The Pulpit Commentaries
If there be therefore, any consolation in Christ. Mark the fervor of the apostle. ὅρα πῶς λιπαρῶς πῶς σφοδρῶς πῶς μετὰ συμπαωείας πολλῆς (Chrysostom). He appeals to the Christian experience of the Philippians; if these experiences are real, as they are; facts verified in the believer's consciousness; not talk, not mere forms of speech,—then fulfill ye my joy. Consolation; perhaps "exhortation" is the more suitable rendering in this place: if the presence of Christ, if communion with Christ, hath power to stir the heart, to stimulate the emotions, to constrain the will. If any comfort of love; comfort springing out of love. Love is the subjective result of the presence of Christ as an objective reality, and with love comes comfort. If any fellowship of the Spirit. If the indwelling of the Holy Ghost be true, a felt reality in the Christian life. Not, as some understand, "If there be any fellowship of spirit among themselves." If any bowels and mercies. Bowels (see note on Philippians 1:8), the seat of the feelings of compassion; mercies, those feelings themselves. The pronoun "any,'' according to the reading of all the best manuscripts, is masculine singular; the word "bowels," being neuter plural εἴ τις σπλάγχνα If St. Paul really wrote thus, we must suppose that the warmth of his feelings suddenly led him to substitute σπλάγχνα for some other word originally in his thoughts. "Under any circumstances," says Bishop Lightfoot, "the reading εἴ τις is a valuable testimony to the scrupulous fidelity of the early transcribers, who copied the text as they found it, even when it contained readings so manifestly difficult."
Fulfil ye my joy. St. Paul has already (Philippians 1:4) spoken of his joy derived from the life and conduct of the Philippian Christians; now he asks them to complete his joy by living in unity. There were disagreements among them (Philippians 4:2). That ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. The apostle's earnestness leads him to dwell on the idea of unify, clothing the one thought again and again in different words. βαβαί says Chrysostom, ποσάκις τὸ αὐτὸ λέγει ἀπὸ διαθέσεως πολλῆς. "Having the same love:" loving and beloved; ὁμοίως καὶ φιλεῖν καὶ φιλεῖσθαι (Chrysostom). "Being of one accord σύμψυχοι," Bishop Ellicott renders more literally, "With accordant souls minding the one thing."
Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory. Not "strife," but "faction," as R.V. The word is the same as that rendered "contention" in Philippians 1:10, where see note. Party spirit is one of the greatest dangers in running the Christian race. Love is the characteristic Christian grace; party spirit and vain-glory too often lead professing Christians to break the law of love. But in lowiness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. In your lowliness; the article seems to have a possessive sense, the lowliness characteristic of Christians, which you as Christians possess. ταπεινοφροσύνη an exclusively New Testament word: the grace was new, and the word was new. The adjective ταπεινός in classical Greek is used as a term of reproach—abject, mean. The life of Christ ("I am meek and lowly in heart") and the teaching of Christ ("Blessed are the poor in spirit") have raised lowliness to a new position, as one of the chief features in the true Christian character. Here St. Paul bids us, as a discipline of humility, to look at our own faults and at the good points in the character of others (comp. Romans 12:10).
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Translate, "looking," as R.V., not making one's own interest the one only object of life, but regarding also the interests, feelings, wishes, of others. Each man must in a measure look at his own things,—the καί implies that; but he must consider others if he is a Christian indeed.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; literally, according to the reading of the best manuscripts, mind this in you which was also (minded) in Christ Jesus. Many manuscripts take the words "every man" ( ἕκαστοι) of Philippians 2:4 with Philippians 2:5 : "All of you mind this." The words, "in Christ Jesus," show that the corresponding words, "in you," cannot mean "among you," but in yourselves, in your heart. The apostle refers us to the supreme example of unselfishness and humility, the Lord Jesus Christ. He bids us mind (comp. Romans 8:5) the things which the Lord Jesus minded, to love what he loved, to hate what he hated; the thoughts, desires, motives, of the Christian should be the thoughts, desires, motives, which filled the sacred heart of Jesus Christ our Lord. We must strive to imitate him, to reproduce his image, not only in the outward, but even in the inner life. Especially here we are biddcn to follow his unselfishness and humility.
Who, being in the form of God. The word rendered "being" ( ὑπάρχων) means, as R.V. in margin, being originally. It looks back to the time before the Incarnation, when the Word, the λόγος ἄσαρκος, was with God (comp. John 8:58; John 17:5, John 17:24). What does the word μορφή form, mean here? It occurs twice in this passage—Philippians 2:6, "form of God;" and Philippians 2:7, "form of a servant;" it is contrasted with σχῆμα fashion, in Philippians 2:8. In the Aristotelian philosophy (vide ' De Anima,' 2.1, 2) μορφή. is used almost in the sense of εἶδος, or τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι as that which makes a thing to be what it is, the sum of its essential attributes: it is the form, as the expression of those essential attributes, the permanent, constant form; not the fleeting, outward σχῆμα, or fashion. St. Paul seems to make a somewhat similar distinction between the two words. Thus in Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 2:1-17 :18; Philippians 2:10, μορφή (or its derivatives) is used of the deep inner change of heart, the change which is described in Holy Scripture as a new creation; while σχῆμα is used of the changeful fashion of the world and agreement with it (1 Corinthians 7:31; Romans 12:2). Then, when St. Paul tells us that Christ Jesus, being first in the form of God, took the form of a servant, the meaning must be that he possessed originally the essential attributes of Deity, and assumed in addition the essential attributes of humanity. He was perfect God; he became perfect (comp. Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:4). For a fuller discussion of the meanings of μορφή and σχῆμα, see Bishop Lightfoot's detached note, and Archbishop Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament,' sect. 70. Thought it not robbery to be equal with God; R.V. "counted it not a prize [margin, 'a thing to be grasped'] to be on an equality with God." These two renderings represent two conflicting interpretations of this difficult passage. Do the words mean that Christ asserted his cssential Godhead ("thought it not robbery to be equal with God," as A.V.), or that he did not cling to the glory of the Divine majesty ("counted it not a prize," as R.V.)? Both statements are true in fact. The grammatical form of the word ἁρπαγμός, which properly implies an action or process, favors the first view, which seems to be adopted by most of the ancient versions and by most of the Latin Fathers. On the other hand, the form of the word does not exclude the passive interpretation; many words of the same termination have a passive meaning, and ἁρπαγμός itself is used in the sense of ἅρπαγμα by Eusebius, Cyril of Alexandria, and a writer in the 'Catena Possini' on Mark 10:42 (the three passages are quoted by Bishop Lightfoot, in loco). The Greek Fathers (as Chrysostom ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ υἱὸς οὐκ ἐφοβήθη καταβῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀξιώματος, etc.) generally adopt this interpretation. And the context seems to require it. The aorist ἡγήσατο points to an act, the act of abnegation; not to a state, the continued assertion. The conjunction "but" ( ἀλλὰ) implies that the two sentences are opposed to one another. He did not grasp, but, on the contrary, he emptied him-sell The first interpretation involves the tacit insertion of "nevertheless;" he asserted his equality, but nevertheless, etc. And the whole stress is laid on the Lord's humility and unselfishness. It is true that this second interpretation does not so distinctly assert the divinity of our Lord, already sufficiently asserted in the first clause, "being in the form of God." But it implies it. Not to grasp at equality with God would not be an instance of humility, but merely the absence of mad impiety, in one who was not himself Divine. On the whole, then, we prefer the second interpretation. Though he was kern the beginning in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, a prize to be tenaciously retained. Not so good is the view of Meyer and others: "Jesus Christ, when he found himself in the heavenly mode of existence of Divine glory, did not permit himself the thought of using his equality with God for the purpose of seizing possessions and honor for himself on earth." The R.V. rendering of the last words of the clause," to be on an equality," is nearer to the Greek and better than the A.V., "to be equal with God." Christ was equal with God (John 5:18; John 10:30). He did not cling to the outward manifestation of that equality. The adverbial form ἴσα implies the state or mode of equality rather than the equality itself.
But made himself of no reputation; rather, as R.V., but emptied himself; not, he indeed, of the Godhead, which could not be, but of its manifestation, its glory. This he did once for all, as the aorist implies, at the Incarnation. The word "emptied' involves a previous fullness, "a precedent plenitude" (Pearson on the Creed, Philippians 2:25). The Divine majesty of which he emptied himself was his own, his own rightful prerogative; and his humiliation was his own voluntary act—he emptied himself. "He used his equality with God as an opportunity, not for self-exaltation, but for sell abasement" (Alford). "Manebat plenus, John 1:14, et tureen perinde se gessit ac si esset" (Bengel). And took upon him the form of a servant; rather, as R.V., taking the form. The two clauses refer to the same act of self-humiliation regarded from its two sides. He emptied himself of his glory, taking at the same time the form ( μορφήν as in John 1:6, the essential attributes) of a servant, literally, of a slave. Observe, he was originally ( ὑπάρχων) in the form of God; he took ( λαβών) the form of a slave. The Godhead was his by right, the manhood by his own voluntary act: both are equally real; he is perfect died and perfect Man. Isaiah prophesied of Christ (Isaiah 49:1-26 and Isaiah 52:1-15.; comp. Acts 2:13, in the Greek or R.V.) as the Servant of Jehovah; he came to do the Father's will, submitting his own will in all things: "Not as I will, but as thou wilt". And was made in the likeness of men; translate, becoming, or, as R.V., being made (aorist participle). This clause is another description of the one act of the Incarnation he was God, he became man. Form ( μορφή) asserts the reality of our Lord's human nature. Likeness ( ὁμοίωμα) refers only to external appearance: this word, of course, does not imply that our Lord was not truly man, but, as Chrysostom says ('Hom.,' 8.247), he was more. than man; "We are soul and body, but he is God and soul and body." The likeness of men; because Christ is the Representative of humanity: he took upon him, not a human person, but human nature. He is one person in two natures. As Bishop Lightfoot says, "Christ, as the second Adam, represents, not the individual man, bat the human race."
And being found in fashion as a man. He humbled himself in the Incarnation; but this was not all. The apostle has hitherto spoken of our Lord's Godhead which he had from the beginning, and of his assumption of our human nature. He now speaks of him as he appeared in the sight of men. The aorist participle, "being found ( εὑρεθείς)," refers to the time of his earthly life when he appeared as a man among men. Fashion ( σχῆμα), as opposed to form ( μορφή), implies the outward and transitory. In outward appearance he was as a man; he was more, for he was God. He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death; translate, as R.V., obedient. The participle implies that the supreme act of self-humiliation consisted in the Lord's voluntary submission to death. the obedience of his perfect life extended even unto death. "He taketh away [literally, 'beareth,' αἴρει] the sin of the world;" "The wages of sin is death;" therefore he suffered death for the sin which, himself sinless, he vouchsafed to bear. Here we may remark in passing that this connection of death with sin must have made death all the more awful to our sinless Lord. Even the death of the cross. No ordinary death, but of all forms of death the most torturing, the most full of shame—a death reserved by the Romans for slaves, a death accursed in the eyes of the Jews (Deuteronomy 21:23).
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him. The exaltation is the reward of the humiliation: "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Better, as R.V., highly exalted. The aorist ( ὑπερύψωσεν) refers to the historical facts of the Resurrection and Ascension. And given him a Name which is above every name; read and translate, as R.V., and gave unto him the Name. The two aorist verbs, "highly exalted" and "freely gave" ( ἐχαρίσατο), refer to the time of our Lord's resurrection and ascension. He voluntarily assumed a subordinate position; God the Father exalted him. We must read, with the best manuscripts, the Name. This seems to mean, not the name Jesus, which was given him at his circumcision, in accordance with the angel's message; but the name Lord or Jehovah (comp. Philippians 2:11), which was indeed his before his incarnation, but was given (comp. Matthew 28:18, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth") to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, God and Man in one Person. Or more probably, perhaps, the word "Name" is used here, as so often in the Hebrew Scriptures, for the majesty, glory, dignity, of the Godhead. Compare the oft-repeated words of the psahnist, "Praise the Name of the Lord." So Gesenius, in his Hebrew lexicon on the word M#$' he explains the Name of the Lord as (b) Jehovah as being called on and praised by men; and (c) the Deity as being present with mortals (comp. Ephesians 1:21; Hebrews 1:4).
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow; translate, in the name, not at (comp. Isaiah 45:23, quoted in Romans 14:10, Romans 14:11). The words may mean, either that all prayer must be offered to God in the name of Jesus, through his mediation; or that all creation must offer prayer to him. Both alternatives are true, and perhaps both are covered by the words; but the second seems to be principally intended (comp. Psalms 63:4, "I will lift up my hands in thy Name." Comp. also (in the Greek) Psalms 43:1-5 :9; Psalms 104:3; 1 Kings 8:44; also the common Septuagint phrase, ἐπικαλεῖσθαι ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου). Observe, the words are, not "the name Jesus," but "the name of Jesus;" the name, that is, which God freely gave to him (1 Kings 8:9), It is the name which is above every name, that is, the majesty, the glory of Jesus, which is to be the object of Christian worship. The end of the whole passage being the exaltation of Jesus, it seems more natural to understand this verse of worship paid to Jesus than of worship offered through him to God the Father. Observe also that the words (Isaiah 45:23) on which this passage is formed are the words of Jehovah: "Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." They could not be used without impiety of any but God. Of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. Perhaps the angels, the living, and the dead; or, more probably (comp. Revelation 5:13 and Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 1:22), all creation, animate and inanimate, is represented as uniting in the universal adoration.
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every tongue; all creatures endowed with the gift of speech. The word rendered "confess" is commonly associated with the idea of thanksgiving, as in Matthew 11:25, and generally in the Septuagint. Every tongue shall confess with thankful adoration that he who took upon him the form of a slave, is Lord of all. To the glory of God the Father. The glory of God the Father, from whom, as the original Source, the whole scheme of salvation proceeds, is the supreme and ultimate object of the Savior's incarnation.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence. St. Paul passes to exhortation grounded on the Lord's perfect example. "Ye obeyed" ( ὑπηκούσατε) answers to the γενόμενος ὑπήκοος of Philippians 2:8, and τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν corresponds with the Savior's exaltation described in Philippians 2:9-11. He encourages them by acknowledging their past obedience; he urges them to work, not for the sake of approving themselves to their earthly teacher, but to think of their unseen Lord, and to realize his presence all the more in St. Paul's absence. Work out your own salvation. Complete it; God has begun the work; carry it out unto the end. Comp. the same word in Ephesians 6:13, "having done all." Christ's work of atonement is finished: work from the cross: carry out the great work of sanctification by the help of the Holy Spirit. Your own: it is each man's own work; no human friend, no pastor, not even an apostle, can work it for him. With fear and trembling. "Servi esse debetis exemplo Christi" (Bengel). Have an eager, trembling anxiety to obey God in all things, considering the tremendous sacrifice of Christ, the unspeakable depth and tenderness of his love, the immense importance of a present salvation from sin, the momentous preciousness of a future salvation from death.
For it is God which worketh in you. "Prmsens vobis," says Bengel, "etiam absente me." Worketh ( ἐνεργῶν); not the same word as "work out" ( κατεργάζεσθε) in Philippians 2:12; acts powerfully, with energy. In you; not lnerely among you, but in the heart of each individual believer. Both to will and to do; translate, with R.V., to work; the same word as before, ἐνεργεῖν. "Nos ergo volumus, sed Deus in nobis operatur et velle: nos ergo operamur, sed Deus in nobis operatur ct operari". The grace of God is alleged as a motive for earnest Christian work. The doctrines of grace and free-will are not contradictory: they may seem so to our limited understanding; but in truth they complete and snpplement one another. St. Paul does not attempt to solve the problem in theory; he bids us solve it in the life of faith. Of his good pleasure ( εὐδοκίας). As the glory of God is the ultimate end (Philippians 2:11), so the good will of God is the first cause of our salwttiou: "God will have all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4.).
Do all things without murmurings and disputings. Obedience must be willing and cheerful. The word rendered "murmurings" ( γογγυσμός) is that constantly used in the Septuagint of the murmurings of the Israelites during their wanderings. διαλογισμοί may mean, as here rendered, "dis-putings,'' or more probably, in accordance with the New Testament use of the word, questionings, doubtings. Submission to God's will must be inward as well as outward.
That ye may be blameless and harmless; read, with the best manuscripts, that ye may become; an exhortation to continued progress. "Harmless;" rather, pure, simple; literally, unmixed. The sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation; rather, children, without the article. "The slave may murmur," says Chrysostom, "but what son will murmur, who, while working for his father, works also for himself?" Substitute "blameless" for "without rebuke," and "generation" for "nation." There is a close resemblance bore, especially in the Greek, and an evident reference to Deuteronomy 32:5. The Philippians are exhorted to exhibit in their lives a contrast to the behaviour of the rebellious Israelites. Among whom ye shine as lights in the world; not "shine," but, as R.V., are seen or appear. Lights; literally, luminaries. The word is used in Genesis 1:14, Genesis 1:16 of the sun and moon. Comp. Ecclesiasticus 43:7 and Wis. 13:2, "where φεστῆρες ὀυρανοῦ is exactly equivalent to φωστῆρες ἐν κοσμῷ here, the κοσμός of this place being the material world, the firmament; not the ethical world, which has been already expressed by the crooked and perverse nation" (Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament').
Holding forth the word of life. Holding out to others. Meyer translates "possessing," and others, as Bengel, "holding fast. This clause should be taken with the first clause of Philippians 2:15, "That ye may be blameless," etc., he the words, "among whom," etc.. he being parenthetical. That I may rejoice in the day of Christ; literally, for matter of boasting to me against the day of Christ. He boasts or glories in their salvation. "The day of Christ," says Bishop Lightfoot, "is a phrase peculiar to this Epistle, more commonly it is ' the day of the Lord.'" That I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain; translate, did not. The verbs me aorist. He looks back upon his finished course (comp. Galatians 2:2).
Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith. He again compares the advantages of life and death, as in Philippians 1:20-25. In the last verse he was speaking of the possibility of looking back from the day of Christ upon a life of prolonged labor. Here he supposes the other alternative. The form of the sentence, the particles used ( λειτουργία), and the indicative verb, all imply that the apostle looked forward to a martyr's death as the probable end of his life of warfare: Yea. he if I am even offered, as seems likely, and as I expect. Offered; the word means "poured out" as a libation or drink offering. St. Paul regards his blood shed in martyrdom as a libation poured forth in willing sacrifice. See 2 Timothy 4:6, ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι, "I am already being poured forth: the libation is commencing, the time of my departure is at hand." Compare also the similar words of Ignatius, 'Rom.' 2, and the words of the dying Seneca (Tacitus, 'Annals,' 15.64). Some think that the apostle, writing, as he does, to converted heathen, draws his metaphor from heathen sacrifices: in those sacrifices the libation was a much more important element than the drink offering in the Mosaic rites; and it was poured upon the sacrifice, whereas the drink offering seems to have been poured around the altar, not upon it. On the other hand, the preposition ἐπὶ is constantly used of the Jewish drink offering, and does not necessarily mean upon, but only "in addition to," or "at;" the drink offering being an accompaniment to the sacrifice. Service ( λειτουργία). This important word denotes in classical Greek
In ecclesiastical Greek it stands for the order of the Holy Communion, the ancient liturgies; it is sometimes used loosely for any set form of public prayer. The analogy of Romans 12:1, Where St. Paul exhorts Christians to present their bodies a living sacrifice, suggests that here the Philippians are regarded as priests, offering the sacrifice of their faith, their hearts, themselves, in the ministrations of the spiritual priesthood; St. Paul's blood being represented as the accompanying drink offering. Others, comparing Romans 15:16, where also sacrificial words are used, regard St. Paul himself as the ministering priest, and understand the metaphor of a priest slain at the altar, his blood being shed while he is offering the sacrifice of their faith. I joy, and rejoice with you all. Meyer, Bengel, and others prefer "congratulate" as the rendering of συγχαίρω "I rejoice with you."
For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me; or, as R.V., in the manner. Their joy is to be like his, to mingle with his joy. The second clause may be rendered, as in Philippians 2:17, "and congratulate me."
But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you; read and translate, with R.V., I hope in the Lord Jesus. He had urged them, in Philippians 2:12, not to depend too much on human teachers; but "much more in nay absence work out your own salvation;" still he will give them what help he can—he will send Timotheus. In the Lord Jesus (comp. Philippians 1:8, Philippians 1:14; Philippians 3:1-21 :24). Bishop Lightfoot has a beautiful note here: "The Christian is a part of Christ, a member of his body. His every thought and word and deed proceed from Christ, as the center of volition. Thus he loves in the Lord, he hopes in the Lord, he boasts in the Lord, he labors in the Lord. He has one guiding principle in acting and forbearing to act, 'only in the Lord' (1 Corinthians 7:39)."That I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. Timothy is both to assist the Philippians by his presence and counsel, and to comfort St. Paul by bringing back tidings of their Christian life.
For I have no man like-minded; literally, of equal soul (comp. Deuteronomy 13:6, "Thy friend, which is as thine own soul"). "Timotheus,' says Bengel, "is a second Paul: where he is, there you should think that I myself am present." Others, not so well, explain the words, "I have no one like Timothy." The expression must, of course, be limited to those present at the moment, and available for the mission: it cannot in-elude St. Luke. Who will naturally care for your state ( ὅστις); such as will care. Naturally; with a true, genuine affection. Timothy's love for St. Paul as his spiritual father will inspire him with genuine love for those who were so dear to St. Paul. Care is a strong word, μεριμνήσει, will be anxious (comp. Matthew 6:31).
For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. All of them, he says ( οἱ πάντες); Timothy is the one exception. He calls those about him brethren in Philippians 4:21; but, it seems, they were like St. Paul, not willing to spend and to be spent for the salvation of souls. It was a great sacrifice in one who so yearned for Christian sympathy to submit to the absence of the one true loving friend. St. Paul's spiritual isolation increases our wonder and admiration for the strain of holy joy which runs through this Epistle.
But ye know the proof of him. Ye recognize from your former experience (Acts 16:1-40.) his approved character. That, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel; translate, with R.V., that, as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the gospel. Served ἐδούλευσεν); as a slave. He was both a son and servant to St. Paul, and also a fellow-worker with St. Paul, both being slaves of God.
Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. Presently; rather, forthwith, as R.V. Dr. Farrar translates, "As soon as I get a glimpse." The oldest manuscripts here read ἀφίδω (remarkable for the aspirate) instead of ἀπίδω.
But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. Notice the variations of tone respecting his prospects of release. "I know" (Philippians 1:25), "I hope" (Philemon 1:22, in the Greek), "I trust" here. The apostle was subject, like all of us, to changing currents of thought, to the ebb and flow of spirits; but his trust was always in the Lord. "Behold," says Chrysostom, "how he makes all things depend upon God." His hope, in all probability, was fulfilled (see Titus 2:12).
Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus; translate, but I count it necessary. ἡγησάμην here and in Philippians 2:28 are epistolary aorists; they point, that is, to the time of reading the letter, not to that of writing it; and are therefore to be rendered by the English present. Epaphroditus is mentioned only in this Epistle. Epaphras is the contracted form, but the name is a common one, and there is no evidence of his identity with the Epaphras of Colossians and Philemon. He seems to have been the bearer of this Epistle. St. Paul felt that to come himself, or even to send Timothy, might possibly not be in his power; he thought it necessary, a matter of duty, to send Epaphroditus at once. My brother, and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier. Mark how the epithets rise one above another; they imply fellowship in religion, in work, in endurance. But your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. "Your" refers to both clauses; "your messenger, and (your) minister to my need." Epaphroditus had brought to St. Paul the contributions of the Philippians (Philippians 4:18). Some think that the word rendered "messenger" ( ἀπόστολος, literally "apostle") means that Epaphroditus was the apostle, that is, the bishop of the Philippian Church. It may be so (comp. Philippians 4:3, and note); but there is no proof of the establishment of any diocesan bishops, except St. James at Jerusalem, at so early a period. The word ἀπόστολος. both here and in 2 Corinthians 8:23 ( ἀπόσψολος ἐκκλησιῶν), is probably used in its first meaning in the sense of messenger, or delegate. The Greek word for minister, λειτουργός, seems to imply, like λειτουργία in Verse 30, that St. Paul regarded the alms of the Philippians as an offering to God, ministered by Epaphroditus. (But see Romans 13:6, also 2 Kings 4:43; 2 Kings 6:15, etc. in the Greek.)
For he longed after you all. The verb is strengthened by the preposition: "was eagerly longing." Perhaps it should be rendered. he "is longing;" like "I count it necessary," in Philippians 2:25. And was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. "Full of heaviness" ( ἀδημονῶν) is the word used of our blessed Lord in his agony (Matthew 26:37). Some derive it from ἄδημος, he away from home; others, more probably, from ἄδην, in the sense of loathing, weariness, satiety. The word implies heart-sickness, restless; unsatisfied weariness, produced by some overwhelming distress.
For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. St. Paul recognizes the thankfulness of Epaphroditus for the recovery of his health: he shares that thankfulness himself. Mark his human sympathies; he had a "desire to depart," but he rejoices in the recovery of his friend. St. Paul does not seem to have healed Epaphroditus. The power of working miracles, like that of foreseeing the future (comp. Philippians 1:25, and note), was not, it seems, continuous; both were exercised only in accordance with the revealed will of God and on occasions of especial moment.
I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful; rather, I send him (epistolary aorist, as Philippians 2:25), I send him with the letter. Perhaps "again" is better taken with the following clause; "that when ye see him, ye may again rejoice." Note St. Paul's ready sympathy with the Philippians: their restored joy will involve a diminution of his sorrow. Mark also the implied admission that sorrows must still remain, though spiritual joy brightens and relieves them. "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: In the Lord (see note on Philippians 2:19; comp. Romans 16:2). With joy on every account. Notice the constant repetition of the word "joy," characteristic of this Epistle.
Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death. The readings vary between "Christ" and "the Lord." One ancient manuscript reads simply, "for the work's sake." The work in this case consisted in ministering to the wants of St. Paul. Translate the following words, with R.V., he came nigh unto death. Not regarding his life; rather, as R.V., hazarding his life, which translation represents the best-supported reading, παραβολευσάμενος: the verb literally means "to lay down a stake, to gamble." Hence the word Parabolani, the name given to certain brotherhoods in the ancient Church who undertook the hazardous work of tending the sick and burying the dead in times of pestilence. The A.V. represents the reading παραβουλευσάμενος consulting amiss. To supply your lack of service toward me; rather, as R.V., that which was lacking in your service. The Philippians are not blamed. Epaphroditus did that which their absence prevented them from doing. His illness was caused by over-exertion in attending to the apostle's wants, or, it may be, by the hardships of the journey. υμῶν must be taken closely with ὑστέρημα, the lack of your presence. St. Paul, with exquisite delicacy, represents the absence of the Philippians as something lacking to his complete satisfaction, something which he missed, and which Epaphroditus supplied.
Exhortation to unity.
I. St. PAUL'S ERNEST DESIRE FOR THE UNITY OF THE. PHILIPPIAN CHURCH.
1. He desires that unity because he loves them. His happiness is bound up with their spiritual welfare. "Fulfil ye my joy," he says; he had learned to look upon the things of others; his deepest joy depended, not on his own personal comforts, but on the spiritual progress of those whom he loved. The remembrance of the Philippians (Philippians 1:3, Philippians 1:4), the thought of their Christian love, brought joy to his heart. He asks them now to fulfill his joy, to increase, to complete it; and that not by gifts (gifts they had sent again and again), but by living together in holy love, by keeping "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
2. He desires that unity because Christ desires it. He longed for the Philippians "in the bowels of Jesus Christ." His life was Christ, "Christ liveth in me," he said; therefore he loved with the love of Christ, and Christ prayed for the unity of the Church. That unity (the Lord Jesus said) should be the mark and badge of his disciples (John 13:35); it should be the means of leading the world to believe in his mission, in his gospel (John 17:21, John 17:23).
3. He shows the earnestness of his desire by dwelling on the thought of unity. He repeats his exhortation again and again. "Mind the same things," he says; have the same motives, the same desires, the same circle of thoughts. Have the same love; set your love on the stone Lord Jesus Christ; regard for his sake with a common love all who are called by his Name. Let your souls be knit together in a similarity of affections, wishes, feelings. Let the central thought, the aim of your lives, be one; the one thing needful, the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.
II. THE MOTIVES WHICH SHOULD URGE CHRISTIANS TO FOLLOW AFTER UNITY. These are to be found in the inner experiences of the Christian life.
1. The indwelling presence of Christ. That presence stimulates, quickens, encourages. It is the life of the Christian soul; and that life is diffused through all the members of the out body, through all the branches of the one Vine. Their spiritual life is one; unity aids its development; discord checks its growth.
2. The felt comfort of Christian love. Love is the bond of unity; the mutual love of Christians binds together the Christian Church. the truest joy springs out of love. Love comforts, blesses with a holy joy, the heart that entertains its sacred influences. The experience of the blessedness of Christian love should draw Christians nearer to one another in ever closer union.
3. The gift of the Spirit. The one Holy Spirit of God, in whose gifts and graces all in varying degrees participate (1 Corinthians 12:4-12), knits together all the members of Christ into one communion and fellowship. The presence of that one Spirit in each individual Christian constitutes the inner unity of the Church. That inner unity should find its natural expression in outward agreement.
4. The tender feelings of the Christian heart. The life of Christ in the soul, the presence of the blessed Spirit, lead the disciple to imitate his Lord, to learn of him tenderness and compassion. St. Paul asks the Philippians to show their love, their compassion for him by living in unity. If these spiritual truths are real facts to you, he says, verified in your own experience, fulfill ye my joy; be one in spirit and in heart.
III. UNITY IMPLIES HUMILITY. It is pride, self-conceit, that leads to strife and debate; avoid party spirit, avoid vain-glory.
1. Party spirit ( ἐριθεία) is one of the works of the flesh. (Galatians 5:20.) Party spirit arrays men in factions against one another; they think more of their party than of Christ, more of party triumphs than of the progress of the gospel. This evil tendency soon found a place in the Church. Christians began early to say, "I am of Paul, and I of Cephas." "Is Christ divided?" St. Paul asks in indignant sorrow; there is one body in Christ.
2. Humility is essential for preservation of unity. Vain-glory must be wholly excluded from the motives and thoughts of the true Christian. Human ambitions are empty and vain; the one true ambition is to please God. We are ambitious ( φιλοτιμούμεθα), says St. Paul (2 Corinthians 5:9), to be well-pleasing unto him. It is vain-glory that distracts the Church and rends the body of Christ. So far as it intrudes itself into the motives, it destroys the truth and inner beauty of the religious life. Humility is a Christian grace, a product of Christianity. The example of Christ has shed a halo round a word which to the heathen spoke of meanness and cowardice. Holy Scripture has taken it and filled it with a new and blessed meaning; it suggests to the Christian the deepest piety, the inmost reality of personal religion. Humility lies at the very basis of the Christian character. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," is the first of the beatitudes. There is no true holiness that is not grounded on humility; for "God giveth grace to the humble." Therefore "let each esteem other better than themselves." The highest saints feel and own themselves to be the chief of sinners. The nearer they draw to the Sun of righteousness, the more clearly they see their own guilt and unworthiness. "He that abaseth himself shall be exalted." Hence the value of St. Paul's rule to esteem others better than ourselves. We are templed to magnify our own virtues and the faults of others. True wisdom reverses this. We are to consider others, not for self-exaltation, but for self-abasement. We are to look on our own faults to correct them, on the good points in others to imitate them.
3. True humility implies unselfishness. The Christian must not put himself first; he must not regard his own wishes, his own interest, as the one thing to be thought of. He must consider the feelings of others, their desires, their wants. Only true humility will enable him to do this. But it is a hard lesson; there is need of more than words; there is need of a strength not our own; there is need of the stimulating influence of a great example.
1. Learn to search your heart for the realities of Christian experience; you will find them there, if you are indeed living in fellowship with Christ.
2. Pray for grace to feel real joy in the religious progress of others.
3. Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4. Be on your guard against party spirit and vain-glory. Strive to be first in humility and self-abasement; it is the secret of Christian joy and Christian growth.
The example of type Lord Jesus.
I. THE IMITATION OF the Lord JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONE RULE OF CHRISTIAN PRACTICE.
1. In the outward life. He pleased not himself; he sought not the high places of the world; he did not choose a life of ease, comfort, pleasure. He lived for others; he went abrupt doing good; He cared for the temporal needs of the sick and poor. He cared for the souls of all.
2. In the inner life of thought and feeling. The Christian must mind the things which the Lord Jesus minded; his thoughts, wishes, motives should be the thoughts, wishes, motives which filled the sacred heart of Jesus Christ our Lord. Holy Scripture bids us purify ourselves even as he is pure. The standard is very high, above us, out of our reach. But it is the end to which the high calling of the Christian points; it should be the object of all the longings of our hearts, to know Christ, to love Christ, to be made like unto Christ—like him in the outward life of obedience, like him in the inner live of holy thought.
II. THE EXAMPLE DRAWN OUT IN ITS DETAILS. Christ looked not upon his own things—his Divine glory, his equality with God the Father. He looked ripen the things of others—our helplessness, our danger, our need of a Savior.
1. What he was. He was God; the Word was God in the beginning, "God only begotten" (the reading of the most ancient manuscripts in John 1:18), begotten of his Father before the world was. When God only was, and there was none but God; before the ages were, the Word was God. "Before Abraham was, I am," the Savior said, in John 8:58, where he vindicates his right to the incommunicable Name, Jehovah. He was God, then, by nature, by inalienable right, one with the Father, being "the Brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his person; "possessed of all the fullness of the Godhead; all the splendor the glory, the omnipotence, all the essential attributes, of Deity. Thus he was in the form of God, on an equality with God. But he did not count this inconceivable glory a thing to be grasped, to be clung to. He looked on the things of others, blessed be his holy Name!
2. What he became. He emptied himself of that effulgence which flesh could not behold and live. He took the form of a servant, the likeness of humanity. In outward fashion he became as one of us, though he ceased not to be God. this whole humiliation, from the Incarnation to the cross, was his own voluntary act: "I lay down my life of myself." That stupendous act of self-sacrifice wholly transcends the reach of human thought. The difference between the greatest king and the meanest slave is absolutely nothing compared with the abyss that separates humanity from Deity. That abyss beyond measure is the measure of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.
3. Still he looked not on he his own things; he chose the lowest place upon earth. He despised not the carpenter's shop at Nazareth; he shed a new dignity on honest labor by his own example; he gave a new glory to humility which had no glory hitherto; he was content to obey: "Not my will, but thine, be done." He humbled himself and became obedient. His obedience extended through every detail of his most holy life; he sought not his own glory; it culminated in his death: it could reach no further; he became obedient unto death. And that death was the death of the cross—the cruel, lingering, shameful death reserved for slaves and the worst of criminals. Life has many strange contrasts—wealth and abject poverty, joy and utter misery. There never was contrast like this—omnipotence and seeming helplessness, the glory-throne on high and the awful cross, He loved us so very dearly. That astonishing love is set before us as our example.
III. HIS EXALTATION CONSEQUENT UPON HIS HUMILIATION.
1. Christ humbled himself, wherefore God highly exalted him. Wherefore; it is a great word, it expresses a law of God's kingdom. Exaltation follows on self-abasement, glory on humility. It was so with Christ our Lord. God exalted him, the incarnate Son, Jesus, perfect God, but also (blessed be his holy Name!) perfect Man, high above all heavens. He became obedient unto death; wherefore God gave unto him the name which is above every name. Unto Jesus, God and Man, all power is given in heaven and in earth, all the unutterable glory, all the majesty of the Godhead.
2. Therefore all prevailing prayer is made in his Name. "If ye shall ask anything in my Name, I will do it." All prayer is offered through his mediation. We plead before the throne of grace his perfect obedience, his precious death, his atoning blood, the blood that cleanseth from all sin. "Through Jesus Christ our Lord" is the prevailing close of every Christian prayer.
3. He himself is the object of Christian worship. All creation in heaven and earth and under the earth bows the knee to him in adoration. All tongues must confess with thanksgiving that he is Lord. Worship of offered to him redounds to the glory of God the Father, for it is God who exalted him.
IV. THE DISCIPLE IS AS HIS MASTER, THE SERVANT AS HIS LORD. The life of Christ, in a sense, repeats itself in each one of his elect. They share his humiliation, his cross; they shall share his glory, his throne (Revelation 2:21).
1. I am crucified with Christ. We must imitate him in his humiliation, emptying ourselves of pride and self-indulgence. We must deny ourselves, mortifying the old man, crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts, dying through the power of the most holy cross to the world and to the flesh.
2. So shall we rise with him—now, unto newness of life; hereafter, to behold him in his glory, to sit with him in his throne. "He that shall humble himself shall be exalted." Self-abasement must come first, then the glory; first the cross, then the crown.
1. Learn never to let a day pass without meditation on the great Example. Contemplate with wondering thankfulness the great mystery of the Incarnation. Strive with all the energy of your spirit to fix your thoughts in awe, in penitence, in adoring love, upon the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Intense meditation on that tremendous sacrifice is the greatest help towards a holy life.
2. Pray for grace to imitate him in his humility, in his unselfish love.
Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13
What should be the result of Christ's example?
1. Christ became obedient even unto death. The Philippians have hitherto been obedient; they were obedient when the apostle called them to faith and repentance; let them be obedient now.
2. That obedience is due to God who sooth the heart. We must not depend too much on human teachers, whether present or absent; we must look to the unseen Savior who is ever present, and work out, each one for himself, our own salvation.
II. EARNEST EFFORT TO SAVE OUR SOULS.
1. Because our salvation was the end of Christ's humiliation. He came into the world to save sinners. The greatness of his self-sacrifice shows the momentous importance of the object for which he humbled himself. The cross of Christ throws a bright light on the tremendous alternative—life or death, salvation or damnation.
2. Because of salvation is lost, all is lost. The word σωτηρία means simply safety—safety from anything that may harm us, from danger, sickness, death. In Holy Scripture it means the safety of the soul,
It is a precious word, for it points to unspeakable blessedness; an awful word, for it suggests a fearful alternative. It reminds us of that condemnation, that horror of eternal despair, which must be the portion of the lost. That great danger threatens us; we need to be saved from it, and therefore from sin.
3. Because our salvation must be wrought out by ourselves: no other man can do it for us. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior; he is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. "By grace ye are saved,… he and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Our salvation is the work of God. But there are two sides to the same great truth. It is his work, and yet it is ours. Both views of the one truth are presented to us in Holy Scripture. Both are true; they meet somewhere above our heads. Now we know in part; our standpoint is not high enough to command a connected view of all God's dealings with men. But we can see far enough to guide us on our way to heaven; we know enough for the needs of the Christian life. We know that Christ is our only Savior; he came into the world to save sinners; he died for all. But Holy Scripture bids us to carry out the work of salvation in our own souls, to complete it, working from the cross, in the faith of Christ. There is need of persevering energy. Others may guide, comfort, exhort; but each man must work out his own salvation for himself in the depths of his spirit,—it cannot be done by deputy. We must work, for God bids us; we must work, for we have an irresistible consciousness of power to choose the good and to avoid the evil. But we must trust wholly in Christ. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. It is he that saves us, not we ourselves.
III. A TREMBLING ANXIETY TO PLEASE GOD.
1. If we are in earliest, there must sometimes be fear and trembling in our religious life. The work is so very momentous; it is no matter for indifference or lukewarmness. We must pass the time of our sojourning here in fear, for we were "redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ." The greatness of the ransom shows the greatness of the danger. We must pray for grace to serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear; for true religion involves a deep, awful reverence for the majesty of God. Reverence is an essential clement in true holiness. "Hallowed be thy Name" is the first petition in the prayer which the Lord himself hath taught us; and with reverence must be mingled holy fear—the fear of undue familiarity intruding itself into our solemn worship; the fear of displeasing God who will judge us, who gave his blessed Son to die for us, by unfaithfulness in our daily lives.
2. The ground both for fear and for encouragement. God worketh in us. It is a ground for fear; for if it is God that worketh in us, then to take part with the flesh is to strive against the Most High, to resist the Holy Ghost—a most awful danger. And it is a ground for encouragement; for if it is God that hath begun the good work within us, we may be confident that he will carry it on. His strength, if only we persevere, will be made perfect in our weakness. Man can do nothing without God, and God will do nothing without man. He bids us work out our own salvation, because he worketh in us both to will and to do. Holy desires and just works alike proceed from him. Yet, though he willeth that all men should be saved, all are not saved; for they will not conic unto him that they might have life. The problem is insoluble in theory; it is solved in the religious life. If we live in the faith of the Son of God, the very sense of entire dependence upon him will urge us to work out to the end the salvation which he hath wrought for us by his precious blood-shedding, which he is working within us by the gift of his Holy Spirit.
1. You work hard in your outward calling; work hard in your religious life.
2. The alternatives at issue are of stupendous moment; work with fear and trembling.
3. But remember, Christ died for you, God worketh in you. Work the cross; trust in God, not in your own efforts, however earnest.
The salvation of the Philippians the apostle's joy.
I. THEIR OBEDIENCE MUST BE THE READY OBEDIENCE OF LOVE. Christ died for them, God worketh within them. They have the great gift of reconciliation with God through the precious blood of Christ; they have the indwelling presence of God the Holy Ghost. Therefore:
1. It is their duty to be cheerful, to render to God a loving service. A Christian who knows that the Son of God loved him and gave himself for him, has no right to be gloomy and melancholy. There must be no murmurings. The Christian life is a pilgrimage, like the journey of the Israelites from the house of bondage to the promised land, but we must not resemble the Israelites in their constant murmurings against God. Do all things, each duty as it comes, without murmuring. Have a steadfast faith in God as your Father, "who maketh all things work together for good to them that love him;" and in the trustful spirit of a loving faith learn to say, "Thy will be done." Neither should there be doubtings in the Christian life. The intellect, as well as the will, must submit itself. Our knowledge is imperfect, our mental reach is limited; we can see only a very little way into the mysteries of the Divine government; we know in part. We must be content with that partial knowledge; we must not venture to question the love, the goodness, the wisdom of God. When harassing doubts arise, we must go, like Asaph the psalmist, into the house of God; then we shall understand as much as we need to know of God's dealings with mankind. These things are hidden from the wise and prudent, but they are revealed unto babes.
2. Cheerful obedience leads to growth in holiness. If they obey God in all things gladly and lovingly, they will become blameless; others will find no ground of censure in them; their own inner lives will be pure and sincere, without mixture of evil or selfish motive. Simplicity of character is essential. he for God seeth the heart. Thus they will be children of God indeed, like those little children of whom is the kingdom of heaven; a contrast to the crooked and perverse generation among whom they live.
3. They must set a good example. They are lights in the world—others watch them; they attract by their lives the attention of the surrounding Gentiles; they must hold out to others the Word of life. They must exhibit its influence in their lives, in their conversation. They must preach by word and by example, for Christianity is essentially a missionary religion.
II. SUCH CONDUCT WILL FILL THE APOSTLE WITH JOY.
1. It will prove that his labor was not in vain. He glories, not in his own successes or popularity, but in the faith, the love, the obedience of his converts. Such glorying does not fade away; it endures unto the day of Christ. Then, when the apostle presents the Philippian Christians to the Lord, what holy glorying will be his as he looks upon the fruit of his labors!
2. He is ready for such an end to lay down his life, and that with joy. He will rejoice to shed his blood as a drink offering to accompany the sacrifice offered by his converts. That sacrifice is their faith; faith is trustfulness, entire dependence upon God, self-surrender. The sacrifice of faith is the sacrifice of self; the spiritual sacrifice which the children of God, as a royal priesthood, are bound to offer. "We offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee." Thus, and thus only, can we work out our own salvation. Such devotion in the Philippians will fill St. Paul with holy joy, though it cost him his life-blood. He rejoices himself at the prospect, he bids them rejoice with him.
1. To be cheerful always, never to murmur.
2. To be simple, sincere, truthful, single-minded.
3. To set a good example to others.
4. To rejoice in the salvation of souls.
I. Martyrdom may come soon; if it comes, the apostle will welcome it with joy; IF HE LIVES, HE WILL SEND TIMOTHY.
1. He hopes to send Timothy almost immediately; he trusts himself to come shortly. Observe, he hopes in the Lord, and He trusts in the Lord. "Behold how he refers all things to the Lord," says St. Chrysostom. He submits his hopes and desires, even where the spiritual welfare of his converts seems to be concerned, wholly to the higher will of God. His life was Christ. "Christ liveth in me," he said. Therefore his desires were the desires of Christ, whose abiding presence filled his heart. He hopes in the Lord, in conscious communion with the Lord; his hopes are guided and quickened by the indwelling Savior. "Only in the Lord" is the rule of the highest Christian life.
2. He hopes to send Timothy, not for their sakes only, but for his own also. His own happiness is bound up in the spiritual welfare of his converts; like St. John, he had no greater joy than to hear that his children were walking in the truth. Mark the depth of his Christian affection; how fully he had learned the lessons of his own sweet psalm of love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 :!
II. THE CHARACTER OF TIMOTHY. He had his faults; he was timid, nervous, shrinking from opposition. But:
1. He was a man of God, a man he of unfeigned faith and deep Christian he love. Of all St. Paul's companions none was so dear to him as Timothy, "mine own son," as he calls him.
2. He is like-minded with St. Paul. St. Paul can trust him wholly; he will act as the apostle himself would have acted; the Philippians should regard his presence as equivalent to the apostle's presence; he is a second Paul. He will seek no selfish ends; he will have a true, genuine anxiety for their welfare. He will be really anxious to do all he possibly can to help the Philippians in their religious life. And that anxiety will be real and sincere, not in words only, not merely official, but deep-seated in the heart, genuine. Timothy was a true Christian; the Philippians knew him; he had already worked among them; he had been proved, he had labored with St. Paul, and that for the gospel's sake. Others have selfish aims—they seek their own interests; he will seek the things that are Jesus Christ's, the interests (so to speak) of Christ, that is, the salvation of souls. It is the character of a true Christian minister.
III. ST. PAUL'S LONELINESS. Timothy is the only true friend at hand; Luke and others are absent; those present with him, except Timothy, are half-hearted; all of them, he says, seek their own. St. Paul's whole nature craved for sympathy; his one earthly comfort and support was the sympathy, the love of Christian friends. Once he bitterly felt being left at Athens alone (1 Thessalonians 2:1). Now his anxiety to hear the state of the Philippians, his love for them, makes him willing to part with Timothy, and to be left alone in his Roman captivity. We may well wonder at the intensity of his love, the completeness of his self-sacrifice.
1. The great aim of the Christian life should be to live wholly in the Lord, in his presence, in the constant effort to please him in all things.
2. Communion of Christians with Christians is one of the greatest helps, as it is one of the greatest comforts, in the religious life.
3. Pray to be genuine, absolutely truthful and real; to be, not to seem.
4. A true saint of God can endure isolation. "Who hath the Father and the Son, may be left, but not alone."
I. HIS NAME MEANS "LOVELY." It was not uncommon; it was assumed by the dictator Sulla; it was the name of a freedman of Nero, the master of the philosopher Epictetus. It is derived from the name of the goddess ἀφροδίτη he like the corresponding Latin word venustus from Venus. But the character of this Epaphroditus was evidently:
1. "Lovely" in the Christian sense. He seems to have been, like Jonathan, lovely and pleasant in his life. Like Daniel, he was a "man of loves," full of love both towards St. Paul and towards his friends at Philippi. He was a man of very tender feelings, almost tee tender, we might think. But:
2. He was as brute as he was tender. St. Paul calls him his brother and companion in labor and fellow-soldier. He was not only a brother in love, a fellow-Christian, but he shared the apostle's labors; he threw himself, heart and soul, into the work of spreading the gospel at Rome; he worked hard, probably in an unhealthy season. He was also the messenger of the Philippians; he readily undertook the long journey, with all its perils and hardships, to minister to the apostle's wants. Doubtless he regarded those ministrations (as St. Paul himself regarded them; see note on Verse 25) as an offering offered gladly unto God. He knew that in ministering to the apostle be was ministering unto God. To relieve the necessities of the saints, to help them by alms, by sympathy, is a sacrifice well-pleasing to God. He was a brother in danger, too, a fellow-soldier. He hazarded his life; he shared the apostle's dangers; he willingly exposed himself to risk for the work's sake; his dangerous illness was in some way caused by his unselfish exertions. Yet he was very tender-hearted. He longed after the Philippians; he could not bear the thought of their sorrow and anxiety on account of his sickness and danger. He is an example of that union of seemingly opposite virtues which is sometimes conspicuous in Christ's saints, as it was in Christ himself.
II. HOW PRECIOUS IS THE LIFE OF HOLY MEN! Epaphroditus was evidently one of the bishops (see note on Philippians 1:1), possibly the presiding bishop of the Philippian Church. His life was valuable. "God had mercy on him." Perhaps his longer life was necessary for himself, to perfect his repentance; for the Philippians, to carry on the good work which He had begun; for St. Paul, lest he should have sorrow upon sorrow. "God had mercy on him." Sometimes in mercy God spares the life of his servants; sometimes in mercy he takes them to himself. We are in his hands, and he is the Most Merciful. He knows Letter than we what is for our real good. We may pray for health and longer life for our friends, for ourselves, if the prayer is offered in submission to the higher will of God.
III. SUCH MEN SHOULD BE HELD IN REVERENCE. St. Paul bids the Philippians to receive Epaphroditus with every joy—joy on every account, for his sake and for theirs. They were to honor him; for to honor good men is to honor God, the source of all goodness; and reverence for goodness elevates and refines the character,
1. Learn from the example of Epaphroditus that. to minister to God's saints is a high privilege; he risked his life to supply the needs of St. Paul.
2. His love for the apostle did not weaken his love for the Philippian Christians. We must love all God's people, not only his highest saints.
3. We may pray that our sick friends may recover their bodily health, if it be God's gracious will.
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
Philippians 2:1, Philippians 2:2
It seems strange that the apostle, knowing the difficulty of getting a thousand minds to agree in the reception of intellectual truth, should yet counsel them to seek a unity of opinion. There is nothing strange in the fact when we consider how much the intellect of man is influenced by his moral nature.
I. THE NATURE AND CONDITIONS OF THIS LIKE-MINDEDNESS. "That ye be like-minded, having the same love, with accordant souls minding the one thing."
1. It must include a certain intellectual agreement as to matters of doctrine. It is not possible to understand what may have been the diversity of opinion on points of doctrine which made this counsel necessary. The Philippians are not censured for heresy; but the apostle knows that the "men of the concision" are not far off, and the warning to keep to "the sound doctrine" is neither premature nor unnecessary.
2. It includes an agreement as to methods and aims. There were symptoms of jealousy, leading to quarrel, manifest in the conduct of two ladies of this Church (Philippians 4:2), and it is difficult to say how far these women, holding an influential place in the little community, may have disturbed its unity.
3. It implies an agreement working along the lines of a common love. Love is a bond—"the bond of perfectness"—just as hatred separates man from man. It produces that harmony of feeling and interests that leads to unity of service.
II. THE TRUE GROUNDS OF THIS LIKE-MINDEDNESS. "If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies." The apostle grounds his appeal to the Philippians upon their undoubted possession of certain spiritual experiences.
1. "Consolation in Christ." What stores of consolation are in Christ! "I will not leave you comfortless."
2. "Comfort of love." Love has comfort in it, especially when it has a sure resting-place.
3. "Fellowship of the Spirit." This fellowship involves "the fellowship of the Father and the Son," and carries with it all the experiences and fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, Galatians 5:23). It involves unity as one of its essential ideas.
4. "Bowels and mercies." A tender and compassionate spirit is helpful to unity.
III. THE MINISTER'S JOY PROMOTED BY THE LIKE-MINDEDNESS OF HIS FLOCK. "Fulfil ye my joy." As nothing so depresses the mind of a minister as intellectual or social dissensions among the members of his flock, so his joy is fulfilled alike in their unity of thought and in the harmony of their feeling and affection.—T.C.
Philippians 2:3, Philippians 2:4
The qualities of Christian like-mindedness.
I. Warning faction and VAIN-GLORY. "Let nothing be done through faction or vain-glory." True unity of spirit is inconsistent alike with the exaltation of party and the exaltation of self. Faction carries men beyond the bounds of discretion, and rends the unity of the brotherhood. "The beginning of strife is as the letting out of water" (Proverbs 17:14). It should be "an honor for a man to cease from" it (Proverbs 20:3). Vain-glory, personal vanity, carries men into many follies and sins. "For men to search their own glory is not glory" (Proverbs 25:1-28 :29). "There is more hope of a fool than of" such a one (Proverbs 26:12). We ought, therefore, to pray, "Remove far from me vanity and lies."
II. THE ESTIMATE OF A HUMBLE-MINDED MAN. "In humbleness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." This implies:
1. That we have modest thoughts of ourselves. (Proverbs 26:12.)
2. That we have a just idea of others' excellences. (1 Peter 2:17.)
3. That in honor we are to prefer one another. (Romans 12:10.) The reasons for this command are:
III. AN UNSELFISH INTEREST IN THE WELFARE OF OTHERS. "Not regarding your own interests, but also the interests of others." There is nothing here said inconsistent with the most careful and conscientious discharge of the duty we owe to ourselves. The injunction of the apostle is profoundly Christ-like. It implies:
1. That we are to desire one another's good. (1 Timothy 2:1.)
2. That we are to rejoice in one another's prosperity. (Romans 12:15.)
3. That we are to pity one another's misery. (Romans 12:15.)
4. That we are to help one another in our necessities. (1 John 2:17, 1 John 2:18.) It reiterates the command of Christ: "Love one another." No other command can be performed without this one (Romans 13:10); we cannot love God without it (1 John 2:17); and this is true religion (James 1:27).—T.C.
Jesus Christ the supreme Example of humble-mindedness.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Jesus Christ." The exhortation to mutual concord is strengthened by a reference to the example of Christ's humiliation on earth.
I. CONSIDER HIS ESSENTIAL PRE-EXISTING GLORY. "Who, subsisting in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God."
1. This language evidently describes Christ before his incarnation, in his Divine glory; for the pregnant expression, "existing in the form of God," can be understood only of Divine existence with the manifestation of Divine glory. It is similar to the expression, "Who, being the Brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his person" (Hebrews 1:3). As to be in the form of a servant implies that he was a servant, so to be in the form of God implies that he was God. The emphatic thought is that he was in the form of God before he was in the form of a servant.
2. This language exhibits likewise his own consciousness of the relations which subsisted between him and his Father. "Who counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God." The expression, "being in the form of God," is the objective exposition of his Divine dignity; the second expression is the subjective delineation of the same thing. It asserts his conscious equality with God.
II. CONSIDER HIS HUMILIATION. "But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross." There is a double humiliation here involved, first objectively, then subjectively, described.
1. The first is involved in his becoming man.
2. The second humiliation is involved in his obedience to death. "He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." This marks his subjective disposition in the sphere in which he placed himself as a servant, with all the obligations of his position (Matthew 20:28). There was the form of a servant and the obedience of a servant.
(a) It was not an obedience necessitated by obligations natural to himself, but was undertaken solely for others in virtue of the covenant in which he acted as God's Servant (Isaiah 42:1).
(b) It was a voluntary obedience. The idea of inevitable suffering, in a world altogether out of joint, is out of the question, for no one could take his life from him, nor inflict suffering of any sort without his will (John 10:18). His vicarious obedience was perfectly free.
There is a relation between work and reward signified in our Lord's own announcement: "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
I. CHRIST'S EXALTATION "Wherefore also God highly exalted him." This exaltation is associated with his resurrection, his ascension, and his sitting at God's right hand. It was the reward of his obedience unto death, as the Surety-Head of his people. It was a part of his exaltation that God "gave unto him the Name which is above every name"—not Jesus, nor the Son of God—but rank and dignity, majesty and authority.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE EXALTATION. "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Thus is declared the honor raid to Jesus.
1. Worship. He is the Object of adoration to all intelligences in heaven, in earth, and under the earth. Christianity is the worship of Jesus Christ.
2. Open compression of his lordship. "The knee is but a dumb acknowledgment, but a vocal confession—that doth utter our mind plainly." The lordship thus acknowledged by every tongue has a vast import, both for the Church and for the world. Jesus Christ "died and revived, that he might become Lord both of the living and of the dead" (Romans 14:9). Thus the whole obedience of Christian life is grasped by that lordship, which at the same time controls all the events of human life for the good of the Church.
III. THE END OF HIS EXALTATION. "To the glory of God the Father," whose Son he is; their honor and glory being inseparable.—T.C.
Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13
Christian salvation a working out what God works in.
The apostle, after commending the Philippians for their obedience to God in his absence, counsels them to continue in that course, working out their salvation for themselves. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
I. CONSIDER the MATTER TO RE WORKED OUT. "Your own salvation."
1. Salvation is an essentially individual thing between each man and his God. It is the supreme concernment of every man. Green shows it was the glory of Puritanism that "religion in its deepest and innermost sense had to do, not with Churches, but with the individual soul. It is as a single soul that each Christian claims his part in the mystery of redemption."
2. Though salvation is God's work, it is yet consistent with Scripture fact that it should be man's work likewise. The salvation to be worked out is supposed to be already possessed in its principle or germ; for the apostle addresses this counsel, not to unconverted sinners, but to "saints in Christ Jesus." The breadth of the word "salvation" is to be carefully estimated. Sometimes it is used in Scripture, as we have already seen, as equivalent to justification or pardon; sometimes as equivalent to sanctification; sometimes as equivalent to the final deliverance at death or judgment. Thus it may be regarded as either past, present, or future. It is in the second sense that the apostle uses the expression, for he has special regard here to the development of the Christian life in believers.
II. THE PROCESS OF WORKING OUT THIS SALVATION. "Work out your own salvation.''
1. This implies that Christian life is not a mystic and indolent quietism which moves neither hand nor foot, but a state of cow, scions activity and struggle. There are theories of sanctification in our day which teach the doctrine of the soul's passivity, as if it lay in the arms of Jesus without effort or almost conscious thought. Such an idea would need a recasting of the whole phraseology of Scripture to justify it. Christian life is always represented in Scripture as a life of watching, of struggle, of combat. "So run that ye may obtain" (1 Corinthians 9:24); "So fight I, not as one that beateth the air" (1 Corinthians 9:26); "Striving according to his working which worketh in me mightily "(Colossians 1:29); "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:14); "Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10).
2. It implies that God has already worked in he what we are to work out. If we work out anything else, it will be of nature or the devil. If, therefore, we have faith, hope, or love, let us work it out. If we have been begotten again with the incorruptible seed of the Word, work out its imperishable principles in all the lovely consistencies of a holy life.
3. It implies a constant and faithful use of all the means appointed by God for this end. (Matthew 6:33; Acts 13:43; Romans 12:12.)
III. THE REASON OR ENCOURAGEMENT FOR ENERGY IN THIS WORK. "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
1. Consider how the encouragement operates. The believer strives because he is assured of Divine co-operation in the work. There is a spirit of dependence in human life which tends to produce weakness and sterility; but dependence on God is the true spring of all effort, strength, and heroism. Divine grace has no tendency to supersede human effort, but rather to stimulate it to greater results. The fact that an army is led by a matchless general does not make soldiers less, but more, resolute in carrying out his commands. Wellington regarded the presence of Napoleon Bonaparte at the head of his army as equal to a hundred thousand additional bayonets. Let the Christian, then, work out his salvation; for he has God working in him every result involved in it.
2. Consider the sphere of God's working. "It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The Divine operation touches the first impulse of the will as well as the final achievement that flows from it. Augustine says, "Therefore we will, but God works in us also to will; therefore we work, but God works in us also to work." How natural, then, that believers should attribute everything good in them to Divine grace!
3. Consider the end and direction of this working. "Of his good pleasure." God delights in this work, even in the perfection of his saints. It is his good pleasure that they should be holy, pure, loving.
4. Consider the mystery of the double working here implied. The apostle does not attempt to explain the blending of the two activities in one glorious work, so as to indicate where the one ends and the other begins. In other words, he does not attempt to reconcile the doctrine of man's freedom with the doctrine of God's sovereignty. This is a deep mystery, which faith can accept, but the philosophies of earth have tried in vain to unravel.
IV. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH BELIEVERS ARE TO WORK OUT THEIR SALVATION, "With fear and trembling." With an inward distrust of our own power and an anxious solicitude for the constant action of Divine power. There is a feat' and a trembling that have a true place in the Christian life. he in consideration of our sins and our weaknesses, yet that lead us to cling all the closer to the Ark of our strength. Fear has its place even by the side of faith, pointing its finger to possible dangers. "Thou standest by faith: therefore be thou not high-minded, but fear." But the fear is not that which is hostile to full assurance, but to carnality and recklessness; while the trembling is not that of the slave, but of the child of God, tremblingly alive to all his responsibilities and to the fear of vexing God's Holy Spirit.
V. CONSIDERATIONS WHY WE SHOULD BE CAREFUL TO DO THIS WORK.
1. God commands it. (Acts 17:30.)
2. He shows us how to do it. (Micah 6:8.)
3. He works with us and in us to do it.
4. It is the most pleasant work. (Proverbs 2:17.)
5. It is most honorable. (Proverbs 12:26.)
6. It is most profitable. (1 Timothy 4:8.)
7. It is work not to be begun only, but finished. (John 17:4.)
8. All other works are sin till this is begun. (Isaiah 66:3.)
9. Unless it be done, we are undone for ever. (Luke 13:3.)—T.C.
The importance of a contented and peaceful habit of soul.
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings."
I. THE CHARACTER AND INFLUENCE OF AN UNMURMURING AND PEACEFUL SPIRIT.
1. Murmuring is here meant against God. It may arise
2. The disputings here meant point to those dissensions which war the peace of the Church. We ought to avoid disputings, because
II. THE OBJECT AND AIM OF SUCH A SPIRIT. "That ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of life." They were to be examples to the world of high Christian living.
1. Their lives were to be marked by a purity, a loftiness, a consistency, which would disarm the censure of the world. They were, as children of God, to present no spots upon which the eye of a critical generation might rest with a scorn for goodness.
2. Their lives were to be marked, not by a mere absence of fault, but by a conspicuous exhibition of all those positive graces that are identified with the full Tower of the Word of life.
III. THE ULTIMATE BEARING OF SUCH A SPIRIT UPON THE GLORYING OF THE APOSTLE. "That I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain, neither labor in vain."
1. It is possible even, for an apostle to lose his labor. It may be in vain to the people who refuse his message, but not to himself (Isaiah 49:4).
2. The ministry is a work of great toil and strain.
3. The conversion of souls will enhance the joys of heaven to the faithful minister.—T.C.
Philippians 2:17, Philippians 2:18
The apostle's readings to sacrifice his life for the Philippians.
"Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me."
I. MARK THE APOSTLE'S DEEP AFFECTION FOR THE PHILIPPIANS AND HIS INTENSE INTEREST IN THEIR SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING. He considered not his life too dear a sacrifice to be made on their behalf.
II. MARK THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TRUTH WHICH COULD DEMAND SUCH A SACRIFICE.
III. THE PROSPECT OF MARTYRDOM IN SUCH A CAUSE OUGHT TO BE SUBJECT OF JOY ALIKE TO THE SUFFERER AND TO HIS DISCIPLES.—T.C.
The mission of Timothy.
The apostle comforts the Philippians with the intimation that, if he cannot himself visit them, he will send them Timothy, who was already well known to them all.
I. HIS OBJECT IN SENDING TIMOTHY. It was twofold.
1. To comfort his own heart. "That I also may be of good heart, when I know your state." The apostle had a tender anxiety respecting the best beloved of all the Churches.
2. To give them guidance for Timothy was one who would "naturally care for their state" with an almost instinctive devotion to their interests.
II. HIS REASON FOR SENDING TIMOTHY IN PREFERENCE TO ANY OTHER.
1. They already known Timothy's devotion to the apostle and to the gospel of Christ. "But ye know the proof of him, that, as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the gospel." When the apostle was at Philippi, Timothy—"mine own son in the faith"—was his congenial assistant, obeying his counsel, and imitating his example, in everything that tended to the edification of the Church.
2. There was no other helper with the apostle at the time possessed of the same quick sympathy with their state as Timothy. "For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state: for they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ."
(a) It was a concern for their spiritual state.
(b) It was, as the word imports, an anxious care on their behalf, testifying at once to his own personal interest in their welfare and to his profound appreciation of the worth of immortal souls.
(c) It was a concern natural to one inheriting the interests and the affections of his spiritual father.
(d) It was implanted in his soul by the Lord himself; for it was with him as with Titus; "Thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus" (2 Corinthians 8:16).—T.C.
Epaphroditus the link between the apostle and Philippi.
As it was still uncertain what would be the issue of his bonds at Rome, the apostle deemed it right no longer to detain the worthy Philippian minister who had relieved the tedium of his imprisonment, but sent him back to Philippi under circumstances which attest the tenderness of the relation which bound all three together.
I. CONSIDER THE APOSTLE'S ESTIMATE OF THE HIGH CHARACTER OF ERAPHRODITUS.
1. In he relation to himself. "My brother"—as if to mark the common sympathy that bound them together—"my companion in labor"—to signify the common work which engaged them—"and fellow-soldier"—to signify the common perils and sufferings of their service in the gospel.
2. In relation to the Philippians. "Your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants"—doing for them what they could not do for themselves, supplying "your lack of service toward me." He was the representation of their liberality, and was about to take back to Philippi this beautiful and touching Epistle.
II. THE DANGEROUS ILLNESS OF EPAPHRODITUS. "For indeed he was sick nigh unto death."
1. The cause of this sickness. "Because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me." He had overtaxed his strength in the service of the gospel, either by his labors in preaching or by doing a thousand little offices of love for the imprisoned apostle.
2. His recovery.
3. The deep sympathy of the Philippians with their suffering, minister. "He longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick."
III. THE JOY OF THE APOSTLE AT HIS RECOVERY. "God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow." The apostle had already to bear the hard sorrow of imprisonment, but if Epaphroditus had died at Rome, his sorrows might have become overwhelming. We are all deeply interested in the recovery of the saints, and especially of eminent ministers, whose lives contribute to the enrichment of the world.
IV. THE REASONS FOR SENDING EPAPHRODITUS BACK TO PHILIPPI. "I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that when ye see him again ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful." They would recover their cheerfulness at the sight of their beloved minister, and the sum of the apostle's daily cares would thereby be proportionably lessened.—T.C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
Paul has been speaking of the gifts of faith and of suffering which the Philippians had received, and now he proceeds to state further the practical outcome of the Christian spirit. It is really an altruism of a more thorough character than that provided by the schools. We have altruism paraded at present as the high outcome of that morality which is independent of God. But there is no consideration of the case of others so broad or so deep as that which is secured by the gospel.
I. THE FOUNTAIN-HEAD OF A CONSIDERATE SPIRIT IS THE GRACE OF JESUS CHRIST, (Verse 1.) We are not asked in this matter to go upon our own charges; God does not, like an austere man, expect to reap where he has never sown. So far from this, he only looks for consideration of conduct towards others from those who have received "comfort in Christ," "consolation of love," "fellowship of the Spirit," and "bowels and mercies." These are the forerunners of the true altruism. And they amount to this, that God has led the way in consideration. His gospel means that in the person of Jesus Christ he has not looked on his own things, but on the things of others. It is Divine altruism. It is the seed of disinterestedness sown in a kindly soil, and it is sure to produce a harvest.
II. THE UNITY OF THE PHILIPPIANS WAS THE JOY OF THE APOSTLE. (Verse 2.) He made it a matter of personal comfort to secure unity of mind and of heart among his converts. If we laid the unity of believers thus to heart, how we would use all lawful means to bring it about! Are we not open to the charge sometimes of living too self-containedly, so that when unity is broken we are not inconvenienced and pained by it as a Paul would have been? Christian union should be made by each one of us a personal concern: let us with Paul say honestly, as we urge men to see eye to eye and feel as heart to heart, that in so doing they are fulfilling our dearest joy!
III. LOWLINESS OF MIND MUST BE THE ANTIDOTE AND DEATH OF STRIFE AND VAINGLORY. (Verse 3.) Nothing so separates souls and breaks the unity of spirit as vainglorious strife. Competition, be it ever so generous, cannot be tolerated in the Church of God, except it Be competition for the lowest place and the severest service. The competition for the chief seats in society, in the world's market, in the sphere of power, is always prejudicial to the Christian spirit and the unity which comes from Heaven; But the competition which contemplates the severest service, the lowliest ministrations, the most humiliating role, is wholesome, Christ-like, Divine. Now, this lowliness of mind which esteems others Better than ourselves can be secured only by severe self-scrutiny in the light of God's Word, above all, in the light of Christ's perfect life. Then our sins and shortcomings become appalling, and we walk softly before the Lord. On the other hand, no such knowledge of our neighbor's sins and shortcomings is open to us; we judge him so charitably as to esteem him above ourselves, and so we sit in the independence begotten of humility. No longer do we complain of any lot God gives us; we accept it as better than we deserve; and in the panoply of humility we are safe from all assault.
IV. WE CAN THUS MAKE PUBLIC SERVANTS OF OURSELVES IN THE TRUEST SENSE. (Verse 4.) We hear a good deal of "public men," as they are called. They profess to serve the public, but the most of them, while professing to serve the public, are suspected of serving themselves. With some of them the public spirit is doubtless genuine, and they do serve their sovereign and country with singleness of heart. But the gospel is the great means in God's hand of making men and women the servants of others. Since Jesus came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many, many have learned to make the welfare of others their chief care. And so Christian consideration and charity break forth on the right hand and on the left. Men and women thrust themselves into work for others which can have no selfish aim or selfish issue, and the world becomes "Paradise restored." We are not right in heart until we thus are made public servants by the dynamic force of the Christian spirit. The law of love regulates us and carries us out of the narrow circle of personal interests into the broader one of the common weal. We sacrifice much to serve others. "We stoop," and think nothing of the effort, "to conquer" souls and circumstances in the interest of Christ. We have got unmoored, and are out to sea, where we have room and are in no danger from the lee shore. It is the life of real liberty which we secure when we look no longer on our own things, but have an eye for those of others.—R.M.E.
The self-sacrifice of Christ.
Paul backs up his appeal for public spirit by the example of Jesus Christ. If the Philippians will only entertain a like mind with Christ, then all needful abnegation for the good of others will be forthcoming, even up to self-sacrifice itself. And here we have to—
I. CONSIDER CHRIST'S EQUALITY WITH GOD. (Verse 6.) The Revised Version puts this verse more accurately than the Authorized Version when it gives it, "Who being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God." Or, as another still more emphatically gives it, "Being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a prize to be retained; but emptied himself." Consequently we must begin with Christ's equality with God, if we would understand the magnificence of his descent. As eternal Son of the eternal Father, he had been the coequal of the Father from all eternity. As he lay in the bosom of the Father, he was "very God of very God," in the language of the Nicene Creed. It was from the abode of absolute Being he began his pilgrimage to save as.
II. CONSIDER HIS EMPTYING OF HIMSELF. (Verse 7.) The idea is hazarded by some that, in his emptying of himself, he laid aside for a season his Divinity and became man; but this is not to be entertained for a moment. The "form" of God ( μορφὴ) presupposes "existence" ( οὐσία) and "nature" φύσις, but is not to be identified with either. It is, as we might say, the accidental manifestation of the essential being, It might, therefore, be laid aside without the essential being undergoing any change. This is, then, all that the emptying implies. He exchanged "the form of God" for "the form of a servant." Instead of forcing conviction about his Divine nature by a glorious manifestation of it at all times, he allowed this conviction to spring up quietly and gradually by veiling his Divinity behind a servant's form. The everlasting Son, who shared the glory in the bosom of the Father, became the servant that he might raise us to the dignity of sons. Such was his consideration for us that he took this immense step downwards that we might be redeemed.
III. CONSIDER HIS ASSUMPTION OF HUMANITY. (Verse 7.) "He was made in the likeness of men," having taken upon him the form of a servant. He thus "entered upon a course of responsible subordination." The incarnation of Christ was his becoming all we are, saving only sin. "The body," it has been said, "which had been prepared for him by another was sustained by that other's power. When' his disciple 'went to buy meat,' it was because their Master was really hungry; when he asked drink of the woman of Samaria, it was because he was really thirsty; and when he fell asleep in the midst of the howling tempest, it was because nature was overwearied with endless labors of love. We ask why the all-glorious and blessed One should have lived in such bodily dependence as this. The apostle answers—He had emptied himself. His almighty power could easily have sustained his body. And though he ate and drank and slept, it might have been for the eyes of those around him only. But this would not have been man's real bodily life. Nay, soul and body are so wondrously connected that it would not have been man's life at all. And had not the Son of God taken the life of man, no son of man could have found the life of God. Every Christian knows what man's nobler life is. Trust in God's love, hope in his eternal mercy, that spirit of filial love which submits itself cheerfully and gladly to a heavenly Father's will, give him strength and ability to serve God in the world. And of this life, as every Christian knows, Christ is the Source and Fountain-head. But he is something more—its Example. It is the life which he himself lived when it pleased him to dwell among us Possessed of infinite strength, he 'emptied himself,' leaning always on another's arm. Possessed of infinite wisdom, he ever lifted up the eyes to heaven, and took counsel with the Father who dwelt there. Willing only what was right and good, having no wish but what was pure and true, he nevertheless submitted that will in all things; the will of another was his continual law. 'Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself,' i.e. demeaned himself, as man ought to do. Man ought to trust in God and walk by his counsel. This, therefore, was his course."
IV. CONSIDER HIS HUMILIATION EVEN TO THE OBEDIENCE OF DEATH. (Verse 8.) The Incarnation was the first step in the humiliation of God. We do not realize as we ought how tremendous a descent that is. If we as intelligent beings were to undergo a metempsychosis and be incarnated in the lowest creature that crawls, it would not be so great a descent for us as it was for Deity to become incarnate, But Christ undertook a second descent. "The Son of God did not live human life only; he died human death. Oh what a step downward was this! We may be feeble and dependent, still we are alive. And how great is the difference between the living and the dead! We enjoy the society of a friend; we sit at his table; we interchange the thoughts of living men. But there comes a day when, on repairing to his dwelling, we are conducted to the darkened room, and behold his lifeless remains; the friend of yesterday is ready for the grave to-day!… What, then, must the disciples have felt as they prepared their Master for his burial! They were covering up and putting out of sight, as what they could no longer bear to look upon, that blessed countenance in which Divine beauty had shone. They were closing, as they thought for ever, those eyes of tenderness in whose light they had rejoiced to live. He had said, 'Ye shall weep and lament,' and verily his words were fulfilled. And when the transition from life to death is accomplished by the hand of violence, the sorrow of bereavement is of a much more overwhelming character. We see on a friend's dead body the marks of rude hands, of instruments of savage cruelty, and emotion altogether overpowers us. How true to nature are the words which Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Mark Antony as he comes upon Caesar's body, 'Pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth'! He sought pardon for uncontrollable emotion, for the wild bursts of grief. What, then, must have been the emotion of the disciples as they gazed on their dead Master! His had been 'the death of the cross.' It was in a bloody shroud they wrapped him. His sacred person was disfigured by marks of savage violence; his hands bore them, his feet, his wounded side. They had never had any difficulty about his living human life. Though they knew him to be the Son of the living God, habit had accustomed them to the sight of his eating and drinking and sleeping as they did. And they knew that he believed and hoped and prayed as they did, for he taught them by his example so to do. But from this dire consummation—death, and such a death!—they had always shrunk. And now they saw it realized, He who but yesterday taught, and cheered, and comforted, and blessed them, now lay before their eyes, covered with blood and wounds, and. ready only for his sepulcher. A second step in the Christ's descent indeed! From the throne of God to the grave of man!" We have here, then, in the "double descent of the Christ," in his humiliation to become man, and in his humiliation to be obedient as far as to death ( μεχρί θανάτου), and this death that of the cross, the sublimest enforcement ever afforded of the duty of looking, not upon one's own things, but upon the things of others. The self-sacrifice of Christ is the perfection and ideal of public spirit. It is God moving from the abysmal depths of his absolute being to perform an unparalleled public service and save a ruined race. At the foot of the cross we become the tenants of a large-hearted, public spirit.—R.M.E.
Can the public spirit displayed by Jesus Christ be allowed to terminate in the tomb? Or will it receive a gracious recognition and compensation? It is to this we are next brought by the apostle. The Father set his seal upon the Son's self-sacrifice by highly exalting him and conferring on him a superlative Name. And here we learn—
I. THAT EXALTATION IS PROPORTIONAL TO HUMILIATION IS the FINAL ARRANGEMENTS OF GOD. (Philippians 2:9.) The humiliation of Christ, as we have seen, is the deepest which the universe admitted of; and so his exaltation is the greatest. Just as water descending front the highest height will return to its own level; so Christ, in condescending to the cross and the grave from the eternal throne, comes back to more than pristine glory, and gets a Name which is above every name. Hence if we were wise, we should gladly abase ourselves in the assurance that self-abasement, is the plain and only path to real exaltation (Luke 14:11).
II. THE FATHER HAS GIVEN UNTO JESUS A NAME WHICH IS ABOVE EVERY NAME. (Philippians 2:9.) Now, when we consider what a "name" is, we find that it is a revelation of what a person or thing is. Of course, names may be given where their appellative character is not regarded; but when a name is given as a glory, it contains a revelation. Thus it has been pertinently said, "Names are mysteries, labelled. A thing not labelled is a mystery directly. If it has not been named, we look at it, we smell it, we taste it, we wonder at it; and finally ask—What can it be? Naming is the annihihation of curiosity. Names are disguises put upon things to conceal from us their mystery. Things without names would be too wonderful for us. Only a few people continue to wonder as much after a thing is named, as before." Now, the Name which the Father sets above every name is that of Jesus. The signification of this name is Savior (Matthew 1:21), and the whole course of Providence is to exalt this above every other name. Hence the deep significance of this passage seems to be this—that salvation is the greatest glory which can be attributed to any individual. Even the world is coming round to this idea, that for a man to be the "savior of his country" in any sense is the highest position to which he can attain. When public worth is recognized, it is in connection with some salvation which the hero has wrought for men. The world is steadily moving towards this Divine idea, that the highest glory attainable in the nature of things is the glory of saving in some way others.
III. AT THE NAME OF JESUS THE UNIVERSE SHALL YET BOW. (Philippians 2:10, Philippians 2:11.) Among the saviours of mankind the Lord Jesus Christ is, of course, pre-eminent. All other salvations will be made to appear in their essential insignificance when compared with Christ's salvation of his fellows from sin and death. Hence the long procession of the ages shall yet issue in the universal acclaim, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing" (Revelation 5:12). This is only another way of putting the truth that self-sacrifice shall yet be recognized as the sublimest manifestation of personality, and that in self-sacrifice Jesus has been pre-eminent. The homage of the universe is yet to be made before the self-sacrifice which is embodied in Jesus Christ.
IV. THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS SHALL BE UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. (Philippians 2:11.) Not only shall the Name of Jesus be put in honor above all other names, but his right to reign shall be recognized by all. The sovereignty of self-sacrifice is the goal of intellectual and moral progress. Jesus, as embodying the principle in absolute perfection, will yet receive the homage of the universe. Even his enemies shall be constrained to bow to his authority and submit to his holy will. The triumph of self-forgetfulness and consideration for others is to be embodied in the acknowledged sovereignty of the Savior.
V. But lastly, THE GLORY OF THE FATHER SHALL PROVE TO BE THE LAST END OF THE WHOLE PLAN. (Philippians 2:11.) For what is this but a similar compensation coming in natural order round to the Father again? The Father in the present dispensation has set himself to glorify, not himself, but his self-sacrificing other self, the Son. He is himself exemplifying the self-forgetfulness and consideration for others for which his gospel calls. The Father is not looking on his own things, any more than the Son. Each Person of the adorable Trinity looks away from self to secure the glory of his mate. Is it not right and beautiful in these circumstances that the glory of the great Father should result from the consideration for others he has shown, and that the mediatorial honors of Jesus should in the end be laid at the Father's feet? It is sometimes thought that it savours of selfishness to say that God arranges all things for his own glory. But when it is analyzed we find that the seemingly selfish arrangement has been really the most absolute unselfishness. God has been looking upon the things and interests of others all the time. He has been laying himself out for the good of his creatures. Disinterestedness has characterized his whole history; and if it be arranged that eventually the universe recognizes and adores the self-forgetfulness of God, if this is to be hailed at last as the only real glory,—then surely we could not desire it otherwise.—R.M.E.
Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13
The awful responsibility of personal inspirations.
The purpose of the present passage, as we have seen, is to secure in the Philippian converts that consideration for the welfare of others which is the grand secret of Christian unity. The example of Christ has been brought forward for the same object. Salvation, as wrought out by Jesus, has been the pre-eminent example of public spirit. But now we seem to have come across a break in Paul's idea, as if he would center the converts in self once again, while laboring to deliver them from self. And the passage has been torn from the context and split up into antagonistic exhortations, so that it seems a theological battle-ground rather than a call to Christian power and peace. Let us see if we do not altogether escape the difficulty by holding hard to the connection of the apostle's thought,
I. PAUL SPEAKS HERE UNQUESTIONABLY OF PERSONAL INSPIRATION AS POSSESSED BY THESE PHILIPPIAN CHRISTIANS. Of course, we are here using inspiration in the sense that the Philippians were each tenanted by the Holy Spirit. They were inspired men, inspired for action, if not for authorship. The Holy Spirit had got their wills in his control and also the issue of their wills in action. Here is the broad fact, therefore, of their personal inspiration. Now, the Holy Spirit's influence upon the will is a most interesting as well as intricate subject. It is not, however, either an unreasonable or a tyrannical influence. It is not unreasonable, for it is upon the line of reason and of moral suasion that the Holy Spirit always moves. It is not tyrannical, for it is by his inspiration we are delivered from the prejudice and partiality which sin induces and which mar our liberty. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 2:17). We are never so free as when we are surrendering ourselves implicitly and completely to God's inspirations. But the power to carry out the impulses of the inspired will is also the gift of God; so that the Christian is an inspired instrument for the accomplishment of the will of God. He is moved from within by the almighty Spirit.
II. PERSONAL INSPIRATION MAY WELL BE ENTERTAINED WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING. (Verse 12.) If it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God when we have risked and courted his displeasure, it is surely no less fearful a thing to lie in his hands as an instrument of his good pleasure. We should regard our personalities with awe and reverence as sacred things. The temple on Mount Moriah was not half so sacred as we are ourselves if the Holy Spirit really dwells within us. It is this tremendous thought which Paul feels assured will vanquish fornication and all the lewdness which invested Corinth (1 Corinthians 6:9-20). We are Divine temples; we walk the world as inspired men; we may well contemplate the organisms we are with fear and trembling. Just as we handle with a fear and nervous tremor some exquisite piece of mechanism which some mighty genius has devised for some admirable purpose, afraid lest rash handling might disarrange it; so are we to handle our inspired personalities, and make body, soul, and spirit with a sober, awe-inspired joy tributary to God's praise.
III. PERSONAL INSPIRATION ISSUES IN EARNEST WORK. (Verse 12.) God does not inspire men that they may turn out lotos-eaters. The inaction which Brahma induces, for example, can never be induced by the Christian system. Inspiration is for work. The movement in earnest life is the proof positive that the spiritual force has entered into the professedly Christian soul. But what will the work be? This is the question. Does working out our own salvation mean living in a perpetual fever of spiritual anxiety? Does it mean a never-ending attack of spiritual despondency? By no means. It will be found in the spiritual life, as in life physical, that the hypochondriacs are in danger, and that it is those who have no time to think upon their own ailments, they are so busy ministering to the welfare of others, who are really making most progress towards the spiritual perfection which is salvation in its fullness. And here it will be seen how consistent these verses are with all that has gone before. Paul wishes the Philippians in Verse 12, just as in Verse 4, to be living the self-forgetful life. It is only when we look away from self to Christ as the ground of our salvation, and when we look away from self to others as the sphere of our special work, that we are living the earnest Christian life. Our salvation is assured when we are enabled to make Christ's work our chief anxiety and Christ's glory our constant aim. Inspired lives lead to self-forgetful and self-sacrificing work. The secret of all safety and nobleness lies here.—R.M.E.
Inspired to be blameless sons.
Having seen the great responsibility of personal inspiration, as brought out in the previous verses, we have next to notice what the inspiration contemplates. It is, in fact, to produce such a sense of sonship in all hearts as will ensure unity of spirit, blamelessness of life, and consequent usefulness in the world. Paul wished the Philippian Christians to be of use to their heathen neighbors; unless they were so, he would regard himself as having run in vain; he consequently is in great anxiety that they should walk worthily, which will be his greatest joy. Here we may note—
I. THE POSITION OF CHRISTIANS. (Philippians 2:15.) The Philippians were "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," and so shall Christians be to the end of this dispensation. We may expect to be surrounded by the crooked and the perverse. It may not be a very comfortable position to occupy, but it is a very important and ought to be a very useful one. It is, in fact, to furnish opportunities for promoting the faith that this arrangement obtains. We often think that it would be happier to be translated at once where "the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest;" but it would, not be better for us. Our best position is to have opportunities of benefiting others.
II. GOD INSPIRES US TO BE UNCOMPLAINING AND BLAMELESS SONS. (Verses 14, 15.) This is the way he would have us to work out our own salvation. We are to "do all things without murmurings and disputiugs." We are not to be complaining like Israel in the wilderness, nor at war among ourselves. We are besides to be the blameless and harmless sons of God. The pure life we lead is to be such as to forbid rebuke from a perverse world. In this way we shall be "lights," for through us the light of truth, the light of "the Word of life," shall be held forth before those who are in darkness, that they too may he redeemed. It is an inspiration, consequently, for service, an inspiration towards usefulness, which God gives. It carries the individual clear of selfish considerations and makes him useful among men. It is the inspiration of public spirit.
III. PAUL EXPECTS TO REJOICE IN THE DAY OF CHRIST THAT HE HAS NOT RUN IN VAIN BECAUSE OF THE USEFULNESS OF HIS PHILIPPIAN CONVERTS. (Verse 16.) The present life, in Paul's regard, is to be joyfully reviewed in the day of Christ, that is, the day of judgment. The thought and memory of the usefulness of the Philippians wilt constitute an intense delight to his great soul. He will in such a case assure himself that he has not run in vain. It must have been a great incentive to them to think that their consistent life would be a joy to the glorified apostle. And would it not be well for Christians to carry this thought with them? They are adding by their blameless and consistent lives to the joy of the heavenly world, adding a thrill to the hearts of angels and of the redeemed from among men and to the heart of the Lord himself.
IV. PAUL'S POSSIBLE MARTYRDOM WILL NOT DIMINISH BUT INCREASE THIS JOY. (Verses 17, 18.) Paul knew as a prisoner in Rome that his martyrdom was possible. He may not, indeed, have deemed it probable at this period, for if this Epistle be, as Bishop Lightfoot thinks, the first of the Epistles of the captivity, it is likely that he enjoyed a little season of release before his final apprehension and martyrdom. And Paul knew that the possibility of his death threw a shadow over the minds of his converts. In his beautiful consideration for them, therefore, he tells them that he can rejoice even should his martyrdom be as a drink offering upon their service and sacrifice of faith. He calls upon them to rejoice along with him in prospect even of possible martyrdom. It will not mar the joy, but will be owned of God in multiplying it. Paul is thus a sublime example, after Jesus his Lord, of consideration for others. He does not mourn over his lot as a possible martyr, and crave their sympathy; but for their sakes he rejoices over it and asks their congratulation. Grace turns the apparent evil into real good; and joy is promoted at Philippi as well as Rome by what the world thinks should only create sorrow. Paul is thus an inspired and blameless son himself, and a pattern to his people at Philippi. We have thus set before us the magnificent public spirit which the gospel fosters. It enables us to look away from our own things to the things of others, and it brings us to make even misfortune a tributary to spiritual joy. May we follow after' the things that make for peace and tend to the edification of others!—R.M.E.
The considerate missions of Epaphroditus and Timothy.
The passage is still dominated by the idea of consideration for others as the proper outcome of the Christian spirit. The life God inspires (Philippians 2:13) is the life of consideration for others. In this section we have this beautifully illustrated by Epaphroditus, Timothy, and the Philippians, as welt as by Paul himself. We cannot do better than look at the public spirit as thus historically illustrated.
I. THE CONSIDERATE SPIRIT AS ILLUSTRATED IN EPAPHRODITUS'S MISSION TO ROME. (Verses 25, 30.) He had gone up as a deputy from Philippi to Rome to minister in person to the Beloved apostle. The long journey he had undertaken cheerfully for the sake of Paul. It was just such an outcome of the Christian spirit at Philippi and in Epaphroditus himself as Paul knew God inspired and He could calculate upon. Sympathy thus drew the distant into close companionship.
II. EPAPHRODITUS'S DANGEROUS ILLNESS CREATED A PANIC AT PHILIPPI. (Verse 26.) The faithful deputy seems to have caught in the Campagna at Rome some dangerous disease, which brought him to the gates of death. Tidings were carried in due season about his sickness to the brethren at Philippi, and their anxiety about their sick brother was deep and sore. Epaphroditus knew that they would be painfully anxious, and this reacted upon him at Rome. A Christian spirit regrets the necessity of putting sympathetic hearts to pain on his account. Sympathy intensifies suffering as well as lightens suffering round the world.
III. THIS LED TO HIS CONSIDERATE PROPOSAL DEPART TO PHILIPPI AND TO PAUL'S DESPATCH OF HIM. (Verses 26, 27.) The aged apostle had watched over his sick "fellow-soldier with anxiety until he saw him fairly "on the mend." Then He found the convalescent with a heavy anxiety on his mind because of the trouble his sickness had caused at Philippi. The result is that the two great hearts proposed to separate, that Epaphroditus may relieve the Church at Philippi of its anxiety by appearing in health once more among them. The whole picture is one of mutual consideration.
IV. STILL MORE CONSIDERATION IS SHOWN IN THE PROPOSED DESPATCH OF TIMOTHY. (Verses 19—21.) Timothy tarries at Rome after Epaphroditus leaves, but only for a time. Paul keeps him only until He sees what turn his trial will take. In case he is released, he means to despatch Timothy at once to Philippi to carry on considerately the work of God in their hearts. Amid the general selfishness of men, Timothy at events can be relied on, who will, as a matter of second nature or habit, care for the Philippians' state. This second mission, that of Timothy, is a fresh embodiment of the considerate Christian spirit.
V. LASTLY, PAUL'S OWN ADVENT IS PROMISED IN CASE OF HIS RELEASE. (Verse 24.) Paul at Rome has been experiencing the consideration, not of earthly friends only, but also of his Father in heaven. He notes this in the recovery of Epaphroditus. God had raised up the faithful attendant lest Paul should have "sorrow upon sorrow." thus impressed his servant with the fact that sorrows come one by one, in Indian file, while joys come thick as the leaves of autumn. Miss Procter has brought out this beautifully in her poem, 'One by One.' we may quote here one precious verse—
"One by one thy griefs shall meet thee,
Do not fear an armed band;
One will fade as others greet thee;
Shadows passing through the land."
('Legends and Lyrics.')
Filled, then, with the grateful sense of the Divine as well as the human consideration, Paul determines, if released, to set out at once for Philippi. Timothy may go at a quicker rate as forerunner, but Paul means to fellow after him and do what He can by personal visitation of the Church to minister to their joy. There is thus given to us ample and vivid illustration of the considerateness of the Christian spirit. Let it be our aim to show it always and act in some way worthy of our high calling!—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
Exhortation to unanimity and humility.
I. HE APPEALS TO PHILIPPIANS BY FOUR COMMON ELEMENTS IN THEIR COMMON CONFLICT TO FULFIL HIS JOY.
1. By the comfort there is in Christ. "If there is therefore any comfort in Chris The connecting word has reference to the duty which was enjoined in the twenty-seventh verse of the last chapter, and is again enjoined in the second verse of this chapter. But there is also reference to the circumstances under which unity is enjoined. They were enduring the same conflict at Philippi which Paul had once endured at Philippi, and was then enduring in Rome. Under circumstances of common conflict, what had they to fall back upon, and by which they could appeal to each other? It is this which leads to the introduction of the subject of comfort. Some would substitute exhortation for comfort." But "comfort" is certainly the word appropriate to the occasion, and the following of it up in the second clause by a word of similar import only serves to emphasize the tone of the appeal. The form of the appeal is noticeable. It is under a supposition, being simply, "If any comfort in Christ." He knew that he was touching a chord to which there would be a ready response on the part of the Philippians. Any comfort in Christ? Yes; that was the quarter to which he and they in common looked for comfort. As oppressed by the troubles of this life and the question of our destiny, we need to be comforted. All the comfort that philosophy affords amounts to this—that such is the constitution of things, that we must bear what we cannot mend, that complaining only makes our case worse. In Christ there is this all-sufficient comfort, that, from his own experience of suffering, he can enter sympathetically into the suffering of each soul, and, while for good ends he may see fit to continue it, he undertakes to support under it and to make it productive of good. As Christians they had a right to expect and to ask of each other a conveyance of the Master's sympathy with them in their afflictions. Paul extended loving thought, as from the Master, toward the Philippians in their conflict; and it was his desire that they should extend loving thought as from the Master toward him.
2. By The consolation of love. "If any consolation of love." In the previous clause the idea was that they were to take of what was Christ's and show it to each other. The idea here is that they were to take of their own love and show it to each other for consolation. They had a common hate from the world; the antidote for that was the refreshing influence of mutual love. Paul would have the Philippians in their conflict know, for their consolation, that they were loved by him; and he looks to them to let him know in his conflict, for his consolation, that he was loved by them.
3. By the fellowship of the Spirit. "If any fellowship of the Spirit." They were partakers of a common life of strength, of gladness, of hope in the Spirit. As thus alike favored of the Spirit, they were bound to make it their aim to promote their common life. He was prepared to do his utmost for the Philippians, that in their conflict they should partake more largely of the strong, glad, hopeful life of the Spirit; he locks to them to do their utmost, so that in conflict he shall have reciprocity in the same life.
4. By tender mercies and compassions "If any tender mercies and compassions.'' The first seems to point to tender feelings confined to the heart; the second to tender feelings going out in compassion to others in their need. Paul was no stranger to tender feeling and compassionate yearning toward the Philippians in their conflict; he wishes to have from them in his conflict reciprocity in the same luxury. "Fulfil ye my joy." What they had a right to ask of him, he, in the exercise of his right, asks of them. They had given him joy in the past; it was not yet made full. Let them from the common source fill up his joy.
II. HE ASKS THEM TO FULFIL HIS JOY BY ATTENTION TO TWO DUTIES.
1. Unanimity. "That ye be of the same mind." This has been explained as thinking, willing, and seeking the same thing.
III. CHRIST THE GREAT EXAMPLE OF HUMILITY.
I. PERSONAL WORK FOR THE PHILIPPIANS.
1. How he exhorts them he with pleasure. "So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence." The exaltation of Christ, which is the subject of the three foregoing verses, is specially fitted to be an encouragement to the duty of humility. It is not this, however, that he now specifies, in descending from the sublime Example. He rather lays hold on that "obedience" which was the soul of the humiliation, and on the name" Savior" which marked the exaltation. And upon these he makes his exhortation to turn. For the first time he addresses them as his "beloved." It indicates his drawing closer to them. He has a complimentary word. to say to them. They had in the past obeyed, not him—for it is no mere personal request that he has to make—but the gospel of which a statement follows, and which is referred to as the Word of life. They had always obeyed, i.e. both when he was present and when he was absent. Into this form, then, he throws his exhortation. They were to make their future, as they had made their past. They were not to make their obedience to the gospel dependent on his presence with them. An obedience as in his presence would have meant negligence in his absence. Nay, they were to make his absence a stimulus to greater exertion. When they had not his help they were to feel the greater need of rousing themselves to action.
2. The work of salvation.
3. Encouragement. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure."
II. DUTY OF THE PHILIPPIANS IN THE WORLD.
1. The one thing to be avoided. "Do all things without murmurings and disputings, that ye may be blameless and harmless." The apostle has been enjoining on them their duty with reference to their personal salvation, He now contemplates them as placed in the midst of the world. It can be seen that he has in his mind ancient Israel. It is true that they were characteristically murmurers and doubters against God. But it does not appear that the Philippians were inclined to murmur and doubt under the Divine dealings. We are rather made to feel that they had not a little of the martyr spirit. The danger feared was the breaking of their unity through self-exaltation. We are, therefore, to think of murmurings and disputings among themselves. It pointed to a state of matters in their Church which would be very prejudicial to their spiritual life. This was the one thing to be avoided, in order that they should be blameless in the judgment of others, and sincere, as we should read, conscious to their own minds of good intention. It was being not very far from the mark. Other Churches may have excelled the Phililpians in reference to this particular; but of how few could it be said that there was one thing to be avoided by them in order that they should be blameless and right-minded! How many points would need to be enumerated in order that such language might be employed of some of our Churches now?
2. Proper conception of their duty.
III. INTERTWINING OF PAUL WITH THE PHILIPPIANS.
1. Alternative of his being spared. "That I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain neither labor in vain." What a beautiful intertwining of the apostle with his converts! He hoped yet to run for them, with his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; he hoped yet to labor for them. Beyond that he sees the day of Christ, the day when his running and laboring, with all its attendant results, in them, would pass under the eye of the great Head of the Church. He hopes, then, to have his destiny so intertwined with theirs that they would be the occasion of his glorying, as in successful work for Christ. Whereas he intimates that it would be loss to him of a crown of rejoicing, if his running and laboring for them turned out to be ineffectual. What minister would not thus wish to be intertwined in loving service with his people?
2. Alternative of his dying.
Timothy and Epaphroditus.
1. His mission "But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state." He looked forward to sending Timothy to them in the not-distant future. This hope he entertained in the Lord Jesus. It was not the hypocrite's hope, which is like the spider's web. It had to do with his being spared; but that, not based on worldly scheming to secure an acquittal at his approaching trial, but based on the need for doing more work for the Lord at Philippi. It was a hope that was made to rise within his heart by an impulse from the Lord. It was to the Lord that he looked for the realization of the hope. It was particularly the hope of performing a friendly office to the Philippians. In order that friendship may be turned to good account as a force in the advancement of the cause of Christ, it is necessary that there should be an honest endeavor to keep up intercourse. Where long distance intervened, flint was a more difficult matter than it is now. We have readier means of communication with the mission field. There can be more frequent transmission of letters, an easier going and coming of missionaries. In that respect we are better placed for friendship, and for using it as a force in the extension of Christianity. The apostle had to contend with difficult means of communication, and he found it possible to keep up friendly intercourse with distant Churches. He was presently incapacitated himself, but he had it in view to send Timothy as his special messenger to Philippi. This was with the friendly object of knowing their state. Timothy would be able to supplement the information concerning Paul's state taken by Epaphroditus, and in that way would cause them to be of good comfort. But he also expected to be of good comfort (he the sender, as well as they the receivers) when Timothy returned with news front Philippi. He does not seem to have heard to any purpose (although there had been some communication) since the coming of Epaphroditus, and he did not expect to hear until Timothy brought him back word. He was always pained, when he was long in hearing from any of the Churches. It would put him out of pain, it would cause him to be of good comfort, to have good news from Philippi. In our day it might have been sufficient to have sent a letter. We are not accustomed to such long painful intervals, although we have had experience of them too, as when Livingstone was lost in the center of Africa. In view of the Philippian Church being lost to Paul for a period at the least extending over a year, he hoped to scud Timothy to find them, as Stanley was sent to find Livingstone. It is much easier sending a letter; but more interest attaches to such special personal sending, and there is more satisfaction in the end. It was a richer manifestation of friendliness on the part of Paul, that he had it in his heart to despatch his delegate. Would not his prayers and good wishes go forth with him? Would he not then, as he hoped, rejoicing in freedom, see him on board ship at Osta or Puteoli? Would he not send kind messages with him? Would he not remember him during his journey, and calculate the time of his arrival at Philippi, so as to be present in spirit with him and with them? And would not the coming of Timothy be an event of the utmost consequence to the Philippian Church? It would be looked forward to with the greatest interest. After the painful suspense on their side, his arrival would be hailed with manifestations of joy. Their thoughts would at once go back to him from whom he came? How was it with the veteran soldier of the cross? If liberation was the word that fell from Timothy's lips, what a thrill of joy would pass through the hearts of all! And then, as Timothy delivered himself of the messages with which he was laden to each, how would they drink in comfort, and think they had ample compensation for their fight of afflictions! And then, as Timothy stood up and preached to them the old gospel, with a savour caught from long association with Paul in imprisonment, how earnestly would they listen! how greedily appropriate its comfort! and how determinedly they would resolve to win the crown of faithfulness! And then, when the time came for Timothy to depart, how sorrowful they would feel! how they would scud their congratulations to Paul, and their hope for his speedy coming among them! how this one and that one would wish it to be reported to Paul that they were determined to hold by Christ even to death! how some of them would go down to Neapolis and accompany him to the ship with tears! And then, when the delegate was met by the apostle again at Ostia or Puteoli, or wherever he had meantime gone to labor, what comfort there would be in hearing all that Timothy had to report to him!
2. His fitness relative to Paul. " For I have no man like-minded, who will care truly for your state. For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ." Travelling from Rome to Philippi would be attended with not a little inconvenience and risk. With the work associated with the journey, it would probably mean, to the person who undertook it, an absence of months. It is to be remembered that even emperors then did not charter their own vessels or have command of their own movements. Advantage had to be taken of coasting vessels engaged in commerce, and with delays at ports and with winds net always favorable, travelling by sea was generally slow. We read of a journey which Paul made from Philippi to the coast of Palestine in the seven weeks that intervened between the Passover and Pentecost. A journey from either of the harbours of Rome to Philippi would not be so formidable an undertaking; but Scylla and Charybdis had to be passed, the point of Italy rounded, the Ionian Sea crossed, the Grecian archipelago passed through, and the Aegean Sea encountered as far as Neapolis. There would probably be waiting at some Grecian port for a vessel for Philippi. There was always the danger of a storm by sea, and there was, especially to the messenger of the cross, the danger of persecution wherever he prosecuted his labors. The apostle was ill placed for fit men to undertake such a journey. There was such a general disposition, even among those who professed to work for Christ, to place their personal comfort and convenience before the claims of Christ on their' service. Of those available there were none (with only one exception) who could stand the test of such a journey. There is a side light thrown here on one of the trials of Paul in his imprisonment. As all, when it came to the crisis, forsook Christ and fled, so Paul was so isolated as to be at a loss to find a delegate of the right stamp for this mission to Philippi. "All," he has to say, "seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ." In no haste, in all sobriety, does he bring this heavy indictment against them. They were all so afflicted with selfishness that they could not, at the call of Christ, brave a journey from Rome to Philippi. And before we cast a stone at them, let us ask if we could have stood the test ourselves. Do we habitually place the claims of Christ before personal comfort and convenience? May the same charge of selfishness not be brought home to very many still? If there was, even among those who profess to be Christ's, a willingness to set aside comfort and convenience for Christ, would there not be a hundredfold more of men and of money for Christian work? The one exception, the one unselfish man of those who might have gone to Philippi, was Timothy. He is commended as like-minded, or like-souled, with the apostle. And this is to be explained by the fact of his spiritual parentage. The language used in various places is "son," "my own son," "my beloved son," "my dearly beloved son." It is common to see the features of the father repeated in the son. This is true, not only of the bodily features, but extends even to the mental and spiritual configuration. Timothy had been moulded by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois in the Jewish religion, and no doubt they had left their mark on him. But in his conversion to Christianity He had so completely come under the formative influence of the apostle that there was a kind of natural assimilation to him in what he cared for. With his father's instincts, is Chrysostom's explanation of the word "truly" that is used here. Because Paul cared for the state of the Philippians, Timothy his son could not help caring for their state.
3. His fitness relative to the PhiIippians. "But ye know the proof of him, that as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the gospel." Timothy had been with Paul at Philippi, as is borne out by the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles, and his qualities had been there put to the proof. Their experience of him was this, that—as a child serveth a father, so he had served with Paul in furtherance of the gospel. It is an excellent arrangement, by which the younger is made to serve under the elder. It is beautiful to see a son free from opinionativeness and self-will, and spending his time and employing his powers as the father, in his larger experience and superior wisdom, directs. Soldiers who have plenty of strength and courage, when they go into battle are placed under the best military skill that is obtainable, and thus in the result it is as though each had the skill of his commander. It will be a source of strength for ns, the men of this generation, to be guided by what has been proved to be good by the men of former generations, especially by those principles of religion which have stood the test of the ages, and have had the approval of the wisest and best of our race. Timothy must have been a very young man when working at Philippi, and very unaccustomed to the work. Some years after the date of this Epistle, Paul wrote to him in these words: "Let no man despise thy youth." In his inexperience in the work of furthering the gospel he had grace given him to take the course marked out for him by Paul; and thus he was preserved from many a fall, and was able to work to the best advantage. In this he was an example to a junior pastor serving with a senior. Blessed are those who, filled with a sense of their own imperfections, value the assistance of the wise in the direction of their energies.
4. Time of his mission. "Him therefore I hope to send forthwith, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me." He hoped shortly to send Timothy to them; he hoped, therefore, shortly to see how it would go with him. As soon as he saw the result of the trial, which he was confident would be his liberation, forthwith, without any loss of time, would he send forth Timothy, that the Philippian and other Churches might rejoice.
5. The mission of Timothy was not to supersede a visit from himself. "But I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall come shortly." In the same spirit and sphere of confidence, he gives them to understand that, while thus writing of the mission of Timothy, he does not forget his promise to pay them a visit himself, on his liberation. It might not be an immediate or a prolonged visit; but he held himself bound (God willing) to include Philippi in his plan of visitation.
1. The Christian.
(a) Common sympathy. "But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother." Paul was not without natural attachments. we do not read of his being married; but we read of his sister and his sister's son. And he seems to have interested himself in the highest form in his relations; for we read of several of his kinsmen sending their Christian salutations to the Church at Rome. But especially did he form noble attachments in connection with his work. If he had no brother after the flesh, there were many toward whom He exercised brotherliness. Epaphroditus, we may conclude, was a Philippian, of a different race, of a different nation. Thrown into contact with the apostle, and converted to Christianity probably through his instrumentality, they were closely drawn together on the ground of sympathy on the great subject of salvation. Their acquaintance had been renewed at Rome, and now, in parting with him, Paul affectionately names him to the Philippians as his brother. And it is only on the ground of a common Christian sympathy that the idea of the Christian brotherhood can be wrought out. This sympathy must be real, active, else it will prove to be inefficient. It is only when it is no mere matter of courtly phrases, but when, in genuineness, we feel drawn to one another in Christ, that we shall be able successfully, unmistakably, to get over difference of race, difference of class, difference of pursuit, difference of ecclesiastical connection. Let, then, the brotherly feeling be in us, with its roots deeply struck into Christ.
(b) Common work. "And fellow-worker." Christians are organized into a society, not merely on the ground of common sympathy, but for common work. Our impression of the apostolic Churches is that all the members were workers, male and female. If they did not all preach the gospel or serve tables, they worked in trying to induce friends and acquaintances to go with them to hear the gospel. And it was because there was so much movement, interest manifesting itself in all kinds of work, in those early Churches, that they prospered so wonderfully. Paul knew how to take advantage of men who were fitted for special work. He called such a man as Epaphroditus to his side, and, with Epaphyoditus at his side and working with him, he felt stronger and gladder. Union makes us stronger; we each count more than one when we all work side by side. Union makes us gladder. "What makes the harvest-field so cheerful a scene? Because each is cheered by the other's alacrity, word, and song."
(c) Common warfare. "And fellow-soldier." We have to conquer men's hearts for Christ. We have to conquer the world's evils—sensuality, intemperance, mammon-worship, carelessness, infidelity. We must fight, for there is a subtle and powerfully aggressive influence from the world; and if we do not conquer the world, the world will conquer us. It becomes, then, all who are true soldiers of the cross to stand side by side, that they may act to more purpose against the common foe. Paul felt more raised above his personal temptations, and a braver soldier against the heathenism of his day, when he had such soldiers as Epaphroditus and Archippus at his side. We should come up to the idea of the Theban sacred band. Thebans, making common cause with Thrasybulus and his Athenian co-patriots, set out together, resolved to dethrone the Thirty Tyrants of Athens, or die in the attempt. "That is what God means his Church to be: a band, not of friends merely, but of brothers, united heart to heart and hand to hand, and going forth resolved never to yield up the warfare till they are called to he down in death or see victory crowning their efforts."
2. Reason for his return in his own stale of mind. "Since he longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick." This was the necessity of the case. The Philippians had heard of his sickness; apparently they had not heard of his recovery. This, somehow coming to the knowledge of Epaphroditus, threw him into a state of sore trouble, or dividedness. He knew how he stood in their affection, and that they would be anxious about him. How could he remain longer away from them? He must go and relieve their anxiety. And so he took a longing for them—what is known as home-sickness.
3. Information regarding his sickness and recovery. "For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on trim only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow." The report of his having been sick was correct, and his sickness had been of a very serious nature—he had been sick nigh unto death. But God had recovered him, and, in recovering him, bad mercifully considered, not one but two. The Philippians are not included, because they were not on the spot. Paul writes as one who was with Epaphroditus through his sickness, or was kept regularly informed of his condition. And therefore we are to think of the locality of the sickness as Rome, and not on board ship on his way to Rome. God mercifully considered Epaphroditus, who was more immediately concerned; to whom he gave more life, even as he gave to King Hezekiah. He who has the ordering of all lives in his hands suffered him not to be stricken down away from his home. He set this mark of his favor on his servant, that he brought him back from the gates of death, so that he could say with one in like circumstances, "The sorrows of death compassed me. I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." But God also mercifully considered Paul. It would have been a severe blow to have had one of his companions stricken down. It would have been the sorrow of a peculiar bereavement upon the sorrow of imprisonment. But as God considered the children of Israel when they sighed by reason of the bondage, so he considered his bond-servant Paul, and ordained that it should not be that Epaphroditus should die, were it only for Paul's sake. No additional burden must be laid on him, already burdened enough. And so, not to inertia but to alleviate his sorrow at that sick-bed in Rome, he who made the seven stars and Orion mercifully turned the shadow of death into the morning.
4. Reason for his return in Paul's state of mind. "I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful." The Philippians, He felt, were to be considered. He entirely entered into the feelings of Epaphroditus regarding them. Personally, he would very gladly have kept him with him at Rome for a time, until perhaps the time of the liberation, when he would have returned to Philippi with the news. But, however useful and comforting he found him, he must deny himself for the sake of the Philippians. He must give them the pleasure of seeing their pastor again after all their anxiety about him. And, while giving them pleasure, he would really be alleviating his own sorrow. With more haste, therefore, than he would in other circumstances have shown, he sent him to them.
5. He bespeaks for Epaphroditus a good reception. "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy; and hold such in honor: because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me." There is no reflection on the Philippians in the concluding words. They had done their utmost in service in giving Paul what he characterizes as an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, welt-pleasing to God. What was lacking in their service was what they could not supply in the distance, viz. personal service to Paul. They supplied it representatively in Epaphroditus. It was the very height of their interest in Paul that they could deny themselves the service of their pastor for a considerable time, in order that, besides supplying him with money for his personal use and for carrying on the work, they might have the luxury in him of personally waiting upon him in his imprisonment. Epaphroditus was the substitute of each Philippian, who would gladly have taken his turn in waiting upon the apostle. And it was in seeking to render in the fullest measure what was thus lacking in their service, that he brought on an illness which proved well-nigh fatal. He is called a soldier, and he had the spirit of the true soldier in heroic devotion. A soldier must not consult his ease, he must not linger beside wife and children, he must not count his life dear unto himself. He must, at the call of his commander, be willing to undertake difficult and even perilous service, to form one of a storming party who have to march "in the cannon's mouth." Verily he must endure hardness. And so the good soldier, Epapbroditus, for the work of Christ, in the battle carried on by Paul at Rome, in undertaking difficult service against the enemy there, came nigh unto death, hazarding his life. They were to receive him then in the Lord, with all joy, in fellowship with the Lord and in gratitude to the Lord who had mercifully dealt with them in giving him back to them as from the dead. And they were to hold him in honor, the ground of their honoring him being, not that he was in office among them, but that in working for Christ in their name he had risked his life. They were to heap honor upon him as upon a soldier who had distinguished himself in battle. And Epaphroditus was only to be taken as a specimen of a class. Hold such, says Paul, in honor. Whom are we to honor? It is not those who have lived to indulge themselves. It is rather those "who have walked in a rugged path, and clung to good and great ends in persecution and pain; who amid the solicitations of ambition, ease, and private friendship, and the menaces of tyranny and malice, have listened to the voice of conscience and found recompense for blighted hopes and protracted suffering in conscious uprightness and the favor of God." Hold in honor the Christian brother, like Archer Butler, who nobly lost his life in volunteering to visit the infected houses during a visitation of cholera in Dublin; and the Christian sister who, resigning the comforts of her home, devotes her life to caring for the bodies and souls of patients in a hospital. Ilold in honor the Christian missionary who, leaving his people and civilization, gocs forth to a distant land and submits to isolation and a trying climate and peculiar difficulties of work, that he may bring the ignorant to the knowledge of the Savior. And hold in honor all who can be unselfish in the place which Providence has assigned to them, and do not grudge the sacrifice of their time and comforts in giving, in praying, in working, in order that Christ may be magnified.—R.F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
Genuine socialism apostolically urged.
"If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love," etc. Notice—
I. GENUINE SOCIALISM. Man is a social being, and his normal social condition is unity. Society is one body, and all men are members thereof, all animated by one life, and contributing to the good of the whole. This is the social ideal; but.. he alas! sin has created a schism. Instead of unity there is a division everywhere, and the divided parts become antagonistic. The mission of the gospel is to remedy this and to restore to perfect social unity. This unity, we infer from the text, includes three things,
1. Harmony of feeling to one another. "That ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." Having noticed this point in the preceding article, we have only to repeat that the harmony can only be realized by all having the one same object of reigning love. Two men, however different in the kind and measure of native talent, in the nature and measure of information, in the degree of culture, in the character of their opinions and beliefs, are indissolubly united in soul if their greatest love is centred in the same object. So of any number. The design of the gospel is to center all men's love on God in Christ. There is no other way of producing this harmony; no theological system, no ecclesiastical organization, no legislative enactment can do it; it is simply by this love that it can be done.
2. Humility of deportment among one another. "Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." "This verse expresses the negative result of this unity of soul—that nothing will be done in strife, that is, factiousness (the word used in Philippians 1:17), or 'vain-glory;' nothing, that is, with the desire either of personal influence or of personal glory. For, he adds, each will esteem other better than himself, or rather, will hold that his neighbor is worthy of higher consideration, and a higher place of dignity than himself (compare the use of the word in Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13, of temporal dignity), for the idea is of the ascription to others, not of moral superiority, but of higher place and honor. Self-assertion will be entirely overborne. So he teaches us elsewhere that 'charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own' (1 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Corinthians 13:5)" (Dr. Barry). The proud, the haughty, the supercilious, are not only the disturbers or' social unity, they are the destroyers of it. According to the law of souls, they loathe and recoil from all arrogance and pretension in others, hence the exhortation, "Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory."
3. Generous concern one for another. "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." This does not mean, of course, that you are to neglect your own things. There are things that every man must attend to for himself—his own physical health, intellectual culture, etc., he but it means that we are not to attend to our own things chiefly, and in such a way as to neglect the concerns of others. There is no real antagonism between the interest of self and the interest of others; on the contrary, we can only secure our own individual well-being or happiness by promoting the interests of others. It is only as men become generously engrossed in the interests of others that they can realize their own individual happiness and perfection. The man rises only as he becomes self-oblivious; thus Paul felt, "I am crucified with Christ, never-the-less I live." The ego must be swallowed up in the non-ego—the spirit of universal benevolence. This is genuine socialism, and it is here urged by—
II. APOSTOLIC PERSUASION. "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded." "There are here four influencing motives to inculcate the four Christian duties corresponding respectively—that ye be like-minded, having the same love, of one accord, of one mind.
1. 'If there be [with you, as I assume] any consolation in Christ,' i.e. any consolation—but Ellicott, to avoid tautology, 'comfort' following, translates (parakless) 'exhortation,' Romans 12:8—of which Christ is the source, leading you to console me in my afflictions borne for Christ's sake, ye ought to grant my request.
2. 'If there be any comfort of [i.e. flowing from] love,' the adjunct of consolation in Christ.
3. 'If any fellowship of [joint participation of] the Spirit' (2 Corinthians 13:14). As 'pagans' meant 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 (1 Corinthians 12:4)!
4. 'If any bowels [tender emotions] and mercies' ('compassions,' Corinthians Romans 2:12), the adjuncts of fellowship of the Spirit. The first and third mark the objective sources of the Christian life—Christ and the Spirit; the second and fourth, the subjective principle in believers. The opposites of the two pairs into which the four fall are reprobated in Romans 12:3 and Romans 12:4" (Fausset). A man like the apostle would not have urged this true socialism with such mighty earnestness had he not been impressed with its importance; and what can be of greater importance than this unity among the race? For this Christ prayed the night before his death, "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us."—D.T.
The moral history of the Christly spirit.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus," etc. "From a practical introduction in the familiar exhortation to follow the example of our Lord, St. Paul passes on to what is perhaps the most complete and formal statement in all his Epistles of the doctrine of his great humility. In this he marks out first the Incarnation, in which, 'being in the form of God, he took on him the form of a servant,' assuming a sinless but finite humanity; and next the passion, which was made needful by the sins of men, and in which his human nature was humiliated to the shame and agony of the cross. Inseparable in themselves, these two great acts of his self-sacrificing love must be distinguished. Ancient speculation delighted to suggest that the first might have been even if humanity had remained sinless, while the second was added because of the fall and its consequences. Such speculations are indeed thoroughly precarious and unsubstantial—for we cannot ask what might have been in a different dispensation from our own, and moreover we read of our Lord as 'the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world ' (Revelation 13:8; see also 1 Peter 1:19), but they at least point to a true distinction. As the 'Word of God' manifested in the Incarnation, our Lord is the treasure of all humanity as such; as the Savior through death, he is the especial treasure of us as sinners" (Dr. Barry). This is one of the grandest passages in the Bible; it has been the arena of many a theological battle, the subject of many a sermon ay, and of many volumes too. Eschewing, as far as possible, all verbal criticism and speculation, I shall turn it to a practical account by using it to illustrate the moral history of the Christly spirit—the spirit which the Philippians in the preceding verses are exhorted to obtain and cherish. Using it with this view, there are two great facts to be noticed.
I. IT IS A SPIRIT OF SELF-ABNEGATION. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus," etc. Now, this "mind," or spirit, he details as developed in Christ himself.
1. In what Christ did not do. "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Or, as Dr. Davidson renders the words, "Did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped at." "The term 'God' here and in the following paragraph," says Bengel, "does not denote God the Father; the form of God does not mean the Deity himself nor the Divine nature, but something rising out of it. Again, it does not signify the being equal with God, but something prior, the manifestation of God, that is, the form shining out of the very glory of the invisible Deity." The form of man is not the man himself, so the manifestation of God is not God himself. Now, Christ did not seize at this manifestation, did not consider it a thing to be grasped at. Of the true Christly spirit it may be said that, when great good is to be done, it does not hold on to privileges, honors, dignities, etc. This is strikingly illustrated in St. Paul, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ" (Philippians 2:7).
2. In what Christ did do.
II. IT IS A SPIRIT OF DIVINE EXALTATION. Because of this self-abnegating love "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a Name which is above every name; "rather," the Name above every name." Perhaps all intelligent creatures through the universe have appellations by which they are distinguished from others and recognized. Angels have their names: Michael, Gabriel, etc. Some names are greater than others. It often happens that the name of one man towers in significance and grandeur above the name of a whole generation. Such names as Moses, Paul, Luther, Howard, Garibaldi. But the apostle declares that there is one "Name above every name," either on earth or in heaven.
1. It is a transcendent Name. "A Name which is above every name." It is idealistically and independently perfect. There is no name like unto it in the universe. Above every name in every hierarchy in the creation.
2. It is a morally conquering Name. "That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow." There is a talismanic energy in this Name. It has wrought wonders on our earth already, and far greater wonders it will work in the human mind "until all his enemies be made his footstool." It wins the mastery over the soul, ay, and gains ascendency over all minds in the universe. "Of things in heaven, and things in earth," etc. For "things," read "beings." "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
3. It is a God-glorifying Name. "And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." The acknowledgment of the glory of Christ is the acknowledgment of the glory of the Father as the source of Deity manifested perfectly in him. "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28).
CONCLUSION. Here is the fixed law of heaven. The moral spirit that would ascend to true dignity, win a name that shall command the reverence both of earth and heaven, must empty itself of all selfish motives and personal interests. There are two hills lying opposite each other, one is the hill of personal pride—barren, bleak, cloudy; the other is the hill of Divine dignity—grand, sunny, blooming in beauty, and abounding in fruit, crowned with the pavilion of the Godhead. No soul can ascend the one without descending the other; he must go down the brow of selfishness step by step, till he reaches the dark valley of self-abnegation, and then upward he may commence scaling the sublime altitudes of Divine dignity and bliss.—D.T.
Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13
Salvation as a work in the soul.
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." It is worthy of note that this, of all the Epistles of Paul, is the only one that contains no direct rebuke. The apostle hero speaks of them as "having always obeyed," not only in his presence, but in his absence. The passage leads us to contemplate salvation as a work in the soul. The word "salvation" implies a previous lost condition. The soul is lost; but in what sense? Not in the sense of missing, as the piece of silver was lost, the sheep was lost, the prodigal son lost; God knows where every soul is. Not in the sense of destruction, as the tree or house is lost when burnt to ashes; but in the sense in which a worthless child is lost to his parents, a worthless soldier to an army, a worthless citizen to his country. All souls are lost to God in this sense—they fulfill not their mission, which is
I offer three remarks on this subject.
I. SALVATION IS A SUPREME WORK IS MAN. The apostle urges it here as supreme: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence," etc. As if he had said, "Mind, attend to this, wherever I am, in whatever condition, whether I am living or dying, do not neglect your salvation." This is the supreme work. If the soul is not restored to the knowledge and image of the true God, what matters it what else a man may possess? "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
II. SALVATION IS A DIVINE WORK IS MAN. "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
1. He works in you. He works everywhere outside of you. He is the force of all forces, the Spirit in all the wheels of nature; but in the soul he has a higher sphere. As outside in unreasoning nature he works in harmony with the laws which he has established, so in the soul he works according to its laws of thought and volition.
2. He works in you for your salvation. Not for your destruction; destruction would require no work on his part, a mere volition would extinguish you for ever, but he works to save you—works as the physician works to save his patient, as the lifeboat works to save the sinking bark.
3. He works in you for your salvation "according to his good pleasure." It is not his will that you should perish; the desire of his great fatherly heart is that you should be saved. Hence he works in you, works silently, constantly, and in connection with all the influences of nature, events of history, and the laws of your own being.
III. SALVATION IS A HUMAN WORK IN MAN.
1. It is a work which the man must do for himself. "Work out your own salvation." No one can do the work for you; no one can believe, repent, and love for you; the work is absolutely personal.
2. Man's encouragement to this work is the co-operation of God. "God worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." His agency, instead of superseding the necessity of yours, should stimulate yours. If he did not work with you, your efforts would be futile; if against you, your efforts would be baffled and confounded. But your salvation is his "good pleasure." He works with you as he works with the industrious agriculturist; he supplies all the necessary conditions for success in the production of golden crops. He works with you as he works with the genuine truth-seeker, touches the springs of thought and stimulates by ever-opening prospects.
CONCLUSION. Never let us forget that our supreme work is spiritual salvation, that all other works should be made subservient to this.—D.T.
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world holding forth the Word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain." The Church is essentially as active society. An inactive Church is a solecism. Activity is not only the condition of its health, strength, and growth, but the condition of its very existence. Inactivity is death. The text leads us to look upon its activity in relation to various things.
I. IN RELATION TO THE SPIRIT WHICH SHOULD INSPIRE IT.
1. The spirit should uncomplaining. "Do all things without murmurings ( γογγυσμῶν)." In Peter this word is translated "grudging." It represents a discontented soul. It is not uncommon, alas! to find men in the Church discontented—discontented with their fellow-members, their minister, their work. This gongusmos is a growl which is most painful and mischievous in Church operations.
2. The spirit should be uncontentious. "Disputings." There is a strong tendency in some persons to enter into contention and raise a strife. The smallest points of difference are seized. This disputatious spirit has been rife in all ages. The theological controversies, sectarian battlings, the schismatic stripes of the Church, have been her disgrace and her bane.
3. The spirit should be irreprehensible. "That ye may be blameless and harmless." The expression means faultless and sincere. Christians should exemplify such a spirit and maintain such a deportment as would guard them from the rebukes of the severest critics of life.
II. IN RELATION TO THE SPHERE OF ITS OPERATIONS. "A crooked and perverse nation." Though, perhaps, Paul especially refers in these words to the bigoted Jews and Gentiles, amongst whom the Philippians lived, they are not inapplicable to the unconverted world. The world, as distinguished from the Church, living outside and around it, is indeed wicked and perverse. The world is the sphere of the Church. And how corrupt in its maxims, in its aims, in its spirit, in its theories, practices, and institutions! The prince of darkness is its ruler. He worketh in the children of disobedience.
III. IN RELATION TO THE MISSION IT PROSECUTES. "Holding forth the Word of life." Observe:
1. Its instrument. "The Word of life." The gospel is the Word of life. It reveals, generates, nourishes, and perfects Divine life in the soul.
2. Its method. "Holding forth." The language is figurative. Hold this Word forth as a standard-bearer holds forth his banner to direct the march and animate his soldiers in the day of battle. Hold it forth as a light in the midst of surrounding darkness. Some think there is in the text an allusion to those towers which in ancient times were built at the entrance of harbours, and on which fires were kept burning to direct ships into port. It should be held forth as the lighthouse holds forth that flaming lamp that flashes its radiance on the dark sea to guide the mariner on his way. Hold it forth, not only trinally, but practically; let it turn your whole being into a light that shall shine brightly as a star in the world's dark firmament.
IV. IN RELATION TO THE MINISTRY THAT STIMULATES IT. Christ has appointed a ministry in the Church. The design of that ministry is to stimulate and guide its activity. Paul had ministered to the Church at Philippi, and he uses the service he had rendered as an argument for their continued Christian activity. "That I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain." There is nothing selfish in this reason. But there is something very suggestive in Paul's words. They imply:
1. That the Church may render fruitless the labors of its minister. This is a solemn truth, and one exemplified in the history of many congregations. An indolent, ignorant, worldly, inconsistent Church must ever render futile the services of the best of ministers. Even Paul dreaded it.
2. That such an event is a calamity to be deprecated. Paul did so now. Deprecated, not on selfish grounds, for the true minister has his reward in his own holy efforts. But on account of those who augment their responsibility and increase their guilt by an abuse of the means of grace.
3. That the results of the Christian ministry will be fully revealed on the day of judgment. This day is here called "the day of Christ." It is his day, because he will appear on that day; he will be the most prominent object on that day; he will rule the destinies of that day.—D.T.
Philippians 2:17, Philippians 2:18
"Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me." There are different kinds of love. Christly love is love in the highest form, the love which is the inspiration of all human activities, approved of God, and spiritually useful to man. Two remarks are here suggested concerning this love.
I. IT IS SELF-CONSECRATING. It was so:
1. In the conduct of the Philippian Christians. Paul speaks of their religion as the "sacrifice" and "service" of their "faith." The life of a genuine Christian is the life of a true priest; he is at once the offering and the offerer. It is a self-dedication to God. In this priesthood of personal Christianity two things are to be observed.
(a) Not the loss of personality. Man does not lose himself by consecrating his existence to the Eternal. He will never be absorbed in the Infinite; a man once, a man for ever.
(b) Not the loss of Free agency. In the consecration man does not become the mere limb or machine of Omnipotence. In truth he only secures his highest liberty by yielding up himself to God. What does it mean, then? It includes two things—yielding to his love as the inspiration of his being, and adopting his will as the rule of his activities.
2. In the life of the apostle. "Yea, and if I be offered [or, 'poured forth'] upon the sacrifice." The allusion is to the practice of pouring ont libations or drink offerings over sacrifices both Jewish and heathen. Paul regards his own possible martyrdom in the sense of a libation. He felt that his possible death was to serve that practical Christianity which the Philippians were exemplifying in their "sacrifice" and "service." He had consecrated his existence to the furtherance of the gospel.
II. IT IS JOY-INSPIRING. "I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me." This self-consecrating love to the cause of Divine benevolence, the cause of Christ and humanity, is "joy." Such disinterested love is happiness, nothing else, is heaven and nothing else. Just as the individual man loses himself, his ego, in the love of God and the interests of his universe, all personal anxieties and sorrows sink into the depths of oblivion, the soul gets filled with all the fullness of God. Genuine religion is joy; it is not the means to heaven, it is heaven itself. Such is Christly love, and such alone is true religion. Selfish love, sectarian love, and theological love are not constituents, but antipathies, to this love.—D.T.
The true spirit of Christian usefulness.
"But I trust in the Lord," etc. These words might be fairly employed to illustrate the true spirit of Christian usefulness, and the following remarks are suggested. This spirit
I. SUPREME CONCERN FOR THE SOUL-INTERESTS OF OTHERS. This was exemplified in Paul
1. In thinking of them at all in his condition. Paul was now a prisoner in Rome, expensed to martyrdom, "ready to be offered." One might have thought that in such a condition his mind would have been wholly occupied with his own affairs, and that he would be utterly dead to the concerns of others. Not so; he feels a vital and deep interest in the Church at Philippi.
2. In despatching to them the best man he could find to promote their spiritual good. "But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state." See what he says of this Timothy, whom he purposes shortly to send to them.
3. In despatching to them a man well known to them, dear to him as a son and a loving colleague. "But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel." They knew Timotheus. He was with Paul when he first preached the gospel to them (Acts 16:12-14). And also with Paul when he visited them, on another occasion, on his way to Jerusalem. He was with him as a "son," loving and loyal. Thus Paul showed his absorbing interest in them. Why did he think of them at all? Above all, why did he send Timotheus, a man so dear to him, to minister to them? Why did he not keep him with himself, to soothe and succor him in his terrible position? It was because he had that spirit of Christian usefulness that absorbed his whole nature in the concerns of others. With his liberty gone, and death before him, he says—I want to "know your state," how you think, feel, purpose, and act in relation to the gospel which I preached unto you—the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and for this purpose I send Timotheus to you, the most valuable man I know, and the most dear to me. So it is ever; a man imbued with the true genius of spiritual usefulness will think more about the moral concerns of others than about himself. Elsewhere we hear our apostle say, "I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ, for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites" (New Version). Ah me! Where is this spirit of usefulness now? Where are the men to whom their own personal and worldly interests are as dross to the welfare of souls?
II. A SPIRIT OF SETTLED TRUST IN THE WILL OF THE GREAT MASTER. "Him [that is, Timotheus] therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly." Observe:
1. He was in a state of uncertainty as to his destiny. He did not know whether he should be liberated or martyred. The future of our personal existence is concealed from all, even from inspired men. "We know not what shall be on the morrow."
2. Though in this state of uncertainty he entertained the hope of visiting them shortly. "I trust … I myself shall come shortly." This was natural. It not only implied a deliverance from his horrible position, but the gratification of renewing old and tender associations.
3. This hope he entertained in subjection to the Divine will. I do not know my future, but I trust in the Lord. I do hope to visit you "shortly." I should like once more to be amongst you; I trust I shall; but my trust is in submission to the Divine will. Herein he acted according to the directions of St. James: "For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will" (James 4:15).
CONCLUSION. Such is the spirit of Christian usefulness, a spirit that regards the soul-interests of men as supreme, and that makes all hopes and calculations of the future subject to the Divine will.—D.T.
True laborers for Christ.
"Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus," etc. Epaphroditus, it would seem, had been sent from the Church at Philippi to Paul at Rome, with supplies for his temporal necessities. In the execution of his commission he had fallen sick, and now, having reached convalescence, he longed to return home in order to relieve the anxieties of his friends, who had heard of his indisposition. The text presents to us two genuine, if not model, workers for Christ—men thoroughly imbued with the Christly spirit, and subject to those trials which generally attend in this world the faithful discharge of the gospel mission. In them we discover—
I. A FEELING OF SPIRITUAL EQUALITY. Paul speaks of Epaphroditus as "my brother," "my companion," or, as in the New Version, "my fellow-worker" and "my fellow-soldier." Whatever difference existed in their natural or acquired abilities, their worldly position and social standing, a sense of spiritual equality possessed and ruled them. They were children of the same great Father, laborers in the same great cause, soldiers in the same moral campaign—a campaign against the evils, physical, intellectual, social, and moral, that afflict the world. Where is this sense of spiritual equality displayed now amongst those who profess to be laborers of Christ? What would be thought of an archbishop writing a letter to a Church concerning a primitive local preacher, a true laborer withal, with these words, "my brother, my laborer, my fellow-soldier," receive him with all gladness; and hold such in reputation? Such conduct from the primate would shock the fawning sycophancy which is too rampant in Church and state.
II. A SENTIMENT OF TENDER SYMPATHY. Here is sympathy manifested by three parties.
1. By the Philippian Church towards Paul. Touched with Paul's wretched condition in Rome, a prisoner lacking food, they sent Epaphroditus to him with means of relief, made him the "messenger" of charity.
2. By Epaphroditus towards the Philippian Church. Paul says, "he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness." Why was he "full of heaviness," or in sore trouble? It does not say that it was on his own account, but because "ye had heard he had been sick." He was afraid that the tidings which they had received of his indisposition would distress them with anxieties, and he hurries home to relieve them.
3. By Paul for both. "I sent him therefore the more carefully [diligently], that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful." As if he had said, "I want your sorrows removed, for in your sorrows I sorrow." How beautiful, thrice beautiful, is all this! How rare, withal! how Christly! Nay, there is no Christliness without it. Unless Christianity unites all souls in this living sympathy, it has failed in its mission. All true disciples are members of one body, of which Christ is the Head, and what one feels, all feel, and they rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep.
III. A CONDITION OF TRYING AFFLICTION. Paul was a sufferer. He was not only a prisoner at Rome, awaiting a terrible fate, but in actual "need," dependent on the charity of others. Epaphroditus had been in sore affliction, "nigh unto death." Now, it is worthy of note that the affliction that came on both these men came on them in consequence of their Christianity. One might have thought that their Christianity, their generosity, purity, and moral nobleness, would have guarded them from even the common ills of life. Not so. Paul knew that such afflictions were to be expected, and elsewhere he says, "No man should be moved by these afflictions. Ye yourselves know that ye are appointed thereunto." Afflictions, however, that come in this way are distinguished from all other afflictions in two respects.
1. They have a disciplinary influence. They are not judicial penalties, but parental chastisements. They cleanse, they spiritualize, they ennoble the soul.
2. They have Divine supports. So abundant are the consolations they experience that they "glory in tribulation," etc.
IV. A REALIZATION OF DIVINE MERCY. "For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow." He ascribes both the restoration of Epaphroditus to health, and his own deliverance from the terrible "sorrow" which would have befallen himself had his friend expired, to the mercy of God. Not to any secondary instrumentality, not to the value of their services in the cause of Christ, but to mercy. A practical realization of Divine mercy is at once a sign and element of vital Christianity. In the gift of life there is mercy, in the sustentation of life there is mercy, in the afflictions of life there is mercy; to a Christian all is mercy.
V. A RIGHT TO CHRISTIAN REGARD. "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me."
1. Give him a hearty reception. "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness." Welcome him, not with mere conventional civility and social politeness, but with exultant affection.
2. Treat him with honor. "Hold such in reputation." He is a noble man; treat him as a noble man should be treated. The honor which is paid to worldly men on account of their wealth, their grandeur and position, is a spurious honor, is flunkeyism. There can be no true honor where there is not the honour-worthy, and the honour-worthy implies moral excellence.
3. Do all this because he deserves it. "Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death." He is thoroughly disinterested; he suffered and risked his life, not from any personal motives, but from the inspiration of Christian love and charity. Disinterestedness is the soul of virtue and the only foundation of greatness. A disinterested man has a right to Christian regard, ay, more, to enthusiastic reception.—D.T.
HOMILIES BY V. HUTTON
Philippians 2:1, Philippians 2:2
Exhortation to unity:
I. 1. What consolation (or, exhortation) is there in Christ without this desire? What growth in the knowledge of him or in union with him?
2. What comfort of love? How can the royal law of love of the brethren be fulfilled without this?
3. What fellowship of the Holy Spirit? It is the office of the Holy Ghost to bind together. How can we be partakers of him unless he is working in us his peculiar work?
4. What tender mercies and compassions? Even natural loving-kindness prompts the desire for unity.
II. How much nearer to unity should we be if all who profess to love the Lord Jesus would dwell on these points, rather than on the points about which they differ!—V.W.H.
Philippians 2:3, Philippians 2:4
Exhortation to unity: (3) Causes of its breach.
I. TO CONQUER A MALADY WE MUST ASCERTAIN ITS CAUSE. St. Paul lays bare the causes of the divisions which exist among Christians.
1. Strife: faction; party spirit; the desire to promote the success of a cause rather than to be guided by the Holy Spirit into that which is true.
2. Vain-glory: personal vanity; the desire to be noticed, and the hatred of owning one's self to be wrong. These are the solvents of Christendom. Often the theological disputes which have been the apparent causes of separation have not been the real causes.
1. Humility. Many controversies proceed from an endeavor to explain that which is beyond definition.
2. Consideration for others. Controversy would, to a great extent, cease if each man would be satisfied with bearing witness to the truth, which has made itself a living thing to himself, without insisting that his experience must be that of every one else.—V.W.H.
Exhortation to unity: (4) Its highest motive and most powerful agent.
I. WHAT THE MIND OF CHRIST IS. It is the mind of perfect love manifesting itself in perfect humility.
II. WHY WE NEED IT. It is the only cure for our want of unity. Disunion comes from self-exaltation. Union from losing self in Christ. St. Paul here urges the highest motive to unity and the only method by which it can be secured. Controversies are hushed when we realize the presence and the example of the incarnate Christ.
III. HOW WE CAN HAVE IT. By uniting ourselves to him. So long as we are in our Father's house, all that he has is ours. The humility and the love of which Christ is full are imparted to us if we are in him. We must receive him if we would imitate him; for if we receive him he lives his life in us.
IV. WHAT IT WILL BE TO US. In the heat of controversy we shall learn to see that servant's form in our midst, set there as he once set a little child in the midst of his disciples disputing among themselves which should be the greatest. He is himself that little child; by his self-humiliation he for ever rebukes our self-exaltation.—V.W.H.
The humiliation of Christ.
I. THE HEIGHT FROM WHICH HE. CAME IS THE MEASURE OF THE DEPTH TO WHICH HE DESCENDED. He was for ever "in the form of God;" i.e. with the essential nature of God (cf. John 13:3, John 13:4).
II. HIS HUMILIATION WAS NO LOSS OF GLORY OR ESSENTIAL WORTH. He is for ever in the form of God; this he could not renounce. He laid aside for a time his external equality with God. This he considered not to be a possession of any great importance. How contrary to ordinary human ideas, which "catch at" anything which confers external honor!! But to catch at an external resemblance argues that we do not possess the essential likeness. Only the truly great can afford to humble themselves.
III. HIS HUMILIATION A REALITY. He takes the" form of a servant;" i.e. he actually becomes such, as he was actually in the "form of God." He assumes also the "likeness of a man," becoming in appearance, as in reality, one of ourselves.
IV. HE ACCEPTS THE TRUE POSITION OF MAN, WHICH IS THAT OF OBEDIENCE, This is man's truest and essential glory. The true man cannot live any other life than that of obedience and service. His obedience is to death, even to a death of shame, if such is required of him. Our glory is to accept whatever may be the will of God for us.—V.W.H.
Exaltation through humiliation.
I. 1. Our Lord's teaching. He is continually urging, under different forms of expression, the elementary gospel truth, that to humble ourselves is the true way of exaltation. "Except a man be born again;" "Blessed are the poor in spirit;" "He that humbleth himself;" "Except ye be converted,'' etc.
2. Our Lord's example. He is himself the great example of that which he teaches. He bumbled himself as none other can humble himself, and he is exalted as none other is exalted.
II. OUR EXALTATION CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED AS HIS WAS.
1. We must humble ourselves. Being humiliated is not the same thing as humbling ourselves. Unless we accept it as from God, and for our benefit, humiliation may rouse anger and pride, and thus hinder our exaltation.
2. We must humble ourselves in the way of obedience. We shall not find grace in any self-chosen methods of self-humiliation not imposed upon us by God.
III. 1. It is a matter of spiritual experience that self-exaltation always leaves us humiliated, whereas the cheerful acceptance of the cross which God lays upon us, making us to share in the humiliation of our Lord, gives us some share also in his exaltation.
2. It is a matter of historical proof. The builders of Babel proposed to "make themselves a name," and were confounded; Abraham left himself in God's hands, who undertook to make his name great (Genesis 11:4, Genesis 11:8; Genesis 12:2).—V.W.H.
Philippians 2:10, Philippians 2:11
The exaltation of the Son of man.
I. CONTRAST THE GLORY WHICH THE SON OF GOD RENOUNCED WITH THE GLORY WHICH HAS BEEN BESTOWED UPON HIM BECAUSE OF THAT RENUNCIATION. Contrast also the position of a servant which he voluntarily took, with the position of Lord which he thereby won. Although exalted to be Lord, he still remains in the likeness of men; for it is as Man that he won his kingship, and as Man that he draws all men to himself.
II. THE FEELINGS EXCITED IN US BY THIS REVELATION OF THE EXALTATION OF THE SON OF MAN.
1. Wonder and adoration. Wonder that One in our own nature should be thus exalted, and that prayer may now be addressed to One who is still our fellowman! All creation worships him in whom creation is united to its Creator.
2. Faith. Every tongue is to confess that Jesus is the Lord. This is the essential Christian creed. In it is contained all Christian doctrine and practice. It is Jesus, the loving Son of man, who is exalted to be our Lord. The change in his condition does not change his disposition, which is that revealed to us in the gospel story. All power is now given to him who is all loving. What further revelation of God can we need?
III. THE FINAL PURPOSE OF HIS WORK AND OF OUR CONFESSION OF FAITH IN HIM. "The glory of God the Father:" The humiliation and exaltation of the Son, the loving adoration of mankind, have this as their final object.—V.W.H.
Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13
"Our own salvation."
The command that we should "work out our own salvation" is not in opposition to the truth that all salvation is the gift and the work of God. It has no reference to this, but is an exhortation to rely upon ourselves and upon God in us rather than upon any human guide or teacher.
I. THIS SALVATION IS AN INDIVIDUAL THING. It is "our own." To trust to human guides is to doubt the guidance of God. It was expedient for the disciples that the Lord Jesus should go away. While they were in his visible presence they trusted to that rather than to his Spirit within them. The presence of the teacher hinders the spiritual life if it tends to lead the disciples to trust to it rather than to God. A lesson useful both for our own spiritual training and for the work which we would do for the souls of others.
II. IT IS TO BE WORKED OUT WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING. This fear is not a servile fear, but it is the consciousness of the presence of God and of our relationship to him. Note that among these Philippians bidden to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, there must have been that jailor to whom St. Paul had said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." That first act of faith placed him in a state of salvation, and in this sense "saved" him, and now, being saved, he has to work out a full salvation.
III. THIS SALVATION IS OF GOD. From him comes firstly the desire by which we long for it and the power by which we can attain to it. All is of his grace. He gives grace for grace, not grace for good works. Consider the strength which this truth bestows. The One to whom we trust is not a guide outside us, but a God within us. He is not only One who can teach us when we are willing to be taught, but One who can give us the will to be taught. He is not One whom we have to persuade to help us against his will, but the whole that we need is already of "his good pleasure."—V.W.H.
The Christian life: its effect upon the world.
I. How THIS EFFECT MAY BE OBSCURED. By murmurings (i.e. active rebellions against the will of God) and disputings (i.e. efforts of the intellect to persuade ourselves that God's voice is not speaking to us).
II. HOW IT IS MANIFESTED. Where God's will is accepted, it will render our lives blameless towards him and harmless towards our fellow-men. Thus are we manifested as the sons of God, being partakers of his life.
III. WHAT IT CONSISTS IN.
1. Shining as lights. The faithful are the illuminated, shining, not in their own light, but in the presence of the Light of the world within them. He so fills them with himself that their whole body becomes full of light.
2. Holding forth the Word of life. The light is the life of men. They who are possessors of the light must impart it. One light may be kindled from another without diminution of its illuminating power. It is the Word of God, i.e. the revelation of God, the Word of life (cf. 1 John 1:1), which is "a lantern unto our feet, and a light unto our path."—V.W.H.
Philippians 2:17, Philippians 2:18
The law of sacrifice.
St. Paul takes his metaphor from the methods of sacrificial worship in common use among heathen nations. He sees "the soul of good in things evil," and even in the notions of corrupt human imaginations a distorted reflection of truth. He compares the faith and devotion of the Philippian Christians to a sacrifice presented on the altar, and he is ready to pour out his own life's blood as the libation which shall complete this offering and render it acceptable.
I. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN SACRIFICE. The offering of ourselves, our powers, and possessions. How can these be offered? Only through our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered himself for us, because we had nothing worthy of God's acceptance. His sacrifice becomes ours, inasmuch as we are in him. By his being in us he now enables us to offer ourselves.
II. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN PRIESTHOOD. To offer ourselves for one another is the true privilege of priesthood. Christ is the one Priest, for he alone is worthy to offer anything acceptable to God. In as far as we are partakers of his spirit we share in his priesthood and are permitted to offer ourselves for each other.—V.W.H.
Two characters, representing two aspects of Christian work.
I. TIMOTHY, A MAN OF SYMPATHY. The secret of true sympathy is to be seeking for the things of Jesus Christ. He who seeks for these feels, as his Master feels, for all human sorrows. Such a one is thoroughly "like-minded," and is delivered from the selfishness which cares for nothing but self. None can work for Christ except they are possessed of this sympathy.
II. EPAPHRODITUS, A MAN OF ACTIVE MINISTRY, He is the chosen messenger of the Church at Philippi to minister, in its name, to St. Paul's wants. The sickness from which he was recovering was probably caused by his exertions in this work (Philippians 2:30).
III. ST. PAUL COMBINES IN HIMSELF BOTH THESE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN WORK, He is a man of intense sympathy. Notice his readiness to deny himself the society of these two men in order that the Philippians may be benefited. His reward will be sufficient if he hears a good report of them. At the same time, his whole life is a life of active ministry.
IV. THE SECRET OF BOTH SYMPATHY AND ACTIVITY, His life is lived "in the Lord" (verses 19, 24, 29).—V.W.H.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Philippians 2:1, Philippians 2:2
St. Paul had already much joy in contemplating the spiritual prosperity of the Philippians (Philippians 1:4). One thing only was wanting to make that joy complete. There was some danger lest a spirit of faction should creep in and mar the family unity of the Church, especially among the women (Philippians 4:2). If this danger were averted and harmony established, the joy of the apostle would be full
I. BROTHERLY UNION IS THE CROWNING GRACE OF THE CHURCH. Many other graces may be attained before this is realized—knowledge as in the Corinthian Church, a faithful martyr spirit as in the Philippian Church. But the chief grace is brotherly love. The idea of the Church is essential to Christianity. The gospel does not simply offer individual salvation and call to isolated missions. It brings men into a family and unites them in close bonds. The ideal Christian is not the lonely hermit, but the large-hearted, sympathetic, social man. Close union, however, is only possible on conditions of deep sympathy. We may differ and yet be at peace while we live apart, with sufficient "elbow-room" for our several crotchets. But Church fellowship necessitates internal harmony for the maintenance of peace. Intellectual unity, unity of thought, is impossible to thinking men. The essential unity is unity of purpose and of sympathy—the one mind and the one love. Christians above all men must realize the duties of a democracy—how to subordinate private ends to the general good, how to yield individual opinions in obedience to the general voice of the community. Party spirit, personal ambition, self-will, domineering self-assertion in the leaders, and obstructive self-assertion in the rank-and-file, are the dangers that threaten such communities as were founded by the apostles. Only a spirit of love can conquer them.
II. GREAT CHRISTIAN MOTIVES URGE US TO BROTHERLY UNION.
1. Our living union with Christ. "Any comfort"—i.e. practical experience, help, grace of fellowship—"in Christ." Christians are united together through a common union with Christ. Connection with the Head leads to harmonious co-operation of the members of the body.
2. The blessedness of love. It is found to be a joy, a strength, and a comfort. In trouble and persecution especially it is happy and helpful to unite our individual feelings in love one to another.
3. The fellowship of the Spirit. The one Spirit of God that inhabits the whole Church is a mystical bond of union and inspiration of love.
4. Natural affection. "Tender mercies and compassions," which are natural to humanity, are never so well employed as in Christian brotherhood.—W.F.A.
I. SELFISHNESS IS THE ROOT OF SIN. Selfishness is living in and for ourselves. It manifests itself in various aspects.
1. In thought. Self becomes the largest figure in a man's conception of the universe. The shadow of self lies across everything else. The merits of self are magnified in pride. Vanity craves the admiration of others for one's self. Self-worship makes a man prejudiced in holding to his own opinions and bigoted in rejecting those of other men.
2. In feeling. Self-love fills a selfish man's heart. He has no grief at another's trouble and no pleasure in another's joy. Instead of feeling as a member of a great body moved by the common pulse of a common life, he is like a solitary cell detached and self-concentrated.
3. In action. Self-will becomes the predominating energy and self-seeking the prevailing motive. In its extreme development this becomes positive cruelty—a pursuit of one's own pleasure through the pain of others. Now, all this is sinful in the sight of God and man, and frightfully injurious to society. War, crime, intemperance, etc., all spring from some form of selfishness.
II. CHRISTIANITY REQUIRES THE ERADICATION OF SELFISHNESS, So long as a man thinks only of himself he has not learnt what the gospel means. He may be seeking what he calls his spiritual welfare—escape from hell, a happy future, or peace here. But all this is selfish. Selfishness in every respect must be uprooted in order that the true Christian life may be established.
1. In thought. This is essential to repentance. Humility and confession of sin are necessary before we can even enter the kingdom of heaven.
2. In feeling. Love to Christ, not the saving of our own souls, is the great motive that should inspire us. Love to our fellow-men, not personal comfort, is the spirit that should pervade our lives. We are only Christian in so far as we follow Christ. And Christ denied himself and "went about doing good." All pretensions of saintly devotion count just for nothing, or for worse than nothing, for hypocrisy, so long as the self sits enthroned in our hearts.
3. In action. Faith pre-supposes self-abnegation; it is the surrender of ourselves to another. It takes two forms—
The mind that was in Christ Jesus.
The experience of Christ is the supreme example of his doctrine that "he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." It is here described as an incentive to our duty of unselfish humility. But as the apostle narrates the wonderful facts, and enumerates the details with evident delight on their own account, we may find in them an inexhaustible subject for meditation, and, while not forgetting the object of drawing a practical lesson from them, we may be prepared to receive that lesson more fully by realizing more thoroughly the great example with which it. is enforced.
I. THE HUMBLING OF CHRIST.
1. It was voluntary. The example of Christ is very different from that of Job. Job suffered from misfortunes that came upon him unsought; but Christ freely chose his own humiliation. Therefore the mind that was in Christ was not simply like Job's, a mind of patience and faithfulness; it was a mind of self-abnegation.
2. It was great in extent. We measure a fall, not by the absolute level reached, but by comparison with the altitude left. To fall from a steeple to the common earth on which most men walk, is to make a tremendous descent. In becoming man Christ humbled himself. As a man he humbled himself further than ever man did before, in submitting to shame and death.
3. It was perfect in quality. Look at some of the particulars.
II. THE EXALTATION OF CHRIST. The story of Christ does not end with Calvary. The sequel is as glorious in the experience as the first part is in the character of Christ.
1. The exaltation is God's act. Christ humbled himself, but Christ never sought his own glory, not even after his humiliation. "God highly exalted him." Neither on earth nor in heaven, neither now nor ever, neither when ill deserved nor when well deserved, does the highest glory come to those who seek it for themselves. It is always conferred unsought on the self-forgetful.
2. The exaltation is a consequence of the humbling of Christ. "Wherefore," etc. Christ is not simply reinstated in his old dignity. He receives new honors in direct recognition of his self-sacrifice. It is not merely as a compensation for the suffering, but rather as a reward for the disposition and will of self-abnegation, that the higher glory is accorded to Christ. The spirit in which he suffered, the "wilt" that sanctifies us, the "mind" that was in him, receive the reward.
3. The exaltation is perfect.
Heaven, earth, and hell are ultimately to confess Christ's authority. What a victory! Nothing short of voluntary submission could ever please Jesus as he was known on earth and as he is changeless in character through eternity. In his glowing vision of the future, St. Paul sees all evil conquered and all beings in the universe turned from their rebellion to the acceptance of Christ as their Lord.
III. THE EXAMPLE. This sublime picture is not simply drawn to excite our admiration, nor merely to move our gratitude, but directly to rouse us to imitation. Unlike our modern selfish use of the experience of Christ when we too commonly dwell upon it simply that we may "appropriate the fruits" of it, the apostles almost always refer to it by way of illustration to urge us to show the same spirit. Indeed, our enjoy-merit of the results of Christ's humbling of himself for us is closely connected with this nee of his experience; for we profit by them when we follow him (1 Peter 2:17, 1 Peter 2:18).—W.F.A.
Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13
Working out our own salvation.
I. WE MUST WORK OUT OUR OWN SALVATION.
1. Our salvation is from evils within our reach, if it consisted chiefly of deliverance from future punishment, we could not touch it. But it is, in the main, deliverance from present ills—the sins, temptations, and troubles that beset us. A man's foes are them of his own household, even of his own heart.
2. Our salvation is not yet accomplished. It may be nearer than when we first believed. But while one sin still haunts us, one temptation still attacks us, or one trouble still threatens us, our salvation is not fully accomplished. We can only be called "saved" in the first act of faith, because salvation then begins and the promise of its completion is given us. But the perfecting of salvation is a lifelong, gradual process.
3. The securing of this salvation is in our own hands. St. Paul gives no justification for that one-sided perversion of the doctrine of grace, according to which "doing is a deadly thing." Except we work and fight, Christ's work and victory cannot profit us.
4. The salvation must be worked out to be perfected. We have to carry on what God begins, to develop the seed he sows, to work from the new heart within to the outer life.
5. This process must be carried on "with a nervous and trembling anxiety to do right" (Lightfoot).
II. WE CAN WORK OUT OUR OWN SALVATION BECAUSE GOD WORKS IN US.
1. God is in us. The language of the apostle is no empty metaphor. It describes a spiritual fact. The Christian is a temple because God inhabits him.
2. God works in us. We may contrast this truth with the Stoic doctrine of the indwelling Divinity. "Reverence the Divinity that is within thee," says Marcus Aurelius. But the Stoic, though reverencing, does not look for much active aid from the indwelling God. The Christian receives God in him for a great purpose. God works, creating the disposition to do well—"to will," giving energy for the execution of it; "to do," and directing the course of our action, "for his good pleasure."
3. This working of God in us should prevent us from looking too much for extraneous human aid. The early Church was in danger of leaning too much on the apostles. When the guidance and inspiration of an apostle was removed, the Christians felt the loss of a great support. Especially must this have been the case with Churches founded and fostered by so great a man as St. Paul. There was danger in this. The apostle warns the Philippians against it, and tells them that they should do as well in his absence as in his presence, because God dwells in them. We often make too much of human teachers and leaders, instead of seeing that our real strength lies in immediate personal communion with God. He who trusts God most can be most self-reliant.
4. The working of God within us should be the great encouragement of our own energies. This great truth has been abused so as to encourage indolence, or at least to discourage effort. It is here brought before us with the very opposite purpose. For God works to enable us to work. His work in us is frustrated if we do not co-operate. But when we work we find the power in God, and so are encouraged to labor, knowing that, when most weak in ourselves, we are most strong in God.—W.F.A.
I. CHRISTIANS ARE LIGHTS. Such was their appearance in St. Paul's time. It was a dark age for the world. Old faiths were lost; horrible vices overshadowed society; gloom settled down on the most thoughtful minds. In this spiritual midnight the Christians appear like stars, each with the light of truth and goodness. A similar position always belongs of right to Christian men and women,
1. The light that comes with Christ is not confined to him. He is first of all the Light of the world. But through him his disciples, reflecting his light, become also the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
2. This light is not diffused through the atmosphere as a vague radiance. It is focused and concentrated in Christian men and women. The truth influences the world through the persons who hold it.
3. This light is in individuals. It, is not the general illumination of the Church, but the particular light of each Christian, that enlightens the world. Every Christian is a distinct luminary.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE LIGHTS BECAUSE THEY HOLD FORTH THE WORD OF LIFE. They do not shine in their own goodness, nor merely to spread abroad their own notions. They are the lamps; God's truth is the flame. Christians, then, like the Jews of old, have the custody of "the oracles of God;" but not merely in the literal sense of possessing the Bible. Rather they declare and interpret the truth of revelation by manifesting the character and power of it in their own lives. The truth thus revealed is a word of life. It is a vital truth, the secret of the Christian life, the promise of life to the world.
III. THE CHRISTIAN LIGHTS ARE SEEN BY THE WORLD. "Ye are seen as lights in the world." It is our duty to let our light shine, not to hide it under a bushel. The Church exists for the good of the world. She receives light that she may give it to the people that sit in darkness. This is the most effectual way of commending the Word of life to the world. Moreover, whether we shine well or ill, the eye of the world is upon us.
IV. THE CHARACTER OF CHRISTIANS DETERMINES THEIR EFFECTIVENESS AS LIGHTS IN THE WORLD. The Church has made too much of orthodoxy to the neglect of goodness. We may have the best oil, and yet, if the lamp be out of order, the flame will flicker painfully, and if the glass be foul, the light will be dull. Christians may have the pure Word of life within them, but they will only hold it forth clearly to the world when the lamp is trim and the glass clean—when their own life is healthy and no earthly-mindedness checks the outflow of the Divine radiance. Nothing is more fatal to the clear shining of the Christian light than quarrels among Christians (Philippians 2:14). Love in the Church is an essential condition of light in the world.—W.F.A.
Epaphroditus was a member of the Philippian Church who brought the contributions from that Church to St. Paul at Rome. While in the imperial city, he threw himself so zealously into the work of the apostle as to bring on an illness and seriously endanger his life. Recovering, he feared that his friends at Philippi might be over-anxious about him, and was desirous to return to them as soon as possible. St. Paul, therefore, commended him to the Philippians, in this letter which he was to bear with him. We know nothing about Epaphroditus beyond what the Epistle tells us. But that is enough to reveal him as a man of great beauty of character.
I. EPAPHRODITUS WAS A DEVOTED FRIEND OF ST. PAUL. He took the long journey to Rome in order to bring gifts to the apostle. When there, his arduous efforts were especially spent in service towards St. Paul. While party spirit in following one man to the disparagement of others is a disgrace to the Church (see 1 Corinthians 1:12), devotion to good and great men is natural, right, and helpful for their work. It is well when external adversity only intensifies the devotion. Epaphroditus was most energetic when the apostle was a prisoner.
II. EPAPHRODITUS WAS A SELF-DENYING LABOURER FOR CHRIST. Though in assistance of St. Paul, his work was Christ's work. And he wrought at it till he was sick almost to death. The best Christian work cannot be relegated only to leisure hours, carded on listlessly, and abandoned at the least excuse of ill health. We may not be called to lay down our lives in the violent martyr's death. But the noblest servants of Christ are ready to be faithful unto death in wearing life out with arduous service. Such men should be held in honor.
III. EPAPHRODITUS WAS MOST UNSELFISH IN HIS SUFFERINGS. His one trouble was that they should cause distress to his friends at Philippi. His was not the complaining spirit that makes every one else miserable with its own sufferings, much less was it the mock-martyr spirit that attitudinizes sentimentally and lays itself out to move the compassion of others. There is often much selfishness in trouble, even when it does not take these extreme forms. But the Christian endurance of suffering will involve unselfish regard for the feelings of others and anxiety not to hurt them.
IV. EPAPHRODITUS WAS ANXIOUS TO RETURN HOME AFTER HIS ILLNESS. Christianity does not destroy natural affection. It deepens and strengthens the love of those who are near to us. It is difficult to know how to divide our attention between public and private claims. But, remembering the fatherly love of God, who is the Creator of our human nature, may we not give more scope to the impulses of affection as Divine, and therefore right when purified and guided by Christian principle?
V. EPAPHRODITUS WAS A MAN MUCH BELOVED. Such a man deserved love; and lovable men are generally loved. Except where peculiar circumstances and misunderstandings intervene, it is generally our own fault if we are unable to win the affections of others. God may not always spare those we love. But when he does, we should recognize his goodness in not adding "sorrow to sorrow" and in blessing the tie of Christian affection.—W.F.A.
Friday, March 7th, 2014
the Last Week after Epiphany
Visit Our Sponsors
Search This Commentary
Daily Life in the Time of Jesus
Abingdon New Testament Commentary - Matthew - eBook
Eight Promises For Teenagers Who Want To Fall In Love
Pulpit Crimes: The Criminal Mishandling of God's Word