22:20.

    “My faith shall triumph o‘er the grave,

    And trample on the tombs;

    My Jesus, my Redeemer, lives,

    My God, my Saviour, comes;

    Ere long I know he shall appear,

    In power and glory great;

    And death, the last of all his foes,

    Lie vanquish‘d at his feet.

    Then, though the worms my flesh devour.

    And make my form their prey,

    I know I shall arise with power,

    On the last judgment day;

    When God shall stand upon the earth,

    Him then mine eyes shall see;

    My flesh shall feel a sacred birth,

    And ever with him be.

    Then his own hand shall wipe the tears.

    From every weeping eye;

    And pains, and groans, and griefs, and fears,

    Shall cease eternally.

    How long, dear Saviour! Oh, how long.

    Shall this bright hour delay?

    Fly swift around, ye wheels of time,

    And bring the welcome day.”

    - Watts.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    This simple dependence and earnestness of soul, were not mentioned as if the apostle had gained the prize, or were already made perfect in the Saviour's likeness. He forgot the things which were behind, so as not to be content with past labours or present measures of grace. He reached forth, stretched himself forward towards his point; expressions showing great concern to become more and more like unto Christ. He who runs a race, must never stop short of the end, but press forward as fast as he can; so those who have heaven in their view, must still press forward to it, in holy desires and hopes, and constant endeavours. Eternal life is the gift of God, but it is in Christ Jesus; through his hand it must come to us, as it is procured for us by him. There is no getting to heaven as our home, but by Christ as our Way. True believers, in seeking this assurance, as well as to glorify him, will seek more nearly to resemble his sufferings and death, by dying to sin, and by crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts. In these things there is a great difference among real Christians, but all know something of them. Believers make Christ all in all, and set their hearts upon another world. If they differ from one another, and are not of the same judgment in lesser matters, yet they must not judge one another; while they all meet now in Christ, and hope to meet shortly in heaven. Let them join in all the great things in which they are agreed, and wait for further light as to lesser things wherein they differ. The enemies of the cross of Christ mind nothing but their sensual appetites. Sin is the sinner's shame, especially when gloried in. The way of those who mind earthly things, may seem pleasant, but death and hell are at the end of it. If we choose their way, we shall share their end. The life of a Christian is in heaven, where his Head and his home are, and where he hopes to be shortly; he sets his affections upon things above; and where his heart is, there will his conversation be. There is glory kept for the bodies of the saints, in which they will appear at the resurrection. Then the body will be made glorious; not only raised again to life, but raised to great advantage. Observe the power by which this change will be wrought. May we be always prepared for the coming of our Judge; looking to have our vile bodies changed by his Almighty power, and applying to him daily to new-create our souls unto holiness; to deliver us from our enemies, and to employ our bodies and souls as instruments of righteousness in his service.
    Ellen G. White
    Maranatha, 291.1

    We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Philippians 3:20, 21. Mar 291.1

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    Ellen G. White
    The Upward Look, 97.1

    For our conversation is in heaven: from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Philippians 3:20, 21. UL 97.1

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    Ellen G. White
    The Upward Look, 311.4

    In order for us to be like the Saviour, we must be changed (see Philippians 3:20, 21). Now is the time for us to bring into the daily life the virtues of Christ's life. We have no time to lose. Should we fail in our character building, we shall lose eternal life. We must build on the true foundation.... We must do the work of Christ, and be constantly watching and praying. Then we shall be ready for His appearing, prepared to receive eternal life. UL 311.4

    Read in context »
    Ellen G. White
    Early Writings, 111
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