Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
‘Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.’
Paul includes Timothy in his greeting, presumably because he was with him at the time and was so well known to the Philippians. Note his description of himself and Timothy as ‘slaves of Christ Jesus’ (compare Romans 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1). Nothing delighted him more than to acknowledge his total submission to God, and to recognise the fact that he was bound to Him by a debt that he could not repay. He saw his life as thus wholly yielded to His service. Everything that he had, and every moment that was his, belonged to God, and to God alone (compare Romans 12:1-2).
But the word ‘servant’ also translates the Hebrewebedwhich in the Old Testament was regularly used of those in an honourable position of service. Thus while an indication of total obedience, it was also a claim to be a special emissary of God. It is interesting to note that while the Old Testament prophet spoke of himself as ‘the servant of YHWH’, the New Testament equivalent speaks of himself as ‘the servant of Christ Jesus’. This is unquestionably equating YHWH and Christ Jesus. No Jewish Christian who thought that Jesus Christ was less than God would have spoken in this way.
‘Christ Jesus.’ The order of the names is a reminder that ‘Christ’ was not just a surname. He was ‘the Messiah Jesus’, although to the Gentiles ‘Messiah’ meant almost the equivalent of ‘Saviour’. The Gentiles were mainly unaware of the thrill that would come into a Jewish heart at the thought of ‘the Messiah’, the ‘Anointed One’ promised by God Who would accomplish the deliverance of His people. But they did recognise that the idea of the ‘anointed One’ signified someone very important to their salvation.
It is noteworthy that he does not feel it necessary to mention his Apostleship, something which he rarely omitted in his other letters (only so in his letters to Philippi and to the ‘neighbouring’ Thessalonians). His relationship with the Macedonian churches was such that it was not necessary. No one in the church at Philippi or at Thessalonika challenged his credentials. And similar authority was conveyed by the idea of being a ‘servant of Christ Jesus’.
The name of the addressees is also significant. He is speaking to ‘ALL’, and they are all ‘sanctified ones (saints) in Christ Jesus’. This refers to their status as having been set apart wholly to God, and as being ‘made holy’ by Him as His special possession (compare 1 Peter 2:9). They were all His own elect people. They belonged to Him. It does not depict them as ‘painted saints’, for he could speak of the unruly Corinthians, in spite of their failings, in the same way (1 Corinthians 1:2). His point was that they were treasured by God and destined for glory.
The description of their leadership as ‘overseers’ (episkopoi - originally ‘bishops’ were joint overseers of individual churches) and ‘deacons (servants)’ reflects the way in which he describes such offices in his letters to Timothy and Titus. There were at this time no monarchical or diocesan bishops. Some churches were watched over by ‘overseers (bishops) and deacons’ (following Gentile patterns) and others by ‘elders’ (following the Jewish pattern; compare Acts 14:23). Conformity would come later. The word for ‘bishop’ (episkopos) means simply ‘an over-seer’. We must not think in terms of ‘bishops’ of our own day. Each city and town church had a number of bishops/overseers who watched over their widespread gatherings. But they needed to be ‘apt to teach’ (1 Timothy 3:2). Thus they were more than just administrators.
Each city church (which was composed of numbers of groups around the city and its environs, which met together as they could) was independent of all others. Their joint unity was on the basis of shared faith, not on the basis of a hierarchy. There were no extended diocese. That would come much later and would not necessarily be a good thing. In many cases it would put the power in the wrong hands. But God intended His church to work in harmony under the Holy Spirit, not to be directed and controlled by powerful men (compare 3 John 1:9).
The overall greeting emphasises that in Paul’s eyes the leadership was to be seen as having no more importance in God’s eyes than the whole congregation. One could not see writers in later centuries addressing a church in this way at a time when bishops had been given an importance to which they were not strictly entitled. However, at this time all were seen as being of equal importance to God Who was seen as having no favourites. It is a reminder that their bishops and deacons were genuinely seen as servants of the church and not as its masters.
Introductory words (Philippians 1:1-2).
Paul’s opening words follow the normal pattern for writing letters typical of his day. He provides the name of the writer of the letter and in this case a description of his status, the details of the addressees, a wish for their welfare, and an expression of gratitude to a deity for His loving care. We can compare with this such letters as the one from Apion, a soldier writing from Misenum to his father, which was found among the papyri heaps in Egypt. ‘Apion sends heartiest greetings to his father and lord Epimachus. I pray above all that you are well and fit, and that things are going well with you and my sister and her daughter and my brother. I thank my Lord Serapis [his god] that he kept me safe when I was in peril on the sea.’
‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’
‘Grace’ (charis) was a Gentile greeting and ‘peace’ a Jewish one. But on Paul’s pen we must not see them just as formal greetings. He had very much in mind the unmerited favour of God (grace) towards them (compare Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 12:9) and his hope for their spiritual well-being in the hands of God (peace, well-being - shalom), for he treasured them in his heart.
‘From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ The parallel descriptions bring out Paul’s high view of Jesus Christ. The Father is ‘God’, Jesus Christ is ‘the Lord’, which is the Septuagintal equivalent of ‘God’ (YHWH). Both are fully divine (compare 1 Corinthians 8:6), and both are involved in working in grace on behalf of God’s people, and in ensuring their well-being.
‘I thank my God on all my remembrance of you, always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now,’
Right from the very first day when he had found Lydia by the riverside with the small group of Jewish believers, and had been invited into her palatial home where the needs of he and his companions had been supplied, and a small church had had its beginnings (Acts 16:15), until this time when they had provided for his need in a Roman prison situation, the Philippians had been open-hearted towards him in every way. But to suggest that all that Paul had in mind was their monetary gifts would be to debase Paul. Rather he rejoiced in their gifts because they demonstrated their overall desire to partake in the spread of the Gospel and the extension of the Kingly Rule of God. That was why he thanked God for ‘every’ remembrance of them. And that was why he was able to pray for them with such joy. In their spiritual advancement they were one of ‘his’ major successes. And they were always a joy to him as they looked to Christ.
The word ‘fellowship’ signifies ‘participation in common’. They shared with him in their prayers (Philippians 1:19), in their monetary support (Philippians 4:10), in their witness (Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:15), in their suffering for Christ (Philippians 1:29-30), in their maintenance of each other’s faith (Philippians 2:3-4), and in their worship together with him (Philippians 2:17-18). And it was all as co-partners in furtherance of the Gospel.
Note how Paul continually and abundantly prayed for their spiritual well-being. In the busyness of his daily life (for he had many letters to write, and had on him the care of all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28), and experienced many regular visitors, at least until near the end - 2 Timothy 4:10-11), he did not forget the Philippians. Furthermore he prayed for them with ‘joy’. This joy of Paul’s as he considered the Philippian Christians comes out constantly throughout the letter as we saw in the introduction, and it was a joy in which he expected them to share. It no doubt partly arose because of his consideration of his own circumstances as the servant of Jesus Christ who was suffering, and even facing death, for His sake, and out of his recognition of the willingness of the Philippians to do the same. For he saw it as a joy to suffer for Christ’s sake (compare James 1:2). But it was more than that for it was also a joy at their whole advancement in Christ.
Paul Expresses His Continual Concern For Them In The Light Of His Certainty That God Will Preserve his True People To The End (Philippians 1:3-9).
Paul now proceeded to thank God for every remembrance of them. He had a physical cause for gratitude in that they had sent him a monetary gift (Philippians 4:10), but far more important to him was their ‘sharing in common’ (fellowship - koinonia) with him in their spiritual lives, of which that gift was a token. What mattered most to him was that they were fellow-labourers in the service of Christ. And what was equally important to him was his recognition that that they were not dependent solely on their own efforts for their salvation. It was God Who had begun a good work in them, and he was confident that it was He would see it through so that in the Day of Jesus Christ they would be presented perfect before Him.
In these introductory words we have a foretaste of what is to come. Paul remembers them prayerfully (he ‘has them in mind’) because they share in common with him a desire for the furtherance of the Gospel. He has them in his heart because he knows that they partake along with him of the grace of God, experiencing the tender mercies of Jesus Christ. And he has them in his prayers as he longs that their love for each other may abound yet more and more, not in a sentimental way but in a caring way, as they seek to spur each other on to fruitfulness in readiness for the Day of Christ.
a I thank my God on all my remembrance of you, always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3-5).
b Being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
c Even as it is right for me to be minded in this way on behalf 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, you all are partakers with me of grace, for God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:7-8).
b And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).
a Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:11).
Note that in ‘a’ he is filled with thanksgiving and prayer at the way in which they have abounded towards him and towards God, and in the parallel prays that through Jesus Christ they will accordingly be filled with the fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God. In ‘b’ he is confident that having begun a good work in them God will bring it to completion until the Day of Jesus Christ, and in the parallel prays that this will be manifested by the fruitfulness and purity of their lives, unto that Day of Christ. Centrally in ‘c’ he expresses the depths of his love and concern for them.
‘Being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ,’
And his prayers were especially aided by the confidence that he had that the God Who had begun a good work in the Philippians, and Who was working in them to will and to do of His good pleasure ( Philippians 2:13), would make that good work perfect and complete until the Day of Jesus Christ. For while he could exhort God’s people to faithfulness as urgently as anyone, Paul never had any doubt that, in those who were truly His, God would complete His perfect work. Compare for this 1 Corinthians 1:8-9; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1:24; John 10:27-28. And he knew that this must be so, for we who are His are God’s personal gift to Jesus Christ, over whom He constantly watches and prays (John 6:37; John 6:39; John 10:29; John 17:6; John 17:9; John 17:24; Hebrews 7:25). Jesus Christ is our perfect and complete Saviour from start to finish (Hebrews 2:10), and not one of His own will be lost.
For ‘doing a good work’ in someone we should compare Matthew 26:10. It there refers to the bringing about of an inward personal experience that is spiritually beneficial. The same idea is in mind here. And this work would continue, until it was finally brought to completion in the Day of Jesus Christ. The ‘day of Jesus Christ’ is that day when He will call his own to give account and will, having perfected them, bring them into His eternal kingdom (see Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14).
The same combination of ‘begin’ and ‘perfect, make complete’ is found in Galatians 3:3 where the work begun by the Spirit is seen as requiring to be completed by the Spirit (as Paul says, it is absurd to think that it will be completed by the flesh). Thus we have in both contexts the idea of God actively beginning and completing His work, in Galatians 3:3 by His Spirit (compare Philippians 1:27).
‘Even as it is right for me to be minded in this way on behalf 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, you all are partakers with me of grace.’
And he considered it right that he should think in this way about them, because he saw them all as partakers along with him of the gracious working of God. That was why he had them in his heart. To be a partaker of God’s grace meant that they were caught up in the whole stream of the working of God’s grace as described in Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-14. But it does not stop there. For we notice that ‘being partakers of His grace’ also involved them in showing kindness and generosity to a fellow-Christian in bonds for Christ’s sake, and in a responsibility to defend and confirm the Gospel. Being involved in the grace of God is not the guarantee of an easy ride. It is rather the guarantee of a blessed and secure one whatever the outward circumstances.
We should never overlook the wonder of God’s grace, that is, of His unmerited and undeserved active favour shown towards those whom He has chosen. It is through this that we have been brought to enjoy and experience a salvation which is not at all of our own doing (Philippians 1:28; Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:7-9; Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24; Romans 4:16; Romans 5:2; Romans 5:15-21; Romans 11:5; etc). It is His work alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). For an overall description of the sovereign grace of God at work see Ephesians 1:3-14; Romans 8:29-30.
Note the reference to ‘my bonds/chains’. Paul was living in his own hired house (Acts 28:30), but he would be constantly chained to a Roman soldier. (The Roman soldiers would be replaced constantly, each having done his shift, with the result that Paul was able gradually to witness to large numbers of the Praetorian guard). This is a reminder that being subjects of God’s grace does not protect us from the problems of this life. Indeed those problems often abound all the more, for they are the very things that God in His grace uses to fashion and shape our lives (e.g. Romans 5:2-5; Hebrews 12:3-11; James 1:2-4).
‘For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.’
Paul then stresses in the sight of God how much he ‘longed after’ the Philippians Christians, and this was because they along with him were recipients of the tender mercies of Christ Jesus, both of His saving power and of His inward working. He loved them because they were the chosen of Jesus Christ and he yearned for their spiritual advancement, and their spiritual growth. Happy the Christian whose deep concern is for the true spiritual welfare of all his brethren. He has learned something of the tender mercies of Jesus Christ.
‘And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ,’
And it was because they were within the sphere of the tender mercies of Christ Jesus (compare Philippians 2:1) that he prayed that their love might abound more and more, both towards each other and towards their neighbours. But it was nevertheless to be a discerning love and a love that recognised the facts (it was to be ‘in knowledge’), for he wanted it to be a love that made them approve what was excellent, so that they might be genuine through and through. It was to be a love that would make them sincere (a love without any falsity in it) and void of offence (a love that was pure and blameless), with the Day of Christ in view. In Philippians 1:6 it was the good work of Jesus Christ within them that would make them ready for that Day, here it is the result of that good work as evidenced in their genuine and constant display of love for all. As John says, ‘we know that have passed from death to life because we love our brothers’ (1 John 3:14). In other words we are to be seen as cooperating with Jesus Christ in His ‘good work’ within us (Philippians 1:6), because of what He has wrought within us.
‘Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.’
For the purpose of the good work of Christ within them was to fill them with the fruits of righteousness which resulted from their knowing Christ, so that their lives might be to the praise and glory of God. By their fruits they were to be known (Matthew 7:16; Matthew 7:20). In Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:16, they were to ‘let their lights shine before men that they might see their good works and glorify their Father Who is in Heaven’ (compare Philippians 2:15).
These fruits of righteousness are ‘through Jesus Christ’. It is because He has wrought atonement and reconciliation for us, and is at work within us, that these fruits of righteousness will result. It is as we ‘abide in Him’ in a continual response of faith that we will produce permanent fruit (John 15:4-5). The result will be that we will be ‘trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified’ (Isaiah 61:3), and will thus be producing ‘fruits of righteousness’.
‘Now I would have you know, brothers and sister, that the things which happened to me have fallen out rather to the progress of the gospel,’
Paul wants to prevent the Philippians from becoming discouraged at the thought of what has happened to him, so he assures them that what has happened to him, rather than being a hindrance, is actually furthering the Gospel of Christ. And yet even he would have had no idea of the fact that what he wrote from prison would become of such value to so many throughout the centuries. How much we would have lost if he had not been put in prison. Many wondered what God was doing. We know what He was doing.
The translation ‘brothers and sisters’ recognises that adelphoi was intended to include both. Indeed the sisters were quite prominent in the Philippian church (see Philippians 4:2).
Paul Stresses That Though He Is In Chains It Has Turned Out To Be Of Benefit To The Gospel Of Christ, Something Which Causes Him To Rejoice (Philippians 1:12-18).
It is apparent from what follows that Paul was chained to a Roman soldier, restricting his free movement, although seemingly not hindering his ability to go on ministering. That Paul naturally felt his chains deeply comes out here in his threefold mention of them. But it is clear that he also looked at them positively, as having had a positive benefit.
He must have been well aware of the effect that the news of his arrest would have had on the churches that he had founded. He knew that they were probably in shock at the thought that he, Paul, their mentor, was no longer free and able to minister to them. They may well have been asking, ‘Why has God allowed it?’ But they had reacted well in sending Epaphroditus with a gift to him in his hour of need, and to enquire what the situation was, and now he knew that they were awaiting news of his situation. He knew also that they would learn that he was in chains. Thus he wanted to encourage them by the recognition that his chains were actually advancing the Gospel of Christ. They were not a sign that God’s work was being restricted, but a means by which it was abounding.
Thus he portrays his chains as having:
1) Acted as a witness to the whole Praetorian guard (Philippians 1:13).
2) Encouraged his brothers in the Lord to preach more boldly (Philippians 1:14).
3) Spurred on his rivals to preach more widely, even if from the wrong motive, with the result that Christ was being proclaimed (Philippians 1:15).
It made it evident that there was therefore no need for them to despair.
a Now I would have you know, brothers and sister, that the things which happened to me have fallen out rather to the progress of the gospel, so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest (Philippians 1:12-13).
b And that most of the brothers in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear (Philippians 1:14).
c Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good will.
b The one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel, but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds (Philippians 1:15-17).
a What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice (Philippians 1:18).
Note that in ‘a’ things have fallen out to the progress of the Gospel, while in the parallel Christ is preached ‘in every way’. In ‘b’ his being in bonds has resulted in the Gospel being preached more abundantly, and in the parallel his being in bonds has resulted in all kinds preaching the Gospel although his situation is being made worse by factions who are seeking by their preaching to add to his afflictions. Centrally in ‘c’ the two types of preachers are analysed.
‘So that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest,’
The first way in which things had fallen out well was that it had meant that the fact that he was in bondage for Christ’s sake had become known throughout the Praetorian guard, who would also have learned why it was so. We can indeed be sure that each soldier who had found himself chained to Paul soon found that he was being enlightened as to the Gospel, and would of course be witness to his conversations with Christian visitors and all who entered his ‘prison’. We can be sure that some would even be converted. Thus the word of Christ’s saving work was spreading among people who in normal circumstances would have been difficult to reach with the Gospel of Christ, and all due to Paul’s imprisonment.
‘Throughout the whole Praetorian guard’ does not necessarily have to be taken literally. The thought is rather that it spread widely among them. (We can see someone saying, ‘they’re all talking about you’). ‘All the rest’ may suggest that it had spread also among other soldiers, or alternatively among many private citizens, but the main intention is in order to emphasise the widespread way in which the Gospel was being propagated as a direct result of his imprisonment.
‘And that most of the brothers in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear.’
He points out that instead of being discouraged by his presence among them in bonds, it had made most of the church in Rome and its surrounds bolder in the proclamation of the Gospel. It is often the case, especially because at such times the Spirit of God is especially at work, that persecution actually makes God’s people stronger. And it was the case here. They were being spurred on by Paul’s own bravery and confidence, and were boldly proclaiming the word of God without fear.
‘Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good will. The one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel, but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds.’
He then brings out two approaches being taken by different people according to their particular attitude towards him, for he does not want to deceive the Philippian church into thinking that all at Rome was necessarily harmonious. Some were preaching Christ out of ‘envy and strife’. In other words they were doing it as rivals of Paul with a view to outdoing him. Their message was right but their motive was wrong. Perhaps they were secretly gloating over the fact that Paul was in bonds, and may well have thought that it served him right because he was not as ‘sound’ in his teaching as he might be. And they seemingly hoped that, when he heard what they were doing and how successful they were being, he would be grieved at heart, in the same way as they were envious of him. But others were doing it out of goodwill, because of their love for Christ and for Paul. These last did it as co-operators with Paul, knowing that his whole life was set on the defence of the Gospel. But the former were doing it thinking that by their so doing Paul would be chagrined and upset. They did not understand the spirit of Paul.
‘What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.’
Paul, however, did not mind which way it was. All that he was concerned about was that Christ was being continually and abundantly proclaimed. And when he heard that that was the case, he rejoiced, no matter who the preacher was. This is an indication that these people were truly preaching Christ. Their fault lay not in their doctrine but in their attitude of heart, and their lack of genuine love. Such attitudes are often prevalent today, even among men who have a genuine message. Fortunately for us the Gospel message is not limited by their meanness of spirit. It is rather they who will finally be the losers.
‘For I know that this will turn out to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,’
One thing that Paul was certain of was that God was in control, and that his imprisonment would bring ‘salvation’ one way or the other. Either because through death he would enter into the fruits of God’s salvation in Christ, or because through being set free he would experience salvation and deliverance, both in body and in spirit, and be among them again all the better for his experience.
And this would happen firstly because the Philippians and others were praying for him, and upholding him, and secondly because the Spirit of Jesus Christ was active in his case. It was He Who would guide him in his defence as Jesus had promised, and either allow his execution, or arrange for him to be set free (e.g. Matthew 10:19-20). Furthermore he knew that He would strengthen him to meet whatever situation faced him. The verb ‘supply’ has within it the idea of undergirding and strengthening. He knew that he was undergirded and strengthened by the Spirit of God. How then could he be afraid?
‘My salvation.’ Scripture portrays ‘salvation’ from a number of angles. Sometimes it is seen as a once for all thing, guaranteed from start to finish from the moment of believing, as the sole work of Jesus Christ the Saviour (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5); sometimes as something that had happened and was now having present effects (Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:8-9); sometimes as a present process continually going on (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15; Philippians 2:12; 1 Timothy 2:15); and sometimes as a future prospect when it would be brought to completion (Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:28; 1 Corinthians 3:15; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
We are not, however, to see him here as simply concerned with receiving benefit from his own personal salvation, but rather as wanting his ‘salvation’ to be a vindication of God’s word and ways. It is indicating that he was concerned with the fact that that salvation would be a vindication of his ministry and message proclaimed by God Himself. Whether released to continue on in the service of Christ, or whether taken through death to a higher privilege of heavenly service in the presence of Christ, he was confident that his message and stand for Christ would be vindicated and thus be a firm witness. For this use of ‘salvation’ compare Job 13:16 in LXX where the Greek wording is identical with Paul’s (and may well have been in Paul’s mind), ‘though He slay me, yet I will wait for Him, nevertheless I will maintain my ways before Him,this also will be my salvation, for a godless man shall not come before Him’. In other words Job was convinced that whether in life or in death he would be saved and vindicated as a result of his acceptance before God. The same was now true for Paul. If he died and came before God this would be evidence of the genuineness of his salvation, and would vindicate all that he had proclaimed and stood for (compare Philippians 2:16-17). If he lived on it would indicate God’s protecting hand upon him, and thus vindicate his message.
Note the combination of man’s prevailing through prayer and God’s sovereignty through the Spirit. It is not a matter of either/or but of both/and. God is sovereign, but it is as we pray and cooperate with God in His work, that God carries out His sovereign purposes.
Paul Stresses That He Faces The Future Decision To Be Made By Rome About Him With Confidence. To Live Will Mean That He Can Continue To Serve God’s People. To Die Will Mean That He Enters Straight Into The Presence Of Christ. He Was Equally Ready For Either (Philippians 1:19-26).
Paul now sought to clarify the situation with regard to his own person. Imprisoned by Rome and awaiting trial, he was filled with confidence that in one way or another Jesus Christ would be glorified, and he wanted them to recognise that because of his confidence in Christ he was not fearful for the future, assuring them that he knew that whatever happened to him would turn out for good, both for him and for God’s people.
We learn in this passage of the very mixed emotions which Paul was experiencing. On the one hand he was looking forward to being with Christ which was better than anything that this world could offer, and thus in one sense he longed for martyrdom. And yet on the other he wanted to remain on earth because he believed that it would be for the benefit of God’s people. Thus he did not know which to assert to be most likely, although he leant towards the probability that God would arrange for his release so that he could once more minister to the Philippians, and others.
a For I know that this will turn out to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19).
b According to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death (Philippians 1:20).
c For to me to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21 a).
d And to die is gain (Philippians 1:21 b)
e But if to live in the flesh, —if this will bring fruit from my work, then what I will choose I do not know (Philippians 1:22).
d But I am in a pressure situation between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for it is very far better (Philippians 1:23).
c Yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake (Philippians 1:24).
b And having this confidence, I know that I will abide, yes, and abide with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:25).
a That your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again (Philippians 1:26).
Note that in ‘a’ he is satisfied that his case will turn out for the good, either by resulting in his gaining the fruit of God’s salvation by going to be with Christ, or by his being saved from the hands of his judges, through prayer and through the Spirit of Christ Jesus, and in the parallel he expects them to glory abundantly in Christ Jesus because he will be delivered so as to be among them again. In ‘b’ his ‘earnest expectation and hope’ is that Christ will be magnified through what happens to him, and in the parallel he is ‘confident’ that he will remain with them in order to further their spiritual growth. In ‘c’ for him to live in this world is to live for Christ and in Christ, and in the parallel he recognises that to abide in the flesh in this way will be better for the Philippians. In ‘d’ he would see death as being a gain, and in the parallel he explains why. It would be because it would mean that he would depart to be with Christ which would be far better. Centrally in ‘e’ he is in a quandary as to which to prefer because he recognises his importance to them and to the spread of the Gospel.
‘According to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death.’
As he faced his future not a shadow of doubt now crossed his mind. He had come through to a position where he was totally confident that nothing that happened to him would be to his shame (in God’s eyes), or to the shame of his message, as he faced his trial, whether it be his release to fight on having given a good confession, or his execution (shameful in the eyes of men) which would result in his triumphant vindication before the throne of God. Either way his concern was that Christ should be magnified through his weak earthly body. As he had said elsewhere, ‘we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not of ourselves’ (2 Corinthians 4:7).
‘As always, so now --.’ What a ringing testimony Paul had. As he looked back on the past he could confidently claim that he had not failed Christ but had ‘always’ boldly proclaimed His Name. That was why he was so confident that he would ‘now’ not fail Christ at the final hurdle.
The idea of being ‘put to shame’ is very much a Scriptural one found constantly throughout the Psalms and in Isaiah and Jeremiah, where it is also constantly paralleled with the idea of vindication (e.g. Psalms 34:3-5; Psalms 35:26-27; etc). Not to be put to shame was to be vindicated. Compare also John’s reference to those who in contrast would be ‘ashamed before Him at His coming’ (1 John 2:28), and Jesus’ own words, ‘whoever will be ashamed of Me and of My words ---, of him also will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of the Father with the holy angels’ (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26). Paul knew that he would not be put to shame in this way because he himself was not ashamed to confess Christ whatever the consequences, with the result that he knew that Jesus Christ would openly ‘confess him before the Father’.
The word for ‘earnest expectation’ indicates an earnest stretching forward to see what lay ahead (compare Philippians 3:13), and importantly was accompanied by ‘hope’ (expectant certainty). He had no doubts about the fact that his future was in God’s hands. And it was this that gave him the certainty that, whether he faced life or death, it would result in a bold confession which would magnify Christ. For as he looked ahead the one thing that mattered to him most was that Christ would be magnified.
‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’
These words in context have two parallel meanings arising out of the context. Unquestionably they include the thought that for Paul and for all true Christians the whole purpose of life is to be that they will be so filled with Christ that theyareChrist in the world (1 Corinthians 12:12), both by life and message, letting Christ live through them in accordance with 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; John 14:23; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:16-20; John 15:1-6. They are to ‘live Christ’. As he says in Galatians 2:20, ‘I no longer live but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me’. And that this actually means ‘Christ living in me’ is confirmed in John 14:23, where we read, ‘if a man love me he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, andwewill come to him and make our dwelling with him’. The plural ‘we’ is against the idea that this simply means that they are to receive the Holy Spirit. They are in fact to receive all the fullness of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is why Paul, so possessed with the thought, could say, ‘I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Philippians 3:8).
So the thought behind ‘to me to live is Christ’ is that we be so one with Christ that we do only His will, and continually have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16; compare Philippians 2:5). But he recognised that on earth this would always be marred by the possible interference of our fleshly natures. Thus to die could only be gain, because then he would be united with Him with all fleshliness done away. This is expanded on in Philippians 3:10-14, where the final goal of being ‘involved with the crucified and risen Christ’ is ‘the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14), indicating the time when ‘we will be truly like Him for we will see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2). We will thus glorify Christ all the more. This meaning is confirmed by Philippians 1:22-23. Nor must we overlook the startling nature of his statement, ‘to die is gain’. To most Greeks death could only signify loss. There was nothing to hope for. Thus this proud declaration was a resounding confirmation of the glory of the Gospel, which could only cause the hearts of his hearers to rejoice at the thought that Christ really had taken away the fear of death (compare Hebrews 2:15). Death was no longer an enemy. It had been vanquished. For the Christian to die was gain.
But in view of what lies before it in the previous verses, the thought is surely also included in Paul’s mind that for the true Christian the purpose of living is not only to ‘live Christ’ but also to glorify Christ, by witness, testimony and life (Philippians 1:13-18). That is, we are not only to ‘live Christ’ but are also to continually ‘glorify Christ’. And the result is to be that our death by whatever means will therefore glorify Christ even more, for it will be a vindication of the salvation that He has wrought for us and of the satisfactory nature of the ransom that He paid (Mark 10:45). It will result in our being taken into the presence of Christ, thus glorifying Him to the uttermost as it reveals how He has triumphantly completed His saving work in us (Philippians 3:21). And that was what Paul wanted more than anything else, to glorify Christ in both his life and his death, and all the more so if he suffered a martyr’s death.
Certainly we may also include in it the idea that we gain both in life and in death, firstly by having Christ in this life as the One Who is our ultimate desire, and secondly by coming to so experience Him through death that we enjoy even more of Him. But that is a by-product (although undoubtedly a glorious one) of our main desire which should be the more to fulfil all His will as he lives through us, and to glorify Him both in life and in death as we enter the glory that lies before us.
‘But if to live in the flesh, —if this will bring fruit from my work, then what I will choose I do not know (or ‘am unable to declare’).’
The broken syntax in the Greek here emphasises the excitement and perturbation of Paul’s mind at this point. He is in a sense wrestling with himself. He longs to be with Christ and thus to glorify Him the more, but he is then faced with the fact that for him to continue living in the flesh on earth will, in spite of all its disadvantages, enable him to make what God has already accomplished through him more fruitbearing in the lives of his converts, and will result in even more new converts (compare Philippians 1:13-17). It will enable him to go on founding, and building on what he has founded, producing gold and silver and precious stones (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) as he carries through ‘the work of God through him’ (in Philippians ‘ergon’ regularly refers to the work of God - Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:30). It will be for the continuing good of the churches. And by this also Christ will be glorified. Thus as far as he is concerned, he is ready to be martyred, but if he can produce yet more fruit by it, he is also content to go on living. And that is why he does not know which, if given the opportunity, he would choose (or which to declare as probable). Of course the choice did not finally lie with him. Humanly speaking it lay with the Roman authorities. From the divine viewpoint it lay with God. But Paul was ready for whichever choice was made.
‘I do not know’ or ‘I am unable to declare’. The Greek can be translated either way, and basically they indicate the same thing, that he was in no position to be dogmatic about what his future held because it was in God’s hands alone.
‘But I am in a pressure situation between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for it is very far better, yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake.’
He thus finds himself in a pressure situation, for when he contrasts living in the flesh for Christ with the glory of actually being with Christ, he has no doubt which will be the better choice for him. His longing is to depart and be with Christ, for by doing so he will not only enter into rest, but also into the fullness of all that Christ is. He will be made like Him, for he will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). He knows that it will be something so much beyond what he can know in this life, that there can really be no comparison. It is ‘by far the very best’. On the other hand he knows that for his readers his continuing in the flesh is ‘more needful’, for the infant church still needed his guiding hand. They still needed his protection and care as false doctrines (Philippians 3:2-8) were seeking to break in on the church.
It will be noted that with Paul there is no thought of entering into ‘soul sleep’. He knows that when he passes on he will be conscious in the presence of Christ. His body will ‘sleep’, but not Paul himself. He will be consciously in the presence of Christ until the resurrection. This gives new meaning to the words in Ecclesiastes 12:7, ‘and the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return to God Who gave it’. Elsewhere Paul describes it as ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8). He had no doubt that when he died he would consciously enter the presence of Christ.
We can compare with this John’s symbolic representation of the same idea when he speaks of the ‘souls under the altar’ (having been offered up as sacrifices through martyrdom) who in full consciousness call on God for the final vindication of His people (Revelation 6:9-11).
But how does this connect with the fact that we are to be ‘with the Lord’ after the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:17)? There is no real problem in this. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 the ‘so shall we ever be with the Lord’ can be seen as primarily referring to ‘we who are alive and remain’. At that stage Paul was numbering himself among the living. Thus through ‘the rapture’, if he were still alive, he and his fellow living believers would join with those who were already ‘with the Lord’ (whom Christ would bring with Him - Philippians 1:14), those who had been ‘with the Lord’ since their deaths.
‘And having this confidence, I know that I will abide, yes, and abide with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,’
So the bitter struggle is resolved for him by the recognition of their continuing need of him. That is why he is confident that he will continue living in this world, and will do so in a way which enables him to live continually among them, both so as to ensure their progress in Christ, and to stimulate their growing and continuing joy in Christ and in His Gospel (compare Acts 13:52). His whole desire is for what will be for the greatest benefit of both Christ Himself and of His church.
‘Progress and joy --.’ The first emphasises his desire for their advancement as they move forward to new things, the second has in mind the quality of their spiritual lives. He wants them both to grow, and be qualitatively blessed in that growth.
‘That your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again.’
And his expectancy is that the result of his once again dwelling among them will be that they will be filled with exultation in their walk with Christ Jesus, an exultation which will abound more and more in Christ, because he is present with them again. That is at the very heart of what he desires. But note that their glorying is to be ‘in Christ Jesus’ because of what He has done in bringing Paul to them again, and not in Paul himself. Paul is only the earthen vessel which contains within it the glory of the Lord (as the earthenware jar contained the oil-fed wick). See 2 Corinthians 4:7.
Paul Explains What God requires Of Them As His People And As Citizens of Heaven Who As A Result Of Believing Have Been United With Christ In His Humiliation And Exaltation (Philippians 1:27 to Philippians 2:18).
Having assured them of his prayers and concern for them, and having satisfactorily explained the current situation as it affected him, Paul now turned his attention to exhorting the church to themselves ‘live like citizens worthy of the Gospel’ (Philippians 1:27). That is, they are to live like citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20) in such a way that they demonstrate that they are worthy of the Gospel, ‘which (through the cross) is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe’ (Romans 1:16). And he did it in terms of what he had commended them for and what he had prayed for them, that is, in terms of their sharing in common (‘fellowship’) with him in establishing the Gospel (Philippians 1:5; compare Philippians 1:27), and in terms of their partaking in the same gracious working of God as he had in defence and confirmation of the Gospel (Philippians 1:7; compare Philippians 1:27 b), stressing the need at the same time for them to be established in a wise and righteous love for one another (Philippians 1:9-10; compare Philippians 2:1-2).
Following that he then explains what is required of them as a result of this. They must so respond to the gracious working of Christ and the Spirit (Philippians 2:2) that they have one united mind (Philippians 2:2), ‘the mind of Christ’ (Philippians 2:5) as they walk in the way of the cross and resurrection. And with that in mind he sets before them in context the great example of the One Who Himself trod in God’s way, and died and rose again (Philippians 2:6-11), an example into which they are to enter fully. He is the Author and Trek Leader of their salvation, leading many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10), and they are to follow Him in the way of the cross, participating with Him in it, knowing that thereby they will also participate in His glorification (compare Romans 8:29-30). He wants them to recognise that whatever situation or persecution they face, as a result of having died with Christ and having been raised up with Him (see Philippians 3:10-13), it will be something that He Himself had already faced, and something which must determine the set of their minds. Thus:
1) As a result of the incentive of the exhortation and advocacy of Christ on their behalf, and their joint experience of the Holy Spirit, they are to walk as He walked in complete unity with each other and in deep concern for one another (Philippians 2:1-4; compare Philippians 1:9-10).
2) They are to have the same mindset as He had, emptying themselves (in their case) of all that the world offers, and walking in the way of humility and death, with the result that God will finally fully vindicate them as he vindicated Christ.
3) They are as a result to ‘work out’ their salvation with the greatest care by living Christlike lives, because God is at work in them through Christ to achieve this very purpose, the willing and doing of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13; compare Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:27 b).
4) And they are to do this in order that they might be true lights in the world, a beacon to those who are in darkness (Philippians 2:15-16), and evidence of the fact that his ministry was of God (Philippians 2:16), sharing with him in the joy of suffering for Christ, whether he be offered up by martyrdom or not (Philippians 2:16-18; compare Philippians 1:5; Philippians 1:28-29).
While it is not made explicit here (as it is unquestionably made explicit in Ephesians 1:19 to Ephesians 2:7), the inference is clearly intended that they will fully share with Christ, not only in His humiliation, but also in His glorification, an inference confirmed in Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:10; Philippians 3:10-13. Having the mind of Christ will have the final result of sharing in the glory of Christ.
Note that, as is evident from an analysis of the passage, the whole passage is carefully balanced, centring around Christ’s own sufferings on the cross, while at the same time emphasising His final vindication and glorification, things which are to be the mainspring of their own behaviour, The whole idea is to focus their eyes on the crucified and exalted Christ Whose lead and example they must follow and participate in, and Whose mind set they must have, recognising that, as in His case, all that would happen to them would then be of God.
a Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel, and in nothing made frightened by the adversaries, which is for them an evident token of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God, because to you it has been granted on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer on his behalf, having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me (Philippians 1:27-30).
b If there is therefore any exhortation (encouragement, advocacy) in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, make full my joy, that you be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2:1-2).
c Doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself, not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
d Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2:5-6).
e But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7).
f And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8).
e For which reason also God highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9).
d That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).
c So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works within you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).
b Do all things without murmurings and questionings, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you are seen as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15).
a Holding forth the word of life, that I may have of which to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain nor labour in vain. Yes, and if I am offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all, and in the same manner do you also joy, and rejoice with me (Philippians 2:16-18).
Note that in ‘a’ they were to live as true citizens of Heaven, (whether he be present with them or absent), unafraid of earthly sufferings, and striving for the faith of the Gospel, recognising that these things evidenced that their salvation was genuinely from God, because by it was being demonstrated that it had been granted to them both to believe on Him and to suffer on His behalf, thereby sharing with Paul in the sufferings that he endured, and in the parallel they were to show forth the word of life (the faith of the Gospel) as evidence of the fact that Paul’s ministry was genuinely of God, and also to joy in his sufferings if he was to be offered on the sacrifice and service of their faith, (whether in service or in martyrdom) fearlessly joying and rejoicing together with him. In ‘b’ they are to be of one mind and sharing in one love, as a result of the advocacy of Christ and their fellowship with the Spirit, and in the parallel are to do all without murmuring and disputing, as unblemished children of God who are lights in the world. In ‘c’ they are to put all their effort into their concern for one another, and in the parallel they are to ‘work out’ their salvation with greatest care, because it is God Who is at work within them. In ‘d’ they are to follow the example of Christ Who being God by nature did not seek to cling on to His status of quality with God, and in the parallel they are to observe how in consequence every knee would consequently bow to Him and every tongue confess Him as LORD to the glory of God the Father. In ‘e’ they are to observe how He emptied Himself by taking the nature of a servant, and became in all things like a man, and in the parallel God would as a result highly exalt Him, and give Him the Name above every name. Centrally in ‘f’ this was due to His going to the uttermost in being obedient to death, even death on a cross.
It will be noted how the whole of what is expected of them is founded on, and built up around, what Christ Himself had done for them as the true servant of God Who humbled Himself and gave His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), for that is the Gospel (Philippians 1:27) that they are to be worthy of. They are to die with Christ in order that He might live through them (Philippians 3:10-11; Romans 6:3-11; Galatians 2:20).
‘Only let your manner of life as citizens be worthy of the gospel of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state, that you stand fast in one Spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel.’
In the light of what they already know about Christ, and what he is shortly to describe to them concerning Him in some depth (Philippians 2:5-11), he calls on them to ‘live as citizens’ (politeuesthai), worthy of the Good News of Christ (the Good News that they can partake in His death and resurrection). For just as Philippi was a ‘colony’ of Rome, being seen as a kind of adjunct of Rome (see introduction), so the Philippian church were to see themselves as a colony of Heaven (Philippians 3:20), and thus living in a kind of adjunct of Heaven. They were therefore to live accordingly, especially in the light of the example of the One to Whom they looked, the One Who was God’s ‘good news’ (Gospel) to mankind (compare Luke 2:10-11) and was now the LORD in Heaven (Philippians 2:11). And this included their standing fast in one Spirit, striving together as one for the whole message of the Gospel. And they were to do this regardless of whether he was able to visit them or not, as they had in the past (Philippians 1:5), for it was to be the very mainspring of their lives.
‘That you stand fast, striving for the faith of the Gospel.’ The language is that of the arena, as the gladiator stands firm in the face of his opponent and then strives to obtain the mastery, or of the battlefield where the stout warrior does the same. In the same way they are to stand firm (Ephesians 6:14-17) and strive for the success of the truth of the Gospel (compare Ephesians 6:10-12; 2 Timothy 2:3-5). that Gospel through which they had received forgiveness and life in Christ.
That the reference to ‘standing fast in one Spirit’ is to the Holy Spirit, and not simply to their own spirit, is suggested by the fact that this ‘oneness in the one Spirit’ is a continual theme of Paul’s. It is the Holy Spirit who unites us as one in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), and we are one because participating in the One Spirit. See for example Philippians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 12:13-27; Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 4:4. It must, however, be acknowledged that such a unity of the Spirit does inevitably result in a unified spirit among believers, an idea expressed here in terms of ‘one soul’. We may see the ‘spirit’ as being that in man which experiences and is aware of God, while seeing the ‘soul, life’ as representing his inner being and personality. But here the distinction blurs, for it is also with the inner being (‘the soul’) that we know God and strive for the faith of the Gospel. As elsewhere, spirit and soul both ‘inter-connect’, and with the body make up the whole man (1 Thessalonians 5:23). But we must beware of making too much of a distinction between these descriptions, for they are not separable, but merge into one another making up one man (compare how Jesus could speak of a quadruple ‘heart, soul, strength and mind’ - Luke 10:27, which compared with 1 Thessalonians 5:23 might be seen as indicating that ‘spirit’ equates with ‘heart and mind’, something which however must not be overpressed, just as ‘strength’ is not limited to the body).
‘The faith of the Gospel’ probably refers to the content of the Gospel, centring in the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, not, however, as a cold doctrinal formula, but as a part of their living faith, vibrantly believed. It could, however, equally indicate the faith that results from the Gospel. Both in fact intertwine.
Paul Thus Calls On Them To Stand Firm In The Face of Whatever Life May Bring, Especially In The Way Of Persecution, So That Their Lives Might Be Worthy Of The Gospel (Philippians 1:27-30).
This opening section of the passage (Philippians 1:27-30) balances neatly with the closing section of the passage (Philippians 2:17-18) in that both lay emphasis on service and suffering, two things which lie at the very heart of the Gospel, and something which is fully exemplified in Christ as the supreme example of service and suffering (Philippians 2:5-11). It is in the light of this last that they are to live lives as citizens ‘worthy of the Gospel of Christ’, walking in His footsteps and demonstrating their love for one another. By this means they will clearly reveal the genuineness of their own salvation, and the certain final destruction of their pagan enemies who rebel against such an idea, and reveal it by despising or rejecting believers. Thus will they fulfil his hopes and prayers for them as expressed in Philippians 1:3-11.
a Only let your manner of life as citizens be worthy of the gospel of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
b And in nothing affrighted by the adversaries (Philippians 1:28 a).
c Which is for them an evident token of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God (Philippians 1:28 b).
b Because to you it has been granted on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer on his behalf (Philippians 1:29).
a Having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me (Philippians 1:30).
Note that in ‘a’ he speaks of their need to ‘stand fast’, and of their ‘striving’ for the faith of the Gospel, while in the parallel he likens their position to his own as he is doing the same. In ‘b’ they are not to be frightened by their adversaries, while in the parallel he points out that this is because they know that they are suffering for Christ. Centrally in ‘c’ he points out that the opposition both brings destruction on their opponents, and also demonstrates that they themselves are experiencing the salvation of God and vindication from God (compare Philippians 1:19).
‘And in nothing affrighted by the adversaries, which is for them an evident token of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God.’
Nor, because of their confidence in their salvation, were they to be at all afraid of their adversaries (or, as the word can signify, ‘they were not to shy away from their adversaries’), for their fearlessness and steadfastness in the face of persecution would serve to underline and emphasise both the destruction coming on their adversaries, and their own salvation, in that it was a fearlessness that was from God. The main emphasis in mentioning ‘salvation’ (as is evidenced by the fact that ‘salvation’ is used in parallel with ‘perdition’ on their adversaries) is on the future aspect of their salvation when all will finally have been accomplished and they will be presented before God, holy, unblameable and unreproveable in His sight. But, as Philippians 2:12 brings out, salvation is also to be for them a continuing process going on at the present time. God’s salvation is in fact a total process which commences at the moment of first ‘believing’. It is initially permanent, complete and certain from the moment of believing because of the nature of the One Who saves (it is guaranteed), it then results in a continual life process as the Saviour continually carries out His saving work, and it comes to its final completion on that Day (compare Titus 3:4-7) when we are presented perfect before Him.
The word for ‘adversaries’ is a strong one, indicating violent opposition. These would be pagans, although no doubt including some Jews (who although present, were a comparative rarity in Philippi, for there was apparently no synagogue or Lydia and the others would not have met for prayer by the river). The pagans had been stirred into virulence, partly because of their pride in the worship of the god Roma and of the emperor, and partly because of the impact of the Gospel and its message of purity, which both brought their own lives into disrepute, and resulted in the destruction of the reputation of their gods. They were necessarily affected by the ‘fire kindled’ by the presence of Christ (Luke 12:49), which differentiated true righteousness from unrighteousness. The violence in mind here is probably mob violence, rather than of official persecution by the state. It was to be expected, for, as Paul stressed elsewhere, ‘all who would live godly in Christ Jesus, will suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12; compare Acts 14:22), and we know that he suffered more than his fair share of it.
Note on ‘Perdition (apoleia).’
In Philippians 3:19; Matthew 7:13; Romans 9:22 the word signifies ‘destruction’, and in the last case has in mind the idea of vessels which are destroyed. In Acts 25:16 it refers to ‘execution’ by the Roman judiciary. Both Judas and the man of sin are described as ‘sons of perdition’ (John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3), that is, ‘those fitted for destruction’. In Hebrews 10:39 those who are apostates are described as ‘drawing back to perdition’. They are failing to grasp salvation. In 1 Timothy 6:9 Paul speaks of ‘hurtful desires that drown men in destruction (olethros) and perdition (apoleia)’ because they have caused them to truly respond to Christ. There may thus appear to be an emphasis on the fact that, once having been suitably punished (with many stripes or with few stripes - Luke 12:47-48), they would face final destruction. In Revelation 17:8, however, the beast who comes up from the Abyss will (along with the Devil) ‘go into perdition’, being thrown alive into ‘the lake of fire which burns with brimstone’ where he will be ‘tormented day and night for ever and ever’ (Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10). The question then must be as to whether, like Satan himself, the beast, along with the false prophet, must be seen as special cases, for they alone are said to be thrown into the lake of fire ‘alive’.
The fact that these descriptions are not to be taken too literally is apparent both:
· From the fact that Death and Hades will also be destroyed in the lake of fire, thereby ceasing to exist. Such a destruction in the lake of fire could hardly literally occur as ‘death’ is not a literal entity. The idea, vividly put, is that it has simply ceased to exist.
· From the fact that a spirit being like Satan would not be affected by physical fire.
The lake of fire is rather, therefore, to be seen as descriptive of the awfulness of God’s judgments, and the certainty of the defeat of all God’s enemies, put in the worst terms that the human mind could think of, but not to be taken too literally.
End of note.
‘Because to you it has been granted on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer on his behalf, having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.’
One evidence of the certainty of their salvation was that it had been ‘granted’ to them that they should believe on Christ and suffer for Christ. This belief and suffering are thus seen as being a privilege and a gift from God (compare the ‘gift of repentance’ given to believing Israel - Acts 5:31). It is a reminder that testing and trial is a part of the Christian life, and is indeed a means by which Christians are morally transformed, and experience the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit Who is given to them (Romans 5:2-5; compare James 1:2-12; Hebrews 12:3-12). It is here described as aligning them with Paul who, as they would know, had suffered for Christ in the past at the hands of lawless men, and was at this time, as they had now heard, suffering for Christ. They were therefore to see themselves as privileged to be experiencing the same conflict against evil and Satan and wicked men as he was. Note how suffering for Christ in one way or another is to be seen as very much a mark of those who have been truly saved.
Saturday, March 25th, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
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