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Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
SECTION 1. — A CHRISTIAN GREETING.
CH. 1:1, 2.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:1. The absence of any assertion of authority here and in 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1 is explained by the evident and unanimous loyalty to the Apostle of these two Macedonian Churches. This permitted him to place his beloved disciple and himself on the same level as alike doing the work of the one Master: Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus. Cp. Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 16:10, and note under Romans 1:1. This reminds us that Paul and Timothy were together when the Gospel was first preached at Philippi. For the same reason the name of Silas is added in 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1. The association of Timothy with Paul in other Epistles recalls also the close spiritual relationship recorded in Philippians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 4:17.
Saints: see under Romans 1:7. This common designation of all Christians, read in the light of the Old Testament, implies that God had claimed for Himself all the professed servants of Christ, thus placing them, in privilege and solemn obligation, on a level with, or rather infinitely above, the holy objects of the Old Covenant.
In Christ Jesus: as in 1 Corinthians 1:2. In distinction from the Old Covenant, our consecration to God is brought about through the historic facts of Christ and is consummated by spiritual union with Him.
Who are etc.: emphatic assertion that at Philippi there are saints in Christ Jesus.
All the saints: so Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:2; but not Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:2. Totality is very conspicuous in Philippians 1:3-4; Philippians 1:7-8. Writing to the Philippian Christians as individual saints, Paul thinks of them all without exception.
Bishops and deacons: evidently two orders of Church officers. So 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:8 : cp. Ep. of Clement, ch. 42, in my Corinthians App. I. In Acts 20:28 Paul speaks of the elders of the Church at Ephesus as bishops; thus implying, as here, a plurality of bishops in one Church. That the two titles describe one office, is implied in Titus 1:5; Titus 1:7. Our word bishop is an English form of the Greek word here used, which denotes an overseer. Elder was a Jewish title: cp. Matthew 16:21; Numbers 11:16; Exodus 3:16; Exodus 3:18.
Deacons: see under Romans 12:7. Why Church officers are mentioned in this greeting and in no other from the pen of Paul, is matter of mere conjecture. Something unknown to us brought them to his mind while writing; possibly the part they had taken in the contribution of which this letter is an acknowledgment. [This is not forbidden, though not favoured, by the absence of the article.] Doubtless Paul’s reference would be understood by those to whom it was written.
Philippians 1:2. Word for word as in Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Phlippians 1:3. The suitability of these well-chosen words had printed them on the mind of Paul. He desires for his readers grace or favour, and, resulting from it, peace, i.e. inward rest arising from consciousness of safety, from our Father, God, and from Jesus Christ, the one Lord or Master.
SECTION 2. — PRAISE AND PRAYER FOR THE CHRISTIANS AT PHILIPPI.
I thank my God for all my remembrance of you, always in every petition of mine on behalf of you all making the petition with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the Gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun in you a good work will complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ; according as it is right for me to be of this mind on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel, all of you being partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how I long for you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.
And this I pray, that your love yet more and more may abound in knowledge and all discernment, so that ye may approve the excellent things, that ye may be sincere and without stumbling to the Day of Christ, being made full of the fruit of righteousness, that which is through Jesus Christ, for glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:3. The first person singular shows us that Paul thinks of himself alone as writer of this letter. Accordingly, in Philippians 2:19, Timothy is spoken of merely in the third person. He is associated with Paul only in the superscription. Contrast 1 and 2 Thess., where by the first person plural maintained throughout Paul joins with himself Silvanus and Timothy as sharing his sentiments, thus reminding us that they had recently shared his labours and perils at Thessalonica. On the other hand, this Epistle was evoked by special liberality towards Paul alone.
Paul’s entire remembrance of the Philippian Christians, i.e. all that he remembers about them, this looked upon as one pleasant memory, is a ground of thanks to God.
My God: as in Romans 1:8. The good work wrought in his readers, Paul feels to be a personal gift to himself from God, before whom in the solitude of his own spirit he stands: for this work was an answer to his prayers and in part a result of his own labours.
Philippians 1:4. A collateral statement showing with what good reason Paul thanks God for his entire remembrance of his readers. So good was this remembrance that every prayer for every one of them was to him always a matter of joy. This joy explains his thanks. And it becomes, even in his prison at Rome, the key-note of the Epistle. So Philippians 1:18; Philippians 1:25; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 2:17-18; Philippians 2:28-29; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:1; Philippians 4:4; Philippians 4:10.
Always . . every… all justify and expound all my remembrance of you. With this acknowledgment of universal excellence compare the more guarded, yet strong, language of 1 Corinthians 1:4-8.
Petition, or supplication: a definite prayer prompted by felt need: so Philippians 1:19; Philippians 4:6; Romans 10:1; Luke 1:13. It suggests urgency.
This unmixed delight aroused in the breast of Paul by his every thought about the Christians at Philippi gives to them a unique place of honour among the Churches of the New Testament. We shall, therefore, eagerly gather together as we pass along all indications of their character and conduct, and shall regret that these are so scanty.
Philippians 1:5. This verse is parallel with, and expounds, for all my remembrance of you, stating the special feature in the Philippian Christians which evoked Paul’s joy and gratitude.
Fellowship: a disposition to share with others effort, toil, peril, enjoyment, or material good, either by receiving from them a share of their good or ill, or by giving to them a share of ours. It is a word very common and important with Paul: e.g. Romans 12:13; Romans 15:26-27; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 10:18; 1 Corinthians 10:20; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 8:23; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 2 Corinthians 13:13.
In furtherance of (or for) the Gospel: aim of this co-operation, viz. to spread the good news of salvation. For this end the Philippian Christians worked together, either one with another, or the whole body with Paul and others. For an example of such co-operation, see Philippians 4:3. And their brotherhood was not only universal but had been constant throughout their entire Christian course: from the first day until now. Constancy is the great test of personal worth. A fellow-worker always ready to co-operate is beyond price.
That this one excellence is here given as itself a sufficient reason for Paul’s unmixed joy and gratitude, reveals its unique importance. And this we can understand. For, that God has committed the spread of the Gospel to the voluntary co-operation of a multitude of workers, gives special value to a virtue which leads a man to work easily with others. And, since all sin and selfishness tend to set man against man, the spirit of brotherhood implies all Christian excellence. It is therefore a sure test of character. For its only source is that love (see Philippians 1:9) which is a fulfilment of the Law. This spirit of brotherhood prompted the contribution of which this letter is an acknowledgment: cp. Philippians 4:14. And in this matter also the Philippian Christians showed equal constancy: Philippians 4:15. But whether Paul refers here to this special form of brotherhood, we do not know. Certainly it was not his sole reference.
Philippians 1:6. A firm persuasion underlying Paul’s gratitude for his readers’ co-operation for the spread of the Gospel.
Complete: bring to perfection, to the goal towards which it tends: Romans 15:28; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
Begun, complete: same contrast in 2 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 3:3. The co-operation was a good work, but so manifestly incomplete that Paul can speak of it only as a good work begun. He traces it, however, to a personal Worker, Whose Name he need not mention. And he is sure that what He has begun He will complete. Thus the work already done assures Paul that greater things will follow. And the prospect of these greater blessings makes his remembrance of the Philippian Christians so pleasant. This is the real significance of all present spiritual good in ourselves or others. Its incompleteness proclaims that from the same personal Source greater things will come.
The Day of Jesus Christ: as in Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14. The frequent use of these simple words in this definite sense shows how definite and important in the minds of the early Christians was the Second Coming of Christ. Until the Day of Christ; suggests a further spiritual work during life, like that already begun, to be consummated in the Great Day. This phraseology suggests that Paul did not know certainly that the Return of Christ would be delayed for centuries after the last of his readers had been laid in the grave. But the Day of Christ not the day of death, must ever be the aim of His servants’ forward look. For in that Day, and not till then, will the good work which God is now doing in His people’s hearts be completed and manifested. Not for the day of death, which will rend asunder what God has joined, but for the Day of their Lord’s return, His servants wait. In that Day He will present to Himself the spotless Church. And towards that consummation tends our present growth in spiritual life.
Philippians 1:7. A statement in harmony with, and thus supporting, the confident hope just expressed.
To be of this mind: to cherish this hope. [The word rendered mind is a link connecting this Epistle with that to the Romans, and suggests a common author: cp. Romans 8:5; Romans 11:20; Romans 12:3; Romans 12:16; Romans 14:6; Romans 15:5; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 2:5; Philippians 3:15; Philippians 3:19; Philippians 4:2; Philippians 4:10.]
On behalf of you all; recalls the universal terms in Philippians 1:3-4.
Right: same word as righteous and just. That simple justice demands this firm expectation of the final consummation of every one of his readers, implies strong proof of their sincerity and excellence. Similar thought in 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 : cp. Philippians 1:6.
Because etc: ground of the right just mentioned. Its ultimate ground is uncovered in the last words of the verse, for which the preceding words prepare the way. It was not Paul’s love for his readers that made it right to expect that the work begun in them would be completed, but his loving remembrance that the smile of God which shines on him shines also on them. The Philippian Christians have an abiding and large place in Paul’s heart: and this moulds all his thought about them.
My bonds; implies that Paul was in prison while writing this letter: so Philippians 1:13-14. This clause is to be joined probably to the foregoing. Within the narrow limits of Paul’s prison walls, his readers are ever with him. And whenever, either to visitors in his prison or before heathen judges or elsewhere, he defends against attack the truth of the Gospel, or when he endeavours to impart to believers a firmer and fuller knowledge of it, he thinks ever of his beloved converts at Philippi. Thoughts of them dispel in part the gloom of his dungeon, and strengthen his defence of the Gospel. Thus the changing circumstances and occupation of the Apostle throw into relief his constant thought of them.
All of you being etc.: the aspect in which they are present to him.
Partakers: cognate to fellowship in Philippians 1:5 : they were joint-sharers with him.
Grace: the undeserved favour of God, to which Paul owes whatever he has or is: so 1 Corinthians 15:10. God’s smile rests, as he remembers, on every one of his readers. Therefore, while looking forward to the completion in himself of that which the grace of God has begun, Paul feels himself bound by his sense of right to expect a like completion of the work begun in them. Thus his hopes for them are traced to the only sure ground of hope, the undeserved favour of God.
Philippians 1:8. This verse supports the new thought introduced in Philippians 1:7, viz. that Paul has his readers in his heart.
God, my witness: a genuine trait of Paul, Romans 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:5.
Long-for: same word in Philippians 2:26; Romans 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Timothy 1:4.
You all; maintains the universality which is so marked a feature of this section.
Tender-mercies: same word in 2 Corinthians 6:12; see note. While Paul fears his readers in his heart, he feels that his love for them is an outflow of the tender mercies of Christ. That divine tenderness is the element in which Paul’s love breathes and lives. Thus, to Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:8 is a climax.
Such are Paul’s first thoughts about his readers. As he turns in thought to them, one feature of their character absorbs his attention viz. their harmonious co-operation for the spread of the Gospel. This co-operation is universal, and has been constant throughout their course. So sure a mark is it of Christian excellence that it makes every prayer for them a delight, and every remembrance of them thanks to God. The secret of this joy is Paul’s firm confidence that what he sees in his readers is but the beginning of a development which will not cease till consummated in the Day of Christ’s Return. And this confidence is made obligatory to him by his loving recognition, amid his various hardships and labours, of the evident grace of God shining upon them as well as upon himself. And, while protesting his yearning for them, he remembers that its source and the element in which it moves are not human but divine, that his love is but an outflow of the tender love which fills the breast of Christ.
Philippians 1:9. After mentioning for a moment in Philippians 1:4 his petitions to God for his readers, Paul now adds to his thanks for the good work already begun in them and his hopes for its completion a definite prayer for its progress: and this I pray. The matter of this prayer, he describes as its purpose: he prays in order that their love etc.
Love: the principle which prompts us to do good to our fellows; as always when not further defined. So Romans 12:9; Romans 13:10; 1 Corinthians 13:1 ff. It is the distinctive feature of the Christian character. By asking for its increase, Paul assumes its existence. And rightly so. For it is implied (Philippians 1:5) in fellowship, of which mutual love is always the animating principle.
Knowledge: more fully scientific knowledge, an orderly and comprehensive acquaintance with something; as in Romans 1:28; Romans 3:20; Romans 10:2 : a favourite word of Paul, especially in his later Epistles. Its frequency there is a mark of his mature thought, and perhaps of his deepening conviction of the need, in order to escape prevalent dangers, of a fuller knowledge of the Gospel.
Discernment: perception of qualities. Frequent in classical Greek for perception by the bodily senses. Paul desires for his readers a comprehensive acquaintance with things divine and a faculty of distinguishing right from wrong in the various details of life. The word all recalls the number and variety of these details.
Abound: either itself abundant in quantity or results, as in 2 Corinthians 1:5; Romans 3:7 or possessing abundance of knowledge and discernment, as in 1 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 8:7. According to the one interpretation, Paul prays that his readers’ love may increase and their increasing love be associated with knowledge: or, that the knowledge which already enriches their love may increase, and thus enrich it still more. The difference here is slight. Perhaps the latter sense is nearer to Paul’s thought. For he passes at once in Philippians 1:10 to the desired result of knowledge and discernment, showing that of them he thinks chiefly.
Yet more and more: further and further in the same direction. This is a courteous acknowledgment that his readers’ love is already rich in, and enriched by, knowledge.
Philippians 1:10. Further purpose, and then a final purpose, of the enrichment in knowledge.
Approve, or prove: put to the test with good purpose, i.e. to detect the good.
The excellent things: literally, the things that differ. But the good aim already implied in the word rendered approve, and the result which Paul expects (in Philippians 1:10 b) to follow this proving, imply that the difference referred to is that of superiority. Same words in same sense in Romans 2:18. Same purpose in Romans 12:2. Only a divinely given comprehension of the great realities and discernment of moral details will enable us to distinguish the comparative excellence of various modes of action. And no gift is of greater practical worth.
That ye may be etc.: i.e. seek Christian intelligence in order that it may mould your character.
Sincere: unmixed with any foreign matter. So 1 Corinthians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Peter 3:1; Wisdom of Solomon 7:25. [The meaning is well illustrated in Plato’s Phædo pp. 66a, 67a.]
Without-cause-of-stumbling: having nothing against which either themselves or others may strike their foot and fall. Same word in the latter sense in 1 Corinthians 10:32; in the former sense in Acts 24:16. Here perhaps in the former sense, causing themselves to stumble. For Paul is referring to the development of his readers own spiritual life. Everything foreign to the Christian life tends to trip up in the Christian course him who tolerates it. Paul desires for his readers spiritual intelligence in order that they may accurately distinguish moral qualities, in order that thus there may be in them no mixture of impure elements and that they may escape the peril of falling which such foreign elements involve.
The Day of Christ: as in Philippians 1:6. The recurrence of this thought reveals its firm hold of the mind of Paul.
To the Day etc.: ultimate goal of Paul’s thoughts about his readers. He desires them to be pure and to be preserved from falling in order that they may be so found in that day. Same words and thought in Philippians 2:16; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Timothy 1:12. The slightly different words in Philippians 1:6 note a slightly different thought, viz. the time to which he desires his readers’ spiritual development to continue.
Philippians 1:11. A collateral element in Paul’s prayer, placing beside the foregoing negatives, without mixture and without stumbling, a positive blessing. He desires them not only to stand erect in the Day of Christ but to be then full of fruit.
Righteousness: right doing, conformity with the moral standard, as in Romans 6:13; Romans 6:18; Romans 6:20.
Fruit of righteousness: the good results growing naturally, in the moral order of the universe, out of right doing. Same words and similar thoughts in James 3:18, Proverbs 11:30. This harvest of blessing, only to be had by right doing, Paul desires his readers to have to the full. [The difficult accusative καρπον specifies the remoter object of the desired filling. The Philippian Christians are its immediate object. The fruit of righteousness is, as matter of fact, that with which they are to be made full. But perhaps the accusative case represents the fruit rather as the extent of the fulness, or as the aim of Paul’s prayer. He desires his readers to be made full in the sense, and to the extent, of obtaining the fruit of righteousness. Same construction in Colossians 1:9.] The fruit is through Jesus Christ. For only through His agency come good works and their good results. They thus show forth the glory and praise of God, i.e.
His splendour evoking admiration (see under Romans 1:21) and verbal acknowledgment. And this ultimate result of the blessings which Paul asks for his readers is also the final aim of his prayer for them. He prays for them the more earnestly and confidently because he knows that the answer to his prayer will reveal the greatness of God and evoke in earth and heaven a louder note of praise to Him. Cp. Romans 15:7.
As usual, Paul’s first thought about his readers is praise to God for them. But the incompleteness of the good work for which he gives thanks moves him at once to pray that the work begun in them may make progress. So good is the work that Paul needs only to pray that it may advance in the same direction. For in their spirit of brotherhood he recognises that love which is the essence of the Christian character. Especially he prays that, as hitherto so in greater measure, their love may be rich in general Christian intelligence and in the faculty of discerning moral excellence, such excellence being a condition of spiritual purity and safety and of that right doing which will produce a harvest of blessing and thus make the Philippian Christians rich indeed. This harvest of blessing can come only through Christ, and will reveal the splendour of God and thus redound to His praise.
SECTION 3. — PAUL’S BONDS, ADVERSARIES, AND FRIENDS.
Moreover, I wish you to know, brethren, that the matters touching me have fallen out rather for progress of the Gospel; so that my bonds have become manifest in Christ in the whole Prætorian and to all the rest, and the more part of the brethren having become confident in the Lord through my bonds are more abundantly bold to speak fearlessly the word of God. Some indeed even because of envy and strife, but others also because of good will, proclaim Christ. These, out of love, knowing that for defence of the Gospel I am set. But the others out of a spirit of faction announce Christ, not purely, thinking to raise up affliction for my bonds. What then? Only that in every way, whether pretence or truth, Christ is announced. And in this I rejoice; yes, and I will rejoice.
After praise and prayer for his readers, Paul now speaks about himself; i.e. about (Philippians 1:12-14) the results of his imprisonment, about (Philippians 1:15-17) his enemies and friends, and about (Philippians 1:18) the joy indirectly caused to him both by friends and enemies.
Philippians 1:12. To know: literally, to come to know, to learn. Paul now begins to give information.
I wish you to know: similar words in 1 Corinthians 11:3; cp. Romans 1:13; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
The matters touching me: the entire circumstances, doings, and experiences, of Paul. Same words in same sense in Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7.
Progress: same word in Philippians 1:25; 1 Timothy 4:15; Galatians 1:14; Luke 2:52; 2 Timothy 2:16. The Gospel makes progress (same idea in 2 Thessalonians 3:1) geographically, when the good news is carried from place to place; numerically, when one after another believes it and confesses Christ; spiritually, when as a power of God it more and more moulds the inner and outer life of men. The word rather suggests a comparison or contrast between the expected and actual results of the events or circumstances about which Paul here writes, and thus implies that these events were likely to hinder the Gospel. Notice that the hardships involved in them are, throughout the Epistle, left entirely out of sight. The only point present to Paul’s thought is their effect upon the spread of the good news of salvation.
Philippians 1:13. A result of the things which happened to Paul, stated as a proof and measure of the progress of the Gospel caused thereby. [ ωστε with the infinitive throws the emphasis on the foregoing statement, and indicates that the words which follow are a result affording proof and measure of this statement. Philippians 1:13-14 tell to how great an extent the events and circumstances which threatened to hinder the Gospel have actually helped it forward.]
My bonds; indicates the nature of the events referred to in Philippians 1:12 as likely to hinder the Gospel, viz. Paul’s imprisonment, and confirms the suggestion in Philippians 1:7 that this letter was written in prison. Paul will now tell us how his arrest, which for so long time put an end to his active and successful labours, actually helped forward the cause for which he laboured.
Manifest in Christ: set visibly before the eyes of men in their relation to Christ. Similar thought in 2 Corinthians 3:3 : ye being made manifest that ye are an epistle of Christ ministered by us. The real nature of Paul’s imprisonment was made public, as occasioned not by crime but by the prisoner’s relation to Christ.
The Prætorium: a Latin word denoting something belonging to the Prætor, a title given to the leader of the Roman armies. It denotes sometimes the general’s tent. The same word denotes in Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16; John 18:28; John 18:33; John 19:9 the residence of a provincial governor. Similarly Acts 23:35, Herod’s prætorium. In a few clear cases, e.g. Tacitus, Histories bk. i. 20, it denotes the imperial body-guard, the Prætorian regiments, a corps of some 10,000 picked troops instituted by Augustus, and stationed, under Augustus in part, under Tiberius entirely, at Rome. This reference would give good sense here. We can conceive Paul, a prisoner who had appealed to Cæsar, committed to the charge of Prætorian soldiers, one of them always with him; and that thus the Gospel which Paul preached became known throughout the whole Prætorian guard. It has been suggested that the word refers to a great camp of the Prætorians established by Tiberius just outside Rome. But we have no proof that the word is ever so used. It is therefore better to accept here the indisputable reference noted above. See a very good note by Lightfoot.
Inasmuch as the residence of a Roman governor was also called Prætorium, the use of this word here is not in itself absolute proof that this Epistle was written from Rome. But it somewhat confirms other indications (especially Philippians 4:22) to this effect.
And to all the others.] Not only within the limits of the imperial body-guard, but to every one around, the nature of Paul’s imprisonment became known.
Philippians 1:14. A second result, showing further how much the events which happened to Paul have aided the progress of the Gospel.
The more part of the brethren; reveals a minority, even among Christians, whose confidence in Christ was not increased by Paul’s bonds. This minority must have included the opponents mentioned in Philippians 1:15. Possibly it may have included also some timid friends in whom Paul’s imprisonment evoked, not faith, but fear.
In the Lord; must be joined, not to brethren, to which it would add no meaning, but to being-confident specifying in very emphatic manner the Personal Ground of their increasing confidence. Through Paul’s imprisonment most of the Christians around reposed new trust in Christ: for they saw in Paul, as they had never seen before, the presence and power and sufficient grace of Christ. Thus was Christ magnified in Paul’s body: Philippians 1:20. [This use of the Greek dative to denote an instrument is not uncommon: see Romans 11:20; Romans 15:18. To take my bonds as the ground of confidence, though grammatically admissible, (see Phlippians 1:21,) gives no intelligible sense. Paul’s imprisonment was the occasion, and in this sense the instrument, of trust in Christ, but could not be its ground. Moreover, the ground of this confidence is clearly stated: it is in Christ.]
More-abundantly bold; recognises previous abundant boldness, which is now surpassed.
Fearlessly; adds definiteness, and thus emphasis, to more-abundantly bold. No mixture of fear weakened the courage with which they proclaimed the word of God.
Thus in a twofold way did Paul’s imprisonment aid the spread of the Gospel it threatened so seriously to hinder. By means of his long confinement, Christ became known throughout the most influential part of the Roman army, and to all the men around the prisoner. And such was his conduct in prison that he became to most of the Christians at Rome a revelation of the universal grace of Christ, and thus led them to put in Him new confidence and, trusting in Him, to give to the winds all fear and with greater courage than before proclaim the message of God.
Philippians 1:15. The last words of Philippians 1:14 remind Paul that not all who speak the word of God are prompted by confidence in Christ evoked by his imprisonment. Among them he distinguishes two classes inspired by different motives.
Because of envy: moved by vexation at Paul’s success: same words in Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10.
Strife: active opposition, a natural result of envy. Same words together in 1 Timothy 6:4. Even ill-will prompted by my success and a resolution to oppose me are motives to some men for preaching Christ.
Good-will: either something which seems good to us, as in Luke 10:21 or a wish for the good of others, as here. These senses often coalesce, as in Romans 10:1. The meaning here is determined and expounded by the word love in Philippians 1:16.
Proclaim: as heralds announce the coming of a king.
Proclaim Christ: as in 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 15:12; 2 Corinthians 1:19; 2 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 11:4.
The hostility to Paul, revealed in Philippians 1:15, on the part of some who preached Christ, indicates a conception of the Gospel radically different from his. This suggests that these were Judaizing teachers like those referred to in Galatians 1:7; Galatians 6:12 and like the apparently similar teachers mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:4; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:22. And the suggestion is strongly confirmed by the plain reference to such teachers in Philippians 3:2-3.
Philippians 1:16-17. Further description of the two classes who preach Christ, justifying the foregoing account of them; and arranged, like 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, in inverse order.
Out of love: the inward source of their preaching. Grammatically we may render either They who preach out of love do so knowing that etc., or These preach out of love knowing etc. To a similar alternative interpretation Philippians 1:17 is open. Since the words out of love add definitely to the sense already conveyed by the word good-will in Philippians 1:15, noting that this good-will is the central Christian virtue of love, I prefer, with A.V. and R.V., the latter interpretation [So Hebrews 7:21; Hebrews 12:10. The other in Romans 2:7-8; Galatians 4:22.] The preaching prompted by good-will springs out of love. This can only be love towards Paul, in contrast to the hostility described in Philippians 1:17.
Knowing that etc.: ground of this special manifestation of Christian love. Notice here genuine phraseology of Paul: so Romans 5:3; Romans 6:9; Romans 13:11; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 4:14; 2 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Corinthians 5:11.
Defence of the Gospel: same words in Philippians 1:7. For this purpose Paul has been set by God in his present position in the Church. These men know this. And their Christian love inspires sympathy with the Apostle in his great work, and moves them to preach the Gospel committed to his charge. Consequently, in addition to men of baser motives there are those who also because of good-will proclaim Christ.
Philippians 1:17. Another class who preach Christ. They must have been included in, and therefore not more numerous than, the minority (Philippians 1:14) whose confidence in Christ was not increased by Paul’s imprisonment. Whether they constituted the whole minority, or whether there were in it others of different spirit, we do not know.
Out of a spirit of faction: same words in Romans 2:8, where see note. They denote a low and mercenary spirit, ready to do base work for hire or in order to gain selfish and contemptible ends. One such motive is mentioned in Galatians 6:12. Paul thus traces to their source the envy and strife spoken of in Philippians 1:15. He intimates that his opponents were annoyed at his success, because it interfered with their own selfish aims, and that on this account they stirred up conflict against him.
Announce Christ: bring the news that Christ has come. It is practically equivalent to preach Christ, but leaves out of sight the official position of the herald. These words, which are in part a repetition, are added here to expose the incongruity of announcing Christ out of party spirit.
Not purely: a comment. With this announcement of Christ was mixed a base element.
Thinking to raise up etc.: exposition of the foregoing. It justifies Paul’s charge that the preaching referred to was an outflow of mercenary spirit.
For my bonds: i.e. for Paul in prison. So Romans 8:26 helps our weakness. They thought that what they were doing was making or would make Paul’s imprisonment more bitter to him. How this was to be, Paul does not say. But we can easily suppose that these were Jewish Christians who, like the Judaizers in Galatia insisted on the continued and universal observance of the Jewish law as a condition of the salvation brought by Christ. They knew that the Apostle strongly denounced their teaching as subversive of the Gospel. And they supposed that by earnestly preaching Christ and winning converts, and thus raining influence in the Church, they would annoy Paul and make him feel more keenly the confinement which limited his effective opposition to them.
Affliction: usually, external hardship. Here and in 2 Corinthians 2:4 it denotes severe inward sorrow caused by the unworthy conduct of Christians.
This implies that to Paul such conduct was hardship as real as actual persecution.
Notice the contrast between the friends who know, their action being based on truth and reality, and the opponents who suppose but who labour, as Philippians 1:18 will show, under delusion.
Philippians 1:18. What then? literally, for why? same words in Romans 3:3. They support, under the form of a startled question, or seek support for, something foregoing. Paul has just said that even his opponents, speaking with mercenary motives, nevertheless announce Christ. This assertion he will now strengthen.
In every way: expounded in detail by the following words.
Pretence: as a cloak concealing the real motive.
In truth: the apparent corresponding with the real. Paul supports the assertion in Philippians 1:17 by saying that it only amounts to this, that in every variety of mode, some being actually what it seems to be, and some a mask covering most unworthy aims, Christ is nevertheless announced. The second repetition of this last thought reveals its large place in Paul’s thoughts about the various motives of the preachers at Rome. In this great fact Paul has present joy: and future joy awaits him, for reasons which he proceeds to give. Thus did his opponents fail. They thought, by propagating a Gospel which he condemned, to make his fetters more painful. Their efforts caused him joy, and gave him a hope of still further joy to come.
We have seen that Philippians 1:15 implies teaching about Christ and the Gospel by Paul’s opponents quite different from his own. We naturally ask, How could Paul expect from such teaching good results? In very different language does he speak of opponents in Galatians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 11:15. An answer is not far to seek. Efforts to lead astray Paul’s converts could do nothing but harm, and were therefore denounced in strong terms. But the words preach Christ suggest that the activity of the adversaries at Rome was directed chiefly to those outside the Church. Such activity would at least spread the name of Christ, and might open a way for purer teaching. Possibly also, in accordance with the calmer tone which breathes throughout the letters written in prison, Paul’s maturer thought may have detected a better side even in teaching which aroused his indignation while engaged in active labour in the face of many enemies. His joy reminds us that very imperfect teaching may be better than no teaching, and warns us not to despise imperfect forms of Christianity. Probably the worst form of it is better than the best non-Christian teaching.
Such are the tidings about himself which Paul sends to his readers. His imprisonment has brought the name of Christ into influential circles which otherwise it could hardly have reached; and the bondage of one preacher has opened the lips of many. It is true that some of these are moved by ill-will. They think by their activity to make the prisoner’s chain more galling. But by preaching Christ they are doing good. So completely have they missed their aim that their efforts to trouble Paul have caused him abiding joy.
SECTION 4. — PAUL’S CONFIDENT HOPE, IN VIEW OF LIFE AND DEATH.
For I know that to me this will result in salvation through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my eager expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ will be magnified in my body whether through life or through death. For to me to live is Christ: and to die, gain. But if to live in the flesh be my lot, this to me is fruit of work. And what I shall choose for myself I do not know. Moreover, I am held fast from the two sides, having my desire for dissolution and to be with Christ: for it is very far better. But to abide in the flesh is more necessary, because of you. And, being confident of this, I know that I shall abide, and abide with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your ground of exultation may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again.
After describing his outer surroundings of bonds, friends, and enemies, Paul closed § 3 by describing their inward effect upon him, viz. joy now and further joy in the future. This joy marks the transition to § 4 which describes his inner life in its relation to his outward surroundings. In Philippians 1:19-20 Paul justifies the joy expressed in Philippians 1:18, by a confident hope: and in Philippians 1:21-26 he looks at this confidence in its relation to the alternative of life and death which is now before him.
Philippians 1:19. A reason, viz. knowledge of the result, justifying Paul’s joy that, even by his enemies and as a mask concealing a wish to annoy him, Christ is proclaimed. Not his only reason, but one suiting his course of thought, which now passes from the life around him to the life within.
This: as in Philippians 1:18, that Christ is proclaimed even by enemies and in pretence.
Salvation: in its usual sense of final deliverance from the spiritual perils of earth into eternal safety; as in Philippians 1:28, Philippians 2:12; Romans 1:16; Romans 10:1; Romans 10:10; Romans 11:11; Romans 13:11. Paul’s joy that Christ is preached is not dimmed by the ill-will which occasioned it: for he knows that this effort to add bitterness to his imprisonment will work out for him spiritual safety and final deliverance.
How this is to be, he does not say. But we know that, to the faithful, hardship develops spiritual strength, and thus fits for the battle of life and leads to final victory. In this way tribulation works endurance and hope: Romans 5:3. Similarly, Paul’s thorn in the flesh was designed by God to preserve him from spiritual peril: 2 Corinthians 12:7. Just so, the ill-will of his enemies was a safeguard preserving him for final salvation. Consequently, it could in no degree dim his joy that Christ was preached. Indeed his joy was increased by the manifest victory over all evil involved in the spiritual benefit resulting from his enemies’ attempt to vex him.
The word salvation cannot mean release from imprisonment. For Paul is quite doubtful, as we shall see, whether life or death awaits him: there is no visible connection between his enemies’ hostility and his own escape from prison, and no indication that the word is used here in any other than its ordinary sense.
Supplication or petition: as in Philippians 1:4. His readers’ urgent request to God was a means through which Paul expected these good results. He knows that they pray for him, and is sure that God will answer their prayers in the development of his own spiritual life in spite of. and by means of, the hostility of his enemies. Another note of genuineness: cp. Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:2. It reveals Paul’s high estimate of the value of prayer for others.
Supply, or bountiful supply: see under 2 Corinthians 9:10. Grammatically, the Spirit of Jesus Christ may be either Himself the matter supplied (cp. Galatians 3:5) or the Author of the supply. The practical difference is very slight. For the Holy Spirit given is Himself the active source of all spiritual good: and He supplies our need by Himself becoming the animating principle of our life. He is therefore both Giver and Gift. But since the Holy Spirit is usually thought of as definitely once for all given to all who believe, it is better to think of Him here as actively supplying Paul’s various spiritual needs. Notice two channels through which Paul expects blessings. He knows that his readers at Philippi will pray for him; and that in answer to their prayer the Spirit of Jesus will by His own presence supply the spiritual needs occasioned by Paul’s peculiar circumstances.
Philippians 1:20. A personal and appropriate condition on which depends the realisation of the assured expectation just expressed: according to etc.
Eager-expectation: see under Romans 8:19. To this, the word hope adds the idea of expected benefit.
That in nothing etc.: negative side of the expectation, as usual placed first.
Put-to-shame: deserted by God in the hour of trial and thus covered with ridicule by the failure of his hopes. Paul is sure that in nothing that awaits him will this happen. Same word in same sense in Romans 5:5. This objective sense involves also here the subjective sense of fear of ridicule, as in Romans 1:16. But the trust in God which pervades this page suggests that Paul thinks, not of what he will feel, but of what will happen to him.
In all boldness: positive side of Paul’s expectation.
Christ will be magnified: in the subjective view of men, to whom Christ will occupy a larger place through that which they see in Paul; cp. Luke 1:46; Acts 10:46; Acts 5:13; also Leviticus 10:3. Notice that in this enlargement Paul is represented not as himself magnifying Christ, but only as His body the locality in which Christ will be magnified.
Boldness, or unreserved speech: see under 2 Corinthians 3:12. Paul has an assured hope that God will give him grace to speak the whole truth without fear of consequences, and that in his unreserved speech will be revealed the greatness of Christ. An example of this in Acts 4:13. Thus the realisation of Paul’s hope depends upon himself. But even for courage he trusts to God and to the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Already Christ is always magnified in Paul. And he has a firm hope that what has been hitherto will be now also, even amid his peculiarly trying circumstances. This modest recognition of his own moral excellence is in close harmony with 2 Corinthians 1:12.
In my body: special locality of the revelation in Paul of the greatness of Christ. The weakness and suffering and peril of Paul’s fettered body will show forth the greatness of Him who is able to fill His servants, even in prison, with confidence and peace and joy. The body is specially mentioned as that side of Paul which comes in immediate contact with his hard surroundings and in which is seen manifested the greatness of Christ. The importance here given to the body is a note of genuineness. Cp. Romans 6:12; Romans 8:13; Romans 12:1.
A tremendous alternative overhanging Paul’s bodily life cannot be overlooked in this eager glance into the future. In any case, Christ will be magnified. But Paul knows not whether it will be ‘through the continued preservation of his body in life, or through his death.’
Such is the failure of the attempt to make Paul’s imprisonment more galling. His opponents think to annoy him by preaching a Gospel he does not approve. Their attempt to vex him fills the prisoner with joy. For their preaching, though containing serious error, makes known the name of Christ to some who perhaps otherwise would not hear it. And Paul knows that their hostility is one of the many things working together for his good, giving occasion for Christian patience, and thus strengthening him for the remaining battle of life. That he is unmoved by such annoyance, evokes a sure confidence of final salvation. And this confidence is supported by knowledge that the beloved ones at Philippi pray for him and that the Spirit of Christ will supply his every need. This assurance of final victory rests upon an assurance that in every trial God will give to Paul a courage which will show forth the greatness of Christ, and is not shaken by his uncertainty whether life or death awaits him.
Philippians 1:21-26. The just mentioned alternative, whether by life or by death, as it presents itself to the wavering thought and feelings of Paul.
To me; introduces conspicuously the personal experience of Paul.
To live is Christ; proves that Christ will be magnified… by life. Cp. Colossians 3:4, Christ your life; Galatians 2:20, Christ lives in me. Christ animates and permeates Paul’s entire activity, so that all his words and acts are really said and done by Christ and are therefore an outflow of Christ living in him. Consequently, the personality of Christ is the centre and circumference of the entire life of Paul. If so, in his body the character and greatness of Christ will ever appear. And the various events of life, pleasant and unpleasant, will but show how great Christ is.
To die is gain.] Whatever earthly wealth the Christian loses by death, he gains in the wealth of heaven infinitely more. For all material good is but a scanty and dim outline of the eternal reality. And none except the servants of Christ can speak of death as gain. Others may bravely give up life in a noble cause. They thus endure with worthy aim, so far as they can see, the loss of all things. The Christian martyr suffers no loss, for he knows that death is immediate enrichment.
These last words were not needed to prove that Christ will be magnified in Paul’s death. For the martyr’s dying courage is part of the life which Christ lives in him. But they strengthen the proof already given. For the greatness of Christ is revealed in every one who calmly looks death in the face for Christ’s sake, and declares it to be gain. Such victory reveals the presence of one greater than death. These words are also a contrast suggested by the alternative now before Paul.
Philippians 1:22. To live in flesh; takes up to live in Philippians 1:21. The added words are needed, after the implied reference to a life beyond the grave, to show that Paul refers now, not to his real life which is exposed to no uncertainty, but only to life in mortal flesh.
Work: immediate result and embodiment of sustained effort.
Fruit of work: further result developed from work done, according to its own organic laws. If Paul continue to live on earth, his continued life will be work done; and from this work he will gather good fruit. Close coincidence in Romans 1:13.
[Two renderings of this verse, as in R.V. text and margin, are possible. (a) The words If to live in the flesh may be a complete conditional clause; and this is to me fruit of work a direct assertion limited by the foregoing condition. In this case we must supply from the general train of thought some such words as be my lot. The following words, and what I shall choose, will then come naturally as an additional thought. The word if will suitably introduce one side of the alternative of life and death which now fills the thought of Paul. And this alternative suggests easily the inserted words be my lot. For Paul is now uncertain what his lot will be. Or we may take (b) If to live in flesh… fruit of work as one conditional clause, and the words what I shall choose for myself I know not as the main assertion. That which in (a) is expressly stated, viz. that Paul’s life in flesh brings with it fruit of labour, is in (b) only casually implied, the main assertion being that Paul knows not what to choose. The question is whether this is to me fruit of labour is an independent and direct assertion, or is merely subordinate to the assertion following. The importance of the thought contained in these words favours the former supposition. Moreover, to (b) the word if ( ει) presents a difficulty. For, although it may be used, as Ellicott follows Meyer in saying, in a syllogistic sense as in Colossians 3:1, we have no case in the N.T. of this use where the idea of uncertainty is altogether absent. And here there is no doubt whatever that for Paul to live is to work and to have fruit of his work. Nor have we in the N.T. a case of και used as (b) would require. On the other hand, the supplied words required by (a) are easily suggested by the terrible alternative before the prisoner awaiting his trial. Paul is sure that in his body Christ will be magnified, but knows not whether this will be by preserved life or by a martyr’s death. If he live, his life will be a continued incarnation of Christ. If he die, death will enrich him. These last words seem to give a preference to death. But this, Paul repudiates. To him both death and life are gain. He therefore takes up the alternative of life, and tells its real significance and worth. Instead of saying simply to live in flesh, this is to me fruit of work, Paul expresses the uncertainty of his present position by prefixing the word if, conveying easily the sense if it be my lot to live in the flesh etc. This exposition gives the chief prominence to the most important words of the sentence, this is to me fruit of work, which the other exposition hides in a conditional clause. In spite therefore of the preponderant judgment of both ancient and modern expositors, I venture to give a slight preference to (a). But the practical difference is not great.]
I do not know or I do not say. The latter is the meaning everywhere else in the N.T. of the word so rendered. The former is its more common use in classical Greek. And as a reader was accustomed to the one or the other, he would probably interpret Paul’s words. The difference is slight. The latter interpretation makes Paul simply silent: the former makes him silent because he has nothing to say.
Philippians 1:23. Additional detail about Paul’s state of mind in view of the great alternative.
Held fast from the two sides: whichever way he looks, from that side comes an irresistible influence. To live in the flesh is for Paul a prolonged incarnation of Christ, and brings with it work producing a harvest of blessing. And to die is gain. Yet, in spite of this double and contrary compulsion, Paul has a desire in the matter. It is for dissolution: literally, taking-to-pieces. A cognate word, in the same sense of death, in 2 Timothy 4:6. Often used in classical Greek in the sense of release or departure.
And to be with Christ: inseparably connected in Paul’s thought with dissolution. While saying that a double compulsion from two directions holds him fast, he yet acknowledges that his desire goes in the direction of dissolution and the immediate companionship of Christ which it gives. Over this preference Paul lingers, and supports it by a direct assertion: for it is very far better. That he looked upon the state entered at death as a companionship of Christ very much better than his present state of fruitful work, implies that in his view the departed servants of Christ are, while waiting for the greater glory of the resurrection, already in intelligent intercourse with Him infinitely closer than the fellowship enjoyed on earth. Notice that Paul’s thought about death is not, as with many, mere rest from the hardships of life, but actual intercourse with Christ. A close coincidence with 2 Corinthians 5:8, where see note and thus another mark of common authorship.
Philippians 1:24. Paul’s wavering thought, drawn in different directions, turns again to the advantage of continuing on earth.
To abide in the flesh: similar phrase in Romans 6:1; Romans 11:22-23; Colossians 1:23. Although his wearied heart yearns for the fuller fellowship with Christ which death will bring, he recognises the more pressing need that he remain a time longer in the weakness of bodily life. Notice the contrasted comparatives: very far better and more necessary.
Because of you: the beloved Christians at Philippi as representing all those whom Paul’s continued life will benefit.
Philippians 1:25. Two renderings possible: and, being confident of this, I know that, or and this I confidently know that etc. The former refers the word this to the foregoing, making the necessity of Paul’s continuance in the flesh a ground of his assurance that he shall so continue: the latter merely makes a very strong assertion without giving any reason. Paul’s habit of giving reasons favours the former rendering. He is quite sure that there is more need for him to remain than to depart; and this assurance convinces him that that which is more needful will be his actual lot.
Abide: absolutely, continue in his present state.
Abide with you all: relative continuance, prolonged association with the Christians at Philippi.
Progress and joy of faith: probably progress in the Christian life and the joy which always accompanies growth, both progress and joy being derived from faith, the unique condition of Christian life.
Philippians 1:26. Further aim of Paul’s continuance with his readers. It is evidently a purpose of God, who will preserve him.
Ground of exultation: as in Romans 4:2.
May-abound: that you may have more and more to glory in and boast about. This increase of matter of exultation will be in Christ: for He is the element, as well as the ground, of all Christian boasting. So 1 Corinthians 1:31.
In me: Paul liberated from prison would be to the Philippians an occasion of increased exultation, Christ being its element and ground. Similarly in Philippians 1:20, ‘Christ will be magnified in my body,’ and Philippians 1:14, confident in the Lord through my bonds.
Through my presence with you again; expands in detail in me. Paul’s presence once more at Philippi after his imprisonment will give to the Christians there in his person an increased confidence and exultation in Christ. Thus will his continued life increase his readers’ faith in God, and consequently their joy and their spiritual growth.
The ground and worth of the confidence in Philippians 1:25 we cannot now determine. If, as we have good reason to believe, the pastoral Epistles are genuine, this confidence was justified by the event. And possibly the Holy Spirit may have revealed to Paul, by spiritual insight into the needs of the case, God’s purpose to deliver him from the terrible peril of his trial before Nero and to restore him to active work. (Cp. Acts 27:22-26, a close parallel.) But the assured expectation of evil recorded in Acts 20:25 was, as we learn from 1 Timothy 1:3, not actually realised. And the matter is unimportant. The truth of the Gospel preached by Paul rests upon a broad historical basis, of which his testimony is only one factor, and not upon his personal infallibility.
Section 4 gives us invaluable insight into the inner life of one of the greatest of the early followers of Christ, at a crisis which tests most severely the character of any man, viz. amid health and strength, the alternative of life and death. The uncertainty which breathes in every line accords with the statement in Acts 25:11; Acts 27:1, that Paul went to Rome to be tried before Nero, a judge whose verdict and sentence no one could foresee. Yet, in this uncertainty, there is in the mind of Paul perfect certainty touching all that is really dear to him. He knows that even the hostility of false brethren is leading him to eternal safety, and as a ground of this confidence knows also that the hope he cherishes cannot be put to shame and that whatever awaits him will serve only to show forth the greatness of Christ. On the other hand, the uncertainty which has left its record even in the trembling phraseology of these verses pertains only to matters about which Paul was indifferent; in view, not of possibilities equally worthless, but of alternative prospects of equal and infinite value. Each side of the alternative has irresistible allurement. Continued life is continued manifestation of Christ in Paul, and work fruitful in a harvest of blessing. His presence on earth is needful for his converts, whose confidence in Christ will be increased by his return to them. But death is immediate enrichment: for it takes him at once to the presence of Christ. Yet the wearied eye and heart of the prisoner turn from the fascinating vision. For the sake of his children in the faith he cheerfully acquiesces in what seems to him to. accord both with their need and with God’s purpose, and looks forward confidently to restoration to active work for them.
SECTION 5. — SUNDRY EXHORTATIONS, SUPPORTED BY THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST
Only act as citizens worthy of the Gospel of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand in one spirit, with one soul together contending by your belief of the Gospel, and not affrighted in any thing by the adversaries, which is for them proof of destruction, but of your salvation, and this from God: because to you it has been graciously given on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf; having the same contest, such as ye saw in me and now hear to be in me.
If there be then any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender feelings and compassions, make full my joy, that ye may mind the same thing, having the same love, with united souls minding the one thing; doing nothing by way of faction nor by way of vainglory, but with lowliness of mind each counting others better than themselves; not each of you looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who existing in the form of God, did not count His equality with God a means of high-handed self-enrichment, but emptied Himself taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men: and, found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself becoming obedient even unto death, death on a cross. For which cause also God exalted Him beyond measure, and graciously gave to Him the name which is beyond every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee may bow of heavenly ones and earthly ones and those under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So then, my beloved ones, according as always ye have obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, with fear and trembling work out your own salvation. For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings, that ye may become blameless and pure, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a generation crooked and perverted, among whom ye are seen as luminaries in the world, holding forth the word of life, that I may have whereof to exult in the Day of Christ that not in vain I have run, neither have laboured in vain. Yes, if even I am being poured out as a libation upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice with you all. and, the same thing, rejoice ye all, and rejoice with me.
After speaking in §§ 3, 4 about the things concerning himself, Paul comes now to those immediately concerning his readers. He bids them stand firm in face of their enemies, Philippians 1:27-30; exhorts to unity, Philippians 2:1-2; and to unselfishness, supporting this exhortation by the example of Christ, Philippians 1:3-11; points out that on this depends their salvation, Philippians 1:12-13; exhorts them to a spotless life, Philippians 1:14-16; and concludes with an expression of joy on their account, Philippians 1:17-18.
Philippians 1:27-30. Only: as in Galatians 2:10; Galatians 3:2; Galatians 5:13. All that Paul has to say is summed up in this one exhortation.
Act-your-part-as-citizens: same word in Acts 23:1, from the lips of Paul: a remarkable coincidence. Also 2 Maccabees vi. 1; xi. 25. It represents the Church as a free city, like those of ancient Greece, of which all Christians are citizens. Possibly this word here, and the cognate word in Philippians 3:20, were suggested by the municipal rights which distinguished the citizens of the Roman colony of Philippi from the provincials around: cp. Acts 16:20. Citizenship involves privileges and duties. Paul therefore bids his readers act worthily of the Gospel, which is both their charter of privileges and their law.
This general exhortation the rest of § 5 expounds in detail.
In order that… I may hear that etc.: the first detail in Paul’s exhortation, in the form of a purpose which he bids his readers have in view in their behaviour as citizens of the Kingdom of God. He urges them to act worthily in order that he may have the joy of hearing about their worthy conduct. He thus adds to his exhortation a motive, viz. his own attentive interest in them. Cp. Philippians 2:1.
Whether… or: two ways in which, as circumstances may determine, Paul hopes to hear about his readers, viz. either by visiting and seeing them and thus hearing from their own lips, or if absent by the report of others. Even in their midst, he would hear about their steadfastness. In this case, hearing would be associated with coming and seeing, in the other case, with absence. The form of the alternative suggests that Paul thinks chiefly of hearing about his readers from a distance. Re assumes that his life will be spared. Otherwise, he would neither visit nor hear about them.
That ye stand etc.: the matter Paul wishes to hear about his readers; and consequently the real object of his first exhortation.
Stand: maintain your position in the Christian life. A word and thought familiar to Paul: Philippians 4:1; Ephesians 6:11-14; Romans 5:2; Romans 11:20, etc. It suggests the presence of enemies or dangers threatening to drive them back or cause them to fall.
In one spirit: one animating principle moving the many members of the Church, this principle looked upon as the element in which they maintain their position: either the One Holy Spirit, who is (1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 12:11) the one personal inward source of life and harmony to the many servants of Christ; or the inward harmony which He imparts to those in whom He dwells, as suggested by one soul. Since this Person and this harmony are cause and effect, the distinction is unimportant, and was perhaps not clearly marked in the writer’s mind. Notice that, as in an army, so in the Church, harmony is a condition of steadfastness. The disunited fall.
Now follow two collateral clauses, each noting a condition of the desired steadfastness, viz. mutual help in the conflict, and fearlessness.
Contend: the Greek original of our word athlete. It represents the Christian life as a struggle for a prize, like the athletic contests of Greece. See note under 1 Corinthians 9:27.
Together-contending: athletes represented as comrades in one struggle, each helping the others. Similar word in Romans 15:30, where Paul begs his readers to join with him, by praying for him, in the struggle of his apostolic work. But here he does not expressly mention his own conflict; and on the other hand the words one spirit, one soul, place conspicuously before us the desired union of the Philippian Christians one with an other.
Paul remembers that his readers are engaged in one great struggle, and desires that in it all may act together, as though the many were impelled by the soul of one man, this harmony being a condition of the steadfastness of which he hopes to hear.
Soul: see under 1 Corinthians 15:53. It is that side of man’s immaterial nature which is nearest to the body and directly influenced by it, and through the body by the outer world; and is thus distinguished from the spirit, which is that in man nearest to God and directly influenced by the Spirit of God. The soul is therefore the emotional side of man, that which is roused by his surroundings. Paul desires that his readers be moved by one impulse.
The faith (or belief) of the Gospel: belief that the good news is true. The Gospel is the object-matter believed. So 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Colossians 2:12; cp. faith of Christ in Philippians 3:9.
Philippians 1:28-30. A second collateral clause, noting a second condition of steadfastness, with comments upon it.
Affrighted: as a horse takes fright at a sudden alarm.
In anything: any adverse circumstances, be they what they may.
Adversaries: same word in 1 Corinthians 16:9; and, of one tremendous opponent, in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. The definite term the adversaries shows that the conflict implied in the foregoing words was in part caused by abiding personal enemies, Jews or Gentiles. Samples may be found in 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Acts 17:5; Acts 16:19, these last being at Philippi. Paul bids his readers not to be frightened out of their compact rank by any attack of their enemies.
Which is etc.: an encouraging comment on the fearlessness which Paul desires in his readers.
Destruction: see under Philippians 3:19 and note under Romans 2:24.
Proof: same word in Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 8:24. The fearlessness of the persecuted will be to their enemies a proof that eternal ruin awaits them. For it will reveal supernatural help given to the persecuted, and thus prove that God is with them, and that consequently their opponents are fighting against God. An example of this in Acts 4:13; Acts 5:39.
To them or for them: this proof being an objective reality before their eyes, whether they see it or not.
Salvation: as in Philippians 1:19. Their own courage, being evidently divinely given, is to them a proof that God is with them and that therefore they are on the way to eternal safety. So is every manifest work of God in us an earnest of final deliverance.
And this from God: not only actually a proof, but designed by God to be such. Both the courage and the proof therein implied are from God. Taken in itself, this last statement might cover destruction as well as salvation, stating that both elements of the proof are from God. But, since the explanation which follows in Philippians 1:29 refers only to the persecuted, probably to them only refer the last words of Philippians 1:28.
Philippians 1:29. A proof that the courage of the persecuted was designed by God to be to them a proof of their ultimate salvation.
Graciously-given: or given-as-a-mark-of-favour or grace: frequent with Paul, found only with him and Luke. A cognate word, frequent with Paul, is found elsewhere only in 1 Peter 4:10 : see under Romans 1:11.
On-behalf-of Christ: in order to advance His pleasure or interests.
To believe in him: a phrase very common with John, with Paul only Romans 10:14; Galatians 2:16. The repeated words on his behalf lay great stress on the fact that the sufferings endured by the Philippian Christians were endured in order to help forward the Kingdom of Christ. God had ordained, in His favour towards them, that they should not only accept as true the promises of Christ but also undergo suffering in order to advance a work dear to Him. Their sufferings were, therefore, part of a divine purpose; and consequently the proof involved in them was part of that purpose.
Since the mention here of faith is only casual and is designed chiefly to throw into prominence the sufferings for Christ which follow faith in Him, it is unsafe to base upon these words a definite proof that faith is a gift of God. But, since we should never have believed in Christ had He not first spoken to us, and had not God exerted upon us influences leading us to accept the words of Christ, we may in this guarded sense speak of faith as a gift of God. Similarly, sufferings are gifts of God’s favour: for they come upon us by His design and for our good. This seems to me all that can fairly be inferred from this verse. The scantiness in the N.T. of proofs that faith is a gift of God was perhaps occasioned by the danger lest, if it were taught more definitely, we might wait for faith as for some gift not yet bestowed, instead of at once accepting the promises of Christ.
Philippians 1:30. A statement collateral and subordinate to that of Philippians 1:29, giving to the persecuted still further encouragement.
Conflict: the ordinary word for the athletic contests referred to in Philippians 1:27.
The same conflict or the same sort of conflict as ye saw in me: close coincidence with Acts 16:19-24. The persecutions of Paul’s readers arose from the same cause, and therefore belonged to the same category, as his own scourging and imprisonment at Philippi. They might therefore look for similar divine help. And this letter tells them that similar hardships and perils surround him now at Rome. When Paul was before their eyes at Philippi, they saw in him a conflict like their own present troubles. And now from a distance they hear tidings which reveal in his person a similar conflict. Yet at Philippi they saw him unmoved by his enemies. And from this letter they hear that he is unmoved now. Thus Paul brings the example of his own courage to inspire his readers.
Turning to the Christians at Philippi, Paul’s one thought is that they may act in a manner worthy of the spiritual commonwealth to which they belong and of the good news they have heard. His own deadly peril reminds him that they also are exposed to hardship and peril. He therefore bids them maintain their position in face of their foes; and to this end exhorts them to contend bravely shoulder to shoulder, armed with their belief of the good news; and to be undismayed by their enemies. Their fearlessness will be a proof of the destruction awaiting their foes and of the deliverance awaiting them, and this by God’s design. For their persecutions are no mere accident, but are a part of God’s great purpose of mercy, He having ordained that they shall not only believe the promises of Christ, but also suffer to advance His kingdom. Their hardships have the same source and the same gracious aid as the hardships at Philippi from which God so wonderfully delivered Paul, and as the hardships now at Rome, in which, while he writes, Christ is daily magnified.
Philippians 1:1-2. Another exhortation arising out of, and in part repeating and developing, the exhortation in Philippians 1:27-30.
If there be then: an appeal based on the conflict just mentioned.
Encouragement: speech calculated to prompt to action or endurance: same word as exhort in Romans 12:1, where see note.
In Christ: if in the spiritual life, of which Christ is Himself the surrounding and lifegiving element, there is anything to move you. Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 10:1.
Consolation: kind words to one in sadness, thus distinguished from the word rendered encouragement. Such kind words Christian love ever prompts. ‘If love prompts words of comfort to those in sorrow, remember me in prison at Rome and yield to my request.’
Fellowship of the Spirit: either a sharing with others the gift of the Holy Spirit, or brotherliness prompted by the Spirit. The latter would give to the word fellowship the same sense as in Philippians 1:5, and is suggested by the Christian harmony so earnestly desired in the words following. It is therefore the more likely interpretation. A close parallel in Romans 15:30, where an appeal is supported by reference both to Christ and to the love of the Spirit, i.e. the love with which the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of those in whom He dwells.
Tender-mercies: as in Philippians 1:8. To this word, the word compassions adds the idea of pity towards one in distress, viz. Paul at Rome. Thus the 4th plea is related to the 2nd, which recalls the idea of distress: the 3rd is related to the 1st, giving the divine source of the disposition Paul desires. If there is anything in Christ moving you to yield to my request, if my sufferings claim the consolation which love is ever ready to give, if the Holy Spirit whom ye have received as the animating principle of a new life is a spirit of brotherhood, if in your hearts sufferings can evoke tenderness and pity, etc. The earnestness of this fourfold appeal prepares us for a request of the highest importance.
To the word any before tender-mercies all uncials and many cursive MSS. agree to give a form utterly ungrammatical and unintelligible, a manifest error. The error extends only to one or two letters, and makes no appreciable difference in the meaning of the passage. That an error so evident has passed uncorrected in all the older and many of the later Greek MSS. is certainly remarkable, and proves that even the agreement of the best copies is no absolute guarantee against error. But one trifling slip does nothing whatever to shake our confidence in the general accuracy of our copies. Moreover it reveals the accuracy of the transcribers, an accuracy not less valuable because it is sometimes unthinking.
Philippians 1:2. An earnest request, for which the foregoing pleas have prepared the way.
Fill up my joy: implying that if the readers will yield to Paul’s request nothing will be wanting to make him full of joy. Cp. 1 Thessalonians 3:8-9. We have here again (cp. Philippians 1:4) the golden thread of joy which runs through and illumines this Epistle. Notice that, although grammatically fulfil my joy is the matter of Paul’s request, it is really another plea, the actual request being added, in the form of a purpose, in the words following. This first request is an appeal to fill with gladness the heart of the prisoner awaiting his trial at Rome.
That ye may etc.: the real request, put in rather furtively as the aim the readers are to have in view. They must resolve to mind the same thing. By so doing they will fill Paul with joy.
Mind: as in Romans 8:5. The same thing actuated by a like aim; as in Philippians 4:2; Romans 12:5; 2 Corinthians 13:11. This purpose is expounded and developed in two participial clauses. The same thing, which Paul desires in his readers, is love one to another, the same love in each breast.
The one thing: stronger than the same thing, stating that the readers are not only to agree in thought and aim but to agree in one definite aim. That this aim is to be Christ and His Kingdom, Paul leaves them to infer.
With-united-souls: similar words in Philippians 1:27. It is best to connect this word closely with those following, as describing the manner in which they are to mind the one thing, thus giving to this clause the chief weight. The harmony is to pervade not only the intelligence but the emotions. Cp. from the soul in Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 3:23. The earnestness of these repeated pleas reveals the infinite importance of Christian unity: and this is confirmed by similar language in Romans 15:5; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:3-6, and by the Saviour’s prayer in John 17:21-23.
Philippians 1:3-4. Two other participial clauses, each warning against a disposition fatal to Christian unity and commending the opposite virtue.
Faction: as in Philippians 1:17.
Vainglory, or empty glory: an appearance without reality.
By way of faction and vainglory: two distinct paths, along neither of which would Paul have his readers go. He warns them both against a mercenary spirit and against a desire for empty show. In this clause we have no verb. Since the repeated word by-way-of suggests actions along a mental line marked out, it is better to supply the word doing. It was needless to insert it: for action was clearly implied.
Lowliness-of-mind: see under Colossians 3:12. It is suggested by the word mind in Philippians 2:2. [The Greek article indicates the well-known virtue of humility.] This virtue must be in active exercise when Christians compare themselves with others.
Looking-at: not making his own interest the goal of his forethought. See under 2 Corinthians 4:18.
But also; rather softens the foregoing absolute prohibition. Paul now requires, not that the interest of others be the only object of our thought, but that it have a place along with our own interest. Similar teaching in 1 Corinthians 10:24; 1 Corinthians 10:33; 1 Corinthians 13:5. It is therefore another note of common authorship. Whether the above warning against selfishness was prompted by something special at Philippi, we have no means of knowing. The universality of selfishness, imperilling everywhere Christian unity, forbids us to infer from these words such special occasion.
Philippians 1:5-11. A new sentence bringing suddenly before us the supreme example of Christ. A close coincidence with Romans 15:3; 2 Corinthians 8:9. Since the example of Christ does not bear directly on Christian unity, but is the absolute opposite of every kind of selfishness, which is a universal hindrance to unity, it is best to understand the example of Christ as adduced simply to give the strongest possible support to the words immediately preceding.
Have this mind etc.: ‘cherish in yourselves as an object of your thought the thought and disposition which was in Christ.’
Also in Christ Jesus: the mind which was actually in Christ and that which Paul desires in his readers being placed side by side.
Notice that although the words which follow refer to the not yet Incarnate Son, (see under Philippians 2:7,) He is here called Christ Jesus. So 2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 John 4:2. This reveals Paul’s intense conviction of the continuous and undivided personality of the Eternal Son and the God-Man. This made it easy to give to the Pre-incarnate Son the name He bore as Man among men; the more so because only through His appearance in human form is the Eternal Son known to men. It is specially easy here because Paul is really adducing the example of the Incarnate Son, tracing however the example of Christ on earth to the purpose of the not yet Incarnate Son contemplating His approaching life on earth. See below.
Philippians 1:6-11. The thought of Christ which Paul desires in his readers he expounds in Philippians 2:6-8, in its successive stages of self-emptying and self-humiliation until He hangs dead on the cross, this being the lowest point in His descent. Then follows in Philippians 2:9-11 His exaltation by the Father, until to the Name of Jesus is paid universal homage, all this being a divine recompense for His self-humiliation and an inducement to men to follow His example. We have thus a unique and infinite example of unselfishness, crowned by unique honour.
Philippians 1:6-8. The voluntary descent of Christ, in its two successive stages.
Philippians 2:6-7 describe His original condition, and His surrender of it at His Incarnation: Philippians 2:8 describes the condition then assumed, and His action to the moment of death. We thus find the Son in three positions, in His original glory, as man on earth, and dead upon the cross.
Form: that in which essence manifests itself; the sum total of that by which an object is distinguished from other objects and thus made known. Whatever, we can see, hear, or touch is the form of a material object: whatever we can grasp with the mind is the form of a mental object. It is to the essence what the outside is to the inside, what the manifestation is to the underlying and unseen reality. It is “the utterance of the inner life” (Trench) of whatever exists. Same word in the N.T. only Mark 16:12; also Daniel 5:6; Daniel 5:9-10; Daniel 7:28; Daniel 4:33; Isaiah 44:13; Job 4:16. Cognate words in Romans 2:20; 2 Timothy 3:5; also Galatians 4:19; Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:10; Philippians 3:21. It is closely related in sense to image, which however suggests the idea of comparison and similarity.
Existing: a more emphatic word than being, yet common. It recalls the condition and surroundings of existence.
These words refer evidently to the not yet incarnate Son. For they describe His state when He emptied Himself by becoming in the likeness of men, i.e. by His birth as a human child. To this, as we have seen, the words Christ Jesus are no objection. Nor is it an objection that this is an example for men on earth. For the action even of the Father is made in Matthew 5:45-48 an example for men. Moreover the entire action of Christ on earth is an outflow in human form of His divine nature. See under Philippians 2:11. These words therefore describe the Eternal Son before, and apart from, His incarnation. He was then in the form of God. And since, without an intelligent mind to grasp it, form would lose its real significance, we must conceive the Son contemplated by the Father and by the bright ones of heaven. They saw in Him an expression corresponding to the essence of God. This implies that the Son was, before His Incarnation, a Person distinct from the Father. And, if so, a divine Person. Other wise His self-manifestation would be (cp. 2 Timothy 3:5) a deception, which is inconceivable. Consequently, these words imply equality with God. And this is explicitly assumed in the words following. See Dissertation iii.
The phrase in the form of God was chosen doubtless for contrast to form of a servant. This contrast reveals the supreme unselfishness of Christ.
On the Mount the Incarnate Son assumed, in the presence of the chosen Apostles, as He did after His resurrection to the disciples going to Emmaus, a form, or mode of self-manifestation, different from that in which they were accustomed to see Him: Mark 9:2; Mark 16:12. And our bodies, having laid aside their present transitory shape, will share, as their mode of self-presentation, the glorious form in which Christ Himself will appear: Philippians 3:21.
His equality with God: literally the existing in a manner equal to God. The Greek article points to a definite thought already before us. And this is found, and found only, in the words existing in the form of God. For He who thus existed must have also existed in a manner equal to God. These last words tell us the inner reality underlying the form of God. And, as we have seen, He whose existence can be thus described must be divine.
In these words Paul’s teaching about the nature of the Son finds its culmination. Throughout his Epistles the Son occupies a place infinitely above that of the loftiest creatures. He is here explicitly assumed to be equal to God.
This equality Christ did not count a means of high-handed self enrichment: or, more literally, no high-handed self enriching did He deem the being equal to God. [The verb underlying the substantive I have rendered high-handed self-enrichment means to snatch, to take hold of quickly with a strong hand. With such strong-handed taking, very frequently injustice is associated, yet not always: for the word is used of a man grasping his own sword; and in John 6:15; Acts 8:39; 2 Corinthians 12:2 the same word is used without any thought of injustice. But it always denotes taking hold of, or snatching, something not yet in our hands. This is made quite certain by an argument in Chrysostom’s Homily (vi. 2) on this passage. The precise word here used is found in non-Christian Greek only, I believe, in Plutarch’s Morals p. 12a for a violent act of seizure, according to the usual active sense of the termination. For the booty seized, the passive form αρπαγμα is common in later Greek. Lightfoot quotes three passages from early Christian writers in which apparently this meaning is given to the word αρπαγμος which is used in the passage before us. It is so understood here by him and Ellicott and several early Greek writers. But these two modern commentators suggest no reason why Paul passes by the common phrase αρπαγμα ηγεισθαι and uses instead the rare word αρπαγμος. The natural explanation is that the word chosen expresses a sense not conveyed by the word passed over. And, if so, the difference of sense must be sought in the different termination. Moreover, Lightfoot’s exposition gives to αρπαζω the sense of refusing to let go that which one already securely holds, a sense which it never has. The real meaning of the verb is illustrated by one of Lightfoot’s own quotations, Eusebius, Church History bk. viii. 12, where we have τον θανατον αρπαγμα θεμενοι written about men who, casting themselves from high roofs, laid violent hands on death and made it their own. Evidently death was not theirs until they threw themselves down. Lightfoot compares the words ευρημα and ερμαιον. But, like αρπαγμα, these words denote always an acquisition, not an ancient possession. And equality with God was to the Eternal Son no acquisition. Consequently it could not be an object to be snatched hold of. Again if, as Lightfoot interprets, the Son did not clutch His equality with God, we must suppose that he allowed it to go from His grasp, that He gave it up. Surely this is inconceivable. The Son gave up the form of God, i.e. the utterance of the inner reality of the divine existence, in order to assume the form of a servant: but, even when He had emptied Himself, He was in very truth essentially equal to God.
The force of this combined objection seems to me irresistible. The exposition before us makes Paul use a rare word which suggests a meaning he did not intend instead of a common word expressing exactly his intended meaning; gives to the root of the word here used a sense it never has, viz. to hold fast something already in one’s hand; and implies that the Son of God did not refuse to give up His equality with God.
Meyer and Hofmann, expositors unsurpassed for grammatical accuracy and exegetical tact, give to the word αρπαγμος its natural sense, and interpret the passage to mean that the Son did not look upon His divine powers as a means of self-enrichment. They understand this passage to describe the Son contemplating His own divine powers in view of His approaching entrance into the world. He did not look upon his equality with God as a means of laying hold for Himself, after becoming man, of the good things of earth, wealth, enjoyment, power; but, instead of this, laid aside the form of God, i.e. the assertion of His divine powers, and took His lot merely as a man among men. Christ thus presents an infinite contrast to the gods of Homer, who ever used their superhuman powers for their own enjoyment.
This exposition seems to me altogether satisfactory. It accepts the natural grammatical meaning both of the root and the termination of the uncommon Greek word here used. Meyer appropriately compares a similar word used in 1 Timothy 6:5 to describe persons who looked upon piety as a means of gain. In their thought piety and gain were coincident: to have the one was to have the other. And it agrees most fully with the context. For Christ’s refusal to use His divine powers to take for Himself as man material good was the highest conceivable example of seeking not His own things, but the things of others.
The Latin writers generally, Tertullian, Ambrosiaster, Ambrose, Augustine, led astray by the Latin rendering rapina, a word denoting plunder, explain this passage to mean that Christ did not look upon His equality with God as an act of robbery, in other words, that He deemed Himself to be justly equal to God. This exposition is quite consistent with the following word αλλα: see my Corinthians p. 124. But it gives to the words equality with God the meaning of assumption of equality with God, a meaning in no way suggested by the context; and makes injustice to be the most conspicuous idea of αρπαγμος, an idea not belonging to the word. Moreover, it reduces this passage to an exposition of in the form of God with no direct bearing upon Christ’s self-humiliation as an example of unselfishness, thus leaving unexplained its emphatic position in the sentence.
This exposition is based on the Latin versions, and is almost confined to the Western Church. It thus came into the English Versions, Protestant and Roman Catholic. But it is rejected by almost all modern expositors.
Of Greek commentators, Origen (On Romans bk. v. 2, p. 553) expounds the passage to mean did not reckon it a great thing for Himself that He was equal to God: and he is followed by Theodore of Mopsuestia and by Theodoret. But the connection between this exposition and Paul’s Greek words is not evident. Chrysostom expounds it to mean that Christ did not look upon His own equality with God as something which He had taken by force, and which since it was acquired by force might be lost by force and must therefore be carefully guarded. Instead of doing this, and conscious that His equality with God was securely His own, Christ emptied Himself, thus laying aside for a time the manifestation of His equality with God.
This exposition gives to the word αρπαγμος the sense of αρπαγμα, and thus fails to explain Paul’s substitution of a rare and less suitable word for one common and altogether suitable. And it makes the connection between Philippians 2:6 and Philippians 2:7 so distant as to be unrecognisable, On the other hand, it holds fast the true sense of αρπαζω, viz. to take hold of something not yet in our grasp. A somewhat similar exposition is found in other Greek writers. Others again quote the words of Paul as an example of the condescension of Christ, without expounding their exact meaning.
Lightfoot says that his own exposition “is the common and indeed almost universal interpretation of the Greek Fathers, who would have the most lively sense of the requirements of the language,” and gives a long list of quotations. These quotations support him in rejecting the exposition of the Latin Fathers. But not one of them confirms his own exposition. So far as I know it is not supported by any ancient writer. And inasmuch as the writers he quotes evidently understood αρπαγμος in the sense of acquirement or something acquired, and Chrysostom speaks of this as implied in the word, they really contradict the exposition they are quoted to support. On the other hand, I do not know of any ancient writer who holds Meyer’s view. We are therefore left, in the interpretation of this difficult passage, without any help from the early Christian writers. See farther in the Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v. p. 115.
Philippians 1:7. Exact opposite of counting His equality with God a means of self-enrichment.
Himself: emphatic. A grasping hand frequently empties those on whom it is laid. So did the hand of the Eternal Son: but it was upon Himself that the violent hand was laid. The two participial clauses following specify with increasing clearness the way in which the Son’s self-emptying was manifested.
The likeness of men: close coincidence with Romans 8:3, in the likeness of the flesh of sin. It suggests that Christ was not in every respect a man. And this is fully consistent with Paul’s frequent description of Him as Man: e.g. Romans 5:15; Romans 5:18; 1 Corinthians 15:21; 1 Corinthians 15:47; 1 Timothy 2:5. Since the human race is older than sin, we may think of the essential attributes of manhood without thought of sin, and, using the word in this correct sense, speak of Christ as truly man. On the other hand, the universality of sin justifies our including it now in our conception of mankind. In this sense, Christ was not man, but in the likeness of men. For in outward form He was exactly similar to the race which inherited Adam’s sin. In all things He was made like to His brethren: Hebrews 2:17. These two modes of viewing our race forbid us to infer from this verse that Christ was not actually man.
Being-made: literally having-become: same word in Romans 1:3; Galatians 4:5. By clothing Himself in a humanity like that of other men, the Eternal Son entered a mode of existence new to Him. These words are Paul’s counterpart to John 1:14, The Word became flesh.
By entering a mode of existence like that of Adam’s children, the Son took the form of a servant, or slave. For creatures are essentially the property of the Creator, bound to use all creaturely powers to work out His will. This simple exposition forbids us to infer from these words that Christ was ever servant to an earthly master. The Son assumed the obligations of a creature. He who had been recognised by angels as bearing the form of God presented Himself on earth to the eyes of men as one doing the work of another.
In connection with His entrance into human life, and with His assumption of a creature’s form, the Son emptied Himself. These words involve the whole mystery of the Incarnation. They therefore demand in their exposition the utmost caution and reverence.
The words emptied Himself assert that the Son exerted upon Himself an influence which deprived Him, while on earth, of some fulness which He previously had, and made Him in some sense empty. And this suggests that this self-emptying was the negative condition of His assumption of a servant’s form.
It will help us to understand these words if we first note a broad distinction between certain elements which go to make up, so far as we can understand it, the nature of God.
Love is the essence of God: 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16. Consequently, to lay aside His love, even for a moment, would be not to empty, but to deny and mutilate Himself. For an empty vessel still retains all its essential parts. Nor could the Son (cp. 2 Timothy 2:13) interrupt the full exercise of His infinite love. Indeed of that love His entire life on earth was a ceaseless outflow. Moreover all the moral attributes of God are involved in His unique attribute of love. To be untrue or unjust would be unloving. Consequently, the essential truth and justice of the Son could not even for a moment become inoperative. These therefore were not in any way laid aside at the Incarnation.
On the other hand, the natural attributes of God stand in a different relation to Him. His power is not necessarily, like His love, always in full exercise.
It is active only so far and in such manner as His love and wisdom determine. To refrain from its full exercise is therefore not inconsistent with the nature of God. A limitation even of knowledge does not necessarily contradict infinite love. Yet both power and knowledge increase immensely the practical value of love.
With this distinction in view we turn to the recorded life of the Incarnate Son. We find Him (Luke 2:52) growing in knowledge, and yet acknowledging at the close of His life (Mark 13:32) that He did not know the day of His return. Yet strangely mingled with this human ignorance we find in Him divine omniscience: John 2:25. The Son was guided (Luke 4:1) by the Holy Spirit; and in the strength of the Spirit (Luke 4:14; Matthew 12:28) were wrought His miracles. This limited knowledge reveals the presence in the God-Man of a human Spirit capable of limitation and increase. And that the indivisible personality of the Eternal Son accepted the limitations of a pure human spirit, and was anointed for work (Acts 10:38) by the power of the Holy Spirit, implies a renunciation for a time and for man’s salvation of the full exercise of His divine powers. See under 2 Corinthians 8:9. To this renunciation indisputably refer the words before us. How He who from all eternity knows all things, and by the word of His power upholds all things, could in any sense accept the limitation of human knowledge and become a medium of the operation of the power of the Holy Spirit, is beyond our thought. It is to us inscrutable, because divine. But it is the mystery of divine love.
Notice that although in one sense, as here stated, the Incarnate Son was empty, in another sense even upon earth He was (John 1:14) full of truth and grace. The difference is only verbal. The words of John look upon grace and truth as contents of the Son’s divine personality: the words before us assume that they are part of His nature and therefore remain with Him even when He had emptied Himself.
We may therefore reverently believe that, in order to save man, the Eternal Son entered a life subject to human limitations; and that in order to do this, while retaining in full exercise the infinite love which is the essence of God and which could not be even for a moment inoperative, the Son deliberately laid aside, by an influence upon Himself which no creature can exert, the full exercise of His divine powers, thus permitting them to become for a time latent. Guided by infinite wisdom and prompted by infinite love, the Eye Omniscient was for a moment closed, and the power which made the world became latent. The possibility of this self-emptying lies deep in the mystery of the Divine Trinity. But it is the most wonderful outshining conceivable of the infinite splendour of divine love.
Every attempt to understand the Great Renunciation must hold fast the real Manhood, the unchangeable Divinity, and the undivided Personality, of the God-Man.
Since the exercise of the Son’s divine powers were the utterance of His inner essence, of His equality with God, that which He laid aside was the form of God. But this is not expressly asserted here. On the other hand, we have no hint, and no reason to believe, that He laid down His equality with God. We are merely told that He did not look upon it as a means of seizing for Himself the good things of earth.
Philippians 1:8. Further and final descent of the Son, in graphic delineation. Some ancient versions and the Rheims Roman Catholic version punctuate, being made in the likeness of men and found in fashion as a man: He humbled Himself. But this extension of the last clause of Philippians 2:7 is rather tautological, and gives to the words He humbled Himself an unaccountable abruptness: whereas the punctuation of the A.V. and R.V. gives to the whole sentence a more harmonious and majestic flow and to each clause due weight. Paul describes first the not yet incarnate Son, then His descent into humanity, then depicts His condition as a man among men, and His further descent, until He reaches its lowest point and hangs dead upon the cross.
Fashion (in N.T. only 1 Corinthians 7:31) differs from form as any occasional appearance or visible clothing differs from an expression which corresponds to actual inner reality. The form of God is the appropriate self-manifestation of the Son’s essence, of His equality with God. The fashion as a man was the outward guise of humanity, a visible clothing bearing only a distant relation to the actual nature of the Son. It is practically the same as in the likeness of men, except perhaps that it recalls more conspicuously the outward aspect of Christ as an individual man. In this outward guise, by those who sought Him, the Incarnate Son was found. This last word keeps before us, as does the conspicuous repetition of the word form, the self-presentation of the Son both as God and as man.
Humbled Himself: chose for Himself a lowly path. Such was Christ’s every step from the manger to the grave.
Becoming obedient: mode of Christ’s self-humiliation. It is related to He humbled Himself as is taking the form of a servant to He emptied Himself. Having laid aside the manifestation of His divine powers and become Man, the Son entered also the path of obedience, the normal moral state of man. He thus manifested in the human form of obedience His essential and absolute devotion to the Father.
As far as to death: the extent of Christ’s obedience. [Cp. 2 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 12:4.] In the path of obedience He went on till He reached the grave.
Death upon a cross: a graphic detail marking the extreme limit of the downward path which God marked out for His Son on earth, and which He obediently trod. He refused not to die a criminal’s death. This was the lowest step of the lowly path entered when He emptied Himself.
Such is the example by which Paul supports his exhortation that his readers seek not their own things, but also the things of others. It is found in the visible human life of the Son of God, of whom therefore Paul speaks as Christ Jesus. The thoughts which manifested themselves in the Incarnate Son he bids us think in ourselves. And, since these thoughts were earlier than the incarnation, he lays open to us the mind of the pre-existent Son. Contemplating His approaching life on earth, He did not look upon His divine powers as a means of grasping the good things which are to so many men objects of highest ambition and desire; but gave up, for the term of His life on earth, the exercise of these powers, thus leaving His divine personality in a sense empty, accepted the distinctive features of service, and became like men. Nor was this all. A further descent begins where the first ended. We go to seek the self-emptied Son, and we find Him clothed in a guise such as men wear. He treads a lowly path marked out for Him by divine command, until it leads Him to death in its most shameful form. As we gaze at Christ dead upon the cross, and remember the splendour from which He came and the earthly possibilities which were within His reach, and remember also that He left that glory and endured that shame of His own free will and in order to save the lost and to make them sharers of His glory, we see in Him an example of unselfishness the most sublime we can conceive.
Philippians 1:9-11. The matchless exaltation which followed the matchless self-humiliation of Christ.
For which cause also God: the divine recompense for the foregoing.
Him: emphatic; the divine Author and divine object of this exaltation placed side by side.
Highly exalted: literally exalted-beyond measure.
Graciously-given: same word in Philippians 1:29. The name given was a mark of the Father’s favour to the Son.
Beyond every name: corresponding to exalted-beyond measure. This name comes up to, and goes beyond, every other. Same thought in Hebrews 1:4. As a definite object of thought, it is the name. Not necessarily the name Jesus, which is merely that by which He was actually known among men; nor any special articulate sound; but the name which belongs to, and denotes, in heaven and earth, the personality of Him that was born at Bethlehem. For this, not an articulate sound, is the one essential point. The exaltation and name of Christ are a gift of the Father, as in Ephesians 1:20-22; Colossians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 15:15; 1 Corinthians 15:27.
Philippians 1:10-11. A purpose of God in exalting Christ.
In the name of Jesus: so 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:14; James 5:14. A name is personality as known and recognised among men, and as distinguished from others. In the recognised personality of Jesus abides the Majesty before which God designs all to bow.
Every knee bow: graphic delineation of the act of worship. So Ephesians 3:14; Romans 11:4; Romans 14:11.
Those-in-heaven: its angelic in habitants. Same word in Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 15:40; 1 Corinthians 15:48-49.
Those-on-earth: living men. Same word in Philippians 3:19; 1 Corinthians 15:40; 2 Corinthians 5:1.
Those-under-the-earth: the dead, in contrast to the living. So Homer (Iliad bk. ix. 457) speaks of Pluto as “Zeus under the earth.” It is unsafe to infer from this term that Paul thinks of universal worship earlier than the resurrection. His threefold division includes angels and men at the moment of writing: and he divides the latter into those now living and those already dead. Without thought of time, looking only at the persons belonging to these three all-inclusive classes, Paul says that God exalted Christ in order that every one of them should bow to Him. Nor is it safe to infer from every knee that angels and departed human spirits have bodily form. For these words were naturally prompted by Paul’s thoughts about living men: and with these he easily associated angels and the dead.
Acknowledge: see under Romans 14:11.
Every tongue acknowledge; completes the picture of worship. The words every knee bow, every tongue confess are appropriately taken from Isaiah 45:23 (quoted in Romans 14:11), where God solemnly announces His purpose of salvation for the Gentiles. And inasmuch as that ancient purpose will be fulfilled in homage paid to Christ, and only thus, the submission to God foretold by Isaiah is legitimately stated here in the form of submission to Christ.
Jesus Christ is Lord: confessed submission to the rule of Christ; so 1 Corinthians 12:3.
For the glory of God the Father: manifestation of the Father’s greatness, evoking His creatures’ admiration, this being here represented as the ultimate purpose for which God exalted Christ. As ever, Paul rises from the Son to the Father. Close coincidence in 1 Corinthians 15:28 : cp. Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14.
We cannot conceive this worship and praise to be other than genuine. Consequently, all men are embraced in the purpose of salvation which raised Christ from the grave to the throne. But this by no means implies that all men will actually be saved. And, as we shall see under Philippians 3:19, Paul did not expect that all men will eventually be saved. The harmony of the two passages is found in the truth that God has made the fulfilment of His own purpose of mercy contingent on man’s submission and faith. Nor can we, from the word those-under-the-earth, infer a probation in Hades, even for those who did not on earth hear the Gospel. For it is quite possible that the fate of these will be determined by their acceptance or rejection of such light as they had on earth. And, if so, their eternal song will be a designed result of Christ’s victory over death. The whole passage is so easily explained by Paul’s teaching elsewhere that we cannot fairly infer from it any further teaching about the position or prospects of the dead.
Christianity differs from all other religions in presenting a perfect model of human excellence, suitable alike for all persons in all circumstances, an absolute standard by which every one may and must be measured and judged. To this example appeal is constantly made in the N.T.: 1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 15:3; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:6. This being so, it might be expected that of the human life of Christ we should have a very full record, that we should be told much about Him in whose steps we are bidden to tread. Such is not the case. If from the Gospels we deduct the miracles and teaching of Christ, there remain only scanty memorials of the Saviour. It is well that this is so. Had we more details, we should imitate these, forgetting perhaps the deep underlying principles of the sacred life. As it is, we are directed chiefly, as in the passage before us, to those elements in Christ apparently furthest above reach of imitation, to His incarnation and His death for our sins. The reason is evident. In these supreme events shone forth in its intensest lustre the inmost heart of the Eternal Son. Consequently, Paul bids us, not to do as Christ did, but to have the mind that was in Him. Notice specially, in the example of Christ here set before us, two elements, unsparing self-abnegation for the good of others and unreserved obedience to God. These led the Son from heaven to earth, and from earth to the grave; and from the cross and the grave, in a ruined world, to the splendours of the eternal throne and the ceaseless songs of wondering angels and of a ransomed human race. In that path it is ours to tread.
Philippians 1:12-13. Philippians 2:12 is an exhortation based on the foregoing; Philippians 2:13 is a reason for it. The one main exhortation is prefaced by several preparatory clauses.
So then etc.: a designed moral consequence of the foregoing.
Beloved-ones: Philippians 4:1 twice: a mark of the tenderness of this epistle. Cp. Romans 12:19; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
Obeyed: viz. the apostolic authority of Paul. For only thus can we account for the mention of his presence and absence. Such authority he claims over his children in the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 4:14-15; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 1 Corinthians 5:3. He does so in confidence that his commands are the will of God. This mention of obedience recalls the example of Christ in Philippians 2:8, and the authority (1 Thessalonians 2:6) with which Paul might command.
They had always obeyed: close agreement with Philippians 1:5, from the first day until now. This recognition of previous obedience softens somewhat Paul’s silent assumption of authority. He only bids them continue to act according as they had always done. They were not to act as though their action were prompted by Paul’s presence. [The word ως is omitted in the Vatican MS. and some good versions. But its omission is so easily accounted for that we may with some confidence retain it. It gives the readers’ subjective view, in Paul’s wish, of their own conduct.]
Now much more: the absence of the teacher’s help making their own care more needful.
With fear and trembling: with anxious care as in a matter serious and difficult: a Pauline phrase; see 1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 7:15; Ephesians 6:5. It suggests the real peril to which Christians are exposed, and especially the great peril of selfishness.
Salvation: as in Philippians 1:19 : deliverance from the perils which surround the Christian life. That it is their own salvation is good reason why they should work it out with anxious care, and with even greater care in Paul’s absence than when his watchful eye is on them.
Work-out: literally be working out: same word in Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 20 times in the Epistles of Paul, 3 times in the rest of the N.T. it is akin to the word in Philippians 2:13. It denotes effective effort, and implies that deliverance day by day is a result of persistent work: cp. Ephesians 6:13. While using all means to strengthen our spiritual life, we are bringing about our present and final deliverance. So sailors have often toiled to save their ship from the rocks and themselves from a watery grave.
Philippians 1:13. Encouragement to work out our own salvation. Paul assumes that there is One who works in us, speaks of Him as a definite object of thought, and calls Him God. [To this last word he gives great prominence by bringing it to the beginning of the sentence.]
Works: 1 Corinthians 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Romans 7:5; Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:2, instructive parallels; 17 times with Paul, 3 times in the rest of the N.T. Like the kindred word in Philippians 2:12, it is a note of Pauline authorship. The cognate substantive is used in Philippians 3:21. It is the in-working activity of God.
In you: within your personality, body or spirit: cp. Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 1:29; also Ephesians 1:20. Even to will, the inward determination to act, is a result of God working in us.
And to work: the inward effort to accomplish the formed purpose. Both the purpose and the energy with which we work it out are here said to be an inward work of God.
His good-pleasure: that which seems good in the sight of God, as in Matthew 11:26, suggesting possibly that it is for the good of others. Same word as good-will in Philippians 1:15; where however the context makes the idea of benefit to others much more conspicuous than here.
On-behalf-of His good-pleasure: in order to accomplish a purpose pleasing to God. Cp. Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:9.
This verse by no means implies that these divine influences are irresistible. And indisputably they are resisted. For God’s good pleasure is (1 Timothy 2:4) that all men be saved; whereas not all men are saved. Even to an impenitent man Paul says (Romans 2:4), God is leading thee to repentance; although evidently the divine influences were completely thwarted. Yet in all cases these influences are real and of infinite worth. For without them there would be no good in man. But their actual effect depends upon our surrender to them.
We have here a plain statement of prevenient grace, a divine influence in man preceding and producing whatever in him is good, from the earliest desire for salvation to final victory over the last temptation.
Philippians 2:12-13 present two opposite and yet completely harmonious sides of the Christian life. The latter is the source and ground and motive of the former. All good in man, from the first good desire, is an outworking of a divine purpose and power. Through the Gospel, and the written and unwritten Law, God is ever exerting an influence leading men to repentance and salvation. He does this in order to gratify His own desire to save and bless. The actual result depends upon man’s self-surrender to these influences. Other influences would lead him in an opposite direction. Man’s only choice is to which of these influences he will yield. On this depends his fate. Consequently, if he rises, he rises entirely by the power of God: if he sinks, it is because he refuses influences which would raise him.
These divine influences ever prompt, and are designed to evoke, human effort. Consequently man’s earnest effort is a condition of salvation. But both this effort and its good results are the outworking of the purpose and power of God. A knowledge that our own purposes are from God, and that our efforts are armed with His power, and that our victory will gratify Him, are strong encouragement to put forth all our powers.
The exhortation in Philippians 2:12 is to Christian perseverance; and thus takes up and completes that in Philippians 1:27-30. In Philippians 2:27. Christian harmony was mentioned casually as a condition of victory, and in Philippians 2:1-2 it was made matter of direct exhortation. In Philippians 2:3-4 we were warned against selfishness, the great enemy of Christian harmony. And in Philippians 2:5-11 this warning and its implied exhortation were supported by the unique example of Christ’s self-humiliation for the good of others and His exaltation by God. This supreme example Paul brings, in Philippians 2:12-13, to bear upon his readers. But instead of bidding them to imitate Christ, or rather to cherish a disposition like His, which would be merely a repetition of Philippians 2:5, he bids them, by obedience, work out their own salvation. He thus implies that the only way of safety is the path of self-humiliation and obedience trodden by Christ: a lesson we all need to learn. Underneath an apparently abrupt transition we find, as so often with Paul, an important lesson. A similar train of thought occurs in 1 Corinthians 9:22-27, where Paul says that his own salvation depends upon his efforts to save others. Since the Eternal Son, instead of using His divine powers to obtain for Himself the good things of earth for which so many strive, allowed them to remain latent, and trod the path of self-humiliation and obedience, a path which led Him to infinite glory, thus marking it out as the way of safety, walk ye along the same path, remembering the spiritual perils which surround you, and therefore walk as carefully in my absence as in my presence. Do this remembering that in our own moral efforts God is working out His own good pleasure.
Philippians 1:14-16. After exhortations to courage, unity, unselfishness like that of Christ, and the implied warning that upon obedience depends personal salvation, Paul adds an exhortation touching the manner in which he would have these exhortations obeyed.
All things; covers and goes beyond the matters already mentioned.
Murmurings: 1 Corinthians 10:10 : talk expressing dissatisfaction, especially clandestine talk as grumbling often is. It is most easily understood here of dissatisfaction with the rough lot referred to above, such dissatisfaction being really murmuring against Him who has allotted our earthly position and surroundings.
Doubtings or reasonings: ideas closely allied, that about which we reason being naturally open to doubt while the reasoning continues. Same word in Romans 1:21; Romans 14:1; 1 Corinthians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:8; James 2:4; Luke 9:46-47. Dissatisfaction with our lot arises necessarily from want of faith in Him who with infinite wisdom and love has chosen for us our path and who will soon cover us with the splendour of heaven and fill us with eternal joy. Hence all murmurings are an outward expression of inward doubtings. And both these are utterly unworthy of children of God. Therefore, whatever duties and burdens life lays upon them, Paul bids his readers do all things without murmurings and doubtings.
Philippians 1:15-16. Aim of the foregoing exhortation: then a statement about the readers’ relation to the world: and lastly a further aim touching Paul and his work.
That ye may-become etc.: a designed result of laying aside murmurings and doubtings.
Blameless: men with whose outward aspect none can find fault.
Pure or mixtureless: men in whose inward disposition there is no foreign element. Thus blameless and pure correspond respectively to without murmurings and without doubtings.
Children of God: Romans 8:16; Romans 8:21; Romans 9:8 : a point of connection between Paul and John, John 1:12; John 11:52; 1 John 3:1-2; 1 John 3:10; 1 John 5:2. A similar phrase in Romans 8:14; Romans 8:19; Romans 9:26; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:6, Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 12:5; Luke 20:36; Luke 6:35; Matthew 5:45. These words here, without any special occasion, reveal the deep root of this thought in the writer’s mind, and are thus a mark of authorship. They note a close relation to God.
Spotless: Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19; Judges 1:24; Revelation 14:5 : without blemish, or anything to cause reproach. Notice three negatives, blameless, mixtureless, spotless, emphasising absence of all evil inward or outward. That this absence of evil is represented as a result to be attained by avoiding murmurings and doubtings, suggests that these defects are the last to cling to the Christian; that he who avoids them will escape all evil. And rightly so. For absence of doubt is perfect faith: and absence of murmuring reveals profound inward peace. These words reveal also Paul’s high appreciation of the present moral character of his readers.
Generation: see under Ephesians 3:5. Crooked: opposite to straight, as in Luke 3:5. Crooked generation: Acts 2:40.
Perverse: twisted in different directions, especially of misshapen or mutilated limbs. So Matthew 17:17; Luke 9:41 : generation unbelieving and perverted. Instead of being upright, they were crooked in character and conduct: instead of being a normal growth, they were deformed cripples. Among such men and in conspicuous contrast to them, Paul desired his readers to be without blemish, thus revealing their divine lineage: children of God, spotless in the midst etc. Since the stress evidently rests on the words spotless in the midst etc., describing what sort of children of God the Philippians were to be, we cannot infer from these last words that Paul looked upon them as not yet children of God. Consequently, this verse in no way contradicts Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:6.
Among whom etc.; keeps up the contrast between Christians and those around them.
Are seen: same word in Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16; Matthew 6:18 also rendered appear in Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:7; Matthew 2:13; Matthew 2:19. It is akin to the Greek word for light, and denotes in its simplest form to give light: e.g. John 1:5; John 5:35. Similarly, the form here used is found in Matthew 24:27; Revelation 18:23. But in a wider sense it is constantly used for the visible manifestation of an object, whether by its own light or by light cast upon it. The participle is the Greek original of our word phenomenon. Amid a perverse generation the spotless children of God are conspicuously seen: and, since (Ephesians 5:8) their nature is light, they shine.
Luminaries: light-givers: same word in Genesis 1:14; Genesis 1:16; Wisdom of Solomon 13:2; Sirach 43:7, for the sun and moon. In Revelation 21:11. it denotes the brilliance of a precious stone.
Luminaries in the world; keeps up the contrast noted above. Like stars at night, so shine the children of God in a dark world. The foregoing words described what Paul would have his readers be: those now before us say what they actually are. Whatever be their degree of brightness, they are seen. That they are said to be seen as luminaries in the world, is a recognition of their lofty position, and an implied exhortation of the most persuasive kind to walk worthy of it.
Word of life: the Gospel, as a channel through which God bestows eternal life, 1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 15:1 : so words of eternal life in John 6:68; words of this life, Acts 5:20. The singular number here, word of life, looks upon the Gospel as one whole.
Holding forth: as if with outstretched arm: a word not uncommon for one holding to another’s lips food and drink. By proclaiming the Gospel we hold out to the lips of famishing ones the bread of eternal life, and reach out a light revealing perils which otherwise would be certain destruction; and revealing also a way of safety. Thus the Gospel is the light of life. The slight change of metaphor from the heavenly bodies shining by their own brightness to men holding out a light to guide others is easily understood. The former conception represents Christians as shining with superhuman brightness and as raised immeasurably above the world: the latter represents them as actively endeavouring to save others. These two clauses explain how the children of God are seen as luminaries in the world.
For a ground-of-exultation for-me: further purpose of the exhortation in Philippians 2:14, viz. joy to Paul himself at his readers’ Christian conduct. Similar thought in Philippians 2:2 : cp. Romans 1:13.
For the day of Christ: as in Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:10. This third mention so early in the Epistle shows how definite in Paul’s thought was that day, and how steadily his thoughts about the future went forth to it as their goal.
That not in vain, etc: contents of this ground-of-exultation.
Run: 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Galatians 5:7.
Run in vain: Galatians 2:2, a close coincidence. I-have-run suggests the runner’s intense effort: I-have-laboured suggests the weariness of effort; same word in John 4:6, same root in 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:27; Galatians 6:17. Paul desires proof, in the light given by his readers to the dark world, that his own strenuous efforts and frequent weariness for them have not been in vain. Such proof will be to him a ground of exultation, i.e. of triumphant confidence in God; just as to his readers will be (Philippians 1:26) Paul’s own deliverance from prison. And this exultation will reach forward to that Day ever present to Paul’s thought when the inward spiritual life began on earth and manifested imperfectly here will receive its full and visible consummation in the light of eternity, and earthly toil receive its abundant recompense.
Philippians 1:17-18. Sudden break in Paul’s line of thought, followed by a comment upon the words foregoing. He has just spoken of his strenuous efforts for his readers: he will now speak of his possible death on their behalf.
Poured-out-as-a-libation: technical term for wine poured out upon or beside sacrifices or holy objects: same word in Numbers 28:7; Numbers 4:7; Genesis 35:14.
If I am even being poured out: an extreme possibility. Even if Paul’s hopes of release be fallacious, if his present imprisonment be a beginning of the end, if the legal process now going on be God’s way of removing him from earth, he nevertheless rejoices. Same word and tense in 2 Timothy 4:6, a very close parallel, referring to Paul’s last imprisonment previous to his execution.
Service: public and especially sacred ministration. Same word in Philippians 2:30; 2 Corinthians 9:12 : cognate word in Romans 13:6, where see note; and in Philippians 2:25.
Your faith: object of this ministration. By leading his readers to faith in Christ, Paul was performing a public and sacred work. And, since this service was rendered to God, their faith was a sacrifice presented by Paul. Similar thought in Romans 15:16, where in similar language the believing Gentiles are represented as an offering to God. Another note of common authorship. The Gentiles and their faith may be conceived as the offering and sacrifice laid upon the altar. Similar sacrificial language in Philippians 4:18. Whether the words upon the sacrifice were suggested by the heathen practice (so apparently in Iliad bk. xi. 775) of pouring wine upon the slain victim, or are merely used in the frequent and looser sense of something done in connection with or in addition to the sacrifice as in Acts 4:17; 2 Corinthians 9:6, we cannot now determine. Either thought would explain Paul’s language. The practical meaning is clear. Paul has long been labouring in discharge of a public and sacred duty laid upon him by God, to lead the Gentiles to faith in Christ. He now contemplates the possibility of the sacrifice thus presented to God being consummated by the pouring out of his own life.
I rejoice: not necessarily that Paul’s life is being sacrificed, but that he has been permitted, even at so great a cost, to lead his readers to faith.
I rejoice with you all: I share your joy, rejoice that ye are joyful, i.e. with a joy resulting from faith in Christ. This is the most common use of the compound word so rendered, and gives a good sense. It is therefore needless to render it congratulate, as if it meant a verbal expression of sympathy with another’s joy. Paul rejoices to see the result of his own self-sacrifice; and his joy is increased by the joy of those for whom he has laboured and suffered.
You all; recalls the universality so conspicuous in Philippians 1:3-4.
The same thing, rejoice: cherish the same joy that I have. Even if Paul’s imprisonment be the way to death, he still rejoices at his own success and at his readers’ joy. He now bids them to rejoice in Christ, and to rejoice that he is joyful. Thus this important section, like §§ 3 and 4, closes on the key-note of joy sounded in Philippians 1:4. Similar exhortations in Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:1.
REVIEW. Paul’s hope of release from imprisonment is based in part on the needs of his readers. To them, after speaking about himself, he now turns. All he has to say to them is comprised in one exhortation, viz. to act in the City of God in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ. This worthy action Paul then expounds in detail. His own conflict reminds him that they also have enemies. Against these he bids them stand firmly. To this end he urges harmony and fearlessness, saying that this last will be to them a proof of their own salvation present and future, and that sufferings are a part of God’s good purpose, both for himself and for them. Paul then returns with greater earnestness to the need for unity. The prisoner at Rome pleads for the gratification to himself which his readers’ harmony will bring, and begs them to cherish the one great purpose. He warns them against selfishness and vanity, commending humility and care for the good of others. In this he quotes the supreme example of Christ, who contemplating His approaching life on earth did not look upon His divine prerogatives as a means of obtaining for Himself material good, but on entering the world laid aside the full exercise of His divine powers in order to assume human limitations and thus save men, and who on earth trod the humble path of obedience till it led Him to the grave. The force of this example Paul increases by pointing to the honour conferred by God on the Risen Christ and to the universal homage designed for Him. Armed with this example, Paul reminds his readers that upon their earnest effort to imitate Christ depends their final salvation, and encourages them to such effort by saying that their conflict is no trial of human strength, but that in them God is working out His own good purpose. These exhortations he concludes by urging them to lay aside murmuring and doubt, to aim at a spotless character, and, by holding forth to others the word of life, to become lights in a dark world. He closes the section by looking forward to the Day of Christ and the joy. He hopes then to have in the result of His present labours. So great is the joy thus in prospect that Paul’s present joy of anticipation is not dimmed even by the possibility that his present imprisonment may end in death. Nor does this possibility prevent him from rejoicing in his readers’ joy in Christ. He bids them share his joy.
Tuesday, March 28th, 2017
the Fourth Week of Lent
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