corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.03.23
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Philippians 1

 

 

Verse 1

PAUL'S LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS

PHIL. 1

This marvelous epistle begins, as Paul usually begins, with a salutation followed by thanksgiving and supplication upon behalf of the readers. The first chapter also records Paul's remarkable soliloquy. As pointed out in the Introduction, it is useless to divide this letter in the pattern of a classical outline. Philippians is not an essay or treatise of any kind but a personal letter to beloved friends; and it runs along in the same somewhat rambling fashion of any personal letter. Nevertheless, some of Paul's profoundest teaching is presented in this priceless little letter.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus that are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons. (Philippians 1:1)

Paul ... is the sole author of the epistle, the name of Timothy who was with him at the time being added as a courtesy. Also, Mounce noted, "Timothy might have acted as Paul's secretary."[1]

Timothy ... This name is associated with that of Paul in several other Pauline letters (Colossians 1:1; Phlippians 1:1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; and in 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). Timothy was deeply interested in the Philippians, having been with Paul when their congregation was established (Acts 16:11-40), and in all probability having visited them again and again.

Servants of Jesus Christ ... The word rendered "servants" here is actually "slaves"; but the sinister connotations of that word make the other rendering preferable. Paul's true authority as an apostle was fully known and recognized at Philippi, and therefore there was no need for his stressing the authority as he had done in Corinthians and Galatians. For some reason, Paul did not here distinguish between himself as an apostle and Timothy as a brother, but humbly wrote: "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus." The word "slaves" which Paul used here is not as good a translation as "servants" because (in English) slaves carries the "associate ideas of involuntary service, forced subjection and even harsh treatment,"[2] none of which are applicable to the servants of Christ.

To all the saints ... at Philippi ... As Barclay said, "Saint is a misleading quotation."[3] It carries the idea of stained glass windows and a higher mortal sanctity; but in the New Testament usage of the word, "It does not designate any high level of ethical achievement, but persons who in Christ have been set apart unto the new life."[4] Thus it indicates the goals, rather than the attainments of Christians. It is clear enough that Paul used "saints" as a designation for all Christians, and that it denoted living members of the body of Christ.

All ... Lipscomb commented on the importance of this word as found here, and in Philippians 1:2,7,8,25; Philippians 2:17, and Philippians 4:21 as attesting the "beautiful spirit of unity"[5] at Philippi.

With the bishops and deacons ... Some scholars have attempted to late-date Philippians, supposing that there was no clear-cut organization in the primitive churches until post-apostolic times; but such efforts are being based on false premises. Elders of the church were ordained on the very first missionary tour Paul made (Acts 14:23); and, even before that, the government of a church by its elders is clearly evident in Acts 11:30. As for the fact that Paul did not usually mention the deacons and elders, as he did here, there was without any doubt a reason for it. Macknight pointed out that most of Paul's letters were addressed to the Christians, not their officers, in order to prevent "the bishops and deacons from imagining that the apostolic writings were their property, and that it belonged to them to communicate what part of them to the people that they saw fit.[6] Not even any prior right of interpretation pertained to bishops and deacons.

Bishops ... In the New Testament, this term is synonymous with elders and shepherds. "It is a fact now recognized by theologians of all shades of opinion that in the New Testament the same officer in the church is indifferently called bishop (overseer) or presbyter (elder) ... the one a term of dignity, the other of age."[7] There are six (perhaps seven) New Testament synonyms for the title that belonged to the New Testament office. They are:

Bishop (translated "overseer").

Presbyter (translated "elder").

Pastor (translated "shepherd").

Steward (Titus 1:7).SIZE>

Significantly, there were a plurality of bishops in Philippi, demonstrating the fact that no such thing as the "metropolitan bishop" of later ages was evident there when Paul wrote these lines.

As for the reason why Paul elected to mention these congregational officers in this letter, it was probably connected with the gift of money which he had received from that church, a gift which, in all probability, was suggested, administered and dispatched by the elders and deacons, thus making it very appropriate that they would have been greeted in this salutation.

Deacons ... These officers are not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, except in 1 Timothy 3:8,12ff; but many scholars insist on tracing their work back to Acts 6:2.[8] The word from which this is rendered is also translated "servant" or "minister" in the New Testament.

[1] Robert H. Mounce, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 756.

[2] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Philippians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1962), p 44

[3] William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 10

[4] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 756.

[5] David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, Volume IV (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1964), p. 156.

[6] James Macknight, Apostolical Epistles with Commentary, Volume III (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), 402.

[7] J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1963), pp. 95,98.

[8] Frances Foulkes, New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1129.


Verse 2

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Frequent comments on this characteristic Pauline greeting have been made in this series of commentaries. For example, see my Commentary on Romans 1:1 and my Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:2. Scholars are inclined to make a big thing out of the order of "grace" and "peace" as they appear in most of Paul's greetings. As Boice said, "The final point is this: grace comes before peace .... In God's order of things God's hand is always there before any spiritual blessings[9] True as such an observation be, however, it may be doubted that Paul consciously intended this understanding of these words as used in his salutations. Significantly, Paul reversed them in Ephesians 6:23,24. See comment under those verses.

ENDNOTE:

[9] James Montgomery Boice, Philippians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), p. 32.


Verse 3

I thank my God upon 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.

Significant in this apostolic prayer is the absence from it of any list of things Paul needed to receive from God, and the predominance of those things for which Paul felt the need of giving thanks to God! Paul's prayers were more like a list of things he has already received and for which thanksgiving was offered. One is struck with the startling difference of many prayers heard today.

With joy ... Joy is the key word of Philippians; and Barclay has given a beautiful outline of the joy Paul communicated in this loving letter:

CHRISTIAN JOY INCLUDES

The joy of prayer (Philippians 1:4)

The joy that Jesus Christ is preached (Philippians 1:18).

The joy of faith (Philippians 1:25).

The joy of seeing Christians in fellowship together (Philippians 2:2).

The joy of suffering for Christ (Philippians 2:17).

The joy of news of a loved one (Philippians 2:28).

The joy of Christian hospitality (Philippians 2:29).

The joy of the man who has been baptized into Christ (Philippians 3:1; 4:1).

The joy of the man who has won one soul for the Lord (Philippians 4:1).

The joy inherent in every gift (Philippians 4:10), this being not in regard merely to its value but to the fact of another's caring.[10]SIZE>

Christian joy is an emotion unspeakably higher than that which may be occasioned by mirth, pleasure, fun, hilarity, gladness, laughter, delight, and the whole family of related emotions unworthy to be compared to Christian joy, that glorious emotion which is not only eternal but sacred, pure and holy as well.

In Philippians 1:3-5, Paul's words seem to be more than usually earnest and impassioned. He dwells long and fondly on the subject; "He repeats words and accumulates clauses in the intensity of his feeling."[11]

For your fellowship ... Many have written on the technical meaning of this word as inclusive of liberality and many other virtues, such as sharing; but Boice has a priceless note on it thus:

Fellowship means more than a sharing of something, like the fellowship of bank robbers dividing the loot. It means a sharing in something, participating in something greater than the people involved and more lasting than the activity of any given moment ... it means being caught up into a communion created by God.[12]

You all ... (Philippians 1:3) is the plural of you, there being no other definite plural of this word in the English language, "you both," "you three," etc., being definite and limited. It is used nine times in Philippians.

From the first day until now ... "This refers to the first day of Paul's preaching in Philippi (Acts 16:13)."[13] Amazingly, this church had contributed financially to Paul's support throughout their acquaintance with the apostle. All people should take this lesson to heart. The true extent of one's love of the Lord is measured by "the amount of sacrifice he is prepared to make to help in the progress of the gospel."[14]

Hendriksen's analysis of the characteristics of that "fellowship" enjoyed by those "in Christ" reveals it as:

A fellowship of grace, of faith, in prayer and thanksgiving, of believers with each other, in love one for another, in helping each other, of contributing to each other's needs, of helping promote the gospel, of separation from the world, and of that eternal warfare of believers struggling side by side against a common foe.[15]

[10] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 13.

[11] J. B. Lightfoot, op. cit., p. 82.

[12] James Montgomery Boice, op. cit., p. 36.

[13] James William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 487.

[14] R. P. Martin, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Philippians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959), p. 61.

[15] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 52.


Verse 6

Being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Paul does not here refer to himself as the founder of the church at Philippi, though in a sense he was the founder. Paul, however, preferred to give the glory to God, recognizing the Father as the one who actually converted them and brought them to a saving knowledge of the Saviour.

Boice flatly declared that this verse is one "of the three greatest in the Bible,"[16] teaching the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints. This student, however, fails to find any suggestion of such a doctrine in this passage. It should be noted here that Paul's confidence was not in the Philippians but in God. It was the conduct of those Philippians up to that point which inspired Paul with confidence concerning their ultimate destiny. As Hendriksen put it:

Your perseverance in sympathetic participation in the work of the gospel (Philippians 1:5) has convinced me that you are the objects of divine preservation (Philippians 1:6). These two must not be separated[17]

It is true that God did foreordain and predestinate such souls to eternal life; but there was absolutely nothing in God's so doing to compel the Philippians to be such souls! That is not what Paul declared here; but rather his declaration is that the evidence proved the Philippians to be such souls, as attested by their conduct throughout his acquaintance with them, and that God would surely reward them eternally, such a confidence, of course, being contingent upon the fact of the Philippians continuing to be such souls.

Until the day of Jesus Christ ... This can hardly be anything except the final day of the Second Advent of Christ, called in the New Testament "the judgment." That is "the day" toward which all the world moves. It is a gross mistake, however, to read this, as Paul's expecting the Second Coming in the lifetime of his Philippian converts. As Lightfoot said, "It must not be hastily inferred from this that St. Paul confidently expected the Lord's advent during the lifetime of his Philippian converts."[18]

[16] James Montgomery Boice, op. cit., p. 40.

[17] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 51.

[18] J. B. Lightfoot, op. cit., p. 84.


Verse 7

Even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf 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 are all partakers with me of grace.

You all ... See under Philippians 1:5.

I have you in my heart ... Paul's deep affection for the Philippians is easy to understand. Nothing caused them to waver in their constant help of his preaching mission. Not even Paul's imprisonment had caused them to cut off their support.

Partakers with me of grace ... As Mounce said, "They were partakers with Paul in grace, not partakers of Paul's grace.[19]

ENDNOTE:

[19] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 758.


Verse 8

For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.

The rendition here is a vast improvement over the KJV, the verse being a remarkable witness of the Christian's unity with the Lord, and, in fact, his identity with the Lord. Many scholars have been struck with the impact of this passage. Caffin stated the implications of the verse thus: "Not I, but Christ liveth in me. Paul is so united with Christ that he feels with the heart of Christ and loves with the love of Christ?[20] Lightfoot paraphrased it as follows:

Did I speak of having you in my heart? I should rather have said that in the heart of Christ Jesus I long for you. This is a powerful metaphor describing perfect union. The believer has no yearnings apart from his Lord; his pulse beats with the pulse of Christ; his heart throbs with the heart of Christ[21]

Paul's profession of love for the Philippians was genuine; and, as Calvin said, "It tends in no small degree to secure faith in the doctrine when the people are persuaded that they are loved by the teacher."[22]

[20] B. C. Caffin, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 20, Philippians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 3.

[21] J. B. Lightfoot, op. cit., p. 85.

[22] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 57.


Verse 9

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all discernment.

Pink's amazing deductions from this verse are to the effect that in contrast to the amazing love of the Philippians, they had an inadequate understanding of the mind of Christ, and that Paul longed for a better balance in their characters. "Therefore he prayed (not as most of us need to pray - that our love may be in proportion to our light) but that their intelligence may be commensurate with their affections.[23] He compared the Philippians to certain simple but sincere Christians of all ages whose affections exceeded their knowledge. Their state, if such is the proper understanding of it, was just the opposite of that of the Corinthians whose vaunted "knowledge" contrasted with their inadequate love one of another.

That your love may abound ... The Greek word rendered "love" here is [@agape], not [@eros] or [@fileo].[24] Despite any deficiencies in their "knowledge," Paul heartily approved of the abounding love of the Philippians.

[23] Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings from Paul (Chicago: Moody Press, 1967), p. 200.

[24] John A. Knight, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. IX, Philippians (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1965), p. 295.


Verse 10

So that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offense unto the day of Christ.

Approve the things which are excellent ... This is very similar to "distinguish things that differ" as Paul wrote in Romans 2:18; and both here and there, "It is impossible to decide exactly what Paul means.[25] One thing is evident, Paul wanted the Philippians to grow in knowledge in order to avoid offense in living the Christian life. Russell thought that Paul's words in Philippians 4:8 show what is meant by "the things which are excellent," as used here.[26]

Sincere ... It has often been pointed out that this word is derived from two Latin words, "sin" (without) and "cere" (wax). Italian marble vendors and certain merchants of porcelain fell into the habit of hiding flaws in their merchandise by filling cracks and blemishes with a certain kind of wax; but the more reputable dealers advertised their wares as sin/cere (without wax); and from this derived the meaning of the English word "sincere." The true meaning of it is "without deception" or "without hypocrisy."

Unto the day of Christ ... This is another reference to the judgment and final advent of Jesus our Lord.

[25] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), p. 82.

[26] James William Russell, op. cit., p. 487.


Verse 11

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

As Pink said, "This verse, along with Philippians 1:10, sets before us a powerful incentive to live hourly with the judgment seat of Christ before us, ... that we may not be ashamed at his coming."[27]

Fruits of righteousness ... As Knight observed, "This righteousness is that by Jesus Christ in contrast to that which is by the law (Philippians 3:9).[28] In order, therefore, to have fruit of that righteousness, the believer must be "in Christ," identified with him. See under Philippians 3:9.

This expression also carries with it the idea of the end of the world being a harvest (Matthew 13:39) and a reaping (Galatians 6:4-9). Here Paul prayed upon behalf of the Philippians that "At that day they might appear filled with all the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ. What an incentive to holiness to keep that before us.[29]

[27] Arthur W. Pink, op. cit., p. 221.

[28] John A. Knight, op. cit., p. 297.

[29] Arthur W. Pink, op. cit., p. 221.


Verse 12

Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel.

The things which happened unto me ... And what were those things? The last half of the book of Acts gives a great many of the near incredible things that happened unto Paul, revealing his life as an odyssey surpassing that of any other, save Christ alone, who ever lived on earth. In addition, 2 Corinthians 11:23-30 briefly mentions many other things not even hinted at in Acts. Only a man of the profoundest humility could have made this casual reference to such a list of sufferings and hardships as that which marked Paul's life. Rather than dwelling upon them here, Paul rejoices that the net result of all he has endured has been the spread of the gospel of Christ.


Verse 13

So that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest.

The praetorian guard ... The KJV's rendition of this as "the palace," has been rejected on what appears to be sufficient grounds; but the mention of "saints in Caesar's household" (Philippians 4:22) surely indicates that the word of the gospel was assuredly known "in the palace," whether or not this verse states the fact.

Lightfoot, especially, did extensive work to prove that "praetorian" as used here is reference to a body of men, and not to a place; and most commentators follow Lightfoot's lead on this. Despite this, the opinion persists that such a view could be challenged.

Paul, although blessed with some liberty, was nevertheless chained to a Roman soldier at all times, his captor being changed several times a day, and thus providing Paul with a captive audience which included, in time, practically the whole praetorian guard, a body of troops assigned to the person of the emperor. It is not hard to understand how Paul would have taken advantage of such an opportunity.

And to all the rest ... This usually is understood as meaning the rest of the praetorian troops; but it might have a wider application to many others who were in Rome at that time. Hayes, understanding this as "the whole praetorian guard," stated that it must have taken some time for this to become possible.[30] This, of course, seems to place the writing of Philippians near the end of a period of imprisonment.

My bonds became manifest in Christ ... This refers to the fact that the reasons for Paul's imprisonment became generally known as unconnected with any kind of crime or misdemeanor and derived solely from his faithfulness in preaching the gospel of Christ. Such a truth would have endeared him to many in the praetorian.


Verse 14

And that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear.

Wesley explained the renewed vigor and courage of "most of the brethren in the Lord" as being due to the fact that "They saw in Paul, as they had never seen before, the presence, power and sufficient grace of Christ."[31]

The fact that such a notable character as Paul was permitted for at least a couple of years to continue day by day preaching the gospel while in the custody and control of the emperor's bodyguard very effectively spread the news abroad that it was safe to preach the word. However, those circumstances of relative tolerance of the gospel would before long give way to the great persecution under Nero. Paul would suffer martyrdom, and countless Christians would seal their faith with their blood. That Paul surely had premonitions of such a drastic change appears in this very letter (Philippians 1:20); but, for the moment, the grand apostle would glorify God, rejoicing in the opportunities to preach the word of salvation to all who would hear it.

[30] D. A. Hayes, Paul and His Epistles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 431.

[31] John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.


Verse 15

Some indeed preach Christ of envy and strife; and some also of good will.

The New Testament does not reveal any of the details concerning those who preached Christ of "envy and strife"; and speculation leads us nowhere. Boice cited writings of Suetonius and Clement in support of the view that "Paul perished as a result of the jealousy and strife that existed among Roman Christians.[32] Whether such jealousy arose from Judaizing elements of the church opposing Paul's teaching, or from certain "leaders" of the church in Rome who found themselves eclipsed by Paul's success and influence through winning many converts in the praetorian guard and even the palace is impossible to determine.

Envy and strife caused trouble in those days, and so do they still cause trouble now. As Boice observed:

Never in the history of the world have the opportunities been greater for the proclamation of the gospel; yet never has the believing church been more irrelevant and divided ... the bitter fruits of the strife and envy that divide today's believers.[33]

[32] James Montgomery Boice, op. cit., p. 69.

[33] Ibid.


Verse 16

The one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel; but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds.

The factious party in view here had the purpose of making Paul's imprisonment more distasteful and burdensome, no doubt hoping to influence his judges against him, their conduct in this being as contemptible as any that could be imagined.

Set for the defense of the gospel ... Foy E. Wallace deplored the rendition of this in RSV which drops out of sight altogether the stern and determined purpose of the word "set," making it read, "I am put here![34]

Lightfoot identified the factious preachers of this passage as belonging to the Judaizing party, giving reasons for the difference in Paul's rejoicing in their preaching (as stated in the next verse) and his scathing denunciation of the Judaizers in Galatians; but the reasons for such a change of Paul's viewpoint are not sufficient. Therefore, it seems far more preferable to look for the source of the envy and strife against Paul in some other quarter. Caffin and many others have followed Lightfoot's lead in this, supposing that:

Their motives were not pure; they wished to make Paul feel the helplessness of imprisonment, and to increase his affliction by opposing his doctrines, and by forming a party insisting on the observance of the ceremonial law.[35]

[34] Foy E. Wallace, Jr., A Review of the New Versions (Fort Worth, Texas: Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, 1973), p. 445.

[35] B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 5.


Verse 18

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

One must agree with Hayes who said, "This is one of the noblest utterances of one of the greatest men."[36] There is a toleration in Paul's words here which would bless the whole world if more widely imitated.

ENDNOTE:

[36] D. A. Hayes, op. cit., p. 434.


Verse 19

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

Knight preferred the translation, "turn out to my deliverance";[37] thus not taking away the truth that Paul was most certainly a saved person already at the time these words were written. Regardless, however, of the confidence some modern Christians seem to have about the certainty of their salvation, Paul evidently preferred the viewpoint that his salvation was something which still pertained to the future. See under Philippians 3:12ff. Of course, it is true that Christians are already "saved in Christ"; but it is also true that they "shall be saved" at the last day.

ENDNOTE:

[37] John A. Knight, op. cit., p. 303.


Verse 20

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

The great truth evident in this verse was concisely stated by Boice: "Christ must be magnified in the bodies of those who believe in him, or he will not be magnified at all.[38] God is not magnified in political movements, earthly cathedrals, temples or church houses, but in the bodies of Christians. "Ye are the temple of the Holy Spirit?' God did not dwell even in the temple of Solomon (Acts 7:47,48). "Solomon in the prayer of dedication acknowledged that heaven and earth could not contain God, much less a building he had constructed.[39] As Boice stressed:

Throughout history this truth has been perverted over and over. Men have often made the mistake of identifying the hand of God with the development of Reformation churches, the cause of democracy, the movement for prohibition, pacifism, or even rights. But God is not magnified in these ... God's hand is seen only in the lives of men who honor God.[40]

Paul's determination that whether he lived or died he would honor Christ provoked the Great Soliloquy in the next few verses.

[38] James Montgomery Boice, op. cit., p. 80.

[39] Ibid., p. 81.

[40] Ibid., p. 80.


Verse 21

PAUL'S GREAT SOLILOQUY

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if to live in the flesh, - if this shall bring fruit from my work, then what I shall choose I know not. But I am in a strait betwixt 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.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark delivered a soliloquy in which he viewed both the present life and the after-death state as equally undesirable and terrifying. When considering the evils of life, he could incline toward death, except for the soul-shattering thought that evil dreams would torture him. Thus, Hamlet stands as the typical unregenerated man, oppressed by life, but afraid to die. Here, the matchless Paul rises above such a dilemma, viewing both life and death as the means of magnifying the Lord Jesus.

To live is Christ ... Salvation through Christ is, briefly stated, a sinner's denial of himself, renunciation of himself, and complete submission to the will of Christ, being "baptized into" Christ, thus being saved, not as himself, but as Christ. That fact surfaces in Paul's brief clause here.

To die is gain ... "Anyone who can truthfully say, `For me to live is Christ' can also say, `To die is gain'."[41] Therefore, this Pauline statement is more than a mere complaint of his being imprisoned. "To depart and be with Christ is very far better!" (Philippians 1:23). No Christian should dread death. Whatever Paul could have meant by such words as these, the confidence is justified that the after-death state of Christians will be "very far better" than any earthly life, however blessed.

Very far better ... "This is the highest superlative which it is possible to form in any language ... from which we may infer that Paul knew of no middle state of insensibility between death and the resurrection."[42] It can hardly be imagined that Paul would have considered such a middle state of total insensibility to be preferable to remaining in the world to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Despite this, however, there seems to be indicated some kind of intermediate state in such passages as 1Thess. 4:14,16,1 Corinthians 15:51,52. We must confess, as did Dummelow, that "Our best notions of the other world are dim and confused."[43]

To depart and be with Christ ... Of course, this is a mere euphemism for death; but, as Martin noted, "It is a military term for striking camp, and a nautical expression for releasing a vessel from its mooring."[44] Barry stated that this expression is found in only one other New Testament passage, Luke 12:88, "When he shall return (break up) from the wedding. The body is looked upon as a mere tabernacle. Each day is a march nearer home, and death is the last striking of the tent on arrival."[45]

[41] F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 109.

[42] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 413.

[43] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 972.

[44] R. P. Martin, op. cit., p. 78.

[45] Alfred Barry, Ellicott's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. III, Philippians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 71.


Verse 25

And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, yea, and abide with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.

And abide with you all ... seems to be a poetic way of saying he would remain alive; because, as Macknight said, "He did not mean to tell the Philippians that he would leave off traveling among the churches he had planted and make his residence with them alone."[46]

In the faith ... Both New English Bible (1961) and Phillips make this read "your faith" instead of "the faith," for the obvious purpose of applying the passage to the subjective trust/faith of believers, rather than allowing the true meaning to stand. This most certainly is not a reference to subjective faith in the heart of Christians but has the meaning of "the Christian religion."

ENDNOTE:

[46] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 414.


Verse 26

That your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again.

Glorying ... here is a better translation than "rejoicing" of the KJV, "which is too mild an expression to describe what the Philippians would feel if Paul were restored again to the church."[47]

Although it is evident that Paul here expressed confidence of seeing the Philippians again, it should be remembered that his inspiration did not reveal exactly what would take place upon every future occasion contemplated by the apostle. He made his plans like Christians today make their plans. Therefore, it is best to view this as a confident expectation on Paul's part of seeing the Philippians again, and not as a dogmatic prophecy that he would indeed do so. If indeed it was a prophetic promise of his seeing them, we may be certain that he did so; although, of course, we are far from having a complete record of all that Paul did, or all that he wrote. The sacred New Testament provides only limited glimpses of his glorious life.

ENDNOTE:

[47] R. P. Martin, op. cit., p. 81.


Verse 27

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 ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith in the gospel.

Manner of life ... worthy of the gospel ... One thing is supremely important. "No matter what happens, either to Paul or the Philippians, they must live worthily of their faith and profession."[48]

Stand fast ... One thing Paul expected of every Christian was that he should stand fast in the faith. It was a foregone certainty that Satan would use every device to induce Christians to waver or defect. The world at that time, as it always has been, was a hostile environment for Christianity. The Christian life could be lived successfully only by those who were determined to fight with all of their strength in order to maintain their integrity. It is clear here that Paul expected the Philippians to do just that.

Striving for the faith of the gospel ... Dummelow declared that this does "not mean Christian doctrine ... but faith as a power in the soul";[49] however such an interpretation is surely wrong, being only another instance of modern commentators trying to make every reference to faith in the New Testament a subjective trust/faith inwardly experienced by Christians.

According to Lightfoot and others, "the faith" is here objective, that which is believed, the content of the gospel message, as in Jude 1:1:3, "to contend for the faith:" if so, it may be the earliest New Testament instance of this use of the word.[50]

[48] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 29.

[49] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 972.

[50] H. C. Hewlett, A New Testament Commentary, Philippians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 473.


Verse 28

And in nothing affrighted by the adversaries: which is for them an evident token of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God.

An evident token of perdition ... The thought here is that the fearlessness of the Christians would be an omen of perdition to the persecutors, and at the same time an evidence of their own salvation.

And that from God ... Only God could give them the fearlessness which Paul here enjoined; and some apply these words to their fearlessness; however, the proximity of "salvation" to the phrase indicates that it is their salvation which is here affirmed as coming "from God."


Verse 29

Because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf: having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Here one glimpses the impact of terrible persecutions upon the soul of the beloved apostle. "This allusion, of course, is to the lawless scourging and imprisonment of Acts 16:22-24."[51] That outrage deeply impressed itself upon Paul's heart, as indicated, at the very first, by his demand that the magistrates apologize and by subsequent references to it in 1Thess. 2:2,2 Timothy 3:10.

The same implacable and evil hatred of the darkness against the light was the motivation of persecutions against both Paul and the Philippians. His own sufferings were the same as theirs with regard to cause and motivation of both.

On behalf of Christ ... Paul's evident purpose here was to bring home to the Philippians the high dignity and privilege of suffering for the cause of the Lord. By these words, he shared with them the fellowship of suffering in the name of Christ.

ENDNOTE:

[51] Alfred Barry, op. cit., p. 72.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Philippians 1:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/philippians-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, March 23rd, 2019
the Second Week of Lent
There are 29 days til Easter!
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology