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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Philippians 1

 

 

Verse 1

1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Ver. 1. With the bishops and deacons] The word priest is never used at all for a minister of the gospel by the apostles, no, nor by the more ancient Fathers, as Bellarmine himself confesseth. {a} And yet how eager were our late factors for Rome to have priested us all, but that God better provided for us!

{a} De Cultu Sanct. lib. iii. cap. 4.


Verse 2

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

Ver. 2. Grace be to you] {See Trapp on "1 Corinthians 1:2"} {See Trapp on "Ephesians 1:2"}


Verse 3

3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

Ver. 3. Upon every remembrance] And no wonder; for these were those famous Macedonians, that first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to their faithful ministers by the will of God, 2 Corinthians 8:5. {See Trapp on "2 Corinthians 8:5"} and compare with Isaiah 50:10.


Verse 4

4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

Ver. 4. Making request with joy] Those that grieve their faithful ministers, and quench the Spirit in them, do it to their own singular disadvantage.


Verse 5

5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

Ver. 5. For your fellowship] A good man cannot tell how to go to heaven alone. No sooner had the Philippians received the gospel, but they were in fellowship to a day. The communion of saints was with them a point of practice as well as an article of belief. The apostles’ creed was anciently briefer than now. The mention of the Father’s being "maker of heaven and earth," the Son’s death and descending into hell, and the communion of saints, being wholly omitted; haply as implied sufficiently in other articles. But surely if the creed were called Symbolum, as a sign or badge to difference Christians from infidels and wicked people, there was little reason to leave out the communion of saints, this being a main distinctive character; there being no such fellowship as among the saints, Song of Solomon 6:9.


Verse 6

6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Ver. 6. That he which hath begun a good work] Gr. εναρξαμενος, "That he which hath in-begun a good work in you;" for the work is wholly inward and spiritual, saith an interpreter. So God is said to indwell in his people, 2 Corinthians 6:16, as if he could never have enough communion with them.

Will perform it] Or perfect it. God doth not use to do his work by the halves, but goes through-stitch with it, 1 Thessalonians 5:24; Psalms 138:8. Only we must pray as Luther was wont to do, "Confirm, O Lord, in us what thou hast wrought, and perfect the work that thou hast begun in us to thy glory. So be it." And as Queen Elizabeth prayed, "Look upon the wounds of thy hands, and despise not the work of thy hands. Thou hast written me down in thy book of preservation with thine own hand; oh, read thine own handwriting, and save me," &c.


Verse 7

7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

Ver. 7. Partakers of my grace] That is, ye communicate with me in my sufferings, which he here calleth his "grace;" and tells them, Philippians 1:29; "to you it is given," as an honorary, "to suffer for Christ’s sake." Crudelitas vestra gloria nostra, Your crulty is our glory, said those primitive martyrs. (Tertull.) I had rather be a martyr than a monarch, saith Ignatius. It is to my loss, if you bate me anything in my sufferings, saith Gordius to his tormentors. Gaudebat Crispina cum tenebatur, cum audiebatur, cum damnabatur, cum ducebatur, saith Augustine: {in Psalms 137:1-9} Crispina rejoiced when she was apprehended, convented, condemned, executed.


Verse 8

8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

Ver. 8. I long after you all] Here the apostle practised his own precept of fatherly affection, φιλοστοργοι, Romans 12:10. Pray for me, mine own heart root in the Lord, quem in intimis visceribus habeo ad convivendum et commoriendum saith Bradford in a letter to his fellow martyr, Laurence Saunders.


Verse 9

9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

Ver. 9. And in all judgment] Or, sense. The soul also hath her senses as well as the body. And these must be exercised to discern good and evil, Hebrews 5:14, those two learned senses especially (as Aristotle calleth them), the eye and the ear, Job 34:3; Jeremiah 2:31. Further, observe here, that knowledge and sense, or judgment, are two things. Young trees are more sappy, but old trees are more solid.


Verse 10

10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;

Ver. 10. Approve the things] Or, try the things that differ, that ye be not cheated, and so undone, as many a man is by purchasing a counterfeit commodity at an unreasonable rate. A Bristol stone looks like a diamond, and many things glister besides gold.


Verse 11

11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Ver. 11. Being filled with the fruits] The excellency of a Christian is to follow God fully, as Caleb, Numbers 14:24; to have a heart full of goodness, as those, Romans 15:14; a life full of good works, as Tabitha, Acts 9:33. {See Trapp on "Galatians 5:22"}


Verse 12

12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

Ver. 12. Rather unto the furtherance] So were Luther’s troubles. Quo magis illi furunt, saith he, eo amplius procedo. The more they rage, the more the gospel spreadeth. It was a pleasant sight (saith one) to have beheld Christ and Antichrist striving for masteries. (Scultet. Annal.) For whatsoever the pope and the emperor attempted against the gospel, Christ turned it all to the furtherance of the gospel. The pope’s bull, the emperor’s thunderbolt, amazed not men, but animated them to embrace the truth; weakened them not, but wakened them rather.


Verse 13

13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;

Ver. 13. In all the palace] So in the Diet held at Augsburgh in Germany, A.D. 1530. Caesar reading the Protestants’ confession, and sending it abroad to other Christian princes, as desiring their advice about it, dispersed and spread it more in all parts than all the Lutheran preachers could have done. For which cause Luther laughs agood (heartily) at the foolish wisdom of the Papists, in a certain epistle of his to the elector of Saxony. When Bonner allowed William Hunter, martyr, no more than a half penny a day in prison, he confessed that he lacked nothing, but had meat and clothing enough, yea, even out of the court, both money, meat, clothes, wood and coals, and all things necessary. What friends John Wycliffe found, both in the court of England and in the court of Bohemia, is famously known; and yet the proverb is,

" Exeat aula qui velit esse pius-"


Verse 14

14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Ver. 14. Are much more bold] This is the fruit of the saints’ sufferings. Ecclesia totum mundum sanguine et oratione convertit, saith Luther. As the lily is increased by its own juice that flows from it, so is the Church by its sufferings. This caused Julian to spare some Christians whom he could have wished out of the world. I thank our Lord God (said Bp Ridley, in a letter of his to Bradford) that since I heard of our dear brother Rogers’ departing, and stout confessing of Christ and his truth even unto death, my heart, blessed be God, rejoiced of it; neither ever since that time I have felt any lumpish heaviness, as I grant I have felt sometimes before. So Bradford in a letter to Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, prisoners at Oxford: Our dear brother Rogers hath broken the ice valiantly. As this day I think hearty Hooper, trusty Taylor, and sincere Saunders end their course and receive their crown. The next am I, which hourly look for the porter to open me the gates after them to enter into the desired rest. God forgive me mine unthankfulaess for this exceeding great mercy.


Verse 15

15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:

Ver. 15. Some indeed preach Christ] Such self-seekers there are today not a few. Two things make a good Christian, good actions and good aims. Though a good aim doth not make a bad action good, as we see in Uzzah, yet a bad aim makes a good action bad, as in these preachers. They preached Christ, so did the devil, who yet was silenced by Christ, Mark 1:24-25.


Verse 16

16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:

Ver. 16. Preach Christ of contention] Striving to bear away the bell from me, as the better preachers. And with such ambitionists the Church of Christ hath ever been pestered. This made Luther pray, A doctore glorioso, et a pastore contentioso, liberet ecclesiam suam Dominus, From vain glorious and contentious preachers, the good Lord deliver his Church. This made Strigelius when he was on his death bed bless God that now he should be freed ab immanibus et implacabilibus odiis theologorum, from the cruel and implacable hatreds of dissenting divines. (Melch. Ad. in Vit. Strig.) This drew that counsel from Luther to preachers, that they should see that those three dogs did not follow them into the pulpit, -Pride, covetousness, and envy.

Supposing to add affliction to my bonds] As immane cruelty, such as Job and David often complain of, Job 6:14; Psalms 69:26. Queen Elizabeth hated no less than did Mithridates, such as maliciously persecuted virtue forsaken of fortune, saith Camden.


Verse 17

17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.

Ver. 17. Knowing that I am set] κειμαι, or, laid by the heels. They of love help out at a deadlift, and do my office abroad; as Marulla, a maid of Lemnos, seeing her father slain in the gate, took up his weapons, and not only revenged his death, but helped to keep out the Turks, who hoped to have surprised the city suddenly.


Verse 18

18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

Ver. 18. Christ is preached, &c.] Prorsus Satan est Lutherus, sed Christus vivit, et regnat, Amen, saith Luther in an epistle of his to Spalatinus; Luther is called a devil; but be it so, so long as Christ is magnified, I am well paid. All private respects should be drowned in the glory of God. But he is a base spirited man that is totus in se, entirely in himself, like the snail, still within doors, and at home. I would to God (saith Mr Dod) I were the worst minister in England; not wishing himself worse than he was, but other men better. Yea, Pedaretus, a heathen, a Lacedaemonian, when he was not chosen into the number of the three hundred counsellors of state, I thank thee, O God (said he), that thou hast given to this city so many men that are better than I am, and fitter to bear office.


Verse 19

19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Ver. 19. This shall turn to my salvation] God maketh all to co-operate, and turneth all about to the best; as the skilful apothecary maketh of a poisonous viper a wholesome treacle. {a} {See Trapp on "Romans 8:28"} {See Trapp on "Genesis 50:20"}

And the supply of the Spirit] επιχορηγια. Fresh supply of subsequent grace, as of the latter rain to the grain, and as the influence of the heavens to fruit trees, without which they cannot bear, though they be fitted to bear fruit.

{a} Old Pharm. A medicinal compound, orig. a kind of salve, composed of many ingredients, formerly in repute as an alexipharmic against and antidote to venomous bites, poisons generally, and malignant diseases. ŒD


Verse 20

20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

Ver. 20. According to my earnest] αποκαραδοκια, St Paul stood as it were on tiptoes to see which way he might best glorify God by life or by death.


Verse 21

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Ver. 21. And to die is gain] Because death to a good man is the daybreak of eternal brightness, ianua vitae, porta caeli, the door to life, the gate to heaven, as Bernard hath it, a valley of Achor, a door of hope to give entrance into Paradise, to bring them malorum omnium ademptionem, bonorum omnium adeptionem. freedom from all evils and the reception of all that is good.


Verse 22

22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

Ver. 22. What I shall choose, I wot not] As a loving wife sent for by her husband far from home, and yet loth to leave her children, is in a muse and doubt what to do, so was the apostle. He had mortem in desiderio, et vitam in patientia (as Fulgentius hath it), he rather endured life than desired it, he accepted it rather than affected it.


Verse 23

23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

Ver. 23. For I am in a strait] Plato in the eighth of his laws hath a like speech, The communion of the soul with the body, κοινωνια ψυχη και σωματι διαλυσεως ουκ εστι κρειττων, is not better than the dissolution, as I would say if I were to speak in earnest. But whether Plato believed himself so saying, I have reason to make question, when I consider that his master Socrates, when he came to die, doubted whether it were better with the dead or with the living, as both Plato and Cicero testify.

Having a desire to depart] αναλυσαι, to loose from the shore of life, and launch out into the main of immortality. Or it may be rendered, to return home, or to change rooms. A believer when he dieth, doth but repatriasse (as Bernard phraseth it), return home; he doth but change his place, and not his company, as dying Dr Preston said. He is ready to chide out his soul with Quid hic facto? as Monica, Austin’s mother, did, What make I here so far from mine own country? or with an Egredere, o anima mea, as Hilarion did, Go forth, O my soul, to Jesus thy bridegroom; haste, haste, haste to thine happy home. Euge, Deo sit laus et gloria, quod iam mea instet liberatio, et horula gratissima, said Graserus, when death was upon him: Oh, blessed be God for this blessed hour. Oh, what a happy change shall I now make from night to day, from darkness to light, from death to life, from sorrow to solace, from a factious world to a happy being! as Mr John Holland, a Lancashire minister, said, when he was even ready to depart. Oh, wish heartily to die the death of these righteous; and let that be the unfeigned sense of thy soul, which Camerarius left in his will, should be written on his tombstone (Melch. Ad.):

" Vita mihi mors est, mors mihi vita nova est.

Life is to me a death, death’s a new life."

Or that emortual of George Fabritius (Bucholcer Index Chronol.),

" σοι χαριν οιδα θεω ευσπλαγχνω ος μ εδιδαξας

 

εν βιοτη τε θανειν, εν θανατω δε βιουν."

"Thanks to my gracious God, who doth me give,

In life to die, and in death’s hand to live."

And to be with Christ] This was all his song ever since he had been in the third heaven. So Mr Bolton, lying on his death bed, said, I am by the wonderful mercies of God as full of comfort as my heart can hold, and feel nothing fit my soul but Christ, with whom I heartily desire to be. (His Life by Mr Bagshaw.)

Which is far better] πολλω μαλλον κρεισσον, Far, far the better. A transcendent expression, such as is that 2 Corinthians 4:17. {See Trapp on "2 Corinthians 4:17"}


Verse 24

24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Ver. 24:. Is more needful for you] Mr Bolton dying, and desiring to be dissolved, being told that it was indeed better for him to he with Christ, but the Church of God could not miss him, nor the benefit of his ministry, he thus replied with David, 2 Samuel 15:25-26 "If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it and his habitation. But if otherwise, lo, here I am, let him do what seemeth good in his eyes." No man is born, much less born again, for himself, but for the benefit of many, as Bucer’s physicians said to him, Non sibi se, sed multorum utilitati esse natum, that he was not born for himself, but for the good of God’s Church; the welfare whereof he had zealously promoted. Dr John Reynolds being persuaded by his friends to give over his incessant pains in the Lord’s work for his health’s sake, finely answered out of Juvenal,

" Et proffer vitam vivendi perdere finem:

Nor yet, for love of life, lose that dare I

That is the main, care of community."


Verse 25

25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

Ver. 25. And joy of faith] That is, for your full assurance, which is that highest degree of faith, whereby a believer having gotten victory over his doubtings, triumpheth with a large measure of joy.


Verse 26

26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

Ver. 26. That your rejoicing] Gr. Your glorying or exulting in this, that God hath given me in, as an answer to your prayers. It is surely a sweet thing to bear from heaven. David often boasts of it, Psalms 6:8-9; Psalms 66:19-20.


Verse 27

27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Ver. 27. Only let your conversation] q.d. If you would that God should hear you, and deliver me, be ready prepared for the receipt of such a mercy. The fountain of divine grace will not be laden at with foul hands, Psalms 66:17. The leper’s lips should be covered, according to the law.

Let your conversation] πολιτευεσθε, your civil conversation, your common commerce, and interdealings with men also. Hippocrates took an oath from his followers to keep their profession unstained, and their lives unblameable. {a} When our life is contrary to our profession, it is a slander to the gospel; and it may be said of us, as a low countryman said to a gentleman that commended the Spaniards for their devotion and their often blessing and crossing themselves: No doubt, quoth he, they are, holy men; crosses without, and the devil within.

Striving together for the faith] As the barons of Polonia professed to do, by their starting up at the reading of the Gospel, and drawing out their swords half way, in testimony that they would stick and stand to the defence of that truth to the very death. (A. D. 965, Jo. Funccius.) Help the truth in necessity, strive with it, and for it. Say of it, as she did of the shield she gave her son going to the battle, η ταν η επι ταν (Plutarch), Either bring this back, or be brought back upon it. Or, as the Black Prince’s resolution in battle was, either to vanquish or perish. The serpent, they say, if he be so environed that he must of necessity pass through one of them, will sooner adventure upon the fire or flame than upon the shadow of the poplar tree. The mouse of Armenia will rather die than be defiled with any filth; insomuch, as if her hole be besmeared with dirt, she will rather choose to be taken than to be polluted. Let us resolve either to live with the faith of the gospel, or to die for it. The Athenians bound their citizens by oath, to fight for defence of their religion both alone and with ethers, αμυνω δε και υπερ ιερων και υπερ οσιων και μονος και μετα πολλων.

{a} αγεως και οσιως τον βιον και την τιχνης εμην


Verse 28

28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.

Ver. 28. And in nothing terrified] πρυρομενοι. A metaphor from horses, when they tremble and are sorely frightened. He that feareth God need fear none else, Psalms 3:6-7. But with the horse in Job 39:22, he mocketh at fear, and is not frightened; neither turneth he back from the sword.


Verse 29

29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

Ver. 29. For unto you it is given] As a high honour not only to believe (though that is a great matter; for he that believeth hath set to his seal that God is true, hath given God a testimonial, such as is that Deuteronomy 32:4), but also (as a further favour) to suffer for his sake: this is the lowest subjection that can be to God, but the highest honour both to him and us. This made Latimer, after the sentence pronounced on him, cry out, "I thank God most heartily for this honour." Saunders said, "I am the unmeetest man for this high office that ever was appointed to it." "Such an honour it is," said Careless, martyr, "as the greatest angel in heaven is not permitted to have. God forgive me mine unthankfulness."


Verse 30

30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Ver. 30. Which ye saw in me] Acts 16:19; Acts 16:23-24, &c. {See Trapp on "Acts 16:19"} {See Trapp on "Acts 16:23"} {See Trapp on "Acts 16:24"}

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Philippians 1:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/philippians-1.html. 1865-1868.


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