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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Philippians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

Outline:

I. An appeal to unity:

II. What threatens unity:

III. The attitude necessary for unity:

IV. The highest example of such selflessness:

V. God rewards such self-sacrifice:

I. Faithfulness despite the obstacles:

II. Timothy will be sent shortly:

III. An explanation of the return of Epaphroditus:

“In the present section () he re-emphasizes the necessity of oneness among the brothers, a quality that is possible only when there is true lowliness of mind and helpfulness of disposition. The intensity of this appeal or plea would seem to indicate that there was among the Philippians, at least some of them, a measure of personal strife” (Hendriksen p. 97). As far as we know the church in Philippi contained just a small amount of strife (4:2), yet to God, the smallest amount is still "too much" to be tolerated among Christians. Erdman reminds us, “Nor has there ever been a church in any age or place free from the peril of discord or immune to the danger of rivalry and strife. The exhortation of the apostle may be needed as much as ever by churches of the present day” (p. 75). Barclay notes, “There is a sense in which (disunity) is the danger of every healthy church” (p. 31). Here we learn that seemingly small dissension can threaten the unity of an entire congregation. Unity only happens when each member is striving to adopt the attitudes found in these verses. Hence every member has a vital role to play in preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). In addition, this puts a new light on unfaithfulness, spiritual weakness and lack of spiritual growth. We need to remind people in the above categories that their spiritual apathy always poses a possible threat to the unity and stability of any congregation.

This section includes an exhortation based on the previous verses (“so then” ). Seeing that Christ went to such great lengths to make our salvation possible (2:6-8), it would be such a waste to end up lost. In essence one would be saying that all the efforts of Jesus were merely a waste of time--in their own case. I am impressed that Paul is admonishing these Christians to remain faithful and grow, despite some hard circumstances, such as Paul’s absence (2:12), less than ideal surroundings (2:14), an evil and hostile environment (2:15), and the possibility of Paul"s own death (2:17).


Verse 1

Philippians 2:1 “If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions”

“If there is”: This phrase does not express doubt, rather it is equivalent to the affirmative statement, “since there is”. “Therefore”: This term connects this statement to the previous thoughts found in chapter . “This new section is closely joined to that which precedes it. Paul"s emphatic reiteration of the one idea that harmony is essential for Christian community and for an effective effort to defend the gospel (cf. 1:27; 2:2). Other concepts such as humility and self-sacrifice (2:3-4) are added, not to divert attention away from the fundamental concept of unity, but to show that unity of spirit flows from humility of spirit, and self-sacrifice flows from a willingness to restrain one"s own desires in order to satisfy the desires of others” (Hawthorne pp. 63-64). “If any”: “Paul"s appeal is based on the deepest experiences common to every Christian--encouragement in Christ, incentive of love, fellowship of the Spirit, tenderness and compassion” (Hawthorne p. 64). “Exhortation”: Comfort, consolation and comfort. “In Christ”: “Any encouragement comes through union with Christ” (TCNT). “If there is any appeal in our union with Christ” (Wms). “If there is any admonition, encouragement, or exhortation in Christ, that is, derived from our fellowship with Christ” (Muller p. 72). “If Christ, by His example, sufferings, and conflicts, exhorts you” (Vincent p. 428). “If then you receive any help or encouragement or comfort from your vital union with Christ” (Hendriksen p. 98). Hawthorne says this refers to the various "exhortations" they had received from the apostle, which were addressed to people "in Christ". “If this is true, as indeed it is", Paul says, "and if my words of encouragement have in any way helped you stay true to the faith in the past, then respond accordingly in the present” (p. 65). How many Christians get off on the wrong track, because they simply have forgotten a very basic truth, “Is there anything encouraging about being in Christ"?" “Is there any encouragement in being a Christian?” “Has becoming a Christian brought any comfort or encouragement into your life?” “Consolation”: Or comfort. “A word which comes to the side of one to stimulate or comfort him; hence an exhortation, an encouragement, if any incentive of love” (Vincent pp. 428-429). “Has as its fundamental idea, ‘to speak to someone’, or ‘to speak to someone by coming close to his side’, and always in a friendly way” (Hawthorne p. 65). “Of love”: “If there is any persuasive power in love” (TCNT). “If you can be persuaded, by love” (Con). “If love is any incentive to action. The appeal is then based on all the encouragement and comfort which the readers have found in their mutual love or in the love of Christ” (Erdman p. 76). “If love has any persuasive power to move you to concord” (Muller p. 73).

This love may either be the love of God or the love between brethren, such as Paul"s love for them and their love for him. Carefully note that real love will never destroy unity. It will always seek to maintain it, even if that means confronting the Christian in sin (Galatians 6:1-2) or exposing false doctrine, to keep the church pure (Titus 1:9-11). “’If my love has provided you with any consolation in your suffering, as indeed it has’, Paul says, ‘then please now respond properly to my request’” (Hawthorne p. 65). “Sentimentality, mere humanitarian feeling will not do” (Lenski p. 762).

“Fellowship of the Spirit”: Compare with 2 Corinthians 13:13 and Ephesians 4:3. The fellowship which is produced or taught by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in revealing God"s saving message to mankind (Ephesians 3:3-5) made this spiritual fellowship a reality. He also revealed how we are to treat each other (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-21; 1 John 5:1-3). “If you belong to that community brought into existence by the Holy Spirit, and enjoy any fellowship with one another as a result, then live accordingly” (Hawthorne p. 66). “Tender mercies”: Sympathy, inward affection. “Compassions”: Note the plural, mercy and pity. This mercy and compassion may refer to God"s mercy, that is, “Have you been at the receiving end of God"s mercy? Then be merciful and understanding to your brethren” (Matthew 18:21-35; 1 John 4:11 “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another”). “Let them now prove themselves to be tender-hearted and full of compassion and pity” (Erdman p. 77). “And if you have any experience of the tender mercy and compassion of Christ, then prove your gratitude for all this by loving your brothers and sisters at home!” (Hendriksen pp. 98-99).


Verse 2

Philippians 2:2 “make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind”

“Make full”: “Make it completely full” (Lenski p. 764). “My joy”: “The apostle calls upon these brethren to use these spiritual resources to achieve unity, thereby, filling up his cup of joy. Paul"s cup of happiness relative to these brethren was not yet full to the brim. ‘He longed for them all to see the possibilities of growth’” (Jackson p. 39). “Then make me truly happy” (Tay).

“Paul is concerned with his own feelings only as a by-product. His main concern, his supreme request of the Philippians, is that they strive for unity coupled with humility” (Hawthorne p. 67). “Not speedy release from prison but the spiritual progress of the Philippians--of all of them--is his chief desire” (Hendriksen p. 99). Carefully note Paul"s attitude towards unity, especially compared with various modern theories. Some claim that unity is unrealistic. Others argue that the diverse backgrounds and personalities of those who compose the church make unity an impossibility. Still others claim that we can still have unity, even though we completely disagree on a host of essential doctrines, or that we only have to agree on the essentials, and yet never seem to fully define those essentials.

“That ye be”: This applies to every Christian and it indicates that this is a choice that we must make. “Of the same mind”: “Thinking in the same direction” (Jackson p. 39). “Lit., that you think the same. It equally involves one"s emotions, attitudes and will” (Hawthorne p. 67). “Minding the same thing, attending to the same thing with the same feelings and thoughts” (Lenski p. 765). “Present active...keeping on minding the same thing” (Robertson p. 443).

This is one of those verses which denominational commentators find uncomfortable, because the denominational world clearly does not mind the same thing. A common response is, “This is not a matter of making everyone see eye-to-eye or have the same opinion on every subject. Life would be very flat and dull without the give-and-take practiced when variety of opinion and viewpoint provides scope for friendly discussion and debate” (Bruce p. 62). The above comment can be right or wrong, depending on what you mean by "opinion". The Bible does give us areas in which differing opinions are allowed, because they are matters of indifference to God (Romans 14:1-23). Yet we can never fit or apply the above quote in the realm of doctrine. Paul is clear (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 John 1:9-11). The "catch" in the argument that says, "doctrine does not matter" or "we do not have to all agree even in matters of doctrine", is that such an argument completely negates what Paul is writing in these verses. Philippians 2:1-4 is a "doctrine" concerning unity among Christians. Can we disagree about what Philippians 2:3-4 teaches? It seems that the more logical view is that Paul expects every Christian to hold the same view towards what he is presently writing. Not only must we believe the same things, Christians are expected to embrace God"s truth with a common level of whole-hearted conviction. Apathy is just as wrong as accepting doctrinal error (Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22).

“Having”: Actually having or practicing it, and not merely wishing for it. “The same love”: “United in mutual love” (Wey). “Lit., maintaining loving dedication for one another” (Jackson p. 39). Christianity is a "two way street". Notice carefully the word "same". Here is the idea that not only must I accept the truth and love my brethren (1 John 4:11). I am obligated to love them with the "same" love, that is, with a love that is fervent, pure, sincere and sacrificing (1 Peter 1:22; John 13:34-35). Here we see one "key" component to unity in the church. It is very hard to divide a church, when the members have a "mutual" fervent love for each other.

“Being of one accord”: “Harmonious in soul, souls that beat together, in tune with Christ and with each other” (Robertson p. 443). “Harmony of feeling” (Wey). “To share one soul, possess a common affection, desire, passion, sentiment for living together in harmony” (Hawthorne p. 68). “Of one mind”: “Giving your minds to one and the same object” (Wey). “Your minds set on one purpose” (Wms). “Unity is essential for the spiritual growth of the church (Ephesians 4:1-16; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 12:14 ff), the progress of the gospel and the victory of believers over their adversaries” (Hawthorne p. 68). Of course the "one thing" that Christians are to "mind" is the will of God. We are to have the same exact view of pleasing God and obeying His will (2 Corinthians 5:9; John 14:15; Matthew 7:21 ff). This "one mind" also includes the attitude that follows, that is the determination by every Christian to avoid selfishness.

“It is when people are really in earnest and their beliefs really matter to them, that they are apt to get up against each other. The greater their enthusiasm, the greater the danger that they may collide. It is against that danger Paul wishes to safeguard his friends” (Barclay p. 31). “Did some of the members see too much of each other? Were they getting on each other"s nerves? Were some beginning to exaggerate the weaknesses and to minimize the virtues of other church-members” (Hendriksen p. 98).


Verse 3

Philippians 2:3 “doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself”

“Doing”: “Let nothing” (KJV). “Nothing”: “Nothing should be done in a” (TCNT). There is no room in our lives for selfishness. “Being in nothing factiously or vain-gloriously minded. Never act for selfish ends” (Hawthorne p. 68). “Faction”: Intrigue, contention, and strife. “Carries overtones of a party-spirit generated by selfish ambition. ‘Rivalry’ is guaranteed to destroy unity” (Hawthorne p. 68). “There is always the danger that people should work not to advance the work but to advance themselves” (Barclay p. 31). Unity is threatened when Christians forget that the cause of Christ is more important than they are. The important thing is not that we are always treated right, or that we get every bit of credit coming to us, but rather that the local congregation survives to spread the gospel to lost souls of the present and future generations. “Vainglory”: Empty glory or self-conceit. “Stop acting from motives of selfish strife or petty ambition” (Wms). “Empty conceit” (NASV). An empty or vain opinion of oneself. “Denotes boastful pride. It is the spirit that inclines one to make great claims for himself and to disparage others. Literally it indicates emptiness of ideas” (Erdman p. 78). “Sinful egotism, self-imagined excellence” (Muller p. 75). “The emptier the head the louder the boast” (Hendriksen p. 100).

“There is the desire for personal prestige. Prestige is for many people an even greater temptation than wealth. To be admired and respected, to have a platform seat (Matthew 23:6-7), to have one"s opinion sought, to be known by name and appearance, even to be flattered, are for many people most desirable things” (Barclay p. 32). Such "conceit" or arrogance is "empty", because it is not grounded in reality. In view of what Jesus did for us (Romans 5:8), there is no room for conceit and false pride in the life of the Christian (Ephesians 2:8-9). Such arrogance is simply proof that one has forgotten their utter dependence upon God (Romans 6:21; 2 Peter 1:9; Matthew 18:33-35; Matthew 6:12)

“But”: In contrast to such destructive attitudes. In view of the fact that such attitudes will harm the cause of Christ, I have every right to talk to a brother or sister who has adopted such wrong attitudes (Galatians 6:1-2). “Lowliness of mind”: “With true humility” (Wey). “Modesty” (Gspd). “It is the very opposite of pride and self-glory. It indicates not merely modesty but self-forgetfulness, or such a lowly view of self as enables one to form rightful views of others” (Erdman p. 79). “The term suggests a recognition of personal insufficiency” (Jackson p. 40). This context reveals something very important about the biblical virtue known as "humility". True humility is not saying that we are "worthless", rather true humility is that quality which enables us to get all the focus off ourselves and to see that others have needs just as important as our own. Lipscomb said, “Showing that it is only by a wise and lowly estimate of ourselves that we come to know what is due to others” (p. 179). Humility enables a person to "serve". It is an accurate estimation of self and others that will motivate one to use their talents to serve others (Romans 12:3-8). The humble person is a servant, because they always see their own short-comings and never allow themselves to think that they have "arrived" and thus can rest on past accomplishments. “Each”: This is required of every Christian. “Counting”: “Each person is to practice ‘counting’” (Jackson p. 40). “To calculate, to reckon. It implies a conscious sure judgment resting on carefully weighed facts” (Hawthorne p. 70). “Better than himself”: “Deserving first consideration than himself” (Jackson p. 40). “More important than himself” (NASV).

“Paul is not asking the impossible or the untrue, namely that I am to think that every other Christian, just because he is a Christian, has more brains, more ability, more everything than I have. Nor does Paul ask that we merely ‘consider’ one another above although we know that the facts are quite to the contrary, that a large number are far beneath us” (Lenski p. 767). “The rule does not mean that one must consider every fellow-member to be in every respect wiser, abler, and nobler than himself” (Hendriksen p. 100). It is the attitude that realizes that every member of the body is essential (1 Corinthians 12:1-31), and places the needs of my brother or sister ahead of my own. “Each is to put every other brother first on the list to be considered, himself at the bottom of the list; each one is to have the list arranged in this order. The worldly reverses this: he (individual) comes first, everyone else comes last, and perhaps does not come at all” (Lenski p. 767). Barclay points out, “There is concentration on self. If a man is forever concerned first and foremost with his own interests, he is bound to collide with others. If for him life is a competition whose prizes he must win, he will always think of other human beings as enemies or at least as opponents who must be pushed out of the way. Concentration on self inevitably means elimination of others; and the object of life becomes not to help others up but to push them down “ (pp. 32-33).


Verse 4

Philippians 2:4 “not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others”

“Not”: This verse tells us how we are to consider one another above our own selves. “Looking”: “Present active. Not keeping an eye on the main chance for number one” (Robertson p. 444). “Attentively: fixing the attention upon, with desire for or interest in. Hence often to aim at” (Vincent p. 430). Each of you to his own things”: Self-interest is simply being primarily interested in yourself. "Self" being the main focus of your mental thoughts. “Seek not your private ends alone” (Con). “Stop looking after your own interests only” (Wms). Obviously, this never meant that one can never take care of thier own needs or interests (Ephesians 5:28). Hence, the NASV translators added the word "merely".

“But each of you also to the things of others”: Be impressed with the phrase, "each of you". This level of maturity is not merely required of elders, deacons and preachers, is it required of all members. Looking to the true and best spiritual interests of others, is the foundation of Christian ethics (Galatians 6:2; Romans 15:1-3). “The more one realizes how fervently Christ loved the brother, and went all out to save him, the more he will wish to advance that brother"s interests” (Hendriksen p. 101). “For the Christian there is no road that by-passes his fellowman” (Muller p. 76).

The one mind: The mind of Christ

“Verses 6-11 presents Jesus as the supreme example of the humble, self-sacrificing, self-denying, self-giving service that Paul has just been urging the Philippians to practice in their relations one toward another” (Hawthorne p. 79). Claiming to follow Christ imposes certain obligations upon us. It is fruitless to call oneself a Christian, if one is unwilling to admire and put into practice the example and mind-set of the Jesus that one claims to love (1 John 2:6 “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked”.)


Verse 5

Philippians 2:5 “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”

“Have”: Actually possess it, practice it and do more than merely talk about it. “This”: This attitude, this perspective. “Mind”: “Keep on thinking this in you” (Robertson p. 444). "”Lt., think this in yourselves” (Vincent p. 430). “Think just as Christ Jesus thought” (Beck). “Present tense, a habitual way of thinking and disposition” (Jackson p. 45). The Christian has the ultimate role-model (Matthew 11:29; John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21-23). In addition, God does not require the impossible of us. God does not say, “Imitate the suffering on the cross of Christ”, or, “Imitate His miraculous powers”. Instead the Father gives us a very realistic role-model that all Christians can imitate, that is, the humility, unselfishness, and concern for others that was demonstrated by the Son of God, that is, “His way of thinking, and specifically His humble and unselfish devotion. Paul wishes his readers to cherish a mental attitude. He regarded no sacrifice as too great, no humiliation as too painful. Such humility, such devotion to the interests of others” (Erdman p. 81).

“In you”: Every Christian is required to be "sold on" this mental perspective. “Which was also in Christ Jesus”: Therefore, here is the "incentive" to adopt, cherish and practice such a mental perspective. The Christian who balks at verses , is the Christian who does not think much of His Savour.

The attitude demonstrated


Verse 6

Philippians 2:6 “who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped”

“Who”: Jesus. “Existing”: Many commentators point out the same thing in reference to the tense of the Greek word, rendered "existing". “It is a present tense participle. It denotes to be, to be in existence, involving an existence or condition both previous to the circumstances mentioned in the context, and continuing after it” (Jackson p. 45). “Christ Jesus had always been (and always continues to be) God by nature. The One who in His pre-incarnate state exists in a manner equal with God is the same divine Person who in His incarnate state becomes obedient even to the extent of death” (Hendriksen p. 105). “The present participle of huparcho, to exist, which always involves a pre-existent state, prior to the fact referred to, and a continuance of the state after the fact. Thus in Philippians 2:6, the phrase, ‘Who being (huparchon) in the form of God’, implies His pre-existent Deity, previous to His Birth, and His continued Deity afterwards”. [Note: _ Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. W.E. Vine "Being" p. 116.] An ancient controversy that has in recent years surfaced in the church is the contention that when Jesus came to earth He emptied Himself of His Deity. First of all, the tense of the word "being" (existing) informs us that Jesus did not cease to be God or Divine when He came to earth. I think Jackson is right when he said, “The thing that seems to be at the root of this misunderstanding is a failure to recognize that the Lord"s earthly limitations were not the consequence of a less-than-God nature; rather, they were the result of a self-imposed submission reflecting the exercise of His sovereign will”. [Note: _ "Did Jesus Christ Exist In The "Form of God" While On Earth?". Wayne Jackson. Reason and Revelation. Vol. 15, March 1995 p. 22.] The problem with interpreting Jesus" humble place of submission to the Father, or dependence upon the Father or the Holy Spirit while upon the earth, as being a Jesus with a less-than-God status (John 14:28), is that Jesus is still subject to the Father. The "authority" that Jesus presently has, does not include "authority" over the Father (Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Acts 2:34). The very fact that prayer is to be directed "through" Jesus, to the Father, demonstrates that much (Ephesians 5:20; Ephesians 3:14). Jesus is "at" the right hand of the Father, but He has not taken the Father"s position of authority (Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3). Thus, if "subjection" implies a less-than-God status, is Jesus less than "Divine" even now? Jackson put it this way, “Finally, if it is to be argued that Christ laid aside His status of being in ‘the form of God’ by virtue of His humanness and His subordination to the Father, then one must likewise contend, if consistent, that Jesus does not possess the ‘form of God’ now” (p. 22).

This idea that Jesus was less-than-Divine when He was upon the earth creates many more problems that it solves: If Jesus was just a mere man, than how could He say to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)? Why did He allow people to call Him “God” (John 20:28)? Why did He claim to be God. Note: Jesus did not say, “I used to be God” or, “I will be God again one day”. He was claiming a present Divine status (John 5:18-23). Why did He accept worship while upon the earth, if He was just a man? (Matthew 8:2; Matthew 4:4; Acts 10:25-26; Revelation 22:8-9) How can God cease to be God? I thought one of the essential qualities of God was His unchanging nature (Hebrews 13:8). What about His sacrifice for sins? How can the death of a mere man atone for our sins?

“Form of God”: “Is identified with the essence of a person or thing” (Vincent p. 431). “The essential nature and character of God” (Hawthorne p. 84). “Being in the very nature God” (NIV). “The essential form which never alters” (Barclay p. 35). “The essential attributes” (Robertson p. 444). “Denotes the special or characteristic form or feature of a person or thing” (Vine p. 123). Note that in this context, it does not say that Jesus took the "form" (essential nature) of a man, instead Jesus took the "essential" form of a servant (). Jesus was a man, but He was more than a man (John 1:1; John 1:14). This is another clear statement as to the Divine nature of Jesus Christ. How can one have the "essential attributes of God" and not be God? The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3 “exact representation of His nature”, 1:8).

“Counted not”: Esteem, consider, suppose or think.”And yet He did not see” (Knox). “Yet He did not look upon” (TCNT). We were told earlier in this chapter to "count" others better than ourselves (). Some may ask "Why should I?" The quick response is that Jesus, the Son of God, "counted" us (sinners) more important that His own comfort, rights and privileges.

“Being on an equality with God”: “Did not cling to His prerogatives as God"s equal” (Phi). “Equality”: “Status of divine equality. "Isos" means exactly equal--in number, size, or quality” (Jackson p. 46). Existence in a manner equal with God” (Muller p. 79). “In a manner of equality” (Hendriksen p. 105). “The same in size, number, quality, etc” (Vine p. 38).

“A thing to be grasped”: “As above all things to be clung to” (TCNT). “Grasped”: “To seize or carry off by force. It may have two meanings (a) in the active sense, the act of seizing (b) in the passive sense, a thing held as a prize. "Who though He was subsisting in the essential form of God, yet did not regard His being on an equality of glory and majesty with God as a prize and a treasure to be held fast’” (Vine pp. 215-216 “Prize”). “To be eagerly clung to or retained, a prize to be selfishly hoarded” (Jackson p. 46).

Bruce puts it well when he says, “There is no question of Christ"s trying to snatch or seize equality with God: that was already His because He was in very nature God. Neither is there any question of His trying to retain it by force. The point is rather that He did not treat His equality with God as an excuse for self-assertion or self-aggrandizement; on the contrary, He treated it as an occasion for renouncing every advantage or privilege...as an opportunity for self-impoverishment and unreserved self-sacrifice” (p. 69). Hawthorne reminds us, “Human evaluation may assume ‘that God-likeness means having your own way, getting what you want’, (but) God saw God-likeness essentially as giving and spending oneself out"...This then makes clear that contrary to whatever anyone may think about God, His true nature is characterized not by selfish grabbing; but by an open-handed giving” (p. 85). We often forget that God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He cannot go against His own nature (Hebrews 6:18). I like the point that "being God" does not mean "having your own way". Instead it involves selfless giving (Luke 6:35). God serves us! On a daily basis (Matthew 5:44-45; Acts 14:16-17; Acts 17:25 “neither is He served by human hands...since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things”.) How little do we understand "service". Here is the shot between the eyes. God calls us to serve, because He serves. God expects us to place the needs of others, ahead of our own, because He does that. Hence, serving others is for the mature, the spiritually strong, and those who have character. Unselfishness is the path to true dignity, selfish ambition is the path to immaturity and eternal destruction (Romans 2:8).


Verse 7

Philippians 2:7 “but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men”

“But”: In contrast to the path of selfish ambition and self-interest. “Emptied”: “Impoverished Himself” (TCNT). Side reference NASV, “laid aside His privileges”. Jesus asserted "equality" with God, even while He was upon the earth (John 5:18). Thus, again as we noted previously, Jesus did not cease to be Divine when He became flesh. The Word became flesh (John 1:1; John 1:14), but He did not cease to be the Word. Carefully consider the context of Philippians 2:1-30 and you will find that Jesus did not change "essences", rather He changed "roles". Obviously, Jesus "gave up" much just to come to this earth: He gave up His right of Heavenly glory (John 17:5). He gave up a glorious environment, instead of dwelling in heavenly splendor, in an intimate relationship with the Father (John 1:1); clothed in splendor, Jesus voluntarily assumed a more humble manner of existence. People often forget that "being on an equality with God", means that Jesus was exactly equal with the Father, in all things, power, glory, splendor, and wisdom, yet He assumed a role beneath the Father, and He voluntarily placed Himself under the Father"s authority (John 14:28). Here is the real meaning of the incarnation. Jesus had every "right" to play the role of the Father, but He was not interested in "His rights". Our salvation was more important to Him, than His own comfort, even when such self-sacrifice would cost Him dearly. See 2 Corinthians 8:9.

Hawthorne makes a good point when he says, “Notice the play on words (‘empty opinion’, ‘conceit’, v 3) which characterized those who were demanding their rights and insisting on their own way and (‘to empty’, v 7) which described the attitude and actions of Christ in terms of setting aside His rights and in not insisting on His own way” (p. 86).

“Taking”: Voluntarily and freely (Matthew 20:28). Being "God" to Christ, did not mean "grasping" for every "right", but rather, "taking" and using the opportunity to serve and help mankind that He had created (John 1:1-3). “The form”: The essential nature. “Of a servant”: The essential form or nature that Jesus adopted, was the nature of a servant. He served the Father (John 12:49-50) and mankind (Luke 19:10; John 13:1-15; John 15:12-13). “He did not come on earth as king in the power and splendor of a glorified human nature” (Muller pp. 82-83). Thus serving others takes on a new dignity. “The only person in the world who had the right to assert His rights waived them” (Hendriksen p. 109). “It depicts servitude and subjection, unattractiveness and lack of distinction” (Muller p. 82). “Christ entered the stream of human life as a slave, that is, as a person without advantage, with no rights or privileges of His own for the express purpose of placing Himself completely at the service of all mankind” (Hawthorne p. 87). This should remind us, that the Father did not keep His own Son from "suffering" the pains of living. He was born into poverty (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8). Others misunderstood Him, even His own physical family (John 7:5), and the people of His own hometown (Luke 4:28). He suffered hunger and thirst, and others often financially supported Him (Luke 8:3). He did not own a nice house. He did not have any financial security for the future (Matthew 8:20). He did not always have a warm bed in which to sleep (Matthew 8:24). Often people will complain, “Why did God let this happen to me?” They need to be reminded, “Hey, God didn"t even make life easy for His own Son!” Unfortunately, we often forget that whatever trials, temptations and sufferings that come our way, we deserved much worst! (Ezra 9:13)

“Being made”: Note the contrast with "existing in the form of God" (). Jesus never "became" God, for He always "was" God (John 1:1). “Likeness”: “Likeness of men expresses the fact that His mode of manifestation resembled what men are. This leaves room for the assumption of another side of His nature, but this likeness to men did not express His whole self” (Vincent pp. 433-434). See 2:52; John 1:14; Romans 8:3; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 5:7-8; 1 John 4:2-3. All these verses point out that the humanity of Jesus Christ was not an illusion. I like what Hawthorne said concerning the humanity and Deity of Jesus Christ. “That the one who was God undiminished could also be a human person to the fullest, a truly genuine human being possessing all the potential for physical, mental, social and spiritual growth that is proper to humanity (Luke 2:52), and be both at the same time--divine and human, God and man. Hence, anyone coming to the text, in the hope of interpreting the text, must exercise the same kind of balance and reserve, neither tampering with anything relating to the divinity of Christ, nor calling into question any aspect of the reality of His humanity” (p. 88).


Verse 8

Philippians 2:8 “and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross”

“And being found”: “And being recognized” (Wey). “In fashion”: The external condition. “That which is purely outward and appeals to the senses” (Vincent p. 434). The truth of the last verse is repeated: Jesus actually was a man. “He outwardly appeared as any other human being. There was no halo surrounding Him as He journeyed about!” (Jackson p. 47). The people He interacted with, viewed Him as another human being (Isaiah 53:2-3; Mark 6:3 “Is not this the carpenter?”) Yet, the word "fashion" also admits, that there was more to Jesus that humanity (John 1:18; John 14:9), and various honest people perceived as much (John 7:46; Matthew 16:16). From all external appearances, Jesus had all the characteristics of being a man--He had been born (Luke 2:7), He had grown up (Luke 1:80), He had brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:46), He had learned a trade (Mark 6:3), He had the same physical needs (Matthew 4:2; John 4:6-7). He was social (John 2:1-2). “He had the looks and outward bearing of men. His way of dress, customs and manners resembled those of His contemporaries” (Hendriksen p. 111).

“He humbled Himself”: (). “Becoming obedient even unto death”: He humbled himself, and placed the needs of others ahead of His own, even when He knew that such humility would result in His own loss of life. “Yea”: Even. “The death of the cross”: “Death in its most terrible and revolting form. It was visited upon only the worst of criminals” (Erdman p. 84).

This death involved more than just excruciating pain and suffering. It involved intense shame and humiliation. It was the death reserved for one who was "accursed of God" (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 12:2). “Cicero wrote: ‘Let the very name of the cross be far away not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears. Christ"s death by crucifixion was, therefore, the ultimate in human degradation” (Hawthorne p. 90). “It is difficult for us, after so many centuries to realize the unspeakable horror and disgust that the mention or indeed the very thought of the cross provoked. In polite Roman society the word ‘cross’ was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation” (Bruce p. 71). The obedience of Jesus to the Father and the love for our souls knew no bounds! But does our "obedience" to Jesus and our love for Him and His people have bounds? Erdman notes, “Such a vision is enough to consume all ‘faction’ and ‘vainglory’, and to ‘pour contempt’ on all our pride” (p. 84). “The underlying thought of verses 5-8 is this: Surely, if Christ Jesus humbled himself so very deeply, you Philippians should be constantly willing to humble yourselves in your own small way” (Hendriksen p. 113).


Verse 9

Philippians 2:9 “Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name which is above every name”

“Wherefore”: Because of such self-sacrifice and selflessness. Someone pointed out that Adam and Eve "grasped" at self-interest and lost everything. Jesus humbled Himself and was exalted. This same principle is true in the life of every individual. Jesus pointed out that self-exaltation is not the path to eternal glory (Luke 18:9-14). In fact, Jesus also taught that all "self-grasping" ultimately results in the complete destitution of self (Matthew 16:25). “God”: The Father.

“Highly exalted Him”: See Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23; Hebrews 1:3. “Exalted Him exceedingly” (Alf). Jesus lived by the same rule that He had laid down to others (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11). “The name which is above every name”: “Which stands above all other names” (TCNT). Of course the question is, “What name is under consideration”? From the immediate context, one could equally argue for the names "Jesus" or "Lord", or the complete phrase, "Jesus Christ is Lord" (2:10-11). Various writers remind us that in the ancient world, one"s "name" was always more than a mere designation. The fact that Jesus bears the title "Lord", means that Jesus is Lord, that is, the sovereign of the entire universe (Acts 2:36). Or the fact that He bears the name "Jesus" means that He is the Savior of the world (Matthew 1:23; John 1:29; John 3:16).


Verse 10

Philippians 2:10 “that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth”

“In the name of Jesus”: This does not mean that we must bow every time someone mentions the name "Jesus", instead “in virtue and in recognition of all that He is and of all that He has done” (Erdman p. 86). Everyone is obligated to admit the authority of Jesus Christ and submit to His will. “Every knee should bow”: The Father expects all to "worship" the Son. That demands that Jesus is Divine (Matthew 4:4). “Should”: The Father knows that many will not bow to His Son (Matthew 7:13-14; 2 Peter 3:9). “Things in heaven”: All the angels (Hebrews 1:6). “Things on earth”: All human beings. Carefully note: This is one more Scripture that asserts that Jesus Christ is the only way to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). There is no room for Buddha, Mohammed, Krishna, or other "Lords". The Bible is adamant concerning the fact that one cannot please God and yet at the same time ignore Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:40). “Things under the earth”: Some say evil spirits or the dead. The point being that the whole universe, both spiritual and physical, is to bow before the Son of God.

Right now, we have the choice to submit to Jesus or not. We can of our own freewill humbly and honestly admit the obvious, that Jesus is Lord. But one day, everyone "will" bow (Romans 14:11), and everyone will address and acknowledge Him as "the Lord" (Matthew 7:21-23). Yet then, for some it will be too late. At times we will encounter someone who defiantly claims, “I will never be convinced that Jesus is Divine”. The response of the Christian, “Oh yes you will! There will be no atheists or nonbelievers on the Judgment Day! At this day all contradiction will cease. Every enemy and opponent will be silenced.


Verse 11

Philippians 2:11 “and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”

“Should”: God does not consider it "unrealistic" for people to believe that Jesus is Lord, even though they cannot presently see Him. The evidence of His true nature is clear (John 20:30-31). Only a very limited number of choices are available when it comes to Who Jesus is. He is either a liar or deceiver, a lunatic or the Son of God. No other logical choice exists. Jesus claimed to be God (John 5:18) and that He was the only way to the Father (John 14:6). The option that He was a good man but not God does not exist, because good men do not make false claims. “Confess”: “Here it suggests the idea of man speaking forth the same concept of Christ, as God has affirmed of Him!” (Jackson p. 49). “The sense here is that of frank and open confession” (Vincent p. 436).

To "confess" Christ is much more than just admitting that He lived. Confessing Christ means that one freely admits everything about Jesus that the Bible asserts. This is no half-hearted confession. One either admits that He is the Lord and that He has every right to tell one what to do (Matthew 28:18), that whatever He taught is absolutely right (Luke 6:46), and that one is prepared to give Him the complete and final say in what one will do.

“That Jesus is Lord”: All other confessions, such as, “He lived”, that “He was a religious teacher”, “good man”, or “prophet”, fail to own up to who Jesus really is (Romans 10:9-10). Unfortunately, there exist a number of people who claim to be Christians, who have no intentions of ever confessing such. “One can sit comfortably in an easy chair and ask historical questions without any commitment or moral response. With the historian"s hat on, one can play at the puzzle of trying to understand the sequence of events by which Jesus came to be called Christ, the Son of God. It is possible to raise fine and intriguing historical questions without ever being required to make any personal decision about them. The irony is that when we meet the Jesus of the text, He is constantly calling us to a decision about Him” [Note: _ "The Word of Life". Thomas Oden p. 206]

“To the glory of God the Father”: The only statement about Jesus that honors God is the statement that Jesus is Lord. ”Not the earthly emperor but Jesus Christ is the real Ruler!” (Hendriksen p. 116). In this context, we have two beings that are called God (,11). Hawthorne points out, “Finally it is to be noted that although Jesus bears the name ‘Lord’ the name of God Himself (Lord translates the Old Testament "Yahweh"), and is thus obliquely declared to be God with all the rights and privileges of God. God (the Father) suffers no embarrassment; rather He is glorified for He has planned that this be so” (p. 94). Thus when we confess that Jesus is God we have subtracted nothing from the nature of the Father, rather we have only honored Him, because the Father does have a God-less Son!


Verse 12

Philippians 2:12 “So then, my beloved, even as ye 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”

“So then”: As Christ was obedient, we must be obedient (; Hebrews 5:8-9). “My beloved”: “Paul, however, does not merely issue new commands unfeelingly” (Hawthorne p. 98). “An expression used of Christians ‘bound together by mutual love’” (Jackson p. 49). “You whom Christ loves and I also love, with a love that is deep-seated, thorough-going, intelligent, and purposeful” (Hendriksen p. 119).

The advocates of the "New Hermeneutic" claim that the Epistles were simply "love-letters" to the churches and were never intended to be viewed as containing instruction which was "binding" upon Christians. The above verse reveals that these letters contained a tremendous amount of "love", and yet this "love" commanded Christians to obey the very instructions that made up these letters (; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 14:37). Bruce reminds us, “It must be remembered that Paul was not only the Philippians friend; he was to them the apostle of Jesus Christ” (p. 81).

“Even as ye have always obeyed”: That is, obeyed the commands of God expressed in the gospel message (Romans 6:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14). “He is not using hollow rhetoric as a tool to win their favor” (Hawthorne p. 98). “Paul loves to praise where there is reason for praise” (Lenski p. 796). This congregation (unlike some) had not challenged or questioned His apostolic authority, and from the very beginning the members here had submitted to the commands of God (Acts 16:14-15). Paul fought against "legalism" (Colossians 2:20-22; Galatians 5:1-4), yet Paul never considered "obedience" to the will of God to be "legalistic". “Not as in my presence only”: “There is always a tendency to relax obedience when the spiritual leader is absent” (Lenski pp. 796-797). Remember Paul had not seen the brethren here for at least four or so years, and yet they were still obedient to his teaching (Acts 20:6).

The Philippian church had thus far escaped a temptation that can exist among Christians. These brethren loved Paul, but they did not have all their Christianity wrapped up in him. They realized that their faith was rooted in God, and not in men, even the best of men (1 Peter 1:21 “so that your faith and hope are in God”). Our "faith" is not what it should be if our level of commitment depends upon another human being. These Christians were not sitting around on their hands waiting for the day that “Paul would once again be their preacher”. “But now much more”: Not that much "more" obedience is needed, rather that greater care to obey will need to be exercised in view of Paul"s absence. “In this absence they have to apply themselves with even greater diligence and vigilance to the task of taking heed unto themselves and their spiritual well-being” (Muller p. 91). “In my absence”: Which may or may not be final (2:17,24). “For in my absence even greater zeal and care are necessary” (Vincent p. 437).

Christians can remain faithful, even though they lack the immediate presence of the apostles, and an entire congregation can remain loyal to God in the absence of the apostles. Paul knew that Christians could understand what He wrote (Ephesians 3:3-5), even apart from his personal assistance. God expected this church to have unity (Philippians 2:1-4), remain faithful (2:12), and continue to be doctrinally sound (1:27) in the absence of the apostles. This reveals that division in the church is not due to a "lack of clarity" concerning the Word of God, or the absence of living apostles.

“Work out”: To do work fully, accomplish, and finish. “Work on to the finish” (Robertson p. 446). “Carry out to the goal. Complete” (Vincent p. 437). “Continue to work out, continuous, sustained, and strenuous effort” (Hendriksen p. 120). “Which always has the idea of bringing to completion. It is as if Paul says: ‘Don"t stop halfway’. No Christian should be satisfied with anything less than the total benefits of the gospel” (Barclay p. 41). “Paul in effect commands the Philippians to keep working and never let up until their ‘salvation’ is achieved” (Hawthorne p. 98). “Your own salvation”: “To make sure of your own salvation” (Wey). “Keep on working clear down to the finishing-point of your salvation” (Wms).

This verse infers human free will. Paul does not say "work for" but "work out". One cannot earn or merit eternal life (Luke 17:10), yet man has duties and responsibilities in reference to the salvation given him by God (Romans 6:1 ff; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14-15). The expression your own salvation reminds us that ultimately we have the final say-so over whether we will end up saved or lost. Our cooperation is needed. Barclay reminds us, “Without man"s co-operation, even God is helpless. A man may be ill and the doctor able to prescribe the drugs that will cure him; but the man will not be cured until he takes them and he may stubbornly refuse all persuasion...It is never God who withholds salvation (2 Peter 3:9); it is always man who deprives himself of it (Acts 13:46)” (p. 42). Salvation is a gift, but the Christian must cherish that gift and make the most of it (2 Peter 1:5-11). “In view of this admonition, how could one possibly assert that man is ‘wholly passive’ with reference to his salvation?” (Jackson p. 49).

“With fear and trembling”: “Reverence and awe” (Wms). Compare with Ephesians 6:5. “Used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfill his duty” (Jackson p. 49). “An attitude of due reverence and awe in the presence of God, a sensitivity to His will” (Bruce p. 82). “The words do not denote slavish or cowardly terror, but submission and reverence toward God, and a humble distrust of self. There is something too jaunty and self-confident and flippant in the attitude of many Christians toward their ‘own salvation’. One must be conscious of his own weakness and continual moral peril” (Erdman pp. 88-89). “Wholesome, serious caution. ‘This fear is self-distrust; it is tenderness of conscience; it is vigilance against temptation. It is taking heed lest we fall; it is a constant apprehension of the deceitfulness of the heart. It is the caution and circumspection which timidly shrinks from whatever would offend and dishonor God and the Saviour’” (Vincent p. 437).

Barclay gives the following observations: “It is not the fear and trembling which drives us to hide from God, but rather the fear and trembling which drives us to seek God, in the certainty that without His help we cannot effectively face life. It comes, second, from a horror of grieving God. When we really love a person, we are not afraid of what he may do to us; we are afraid of what we may do to him. The Christian"s great fear is of crucifying Christ again” (p. 43) (Hebrews 6:6; Hebrews 10:29). I like that last comment. Instead of being so concerned about "how we feel", Christians are more concerned about "how God feels".


Verse 13

Philippians 2:13 “for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for His good pleasure”

“For”: Here is incentive for Christians to "work out their own salvation". “God who worketh”: The present tense is here used. “Because God works and has worked, therefore man must and can work” (Hawthorne p. 100). “Both to will and to work”: “Inspiring your will and your action” (Gspd). The previous verse guards against the interpretation that says that God miraculously or mysteriously overrides the free will of individuals. If God does, then is meaningless, that is, there is no way that Christians could fail to obey it.

God "changes" the will of an individual through His revelation to mankind. It is the word of God that changes the direction of a man"s heart and hence the direction of a man"s life (Acts 2:37; Hebrews 4:12; Romans 1:16; Romans 10:17). This verse does not demand that God is "personally" in these believers. We use the same type of language when describing the "influence" for good that a parent has on a child. If I am having a good positive influence on my child, then is could be said that "I am working in them both to will and to work". Jesus pointed out that God is working in the believer only as long as the believer is allowing the word of God to influence their lives (John 8:37; John 15:7). If we listen to the word of God, we will find the strength, the right motives, and the work that we need to be doing for God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

“For His good pleasure”: “To execute His gracious will” (Wey). “To do what He wants” (Beck). This verse reveals that we can tell if an individual is allowing God to influence them or not. What "fruit" is seen in their lives? Are they wanting to do God"s will? Or are they wanting to do their own will? If one is allowing God to work in them, then one will be doing God’s pleasure.


Verse 14

Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without murmurings and questionings”

“Do all things”: Compare with . “One whose faith in God is weak soon falls before the temptations of questioning the will and providence of God and of finding grounds for contention” (Erdman p. 90). This is also true of the selfish man or woman (2:3-4). “Without”: “But obedience may be of two kinds: grudging or voluntary. ‘On the outside I may be sitting down, but on the inside I am still standing up’, said the boy who after repeated admonitions to sit down and finally obeyed’, fearing that otherwise he might be punished” (Hendriksen pp. 124). “True religion is never merely external compliance” (p. 124). The inference from these passages is clear. The Christian who is miserable as a Christian, is the Christian who is still pre-occupied with self (2:3-4). “Murmurings”: A grumbling or grudging. “Used of Israel"s complaining in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:10)” (Jackson p. 50). “Complaining” (Beck). “It is a kind of grumbling action that promotes ill will instead of harmony and good will” (Acts 6:1; 1 Peter 4:9) (Hawthorne p. 101). “Questionings”: “Skeptical doubts and criticisms” (Erdman p. 90). “Intellectual rebellion against God” (Jackson p. 50). “Faultfinding” (Amp). “Submission to God"s will must be inward as well as outward” (P.P. Comm. p. 62). The frustrated or discontented Christian will often look for a “doubt” to free them from God"s obligations.

Muller remarks, “This will demand self-denial and self-renunciation (verses 3 and 4). There must be no opposition or questioning with them who wish to carry into effect the calling of God” (p. 93).


Verse 15

Philippians 2:15 “that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world”

“That”: “All the injunctions Paul lays down upon the Philippians (,4, 12-14) are for a purpose” (Hawthorne p. 101). “Ye”: This would equally apply to every Christian. “May become”: Such a goal is possible for every Christian, yet “may become” is not the same as “automatic” or “unconditional”. “Become implies a process of development. It is part of that salvation which they are to work out” (Erdman p. 91). “Blameless”: “For with believers an outwardly blameless life must couple itself with inward sincerity and purity and simplicity” (Muller p. 93 ). "Blameless" does not mean "sinless" (1 John 1:8-10), instead it describes the type of person who always makes the proper acknowledgement and correction for the sins they commit. “Harmless”: Unmixed, thus innocent. “Unmixed, pure; these two terms describe conduct and motive” (Jackson p. 50). “The Greek implies that which is ‘unmixed’, ‘unadulterated’, or ‘unalloyed’. Their lives are to be all of one piece, not part belonging to God and part to sin and self” (Erdman p. 91). “The word Conveys the idea of simplicity of character, purity, guiltlessness, or innocence” (Hawthorne p. 102). Paul is instructing that there should be “nothing in their hearts and their motives that ought not to be there” (Lenski p. 802).

From the context we learn that being self-assertive, self-centered, bitter, and complaining will frustrate the goal mentioned in this verse. Selfishness will prevent any Christian from having a good reputation among non-Christians and from having pure motives.

“Children of God”: Becoming a child of God is just the beginning. Will we be a child of God that draws people to your Father? Or, will we be a child of God that people use as an excuse for why they do not want to become a Christian? “Without blemish”: “Means unblemished in reputation and in reality” (Vincent p. 439). This context already has revealed what will blemish us. Conflicting motives, impure motives, selfish motives in the heart of any Christian will only result in a Christianity that does not appear to be genuine, because in reality it is not.

“In the midst of”: The modern American landscape is filled with "role-models”, yet it often lacks "good examples". Our "advanced" society is in great need of seeing genuine Christians. “Crooked”: Something that is warped. “Perverse”: To distort or corrupt. “Living in a warped and diseased world” (Phi). The Bible demonstrates that when people twist the truth for their own selfish ends (Romans 1:21-22), they end up wrong on morality as well (Romans 1:24 ff). Twisted thinking leads to twisted living.

Since every generation contains sinners (Romans 3:23), every generation is bound to be crooked and morally perverse (Matthew 12:39; Acts 2:40). This is one more reason why we are not to "love" the world (1 John 2:15). The world is "messed up"!

“Among whom ye are seen”: It is easy to forget that Christians are “seen”. People actually are playing very close attention to the way that we live. “Lights”: It “means any light-bearing body. It was used of a torch, a lantern, even of harbor beacons” (Hawthorne p. 103). “Really means stars, bearers of light” (Muller p. 94). “The word used for ‘lights’ is the same as is used in the creation story of the lights which God set in the firmament (Genesis 1:14-18)” (Barclay p. 44). “These luminaries do not shine for their own sake; they shine to provide light for all the world. The same should be true of Christians: they live for the sake of others” (Bruce p. 85). “In the world”: The world is in desperate need of such "light" (1 John 5:19; Acts 26:18). The "good works" of Matthew 5:14-16, that we are to let "shine" include the good works of “harmony, of selflessness, of service to others” (Hawthorne p. 103). Christians must always remember that they are not the final source for the "light" they reflect. Let"s give God all the credit, and the main point is not "being different" or standing in contrast to the world, instead the important thing is giving the "right" contrast. Our "difference" must be rooted in Scripture and not our own weird opinions. The salvation of our friends and neighbors, in part, depends upon the "signal" we are presently sending. An old expression is "they (we) are the Bible the world reads and studies". The decision to become a Christian is a decision to be a light-bearer (Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5)


Verse 16

Philippians 2:16 “holding forth the word of life; that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain neither labor in vain”

“Holding forth”: The present tense is here used. Either holding forth or holding fast, which really results in the same thing. “To hold forth or hold out” (Robertson p. 447). “To hold before, to hold out to others, like a torch which is held out before the bearer” (Muller p. 94). “The word of life”: The word of God that gives life. We are to hold forth the Word of Life and not our own opinions. When people encounter Christians, they should encounter the gospel message. One cannot hold forth the Word of God, if one does not have any confidence in it. Everybody "holds forth" something! It is impossible to avoid advocating some point of view, so why not admit the fact that our time would be best spent in promoting God"s point of view? “No one would take their message seriously if their way of life was at variance with it. But if they lived in such a way that their neighbors asked what enabled them to lead such lives then they could tell them of the word of life that had revolutionized their attitude and conduct” (Bruce p. 85). The gospel is called the "Word of Life", because spiritual life is not found in any other message (Romans 1:16; Acts 5:20; Acts 13:26).

“That I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ”: “So that I can be proud of you” (Mof). “The fidelity of these saints will result in Paul"s glorying in them...as his ‘pride and joy’” (Jackson p. 50). “Only if they hold fast to this gospel and continually obey its demands will he be able to boast about them to Christ” (Hawthorne p. 104). “In the day of Christ”: That is, the day Christ returns ().

“That I did not run in vain”: Compare with Galatians 2:2. “I did not run my course for nothing” (TCNT). “Neither labor”: “Or toil for nothing” (TCNT). Galatians 4:11 “I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you”. “Laboring indicates exerting oneself in exhausting toil” (Hendriksen p. 126). “To work to the point of weariness” (Jackson p. 50). Paul is very blunt at times. He could only have "pride" in the Philippians at the judgment, if they remained faithful and advanced in spiritual maturity. The following attitudes will not be accepted, “At least I tried for awhile”. “I did more than most, at least I became a Christian and lived the life for sometime”. “I was really on fire there for awhile”. A Christianity that comes up short, does not impress God (Luke 14:28-29; Luke 8:13; 2 Timothy 2:11-13; 2 Peter 2:20-22).


Verse 17

Philippians 2:17 “Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all”

“Yea”: “But even” (NASV). “If I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith”: “Even if my lifeblood must be poured out for a sacrifice to nurture your faith” (Ber) “Sacrifice and service resulting from their faith” (Jackson p. 51). “Even if, when your faith is offered as a sacrifice to God, my life-blood must be poured out in addition” (TCNT). “Offered”: To devote one’s life or blood as a sacrifice. “Lit., I am poured out as a libation 2 Timothy 4:6” (Vincent p. 440). “When a sacrifice, such as a burnt offering with its accompanying cereal offerings, was presented in the temple at Jerusalem, a drink-offering or libation of wine or olive oil might be poured over it or beside it. This was added last, and completed the sacrifice” (Bruce p. 88). This same was true in reference to the offerings of the pagan religions. So the Philippians were familiar with the symbolism here. Most commentators think that Paul is referring to his possible imminent death, yet the tense of the word "offered" is present, that is, something that is happening to Paul when he writes this letter and that will continue to happen. Jackson says, “To make a libation of one"s self by expending energy and life in the service of the Gospel” (p. 51), and yet, this unselfish giving could result in his death. Paul exhorts them and says that he is pouring himself out (“running and “laboring”) for them as well (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Paul reminds the Philippians, lest they begin to feel sorry for themselves, that he is making sacrifices for them too, and such an unselfish spending of himself for them and for all Gentiles, could result in his death. How soon do we forget that, some 2000 years later, we also greatly benefit from the sacrifices that the apostles made? If such men were willing to lay their lives on the line so that generations to come might have the opportunity to read the Word of God and be saved, shouldn"t we at least take the time to invest in our own salvation, not to mention, the salvation of others?

“I joy”: What unselfishness! No bitterness or resentment here (2 Corinthians 12:15). “And rejoice with you all”: “And share the joy of you all” (TCNT). This infers that there was joy among the Philippians for Paul to share in. First Century Christians rejoiced, even when their faith demanded sacrifices of them. Have we restored that aspect of New Testament Christianity? Do we have the spirit of being glad and proud to serve? Of being ready to sacrifice for the souls of others and finding wholesome and true delight in such?


Verse 18

Philippians 2:18 “and in the same manner do ye also joy, and rejoice with me”

“And in the same manner”: “Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (Wey.) Paul did not need pity, instead he wanted Christians to share in his joy of serving God, despite the personal costs. He was doing much good, and the Philippians themselves were some of the fruits of his sacrifices. Why should anyone feel sorry for him? Either way, whether he lived or died, he had a bright future (). Erdman points out, “He held no morbid view of life. He indulged in no sickly sentiment as to death” (pp. 93-94). Here we see some of that like-mindedness that Christians are to have (2:2). We are to equally appreciate service rendered to God. We should be able to rejoice with the person who has overcome self and is able to offer their life as a sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2). We should exclaim, “Job well done!” Hence, Paul"s attitude was not that being a Christian was good despite the hardships, but that being a Christian was good, hardships and all. All of it was well worth it!

Timothy’s upcoming visit

“Paul, the joyful servant of Jesus Christ, the optimistic prisoner, the humble cross-bearer, is also the thoughtful administrator. Even from his prison in Rome he manages in a masterly fashion the spiritual terrain entrusted to his care, so that we marvel at his practical wisdom, gracious consideration of the needs and feelings of others, and delightful unselfishness” (Hendriksen p. 133). “Paul is forced by circumstances to remain away from the church at Philippi, at least temporarily. But in the meantime he has excellent contingency plans” (Hawthorne pp. 108-109).


Verse 19

Philippians 2:19 “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state”

“I hope in the Lord Jesus”: This is a reminder that his plans were subject to the lordship of Jesus Christ. “To accentuate the idea of Christ"s will and lordship and right of disposal over all the apostle"s doings, intentions and expectations” (Muller p. 97). “By this he means that he wants his desire for Timothy to be consistent with whatever the Lord wills in the matter. Paul is keenly aware of the Lord"s providential activity in his life and ministry” (Jackson p. 53). Compare with James 4:15.

“Shortly unto you”: Possibly as soon as the outcome of his trial becomes clearer. “That I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state”: “While his Philippian friends would doubtless be glad to have news of him, he was anxious to have news of them” (Bruce p. 91). Instead of focusing upon his own imprisonment, his mind is on the needs of others. Paul wants to hear about them, and he would rather have the Philippians be the "topic" of conversation, than his own situation. Remember, Timothy was a very valuable and encouraging worker for the Lord. Another man might have argued, “I need Timothy more than you do”.


Verse 20

Philippians 2:20 “For I have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state”

“For”: The reason he is sending Timothy. “I have no man likeminded”: “As interested as I am” (Lam). “As near of my own attitude” (Ber). “It is as if Paul were saying, ‘You, Philippians, must not be disappointed if upon my release I cannot in person immediately come to see you. No one is better qualified and more favorably disposed (than Timothy)’” (Hendriksen p. 134). “Care truly for your state”: “Who would take a genuine interest in your welfare” (TCNT). “Paul knows of no messenger whom he can dispatch, who will be as ‘in tune’ with the saints at Philippi, as will Timothy” (Jackson p. 55). “There is no hypocrisy in this youth” (Jackson p. 55). Paul intends to make clear to the Philippians that whatever Timothy says in his mission to Philippi and whatever decisions he makes will be his (Paul"s) as well, and no one should oppose the disciple (1 Corinthians 4:16). Timothy had assisted in founding the church in Philippi (Acts 16:1 ff). In addition, he had visited them since (Acts 19:22). Paul and his companions practice what has been written to the Philippians (2:3-4). “Paul has encouraged them to look out for ‘the interests of others’; these words of his will be reinforced by Timothy"s example” (Bruce p. 92). “Paul has been urging upon the Philippians the necessity of self-forgetful, humble service. The supreme example given has been that of Christ. However, Paul has expressed his own willingness to die in the service of his friends; and now he mentions two companions whose lives have been devoted to sympathetic care” (Erdman p. 95).


Verse 21

Philippians 2:21 “For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ”

“For they all seek their own”: “They are all pursuing their own aims” (TCNT). “Everyone else seems to be worrying about his own plans” (Tay). This is not intended to refer to all the Christians that Paul knew, because Paul commends other Christians around the same time that he wrote this letter (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7-14). From Philippians 1:15-17 we have already learned that not every Christian in Rome was inspired by the highest motives. Hendriksen adds, “And so also, the very people whose names had momentarily occurred to Paul when the decision was made to send someone to Philippi, either had offered excuses or upon further reflection were simply dismissed from the apostle"s mind as spiritually unqualified” (p. 136). “Paul had found, in all probability, that when he proposed to some that they should visit far-distant Philippi (some 600 miles distant), they all shrank, making various excuses.

Hendriksen notes, “But is it not true that upon his release Paul would like nothing better than to keep Timothy in his own immediate company? Was not Timothy the man whom Paul could least afford to spare? True, but in his mind and heart the apostle had already decided on this personal sacrifice. And this willingness always to subordinate his own immediate interests to those of the kingdom (1 Corinthians 10:33) also explains why the apostle can use such strong language with respect to those who are of an opposite disposition. Thus later also, during his second and far more severe Roman imprisonment, he was not selfishly going to try to keep around him as many friends as possible (2 Timothy 4:10-12)” (pp. 134-135).


Verse 22

Philippians 2:22 “But ye know the proof of him, that, as a child serveth a father he served with me in furtherance of the gospel”

“The proof”: “The trials which have proved his worth” (Con). “What Timothy has proved himself to be” (TCNT). “His proved character” (ABUV). “But his quality is clear to you” (Bas). “They knew how severely at Philippi he had been tried and how nobly he had survived the ordeal” (Erdman p. 98). “Proved reliability” (Muller p. 99). “Thus they should realize immediately that no ‘mediocre substitute’ was being sent to them” (Hawthorne p. 111). “As a child serveth a father”: “An intense illustration stressing love and faithfulness” (Jackson p. 56). Compare with 1 Timothy 1:2 and 2 Timothy 1:2. “He served with me”: “But Paul not only says that Timothy worked side by side with him, but as a son works alongside his father. The picture is drawn from the world of Paul"s day where it was expected that a son should learn his trade from his father. The Philippians knew, therefore, that Timothy was coming to them having learned all that Paul could teach him. He was coming to them to express exactly the apostle"s mind” (Hawthorne p. 111). See 1 Corinthians 4:17 and 2 Timothy 3:10-11). Barclay notes, “Timothy"s value was that he was always willing to go anywhere; and in his hands a message was as safe as if Paul had delivered it himself. Others might be consumed with selfish ambition; but Timothy"s one desire was to serve Paul and Jesus Christ” (p. 48). What an example to follow! Timothy was a very gifted and talented young man, but he was content to serve with Paul in spreading the gospel. He did not feel compelled to invent his own brand of Christianity.

“In furtherance of the gospel”: “He had toiled with me like a slave in preaching the good news” (Wms).


Verse 23

Philippians 2:23 “Him therefore I hope to send forthwith, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me”

“Forthwith”: “Without delay” (Con). “Immediately” (NASV). “So soon as I shall see how it will go with me”: “As soon as” (NASV). “The result of the trial would probably become sufficiently evident some time before judgment was finally pronounced” (Bruce p. 93). “Once the verdict has been announced, the Philippians, far from being left in the dark, will be informed by no one less than beloved Timothy, who will carry the news to them without any delay” (Hendriksen pp. 136-137).


Verse 24

Philippians 2:24 “but I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall come shortly”

“Thus calmly does Paul await the decision. Thus fearlessly does he look into the unknown future. Busy with his task, interested in the welfare of his fellow Christians. However, he waits in an attitude of hope. He has no weak longing to die, no cowardly desire to escape from the ills of life” (Erdman p. 99). “As always, his plans for the future were subject to the wishes of his Lord and master. Hence, he could rest easy without worry. The problem of his future was not his to solve, but his Lord"s” (Hawthorne p. 113). Paul is confident that he will be released (), and yet is willing to submit to whatever future the Lord has in store for him. Paul has that underlying conviction that God is good and that he is willing to patiently wait for God"s providence to unfold, even if that means he must die.

The return of Epaphroditus


Verse 25

Philippians 2:25 “But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need”

“I counted it necessary”: “Yet I deem it important” (Wey). It is easy to overlook why this explanation was necessary. Some in Philippi might complain, “Why did you (Epaphroditus) leave Paul? Especially in view of the fact that the verdict was not in yet?” Paul is saying, “Let no one say, ‘How shameful for you to have acted contrary to the charge which we gave you, and to have deserted Paul at the very time when that honored prisoner, who is awaiting a life-or-death verdict needs you most’ Says Paul, as it were, ‘Bear in mind, Philippians, that Epaphroditus is returning to you because I myself consider it necessary to send him back to you’” (Hendriksen p. 140). “Epaphroditus”: “Little is known of this good man. He obviously was from a pagan background for his Greek name corresponds to the Latin, Venustus (belonging to Venus)” (Jackson p. 56). Hawthorne observes, “It is interesting to observe that although it embodies the name of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility--the personification of the sexual instinct--who was worshipped throughout almost all of the Greek world, no believer, not even the apostle Paul, demanded that (he) change his pagan idolatrous name” (pp. 115-116). “My brother”: A member of the same spiritual family. “Fellow-worker”: United with Paul in the effort to spread the gospel. Could Paul honestly refer to us as fellow-workers?

“Fellow-soldier”: “A worker must needs to a warrior, for in the work of the gospel one encounters many foes” (Hendriksen p. 139). “Epaphroditus was one with Paul in sympathy, one with him in work, one with him in danger. He in truth has stood in the firing-line” (Barclay p. 49). “Your messenger”: Epaphroditus had brought financial assistance from Philippi to Paul (). “Minister to my need”: This probably suggests that in addition to delivering their financial support, Epaphroditus had also been sent to take care of whatever needs Paul might have. Erdman points out, “The word minister describes one who is engaged in a ‘priestly service’. Thus does Paul, with true spiritual insight, express the real dignity of all tasks undertaken in the name of Christ and in his service. Epaphroditus was probably engaged chiefly in humble or menial tasks in providing for the physical needs of the apostle” (p. 101). See Matthew 25:31-46. “Paul is making it easy for Epaphroditus to go home. It is touching to think of Paul, himself in the very shadow of death, in prison and awaiting judgment, showing such Christian consideration for Epaphroditus. He was facing death, and yet it mattered to him that Epaphroditus should not meet with embarrassment when he went home. Paul was a true Christian in his attitude to others; for he was never so immersed in his own troubles that he had no time to think of the troubles of his friends” (Barclay p. 50).


Verse 26

Philippians 2:26 “Since he longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick”

“He longed after you all”: “To year for” (Jackson p. 58). “And was sore troubled”: “Distressed” (Mon). “Depressed, full of sorrow” (Jackson p. 58). “Interestingly, this distress seems to have been caused by Epaphroditus" anxiety for the Philippian"s anxiety for him upon their learning that he was sick” (Hawthorne p. 117). “Because ye had heard that he was sick”: Lenski notes, “What worried the sick man was the fact that the people who had sent him, probably at considerable expense to themselves, to do so much for Paul, heard that all their good plans had failed, had only put a further burden on Paul instead of relieving his other burdens” (p. 821-822). “Epaphroditus was depressed because the folks in Philippi were anxious about him, and Paul was concerned about their worry over this courageous Christian man. What a wonderful circle of concern! Would that more saints were as sympathetic to the feelings of their brethren” (Jackson p. 58).


Verse 27

Philippians 2:27 “for indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow”

“He was sick nigh unto death”: “He had a sickness which brought him almost to death” (Con). “I can assure you that his illness very nearly proved fatal” (TCNT). “God had mercy on Him”: He had recovered.

“Here is an interesting question: since Paul had miraculous powers, why did he not just heal the brother and be done with the matter? Because spiritual gifts were not employed in that manner” (Jackson p. 58). Other verses also point out that the spiritual gifts had a higher purpose than mere personal benefit (1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20). Notice nothing is said that this healing was miraculously accomplished, rather God can also heal through His providential workings as well. “That I might not have sorrow upon sorrow”: “Sorrow coming upon sorrow, as wave after wave” (Vincent p. 441). “The sorrow of losing him to add to my sufferings” (Phi).


Verse 28

Philippians 2:28 “I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful”

“I have sent him therefore the more diligently”: “The more promptly” (Rhm. “With special urgency” (Jackson p. 58). That is sooner than Paul had originally intended and sooner than the Philippians were expecting him to come back. Because of this serious illness and their concern for him, Paul decides that his swift return would be the best thing for all involved. “That”: The purpose being. “When ye see him again, ye may rejoice”: That this beloved brother of theirs is alive and well. “And that I may be the less sorrowful”: “I may feel more relieved” (Gspd). “Paul himself would be the more relieved to think of the mutual joy that Epaphroditus and his friends in Philippi would experience when they were safely reunited” (Bruce p. 97). “It is the expectation of their joy which makes him glad. There is a certain sublimity of unselfishness in the case of one who finds relief in a personal loss by which others are to gain” (Erdman p. 103).


Verse 29

Philippians 2:29 “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy; and hold such in honor”

“Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy”: “Give him a hearty Christian welcome” (Wms). “And hold such in honor”: “Hold in honor men like him” (Wms). The word honor means “prized” or “precious”, meaning that men like this are rare! No disrespect is to be shown to this man because he came back “early” from this trip (1 Corinthians 16:15-18).


Verse 30

Philippians 2:30 “because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me”

“Because”: Here is one more reminder of his personal sacrifice. “For the work of Christ”: In contrast, to ones own personal gain or agenda. “Hazarding His life”: Exposing himself to danger. “The word hazarding is a very dramatic term. It is a gambler"s term. It means to risk. In the days of the Early Church there was an association of men and women called the gamblers. It was their aim and object to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases” (Jackson p. 59). “Such a word brings its own challenge and rebuke to an easy-going Christianity which makes no stern demands, and calls for no limits of self-denying, self-effacing sacrifice” (Hawthorne p. 120).

“To supply that which was lacking in your service toward me”: “To do for me in person what distance prevented you all from doing” (Phi). “That which you would have done if you could, he did for you--therefore receive him with all joy” (Alford p. 1269). “Lacking”: This is not a term of rebuke, rather Paul praises Epaphroditus and the whole congregation that sent him. He had simply done "in person", what they wanted to, but circumstances prevented all of them from doing. Hence in this chapter we have four examples of the attitude expressed in : Jesus (2:5-8); Timothy (2:19-24); Epaphroditus (2:25-30) and of course Paul who had unselfishly sent both of these beloved and needed co-workers. In view of such examples, the qualities demanded in 2:3-4 look very appealing.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Philippians 2:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/philippians-2.html. 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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