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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 1

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-26

1 This epistle was not written by Paul and Timothy in the character of apostles , but slaves . This is important, as it gives us a key to the character of the whole letter. The mention of the overseers, or supervisors, and servants leads to the same conclusion. The grace also is from the Lord . If we keep this in mind it will greatly simplify the understanding of difficult portions of the epistle.


A contribution, in its scriptural sense, is a sharing in common. The servant of God shares with the saints what he has received from God, and his hearers share with him the material wealth which they have obtained. How refreshing it is to see the intimate interest of the Philippians in Paul's welfare and the mutual love which made their intercourse so delightful to read about after all these years! Here we have a picture of the ideal relations between the Lord's saints and those of His slaves who are seeking to defend the evangel. There is greater need now than in Paul's day. The evangel needs to be recovered before it can be confirmed or defended. God still uses such miserable means as an imprisoned apostle to make it known.


12 When Paul was taken to Rome he was permitted to dwell by himself with a soldier who guarded him. He had liberty to speak to the chief Jews and he delivered the final kingdom message to them. And then he lived two whole years in a rented house and received all who came to him. He spoke with all boldness and no one forbade him ( Act_28:16-21 ). These unusual privileges proved plainly, as the incidents on the voyage had already shown, that he was indeed a "prisoner of the Lord " ( Eph_4:1 ). His bonds were "in Christ " and, though they were designed to put a stop to the evangel, they aided its progress. Hitherto Paul had worked to support himself, now he was free to give all his time to the Lord's service. He evidently reached some in the very household of Caesar ( Php_4:22 ).

16 Paul was located at Rome, at the very center of government, where his influence, even though he was a prisoner, especially among Caesar's retinue, was doubtless used by God to control the opposition to the evangel. How like Him to station the defender of the faith in the very citadel of His enemies!


20 The historical record emphasizes the fact that Paul taught the things which concern our Lord Jesus Christ "with all boldness , unforbidden" ( Act_28:31 ).

21 If Paul lived, his efforts would further the fame of Christ: if he died a martyr's death, even that would be gain for the cause of Christ, for the martyrs proved to be the seed of the church. Paul could not be thinking of his own gain in this connection.

23 A martyr's death would claim a martyr's reward, yet Paul lived at least two years at Rome, writing his letters from thence. Undoubtedly there has been more fruit from this work than from all of his previous service.

23 The solution of Paul's dilemma, life or death (neither of which he would choose because of his longing for another, much better condition) is the resurrection life with Christ. This "solution" might be referred to the dissolution of his body at death ( 2Ti_4:6 ) if it were not set in contrast with death. The same term is used in Luk_12:36 of the breaking up of a wedding party. Words used in the physical sense are often used in a metaphysical sense in the epistles. We dissolve material things but solve spiritual problems.

Verses 27-30

Participation in the Evangel

27 The citizenship or enfranchisement here referred to is celestial, not terrestrial.


29 It is our privilege to enjoy the sufferings which come to us in seeking to do God's work, for they are not, as we are wont to think, a token of His displeasure, but a favor which is granted to the few who are faithful in the performance of His will.


This division takes up the body of the epistle, setting before us the four models, Christ, Timothy, Epaphroditus and Paul, mingled with exhortations to imitate their example.


1 Our conduct should reflect the unselfish humility of Christ, considering others and their honor rather than our own.


6 Form denotes outward appearance, as is shown by Paul's use of it in the contrast, "having a form of devoutness, yet denying its power" ( 2Ti_3:5 ). We have found it impossible to sustain the idea that it refers to intrinsic essence. Figure or fashion denotes the form prevailing at any time. Christ was the Image of God, the visible representation of the Deity. Paul himself saw Him on the Damascus road in celestial glory. Yet the form in verse Php_2:6 was laid aside for that of a slave, at His incarnation. Adam and his progeny seek to exalt themselves and will be humbled. But Christ, Who might easily assume the place of equality with God, found His delight in submission and humiliation.

The ending -mos of the word for pillaging denotes the act, not the object of pillage. When He was in the form of God His glory was too bright to be gazed upon by men. The apostle John presents Him as the audible Word, but Paul shows Him as the visible Image of the Deity, too bright for mortal gaze and seen only by our spiritual perception. As such He is seen in this epistle.

7 Empties cannot refer to a partial relinquishment of His previous state, but a total change of form, in which none of God's glory was apparent to the physical sight.

The Example of Christ

The enormous sweep of this synopsis of Christ's service and suffering takes in the whole universe and all the eons, from the beginning to the consummation. Being in the form of God, He was above the heavens, under the curse of the cross He was beneath all. Yet, as He voluntarily descended from the highest to the lowest place, so, too, shall be His exaltation. Every tongue will acclaim Him Lord for God the Father's glory. This cannot be until every heart will have been subdued at the consummation ( 1Co_15:28 ). Until then there are enemies who oppose His rule. Ever since His resurrection God has been engaged in His exaltation. Even now, many celestial powers are subordinate to Him ( 1Pe_3:22 ). When He comes again the earth will be added to His domain, until finally the whole universe will be reconciled to God by the blood of His cross ( Col_1:20 ). This is His reward. It is as Jesus (Jehovah the Saviour), the name of His humiliation, that He will be exalted to the place supreme. He Who was lowest shall become the highest.


12 There is no question here of sinners working for salvation. This is an exhortation to saints to make the salvation they have effective in their daily life and action.

16 The "word of life", or a living expression of the evangel consists in conduct so consistent with it that the life alone will proclaim the spirit of the message apart from its formal announcement. Christ, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus were living expressions, for their service and sufferings exemplify its message.

17 The priest in Israel, officiating at the altar, poured a libation, usually of wine, upon the sacrifice ( Num_15:5 ). Paul wished to be the libation on their sacrifice.


19 Timothy was the ideal servant. Though himself suffering with infirmities, he was not concerned about himself but took a genuine interest in the saints whom he served.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Philippians 1". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/philippians-1.html. 1968.
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