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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Philippians 4

 

 

Verses 1-23

4
Final Charge. Acknowledgement of Philippian Bounty

VI. Closing Exhortations (Philippians 4:1-9)

§ 15. Philippians 4:1-3. With heightened feeling St. Paul resumes the vein of exhortation commenced in Philippians 3:1 : Wherefore (in view of the grand hope of our calling).. so stand fast in the Lord (see Philippians 1:27)—'so,' i.e. in 'imitating' the Apostle and 'marking those' of like 'walk' (Philippians 3:17); this appeal sums up the foregoing homily. For the endearing epithets accumulated here, cp. Philippians 1:3-8; Philippians 2:16-17 also 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 1 Thessalonians 2:20.

2. The entreaty to Euodia and Syntyche to be of one mind in the Lord, is a pointed application of Philippians 1:27 and Philippians 2:1-5 they have a serious difference of judgment in carrying out the will of Christ. These ladies bear good Greek names; one of them is, possibly, the same as the Lydia of Acts 16, the latter name in that case being an ethnic appellation ('the Lydian'). As at Thessalonica (Acts 17:4), women were conspicuous amongst the earliest converts in Philippi: see Intro.

3. The Gk. 'Synzygos' (yoke-fellow) is better read as a proper name, on which the Apostle plays, as upon 'Onesimus' (serviceable) in Phlippians 1:11 : Yea, I ask also thee, true Synzygos—worthy of thy name—help them (Euodia and Syntyche) to come to an understanding. Others suppose Epaphroditus to be addressed as 'yokefellow': cp. Philippians 2:25. The disagreeing women had shared St. Paul's struggles (this Gk. verb is rendered striving together in Philippians 1:27) in the gospel,—a fact which makes him specially anxious for their reconciliation. With these former comrades St. Paul associates a certain Clement otherwise unknown (hardly the Clement of Rome, famous a generation later), and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life (see Revelation 3:5, etc., Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23),-and therefore need not be enumerated here.

§ 16. Philippians 4:4-7. Joy in the Lord, and the peace of God, are the sovereign factors in the Christian temper (Philippians 4:4, Philippians 4:7); these manifest themselves in gentleness (RM; AV 'moderation') toward men, and serenity (In nothing be anxious, RV) in all events, maintained by continual prayer and thanksgiving. Philippians 4:4 repeats, with resolute emphasis, the command of Philippians 3:1 : see note.

5. Gentleness (ascribed, under the same word, to Christ in 2 Corinthians 10:1) is the opposite of self-assertion and rivalry. Like 'patience' in James 5:8, it is enforced by the nearness of the Lord's advent, the prospect of which quenches worldly passions: cp. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Luke 12:29-40. Though we may not think of the second coming of Christ as at hand in the sense in which the first Christians did, our appearance at His judgment-seat is no less certain, and the thought of it should affect us in the same way.

6. Anxiety is precluded by the direction, let your requests be made known unto God—since 'he careth for you' (1 Peter 5:7 cp. Matthew 6:31-32). Prayer is devout address to God in general, supplication the specific appeal for help, and request the particular petition made. In everything includes temporal with spiritual needs, covering all occasions of anxiety.

7. The peace of God is that which ensues on reconciliation through Christ and the bestowment of the Holy Spirit, who breathes the Father's love into the heart: see Romans 5:1-2, Romans 5:8-11; Ephesians 2:13-18. The consciousness of this fortifies the mind against trouble: it shall guard (or garrison) your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. God's peace surpasses (AV 'passes': the same word was rendered 'better than' in Philippians 2:3, and 'excellency' in Philippians 3:8) all reason (Gk. nous) in its fortifying power. Greek philosophy sought in Reason the prophylactic against care and fear; the true remedy is found in Christ.

§ 17. Philippians 4:8, Philippians 4:9. The real Finally is now reached: see on Philippians 3:1. The list of virtues here commended is unique in St. Paul's writings, resembling the catalogues of Greek moralists; its items belong to natural ethics. These things, St. Paul says, take account of (RM); i.e. reckon and allow for (the verb of Philippians 3:13; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 13:5, etc.): he desiderates in the readers a larger appreciation of goodness, a catholic moral taste—mark the reiterated whatsoever. This Church was intensely devoted, but intellectually narrow (see on Philippians 1:9),—a defect naturally aggravated by persecution. Hence the stress laid on 'gentleness' in Philippians 4:5, and on the amenities of life in Philippians 4:8. Things true and honourable (to be revered) constitute the integrities of personal character; things pure and just represent the moralities, and things amiable and winning the graces, of social life. The further expressions, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise (aught to be praised), bring in every conceivable form and instance of moral excellence. Virtue—the ruling category of heathen ethics—figures only in this passage of St. Paul; the Apostle is seeking common ethical ground as between the Church and Gentile society. The Christian man must prize every fragment of human worth, claiming it for God.

9. So much for reflexion and appreciation; for practice, the writer points once more, as in Philippians 3, to himself,—to his personal teaching (what things you both learned and received) and behaviour (and heard of and saw in me). The God of peace shall be with you is a virtual repetition of Philippians 4:7 : men of large-hearted charity and steadfast loyalty dwell in God's peace amidst all storms.

VII. Acknowledgement of the Contribution from Philippi (Philippians 4:10-20)

§ 18. Philippians 4:10-16. With the Benediction of Philippians 4:9 (cp. Romans 15:33) the letter might have ended; but St. Paul in sending back Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30) desires to make ample recognition of the gift conveyed by him, and has reserved this matter to the last. The remittance had surely been acknowledged earlier; communications had been exchanged since Epaphroditus' arrival in Rome: see Intro. It looks as though the Philippians had been grieved in some way over the reception of their contribution. Perhaps the Apostle's former acknowledgment through its brevity was open to misconstruction. With care and earnestness he now endeavours to set himself right with his friends:—'Greatly was I gladdened,' he writes, 'that now once again you have blossomed out in your thoughtfulness for me; indeed, you were thinking of me in this way before, but you lacked opportunity to show it.' The recent gift was the revival of the care for the Apostle's wants shown by the Philippians at an earlier time; no other Church had so markedly proved its gratitude in this kind (Philippians 4:15). The readers are aware of this fact (Moreover ye yourselves know, ye Philippians); they had probably referred to it, in their Church letter, with pardonable pride. In the beginning of the gospel means at the time of its coming to these regions (cp. Philippians 1:5); in the matter of giving and receiving (RV) might be rendered 'by way of credit and debit account' (cp. 1 Corinthians 9:11; Galatians 6:6; Phlippians 1:18-19)—a mercantile idiom. When I went out from Macedonia refers to contributions sent to the writer at Athens or Corinth (see 2 Corinthians 11:7-10); even before this, during the short time he stayed in Thessalonica, they had helped him once and again (Philippians 4:16).

In the intervening passage (Philippians 4:11-14) St. Paul explains his attitude. He does not speak as though in want and dependent on such support; he has learned to be self sufficient (content) under all conditions. I know, he continues, how to be abased (by poverty: see 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 11:9, 2 Corinthians 11:27; Acts 20:34), and I know also how to be in affluence; in every variety of state and circumstance, I have become versed (lit. 'initiated') both in feasting and hungering, both in affluence and destitution. Thrice St. Paul speaks of his 'abundance' (Philippians 4:12 and Philippians 4:18); and this bears out the conjecture of Sir W. M. Ramsay, suggested by the heavy cost entailed in the 'appeal to Cæsar' (Acts 25:11-12) and the unlikelihood of his taxing the Churches for this purpose, that he had by this time come into the inheritance of property and is no longer a poor man. If this was so, then St. Paul is thinking of the trials of both estates when he says, I am equal to everything, in him that enables me (Philippians 4:13): cp. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Ephesians 3:20; Colossians 1:29. He rejoices, therefore, in the gift of the Philippians for their sake rather than his own (Philippians 4:14): Howbeit ye did well, that ye had fellowship with my affliction (showed sympathy with my persecuted condition)—not, as 'in Thessalonica,' with 'my need' (Philippians 4:16).

§ 19. Philippians 4:17-20. Hence the Apostle was not eager for the gift (as a boon to himself), but for the evidence it afforded of God's grace in the givers (cp. Philippians 1:11; 2 Corinthians 9:6-11; Ephesians 5:9)—the fruit that increaseth to your account. But I have enough and to spare; I am filled full—in satisfaction of mind as of bodily wants (cp. Philippians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 7:4)—now that I have received from Epaphroditus what you have sent,—a fragrant savour, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God (cp. Hebrews 13:16): the religious, not the material value of the gift weighs with its receiver.

19. Since the offering is a sacrifice to God, He will recompense it (cp. Hebrews 6:10; Proverbs 19:17): my God will fill up every need of yours—as you have striven to meet His servant's need—according to his riches. Temporal and spiritual needs are together included in the promise; God's 'wealth' contains all kinds of treasure. In glory points to the heavenly consummation (cp. Romans 2:4, Romans 2:7; Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:18), in Christ Jesus to the ground and channel of divine supplies.

20. The Doxology (cp. 2 Corinthians 9:15, in relation to its context) magnifies the bountiful Giver as our Father: see Matthew 6:8, Matthew 6:32.

§ 20. Philippians 4:21-23. In conclusion, the Apostle bids a greeting to every saint in Christ Jesus—his good will knows no exception: see Philippians 1:1, Philippians 1:4, Philippians 1:7-8; With his own he sends greetings from his companions, from the whole Roman Church, and particularly from those of Cæsar's household (to think of Christians in Nero's house!)—the latter singled out because their salutation would peculiarly touch the Philippians: see Intro. The circumstances of his captivity and trial brought the Apostle into contact with the palace and the imperial attendants; friends in that quarter were specially serviceable to him.

23. The Benediction (RV) is nearly identical with that of Galatians, Phlippians, and 2 Timothy.

 


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

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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