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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Philippians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-30


The Mutual Service of Paul and Philippian Church

§ 7. Philippians 2:1-11, In view of what has just been said, therefore the Apostle entreats his readers, under all the obligations arising from past fellowship (Philippians 2:1), to make his joy complete by a thorough concord (Philippians 2:2). This will be attained through self-effacing regard for each other (Philippians 2:3-4), of which Christ is the ground and example (Philippians 2:5-8).

1. St. Paul invokes four bonds of friendship: exhortation (i.e. encouragement) in Christ, given on his part; consolation of love, fellowship in the Spirit (cp. Philippians 1:19), tender mercies and compassions, mutually exhibited; if there be any such things—or if they count for anything as between us (the sentence is elliptical, and the text a little doubtful)—this entreaty will prevail.

2. That ye be of the same mind (Philippians 2:2) imports oneness of sentiment and aim, to be realised in having the same love—i.e. cherishing a uniform reciprocal affection—as men conjoined in soul ('of one accord,' RV cp. Philippians 1:27, 'with one soul'), minding the one thing (cp. Colossians 3:2 RV). In rendering the last clause of one mind, AV ignores the Gk. definite article: St. Paul's 'one thing needful' (cp. Luke 10:42) is nothing else than 'the gospel' (see Philippians 1:5, Philippians 1:8, Philippians 1:27); concentration upon this is the guarantee of unity.

3, 4. Such oneness of soul means doing nothing in a factious or vainglorious way, each man in lowliness of mind counting the other better than himself, and keeping an eye not for his own interests but for those of his neighbour. In short, love and humility together overcome all divisive influences, and bring about the perfect socialism of the Spirit.

Philippians 2:5 goes on to say that this altruism is the proper Christian way of thinking: Have this mind in you, which is indeed (the mind) in Christ Jesus—i.e. the mind grounded in Him. The Pauline phrase 'in Christ Jesus' signifies the mystical union: not the Jesus Christ who 'was' (the verb of AV is wanting in the Gk.), but the Christ Jesus who 'is,' inspires this way of thinking.

Philippians 2:6-8 lead back from the present to the past, exhibiting the Christian altruistic mind as it wrought first in the Founder; St. Paul relates the experience of the Head to teach the members a lowly, self-renouncing love. For this purpose he must show how much Christ had to forgo and to what lengths His abnegation went. The difficult expressions of this profound passage are, especially, the synonymous connected phrases form (of God, of a bondman), on an equality (with God), likeness (of men), in fashion (as a man), which denote resemblance in different aspects or degrees. The first signifies essential form, the mode of existence proper to the person in question; the second, the footing on which he stands, or might stand; the third, his visible features; the fourth, the guise, or habit of life, in which he moves. The verbs of Philippians 2:7-8—emptied (RV), and humbled Himself—affirm respectively a negative self-deprivation or depotentiation, and a positive self-humiliation based upon the former; the latter act has its antithesis in the exalting of Christ by God spoken of in Philippians 2:9, and the former in the granting to Him of the name above every name. The rare verbal noun of Philippians 2:6, (counted it not) a prize (RV AV 'robbery'), meant first 'the act of grasping' or clutching,' and then 'a thing to be clutched.' We take the sense of the passage to be, that Christ, while divine in His proper nature, did not, when the call came to serve others, hold fast in self-assertion His God-like state, but divested Himself of this by assuming a servant's form (adding to His divine a human being, which eclipsed the Godhead in Him) and leading an earthly life such as our own (Philippians 2:6, Philippians 2:7). But He went lower still; having stooped from His Godhead to man's condition, He traversed all the stages of obedience down to the humiliation of death (cp. Philippians 3:21), and of death in its uttermost shame (Philippians 2:7-8). Such was the devotion of the Son of God to men; and every man who is in Christ Jesus shares this mind.

The verb 'emptied' in Philippians 2:7 supplies the theological term kenosis for the deprivation of divine attributes or powers involved in the incarnation of our Lord. However far this diminution went—and we cannot pretend to define its limits—since it was a self-emptying, an act of our Lord's sovereignty, it involved no forfeiture of intrinsic Deity.

At Philippians 2:8 the illustration properly ends; but St. Paul cannot leave his Master on the cross, nor have it supposed that self-abnegation is real loss: cp. Matthew 10:39; John 12:24. By a divine recompense, Christ was lifted up from the death of the cross to the Messianic dominion, with glory added to His primal glory (Philippians 2:9-11): Wherefore indeed God more highly exalted him, and granted to him the name that is above every name: cp. Ephesians 1:20-22. This 'name' is the completed title, the Lord Jesus Christ, under which our Saviour will be adored throughout the universe. Things under the earth was a Gk. euphemism for the dead: cp. Romans 14:9; Ephesians 4:9.

Philippians 2:10-11 appropriate for Jesus the language of Isaiah 45:23, which foretold the worship to be paid to Israel's God by all mankind. The glory of the Father will be realised in the universal acknowledgment of the Lordship of the Son whom He enthroned: cp. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.

§ 8. Philippians 2:12-18. The connexion of the third exhortation, to thoroughness in the pursuit of salvation (Philippians 2:12-18), with the two foregoing paragraphs may be brought out thus: And so, my beloved—since Christ's triumph, won by self-forgetting love, is sure (§ 7), and since you are my fellow-soldiers in His war (§ 6)—as you have always answered to my challenge, I expect that now in my absence—when you depend on yourselves—much more than in my presence, with fear and trembling yon will prosecute the work of your salvation; for God is he that worketh in you both the willing and the working (contrast Romans 7:18), for his good-pleasure's sake (Philippians 2:13). God's working in the Philippians is alleged not to enforce the fear and trembling (which St. Paul assumes and approves in them), but as a strong encouragement: 'Whatever human aid is wanting, God is with you—in you!' cp. Philippians 1:6, Philippians 1:28 also Ephesians 3:20; Colossians 1:29; Acts 20:32. That God is thus working in the readers in the interests of His good pleasure, implies that their life-work is taken into God's plan for the kingdom of His Son; see Philippians 2:9-11, Philippians 1:29 also Luke 12:32; 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Thessalonians 1:12.

14. The consciousness of God's sovereign grace operating in the Philippian Christians will prevent their work being marred by murmurings and reasonings against their lot (cp. Philippians 1:29; Philippians 4:6 also 1 Peter 4:12-14); in this confidence they will bear themselves as God's children (Philippians 2:15, Philippians 2:16) amid an evil world, where they are set to shine as luminaries, holding forth in its lustre the word of life: cp. 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 also Matthew 5:14-16; John 1:6-8; John 5:35. For salvation-seeking is not egoism; Christian excellence is that of a lamp, the more radiant as it is better trimmed.

16b. The writer, too, will gain much by the advancing salvation and luminous witness of his converts: this will be for a glorying to myself against the day of Christ, as showing that I have not run in vain nor toiled in vain: cp. 1 Thessalonians 3:5; Galatians 2:2.

17, 18. Supposing the worst fears of the Philippians realised by his condemnation to death, their faith will turn this into a glad offering on the Apostle's part to God. Even in this issue, he joys and rejoices with them, and calls on them to joy and rejoice with him 1 While he and they are true to Christ, nothing can take away their common joy: cp. Philippians 1:20; Romans 8:31-39. St. Paul represents his death under the figure of a libation, or drink-offering (RM): his blood, shed for the salvation of the Gentiles (Romans 15:16; Colossians 1:24, etc.), would be poured out over the sacrifice and service rendered to God by the faith of his Churches—a shower that will feed the sacrificial flame.

IV. The Approaching Visits (Philippians 2:19-30)

§ 9. Philippians 2:19-24. The Apostle hopes however in the Lord Jesus (under His sovereign direction) that events will take a different course; he will send Timothy forthwith to Philippi, so soon as the outlook is clear, purposing himself to follow when free (Philippians 2:23-24): cp. Philippians 1:25, Philippians 1:26. The motive for sending is, that I too (as well as you) may be of good cheer through learning the news about you (as you through hearing about me); and the reasons for sending Timothy are, on the one hand, his genuine care for the Philippians and the absence of any one else like-minded (lit. 'equal-souled'), and on the other hand the knowledge the Philippians have of his character and intimacy with his master (Philippians 2:22). In the hard saying, they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ (RV), 'all' is limited by the context, and by the Gk. definite article, to St. Paul's available helpers. Some of his companions were busy elsewhere; others decline the errand through motives that he regards as selfish (Philippians 2:20-21).

§ 10. Philippians 2:25-30. Epaphroditus returns forthwith, carrying this letter (Philippians 2:25); see Intro. The Apostle heaps commendation upon him, apprehending seemingly that he might have a cool reception (see Philippians 2:29-30), since he is going home prematurely and without having rendered all the service expected. To St. Paul he has proved my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, having shared the Apostle's toils and labours to the best of his power; on behalf of the Philippians, your apostle (deputy-messenger) and minister (minister-in-sacred-things: this word is repeated in the service of Philippians 2:30) to my need. The Apostle sends him back thus early because of his homesickness, which was aggravated by news of the grief of his friends at his recent illness (Philippians 2:26)—an illness threatening death, which God had averted in mercy both to himself and to Paul; his immediate return, under these circumstances, is happier for all parties (Philippians 2:27-28): Epaphroditus, it seems, had fallen into sickness through some venture, beyond the common risks of travel, in which he had hazarded (the rare Gk. verb means 'gambling with') his life—'setting his life upon a cast'—to serve the Apostle on behalf of the Philippians in promoting the work of Christ (Philippians 2:30). How this came about, it is idle to conjecture.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Philippians 2:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/philippians-2.html. 1909.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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