Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Philippians 1:1 f. Salutation.—Associating his assistant Timothy with him as fellow-slave in the service of Christ Jesus, Paul addresses his letter to all the members of the church at Philippi under the name of "saints," which means people consecrated to God, not necessarily persons of exceptional holiness, and is therefore applied in NT to all Christians. The apostle associates with the church members, for special mention, their bishops and deacons, two orders of the ministry and a plurality in each order, if we are to take the words officially, and in that case as the earliest NT reference to the titles. But perhaps we should translate these words more generally—as "those who have oversight" and "those who serve" (cf. p. 646).
Philippians 1:3-11. Thanksgiving and Intercession.—Paul usually begins his letters with congratulations and thanksgivings, even when he has to follow with complaints and rebukes. In writing to Philippi he has no fault to find with the church, so that his opening sentences are especially glad. At once he sounds a dominant note, the note of joy, which recurs again and again throughout the epistle. He is especially thankful for the fellowship of his readers, their affectionate association for the spread of the gospel; and he is always praying that this may continue, as it has been from the first—a period of ten years. This is a matter of confident prayer because he is sure that He who began the good work in them, that is, God, will go on perfecting it until "the day of Jesus Christ"—the day of the return or manifestation of Christ, the Parousia. This was eagerly expected by the early Christians. The expectation is most keen in the first written of Paul's epistles. As it was not quickly realised it passed more into the background in course of time. But it was never abandoned. We meet with it five times in this last letter written to one of the apostle's churches. It is to be observed that he no longer expects to be alive at the time, as was the case when he wrote 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and perhaps 1 Corinthians 15:51 (cf. p. 847). He proceeds to justify his confident prayer on the ground of his affectionate connexion with the Philippians. Referring to his bonds as a prisoner, he thinks of their sympathy with him both in his defence of the gospel before his accusers and in his confirmation of it in the persons of the Roman converts, all due on both sides to the merciful helpfulness of God. He prays, too, that the love which the Philippians show so warmly may be combined with knowledge, and especially that they may have a gift of discernment so that they may "approve the things that are excellent," or rather, "prove the things that differ" (mg.). This seems preferable, because knowledge and a faculty of discernment are sought. It should be taken with regard to conduct, the higher Christian casuistry, ethical discrimination, not doctrinal, because it is to lead to sincerity and freedom from offence in "the day of Christ"—here mentioned a second time.
Philippians 1:12-18. The Apostle's Present Condition.—Turning from these thoughts about his correspondents Paul informs them of his own condition. His very imprisonment has helped his missionary work instead of hindering it, as might have been expected, because it has given him an opportunity of spreading the gospel among the soldiers of the prætorian guard who have charge of him. These constituted the imperial guard, a body of 10,000 men. "The rest" would be others with whom he came in contact and who also were being evangelised. It would seem that some of the Judaizers, who objected to his free gospel, were provoked by jealousy to a greater missionary activity. Even that delighted him, so keen was he for the one end of making Christ known.
Philippians 1:19-26. His Prospects.—The successful preaching of the gospel will turn to his own salvation. Otherwise he would be put to shame. His desire is that in his person, whether by life or by death, Christ may be glorified. For him life means Christ and death will be gain. Philippians 1:22 may be variously rendered. RV, repeating "if" before the second clause, leaves some confusion, for Paul would not be in doubt after his fate was settled. Therefore mg. seems preferable—"If to live in the flesh be my lot, this is the fruit of my work." His perplexity arises from the fact that, while he would choose death for himself as the issue of his approaching trial, his escape would be preferable for the Philippians, and this he confidently expects.
Philippians 1:27-30. Encouragements.—The Philippians also are enduring persecution. Whether he is able to come to them again or can only hear of them, Paul trusts that they will live worthily and be united in their faithful efforts, in nothing terrified by their opponents.
Saturday, March 25th, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
Search This Commentary