THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS Commentary by A. R. Faussett
The INTERNAL EVIDENCE for the authenticity of this Epistle is strong. The style, manner of thought, and doctrine, accord with Paul’s. The incidental allusions also establish his authorship. Paley [Horæ Paulinæ, ch. 7] instances the mention of the object of Epaphroditus’ journey to Rome, the Philippian contribution to Paul’s wants, Epaphroditus’ sickness (Php 1:7; 2:25-30; 4:10-18), the fact that Timothy had been long with Paul at Philippi (Php 1:1; 2:19), the reference to his being a prisoner at Rome now for a long time (Php 1:12-14; 2:17-28), his willingness to die (compare Php 1:23, with 2Co 5:8), the reference to the Philippians having seen his maltreatment at Philippi (Php 1:29, 30; 2:1, 2).
The EXTERNAL EVIDENCE is equally decisive: Polycarp [Epistle to the Philippians, 3; 11]; Irenæus [Against Heresies, 4.18.4]; Clement of Alexandria [The Instructor, 1.1, p. 107]; Eusebius [The Epistle of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne, in Ecclesiastical History, 5. 2]; Tertullian [On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 23]; Origen [Against Celsus, 1.3, p. 122]; Cyprian [Testimonies against the Jews, 3.39].
Philippi was the first (that is, the farthest from Rome, and first which met Paul in entering Macedonia) Macedonian city of the district, called Macedonia Prima (so called as lying farthest eastward). The Greek (Ac 16:12) should not be translated “the chief city,” as English Version, but as above [Alford]. Not it, but Thessalonica, was the chief city of the province, and Amphipolis, of the district called Macedonia Prima. It was a Roman “colony” (Ac 16:12), made so by Augustus, to commemorate his famous victory over Brutus and Cassius. A colony was in fact a portion of Rome itself transplanted to the provinces, an offshoot from Rome, and as it were a portrait of the mother city on a small scale [Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 16.13]. Its inhabitants were Roman citizens, having the right of voting in the Roman tribes, governed by their own senate and magistrates, and not by the governor of the province, with the Roman law and Latin language.
Paul, with Silas and Timothy, planted the Gospel there (Ac 16:12, &c.), in his second missionary journey, A.D. 51. Doubtless he visited it again on his journey from Ephesus into Macedonia (Ac 20:1); and Ac 20:3, 6, expressly mentions his third visit on his return from Greece (Corinth) to Syria by way of Macedonia. His sufferings at Philippi (Ac 16:19, &c.) strengthened the Christian bond of union between him and his Philippian converts, who also, like him, were exposed to trials for the Gospel’s sake (1Th 2:2). They alone sent supplies for his temporal wants, twice shortly after he had left them (Php 4:15, 16), and again a third time shortly before writing this Epistle (Php 4:10, 18; 2Co 11:9). This fervent attachment on their part was, perhaps, also in part due to the fact that few Jews were in Philippi, as in other scenes of his labors, to sow the seeds of distrust and suspicion. There was no synagogue, but merely a Jewish Proseucha, or oratory, by the riverside. So that there only do we read of his meeting no opposition from Jews, but only from the masters of the divining damsel, whose gains had been put an end to by her being dispossessed.
Though the Philippian Church was as yet free from Judaizing influence, yet it needed to be forewarned of that danger which might at any time assail it from without (Php 3:2); even as such evil influences had crept into the Galatian churches. In Php 4:2, 3 we find a trace of the fact recorded in the history (Ac 16:13, 14), that female converts were among the first to receive the Gospel at Philippi.
As to the state of the Church, we gather from 2Co 8:1, 2 that its members were poor, yet most liberal; and from Php 1:28-30, that they were undergoing persecution. The only blemish referred to in their character was, on the part of some members, a tendency to dissension. Hence arise his admonitions against disputings (Php 1:27; 2:1-4, 12, 14; 4:2).
The OBJECT of the Epistle is general: not only to thank the Philippians for their contribution sent by Epaphroditus, who was now in returning to take back the apostle’s letter, but to express his Christian love and sympathy, and to exhort them to a life consonant with that of Christ, and to warn them against existing dissensions and future possible assaults of Judaizers from without. It is remarkable in this Epistle alone, as compared with the others, that, amidst many commendations, there are no express censures of those to whom it is addressed. No doctrinal error, or schism, has as yet sprung up; the only blemish hinted at is, that some of the Philippian Church were somewhat wanting in lowliness of mind, the result of which want was disputation. Two women, Euodias and Syntyche, are mentioned as having erred in this respect (Php 4:2, 3). The Epistle may be divided into three parts: (1) Affectionate address to the Philippians; reference to his own state as a prisoner at Rome, and to theirs, and to his mission of Epaphroditus to them (the first and second chapters). Epaphroditus probably held a leading office in the Philippian Church, perhaps as a presbyter. After Tychicus and Onesimus had departed (A.D. 62), carrying the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Paul was cheered in his imprisonment by the arrival of Epaphroditus with the Philippian contribution. That faithful “brother, companion in labor, and fellow soldier” (Php 2:25), had brought on himself by the fatigues of the journey a dangerous sickness (Php 2:26, 30). But now that he was recovered, he “longed” (Php 2:26) to return to his Philippian flock, and in person to relieve their anxiety on his behalf, in respect to his sickness; and the apostle gladly availed himself of the opportunity of writing to them a letter of grateful acknowledgments and Christian exhortations. (2) Caution against Judaizing teachers, supported by reference to his own former and present feeling towards Jewish legalism (Php 3:1-21). (3) Admonitions to individuals, and to the Church in general, thanks for their seasonable aid, and concluding benedictions and salutations (Php 4:1-23).
This Epistle was written from Rome during the imprisonment, the beginning of which is related in Ac 28:16, 20, 30, 31. The reference to “Cæsar’s household” (Php 4:22), and to the “palace” (Php 1:13, Greek, “Prætorium,” probably, the barrack of the Prætorian bodyguard, attached to the palace of Nero) confirms this. It must have been during his first imprisonment at Rome, for the mention of the Prætorium agrees with the fact that it was during his first imprisonment he was in the custody of the Prætorian Prefect, and his situation, described in Php 1:12-14, agrees with his situation in the first two years of his imprisonment (Ac 28:30, 31). The following reasons show, moreover, that it was written towards the close of that imprisonment: (1) He, in it, expresses his expectation of the immediate decision of his cause (Php 2:23). (2) Enough time had elapsed for the Philippians to hear of his imprisonment, to send Epaphroditus to him, to hear of Epaphroditus’ arrival and sickness, and send back word to Rome of their distress (Php 2:26). (3) It must have been written after the three other Epistles sent from Rome, namely, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon; for Luke is no longer with him (Php 2:20); otherwise he would have been specified as saluting them, having formerly labored among them, whereas he is mentioned as with him, Col 4:14; Phm 24. Again, in Eph 6:19, 20, his freedom to preach is implied: but in Php 1:13-18, his bondage is dwelt on, and it is implied that, not himself, but others, preached, and made his imprisonment known. Again, in Phm 22, he confidently anticipates his release, which contrasts with the more depressed anticipations of this Epistle. (4) A considerable time had elapsed since the beginning of his imprisonment, for “his bonds” to have become so widely known, and to have produced such good effects for the Gospel (Php 1:13). (5) There is evidently an increase in the rigor of his imprisonment implied now, as compared with the early stage of it, as described in Ac 28:1-31; compare Php 1:29, 30; 2:27. History furnishes a probable clue to account for this increase of vigor. In the second year of Paul’s imprisonment (A.D. 62), Burrus, the Prætorian Prefect, to whose custody he had been committed (Ac 28:16, “the captain of the guard”), died; and Nero the emperor having divorced Octavia, and married Poppoea, a Jewish proselytess (who then caused her rival, Octavia, to be murdered, and gloated over the head of her victim), exalted Tigellinus, the chief promoter of the marriage, a monster of wickedness, to the Prætorian Prefecture. It was then he seems to have been removed from his own house into the Prætorium, or barrack of the Prætorian guards, attached to the palace, for stricter custody; and hence he writes with less hopeful anticipations as to the result of his trial (Php 2:17; 3:11). Some of the Prætorian guards who had the custody of him before, would then naturally make known his “bonds,” in accordance with Php 1:13; from the smaller Prætorian bodyguard at the palace the report would spread to the general permanent Prætorian camp, which Tiberius had established north of the city, outside of the walls. He had arrived in Rome, February, 61; the “two whole years (Ac 20:30) in his own hired house” ended February, 63, so that the date of this Epistle, written shortly after, evidently while the danger was imminent, would be about spring or summer, 63. The providence of God averted the danger. He probably was thought beneath the notice of Tigellinus, who was more intent on court intrigues. The death of Nero’s favorite, Pallas, the brother of Felix, this same year, also took out of the way another source of danger.
The STYLE is abrupt and discontinuous, his fervor of affection leading him to pass rapidly from one theme to another (Php 2:18, 19-24, 25-30; 3:1, 2, 3, 4-14, 15). In no Epistle does he use so warm expressions of love. In Php 4:1 he seems at a loss for words sufficient to express all the extent and ardor of his affection for the Philippians: “My brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” The mention of bishops and deacons in Php 1:1 is due to the late date of the Epistle, at a time when the Church had begun to assume that order which is laid down in the Pastoral Epistles, and which continued the prevalent one in the first and purest age of the Church.
Php 1:1-30. Inscription. Thanksgiving and Prayers for the Flourishing Spiritual State of the Philippians. His Own State at Rome, and the Result of His Imprisonment in Spreading the Gospel. Exhortation to Christian Consistency.
1. Timotheus–mentioned as being well known to the Philippians (Ac 16:3, 10-12), and now present with Paul. Not that Timothy had any share in writing the Epistle; for Paul presently uses the first person singular, “I,” not “we” (Php 1:3). The mention of his name implies merely that Timothy joined in affectionate remembrances to them.
servants of Jesus Christ–The oldest manuscripts read the order, “Christ Jesus.” Paul does not call himself “an apostle,” as in the inscriptions of other Epistles; for the Philippians needed not to be reminded of his apostolic authority. He writes rather in a tone of affectionate familiarity.
all–so Php 1:4, 7, 8, 25; Php 2:17, 26. It implies comprehensive affection which desired not to forget any one among them “all.”
bishops–synonymous with “presbyters” in the apostolical churches; as appears from the same persons being called “elders of the Church” at Ephesus (Ac 20:17), and “overseers” (Ac 20:28), Greek, “bishops.” And Tit 1:5, compare with Php 1:7. This is the earliest letter of Paul where bishops and deacons are mentioned, and the only one where they are separately addressed in the salutation. This accords with the probable course of events, deduced alike from the letters and history. While the apostles were constantly visiting the churches in person or by messengers, regular pastors would be less needed; but when some were removed by various causes, provision for the permanent order of the churches would be needed. Hence the three pastoral letters, subsequent to this Epistle, give instruction as to the due appointment of bishops and deacons. It agrees with this new want of the Church, when other apostles were dead or far away, and Paul long in prison, that bishops and deacons should be prominent for the first time in the opening salutation. The Spirit thus intimated that the churches were to look up to their own pastors, now that the miraculous gifts were passing into God’s ordinary providence, and the presence of the inspired apostles, the dispensers of those gifts, was to be withdrawn [Paley, “Horæ Paulinæ]. “Presbyter,” implied the rank; “bishop,” the duties of the office [Neander]. Naturally, when the apostles who had the chief supervision were no more, one among the presbyters presided and received the name “bishop,” in the more restricted and modern sense; just as in the Jewish synagogue one of the elders presided as “ruler of the synagogue.” Observe, the apostle addresses the Church (that is, the congregation) more directly than its presiding ministers (Col 4:17; 1Th 5:12; Heb 13:24; Re 1:4, 11). The bishops managed more the internal, the deacons the external, affairs of the Church. The plural number shows there was more than one bishop or presbyter, and more than one deacon in the Church at Philippi.
2. Grace … peace–The very form of this salutation implies the union of Jew, Greek, and Roman. The Greek salutation was “joy” (chairein), akin to the Greek for “grace” (charis). The Roman was “health,” the intermediate term between grace and peace. The Hebrew was “peace,” including both temporal and spiritual prosperity. Grace must come first if we are to have true peace.
from … from–Omit the second “from”: as in the Greek, “God our Father” and “the Lord Jesus Christ,” are most closely connected.
3. Translate, “In all my remembrance of you.”
4. making request–Translate, “making my request.”
for you all–The frequent repetition in this Epistle of “all” with “you,” marks that Paul desires to declare his love for all alike, and will not recognize any divisions among them.
with joy–the characteristic feature in this Epistle, as love is in that to the Ephesians (compare Php 1:18; Php 2:2, 19, 28; 3:1; 4:1, 4). Love and joy are the two first-fruits of the Spirit. Joy gives especial animation to prayers. It marked his high opinion of them, that there was almost everything in them to give him joy, and almost nothing to give him pain.
5. Ground of his “thanking God” (Php 1:3): “For your (continued) fellowship (that is, real spiritual participation) in (literally, ‘in regard to’) the Gospel from the first day (of your becoming partakers in it) until now.” Believers have the fellowship of the Son of God (1Co 1:9) and of the Father (1Jo 1:3) in the Gospel, by becoming partakers of “the fellowship of the Holy Ghost” (2Co 13:14), and exercise that fellowship by acts of communion, not only the communion of the Lord’s Supper, but holy liberality to brethren and ministers (Php 4:10, 15, “communicated … concerning giving”; 2Co 9:13; Ga 6:6; Heb 13:16, “To communicate forget not”).
6. confident–This confidence nerves prayers and thanksgivings (Php 1:3, 4).
this very thing–the very thing which he prays for (Php 1:4) is the matter of his believing confidence (Mr 11:24; 1Jo 5:14, 15). Hence the result is sure.
he which hath begun–God (Php 2:13).
a good work–Any work that God begins, He will surely finish (1Sa 3:12). Not even men begin a work at random. Much more the fact of His beginning the work is a pledge of its completion (Isa 26:12). So as to the particular work here meant, the perfecting of their fellowship in the Gospel (Php 1:5; Ps 37:24; 89:33; 138:8; Joh 10:28, 29; Ro 8:29, 35-39; 11:1, 2 Heb 6:17-19; Jas 1:17; Jude 24). As God cast not off Israel for ever, though chastening them for a time, so He will not cast off the spiritual Israel (De 33:3; Isa 27:3; 1Pe 1:5).
perform it until–“perfect it up to” [Alford, Ellicott, and others].
the day of … Christ–(Php 1:10). The Lord’s coming, designed by God in every age of the Church to be regarded as near, is to be the goal set before believers’ minds rather than their own death.
7. meet–Greek, “just.”
to think this–to have the prayerful confidence I expressed (Php 1:4-6).
of you–literally, “in behalf of you.” Paul’s confident prayer in their behalf was that God would perfect His own good work of grace in them.
because, &c.–Punctuate and translate, “Because I have you in my heart (so Php 1:8; otherwise the Greek and the words immediately following in the verse, favor the Margin, ‘Ye have me in your heart … being partakers of my grace’) (both, in my bonds, and in my defense and confirmation of the Gospel), you (I say) all being fellow partakers of my grace.” This last clause thus assigns the reason why he has them in his heart (that is, cherished in his love, 2Co 3:2; 7:3), even in his bonds, and in his defense and confirmation of the Gospel (such as he was constantly making in private, Ac 28:17-23; his self-defense and confirmation of the Gospel being necessarily conjoined, as the Greek implies; compare Php 1:17), namely, “inasmuch as ye are fellow partakers of my grace”: inasmuch as ye share with me in “the fellowship of the Gospel” (Php 1:5), and have manifested this, both by suffering as I do for the Gospel’s sake (Php 1:28-30), and by imparting to me of your substance (Php 4:15). It is natural and right for me thus confidently to pray in your behalf. (Ellicott, and others translate, “To be thus minded for you all”), because of my having you in my warmest remembrances even in my bonds, since you are sharers with me in the Gospel grace. Bonds do not bind love.
8. Confirmation of Php 1:7.
record–that is, witness.
in the bowels of Jesus Christ–“Christ Jesus” is the order in the oldest manuscripts. My yearning love (so the Greek implies) to you is not merely from natural affection, but from devotedness to Christ Jesus. “Not Paul, but Jesus Christ lives in Paul; wherefore Paul is not moved in the bowels (that is, the tender love, Jer 31:20) of Paul, but of Jesus Christ” [Bengel]. All real spiritual love is but a portion of Christ’s love which yearns in all who are united to Him [Alford].
9. The subject of his prayer for them (Php 1:4).
your love–to Christ, producing love not only to Paul, Christ’s minister, as it did, but also to one another, which it did not altogether as much as it ought (Php 2:2; 4:2).
knowledge–of doctrinal and practical truth.
judgment–rather, “perception”; “perceptive sense.” Spiritual perceptiveness: spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, spiritual feeling, spiritual taste. Christianity is a vigorous plant, not the hotbed growth of enthusiasm. “Knowledge” and “perception” guard love from being ill-judged.
10. Literally, “With a view to your proving (and so approving and embracing) the things that excel” (Ro 2:18); not merely things not bad, but the things best among those that are good; the things of more advanced excellence. Ask as to things, not merely, Is there no harm, but is there any good, and which is the best?
sincere–from a Greek root. Examined in the sunlight and found pure.
without offence–not stumbling; running the Christian race without falling through any stumbling-block, that is, temptation, in your way.
till–rather, “unto,” “against”; so that when the day of Christ comes, ye may be found pure and without offense.
11. The oldest manuscripts read the singular, “fruit.” So Ga 5:22 (see on Ga 5:22); regarding the works of righteousness, however manifold, as one harmonious whole, “the fruit of the Spirit” (Eph 5:9) Jas 3:18, “the fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:11); Ro 6:22, “fruit unto holiness.”
which are–“which is by (Greek, ‘through’) Jesus Christ.” Through His sending to us the Spirit from the Father. “We are wild and useless olive trees till we are grafted into Christ, who, by His living root, makes us fruit-bearing branches” [Calvin].
12. understand–Greek, “know.” The Philippians probably had feared that his imprisonment would hinder the spread of the Gospel; he therefore removes this fear.
the things which happened unto me–Greek, “the things concerning me.”
rather–so far is my imprisonment from hindering the Gospel. Faith takes in a favorable light even what seems adverse [Bengel] (Php 1:19, 28; Php 2:17).
13. my bonds in Christ–rather as Greek, “So that my bonds have become manifest in Christ,” that is, known, as endured in Christ’s cause.
palace–literally, “Prætorium,” that is, the barrack of the Prætorian guards attached to the palace of Nero, on the Palatine hill at Rome; not the general Prætorian camp outside of the city; for this was not connected with “Cæsar’s household,” which Php 4:22 shows the Prætorium here meant was. The emperor was “Prætor,” or Commander-in-Chief; naturally then the barrack of his bodyguard was called the Prætorium. Paul seems now not to have been at large in his own hired house, though chained to a soldier, as in Ac 28:16, 20, 30, 31, but in strict custody in the Prætorium; a change which probably took place on Tigellinus becoming Prætorian Prefect. See Introduction.
in all other places–so Chrysostom. Or else, “TO all the rest,” that is, “manifest to all the other” Prætorian soldiers stationed elsewhere, through the instrumentality of the Prætorian household guards who might for the time be attached to the emperor’s palace, and who relieved one another in succession. Paul had been now upwards of two years a prisoner, so that there was time for his cause and the Gospel having become widely known at Rome.
14. Translate as Greek, “And that (Php 1:13) most of the brethren in the Lord,” &c. “In the Lord,” distinguishes them from “brethren after the flesh,” Jewish fellow countrymen. Ellicott translates, “Trusting in the Lord.”
by my bonds–encouraged by my patience in bearing my bonds.
much more bold–Translate as Greek, “are more abundantly bold.”
15. “Some indeed are preaching Christ even for envy, that is, to carry out the envy which they felt towards Paul, on account of the success of the Gospel in the capital of the world, owing to his steadfastness in his imprisonment; they wished through envy to transfer the credit of its progress from him to themselves. Probably Judaizing teachers (Ro 14:1-23; 1Co 3:10-15; 9:1, &c.; 2Co 11:1-4).
some also of–rather, “for”
good will–answering to “the brethren” (Php 1:14); some being well disposed to him.
16, 17. The oldest manuscripts transpose these verses, and read, “These (last) indeed out of love (to Christ and me), knowing (the opposite of ‘thinking’ below) that I am set (that is, appointed by God, 1Th 3:3) for the defense of the Gospel (Php 1:7, not on my own account). But the others out of contention (or rather, ‘a factious spirit’; ‘cabal’; a spirit of intrigue, using unscrupulous means to compass their end; ‘self-seeking’ [Alford]) proclaim (the Greek is not the same as that for ‘preach,’ but, ‘announce’) Christ, not sincerely (answering to ‘but of a spirit of intrigue,’ or ‘self-seeking’). Literally, ‘not purely’; not with a pure intention; the Jewish leaven they tried to introduce was in order to glorify themselves (Ga 6:12, 13; however, see on Php 1:18), thinking (but in vain) to raise up (so the oldest manuscripts read) tribulation to my bonds.” Their thought was, that taking the opportunity of my being laid aside, they would exalt themselves by their Judaizing preaching, and depreciate me and my preaching, and so cause me trouble of spirit in my bonds; they thought that I, like themselves, sought my own glory, and so would be mortified at their success over mine. But they are utterly mistaken; “I rejoice” at it (Php 1:18), so far am I from being troubled at it.
18. What follows from this? Does this trouble me as they thought it would? “Notwithstanding” their unkind thought to me, and self-seeking intention, the cause I have at heart is furthered “every way” of preaching, “whether in pretense (with a by motive, Php 1:16) or in truth (out of true ‘love’ to Christ, Php 1:17), Christ is proclaimed; and therein I do rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice.” From this it would seem that these self-seeking teachers in the main “proclaimed Christ,” not “another Gospel,” such as the Judaizers in Galatia taught (Ga 1:6-8); though probably having some of the Jewish leaven (see on Php 1:15,16), their chief error was their self-seeking envious motive, not so much error of doctrine; had there been vital error, Paul would not have rejoiced. The proclamation of Christ,” however done, roused attention, and so was sure to be of service. Paul could thus rejoice at the good result of their bad intentions (Ps 76:10; Isa 10:5, 7).
19. turn to my salvation–“turn out to me for, (or unto) salvation.” This proclamation of Christ every way will turn out to my spiritual good. Christ, whose interests are my interests, being glorified thereby; and so the coming of His kingdom being furthered, which, when it does come, will bring completed “SALVATION” (Heb 9:28) to me and all whose “earnest expectation” (Php 1:20) is that Christ may be magnified in them. So far is their preaching from causing me, as they thought, tribulation in my bonds (Php 1:16). Paul plainly quotes and applies to himself the very words of the Septuagint (Job 13:16), “This shall turn out to my salvation,” which belong to all God’s people of every age, in their tribulation (compare Job 13:15).
through your prayer and the supply–The Greek intimately joins the two nouns together, by having but one preposition and one article: “Through your prayer and (the consequent) supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (obtained for me through your prayer).”
20. According to my earnest expectation–The Greek expresses, “expectation with uplifted head (Lu 21:28) and outstretched neck.” Ro 8:19 is the only other place in the New Testament that the word occurs. Tittmann says, in both places it implies not mere expectation, but the anxious desire of an anticipated prosperous issue in afflictive circumstances. The subject of his earnest expectation which follows, answers to “my salvation” (Php 1:19).
in nothing I shall be ashamed–in nothing have reason to be ashamed of “my work for God, or His work in me” [Alford]. Or, “in nothing be disappointed in my hope, but that I may fully obtain it” [Estius]. So “ashamed” is used in Ro 9:33.
all boldness–“all” is opposed to “in nothing,” as “boldness” is the opposite to “ashamed.”
so now also–when “my body” is “in bonds” (Php 1:17).
Christ–not Paul, “shall be magnified.”
life, or by death–Whatever be the issue, I cannot lose; I must be the gainer by the event. Paul was not omniscient; in the issue of things pertaining to themselves, the apostles underwent the same probation of faith and patience as we.
21. For–in either event (Php 1:20) I must be the gainer, “For to me,” &c.
to live is Christ–whatever life, time, and strength, I have, is Christ’s; Christ is the sole object for which I live (Ga 2:20).
to die is gain–not the act of dying, but as the Greek (“to have died”) expresses, the state after death. Besides the glorification of Christ by my death, which is my primary object (Php 1:20), the change of state caused by death, so far from being a matter of shame (Php 1:20) or loss, as my enemies suppose, will be a positive “gain” to me.
22. Rather as Greek, “But if to live in the flesh (if), this (I say, the continuance in life which I am undervaluing) be the fruit of my labor (that is, be the condition in which the fruit of my ministerial labor is involved), then what I shall choose I know not (I cannot determine with myself, if the choice were given me, both alternatives being great goods alike).” So Alford and Ellicott. Bengel takes it as English Version, which the Greek will bear by supposing an ellipsis, “If to live in the flesh (be my portion), this (continuing to live) is the fruit of my labor,” that is, this continuance in life will be the occasion of my bringing in “the fruit of labor,” that is, will be the occasion of “labors” which are their own “fruit” or reward; or, this my continuing “to live” will have this “fruit,” namely, “labors” for Christ. Grotius explains “the fruit of labor” as an idiom for “worthwhile”; If I live in the flesh, this is worth my while, for thus Christ’s interest will be advanced, “For to me to live is Christ” (Php 1:21; compare Php 2:30; Ro 1:13). The second alternative, namely, dying, is taken up and handled, Php 2:17, “If I be offered.”
23. For–The oldest manuscripts read, “But.” “I know not (Php 1:22), BUT am in a strait (am perplexed) betwixt the two (namely, ‘to live’ and ‘to die’), having the desire for departing (literally, ‘to loose anchor,’ 2Ti 4:6) and being with Christ; FOR (so the oldest manuscripts) it is by far better”; or as the Greek, more forcibly, “by far the more preferable”; a double comparative. This refutes the notion of the soul being dormant during its separation from the body. It also shows that, while he regarded the Lord’s advent as at all times near, yet that his death before it was a very possible contingency. The partial life eternal is in the interval between death and Christ’s second advent; the perfectional, at that advent [Bishop Pearson]. To depart is better than to remain in the flesh; to be with Christ is far, far better; a New Testament hope (Heb 12:24), [Bengel].
24. to abide–to continue somewhat longer.
for you–Greek, “on your account”; “for your sake.” In order to be of service to you, I am willing to forego my entrance a little sooner into blessedness; heaven will not fail to be mine at last.
25. Translate, “And being confident of this.”
I know, &c.–by prophetical intimations of the Spirit. He did not yet know the issue, as far as human appearances were concerned (Php 2:23). He doubtless returned from his first captivity to Philippi (Heb 13:19; Phm 22).
joy of faith–Greek, “joy in your faith.”
26. Translate, “That your matter of glorying (or rejoicing) may abound in Christ Jesus in me (that is, in my case; in respect to me, or for me who have been granted to your prayers, Php 1:19) through my presence again among you.” Alford makes the “matter of glorying,” the possession of the Gospel, received from Paul, which would abound, be assured and increased, by his presence among them; thus, “in me,” implies that Paul is the worker of the material of abounding in Christ Jesus. But “my rejoicing over you” (Php 2:16), answers plainly to “your rejoicing in respect to me” here.
27. Only–Whatever happens as to my coming to you, or not, make this your one only care. By supposing this or that future contingency, many persuade themselves they will be such as they ought to be, but it is better always without evasion to perform present duties under present circumstances [Bengel].
let your conversation be–(Compare Php 3:20). The Greek implies, “Let your walk as citizens (namely, of the heavenly state; ‘the city of the living God,’ Heb 12:22, ‘the heavenly Jerusalem,’ ‘fellow citizens of the saints,’ Eph 2:19) be,” &c.
I … see … hear–so Php 1:30. “Hear,” in order to include both alternatives, must include the meaning know.
your affairs–your state.
in one spirit–the fruit of partaking of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:3, 4).
with one mind–rather as Greek, “soul,” the sphere of the affections; subordinate to the “Spirit,” man’s higher and heavenly nature. “There is sometimes natural antipathies among believers; but these are overcome, when there is not only unity of spirit, but also of soul” [Bengel].
striving together–with united effort.
28. terrified–literally, said of horses or other animals startled or suddenly scared; so of sudden consternation in general.
which–your not being terrified.
evident token of perdition–if they would only perceive it (2Th 1:5). It attests this, that in contending hopelessly against you, they are only rushing on to their own perdition, not shaking your united faith and constancy.
to you of salvation–The oldest manuscripts read, “of your salvation”; not merely your temporal safety.
29. For–rather, a proof that this is an evident token from God of your salvation, “Because,” &c.
it is given–Greek, “it has been granted as a favor,” or “gift of grace.” Faith is the gift of God (Eph 2:8), not wrought in the soul by the will of man, but by the Holy Ghost (Joh 1:12, 13).
believe on him–“To believe Him,” would merely mean to believe He speaks the truth. “To believe on Him,” is to believe in, and trust through, Him to obtain eternal salvation. Suffering for Christ is not only not a mark of God’s anger, but a gift of His grace.
30. ye saw in me–(Ac 16:12, 19, &c.; 1Th 2:2). I am “in nothing terrified by mine adversaries” (Php 1:29), so ought not ye. The words here, “ye saw … and … hear,” answer to “I come and see you, or else … hear” (Php 1:27).
Php 2:1-30. Continued Exhortation: To Unity: To Humility after Christ’s Example, Whose Glory Followed His Humiliation: To Earnestness in Seeking Perfection, that They May Be His Joy in the Day of Christ: His Joyful Readiness to Be Offered Now by Death, so as to Promote Their Faith. His Intention to Send Timothy: His Sending Epaphroditus Meantime.
1. The “therefore” implies that he is here expanding on the exhortation (Php 1:27), “In one Spirit, with one mind (soul).” He urges four influencing motives in this verse, to inculcate the four Christian duties corresponding respectively to them (Php 2:2). “That ye be like-minded, having the same love, of one accord, of one mind”; (1) “If there be (with you) any consolation in Christ,” that is, any consolation of which Christ is the source, leading you to wish to console me in my afflictions borne for Christ’s sake, ye owe it to me to grant my request “that ye be like-minded” [Chrysostom and Estius]: (2) “If there be any comfort of (that is, flowing from) love,” the adjunct of “consolation in Christ”; (3) “If any fellowship of (communion together as Christians, flowing from joint participation in) the Spirit” (2Co 13:14). As Pagans meant literally those who were of one village, and drank of one fountain, how much greater is the union which conjoins those who drink of the same Spirit! (1Co 12:4, 13) [Grotius]: (4) “If any bowels (tender emotions) and mercies (compassions),” the adjuncts of “fellowship of the Spirit.” The opposites of the two pairs, into which the four fall, are reprobated, Php 2:3, 4.
2. Fulfil–that is, Make full. I have joy in you, complete it by that which is still wanting, namely, unity (Php 1:9).
likeminded–literally, “that ye be of the same mind”; more general than the following “of one mind.”
having the same love–equally disposed to love and be loved.
being of one accord–literally, “with united souls.” This pairs with the following clause, thus, “With united souls, being of one mind”; as the former two also pair together, “That ye be likeminded, having the same love.”
3. Let nothing be done–The italicized words are not in the Greek. Perhaps the ellipsis had better be supplied from the Greek (Php 2:2), “Thinking nothing in the way of strife” (or rather, “factious intrigue,” “self-seeking,” see on Php 1:16). It is the thought which characterizes the action as good or bad before God.
lowliness of mind–The direct relation of this grace is to God alone; it is the sense of dependence of the creature on the Creator as such, and it places all created beings in this respect on a level. The man “lowly of mind” as to his spiritual life is independent of men, and free from all slavish feeling, while sensible of his continual dependence on God. Still it INDIRECTLY affects his behavior toward his fellow men; for, conscious of his entire dependence on God for all his abilities, even as they are dependent on God for theirs, he will not pride himself on his abilities, or exalt self in his conduct toward others (Eph 4:2; Col 3:12) [Neander].
let each esteem–Translate as Greek, “esteeming each other superior to yourselves.” Instead of fixing your eyes on those points in which you excel, fix them on those in which your neighbor excels you: this is true “humility.”
4. The oldest manuscripts read, “Not looking each of you (plural, Greek) on his own things (that is, not having regard solely to them), but each of you on the things of others” also. Compare Php 2:21; also Paul’s own example (Php 1:24).
5. The oldest manuscripts read, “Have this mind in you,” &c. He does not put forward himself (see on Php 2:4, and Php 1:24) as an example, but Christ, THE ONE pre-eminently who sought not His own, but “humbled Himself” (Php 2:8), first in taking on Him our nature, secondly, in humbling Himself further in that nature (Ro 15:3).
6. Translate, “Who subsisting (or existing, namely, originally: the Greek is not the simple substantive verb, ‘to be’) in the form of God (the divine essence is not meant: but the external self-manifesting characteristics of God, the form shining forth from His glorious essence). The divine nature had infinite BEAUTY in itself, even without any creature contemplating that beauty: that beauty was ‘the form of God’; as ‘the form of a servant’ (Php 2:7), which is in contrasted opposition to it, takes for granted the existence of His human nature, so ‘the form of God’ takes for granted His divine nature [Bengel], Compare Joh 5:37; 17:5; Col 1:15, ‘Who is the IMAGE of the invisible God’ at a time before ‘every creature,’ 2Co 4:4, esteemed (the same Greek verb as in Php 2:3) His being on an equality with God no (act of) robbery” or self-arrogation; claiming to one’s self what does not belong to him. Ellicott, Wahl, and others have translated, “A thing to be grasped at,” which would require the Greek to be harpagma, whereas harpagmos means the act of seizing. So harpagmos means in the only other passage where it occurs, Plutarch [On the Education of Children, 120]. The same insuperable objection lies against Alford’s translation, “He regarded not as self-enrichment (that is, an opportunity for self-exaltation) His equality with God.” His argument is that the antithesis (Php 2:7) requires it, “He used His equality with God as an opportunity, not for self-exaltation, but for self-abasement, or emptying Himself.” But the antithesis is not between His being on an equality with God, and His emptying Himself; for He never emptied Himself of the fulness of His Godhead, or His “BEING on an equality with God”; but between His being “in the FORM (that is, the outward glorious self-manifestation) of God,” and His “taking on Him the form of a servant,” whereby He in a great measure emptied Himself of His precedent “form,” or outward self-manifesting glory as God. Not “looking on His own things” (Php 2:4), He, though existing in the form of God, He esteemed it no robbery to be on an equality with God, yet made Himself of no reputation. “Being on an equality with God, is not identical with subsisting in the form of God”; the latter expresses the external characteristics, majesty, and beauty of the Deity, which “He emptied Himself of,” to assume “the form of a servant”; the former, “His being,” or NATURE, His already existing STATE OF EQUALITY with God, both the Father and the Son having the same ESSENCE. A glimpse of Him “in the form of God,” previous to His incarnation, was given to Moses (Ex 24:10, 11), Aaron, &c.
7. made himself of no reputation, and … and–rather as the Greek, “emptied Himself, taking upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.” The two latter clauses (there being no conjunctions, “and … and,” in the Greek) expresses in what Christ’s “emptying of Himself” consists, namely, in “taking the form of a servant” (see on Heb 10:5; compare Ex 21:5, 6, and Ps 40:6, proving that it was at the time when He assumed a body, He took “the form of a servant”), and in order to explain how He took “the form of a servant,” there is added, by “being made in the likeness of men.” His subjection to the law (Lu 2:21; Ga 4:4) and to His parents (Lu 2:51), His low state as a carpenter, and carpenter’s reputed son (Mt 13:55; Mr 6:3), His betrayal for the price of a bond-servant (Ex 21:32), and slave-like death to relieve us from the slavery of sin and death, finally and chiefly, His servant-like dependence as man on God, while His divinity was not outwardly manifested (Isa 49:3, 7), are all marks of His “form as a servant.” This proves: (1) He was in the form of a servant as soon as He was made man. (2) He was “in the form of God” before He was “in the form of a servant.” (3) He did as really subsist in the divine nature, as in the form of a servant, or in the nature of man. For He was as much “in the form of God” as “in the form of a servant”; and was so in the form of God as “to be on an equality with God”; He therefore could have been none other than God; for God saith, “To whom will ye liken Me and make Me equal?” (Isa 46:5), [Bishop Pearson]. His emptying Himself presupposes His previous plenitude of Godhead (Joh 1:14; Col 1:19; 2:9). He remained full of this; yet He bore Himself as if He were empty.
8. being found in fashion as a man–being already, by His “emptying Himself,” in the form of a servant, or likeness of man (Ro 8:3), “He humbled Himself (still further by) becoming obedient even unto death (not as English Version, ‘He humbled Himself and became,’&c.; the Greek has no ‘and,’ and has the participle, not the verb), and that the death of the cross.” “Fashion” expresses that He had the outward guise, speech, and look. In Php 2:7, in the Greek, the emphasis is on Himself (which stands before the Greek verb), “He emptied Himself,” His divine self, viewed in respect to what He had heretofore been; in Php 2:8 the emphasis is on “humbled” (which stands before the Greek “Himself”); He not only “emptied Himself” of His previous “form of God,” but submitted to positive HUMILIATION. He “became obedient,” namely, to God, as His “servant” (Ro 5:19; Heb 5:8). Therefore “God” is said to “exalt” Him (Php 2:9), even as it was God to whom He became voluntarily “obedient.” “Even unto death” expresses the climax of His obedience (Joh 10:18).
9. Wherefore–as the just consequence of His self-humiliation and obedience (Ps 8:5, 6; 110:1, 7; Mt 28:18; Lu 24:26; Joh 5:27; 10:17; Ro 14:9; Eph 1:20-22; Heb 2:9). An intimation, that if we would hereafter be exalted, we too must, after His example, now humble ourselves (Php 2:3, 5; Php 3:21; 1Pe 5:5, 6). Christ emptied Christ; God exalted Christ as man to equality with God [Bengel].
highly exalted–Greek, “super-eminently exalted” (Eph 4:10).
given him–Greek, “bestowed on Him.”
a name–along with the corresponding reality, glory and majesty.
which–Translate, namely, “that which is above every name.” The name “Jesus” (Php 2:10), which is even now in glory His name of honor (Ac 9:5). “Above” not only men, but angels (Eph 1:21).
10. at the name–rather as Greek, “in the name.”
bow–rather, “bend,” in token of worship. Referring to Isa 45:23; quoted also in Ro 14:11. To worship “in the name of Jesus,” is to worship Jesus Himself (compare Php 2:11; Pr 18:10), or God in Christ (Joh 16:23; Eph 3:14). Compare “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord (that is, whosoever shall call on the Lord in His revealed character) shall be saved” (Ro 10:13; 1Co 1:2); “all that call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (compare 2Ti 2:22); “call on the Lord”; Ac 7:59, “calling upon … and saying, Lord Jesus” (Ac 9:14, 21; 22:16).
of things in heaven–angels. They worship Him not only as God, but as the ascended God-man, “Jesus” (Eph 1:21; Heb 1:6; 1Pe 3:22).
in earth–men; among whom He tabernacled for a time.
under the earth–the dead; among whom He was numbered once (Ro 14:9, 11; Eph 4:9, 10; Re 5:13). The demons and the lost may be included indirectly, as even they give homage, though one of fear, not love, to Jesus (Mr 3:11; Lu 8:31; Jas 2:19, see on Php 2:11).
11. every tongue–Compare “every knee” (Php 2:10). In every way He shall be acknowledged as Lord (no longer as “servant,” Php 2:7). As none can fully do so “but by the Holy Ghost” (1Co 12:3), the spirits of good men who are dead, must be the class directly meant, Php 2:10, “under the earth.”
to the glory of God the Father–the grand end of Christ’s mediatorial office and kingdom, which shall cease when this end shall have been fully realized (Joh 5:19-23, 30; 17:1, 4-7; 1Co 15:24-28).
12. Wherefore–Seeing that we have in Christ such a specimen of glory resulting from “obedience” (Php 2:8) and humiliation, see that ye also be “obedient,” and so “your salvation” shall follow your obedience.
as ye have … obeyed–“even as ye have been obedient,” namely, to God, as Jesus was “obedient” unto God (see on Php 2:8).
not as, &c.–“not as if” it were a matter to be done “in my presence only, but now (as things are) much more (with more earnestness) in my absence (because my help is withdrawn from you)” [Alford].
work out–carry out to its full perfection. “Salvation” is “worked in” (Php 2:13; Eph 1:11) believers by the Spirit, who enables them through faith to be justified once for all; but it needs, as a progressive work, to be “worked out” by obedience, through the help of the same Spirit, unto perfection (2Pe 1:5-8). The sound Christian neither, like the formalist, rests in the means, without looking to the end, and to the Holy Spirit who alone can make the means effectual; nor, like the fanatic, hopes to attain the end without the means.
your own–The emphasis is on this. Now that I am not present to further the work of your salvation, “work out your own salvation” yourselves the more carefully. Do not think this work cannot go on because I am absent; “for (Php 2:13) it is God that worketh in you,” &c. In this case adopt a rule different from the former (Php 2:4), but resting on the same principle of “lowliness of mind” (Php 2:3), namely, “look each on his own things,” instead of “disputings” with others (Php 2:14).
salvation–which is in “Jesus” (Php 2:10), as His name (meaning God-Saviour) implies.
with fear and trembling–the very feeling enjoined on “servants,” as to what ought to accompany their “obedience” (Eph 6:5). So here: See that, as “servants” to God, after the example of Christ, ye be so “with the fear and trembling” which becomes servants; not slavish fear, but trembling anxiety not to fall short of the goal (1Co 9:26, 27; Heb 4:1, “Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any should come short of it”), resulting from a sense of our human insufficiency, and from the consciousness that all depends on the power of God, “who worketh both to will and to do” (Ro 11:20). “Paul, though joyous, writes seriously” [J. J. Wolf].
13. For–encouragement to work: “For it is God who worketh in you,” always present with you, though I be absent. It is not said, “Work out your own salvation, though it is God,” &c., but, “because it is God who,” &c. The will, and the power to work, being first instalments of His grace, encourage us to make full proof of, and carry out to the end, the “salvation” which He has first “worked,” and is still “working in” us, enabling us to “work it out.” “Our will does nothing thereunto without grace; but grace is inactive without our will” [St. Bernard]. Man is, in different senses, entirely active, and entirely passive: God producing all, and we acting all. What He produced is our own acts. It is not that God does some, and we the rest. God does all, and we do all. God is the only proper author, we the only proper actors. Thus the same things in Scripture are represented as from God, and from us. God makes a new heart, and we are commanded to make us a new heart; not merely because we must use the means in order to the effect, but the effect itself is our act and our duty (Eze 11:19; 18:31; 36:26) [Edwards].
worketh–rather as Greek, “worketh effectually.” We cannot of ourselves embrace the Gospel of grace: “the will” (Ps 110:3; 2Co 3:5) comes solely of God’s gift to whom He will (Joh 6:44, 65); so also the power “to do” (rather, “to work effectually,” as the Greek is the same as that for “worketh in”), that is, effectual perseverance to the end, is wholly of God’s gift (Php 1:6; Heb 13:21).
of his good pleasure–rather as Greek, “FOR His good pleasure”; in order to carry out His sovereign gracious purpose towards you (Eph 1:5, 9).
14. murmurings–secret murmurings and complaints against your fellow men arising from selfishness: opposed to the example of Jesus just mentioned (compare the use of the word, Joh 7:12, 13; Ac 6:1; 1Pe 4:9; Jude 16).
disputings–The Greek is translated “doubting” in 1Ti 2:8. But here referring to profitless “disputings” with our fellow men, in relation to whom we are called on to be “blameless and harmless” (Php 2:15): so the Greek is translated, Mr 9:33, 34. These disputings flow from “vain glory” reprobated (Php 2:3); and abounded among the Aristotelian philosophers in Macedon, where Philippi was.
15. blameless and harmless–without either the repute of mischief, or the inclination to do it [Alford].
sons–rather as Greek, “the children of God” (Ro 8:14-16). Imitation of our heavenly Father is the instinctive guide to our duty as His children, more than any external law (Mt 5:44, 45, 48).
without rebuke–“without (giving handle for) reproach.” The whole verse tacitly refers by contrast to De 32:5, “Their spot … not … of His children … a perverse and crooked generation” (compare 1Pe 2:12).
ye shine–literally, “appear” [Trench]. “Show yourselves” (compare Mt 5:14-16; Eph 5:8-13).
as lights in the world–The Greek expresses “as luminaries in the world,” as the sun and moon, “the lights,” or “great lights,” in the material world or in the firmament. The Septuagint uses the very same Greek word in the passage, Ge 1:14, 16; compare Note,, see on Re 21:11.
16. Holding forth–to them, and so applying it (the common meaning of the Greek; perhaps here including also the other meaning, “holding fast”). The image of light-bearers or luminaries is carried on from Php 2:15. As the heavenly luminaries’ light is closely connected with the life of animals, so ye hold forth the light of Christ’s “word” (received from me) which is the “life” of the Gentiles (Joh 1:4; 1Jo 1:1, 5-7). Christ is “the Light of the world” (Joh 8:12); believers are only “light-bearers” reflecting His light.
that I may rejoice in–literally, “with a view to (your being) a subject of rejoicing to me against the day of Christ” (Php 4:1; 2Co 1:14; 1Th 2:19).
that I have not run in vain–that it was not in vain that I labored for your spiritual good.
17. Yea, and if–rather as Greek, “Yea, if even”; implying that he regarded the contingency as not unlikely: He had assumed the possibility of his being found alive at Christ’s coming (for in every age Christ designed Christians to stand in preparedness for His coming as at hand): he here puts a supposition which he regards as more likely, namely, his own death before Christ’s coming.
I be offered–rather as Greek, “I am poured out.” “I am made a libation.” Present, not future, as the danger is threatening him now. As in sacrifices libations of wine were “poured upon” the offerings, so he represents his Philippian converts, offered through faith (or else their faith itself), as the sacrifice, and his blood as the libation “poured upon” it (compare Ro 15:16; 2Ti 4:6).
service–Greek, “priest’s ministration”; carrying out the image of a sacrifice.
I joy–for myself (Php 1:21, 23). His expectation of release from prison is much fainter, than in the Epistles to Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, written somewhat earlier from Rome. The appointment of Tigellinus to be Prætorian Prefect was probably the cause of this change. See Introduction.
rejoice with you all–Alford translates, “I congratulate you all,” namely on the honor occurring to you by my blood being poured out on the sacrifice of your faith. If they rejoiced already (as English Version represents), what need of his urging them, “Do ye also joy.”
18. “Do ye also rejoice” at this honor to you, “and congratulate me” on my blessed “gain” (Php 1:21).
19. Php 2:22, “ye know the proof of him … that … he hath served with me,” implies that Timothy had been long with Paul at Philippi; Accordingly, in the history (Ac 16:1-4; 17:10, 14), we find them setting out together from Derbe in Lycaonia, and together again at Berea in Macedonia, near the conclusion of Paul’s missionary journey: an undesigned coincidence between the Epistle and history, a mark of genuineness [Paley]. From Php 2:19-30, it appears Epaphroditus was to set out at once to allay the anxiety of the Philippians on his account, and at the same time bearing the Epistle; Timothy was to follow after the apostle’s liberation was decided, when they could arrange their plans more definitely as to where Timothy should, on his return with tidings from Philippi, meet Paul, who was designing by a wider circuit, and slower progress, to reach that city. Paul’s reason for sending Timothy so soon after having heard of the Philippians from Epaphroditus was that they were now suffering persecutions (Php 1:28-30); and besides, Epaphroditus’ delay through sickness on his journey to Rome from Philippi, made the tidings he brought to be of less recent date than Paul desired. Paul himself also hoped to visit them shortly.
But I trust–Yet my death is by no means certain; yea, “I hope (Greek) in the Lord (that is, by the Lord’s help)”
unto you–literally, “for you,” that is, to your satisfaction, not merely motion, to you.
I also–that not only you “may be of good courage” (so Greek) on hearing of me (Php 2:23), but “I also, when I know your state.”
20. His reason for sending Timothy above all others: I have none so “like-minded,” literally, “like-souled,” with myself as is Timothy. Compare De 13:6, “Thy friend which is as thine own soul” (Ps 55:14). Paul’s second self.
naturally–Greek, “genuinely”; “with sincere solicitude.” A case wherein the Spirit of God so changed man’s nature, that to be natural was with him to be spiritual: the great point to be aimed at.
21. Translate as Greek, “They all” (namely, who are now with me, Php 1:14, 17; Php 4:21: such Demas, then with him, proved to be, Col 4:14; compare 2Ti 4:10; Phm 24).
seek their own–opposed to Paul’s precept (Php 2:4; 1Co 10:24, 33; 13:5). This is spoken, by comparison with Timothy; for Php 1:16, 17 implies that some of those with Paul at Rome were genuine Christians, though not so self-sacrificing as Timothy. Few come to the help of the Lord’s cause, where ease, fame, and gain have to be sacrificed. Most help only when Christ’s gain is compatible with their own (Jud 5:17, 23).
22. Rare praise (Ne 7:2).
as a son with the father–Translate, “as a child (serveth) a father.”
served with me–When we might expect the sentence to run thus. “As a child serveth a father, so he served me”; he changes it to “served with me” in modesty; as Christians are not servants TO one another,” but servants of God WITH one another (compare Php 3:17).
in the gospel–Greek, “unto,” or “for the Gospel.”
23. so soon as I shall see–that is, so soon as I shall have known for certain.
24. also myself–as well as Timothy.
25. I supposed–“I thought it necessary.”
to send–It was properly a sending Epaphroditus back (Php 4:18). But as he had come intending to stay some time with Paul, the latter uses the word “send” (compare Php 2:30).
fellow soldier–in the “good fight” of faith (Php 1:27, 30; 2Ti 2:3; 4:7).
your messenger–literally, “apostle.” The “apostles” or “messengers of the churches” (Ro 16:7; 2Co 8:23), were distinct from the “apostles” specially commissioned by Christ, as the Twelve and Paul.
ministered to my wants–by conveying the contributions from Philippi. The Greek “leitourgon,” literally, implies ministering in the ministerial office. Probably Epaphroditus was a presbyter or else a deacon.
26. For–reason for thinking it “necessary to send” “Epaphroditus. Translate as Greek, “Inasmuch as he was longing after you all.”
full of heaviness–The Greek expresses the being worn out and overpowered with heavy grief.
because that ye had heard that he had been sick–rather, “that he was sick.” He felt how exceedingly saddened you would be in hearing it; and he now is hastening to relieve your minds of the anxiety.
27. Epaphroditus’ sickness proves that the apostles had not ordinarily the permanent gift of miracles, any more than of inspiration: both were vouchsafed to them only for each particular occasion, as the Spirit thought fit.
lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow–namely, the sorrow of losing him by death, in addition to the sorrow of my imprisonment. Here only occurs anything of a sorrowful tone in this Epistle, which generally is most joyous.
29. Receive him–There seems to be something behind respecting him. If extreme affection had been the sole ground of his “heaviness,” no such exhortation would have been needed [Alford].
in reputation–“in honor.”
30. for the work of Christ–namely, the bringing of a supply to me, the minister of Christ. He was probably in a delicate state of health in setting out from Philippi; but at all hazards he undertook this service of Christian love, which cost him a serious sickness.
not regarding his life–Most of the oldest manuscripts read, “hazarding,” &c.
to supply your lack of service–Not that Paul would imply, they lacked the will: what they “lacked” was the “opportunity” by which to send their accustomed bounty (Php 4:10). “That which ye would have done if you could (but which you could not through absence), he did for you; therefore receive him with all joy” [Alford].
Php 3:1-21. Warning against Judaizers: He Has Greater Cause than They to Trust in Legal Righteousness, but Renounced It for Christ’s Righteousness, in Which He Presses after Perfection: Warning against Carnal Persons: Contrast of the Believer’s Life and Hope.
1. Finally–rather, not with the notion of time, but making a transition to another general subject, “Furthermore” [Bengel and Wahl] as in 1Th 4:1. Literally, “As to what remains,” &c. It is often used at the conclusion of Epistles for “finally” (Eph 6:10; 2Th 3:1). But it is not restricted to this meaning, as Alford thinks, supposing that Paul used it here intending to close his Epistle, but was led by the mention of the Judaizers into a more lengthened dissertation.
the same things–concerning “rejoicing,” the prevailing feature in this Epistle (Php 1:18, 25; 2:17; 4:4, where, compare the “again I say,” with “the same things” here).
In the Lord–marks the true ground of joy, in contrast with “having confidence in the flesh,” or in any outward sensible matter of boasting (Php 3:3).
not grievous–“not irksome.”
for you it is safe–Spiritual joy is the best safety against error (Php 3:2; Ne 8:10, end).
2. Beware–Greek, “Have your eye on” so as to beware of. Contrast “mark,” or “observe,” namely, so as to follow Php 3:17.
dogs–Greek, “the dogs,” namely, those impure persons “of whom I have told you often” (Php 3:18, 19); “the abominable” (compare Re 21:8, with Re 22:15; Mt 7:6; Tit 1:15, 16): “dogs” in filthiness, unchastity, and snarling (De 23:18; Ps 59:6, 14, 15; 2Pe 2:22): especially “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Php 3:18; Ps 22:16, 20). The Jews regarded the Gentiles as “dogs” (Mt 15:26); but by their own unbelief they have ceased to be the true Israel, and are become “dogs” (compare Isa 56:10, 11).
evil workers–(2Co 11:13), “deceitful workers.” Not simply “evildoers” are meant, but men who “worked,” indeed, ostensibly for the Gospel, but worked for evil: “serving not our Lord, but their own belly” (Php 3:19; compare Ro 16:18). Translate, “The evil workmen,” that is, bad teachers (compare 2Ti 2:15).
concision–Circumcision had now lost its spiritual significance, and was now become to those who rested on it as any ground of justification, a senseless mutilation. Christians have the only true circumcision, namely, that of the heart; legalists have only “concision,” that is, the cutting off of the flesh. To make “cuttings in the flesh” was expressly prohibited by the law (Le 21:5): it was a Gentile-heathenish practice (1Ki 18:28); yet this, writes Paul indignantly, is what these legalists are virtually doing in violation of the law. There is a remarkable gradation, says Birks [Horæ Apostolicæ] in Paul’s language as to circumcision. In his first recorded discourse (Ac 13:39), circumcision is not named, but implied as included in the law of Moses which cannot justify. Six or seven years later, in the Epistle to Galatians (Ga 3:3), the first Epistle in which it is named, its spiritual inefficiency is maintained against those Gentiles who, beginning in the Spirit, thought to be perfected in the flesh. Later, in Epistle to Romans (Ro 2:28, 29), he goes farther, and claims the substance of it for every believer, assigning the shadow only of it to the unbelieving Jew. In Epistle to Colossians (Col 2:11; 3:11), still later, he expounds more fully the true circumcision as the exclusive privilege of the believer. Last of all here, the very name is denied to the legalist, and a term of reproach is substituted, “concision,” or flesh-cutting. Once obligatory on all the covenant-people, then reduced to a mere national distinction, it was more and more associated in the apostle’s experience with the open hostility of the Jews, and the perverse teaching of false brethren.
3. “We are the (real) circumcision” (Ro 2:25-29; Col 2:11).
worship God in the Spirit–The oldest manuscripts read, “worship by the Spirit of God”; our religious service is rendered by the Spirit (Joh 4:23, 24). Legal worship was outward, and consisted in outward acts, restricted to certain times and places. Christian worship is spiritual, flowing from the inworkings of the Holy Spirit, not relating to certain isolated acts, but embracing the whole life (Ro 12:1). In the former, men trusted in something human, whether descent from the theocratic nation, or the righteousness of the law, or mortification of “the flesh” (“Having confidence,” or “glorying in the flesh”) [Neander] (Ro 1:9).
rejoice in Christ Jesus–“make our boast in Christ Jesus,” not in the law: the ground of their boasting.
have no confidence in the flesh–but in the Spirit.
4. “Although I (emphatical) might have confidence even in the flesh.” Literally, “I having,” but not using, “confidence in the flesh.”
I more–have more “whereof I might have confidence in the flesh.”
5. In three particulars he shows how he “might have confidence in the flesh” (Php 3:4): (1) His pure Jewish blood. (2) His legal preciseness and high status as such. (3) His zeal for the law. The Greek is literally, “Being in circumcision an eighth day person,” that is, not one circumcised in later life as a proselyte, but on the eighth day after birth, as the law directed in the case of Jew-born infants.
of the tribe of Benjamin–son of Rachel, not of the maid-servant [Bengel].
Hebrew of the Hebrews–neither one or other parent being Gentile. The “Hebrew,” wherever he dwelt, retained the language of his fathers. Thus Paul, though settled in Tarsus, a Greek city, calls himself a Hebrew. A “Grecian” or Hellenist, on the other hand, in the New Testament, is the term used for a “Greek-speaking” Jew [Trench].
touching the law–that is, as to legal status and strictness.
a Pharisee–“of the straitest sect” (Ac 26:5).
6. Concerning–Translate as before and after, “As touching Zeal” (compare Ac 22:3; 26:9).
blameless–Greek, “having become blameless” as to ceremonial righteousness: having attained in the eyes of man blameless legal perfection. As to the holiness before God, which is the inner and truest spirit of the law, and which flows from “the righteousness of God by faith,” he on the contrary declares (Php 3:12-14) that he has not attained perfection.
7. gain–rather as Greek, “gains”; including all possible advantages of outward status, which he had heretofore enjoyed.
I counted–Greek, “I have counted for Christ’s sake loss.” He no longer uses the plural as in “gains”; for he counts them all but one great “loss” (Mt 16:26; Lu 9:25).
8. Yea doubtless–The oldest manuscripts omit “doubtless” (Greek, “ge”): translate, “nay more.” Not only “have I counted” those things just mentioned “loss for Christ’s sake, but, moreover, I even DO count ALL things but loss,” &c.
for the excellency–Greek, “On account of the surpassing excellency (the supereminence above them all) of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.”
my Lord–believing and loving appropriation of Him (Ps 63:1; Joh 20:28).
for whom–“on account of whom.”
I have suffered the loss–not merely I “counted” them “loss,” but have actually lost them.
all things–The Greek has the article, referring to the preceding “all things”; “I have suffered the loss of them all.”
dung–Greek, “refuse (such as excrements, dregs, dross) cast to the dogs,” as the derivation expresses. A “loss” is of something having value; but “refuse” is thrown away as not worthy of being any more touched or looked at.
win–Translate, to accord with the translation, Php 3:7, “gain Christ.” A man cannot make other things his “gain” or chief confidence, and at the same time “gain Christ.” He who loses all things, and even himself, on account of Christ, gains Christ: Christ is His, and He is Christ’s (So 2:16; 6:3; Lu 9:23, 24; 1Co 3:23).
9. be found in him–“be found” at His coming again, living spiritually “in Him” as the element of my life. Once lost, I have been “found,” and I hope to be perfectly “found” by Him (Lu 15:8).
own righteousness … of the law–(Php 3:6; Ro 10:3, 5). “Of,” that is, from.
righteousness … of God by faith–Greek, “which is from God (resting) upon faith.” Paul was transported from legal bondage into Christian freedom at once, and without any gradual transition. Hence, the bands of Pharisaism were loosed instantaneously; and opposition to Pharisaic Judaism took the place of opposition to the Gospel. Thus God’s providence fitly prepared him for the work of overthrowing all idea of legal justification. “The righteousness of faith,” in Paul’s sense, is the righteousness or perfect holiness of Christ appropriated by faith, as the objective ground of confidence for the believer, and also as a new subjective principle of life. Hence it includes the essence of a new disposition, and may easily pass into the idea of sanctification, though the two ideas are originally distinct. It is not any arbitrary act of God, as if he treated as sinless a man persisting in sin, simply because he believes in Christ; but the objective on the part of God corresponds to the subjective on the part of man, namely, faith. The realization of the archetype of holiness through Christ contains the pledge that this shall be realized in all who are one with Him by faith, and are become the organs of His Spirit. Its germ is imparted to them in believing although the fruit of a life perfectly conformed to the Redeemer, can only be gradually developed in this life [Neander].
10. That I may know him–experimentally. The aim of the “righteousness” just mentioned. This verse resumes, and more fully explains, “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ” (Php 3:8). To know HIM is more than merely to know a doctrine about Him. Believers are brought not only to redemption, but to the Redeemer Himself.
the power of his resurrection–assuring believers of their justification (Ro 4:25; 1Co 15:17), and raising them up spiritually with Him, by virtue of their identification with Him in this, as in all the acts of His redeeming work for us (Ro 6:4; Col 2:12; 3:1). The power of the Divine Spirit, which raised Him from literal death, is the same which raises believers from spiritual death now (Eph 1:19, 20), and shall raise their bodies from literal death hereafter (Ro 8:11).
the fellowship of his sufferings–by identification with Him in His sufferings and death, by imputation; also, in actually bearing the cross whatever is laid on us, after His example, and so “filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1:24); and in the will to bear aught for His sake (Mt 10:38; 16:24; 2Ti 2:11). As He bore all our sufferings (Isa 53:4), so we participate in His.
made conformable unto his death–“conformed to the likeness of His death,” namely, by continued sufferings for His sake, and mortifying of the carnal self (Ro 8:29; 1Co 15:31; 2Co 4:10-12; Ga 2:20).
11. If by any means–not implying uncertainty of the issue, but the earnestness of the struggle of faith (1Co 9:26, 27), and the urgent need of jealous self-watchfulness (1Co 10:12).
attain unto the resurrection of the dead–The oldest manuscripts read, “the resurrection from (out of) the dead,” namely, the first resurrection; that of believers at Christ’s coming (1Co 15:23; 1Th 4:15; Re 20:5, 6). The Greek word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. “The power of Christ’s resurrection” (Ro 1:4), ensures the believer’s attainment of the “resurrection from the (rest of the) dead” (compare Php 3:20, 21). Compare “accounted worthy to obtain the resurrection from the dead” (Lu 20:35). “The resurrection of the just” (Lu 14:14).
12. Translate, “Not that I,” &c. (I do not wish to be understood as saying that, &c.).
attained–“obtained,” namely, a perfect knowledge of Christ, and of the power of His death, and fellowship of His sufferings, and a conformity to His death.
either were already perfect–“or am already perfected,” that is, crowned with the garland of victory, my course completed, and perfection absolutely reached. The image is that of a race course throughout. See 1Co 9:24; Heb 12:23. See Trench [Greek Synonyms of the New Testament].
I follow after–“I press on.”
apprehend … apprehended–“If so be that I may lay hold on that (namely, the prize, Php 3:14) for which also I was laid hold on by Christ” (namely, at my conversion, So 1:4; 1Co 13:12).
Jesus–omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Paul was close to “apprehending” the prize (2Ti 4:7, 8). Christ the Author, is also the Finisher of His people’s “race.”
13. I–whatever others count as to themselves. He who counts himself perfect, must deceive himself by calling sin infirmity (1Jo 1:8); at the same time, each must aim at perfection, to be a Christian at all (Mt 5:48).
forgetting those things … behind–Looking back is sure to end in going back (Lu 9:62): So Lot’s wife (Lu 17:32). If in stemming a current we cease pulling the oar against it, we are carried back. God’s word to us is as it was to Israel, “Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward” (Ex 14:15). The Bible is our landmark to show us whether we are progressing or retrograding.
reaching forth–with hand and foot, like a runner in a race, and the body bent forward. The Christian is always humbled by the contrast between what he is and what he desires to be. The eye reaches before and draws on the hand, the hand reaches before and draws on the foot [Bengel].
unto–towards (Heb 6:1).
14. high calling–literally, “the calling that is above” (Ga 4:26; Col 3:1): “the heavenly calling” (Heb 3:1). “The prize” is “the crown of righteousness” (1Co 9:24; 2Ti 4:8). Re 2:10, “crown of life.” 1Pe 5:4, “a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” “The high,” or “heavenly calling,” is not restricted, as Alford thinks, to Paul’s own calling as an apostle by the summons of God from heaven; but the common calling of all Christians to salvation in Christ, which coming from heaven invites us to heaven, whither accordingly our minds ought to be uplifted.
15. therefore–resuming Php 3:3. “As many of us then, as are perfect,” that is, full grown (no longer “babes”) in the Christian life (Php 3:3, “worshipping God in the Spirit, and having no confidence in the flesh”), 1Co 2:6, fully established in things of God. Here, by “perfect,” he means one fully fit for running [Bengel]; knowing and complying with the laws of the course (2Ti 2:5). Though “perfect” in this sense, he was not yet “made perfect” (Greek) in the sense intended in Php 3:12, namely, “crowned with complete victory,” and having attained absolute perfection.
thus minded–having the mind which he had described, Php 3:7-14.
otherwise minded–having too high an opinion of yourselves as to your attainment of Christian perfection. “He who thinks that he has attained everything, hath nothing” [Chrysostom]. Probably, too, he refers to those who were tempted to think to attain to perfection by the law (Ga 3:3): who needed the warning (Php 3:3), “Beware of the concision,” though on account of their former piety, Paul hopes confidently (as in Ga 5:10) that God will reveal the path of right-mindedness to them. Paul taught externally God “reveals” the truth internally by His Spirit (Mt 11:25; 16:17; 1Co 3:6).
unto you–who sincerely strive to do God’s will (Joh 7:17; Eph 1:17).
16. The expectation of a new revelation is not to make you less careful in walking according to whatever degree of knowledge of divine things and perfection you have already attained. God makes further revelations to those who walk up to the revelations they already have (Ho 6:3).
rule, let us mind the same thing–omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Perhaps partly inserted from Ga 6:16, and Php 2:2. Translate then, “Whereunto we have attained, let us walk on (a military term, march in order) in the same (the measure of knowledge already attained).”
17. followers–Greek, “imitators together.”
of me–as I am an imitator of Christ (1Co 11:1): Imitate me no farther than as I imitate Christ. Or as Bengel “My fellow imitators of God” or “Christ”; “imitators of Christ together with me” (see on Php 2:22; Eph 5:1).
which walk so as ye have us for an ensample–In English Version of the former clause, the translation of this clause is, “those who are walking so as ye have an example in us.” But in Bengel’s translation, “inasmuch as,” or “since,” instead of “as.”
18. many walk–in such a manner. Follow not evildoers, because they are “many” (Ex 23:2). Their numbers are rather a presumption against their being Christ’s “little flock” (Lu 12:32).
often–There is need of constant warning.
weeping–(Ro 9:2). A hard tone in speaking of the inconsistencies of professors is the very opposite of Paul’s spirit, and David’s (Ps 119:136), and Jeremiah’s (Jer 13:17). The Lord and His apostles, at the same time, speak more strongly against empty professors (as the Pharisees), than against open scoffers.
enemies of the cross of Christ–in their practice, not in doctrine (Ga 6:14; Heb 6:6; 10:29).
19. destruction–everlasting at Christ’s coming. Php 1:28, “perdition”; the opposite word is “Saviour” (Php 3:20).
whose god is their belly–(Ro 16:18); hereafter to be destroyed by God (1Co 6:13). In contrast to our “body” (Php 3:21), which our God, the Lord Jesus, shall “fashion like unto His glorious body.” Their belly is now pampered, our body now wasted; then the respective states of both shall be reversed.
glory is in their shame–As “glory” is often used in the Old Testament for God (Ps 106:20), so here it answers to “whose God,” in the parallel clause; and “shame” is the Old Testament term contemptuously given to an idol (Jud 6:32, Margin). Ho 4:7 seems to be referred to by Paul (compare Ro 1:32). There seems no allusion to circumcision, as no longer glorious, but a shame to them (Php 3:2). The reference of the immediate context is to sensuality, and carnality in general.
mind earthly things–(Ro 8:5). In contrast to Php 3:20; Col 3:2.
20. our conversation–rather, “our state” or “country”; our citizenship: our life as citizens. We are but pilgrims on earth; how then should we “mind earthly things?” (Php 3:19; Heb 11:9, 10, 13-16). Roman citizenship was then highly prized; how much more should the heavenly citizenship (Ac 22:28; compare Lu 10:20)?
is–Greek, “has its existence.”
in heaven–Greek, “in the heavens.”
look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ–“We wait for (so the same Greek is translated, Ro 8:19) the Lord Jesus as a (that is, in the capacity of a) Saviour” (Heb 9:28). That He is “the Lord,” now exalted above every name, assures our expectation (Php 2:9-11). Our High Priest is gone up into the Holy of Holies not made with hands, there to atone for us; and as the Israelites stood outside the tabernacle, expecting Aaron’s return (compare Lu 1:21), so must we look unto the heavens expecting Christ thence.
21. Greek, “Who shall transfigure the body of our humiliation (namely, in which our humiliation has place, 2Co 4:10; Eph 2:19; 2Ti 2:12), that it may be conformed unto the body of His glory (namely, in which His glory is manifested), according to the effectual working whereby,” &c. Not only shall He come as our “Saviour,” but also as our Glorifier.
even–not only to make the body like His own, but “to subdue all things,” even death itself, as well as Satan and sin. He gave a sample of the coming transfiguration on the mount (Mt 17:1, &c.). Not a change of identity, but of fashion or form (Ps 17:15; 1Co 15:51). Our spiritual resurrection now is the pledge of our bodily resurrection to glory hereafter (Php 3:20; Ro 8:11). As Christ’s glorified body was essentially identical with His body of humiliation; so our resurrection bodies as believers, since they shall be like His, shall be identical essentially with our present bodies, and yet “spiritual bodies” (1Co 15:42-44). Our “hope” is, that Christ, by His rising from the dead, hath obtained the power, and is become the pattern, of our resurrection (Mic 2:13).
Php 4:1-23. Exhortations: Thanks for the Supply from Philippi: Greeting; and Closing Benediction.
1. “Wherefore”; since we have such a glorious hope (Php 3:20, 21).
dearly beloved–repeated again at the close of the verse, implying that his great love to them should be a motive to their obedience.
longed for–“yearned after” in your absence (Php 1:8).
crown–in the day of the Lord (Php 2:16; 1Th 2:19).
so–as I have admonished you.
stand fast–(Php 1:27).
2. Euodia and Syntyche were two women who seem to have been at variance; probably deaconesses of the church. He repeats, “I beseech,” as if he would admonish each separately, and with the utmost impartiality.
in the Lord–the true element of Christian union; for those “in the Lord” by faith to be at variance, is an utter inconsistency.
3. And–Greek, “Yea.”
true yoke-fellow–yoked with me in the same Gospel yoke (Mt 11:29, 30; compare 1Ti 5:17, 18). Either Timothy, Silas (Ac 15:40; 16:19, at Philippi), or the chief bishop of Philippi. Or else the Greek, “Sunzugus,” or “Synzygus,” is a proper name: “Who art truly, as thy name means, a yoke-fellow.” Certainly not Paul’s wife, as 1Co 9:5 implies he had none.
help those women–rather, as Greek, “help them,” namely, Euodia and Syntyche. “Co-operate with them” [Birks]; or as Alford, “Help in the work of their reconciliation.”
which laboured with me–“inasmuch as they labored with me.” At Philippi, women were the first hearers of the Gospel, and Lydia the first convert. It is a coincidence which marks genuineness, that in this Epistle alone, special instructions are given to women who labored with Paul in the Gospel. In selecting the first teachers, those first converted would naturally be fixed on. Euodia and Syntyche were doubtless two of “the women who resorted to the riverside, where prayer was wont to be made” (Ac 16:13), and being early converted, would naturally take an active part in teaching other women called at a later period; of course not in public preaching, but in a less prominent sphere (1Ti 2:11, 12).
Clement–bishop of Rome shortly after the death of Peter and Paul. His Epistle from the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth is extant. It makes no mention of the supremacy of the See of Peter. He was the most eminent of the apostolical fathers. Alford thinks that the Clement here was a Philippian, and not necessarily Clement, bishop of Rome. But Origen [Commentary, John 1:29] identifies the Clement here with the bishop of Rome.
in the book of life–the register-book of those whose “citizenship is in heaven” (Lu 10:20; Php 3:20). Anciently, free cities had a roll book containing the names of all those having the right of citizenship (compare Ex 32:32; Ps 69:28; Eze 13:9; Da 12:1; Re 20:12; 21:27).
4. (Isa 61:10.)
alway–even amidst the afflictions now distressing you (Php 1:28-30).
again–as he had already said, “Rejoice” (Php 3:1). Joy is the predominant feature of the Epistle.
I say–Greek, rather, “I will say.”
5. moderation–from a Greek root, “to yield,” whence yieldingness [Trench]; or from a root, “it is fitting,” whence “reasonableness of dealing” [Alford], that considerateness for others, not urging one’s own rights to the uttermost, but waiving a part, and thereby rectifying the injustices of justice. The archetype of this grace is God, who presses not the strictness of His law against us as we deserve (Ps 130:3, 4); though having exacted the fullest payment for us from our Divine Surety. There are included in “moderation,” candor and kindliness. Joy in the Lord raises us above rigorism towards others (Php 4:5), and carefulness (Php 4:6) as to one’s own affairs. Sadness produces morose harshness towards others, and a troublesome spirit in ourselves.
Let … be known–that is, in your conduct to others, let nothing inconsistent with “moderation” be seen. Not a precept to make a display of moderation. Let this grace “be known” to men in acts; let “your requests be made to God” in word (Php 4:6).
unto all men–even to the “perverse” (Php 2:15), that so ye may win them. Exercise “forbearance” even to your persecutors. None is so ungracious as not to be kindly to someone, from some motive or another, on some occasion; the believer is to be so “unto all men” at all times.
The Lord is at hand–The Lord’s coming again speedily is the grand motive to every Christian grace (Jas 5:8, 9). Harshness to others (the opposite of “moderation”) would be taking into our own hands prematurely the prerogatives of judging, which belongs to the Lord alone (1Co 4:5); and so provoking God to judge us by the strict letter of the law (Jas 2:12, 13).
6. Translate, “Be anxious about nothing.” Care and prayer are as mutually opposed as fire and water [Bengel].
by prayer and supplication–Greek, “by the prayer and the supplication” appropriate to each case [Alford]. Prayer for blessings; and the general term. Supplication, to avert ills; a special term, suppliant entreaty (see on Eph 6:18).
thanksgiving–for every event, prosperity and affliction alike (1Th 5:18; Jas 5:13). The Philippians might remember Paul’s example at Philippi when in the innermost prison (Ac 16:25). Thanksgiving gives effect to prayer (2Ch 20:21), and frees from anxious carefulness by making all God’s dealings matter for praise, not merely for resignation, much less murmuring. “Peace” is the companion of “thanksgiving” (Php 4:7; Col 3:15).
let your requests be made known unto God–with generous, filial, unreserved confidence; not keeping aught back, as too great, or else too small, to bring before God, though you might feel so as to your fellow men. So Jacob, when fearing Esau (Ge 32:9-12); Hezekiah fearing Sennacherib (2Ki 19:14; Ps 37:5).
7. And–The inseparable consequence of thus laying everything before God in “prayer with thanksgiving.”
peace–the dispeller of “anxious care” (Php 4:6).
of God–coming from God, and resting in God (Joh 14:27; 16:33; Col 3:15).
passeth–surpasseth, or exceedeth, all man’s notional powers of understanding its full blessedness (1Co 2:9, 10; Eph 3:20; compare Pr 3:17).
shall keep–rather, “shall guard”; shall keep as a well-garrisoned stronghold (Isa 26:1, 3). The same Greek verb is used in 1Pe 1:5. There shall be peace secure within, whatever outward troubles may besiege.
hearts and minds–rather, “hearts (the seat of the thoughts) and thoughts” or purposes.
through–rather as Greek, “in Christ Jesus.” It is in Christ that we are “kept” or “guarded” secure.
8. Summary of all his exhortations as to relative duties, whether as children or parents, husbands or wives, friends, neighbors, men in the intercourse of the world, &c.
true–sincere, in words.
honest–Old English for “seemly,” namely, in action; literally, grave, dignified.
pure–“chaste,” in relation to ourselves.
lovely–lovable (compare Mr 10:21; Lu 7:4, 5).
of good report–referring to the absent (Php 1:27); as “lovely” refers to what is lovable face to face.
if there be any virtue–“whatever virtue there is” [Alford]. “Virtue,” the standing word in heathen ethics, is found once only in Paul’s Epistles, and once in Peter’s (2Pe 1:5); and this in uses different from those in heathen authors. It is a term rather earthly and human, as compared with the names of the spiritual graces which Christianity imparts; hence the rarity of its occurrence in the New Testament. Piety and true morality are inseparable. Piety is love with its face towards God; morality is love with its face towards man. Despise not anything that is good in itself; only let it keep its due place.
praise–whatever is praiseworthy; not that Christians should make man’s praise their aim (compare Joh 12:43); but they should live so as to deserve men’s praise.
think on–have a continual regard to, so as to “do” these things (Php 4:9) whenever the occasion arises.
9. both–rather, “The things also which ye have learned … these practice”; the things which besides recommending them in words, have been also recommended by my example, carry into practice.
heard–though ye have not yet sufficiently “received” them.
seen–though ye have not as yet sufficiently “learned” them [Bengel].
and–“and then,” as the necessary result (Php 4:7). Not only “the peace of God,” but “the God of peace” Himself “shall be with you.”
10. But–transitional conjunction. But “now” to pass to another subject.
in the Lord–He views everything with reference to Christ.
at the last–“at last”; implying he was expecting their gift, not from a selfish view, but as a “fruit” of their faith, and to “abound” to their account (Php 4:11, 17). Though long in coming, owing to Epaphroditus’ sickness and other delays, he does not imply their gift was too late.
your care … hath flourished again–Greek, “Ye have flourished again (revived, as trees sprouting forth again in spring) in your care for me.”
wherein ye were also careful–in respect to which (revival, namely, the sending of a supply to me) “ye were also (all along) careful, but ye lacked opportunity”; whether from want of means or want of a messenger. Your “lack of service” (Php 2:30), was owing to your having “lacked opportunity.”
11. I have learned–The I in Greek is emphatical. I leave it to others if they will, to be discontented. I, for my part, have learned, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and the dealings of Providence (Heb 5:8), to be content in every state.
content–The Greek, literally expresses “independent of others, and having sufficiency in one’s self.” But Christianity has raised the term above the haughty self-sufficiency of the heathen Stoic to the contentment of the Christian, whose sufficiency is not in self, but in God (2Co 3:5; 1Ti 6:6, 8; Heb 13:5; compare Jer 2:36; 45:5).
12. abased–in low circumstances (2Co 4:8; 6:9, 10).
everywhere–rather, “in each, and in all things” [Alford].
instructed–in the secret. Literally, “initiated” in a secret teaching, which is a mystery unknown to the world.
13. I can do all things–Greek, “I have strength for all things”; not merely “how to be abased and how to abound.” After special instances he declares his universal power–how triumphantly, yet how humbly! [Meyer].
through Christ which strengtheneth me–The oldest manuscripts omit “Christ”; then translate, “In Him who giveth me power,” that is, by virtue of my living union and identification with Him, who is my strength (Ga 2:20). Compare 1Ti 1:12, whence probably, “Christ” was inserted here by transcribers.
14. He here guards against their thinking from what he has just said, that he makes light of their bounty.
ye did communicate with my affliction–that is, ye made yourselves sharers with me in my present affliction, namely, by sympathy; of which sympathy your contribution is the proof.
15. Now–“Moreover.” Arrange as Greek, “Ye also know (as well as I do myself).”
in the beginning of the gospel–dating from the Philippian Christian era; at the first preaching of the Gospel at Philippi.
when I departed from Macedonia–(Ac 17:14). The Philippians had followed Paul with their bounty when he left Macedonia and came to Corinth. 2Co 11:8, 9 thus accords with the passage here, the dates assigned to the donation in both Epistles agreeing; namely, “in the beginning of the Gospel” here, and there, at the time of his first visit to Corinth [Paley, Horæ Paulinæ]. However, the supply meant here is not that which he received at Corinth, but the supply sent to him when “in Thessalonica, once and again” (Php 4:16), [Alford].
as concerning giving and receiving–In the account between us, “the giving” was all on your part; “the receiving” all on mine.
ye only–We are not to wait for others in a good work, saying, “I will do so, when others do it.” We must go forward, though alone.
16. even in Thessalonica–“even” as early as when I had got no further than Thessalonica, ye sent me supplies for my necessities more than once.
17. a gift–Greek, “the gift.” Translate, “It is not that I seek after the gift, but I do seek after the fruit that aboundeth to your account”; what I do seek is your spiritual good, in the abounding of fruits of your faith which shall be put down to your account, against the day of reward (Heb 6:10).
18. But–Though “the gift” is not what I chiefly “seek after” (Php 4:17), yet I am grateful for the gift, and hereby acknowledge it as ample for all my needs. Translate, “I have all” that I want, “and more than enough.” Literally, as English Version, “I abound” over and above my needs.
I am full–Greek, “I am filled full.”
the odour of a sweet smell–(See on Eph 5:2). The figure is drawn from the sweet-smelling incense which was burnt along with the sacrifices; their gift being in faith was not so much to Paul, as to God (Mt 25:40), before whom it “came up for a memorial” (Ac 10:4), sweet-smelling in God’s presence (Ge 8:21; Re 8:3, 4).
sacrifice acceptable–(Heb 13:16).
19. my–Paul calls God here “my God,” to imply that God would reward their bounty to His servant, by “fully supplying” (translate so, literally, fill to the full) their every “need” (2Co 9:8), even as they had “fully” supplied his “need” (Php 4:16, 18). My Master will fully repay you; I cannot. The Philippians invested their bounty well since it got them such a glorious return.
according to his riches–The measure of His supply to you will be the immeasurable “riches of His grace” (Eph 1:7).
in glory–These words belong to the whole sentence. “Glory” is the element in which His rich grace operates; and it will be the element IN which He will “supply fully all your need.”
by Christ Jesus–by virtue of your being “IN” (so Greek, not “by”) Christ Jesus, the Giver and Mediator of all spiritual blessings.
20. God and our Father–Translate, “Unto our God and Father.”
be glory–rather as the Greek, “be the glory.” Not to us, but to Him be “the glory” alike of your gift, and of His gracious recompense to you.
21. Salute every saint–individually.
The brethren which are with me–Perhaps Jewish believers are meant (Ac 28:21). I think Php 2:20 precludes our thinking of “closer friends,” “colleagues in the ministry” [Alford]; he had only one close friend with him, namely, Timothy.
22. they that are of Cæsar’s household–the slaves and dependents of Nero who had been probably converted through Paul’s teaching while he was a prisoner in the Prætorian barrack attached to the palace. Philippi was a Roman “colony,” hence there might arise a tie between the citizens of the mother city and those of the colony; especially between those of both cities who were Christians, converted as many of them were by the same apostle, and under like circumstances, he having been imprisoned at Philippi, as he now is at Rome.
23. (Ga 6:18).
be with you all. Amen–The oldest manuscripts read, “Be with your spirit,” and omit “Amen.”