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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Philippians 1

 

 

Verses 1-30

Chapter 1

A FRIEND TO HIS FRIENDS (Philippians 1:1-2)

1:1-2 Paul and Timothy, slaves of Jesus Christ, write this letter to all those in Philippi who are consecrated to God because of their relationship to Jesus Christ, together with the overseers and the deacons.

Grace be to you and peace from God, our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

The opening sentence sets the tone of the whole letter. It is characteristically a letter from a friend to his friends. With the exception of the letter to the Thessalonians and the little personal note to Phlippians, Paul begins every letter with a statement of his apostleship; he begins, for instance, the letter to the Romans: "Paul a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle" (compare 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1). In the other letters he begins with a statement of his official position, why he has the right to write, and why the recipients have the duty to listen; but not when he writes to the Philippians. There is no need; he knows that they will listen, and listen lovingly. Of all his Churches, the Church at Philippi was the one to which Paul was closest; and he writes, not as an apostle to members of his Church, but as a friend to his friends.

Nonetheless, Paul does lay claim to one title. He claims to be the servant (doulos, Greek #1401) of Christ, as the King James and Revised Standard Versions have it; but doulos (Greek #1401) is more than servant, it is slave. A servant is free to come and go; but a slave is the possession of his master for ever. When Paul calls himself the slave of Jesus Christ, he does three things. (i) He lays it down that he is the absolute possession of Christ. Christ has loved him and bought him with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), and he can never belong to anyone else. (ii) He lays it down that he owes an absolute obedience to Christ. The slave has no will of his own; his master's will must be his. So Paul has no will but Christ's, and no obedience but to his Saviour and Lord. (iii) In the Old Testament the regular title of the prophets is the servants of God (Amos 3:7; Jeremiah 7:25). That is the title which is given to Moses, to Joshua and to David (Joshua 1:2; 2:8; Psalms 78:70; Psalms 89:3; Psalms 89:20). In fact, the highest of all titles of honour is servant of God; and when Paul takes this title, he humbly places himself in the succession of the prophets and of the great ones of God. The Christian's slavery to Jesus Christ is no cringing subjection. As the Latin tag has it: Illi servire est regnare, to be his slave is to be a king.

THE CHRISTIAN DISTINCTION (Philippians 1:1-2 continued)

The letter is addressed, as the Revised Standard Version has it, to all the saints in Christ Jesus. The word translated saint is hagios, (Greek #40); and saint is a misleading translation. To modern ears it paints a picture of almost unworldly piety. Its connection is rather with stained glass windows than with the market-place. Although it is easy to see the meaning of hagios (Greek #40) it is hard to translate it.

Hagios (Greek #40), and its Hebrew equivalent qadowsh (Hebrew #6918), are usually translated holy. In Hebrew thought, if a thing is described as holy, the basic idea is that it is different from other things; it is in some sense set apart. The better to understand this, let us look at how holy is actually used in the Old Testament. When the regulations regarding the priesthood are being laid down, it is written: "They shall be holy to their God" (Leviticus 21:6). The priests were to be different from other men, for they were set apart for a special function. The tithe was the tenth part of all produce which was to be set apart for God, and it is laid down: "The tenth shall be holy to the Lord, because it is the Lord's" (Leviticus 27:30; Leviticus 27:32). The tithe was different from other things which could be used as food. The central part of the Temple was the Holy Place (Exodus 26:33); it was different from all other places. The word was specially used of the Jewish nation itself. The Jews were a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). They were holy unto the Lord; God had severed them from other nations that they might be his (Leviticus 20:26); it was they of all nations on the face of the earth whom God had specially known (Amos 3:2). The Jews were different from all other nations, for they had a special place in the purpose of God.

But they refused to play the part which God meant them to play; when his Son came into the world, they failed to recognize him, and rejected and crucified him. The privileges and the responsibilities they should have had were taken away from the nation of Israel and given to the Church, which became the new Israel, the real people of God. Therefore, just as the Jews had once been hagios (Greek #40), holy, different, so now the Christians must be hagios (Greek #40); the Christians are the holy ones, the different ones, the saints. Thus Paul in his pre-Christian days was a notorious persecutor of the saints, the hagioi (Greek #40) (Acts 9:13); Peter goes to visit the saints, the hagioi (Greek #40), at Lydda (Acts 9:32).

To say that the Christians are the saints means, therefore, that the Christians are different from other people. Wherein does that difference lie?

Paul addresses his people as saints in Christ Jesus. No one can read his letters without seeing how often the phrases in Christ, in Christ Jesus, in the Lord occur. In Christ Jesus occurs 48 times, in Christ 34 times, and in the Lord 50 times. Clearly this was for Paul the very essence of Christianity. What did he mean? Marvin R. Vincent says that when Paul spoke of the Christian being in Christ, he meant that the Christian lives in Christ as a bird in the air, a fish in the water, the roots of a tree in the soil. What makes the Christian different is that he is always and everywhere conscious of the encircling presence of Jesus Christ.

When Paul speaks of the saints in Christ Jesus, he means those who are different from other people and who are consecrated to God because of their special relationship to Jesus Christ--and that is what every Christian should be.

THE ALL-INCLUSIVE GREETING (Philippians 1:1-2 continued)

Paul's greeting to his friends is: Grace be to you and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ (compare Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; Phlippians 1:3 ).

When Paul put together these two great words, grace and peace, (charis, Greek #5485, and eirene, Greek #1515), he was doing something very wonderful. He was taking the normal greeting phrases of two great nations and moulding them into one. Charis (Greek #5485) is the greeting with which Greek letters always began and eirene (Greek #1515) the greeting with which Jews met each other. Each of these words had its own flavour and each was deepened by the new meaning which Christianity poured into it.

Charis (Greek #5485) is a lovely word; the basic ideas in it are joy and pleasure, brightness and beauty; it is, in fact, connected with the English word charm. But with Jesus Christ there comes a new beauty to add to the beauty that was there. And that beauty is born of a new relationship to God. With Christ life becomes lovely because man is no longer the victim of God's law but the child of his love.

Eirene (Greek #1515) is a comprehensive word. We translate it peace; but it never means a negative peace, never simply the absence of trouble. It means total well-being, everything that makes for a man's highest good.

It may well be connected with the Greek word eirein (Greek #1515), which means to join, to weave together. And this peace has always got to do with personal relationships, a man's relationship to himself, to his fellow-men, and to God. It is always the peace that is born of reconciliation.

So, when Paul prays for grace and peace on his people he is praying that they should have the joy of knowing God as Father and the peace of being reconciled to God, to men, and to themselves--and that grace and peace can come only through Jesus Christ.

THE MARKS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE:(Philippians 1:3-11)

(1) The Christian Joy (Philippians 1:3-11)

1:3-11 In all my remembrance of you I thank my God for you, and always in every one of my prayers, I pray for you with joy, because you have been in partnership with me for the furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now, and of this I am confident, that he who began a good work in you will complete it so that you may be ready for the day of Jesus Christ. And it is right for me to feel like this about you, because I have you in my heart, because all of you are partners in grace with me, both in my hands, and in my defence and confirmation of the gospel. God is my witness how I yearn for you all with the very compassion of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love for each other may continue to abound more and more in all fulness of knowledge and in all sensitiveness of perception, that you may test the things which differ, that you may be yourselves pure and that you may cause no other to stumble, in preparation for the day of Christ, because you have been filled with the fruit which the righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ produces, and which issues in glory and praise to God.

It is a lovely thing when, as Ellicott puts it, remembrance and gratitude are bound up together. In our personal relationships it is a great thing to have nothing but happy memories; and that was how Paul was with the Christians at Philippi. To remember brought no regrets, only happiness.

In this passage there are set out the marks of the Christian life.

There is Christian joy. It is with joy that Paul prays for his friends. The Letter to the Philippians has been called The Epistle of Joy. Bengel in his terse Latin commented: "Summa epistolae gaudeo--gaudete." "The whole point of the letter is I do rejoice; do you rejoice." Let us look at the picture of Christian joy which this letter paints.

(i) In Philippians 1:4 there is the joy of Christian prayer, the joy of bringing those we love to the mercy seat of God.

George Raindrop in his book No Common Task tells how a nurse once taught a man to pray and in doing so changed his whole life, until a dull, disgruntled and dispirited creature became a man of joy. Much of the nurse's work was done with her hands, and she used her hands as a scheme of prayer. Each finger stood for someone. Her thumb was nearest to her, and it reminded her to pray for those who were closest to her. The second finger was used for pointing and it stood for all her teachers in school and in the hospital. The third finger was the tallest and it stood for the V.I.P.s, the leaders in every sphere of life. The fourth finger was the weakest, as every pianist knows, and it stood for those who were in trouble and in pain. The little finger was the smallest and the least important and to the nurse it stood for herself.

There must always be a deep joy and peace in bringing our loved ones and others to God in prayer.

(ii) There is the joy that Jesus Christ is preached (Philippians 1:18). When a man enjoys a great blessing surely his first instinct must be to share it; and there is joy in thinking of the gospel being preached all over the world, so that another and another and another is brought within the love of Christ.

(iii) There is the joy of faith (Philippians 1:25). If Christianity does not make a man happy, it will not make him anything at all. There is a certain type of Christianity which is a tortured affair. The Psalmist said, "They looked to him and were radiant." When Moses came down from the mountain top his face shone. Christianity is the faith of the happy heart and the shining face

(iv) There is the joy of seeing Christians in fellowship together (Philippians 2:2). As the Psalmist sang (Psalms 133:1):

Behold how good a thing it is,

And how becoming well,

Together such as brethren are

In unity to dwell!

There is peace for no one where there are broken human relationships and strife between man and man. There is no lovelier sight than a family linked in love to each other or a Church whose members are one with each other because they are one in Christ Jesus their Lord.

(v) There is the joy of suffering for Christ (Philippians 2:17). In the hour of his martyrdom in the flames Polycarp prayed, "I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast judged me worthy of this hour." To suffer for Christ is a privilege, for it is an opportunity to demonstrate beyond mistake where our loyalty lies and to share in the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God.

(vi) There is the joy of news of the loved one (Philippians 2:28). Life is full of separations, and there is always joy when news comes to us of those loved ones from whom we are temporarily separated. A great Scottish preacher once spoke of the joy that man can give with a postage stamp. It is worth remembering how easily we can bring joy to those who love us and how easily we can bring anxiety, by keeping in touch or failing to keep in touch with them.

(vii) There is the joy of Christian hospitality (Philippians 2:29). There is the home of the shut door and there is the home of the open door. The shut door is the door of selfishness; the open door is the door of Christian welcome and Christian love. It is a great thing to have a door from which the stranger and the one in trouble know that they will never be turned away.

(viii) There is the joy of the man in Christ (Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:1). We have already seen that to be in Christ to live in his presence as the bird lives in the air, the fish in the sea, and the roots of the trees in the soil. It is human nature to be happy when we are with the person whom we love; and Christ is the lover from whom nothing in time or eternity can ever separate us.

(ix) There is the joy of the man who has won one soul for Christ (Philippians 4:1). The Philippians are Paul's joy and crown, for he was the means of bringing them to Jesus Christ. It is the joy of the parent, the teacher, the preacher to bring others, especially the child, into the love of Jesus Christ. Surely he who enjoys a great privilege cannot rest content until he shares it with his family and his friends. For the Christian evangelism is not a duty; it is a joy.

(x) There is the joy in a gift (Philippians 4:10). This joy does not lie so much in the gift itself, as in being remembered and realizing that some one cares. This is a joy that we could bring to others far oftener than we do.

(2) The Christian Sacrifice (Philippians 1:3-11 Continued)

In Philippians 1:6 Paul says that he is confident that God who has begun a good work in the Philippians will complete it so that they will be ready for the day of Christ. There is a picture here in the Greek which it is not possible to reproduce in translation. The point is that the words Paul uses for to begin (enarchesthai, Greek #1728) and for to complete (epitelein, Greek #2005) are technical terms for the beginning and the ending of a sacrifice.

There was an initial ritual in connection with a Greek sacrifice. A torch was lit from the fire on the altar and then dipped into a bowl of water to cleanse it with its sacred flame; and with the purified water the victim and the people were sprinkled to make them holy and clean. Then followed what was known as the euphemia (Greek #2162), the sacred silence, in which the worshipper was meant to make his prayers to his god. Finally a basket of barley was brought, and some grains of the barley were scattered on the victim, and on the ground round about it. These actions were the beginning of the sacrifice, and the technical term for making this beginning was the verb enarchesthai (Greek #1728) which Paul uses here. The verb used for completing the whole ritual of sacrifice was the verb epitelein (Greek #2005) which Paul uses here for to complete. Paul's whole sentence moves in an atmosphere of sacrifice.

Paul is seeing the life of every Christian as a sacrifice ready to be offered to Jesus Christ. It is the same picture as he draws when he urges the Romans to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

On the day when Christ comes it will be like the coming of a king. On such a day the king's subjects are bound to present him with gifts to mark their loyalty and to show their love. The only gift Jesus Christ desires from us is ourselves. So, then, a man's supreme task is to make his life fit to offer to him. Only the grace of God can enable us to do that.

(3) The Christian Partnership (Philippians 1:3-11 Continued)

Philippians 1:10, Philippians 1:11

In this passage the idea of Christian partnership is strongly stressed. There are certain things which Christians share.

(i) Christians are partners in grace. They are people who owe a common debt to the grace of God.

(ii) Christians are partners in the work of the gospel. Christians do not only share a gift; they also share a task; and that task is the furtherance of the gospel. Paul uses two words to express the work of Christians for the sake of the gospel; he speaks of the defence and the confirmation of the gospel. The defence (apologia, Greek #627) of the gospel means its defence against the attacks which come from outside. The Christian has to be ready to be a defender of the faith and to give a reason for the hope that is in him. The confirmation (bebaiosis, Greek #951) of the gospel is the building up of its strength from within, the edifying of Christians. The Christian must further the gospel by defending it against the attacks of its enemies and by building up the faith and devotion of its friends.

(iii) Christians are partners in suffering for the gospel. Whenever the Christian is called upon to suffer for the sake of the gospel, he must find strength and comfort in the memory that he is one of a great fellowship in every age and every generation and every land who have suffered for Christ rather than deny their faith.

(iv) Christians are partners with Christ. In Philippians 1:8 Paul has a very vivid saying. The literal translation is, "I yearn for you all with the bowels of Jesus Christ." The Greek word for bowels is splagchna (Greek #4698). The splagchna were the upper intestines, the heart, the liver, and the lungs. These the Greeks believed to be the seat of the emotions and the affections. So Paul is saying: "I yearn for you with the very compassion of Jesus Christ himself. I love you as Jesus loves you." The love which Paul feels towards his Christian friends is nothing other than the love of Christ himself. J. B. Lightfoot, writing on this passage says, "The believer has no yearnings apart from his Lord; his pulse beats with the pulse of Christ; his heart throbs with the heart of Christ." When we are really one with Jesus, his love goes out through us to our fellow-men whom he loves and for whom he died. The Christian is a partner in the love of Christ.

(4) The Christian Progress And The Christian Goal (Philippians 1:3-11 Continued)

It was Paul's prayer for his people that their love would grow greater every day (Philippians 1:9-10). That love, which was not merely a sentimental thing, was to grow in knowledge and in sensitive perception so that they would be more and more able to distinguish between right and wrong. Love is always the way to knowledge. If we love any subject, we want to learn more about it; if we love any person, we want to learn more about him; if we love Jesus, we will want to learn more about him and about his truth.

Love is always sensitive to the mind and the heart of the one it loves. If it blindly and blunderingly hurts the feelings of the one it claims to love, it is not love at all. If we really love Jesus, we will be sensitive to his will and his desires; the more we love him; the more we will instinctively shrink from what is evil and desire what is right. The word Paul uses for testing the things that differ is dokimazein (Greek #1381), which is the word used for testing metal to see that it is genuine. Real love is not blind; it will enable us always to see the difference between the false and the true.

So, then, the Christian will become himself pure and will cause no other to stumble. The word used for pure is interesting. It is eilikrines (Greek #1506). The Greeks suggested two possible derivations, each of which has a vivid picture. It may come from eile, sunshine, and krinein (Greek #2919), to judge, and may describe that which is able to stand the test of the sunshine, without any flaw appearing. On that basis the word means that the Christian character can stand any light that is turned upon it. The other possibility is that eilikrines (Greek #1506) is derived from eilein which means to whirl round and round as in a sieve and so to sift until every impurity is extracted. On that basis the Christian character is cleansed of all evil until it is altogether pure.

But the Christian is not pure; he is also aproskopos (Greek #677), he never causes any other person to stumble. There are people who are themselves faultless, but who are so austere that they drive people away from Christianity. The Christian is himself pure, but his love and gentleness are such that he attracts others to the Christian way and never repels them from it.

Finally, Paul sets down the Christian aim. This is to live such a life that the glory and the praise are given to God. Christian goodness is not meant to win credit for a man himself; it is meant to win praise for God. The Christian knows, and witnesses, that he is what he is, not by his own unaided efforts, but only by the grace of God.

THE BONDS DESTROY THE BARRIERS (Philippians 1:12-14)

1:12-14 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has resulted rather in the advancement of the gospel, because it has been demonstrated to the whole Praetorian Guard and to all the others that my imprisonment is borne for Christ's sake and in Christ's strength; and the result is that through my bonds more of the brothers have found confidence in the Lord the more exceedingly to dare fearlessly to speak the word of God.

Paul was a prisoner but so far from his imprisonment ending his missionary activity it actually expanded it for himself and for others. In fact, the bonds destroyed the barriers. The word Paul uses for the advancement of the gospel is a vivid word. It is prokope, (Greek #4297); the word which is specially used for the progress of an army or an expedition. It is the noun from the verb prokoptein (Greek #4298), which means to cut down in advance. It is the verb which is used for cutting away the trees and the undergrowth, and removing the barriers which would hinder the progress of an army. Paul's imprisonment, so far from shutting the door, opened the door to new spheres of work and activity, into which he would never otherwise have penetrated.

Paul, seeing that there was no justice for him in Palestine, had appealed to Caesar, as every Roman citizen had the right to do. In due time he had been despatched to Rome under military escort, and, when he had arrived there, he had been handed over to "the captain of the guard" and allowed to live by himself under the care of a soldier who was his guard (Acts 28:16). Ultimately, although still under guard, he had been allowed to have his own hired lodging (Acts 28:30), which was open to all who cared to come to see him.

In the King James Version we read that Paul said his bonds were manifest in all the palace. The word translated palace is praitorion (Greek #4232) which can mean either a place or a body of people. When it has the meaning of a place, it has three meanings. (i) Originally it meant a general's headquarters in camp, the tent from which he gave his orders and directed his campaign. (ii) From that it very naturally moved on to mean a general's residence; it could, therefore, mean the Emperor's residence, that is, his palace, although examples of this usage are very rare. (iii) By another natural extension it came to mean a large house or villa, the residence of some wealthy or influential man. Here praitorion (Greek #4232) cannot have any of these meanings, for it is clear that Paul stayed in his own hired lodging and it does not make sense that his hired lodging was in the Emperor's palace.

So we turn to the other meaning of praitorion (Greek #4232), a body of people. In this usage it means the Praetorian Guard, or very much more rarely, the barracks where the Praetorian Guard were quartered. The second of these meanings we can leave on one side, for Paul would not likely have a hired lodging in a Roman barracks.

The Praetorian Guard were the Imperial Guard of Rome. They had been instituted by Augustus and were a body of ten thousand picked troops. Augustus had kept them dispersed throughout Rome and the neighbouring towns. Tiberius had concentrated them in Rome in a specially built and fortified camp. Vitellius had increased their number to sixteen thousand. They served for twelve, and later for sixteen, years. At the close of their term they received the citizenship and a grant of more than L250. Latterly they became very nearly the Emperor's private bodyguard; and in the end they became very much a problem. They were concentrated in Rome, and there came a time when the Praetorian Guard became nothing less than king-makers; for inevitably it was their nominee who was made Emperor every time, since they could impose their will by force, if need be, upon the populace. It was to the Prefect of the Praetorian Guard, their commanding officer, that Paul was handed over when he arrived in Rome.

Paul repeatedly refers to himself as a prisoner or as being in bonds. He tells the Roman Christians that, although he had done no wrong, he was delivered a prisoner (desmios, Greek #1198) into the hands of the Romans (Acts 28:17). In Philippians he repeatedly speaks of his imprisonment (Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:13-14). In Colossians he speaks of being in bonds for the sake of Christ, and bids the Colossians to remember his bonds (Colossians 4:3; Colossians 4:18). In Phlippians he calls himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and speaks of the bonds of the gospel (Phlippians 1:9; Phlippians 1:13). In Ephesians he again calls himself the prisoner for Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:1).

There are two passages in which these bonds are more closely defined. In Acts 28:20 he speaks of himself as being bound with this chain; and he uses the same word (halusis, Greek #254) in Ephesians 6:20, when he speaks of himself as an ambassador in chains. It is in this word halusis (Greek #254) that we find our key. The halusis (Greek #254) was the short length of chain by which the wrist of a prisoner was bound to the wrist of the soldier who was his guard, so that escape was impossible. The situation was this. Paul had been delivered to the captain of the Praetorian Guard, to await trial before the Emperor. He had been allowed to arrange a private lodging for himself; but night and day in that private lodging there was a soldier to guard him, a soldier to whom he was chained by his halusis (Greek #254) all the time. There would, of course, be a rota of guardsmen assigned to this duty; and in the two years one by one the guardsmen of the Imperial Guard would be on duty with Paul. What a chance was there! These soldiers would hear Paul preach and talk to his friends. Is there any doubt that in the long hours Paul would open up a discussion about Jesus with the soldier to whose wrist he was chained?

His imprisonment had opened the way for preaching the gospel to the finest regiment in the Roman army. No wonder he declared that his imprisonment had actually been for the furtherance of the gospel. All the Praetorian Guard knew why Paul was in prison; many of them were touched for Christ; and the very sight of this gave to the brethren at Philippi fresh courage to preach the gospel and to witness for Christ.

Paul's bonds had removed the barriers and given him access to the flower of the Roman army, and his bonds had been the medicine of courage to the brethren at Philippi.

THE ALL-IMPORTANT PROCLAMATION (Philippians 1:15-18)

1:15-18 Some in their preaching of Christ are actuated by envy and strife; some by goodwill. The one preach from love, because they know that I am lying here for the defence of the gospel; the other proclaim Christ for their own partisan purposes, not with pure motives, but thinking to make my bonds gall me all the more. What then? The only result is that in every way, whether as a cloak for other purposes, or whether in truth, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice--yes, and I will rejoice.

Here indeed the great heart of Paul is speaking. His imprisonment has been an incentive to preaching. That incentive worked in two ways. There were those who loved him; and, when they saw him lying in prison, they redoubled their efforts to spread the gospel, so that it would lose nothing because of Paul's imprisonment. They knew that the best way to delight his heart was to see that the work did not suffer because of his unavoidable absence. But others were moved by what Paul calls eritheia (Greek #2052) and preached for their own partisan motives. Eritheia (Greek #2052) is an interesting word. Originally it simply meant working for pay. But the man who works solely for pay works from a low motive. He is out solely to benefit himself. The word, therefore, came to describe a careerist, out for office to magnify himself; and so it came to be connected with politics and to mean canvassing for office. It came to describe self-seeking and selfish ambition, which was out to advance itself and did not care to what methods it stooped to attain its ends. So there were those who preached the harder now that Paul was in prison, for his imprisonment seemed to present them with a heaven-sent opportunity to advance their own influence and prestige and lessen his.

There is a lesson for us here. Paul knew nothing of personal jealousy or of personal resentment. So long as Jesus Christ was preached, he did not care who received the credit and the prestige. He did not care what other preachers said about him, or how unfriendly they were to him, or how contemptuous they were of him, or how they tried to steal a march upon him. All that mattered was that Christ was preached. All too often we resent it when someone else gains a prominence or a credit which we do not. All too often we regard a man as an enemy because he has expressed some criticism of us or of our methods. All too often we think a man can do no good because he does not do things in our way. All too often the intellectuals have no truck with the evangelicals, and the evangelicals impugn the faith of the intellectuals. All too often those who believe in the evangelism of education have no use for the evangelism of decision, and those who practise the evangelism of decision have no use for those who feel that some other approach will have more lasting effects. Paul is the great example. He lifted the matter beyond all personalities; all that mattered was that Christ was preached.

THE HAPPY ENDING (Philippians 1:19-20)

1:19-20 For I know that this will result in my salvation, because of your prayer for me, and because of the generous help the Holy Spirit of Christ gives to me, for it is my eager expectation and my hope that I shall never on any occasion be shamed into silence, but that on every occasion, even as now, I shall speak with all boldness of speech, so that Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death.

It is Paul's conviction that the situation in which he finds himself will result in his salvation. Even his imprisonment, and even the almost hostile preaching of his personal enemies, will in the end turn out to his salvation. What does he mean by his salvation? The word is soteria (Greek #4991), and here there are three possible meanings.

(i) It may mean safety, in which case Paul will be saying that he is quite sure that the matter will end in his release. But that can hardly be the meaning here, since Paul goes on to say that he cannot be sure whether he will live or die.

(ii) It may mean his salvation in heaven. In that case Paul would be saying that his conduct in the opportunity which this situation provides will be his witness in the day of judgment. There is a great truth here. In any situation of opportunity or challenge, a man is acting not only for time, but also for eternity. A man's reaction to every situation in time is a witness for or against him in eternity.

(iii) But soteria (Greek #4991) may have a wider meaning than either of these. It can mean health, general well-being. Paul may well be saying that all that is happening to him in this very difficult situation is the best thing for him both in time and in eternity. "God put me in this situation; and God means it, with all its problems and its difficulties, to make for my happiness and usefulness in time, and for my joy and peace in eternity."

In this situation Paul knows that he has two great supports. (i) He has the support of the prayers of his friends. One of the loveliest things in Paul's letters is the way in which he asks again and again for his friends' prayers. "Brethren," he writes to the Thessalonians, "pray for us." "Finally, brethren," he writes, "pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph" (1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). He says to the Corinthians "You must help us by prayer." (2 Corinthians 1:11). He writes that he is sure that through Phlippians's prayers he will be given back to his friends (Phlippians 1:22 ). Before he sets out on his perilous journey to Jerusalem, he writes to the Church at Rome asking for their prayers (Romans 15:30-32).

Paul was never too big a man to remember that he needed the prayers of his friends. He never talked to people as if he could do everything and they could do nothing; he always remembered that neither he, nor they, could do anything without the help of God. There is something to be remembered here. When people are in sorrow, one of their greatest comforts is the awareness that others are bearing them to the throne of grace. When they have to face some back-breaking effort or some heart-breaking decision, there is new strength in remembering that others are remembering them before God. When they go into new places and are far from home, it is an upholding thing to know that the prayers of those who love them are crossing continents to bring them before the throne of grace. We cannot call a man our friend unless we pray for him.

(ii) Paul knows that he has the support of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit is the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus that he will be with us to the end of the world.

In all this situation Paul has one expectation and one hope. The word he uses for expectation is very vivid and unusual; no one uses it before Paul and he may well have coined it himself. It is apokaradokia (Greek #603). Apo (Greek #575) means "away from," kara, "the head," dokein (Greek #1380) "to look"; and apokaradokia (Greek #603) means the eager, intense look, which turns away from everything else to fix on the one object of desire. Paul's hope is that he will never be shamed into silence, either by cowardice or a feeling of ineffectiveness. Paul is certain that in Christ he will find courage never to be ashamed of the gospel; and that through Christ his labours will be made effective for all men to see. J. B. Lightfoot writes, "The right of free speech is the badge, the privilege, of the servant of Christ." To speak the truth with boldness is not only the privilege of the servant of Christ; it is also his duty.

So, then, if Paul courageously and effectively seizes his opportunity, Christ will be glorified in him. It does not matter how things go with him. If he dies, his will be the martyr's crown; if he lives, his will be the privilege still to preach and to witness for Christ. As Ellicott nobly puts it, Paul is saying, "My body will be the theatre in which Christ's glory is displayed." Here is the terrible responsibility of the Christian. Once we have chosen Christ, by our life and conduct we bring either glory or shame to him. A leader is judged by his followers; and Christ is judged by us.

IN LIFE AND IN DEATH (Philippians 1:21-26)

1:21-26 For living is Christ to me, and death is gain. And yet--what if the continuance of my life in the flesh would produce more fruit for me? What I am to choose is not mine to declare. I am caught between two desires, for I have my desire to strike camp and to be with Christ, which is far better; but for your sake it is more essential for me to remain in this life. And I am confidently certain of this, that I will remain, and I will be with you and beside you all to help you along the road, and to increase the joy of your faith, so that you may have still further grounds for boasting in Christ because of me, when once again I come to visit you.

Since Paul was in prison awaiting trial, he had to face the fact that it was quite uncertain whether he would live or die; and to him it made no difference.

"Living," he says, in his great phrase, "is Christ to me." For Paul, Christ had been the beginning of life, for on that day on the Damascus road it was as if he had begun life all over again. Christ had been the continuing of life; there had never been a day when Paul had not lived in his presence, and in the frightening moments Christ had been there to bid him be of good cheer (Acts 18:9-10). Christ was the end of life, for it was towards his eternal presence that life ever led. Christ was the inspiration of life; he was the dynamic of life. To Paul, Christ had given the task of life, for it was he who had made him an apostle and sent him out as the evangelist of the Gentiles. To him Christ had given the strength for life, for it was Christ's all-sufficient grace that was made perfect in Paul's weakness. For him Christ was the reward of life, for to Paul the only worthwhile reward was closer fellowship with his Lord. If Christ were to be taken out of life, for Paul there would be nothing left.

"For me," said Paul, "death is gain". Death was entrance into Christ's nearer presence. There are passages in which Paul seems to regard death as a sleep, from which all men at some future general resurrection shall be wakened (1Cor 16:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:16); but at the moment when its breath was on him Paul thought of death not as a falling asleep but as an immediate entry into the presence of his Lord. If we believe in Jesus Christ, death for us is union and reunion, union with him and reunion with those whom we have loved and lost awhile.

The result was that Paul was swayed between two desires. "I am caught," he says, "between two desires." As the Revised Standard Version has it: "I am hard pressed between the two." The word he uses is sunechomai (Greek #4912), the word which would be used of a traveller in a narrow defile, with a wall of rock on either hand, unable to turn aside and able only to go straight on. For himself he desired to depart and to be with Christ; for the sake of his friends and of what he could do with them and for them he desired to be left in this life. Then comes the thought that the choice is not his but God's.

"My desire is to depart," says Paul, and the phrase is very vivid. The word he uses for to depart is analuein (Greek #360).

(i) It is the word for striking camp, loosening the tent ropes, pulling up the tent pins and moving on. Death is a moving on. It is said that in the terrible days of the war, when the Royal Air Force stood between Britain and destruction and the lives of its pilots were being sacrificially spent, they never spoke of a pilot as having been killed but always as having been "posted to another station." Each day is a day's march nearer home, until in the end camp in this world is for ever struck and exchanged for permanent residence in the world of glory.

(ii) It is the word for loosening the mooring ropes, pulling up the anchors and setting sail. Death is a setting sail, a departure on that voyage which leads to the everlasting haven and to God.

(iii) It is the word for solving problems. Death brings life's solutions. There is some place where all earth's questions will be answered and where those who have waited will in the end understand.

It is Paul's conviction that, he will "remain and continue with them. There is a word-play in the Greek that can not be reproduced in the English. The word for to remain is menein (Greek #3306); and that for to continue is paramenein (Greek #3887). Lightfoot suggests the translation bide and abide. That keeps the word-play, but does not give the meaning. The point is this; menein (Greek #3306) simply means to remain with; but paramenein (Greek #3887) (para, Greek #3844, is the Greek for beside) means to wait beside a person ever ready to help. Paul's desire to live is not for his own sake, but for the sake of those whom he can continue to help.

So, then, if Paul is spared to come and see them again they will have in him grounds to boast in Jesus Christ. That is to say, they will be able to look at him and see in him a shining example of how, through Christ, a man can face the worst erect and unafraid. It is the duty of every Christian so to trust that men will be able to see what Christ can do for the man who has given his life to him.

CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM (Philippians 1:27-30)

1:27-30 One thing you must see to whatever happens--live a life that is worthy of a citizen of the Kingdom and of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you, or whether I go away and hear how things go with you, the news will be that you are standing fast, united in one spirit, fighting with one soul the battle of the gospel's faith, and that you are not put into fluttering alarm by any of your adversaries. For your steadfastness is a proof to them that they are doomed to defeat, while you are destined for salvation--and that from God. For to you has been given the privilege of doing something for Christ--the privilege of not only believing in him, but also of suffering for him, for you have the same struggle as that in which you have seen me engaged, and which now you hear that I am undergoing.

One thing is essential--no matter what happens either to them or to Paul the Philippians must live worthily of their faith and profession. Paul chooses his words very carefully. The King James Version has it: "Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." Nowadays this is misleading. To us conversation means talk; but it is derived from the Latin word conversari, which means to conduct oneself. In the seventeenth century a person's conversation was not only his way of speaking to other people; it was his whole behaviour. The phrase means: "Let your behaviour be worthy of those who are pledged to Christ."

But on this occasion Paul uses a word which he very seldom uses in order to express his meaning. The word he would normally use for to conduct oneself in the ordinary affairs of life is peripatein (Greek #4043), which literally means to walk about; here htope uses politeuesthai (Greek #4176), which means to be a citizen. Paul was writing from the very centre of the Roman Empire, from Rome itself; it was the fact that he was a Roman citizen that had brought him there. Philippi was a Roman colony; and Roman colonies were little bits of Rome planted throughout the world, where the citizens never forgot that they were Romans, spoke the Latin language, wore the Latin dress, called their magistrates by the Latin names, however far they might be from Rome. So what Paul is saying is, "You and I know full well the privileges and the responsibilities of being a Roman citizen. You know full well how even in Philippi, so many miles from Rome, you must still live and act as a Roman does. Well then, remember that you have an even higher duty than that. Wherever you are you must live as befits a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

What does Paul expect from them? He expects them to stand fast. The world is full of Christians on the retreat, who, when things grow difficult, play down their Christianity. The true Christian stands fast, unashamed in any company. He expects unity; they are to be bound together in one spirit like a band of brothers. Let the world quarrel; Christians must be one. He expects a certain unconquerability. Often evil seems invincible; but the Christian must never abandon hope or give up the struggle. He expects a cool, calm courage. In times of crisis others may be nervous and afraid; the Christian will be still serene, master of himself and of the situation.

If they can be like that, they will set such an example that the pagans will be disgusted with their own way of life, will realize that the Christians have something they do not possess, and will seek for very self-preservation to share it.

Paul does not suggest that this will be easy. When Christianity first came to Philippi, they saw him fight his own battle. They saw him scourged and imprisoned for the faith (Acts 16:19). They know what he is now going through. But let them remember that a general chooses his best soldiers for the hardest tasks, and that it is an honour to suffer for Christ. There is a tale of a veteran French soldier who came in a desperate situation upon a young recruit trembling with fear. "Come, son," said the veteran, "and you and I will do something fine for France." So Paul says to the Philippians: "For you and for me the battle is on; let us do something fine for Christ."

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Philippians 1:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/philippians-1.html. 1956-1959.


Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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