Adam Clarke Commentary
The apostle exhorts them to stand fast in the Lord, Philemon 4:1. And beseeches Euodias and Syntyche to be of one mind in Divine things, Philemon 4:2. And requests his true yokefellow to help them to a good understanding, Philemon 4:3. Gives them directions concerning their temper and frame of mind, Philemon 4:4-7. And how to act in all respects as becomes the purity and excellence of the Gospel, as they had heard from and seen in him, Philemon 4:8, Philemon 4:9. Thanks them for their attention to him in his captivity, in sending him what was necessary for his support, though he had learned to be contented in all situations in life, Philemon 4:10-14. Mentions particular cases in which they had ministered to him; promises them, through the riches of glory in Christ, a supply of all their spiritual wants; and renders thanks to God, Philemon 4:15-20. Salutes all the saints, and those particularly of the emperor‘s household, Philemon 4:21, Philemon 4:22. And concludes with his usual apostolical benediction, Philemon 4:23.
Therefore, my - beloved - Because ye have this armor, and those enemies, and God for your support, see that ye stand fast in him. This verse most unquestionably belongs to the preceding chapter.
I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche - These were two pious women, as it is generally supposed, who were deaconesses in the Church at Philippi, and who in some points of doctrine and discipline had disagreed. He exhorts them to be of the same mind, that is, to compose their differences; and, if they could not perfectly agree to think and let think, and to avoid all public opposition, as their dissension would strengthen the hands of the common enemy, and stumble those who were weak. But it is more likely that Euodias was a woman, and Syntyche a man, and probably the husband of Euodias; and that it is Syntyche whom the apostle calls true yokefellow in the next verse.
Help those women which labored with me - Both in the Grecian and Asiatic countries women were kept much secluded, and is was not likely that even the apostles had much opportunity of conversing with them; it was therefore necessary that they should have some experienced Christian women with them, who could have access to families, and preach Jesus to the female part of them. The apostle tells us that certain women labored with him in the Gospel, and were assistants to others also who had assisted him.
With Clement also - Supposed to be the same who was afterwards bishop of Rome, and who wrote an epistle to the Corinthians, which is still extant.
Whose names are in the book of life - Who are genuine Christians; who are enlisted or enrolled in the armies of the Lord, and have received a title to eternal glory. The reader is requested to refer to the note on Exodus 32:32-33 (note), and the concluding observations at the end of that chapter, (Exodus 32:35 (note)) where the writing in and blotting out of the book of life are particularly considered, and the difficulties on the subject removed. See also on Luke 10:20 (note).
Rejoice in the Lord alway - Be continually happy; but this happiness you can find only in the Lord. Genuine happiness is spiritual; as it can only come from God, so it infallibly tends to him. The apostle repeats the exhortation, to show, not only his earnestness, but also that it was God‘s will that it should be so, and that it was their duty as well as interest.
Let your moderation be known - The word επιεικες is of very extensive signification; it means the same as επιεικεια , mildness, patience, yieldingness, gentleness, clemency, moderation, unwillingness to litigate or contend; but moderation is expressive enough as a general term. “Moderation,” says Dr. Macknight, “means meekness under provocation, readiness to forgive injuries, equity in the management of business, candour in judging of the characters and actions of others, sweetness of disposition, and the entire government of the passions.”
The Lord is at hand - A phrase something similar to the Maranatha of 1 Corinthians 16:22: The Lord is Judge, and is at hand to punish. Schoettgen supposes, from this verse, taken in connection with the preceding, that Euodias and Syntyche were of a quarrelsome disposition; and hence the exhortation and threatening in the third and fifth verses.
Be careful for nothing - Μηδεν μεριμνατε· Be not anxiously solicitous; do not give place to carking care, let what will occur; for anxiety cannot chance the state or condition of any thing from bad to good, but will infallibly injure your own souls.
By prayer and supplication - God alone can help you; he is disposed to do it, but you must ask by prayer and supplication; without this he has not promised to help you.
And the peace of God - That harmonizing of all passions and appetites which is produced by the Holy Spirit, and arises from a sense of pardon and the favor of God;
Shall keep your hearts - Φρουρησει· Shall keep them as in a strong place or castle. Your hearts - the seat of all your affections and passions, and minds - your understanding, judgment, and conscience through Christ Jesus; by whom ye were brought into this state of favor, through whom ye are preserved in it, and in whom ye possess it; for Christ keeps that heart in peace in which he dwells and rules. This peace passeth all understanding; it is of a very different nature from all that can arise from human occurrences; it is a peace which Christ has purchased, and which God dispenses; it is felt by all the truly godly, but can be explained by none; it is communion with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, by the power and influence of the Holy Ghost.
Finally, brethren - The object of the apostle is to recommend holiness and righteousness to them in every point of view; and to show that the Gospel of Christ requires all its professors to have the mind that was in Christ, and to walk as he himself also walked. That they were not to attend to one branch of righteousness or virtue only, but to every thing by which they might bring honor to God, good to their fellow creatures, and credit to themselves.
Whatsoever things are true - Ὁσα - αληθη· All that is agreeable to unchangeable and eternal truth. Whether that which is to be learned from the nature and state of created things, or that which comes immediately from God by revelation.
Whatsoever things are honest - Ὁσα σεμνα· Whatever is grave, decent, and venerable. Whatever becomes you as men, as citizens, and as Christians.
Whatsoever things are just - Ὁσα δικαια· Whatsoever is agreeable to justice and righteousness. All that ye owe to God, to your neighbor, and to yourselves.
Whatsoever things are pure - Ὁσα ἁγνα· Whatsoever is chaste. In reference to the state of the mind, and to the acts of the body.
Whatsoever things are lovely - Ὁσα προσφιλη· Whatsoever is amiable on its own account and on account of its usefulness to others, whether in your conduct or conversation.
Whatsoever things are of good report - Ὁσα ευφημα· Whatsoever things the public agree to acknowledge as useful and profitable to men; such as charitable institutions of every kind, in which genuine Christians should ever take the lead.
If there be any virtue - If they be calculated to promote the general good of mankind, and are thus praiseworthy;
Think on these things - Esteem them highly, recommend them heartily, and practice them fervently.
Those things, which ye have - learned - From my preaching and writing;
And received - By faith, as a revelation from God;
And heard - From my preaching, and that of those who labored with me; and heard from me, in my private communications with you; and heard of me from other Churches;
And seen in me - While living and labouring among you;
Do - Take them for the rule of your faith and practice.
And the God of peace - He who is the author of peace, the lover of peace, and the maintainer of peace; he who has made peace between heaven and earth, by the mission and sacrifice of his Son, shall be ever with you while you believe and act as here recommended.
But I rejoiced in the Lord - Every good comes from God, either immediately from his providence or from his grace; therefore the apostle thanks God for the kindness of the Philippians towards him; for it was God that gave them the power, and directed their hearts to use it.
Hath flourished again - They had helped him before, Philemon 2:25; they had ceased for a time, and now they began again. This is evidently designed by the apostle, as the word ανεθαλετε implies, which is a metaphor taken from the reviviscence of flowers in spring which seemed dead in winter. For the time in which they were apparently remiss he makes a delicate apology: Ye were careful, but ye lacked opportunity; or rather ηκαιρεισθε , ye had not ability, ye wanted the means; as the word sometimes implies.
Not that I speak in respect of want - I am quite unconcerned in this respect; leaving the whole of my support, while bound for the testimony of Jesus, to the providence of God.
For I have learned - I am so satisfied with the wise providence and goodness of God, that I know whatever he determines is the best; and therefore I am perfectly contented that he should govern the world in that way which seems best to his godly wisdom. How true is the proverb, A contented mind is a continual feast! What do we get by murmuring and complaining?
I know - how to be abased - I have passed through all these states; I know how to conduct myself in each, and how to extract good from all. And he had passed through these things, especially the hardships, so that he had learned the lesson perfectly, as the word μεμυημαι implies; he was thoroughly instructed; fully initiated into all the mysteries of poverty and want, and of the supporting hand of God in the whole. See here the state to which God permitted his chief apostle to be reduced! And see how powerfully the grace of Christ supported him under the whole! How few of those who are called Christian ministers or Christian men have learned this important lesson! When want or affliction comes, their complaints are loud and frequent; and they are soon at the end of their patience.
I can do all things - It was not a habit which he had acquired by frequent exercise, it was a disposition which he had by grace; and he was enabled to do all by the power of an indwelling Christ. Through Him who strengtheneth me is the reading of some of the best MSS., versions, and fathers; the word Χριστῳ , Christ, being omitted.
Ye have well done - Though I have learned all these important lessons, and am never miserable in want, yet ye have done well in sending me relief in the time of affliction.
In the beginning of the Gospel - When, having preached to you, I went forth into Macedonia, I received help from none of the Churches which I had founded, but from you alone. I received nothing from any others, and nothing was offered me.
For even in Thessalonica - While labouring to plant the Church there, he was supported partly by working with his hands, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9; and partly by the contributions sent him from Philippi. Even the Thessalonians had contributed little to his maintenance: this is not spoken to their credit.
Not because I desire a gift - I do not speak thus to incite you to send me a farther gift; I speak this on the general subject, because I wish you to bear such fruit as shall abound to your account in the day of the Lord.
I have all - Ye have now sent me so much by Epaphroditus, that I abound in all the necessaries of life.
Having received - the things - Probably a supply of clothes and such like necessaries, as well as of money.
An odor of a sweet smell - Alluding to the sacrifices offered up under the law. With what ye have done to me, his servant, God is well pleased. See Ephesians 5:2, and the note there.
My God shall supply all your need - As you have given to me in my distress, God will never suffer you to want without raising up help to you, as he raised you up for help to me.
According to his riches - His fullness is infinite; and through Christ, whose followers we are, he will dispense every requisite blessing of providence, grace, and glory, to you.
Now unto God and our Father - God is our Father in Christ Jesus; and such pity as a father hath for his children, such has the Lord for them that fear him; as a father is concerned for the support and life of his children, so is God concerned for you. A father may be poor, and unable to help his most beloved children; God, your Father, is infinite in his riches of his grace and glory, and out of his abundance we have all received, and grace for grace. Therefore, to God our Father, be glory for ever and ever!
Salute every saint - Remember to present my affectionate wishes to every Christian at Philippi.
The brethren which are with me - Those who were fellow laborers with him, generally supposed to be Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Epaphras, Luke, and Demas. See the end of the epistles to the Colossians, (Colossians 4:17 (note) and to Philemon (Philemon 1:25 (note)).
All the saints - All the Christians now at Rome.
They that are of Caesar‘s household - Nero was at this time emperor of Rome: a more worthless, cruel, and diabolic wretch never disgraced the name or form of man; yet in his family there were Christians: but whether this relates to the members of the imperial family, or to guards, or courtiers, or to servants, we cannot tell. If even some of his slaves were converted to Christianity, it would he sufficiently marvellous. Converts to Christianity in this family there certainly were; and this shows how powerfully the Divine word had been preached and spread. That the Empress Poppaea may have been favourably inclined to Christianity is possible; for Josephus relates of her, Antiq., lib. xx. cap. 7: Θεοσεβης γαρ ην· She was a worshipper of the true God; it is not likely, therefore, that she threw any hinderances in the way of her servants who might wish to embrace the Christian faith. St. Jerome, in Philemon, states that St. Paul had converted many in Caesar‘s family; A Caesare missus in carcerem, notior familiae ejus factus, persecutoris Christi domum fecit ecclesiam.
The grace of our Lord - The usual apostolical benediction, which has often occurred, and been more than once explained. See on Romans 1:7 (note), and Galatians 6:18 (note). The word ἡμων , our, is omitted by many MSS. and several versions, which simply read, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Be with you all - Instead of παντων , all, Πνευματος , Spirit, is the reading of ADEFG, several others, with the Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala; besides several of the Fathers.
1.The MSS. generally agree with the versions, and all unite in stating that this epistle was written and sent from Rome, so that the common subscription may well stand. Yet there have been some strong objections made against this, as far as the place is concerned. Some foreign critics have maintained, that were it to be granted that the apostle was now a prisoner for the testimony of Christ, yet it does not follow that he was a prisoner at Rome, for he himself tells us, 2 Corinthians 11:23, that he was in prisons more abundant; and, consequently, he might be in prison somewhere else: but they have gone farther, and denied that this epistle was written while Paul was a prisoner; affirming that he had been already liberated, and that of this there are several evidences in the epistle itself. J. Christopher Wolf, in his Curae, has considered all these objections in detail, and appears to have answered them in a very satisfactory manner. That St. Paul was now in prison, these words seem clearly to prove, Philemon 1:16: - The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds. This strongly argues that he was then suffering imprisonment, and that certain persons of perverse minds preached the Gospel in such a way as was calculated to make his bonds still more grievous. And, as he sends the salutations of saints which were of Caesar‘s household, it seems most evident that he was then at Rome; as, had he been a prisoner in any of the provinces, it is not likely that he would send to Philippi the greetings of those who lived at Rome.
2.The cause of this imprisonment has been variously understood. Theodorus Metochita says it was in consequence of his having converted Nero‘s baker, and one of his concubines; at which the emperor, being enraged, ordered him to be cast into prison: but the authority on which this rests is scarcely sufficient to render it credible.
Finished correction for the press, Dec. 16th, 1831. - A. C.
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