The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
The Address and Salutation.
v. 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:
v. 2. Grace be unto you and peace from God, our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul calls himself a servant and names Timothy as a fellow-servant, the word which he uses retaining, to some degree, the meaning of bond-servant. He considers himself and his young helper as the property of the heavenly Master, whose one aim must be to carry out the Lord's will and work. The term "servant" thus expresses Paul's intense fervor and devotion in his calling. He names Timothy together with himself, not as apostle, but as servant, for Timothy had been his assistant when he first worked in Philippi; the young preacher was thus a well-known figure at Philippi, Act_16:1-12. The Christians of the city owed much to him, and he was about to visit them again. Timothy had his teacher's, his spiritual father's, mind and character, and his memory was a pleasant one among the Philippians, who had learned to love him. To all the saints in Christ Jesus that were in Philippi Paul addressed his letter. He used the word which denotes their separation from the world and their consecration to God. The Christians belong to God, are saints, made saints in Christ Jesus, inasmuch as they are sanctified in Christ and are in holy communion with Christ. Through Christ they are united with God, in life and covenant.
The letter was addressed to the congregation at Philippi. All the Philippian Christians were, in the eyes of Paul, saints. He disregards the fact that there are also hypocrites in the external assembly. For the sake of charity he considers them all Christians, or saints. He also mentions expressly the bishops and deacons of the congregation, not as a hierarchy separate from the congregation, but as a part of the congregation. As early as the middle of the first century, therefore, the Christians recognized special ministers of the Word. The bishops were those members of the presbytery that were engaged in the ministry of the Word, in the capacity of preachers. The deacons were also members of the presbytery of the congregation, but were more properly engaged in the external business of the congregation, in the care of the poor, etc. The congregation at Philippi had good bishops and deacons, whom Paul mentions with loving respect.
His salutation is that of most of his letters: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christians have received, and Paul wishes that they may always possess, grace in and through Christ, given by the Father, in the new birth and life, the chief blessing of all times. Father and Son are here coordinated as in many other passages. Christ is the Mediator that gained salvation by His vicarious sacrifice, thus establishing the right relation between God and man, with the gift of grace and peace, Rom_5:1.
The Apostle's Personal Feeling toward the Philippian Christians.
His grateful and confident prayer:
v. 3. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
v. 4. always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
v. 5. for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now;
v. 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;
v. 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 defense and confirmation of the Gospel ye all are partakers of my grace.
The first thought which Paul voices is one of gratitude and thanksgiving toward God as the sole and whole cause of all goodness in all saints: I thank my God at every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all with joy making request, on account of your communion toward the Gospel from the first day till now. We here receive an insight into Paul's spiritual life, into his relation to every congregation and every single Christian. Whenever he thinks of the congregation at Philippi, whenever he remembers them, as he does continually, he finds cause for grateful prayer to God. This remembering is a habit with him rather than a single act. He is constrained to voice his gratitude in prayer to God. The situation at Philippi filled his heart with joy, which must needs break forth in prayer. He heartily commended the Christians of Philippi to the great Lord of the Church. Such thanksgiving for rich spiritual blessings ought to be far more prevalent in the various congregations than it is today; the individual Christians should be engaged far oftener in this blessed occupation.
As the specific reason for the joy which he feels the apostle names the communion of the Philippian Christians toward, that is, in, the Gospel from the first day till now. From the first day that Paul had proclaimed to them the message of salvation which had been entrusted to him until the very day when he wrote this letter, the Philippian Christians had been true to the Gospel. By the preaching of Paul the Philippians had entered into communion with the Gospel, their hearts and minds being filled with its blessings; they were firm believers in Jesus Christ, their Savior, and they were actively engaged in spreading the glorious news of the salvation of all men. Many congregations become weary, grow tired, lose the first love. But not so with the Christians at Philippi; they had continued with unabated energy and love for the Gospel, and had not given up any of the benefits which had accrued to them through the Gospel.
For this reason Paul was confident also for the future: Being persuaded of this: That He who began from the start in you a good work will carry it out to the end until the day of Christ Jesus. The apostle has a definite trust, a firm persuasion, based upon faith in the mighty power of God. In his mind there is a combination of thanksgiving, joyful anticipation, and definite trust: That One that began the one good work, the work of regeneration. This is a good work because God has wrought it, not because of any cooperation in man; it is God's work all alone. This good work, the Philippians' communion in the Gospel, as established through the work of regeneration, God will complete, carry out to a successful end, until the day of Jesus Christ, until the great revelation of His glory on the last day. Not the believers in their own strength and power are able to be and remain faithful to the end, but it is God who will perform this, since He does not work in vain. As faith is the beginning, middle, and end of conversion, God will keep them in the faith. On the last day this faith, which has been preserved by the gracious power of God, will be rewarded with the free gift of salvation. Note: This statement is full of comforting strength to the Christians, since it shows them that every Christian can and shall be certain of his salvation. This certainty is an essential characteristic of faith. To a Christian it is a monstrous thought that his faith should ever cease, for faith is trust in the Lord's salvation as applied to the individual.
To suppose that this trust is in the heart of the Christians of Philippi, Paul considers a duty and obligation which he owes to his readers: As it is right for me to think this of you all, on account of my having you in the heart, because as well in my bonds as in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel you all are partakers of my grace. Paul here mentions the sentiment, or feeling, the definite opinion, or conviction, which he holds. He believes and holds with regard to all these his fellow-Christians that God will perform the good work in them to the end. No mere man is able to pick out individual cases of such as profess Christianity and affirm the fact of saving faith, for the condition of the heart is a matter known only to God. But one thing is sure, namely, that all Christians that really are Christians will be kept in the faith by the power of God At the same time it is right and just that we have this feeling with regard to all our fellow-Christians, that they are Christians and will continue Christians, remain faithful until the end. The reason why the apostle has this confident feeling he states when he asserts his love for them, love having this characteristic, that it always thinks well of its neighbor. Furthermore, they are partakers of the same grace as he. They all have received the same blessings of the mercy of God through the vicarious work of Christ. This love is not affected by Paul's captivity. His defense, his apology and confirmation of the Gospel does not stop because of his bonds; it is rather that his defense before the emperor is a guarantee of the Gospel, a warrant of its value and claims. And it is a matter of satisfaction and comfort to the apostle that even in the darkest moments of his career their love and kindness toward him, the fact that they have remained true to the Gospel as preached by him, are proof enough that they share with him in the grace of God, and that they, with him, will obtain the end of faith, the salvation of their souls.
Paul's eager longing for the Philippian Christians:
v. 8. For God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
v. 9. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment,
v. 10. that ye may approve things that are excellent, that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,
v. 11. being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
For a parallel passage see Rom_1:9-11. The apostle here confirms his declaration that he has the Philippian Christians in his heart, that he is united with them by the bonds of the strongest affection: My witness, indeed, is God, how I fervently desire you all in the mercies of Christ Jesus. He speaks with great solemnity and emphasis, asking God Himself to be the witness of the truth of his statement. His object is to have his readers gain a full and unwavering confidence in him. He has an urgent, an earnest, desire and longing for them; he fervently wishes to be with them once more. This is not merely an expression of deep attachment, of a homesick tenderness, of a natural affection which moved his entire being, but it is a feeling which flows from the mercies, the heart, of Christ Jesus. The word which Paul uses was the term for the supposed seat of mercy and loving sympathy. The love of Christ had been poured out into his heart, lived in him, actuated him. Just as fervently and truly as Christ loves those that are His own, so the apostle tried to love all Christians and especially those at Philippi.
His gratitude and loving sympathy now urges the apostle to express the feeling of his heart in a fervent prayer for the Philippians: And this I pray, that your love abound yet more and more in understanding and all intelligence. They were believers, they had given ample proof of the sound condition of their faith in good works, yet the perfection had not yet been gained that is the hope of all Christians. Therefore Paul adds intercession to prayer, pleading that through God's gracious power their love toward Christ and the brethren should grow, be enlarged, be added to. As the beloved of the Lord they should show the growth which alone is consistent with their Christian profession; for love is the first, immediate fruit of faith. The believers should persist in love; as their, faith grows, so their love should grow. Standing still in faith and love is an impossibility to a Christian. The chief consideration that controls this growth is understanding, for love grows with the understanding of the saving truth, of the Word of our redemption. As the understanding and knowledge of God and His gracious counsel of love toward salvation grows, love must keep pace with this growth, in fact, it must be the corollary of this understanding. At the same time, this is no mere understanding of the reason and mind, but of the entire and full intelligence, of the developed discernment which is shown in sound common sense and correct judgment in spiritual matters. It is a spiritual ability to discern the good and true, that which will stand before the criterion and standard of God's Word. It is the moral sensibility which enables the Christians to apply the proper tact to all situations and relations in the world.
The result of such understanding and sense is shown at all times: That you may test things that differ, that you may be pure and unblamable for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness which is through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. The Christians must gain practice more and more in distinguishing that which must be judged or discriminated, that they may learn to choose, almost instinctively, between good and bad, between true and false, between what pleases and what displeases God, between what is to be recommended to Christians and what is to be shunned, between that which serves the kingdom of God and that which is inimical to its interests. This judgment of Christians should be grounded and should grow: that is the prayer of the apostle, in which all Christians will join him. The gift of trying the spirits, of distinguishing between true and false, is a very important blessing; to know in each individual instance what is right and wrong, and to fulfill the will of God in this knowledge, that is a wonderful gift of God's grace. Only in this manner will the purpose of God be realized, namely, that the Christians will be found pure and without offense for the day of Jesus Christ. The Christian's life should be so thoroughly above reproach and suspicion that he can let the light of full publicity fall upon him, as one that is tested by a sunbeam, and not be afraid to face his critics. The things of darkness cannot stand in the sight of the Word, which reveals all. Only the pure will stand in God's sight. And without offense, blameless, the Christians should be; they should not stumble and fall, and they should not cause others to stumble and fall. They are always aware of the coming of the day of Jesus Christ, when everything will be revealed before the eye of the all-seeing Judge. The apostle has no reference to every-day weaknesses and foibles, but he insists that Christians should shun all the open mortal sins of the flesh. Especially such crimes as will make a Christian infamous also in the eyes of the world should not be found in a Christian community. The Christian will therefore prayerfully watch his every move and carefully weigh everything that is brought to his attention, to find which is the right course to pursue in each individual case.
It follows then, also, that Christians will always be filled with the fruit of righteousness. Love, growing in the manner indicated by the apostle, will know in every case what to do and what to leave undone, and this knowledge results in the fruit of good works. Faith and love are manifested in good works. The whole life of the believers should be filled up with good works. And yet, all the works may be entered under one single heading: fruit of faith. It is fruit of righteousness, fruit which consists in righteousness, righteousness of life, for a Christian to act and live justly toward God and his neighbor. Such fruit will result only in and through Jesus Christ. In reality, it is the power, the strength, of Jesus in the believers that works and brings forth the good deeds. And chiefly for this reason such bringing forth results to the honor and praise of God. Even in this life the Christians increase the glory and the praise of God by their life in accordance with His will.
St. Paul's Present Circumstances, Experiences, and Expectations.
The result of Paul's imprisonment:
v. 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,
v. 13. so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace and in all other places;
v. 14. and many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear.
v. 15. Some, indeed, preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good will.
v. 16. The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds;
v. 17. but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the Gospel.
Having expressed his gratitude and confidence on account of their excellent spiritual condition, the apostle now gives to the solicitous Philippians an assurance concerning himself: I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have rather gone forth for the furtherance of the Gospel. So far as his condition and present circumstances were concerned, there was no need for the natural worry which the Philippians felt for their beloved teacher. They had remembered him with their gifts of lave in his imprisonment. But now his report to them is intended to reassure them. His imprisonment in the capital, and the position in which he was thereby placed, had not always been of value to the Gospel, but matters had now so shaped themselves that they actually redounded to, and served for, the progress of the Gospel. It might have been expected, it was natural under the circumstances, in fact, that the free course of the Gospel should be hindered by Paul's being imprisoned and thus being kept back from continuing his missionary activity. But under the guiding hand of God these very circumstances had served the progress of the Gospel.
How this has been effected the apostle now proceeds to show: So that my bonds became manifest in Christ in the entire praetorium and to all the rest, and the greater number of brethren in the Lord gained confidence by my bonds the more vehemently to dare without fear to preach the Word of God. It was a case where man proposes, God disposes, men thinking evil, but God meaning it unto good. It had become manifest in Rome that Paul was a prisoner only for the cause of Christ and for no other reason. He was not guilty of any crime, but had been made captive only because he preached Christ. The fact of his innocence had become generally known in the entire body-guard of Caesar. Although Paul was not held captive at their camp in Rome, but lived in his own lodgings nearby, chained to a soldier, yet the true state of his affairs had been noised abroad in the camp, probably through the soldiers whose work it was to guard Paul. There is also a probability that a hearing of Paul's case had taken place before the tribunal of Caesar, in the presence of the Praetorian Guard. This hearing made it evident that Paul was no criminal, but had been brought before Caesar merely on account of the Gospel which he proclaimed. This fact had then been spread by the Praetorians and others, also in the city.
Thus it came about that the majority of the brethren, having in the Lord gained confidence in his bonds, came out for Christ with all the greater boldness. They carried into resolute action the confidence which they felt They preached the Word with all the greater fearlessness. And this confidence was in Paul's bonds; they were convinced all the more that he was a martyr for the sake of the Gospel, and they thus put faith in him and his message, they were convinced of the power and beauty of the Gospel, all the more firmly, all the more vehemently. It became to them a cause whose sacredness and goodness made it worth suffering for. This confidence influenced their testimony; with great joy and assurance, with an entire absence of fear, they spoke the Word, proclaiming the gracious message of salvation through Christ.
But even in Rome the Judaizing sympathizers were not absent: Some, indeed, (preach the Word) also for envy and strife, but some also for good will preach Christ; these out of love, since they know that for the defense of the Gospel I am placed: those, however, out of contention preach Christ, not sincerely, believing that they will raise affliction for my bonds. This was the drop of bitterness in Paul's cup of joy, since there were some people in Rome that were envious of the Gospel's success and therefore stirred up strife in order to check this activity and to injure the apostle's person. Their ambition, incidentally, did not go beyond a service for the sake of filthy lucre. Selfishness was their motive in preaching, they hoped to have personal gain in their work. They saw that the Christians loved Paul, that he had a great following, and they hoped to gain influence and also money by preaching, and perhaps counteract the influence of Paul. There was no sincerity in their hearts. They wanted to raise, add to, the tribulation of Paul, as though his sufferings were not yet great enough. To him, who felt the imprisonment as a harsh and almost unbearable measure in view of the great need of the world for Gospel-preaching, it caused additional pain when he saw that the methods of these insincere people caused strife among the brethren, that there were preachers who wanted to organize their own parties in opposition to the congregation which was established on the basis of Scriptures. But in the midst of this added suffering the apostle and his Gospel yet had true friends, men that proclaimed the Gospel from good will, out of love, men who knew the true reason for Paul's incarceration and would have shrunk a thousand times from hurting him. The Gospel of Christ gained power in their estimation by the fact of Paul's imprisonment. They felt the might of martyrdom. For that reason they, on their part, spread the Gospel with sincerity and singleness of heart. Their love for the apostle, their sympathy for his circumstances, intensified their zeal for the Gospel.
The apostle satisfied if only Christ is magnified:
v. 18. What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therefore do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
v. 19. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation, through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
v. 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.
v. 21. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Without discussing the right to preach or the absence of such a right on the part of these men that are preaching with false and sinful motives, Paul's charity even finds reason for rejoicing in the situation: What matters it? Only that in every way, whether by simulation or in truth, Christ is preached, and in this I rejoice. Paul here has only one matter in view, namely, the possible effect which this unauthorized preaching may have on the spread of the Gospel, on the work of the Kingdom. What is the situation? he asks. How shall we judge the entire matter? And he is ready to overlook everything else, if only, in the final analysis, the full honor be given to Christ. The false and selfish preachers may be working under false pretenses, they may not be really concerned about the Gospel, they may not be sincere. The others, by contrast, the men that love the apostle and are working for him and the Gospel in all sincerity, they have only the glory of Christ in view. But no matter at this time! Paul cries out. In either case the Gospel of Christ is the winner, even through the preaching of the hypocrites of whom he speaks. And therefore Paul rejoices: it is a cause of gratification, of satisfaction, to him. The same is true today, but only so long as the preachers that are serving on account of some insincere motive really preach the pure Gospel. A false preacher can never really do anything for the glory of Christ.
But Paul is thinking not only of the present, but also of the future: Moreover, I shall rejoice; for I know that this shall result for me unto salvation through your prayer and the ministration of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. No matter what the final result will be in his own case, Paul will rejoice, he will persist in driving away all gloomy thoughts. As his imprisonment so far has served the Gospel, so it will continue to have a good, a blessed progress and result. This result will be made possible through the prayers of the Philippians. Their earnest prayer will be mighty before God to overcome the evil of their enemies. He relies upon that prayer and its power; he knows that the earnest prayer of the believers has great might and power before God. And the ministration of the Spirit of God and of Christ will be the other factor which will be of assistance to him. The Spirit, who lives in the apostle, given him by Christ, gives him strength and willingness both to endure the present tribulation and to continue the work of the Gospel with unabated vigor. He knew that the Spirit Himself would come to the aid of his infirmity and that he could do all things through Christ, who strengthened him.
The apostle is sure, moreover, that his confidence is not misplaced: According to my constant expectation and hope that in nothing I be put to shame, but in all confidence, as always, also now, Christ be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death: For to me to live is Christ, and to die, gain. The apostle has his own work in mind. His expectation with regard to that is a solicitous, an earnest, a constant one. It is a case of intense watching and longing on his part. It is a definite hope which he is entertaining. He expects and hopes most firmly not to be put to shame in anything. Just as his shame before men had been changed to a correct estimation of his work, so he hoped that in his entire ministry there would be no real, no justified cause for any feeling of shame. In all confidence, in all openness, in all freedom of preaching, Christ was to be magnified, His name was to be praised and extolled, this being the one true and final reason for the preaching of the Gospel. This has always been the fervent hope and expectation, literally, the waiting with outstretched hand, which Paul entertained. In his body the apostle expects Christ to be magnified. By the work which Paul performed and which entailed a good deal of hard physical labor, and by the suffering which he underwent, Christ was to be extolled highly. And it made no difference to the apostle whether this happened by his life or by his death. If he lives, he can do and also suffer more for Christ, whom he has embraced in the faith and whom he loves by reason of that faith. And if he dies, it will be in the faith of Christ, for the sake of Him who loved him and who is worth far greater sacrifices. Exultantly his cry rings out: For to me to live is Christ, and to die, gain. Being in Christ, is a new creature; his life is bound up with Christ, most intimately connected with Him. Christ is to him the source and secret of life, for him life is summed up in Christ. He has put on Christ in Baptism, and he grows more and more in the knowledge and likeness of Christ day by day. And to die is gain, the best and truest gain: the fulfillment of all hopes and expectations comes in the so-called death of the Christian. He enters upon the heritage which is his in Christ Jesus. Would that all Christians learned to believe and to say these words in simple confidence, and lived their lives in accordance with their import!
Paul's complete trust in his Savior's gracious will:
v. 22. but if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor; yet what I shall choose I wot not.
v. 23. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better;
v. 24. nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
v. 25. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith,
v. 26. that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.
Here is a wonderful example of childlike trust and faith, the entire passage being an exposition of the words: He knoweth best! The apostle's words are convincing and inspiring: But if the living in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor, then also what I shall choose I know not. No matter what may happen to him, Paul has become a partaker of the true life in and with Christ. It is merely a question of degree between the two. And the lower degree, the physical, earthly life, gives opportunity for service in the kingdom of Christ. This service will tend to yield fruit of his labor to the apostle. If God gives the increase as in the past, his hard work will not be in vain, but will redound to the glory of God and the welfare of many souls, thus yielding the most splendid fruit. For that reason the apostle does not know, he is in a dilemma, he is undecided which to choose. It is an unselfish weighing of advantages, and the apostle wishes to be impartial and remain where his presence will do the most good at this time: For I am in a dilemma between the two, having the desire toward departing and being with Christ; for by much more this would be useful, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Both sides of the question offered great advantages and therefore pressed heavily upon him. On the one side he had the earnest desire to depart, to leave this earthly life behind, since all difficulties would then be overcome forever, so far as he was concerned. He would be with Christ, he would awake with His likeness, Psa_17:15, and there was no doubt in his mind that this would be by far, beyond all comparison, the better for him. It was evidently the side which most appealed to him, since he emphasizes it in such an extraordinary way. But there was also the other side, that of his congregations, to be considered. For himself, for his own person, the apostle expected nothing in the world; he had found out abundantly what this world has to offer; but their interests, their welfare weighs heavily upon his mind. Desire lies on the side of death; obligation lies on the side of life. For their sake, in. their interest, the greater necessity is his staying in the flesh, his remaining in this world, to continue his work among them and in their behalf
The latter consideration, that of service, finally decided the matter: And having this confidence, I know that I shall stay and remain with you all for your progress and joy of the faith, that your glorying may exceed in Christ Jesus in me through my advent again to you. This conviction, that his life was still needful to them, decided the question in favor of living. A careful weighing of all facts has effected in him the full persuasion and conviction: he knows that he will remain. His present imprisonment will not culminate in his death. His life will be spared: a conviction based also upon prophetical knowledge. He knew that he would live, that he would continue and remain in this physical, earthly life with them all, side by side with them in Christian life and labor. Thus his remaining has a definite purpose, a specific object, namely, their progress and the joy of their faith. By his teaching and preaching they were to be furthered in the knowledge of Christ so as to make constant progress in their faith, to grow in the knowledge of their Savior. This would incidentally result in the joy of their faith. Their true rejoicing would be in Christ. The greater and surer the faith, the firmer the joy of this faith. They would thus have ample reason for praise and thanks giving, but always in Christ Jesus, from whom and in whom all good gifts and blessings are possible. But their glorifying would also be over Paul, on his account, because of his coming again to them. Theirs was not a mere outward joy of loving friends and acquaintances, but the love of pupils for their teacher who had brought them the words of eternal life, the love of converted souls for the agent of their conversion. Had they received so much spiritual food, so many spiritual blessings in the past, they might expect a further abundance after his return to them. Thus would that communion, that most intimate fellowship, again be established, followed by the most glorious blessings, for which all glory must ever be given to the great Giver of all blessings.
An Admonition to Constancy and True Unity. Php_1:27-30
v. 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,
v. 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.
v. 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,
v. 30. having the same conflict which ye saw in me and now hear to be in me.
The apostle here adds a warning limitation to his exultant promise: Only comport yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, in order that, whether I come to see you or am absent, I hear in regard to you that you stand firmly in one spirit, with one soul battling together through the faith of the Gospel. The Philippian Christians should meanwhile, until his release and his arrival in their midst, lead such a life as would be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, as would in no way bring shame and disgrace upon the message of salvation. In the apostle's absence as well as in his presence he expects the Christians of Philippi to show the behavior that conforms with their Christian duty. They are citizens of a kingdom whose palace and throne are above, and this citizenship imposes certain obligations. When he comes, he wants to find them, above all, standing together firmly in one spirit. And if his absence from them should continue for a longer space of time than he now anticipates, he expects the same care from them. They should perform the duties of their spiritual citizenship. They should show firmness, constancy, in the midst of the temptations and hatred of the heathen. By virtue of their having embraced Christianity, they were looked upon by their neighbors as aliens, as followers after strange gods, and they were hated accordingly. But they should and could be constant in the Spirit that gives them strength at all times. With one soul they should thus battle in the faith of the Gospel, their most sacred and precious possession. That is the spirit which is needed in our days also, the feeling of solidarity, the consciousness of being one with all believers in Christ, especially with those of the pure Word and Sacraments, the spirit which makes for true unity and union and stands firmly against all attacks for the faith once delivered to the saints.
If the Christians do this, then the opposite possibility is excluded from the start: And not terrified in anything by the adversaries, which is to them a showing of perdition, but to you of salvation, and this from God. Not in a single point of their faith, not in a single principle upheld by the Bible, should the Christians be overcome by terror and thus give way. Though the adversaries are strong and full of guile, they cannot and should not be able to strike terror into the hearts of the Christians. And the fact that the believers battle so valiantly and are not terrified is to their adversaries a token, an indication, of perdition, indicating that the victory must finally be on the side of the Christians. The latter, a poor small crew, standing up valiantly against a world of unbelievers without the sign of a tremor, is a token of their eventual victory over their many enemies. They will receive salvation in the fullest and deepest sense, the last great healing, the final glory. And all this from God. He alone is the Author and Finisher of our salvation. The token which the Christians have on their side in the battle is one which was placed and ordered by God Himself as a surety for their victory.
The manner in which confidence, undaunted courage, is to the Christians an evidence of the appointed victory, is shown in the last words: For to you is given for Christ's sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, having the same battle of the kind you see in me and now hear in me. It is a privilege, a grace, a gift which is given to the Christians, to stand up for Jesus, to stand on His side, to fight His battles, to endure His suffering. So one takes this gift of himself, of his own reason and strength. Such an open avowal of Christ is an expression of faith. In this faith Christians become confessors, receive strength to suffer all manner of persecution and enmity on the part of the world. They all go through the same experiences as the apostle himself. Through these apparently unpleasant and evil things God intends to strengthen the faith of His children. And if faith and the ability to endure suffering is granted by God, He will grant also the last great boon, eternal salvation. The apostle, therefore, reminds the Philippians that they are not alone in their difficulties, in their battles. He had stood up against the enemies of his faith, he had endured sufferings for the sake of the Gospel. The greater the hero of Christ, the more severe the battle. Let all Christians stand up firmly and cheerfully unite to bear the brunt and burden of all the attacks of their enemies for the sake of Christ, and this fact will redound to their final glorification, to the attaining of the salvation which God has reserved for them.
After the opening address and salutation, the apostle describes his personal attitude toward his readers, includes a prayer for their further growth in knowledge, shows that his present circumstances have tended to the furtherance rather than to the hindrance of the Gospel, adding an urgent admonition to constancy and true unity.
Wednesday, April 26th, 2017
the Second Week after Easter
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