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This chapter Philippians 4:0 comprises the following points:
- Solemn commands to live as became Christians.
- The expression of a grateful acknowledgment of the favors which he had received from them; and,
- The customary salutations.
I. Exhortations; Philippians 4:1-50.4.3.
(1)He exhorts them to stand fast in the Lord; Philippians 4:1.
(2)He entreats Euodias and Syntyche, who appear to have been alienated from each other, to be reconciled; Philippians 4:2.
(3)He entreats one whom he calls a “true yoke-fellow” to render assistance to those women who had labored with him in the gospel; Philippians 4:3.
II. Commands; Philippians 4:4-50.4.9. He commands them to rejoice in the Lord always, Philippians 4:4; to let their moderation be known to all, Philippians 4:5; to have no anxiety about worldly matters, but in all their necessities to go to God, Philippians 4:6-50.4.7; and to do whatever was honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, Philippians 4:8-50.4.9.
III. A grateful acknowledgment of their kindness; Philippians 4:10-50.4.19. He says that their care of him had been manifested again, in such a way as to be highly grateful to his feelings; Philippians 4:10. He did not indeed say that he had suffered, for he had learned, in whatever state he was, to be content Philippians 4:11-50.4.13; but they had shown a proper spirit in endeavoring to relieve his necessities;Philippians 4:14; Philippians 4:14. He remarks that their church was the only one that had aided him when he was in Macedonia, and that they had sent to him more than once when he was in Thessalonica, and says that their favor now was an offering acceptable to God, who would abundantly reward them; Philippians 4:15-50.4.20.
IV. Salutations; Philippians 4:21-50.4.23.
Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for - Doddridge unites this verse with the previous chapter, and supposes that it is the proper close of the solemn statement which the apostle makes there. The word “therefore” - ὥστε hōste - has undoubted reference to the remarks made there; and the meaning is, that in view of the fact that there were many professed Christians who were not sincere - that the “citizenship” of all true Christians was in heaven, and that Christians looked for the coming of the Lord Jesus, who would make them like to himself, the apostle exhorts them to stand fast in the Lord. The accumulation of epithets of endearment in this verse shows his tender regard for them, and is expressive of his earnest solicitude for their welfare, and his deep conviction of their danger. The term “longed for” is expressive of strong affection; see Philippians 1:8, and Philippians 2:26.
My joy - The source of my joy. He rejoiced in the fact that they had been converted under him; and in their holy walk, and their friendship. Our chief joy is in our friends; and the chief happiness of a minister of the gospel is in the pure lives of those to whom he ministers; see 3 John 1:4.
And crown - Compare 1 Thessalonians 2:19. The word “crown” means a circlet, chaplet, or diadem:
(1)As the emblem of royal dignity - the symbol of office;
(2)As the prize conferred on victors in the public games, 1 Corinthians 9:25, and hence, as an emblem of the rewards of a future life; 2 Timothy 4:8; Jam 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4;
(3)Anything that is an ornament or honor, as one glories in a crown; compare Proverbs 12:4, “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband;” Proverbs 14:24, “The crown of the wise is their riches;” Proverbs 16:31, “The hoary head is a crown of glory;” Proverbs 17:6, “Children’s children are the crown of old men.”
The idea here is, that the church at Philippi was that in which the apostle gloried. He regarded it as a high honor to have been the means of founding such a church, and he looked upon it with the same interest with which a monarch looks upon the diadem which he wears.
So stand fast in the Lord - In the service of the Lord, and in the strength which he imparts; see the notes at Ephesians 6:13-49.6.14.
I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche - These are doubtless the names of females. The name Syntyche is sometimes the name of a man; but, if these persons are referred to in Philippians 4:3, there can be no doubt that they were females. Nothing more is known of them than is here mentioned. It has been commonly supposed that they were deaconesses, who preached the gospel to those of their own sex; but there is no certain evidence of this. All that is known is, that there was some disagreement between them, and the apostle entreats them to be reconciled to each other.
That they be of the same mind - That they be united, or reconciled. Whether the difference related to doctrine, or to something else, we cannot determine from this phrase. The language is such as would properly relate to any difference.
In the Lord - In their Christian walk and plans. They were doubtless professing Christians, and the apostle exhorts them to make the Lord the great object of their affections, and in their regard for him, to bury all their petty differences and animosities.
And I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow - It is not known to whom the apostle refers here. No name is mentioned, and conjecture is useless. All that is known is, that it was someone whom Paul regarded as associated with himself in labor, and one who was so prominent at Philippi that it would be understood who was referred to, without more particularly mentioning him. The presumption, therefore. is, that it was one of the ministers, or “bishops” (see the notes at Philippians 1:1) of Philippi, who had been particularly associated with Paul when he was there. The Epistle was addressed to the “church with the bishops and deacons” Philippians 1:1; and the fact that this one had been particularly associated with Paul, would serve to designate him with sufficient particularity. Whether he was related to the women referred to, is wholly unknown. Doddridge supposes that he might be the husband of one of these women; but of that there is no evidence. The term “yoke-fellow” - συζυγος suzugos - some have understood as a proper name (Syzygus); but the proper import of the word is yoke-fellow, and there is no reason to believe that it is used here to denote a proper name. If it had been, it is probable that some other word than that used here and rendered “true” - γνήσιος gnēsios - would have been employed. The word “true” - γνήσιος gnēsios - means that he was sincere, faithful, worthy of confidence. Paul had had evidence of his sincerity and fidelity; and he was a proper person, therefore, to whom to entrust a delicate and important business.
Help those women - The common opinion is, tidal the women here referred to were Euodias and Syntyche, and that the office which the friend of Paul was asked to perform was, to secure a reconciliation between them. There is, however, no certain evidence of this The reference seems rather to be to influential females who had rendered important assistance to Paul when he was there. The kind of “help” which was to be imparted was probably by counsel, and friendly cooperation in the duties which they were called to perform, There is no evidence that it refers to pecuniary aid; and, had it referred to a reconciliation of those who were at variance, it is probable that some other word would have been used than that rendered here as “help” - συλλαμβάνου sullambanou.
Which laboured with me in the gospel - As Paul did not permit women to preach (see 1 Timothy 2:12; compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 10:5), he must have referred here to some other services which they had rendered. There were deaconesses in the primitive churches (see the Romans 16:1 note; 1 Timothy 5:9., note), to whom was probably entrusted particularly the care of the female members of a church. In the custom which prevailed in the oriental world, of excluding females from the public gaze, and of confining them to their houses, it would not be practicable for the apostles to have access to them. The duties of instructing and exhorting them were then probably entrusted chiefly to pious females; and in this way important aid would be rendered in the gospel. Paul could regard such as “laboring with him,” though they were not engaged in preaching.
With Clement also - That is, they were associated with Clement, and with the other fellow-laborers of Paul, in aiding him in the gospel. Clement as doubtless someone who was well known among them; and the apostle felt that, by associating them with him, as having been real helpers in the gospel, their claim to respectful attention would be better appreciated. Who Clement was, is unknown. Most of the ancients say it was Clement of Rome, one of the primitive fathers. But there is no evidence of this. The name Clement was common, and there is no improbability in supposing that there might have been a preacher of this name in the church at Philippi.
Whose names are in the book of life - see the notes at Isaiah 4:3. The phrase, “the book of life,” which occurs here, and in Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:19, is a Jewish phrase, and refers originally to a record or catalogue of names, as the roll of an army. It then means to be among the living, as the name of an individual would be erased from a catalog when he was deceased. The word “life” here refers to eternal life; and the whole phrase refers to those who were enrolled among the true friends of God, or who would certainly be saved. The use of this phrase here implies the belief of Paul that these persons were true Christians. Names that are written in the book of life will not be blotted out. If the hand of God records them there who can obliterate them?
Rejoice in the Lord alway - see the notes at Philippians 3:1. It is the privilege of Christians to do this, not at certain periods and at distant intervals, but at all times they may rejoice that there is a God and Saviour; they may rejoice in the character, law, and government of God - in his promises, and in communion with him. The Christian, therefore, may be, and should be, always a happy man. If everything else changes, yet the Lord does not change; if the sources of all other joy are dried up, yet this is not; and there is not a moment of a Christian’s life in which he may not find joy in the character, law, and promises of God.
Let your moderation be known unto all men - That is, let it be such that others may see it. This does not mean that they were to make an ostentatious display of it, but that it should be such a characteristic of their lives that it would be constantly visible to others. The word “moderation” - ἐπιεικὲς epieikes - refers to restraint on the passions, general soberness of living, being free from all excesses. The word properly means that which is fit or suitable, and then propriety, gentleness, mildness - They were to indulge in no excess of passion, or dress, or eating, or drinking. They were to govern their appetites, restrain their temper, and to be examples of what was proper for people in view of the expectation that the Lord would soon appear.
The Lord is at hand - Is near; see the Philippians 3:20 note; 1 Corinthians 16:22 note. This has the appearance of being a phrase in common use among the early Christians, and as being designed to keep before their minds a lively impression of an event which ought, by its anticipation, to produce an important effect. Whether, by this phrase, they commonly understood the coming of the Lord to destroy Jerusalem, or to remove them by death, or to judge the world, or to reign personally on the earth, it is impossible now to determine, and is not very material to a proper understanding of its use here. The idea is, that the expectation that the Lord Jesus will “come,” ought to be allowed to produce moderation of our passions, in our manner of living, in our expectations of what this world can furnish, and in our desires of earthly good. On him who feels that he is soon to die, and to stand at the bar of God - on him who expects soon to see the Lord Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven, it cannot fail to have this effect. People indulge their passions - are extravagant in their plans of life, and in their expectations of earthly good for themselves and for their families, because they have no realizing sense of the truth that there is before them a vast eternity. He that has a lively expectation that heaven will soon be his, will form very moderate expectations of what this world can furnish.
Be careful for nothing - That is, be not anxious or solicitous about the things of the present life. The word used here - μεριμνᾶτε merimnate - does not mean that we are to exercise no care about worldly matters - no care to preserve our property, or to provide for our families (compare 1 Timothy 5:8); but that there is to be such confidence in God as to free the mind from anxiety, and such a sense of dependence on him as to keep it calm; see the subject explained in the notes on Matthew 6:25.
But in everything - Everything in reference to the supply of your wants, and the wants of your families; everything in respect to afflictions, embarrassments, and trials; and everything relating to your spiritual condition. There is nothing which pertains to body, mind, estate, friends, conflicts, losses, trials, hopes, fears, in reference to which we may not go and spread it all out before the Lord.
By prayer and supplication - The word rendered “supplication” is a stronger term than the former. It is the mode of prayer which especially arises from the sense of “need,” or “want” - from δέομαι deomai, “to want, to need.”
With thanksgiving - Thanksgiving connected with prayer. We can always find something to be thankful for, no matter what may be the burden of our wants, or the special subject of our petitions. When we pray for the supply of our wants, we may be thankful for that kind providence which has hitherto befriended us; when we pray for restoration from sickness, we may be thankful for the health we have hitherto enjoyed, and for God’s merciful interposition in the former days of trial, and for his goodness in now sparing our lives; when we pray that our children and friends may be preserved from danger and death, we may remember how often God has interposed to save them; when, oppressed with a sense of sin, we pray for pardon, we have abundant cause of thanksgiving that there is a glorious way by which we may be saved. The greatest sufferer that lives in this world of redeeming love, and who has the offer of heaven before him, has cause of gratitude.
Let your request be made known unto God - Not as if you were to give him information, but to express to him your wants. God needs not to be informed of our necessities, but he requires that we come and express them to him; compare Ezekiel 36:37. “Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.”
And the peace of God - The peace which God gives. The peace here particularly referred to is that which is felt when we have no anxious care about the supply of our needs, and when we go confidently and commit everything into the hands of God. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee;” Isaiah 26:3; see the notes at John 14:27.
Which passeth all understanding - That is, which surpasses all that people had conceived or imagined. The expression is one that denotes that the peace imparted is of the highest possible kind. The apostle Paul frequently used terms which had somewhat of a hyperbolical cast (see the notes on Ephesians 3:19; compare John 21:25, and the language here is that which one would use who designed to speak of that which was of the highest order. The Christian, committing his way to God, and feeling that he will order all things aright, has a peace which is nowhere else known. Nothing else will furnish it but religion. No confidence that a man can have in his own powers; no reliance which he can repose on his own plans or on the promises or fidelity of his fellow-men, and no calculations which he can make on the course of events, can impart such peace to the soul as simple confidence in God.
Shall keep your hearts and minds - That is, shall keep them from anxiety and agitation. The idea is, that by thus making our requests known to God, and going to him in view of all our trials and wants, the mind would be preserved from distressing anxiety. The way to find peace, and to have the heart kept from trouble, is thus to go and spread out all before the Lord; compare Isaiah 26:3-23.26.4, Isaiah 26:20; Isaiah 37:1-23.37.7. The word rendered here “shall keep,” is a military term, and means that the mind would be guarded as a camp or castle is. It would be preserved from the intrusion of anxious fears and alarms.
Through Christ Jesus - By his agency, or intervention. It is only in him that the mind can be preserved in peace. It is not by mere confidence in God, or by mere prayer, but it is by confidence in God as he is revealed through the Redeemer, and by faith in him. Paul never lost sight of the truth that all the security and happiness of a believer were to be traced to the Saviour.
Finally, brethren - As for what remains - τὸ λοιπὸν to loipon - or as a final counsel or exhortation.
Whatsoever things are true - In this exhortation the apostle assumes that there were certain things admitted to be true, and pure, and good, in the world, which had not been directly revealed, or which were commonly regarded as such by the people of the world, and his object is to show them that such things ought to be exhibited by the Christian. Everything that was honest and just toward God and toward people was to be practiced by them, and they were in all things to be examples of the highest kind of morality. They were not to exhibit partial virtues; not to perform one set of duties to the neglect or exclusion of others; not to be faithful in their duties to God, and to neglect their duty to people, not to be punctual in their religious rites, and neglectful of the comment laws of morality; but they were to do everything that could be regarded as the fair subject of commendation, and that was implied in the highest moral character. The word true refers here to everything that was the reverse of falsehood. They were to be true to their engagements; true to their promises; true in their statements; and true in their friendships. They were to maintain the truth about God; about eternity; about the judgment; and about every man’s character. Truth is a representation of things as they are; and they were constantly to live under the correct impression of objects. A man who is false to his engagements, or false in his statements and promises, is one who will always disgrace religion.
Whatsoever things are honest - σεμνὰ semna. Properly, venerable, reverend; then honorable, reputable. The word was originally used in relation to the gods, and to the things that pertained to them, as being worthy of honor or veneration - Passow. As applied to people, it commonly means grave, dignified, worthy of veneration or regard. In the New Testament it is rendered “grave” in 1Ti 3:8, 1 Timothy 3:11, and Titus 2:2, the only places where the word occurs except this; and the noun (σεμνότης semnotēs) is rendered “honesty” in 1 Timothy 2:2, and “gravity” in 1 Timothy 3:4, and Titus 2:7. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The word, therefore, does not express precisely what the word “honest” does with us, as confined to dealings or business transactions, but rather has reference to what was regarded as worthy of reputation or honor; what there was in the customs of society, in the respect due to age and rank, and in the contact of the world, that deserved respect or esteem. It includes indeed what is right in the transaction of business, but it embraces also much more, and means that the Christian is to show respect to all the venerable and proper customs of society, when they did not violate conscience or interfere with the law of God; compare 1 Timothy 3:7.
Whatsoever things are just - The things which are right between man and man. A Christian should be just in all his dealings. His religion does not exempt him from the strict laws which bind people to the exercise of this virtue, and there is no way by which a professor of religion can do more injury perhaps than by injustice and dishonesty in his dealings. It is to be remembered that the people of the world, in estimating a person’s character, affix much more importance to the virtues of justice and honesty than they do to regularity in observing the ordinances of religion; and therefore if a Christian would make an impression on his fellow-men favorable to religion, it is indispensable that he manifest uncorrupted integrity in his dealings.
Whatsoever things are pure - Chaste - in thought, in feeling, and in the conversation between the sexes; compare the notes at 1 Timothy 5:2.
Whatsoever things are lovely - The word used here means properly what is dear to anyone; then what is pleasing. Here it means what is amiable - such a temper of mind that one can love it; or such as to be agreeable to others. A Christian should not be sour, crabby, or irritable in his temper - for nothing almost tends so much to injure the cause of religion as a temper always chafed; a brow morose and stern; an eye that is severe and unkind, and a disposition to find fault with everything. And yet it is to be regretted that there are many persons who make no pretensions to piety, who far surpass many professors of religion in the virtue here commended. A sour and crabby temper in a professor of religion will undo all the good that he attempts to do.
Whatsoever things are of good report - That is, whatsoever is truly reputable in the world at large. There are actions which all people agree in commending, and which in all ages and countries are regarded as virtues. courtesy, urbanity, kindness, respect for parents, purity between brothers and sisters, are among those virtues, and the Christian should be a pattern and an example in them all. His usefulness depends much more on the cultivation of these virtues than is commonly supposed.
If there be any virtue - If there is anything truly virtuous. Paul did not suppose that he had given a full catalogue of the virtues which he would have cultivated. He, therefore, adds, that if there was anything else that had the nature of true virtue in it, they should be careful to cultivate that also. The Christian should be a pattern and an example of every virtue.
And if there be any praise - Anything worthy of praise, or that ought to be praised.
Think on these things - Let them be the object of your careful attention and study, so as to practice them. Think what they are; think on the obligation to observe them; think on the influence which they would have on the world around you.
Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do - That is, what you have witnessed in me, and what you have learned of me, and what you have heard about me, practice yourselves. Paul refers them to his uniform conduct - to all that they had seen, and known, and heard of him, as that which it was proper for them to imitate. The same thing, substantially, he urges in Philippians 3:17; see the notes at that verse. It could have been only the consciousness of a pure and upright life which would make such counsel proper. How few are the people at this day who can urge others to imitate all that they have seen in them, and learned from them, and heard of them.
And the God of peace shall be with you - The God who gives peace; compare Hebrews 13:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; see also the notes at Philippians 4:7. The meaning here is, that Paul, by pursuing the course of life which he had led, and which he here counsels them to follow, had found that it had been attended with the blessing of the God of peace, and he felt the fullest assurance that the same blessing would rest on them if they imitated his example. The way to obtain the blessing of the God of peace, is to lead a holy life, and to perform with faithfulness all the duties which we owe to God and to our fellow-men.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly - The favor which Paul had received, and for which he felt so much gratitude, had been received of the Philippians; but he regarded “the Lord” as the source of it, and rejoiced in it as the expression of his kindness. The effect was to lead his heart with cheerfulness and joy up to God.
That now at the last - After so long a time. The reason why he had not before received the favor, was not neglect or inattention on their part, but the difficulty of having communication with him.
Your care of me hath flourished again - In the margin this is rendered “is revived,” and this is the proper meaning of the Greek word. It is a word properly applicable to plants or flowers, meaning to grow green again; to flourish again; to spring up again. Here the meaning is, that they had been again prospered in their care of him, and to Paul it seemed as if their care had sprung up anew.
Wherein ye were also careful - That is, they were desirous to render him assistance, and to minister to his wants. Paul adds this, lest they should think he was disposed to blame them for inattention.
But ye lacked opportunity - Because there were no persons going to Rome from Philippi by whom they could send to him. The distance was considerable, and it is not probable that the contact between the two places was very constant.
Not that I speak in respect of want - Though Paul was doubtless often in circumstances of necessity, yet he did not make these remarks on that account. In his journeys, in his imprisonments, he could not but be at times in want; but be had learned to bear all this; and that which most impressed itself on his mind was the interest which the church ought to show in the cause of religion, and the evidence which it would thus furnish of attachment to the cause. As to his own personal trials, he had learned to bear them, so that they did not give him great uneasiness.
For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content - That is, to have a contented mind. Paul says that he had “learned” this. Probably by nature he had a mind as prone to impatience as others, but he had been in circumstances fitted to produce a different state of feeling. He had had ample experience 2 Corinthians 11:26, and, in his life of trials, he had acquired invaluable lessons on the subject. He had had abundant time for reflection, and he had found that there was grace enough in the gospel to enable him to bear trials with resignation. The considerations by which he had been taught this, he does not state; but they were probably such as the following: that it is wrong to complain at the allotments of Providence; that a spirit of impatience does no good, remedies no evil, and supplies no want; that God could provide for him in a way which he could not foresee, and that the Saviour was able abundantly to sustain him. A contented mind is an invaluable blessing, and is one of the fruits of religion in the soul. It arises from the belief that God is right in all his ways. Why should we be impatient, restless, discontented? What evil will be remedied by it? what want supplied? what calamity removed? “He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast” Proverbs 15:15; and one of the secrets of happiness is to have a mind satisfied with all the allotments of Providence. The members of the Episcopal church beautifully pray, every day: “Give us minds always contented with our present condition.” No prayer can be offered which will enter more deeply into all our happiness on earth.
I know both how to be abased - To be in circumstances of want.
And I know how to abound - To have an abundance. lie had been in circumstances where he had an ample supply for all his needs, and knew what it was to have enough. It requires as much grace to keep the heart right in prosperity, as it does in adversity, and perhaps more. Adversity, of itself, does something to keep the mind in a right state; prosperity does nothing.
Everywhere and in all things - In all my travels and imprisonments, and in reference to everything that occurs, I learn important lessons on these points.
I am instructed - The word used here - μεμύημαι memuēmai - is one that is commonly used in relation to mysteries, and denoted being instructed in the secret doctrines that were taught in the ancient “mysteries” - Passow. In those mysteries, it was only the “initiated” who were made acquainted with the lessons that were taught there. Paul says that he had been initiated into the lessons taught by trials and by prosperity. The secret and important lessons which these schools of adversity are fitted to teach, he had had an ample opportunity of learning; and he had faithfully embraced the doctrines thus taught.
Both to be full - That is, he had learned to have an ample supply of his needs, and yet to observe the laws of temperance and soberness, and to cherish gratitude for the mercies which he had enjoyed.
And to be hungry - That is, to be in circumstances of want, and yet not to murmur or complain. He had learned to bear all this without discontent. This was then, as it is now, no easy lesson to learn; and it is not improper to suppose that, when Paul says that he had “been instructed” in this, even he means to say that it was only by degrees that he had acquired it. It is a lesson which we slowly learn, not to complain at the allotments of Providence; not to be envious at the prosperity of others; not to repine when our comforts are removed. There may be another idea suggested here. The condition of Paul was not always the same. He passed through great reverses. At one time he had abundance; then he was reduced to want; now he was in a state which might be regarded as affluent; then he was brought down to extreme poverty. Yesterday, he was poor and hungry; today, all his necessities are supplied.
Now, it is in these sudden reverses that grace is most needed, and in these rapid changes of life that it is most difficult to learn the lessons of calm contentment. People get accustomed to an even tenor of life, no matter what it is, and learn to shape their temper and their calculations according to it. But these lessons of philosophy vanish when they pass suddenly from one extreme to another, and find their condition in life suddenly changed. The garment that was adapted to weather of an uniform temperature, whether of heat or cold, fails to be suited to our needs when these transitions rapidly succeed each other. Such changes are constantly occurring in life. God tries his people, not by a steady course of prosperity, or by long-continued and uniform adversity, but by transition from the one to the other; and it often happens that the grace which would have been sufficient for either continued prosperity or adversity, would fail in the transition from the one to the other.
Hence, new grace is imparted for this new form of trial, and new traits of Christian character are developed in these rapid transitions in life, as some of the most beautiful exhibitions of the laws of matter are brought out in the transitions produced in chemistry. The rapid changes from heat to cold, or from a solid to a gaseous state, develop properties before unknown, and acquaint us much more intimately with the wonderful works of God. The gold or the diamond, unsubjected to the action of intense heat, and to the changes produced by the powerful agents brought to bear on them, might have continued to shine with steady beauty and brilliancy; but we should never have witnessed the special beauty and brilliancy which may be produced in rapid chemical changes. And so there is many a beautiful trait of character which would never have been known by either continued prosperity or adversity. There might have been always a beautiful exhibition of virtue and piety, but not tidal special manifestation which is produced in the transitions from the one to the other.
I can do all things - From the experience which Paul had in these various circumstances of life, he comes here to the general conclusion that he could “do all things.” He could bear any trial, perform any duty, subdue any evil propensity of his nature, and meet all the temptations incident to any condition of prosperity or adversity. His own experience in the various changes of life had warranted him in arriving at this conclusion; and he now expresses the firm confidence that nothing would be required of him which he would not be able to perform. In Paul, this declaration was not a vain self-reliance, nor was it the mere result of his former experience. He knew well where the strength was to be obtained by which to do all things, and on that arm that was able to uphold him he confidently relied.
Through Christ which strengtheneth me - See the notes at John 15:5. Of the strength which Christ can impart, Paul had had abundant experience; and now his whole reliance was there. It was not in any native ability which he had; not in any vigor of body or of mind; not in any power which there was in his own resolutions; it was in the strength that he derived from the Redeemer. By that he was enabled to bear cold, fatigue, and hunger; by that, he met temptations and persecutions; and by that, he engaged in the performance of his arduous duties let us learn, hence:
(1) That we need not sink under any trial, for there is one who can strengthen us.
(2) That we need not yield to temptation. There is one who is able to make a way for our escape.
(3) That we need not be harassed, and vexed, and tortured with improper thoughts and unholy desires. There is one who can enable us to banish such thoughts from the mind, and restore the right balance to the affections of the soul.
(4) That we need not dread what is to come. Trials, temptations, poverty, want, persecution, may await us; but we need not sink into despondency. At every step of life, Christ is able to strengthen us, and can bring us triumphantly through. What a privilege it is, therefore, to be a Christian - to feel, in the trials of life, that we have one friend, unchanging and most mighty, who can always help us! How cheerfully should we engage in our duties, and meet the trials that are before us, leaning on the arm of our Almighty Redeemer! Let us not shrink from duty; let us not dread persecution let us not fear the bed of death. In all circumstances, Christ, our unchanging Friend, can uphold us. Let the eye and the affections of the heart be fixed on him; let the simple, fervent, believing prayer be directed always to him when trials come, when temptations assail, when duty presses hard upon us, and when a crowd of unholy and forbidden thoughts rush into the soul: and we shall be safe.
Notwithstanding, ye have well done - Though he had learned the grace of contentment, and though he knew that Christ could enable him to do all things, it was well for them to show sympathy for his sufferings; for it evinced a proper regard for a benefactor and an apostle.
Ye did communicate - You took part with my affliction. That is, you sympathized with me, and assisted me in bearing it. The relief which they had sent, not only supplied his wants, but it sustained him by the certainty that he was not forgotten.
In the beginning of the gospel - “At the time when I first preached the gospel to you; or when the gospel began its benign influence on your hearts.”
When I departed from Macedonia - See Acts 17:14. The last place that Paul visited in Macedonia, at that time, was Berea. There a tumult was excited by the Jews, and it was necessary for him to go away. He left Macedonia to go to Athens; and left it in haste, amidst scenes of persecution, and when he needed sympathizing aid. At that time, as well as when he was in Thessalonica Acts 17:1-44.17.10, he needed the assistance of others to supply his wants; and he says that aid was not withheld. The meaning here is, that this aid was sent to him “as he was departing from Macedonia;” that is, alike in Thessalonica and afterward. This was about twelve years before this Epistle was written - Doddridge.
No church communicated with me - No church so participated with me in my sufferings and necessities, as to send to my relief; compare 2 Corinthians 11:8-47.11.9. Why they did not, Paul does not intimate. it is not necessary to suppose that he meant to blame them. They might not have been acquainted with his necessities. All that is implied here is, that he specially commends the Philippians for their attention to him.
For even in Thessalonica; - see the notes, Acts 17:1. Paul remained there long enough to establish a flourishing church. He met, indeed, with much opposition and persecution there; and, hence, it was necessary that his wants should be supplied by others.
Not because I desire a gift - “The reason why I rejoice in the reception of what you have sent to me, is not that I am covetous.” From the interest with which he had spoken of their attention to him, some might perhaps be disposed to say, that it arose from this cause. He says, therefore, that, grateful as he was for the favor which he had received, his chief interest in it arose from the fact that it would contribute ultimately to their own good. It showed that they were governed by Christian principle, and this would not fall to be rewarded. What Paul states here is by no means impossible; though it may not be very common. In the reception of layouts from others, it is practicable to rejoice in them mainly, because their bestowment will be a means of good to the benefactor himself. All our selfish feelings and gratifications may be absorbed and lost in the superior joy which we have in seeing others actuated by a right spirit, and in the belief that they will be rewarded. This feeling is one of the fruits of Christian kindness. It is that which leads us to look away from self, and to rejoice in every evidence that others will be made happy.
I desire fruit - The word “fruit” is often used in the Scriptures, as elsewhere, to denote results, or that which is produced. Thus, we speak of punishment as the fruit of sin, poverty as the fruit of idleness, and happiness as the fruit of a virtuous life. The language is taken from the fact, that a man reaps or gathers the fruit or result of that which he plants.
To your account - A phrase taken from commercial dealings. The apostle wished that it might be set down to their credit. He desired that when they came to appear before God, they might reap the benefit of all the acts of kindness which they had shown him.
But I have all - Margin, “or, have received.” The phrase here is equivalent to, “I have received everything. I have all I want, and desire no more.” He was entirely satisfied. What they had sent to him is, of course, now unknown. It is sufficient to know, that it was of such a nature as to make his situation comfortable.
I am full - I have enough, This is a strong expression, denoting that nothing was lacking.
Having received of Epaphroditus - see the notes at Philippians 2:25.
An odour of a sweet smell - This does not mean that it was such an odor to Paul, but to God. He regarded it as an offering which they had made to God himself; and he was persuaded that he would regard it as acceptable to him. They had doubtless made the offering, not merely from personal friendship for Paul, but because he was a minister of Christ, and from love for his cause; and Paul felt assured that this offering would be acceptable to him; compare Matthew 10:41-40.10.42. The word “odor” refers properly to the pleasant fragrance produced in the temple by the burning of incense; notes on Luke 1:9. On the meaning of the word rendered “a sweet smell,” - εὐωδία euōdia - see the notes at 2 Corinthians 2:15. The whole language here is taken from an act of worship; and the apostle regarded what he had received from the Philippians as in fact a thank-offering to God, and a presented with the spirit of true devotion to him. It was not, indeed, a formal act of worship; but it was acceptable to God as an expression of their regard for his cause.
A sacrifice acceptable - Acceptable to God; compare Hebrews 13:16; notes, Romans 12:1.
Well-pleasing to God - Because it evinced a regard for true religion. Hence, learn:
(1) That kindness done to the ministers of the gospel is regarded as an acceptable offering to God.
(2) That kindness to the servants of God in distress and want, is as well-pleasing to God as direct acts of worship.
(3) That such acts of benevolence are evidences of attachment to the cause of religion, and are proofs of genuine piety; notes, Matthew 10:42.
But my God shall supply all your need - That is, “You have shown your regard for me as a friend of God, by sending to me in my distress, and I have confidence that, in return for all this, God will supply all your needs, when you are in circumstances of necessity.” Paul’s confidence in this seems not to have been founded on any express revelation; but on the general principle that God would regard their offering with favor. Nothing is lost, even in the present life, by doing good. In thousands of instances it is abundantly repaid. The benevolent are not usually poor; and if they are, God often raises up for them benefactions, and sends supplies in a manner as unexpected, and hearing proofs of divine interposition as decided, as when supplies were sent by the ravens to the prophet.
According to his riches in glory - see the notes, Ephesians 3:16. The word “riches” here means, His abundant fullness; His possessing all things; His inexhaustible ability to supply their needs. The phrase “in glory,” is probably to he connected with the following phrase, “in Christ Jesus;” and means that the method of imparting supplies to people was through Jesus Christ, and was a glorious method; or, that it was done in a glorious manner. It is such an expression as Paul is accustomed to use, when speaking of what God does. He is not satisfied with saying simply that it is so; but connects with it the idea that whatever God does is done in a way worthy of himself, and so as to illustrate his own perfections.
In Christ Jesus - By the medium of Christ; or through him. All the favors that Paul expected for himself, or his fellow-men, he believed would be conferred through the Redeemer. Even the supply of our temporal needs comes to us through the Saviour. Were it not for the atonement, there is no more reason to suppose that blessings would be conferred upon people than that they would be on fallen angels. For them no atonement has been made; and at the hand of justice they have received only wretchedness and woe.
Now unto God and our Father, ... - see the notes at Romans 16:27. It was common for Paul to address such an ascription of praise to God, at the close of his epistles.
Salute every saint in Christ Jesus - It was usual for him also to close his epistles with affectionate salutations to various members of the churches to which he wrote. These salutations are generally specific, and mention the names, particularly if prominent members of the churches; see the close of the Epistles to the Romans; 1 Corinthians; Colossians, and 2 Timothy. In this Epistle, however, as in some others, the salutation in general. Why none are specified in particular is not certainly known.
The brethren which are with me ... - The word “brethren” here probably refers to ministers that were with Paul as the “saints” in general are mentioned in the next verse. It is possible that at Rome the ministers were known by the general name of “the brethren” - Pierce.
All the saints salute you - All in Rome, where this Epistle was written. No individuals are specified, perhaps because none of the Christians at Rome wore personally known to the church at Philippi. They would, however, feel a deep interest in a church which had thus the confidence and affection of Paul. There is reason to believe that the bonds of affection among the churches then were much stronger than they are now. There was a generous warmth in the newness of the Christian affection - the first ardor of love; and the common trials to which they were exposed would serve to bind them closely together.
Chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household - That is, of Nero, who was at that time the reigning emperor. The name Caesar was given to all the emperors after the time of Julius Caesar, as the name Pharaoh was the common name of the kings of Egypt. The phrase used here - “the household of Caesar” - may refer to the relatives of the emperor; and it is certainly possible that some of them may have been converted to Christianity. But it does not of necessity refer to those related to him, but may be applied to his domestics, or to some of the officers of the court that were more particularly employed around his person; and as it is more probable that some of them would be converted than his own relatives, it is more safe to suppose that they were intended; see the notes at Philippians 1:13.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, ... - notes, Romans 16:20.
In regard to the subscription at the end of this Epistle, it may be remarked, as has been done of the other subscriptions at the end of the Epistles, that it is of no authority whatever. There is no reason, however, to doubt that in this case it is correct. The Epistle bears internal evidence of having been written from Rome, and was doubtless sent by Epaphroditus. See the introduction, section 3. There is considerable variety in the subscription. The Greek is: “It was written to the Philippians from Rome by Epaphroditus.” The Syriac: “The Epistle to the Philippians was written from Rome, and sent by Epaphroditus.” The Aethiopic: “To the Philippians, by Timothy.”
The principal lessons taught in this closing chapter are the following:
1. It is our duty to be firm in the Lord, in all the trials, temptations, and persecutions to which we may be exposed; Philippians 4:1. This duty should be pressed on Christians by their teachers, and by each other, by all that is tender and sacred in the Christian profession, and all that is endearing in Christian friendship. Like Paul, we should appeal to others as “brethren dearly beloved and longed for,” and by all their affection for us we should entreat them to be steadfast in the Christian profession. As their “joy and crown,” also, ministers should desire that their people should be holy. Their own happiness and reward is to be closely connected with the firmness with which their people maintain the principles of the Christian faith. If Christians, therefore, wish to impart the highest joy to their religious teachers, and to exalt them as high as possible in future happiness and glory, they should strive to be faithful to their great Master, and to be steadfast in attachment to his cause.
2. It is the duty of those who have from any cause been alienated, to seek to be reconciled; Philippians 4:2. They should be of the same mind. Almost nothing does more to hinder the cause of religion than alienations and bickerings among its professed friends. It is possible for them to live in harmony, and to be of the same mind in the Lord; and such is the importance of this, that it well deserves to be enforced by apostolic authority and persuasion. It may be observed, also, that in the case referred to in this chapter - that of Euodias and Syntyche - the exhortation to reconciliation is addressed to both. Which was in the wrong, or whether both were, is not intimated, and is not needful for us to know. It is enough to know that there was alienation, and both of them were exhorted to see that the quarrel was made up. So, in all cases where members of the church are at variance, it is the business of both parties to seek to be reconciled, and neither party is right if he waits for the other before he moves in the matter. If you feel that you have been injured, go and tell your brother kindly wherein you think he has done you wrong. He may at once explain the matter, and show that you have misunderstood it, or he may make proper confession or restitution. Or, if he will do neither, you will have done your duty; Matthew 18:15. If you are conscious that you have injured, him, then nothing is more proper than that you should go and make confession. The blame of the quarrel rests wholly on you. And if some meddling third person has got up the quarrel between you, then go and see your brother, and disappoint the devices of the enemy of religion.
3. It is our duty and our privilege to rejoice in the Lord always; Philippians 4:4. As God is unchanging, we may always find joy in him. The character of God which we loved yesterday, and in the contemplation of which we found happiness then, is the same today, and its contemplation will furnish the same joy to us now. His promises are the same; his government is the same; his readiness to impart consolation is the same; the support which he can give in trial and temptation is the same. Though in our own hearts we may find much over which to mourn, yet when we look away from ourselves we may find abundant sources of consolation and peace. The Christian, therefore, may be always happy. If he will look to God and not to himself; to heaven and not to earth, he will find permanent and substantial sources of enjoyment. But in nothing else than God can we rejoice always. Our friends. in whom we find comfort, are taken away; the property that we thought would make us happy, fails to do so; and pleasures that we thought would satisfy, pall upon the sense and make us wretched. No man can be permanently happy who does not make the Lord the source of joy, and who does not expect to find his chief pleasure in him.
4. It is a privilege to be permitted to go and commit everything to God; Philippians 4:6-50.4.7. The mind may be in such a state that it shall feel no anxiety about anything. We may feel so certain that God will supply all our wants; that he will bestow upon us all that is really necessary for us in this life and the next, and that he will withhold from us nothing which it is not for our real good to have withheld, that the mind may be constantly in a state of peace. With a thankful heart for all the mercies which we have enjoyed - and in all cases they are many - we may go and commit ourselves to God for all that we need hereafter Such is the privilege of religion; such an advantage is it to be a Christian. Such a state of mind will be followed by peace. And it is only in such a way that true peace can be found. In every other method there will be agitation of mind and deep anxiety. If we have not this confidence in God, and this readiness to go and commit all to him, we shall be perplexed with the cares of this life; losses and disappointments will harass us; the changes which occur will weary and wear out our spirits, and through life we shall be tossed as on a restless ocean.
5. It is the duty of Christians to be upright in every respect; Philippians 4:8. Every friend of the Redeemer should be a man of incorruptible and unsuspected integrity. He should be one who can always be depended on to do what is right, and pure, and true, and lovely. I know not that there is a more important verse in the New Testament than the eighth verse of this chapter. It deserves to be recorded in letters of gold in the dwelling of every Christian, and it would be well if it could be made to shine on his way as if written in characters of living light. There should be no virtue, no truth, no noble plan of benevolence, no pure and holy undertaking in society, of which the Christian should not be, according to his ability, the patron and the friend. The reasons are obvious. It is not only because this is in accordance with the law of God, but it is from its effect on the community.
The people of the world judge of religion by the character of its professed friends. It is not from what they hear in the pulpit, or learn from the Bible, or from treatises on divinity; it is from what they see in the lives of those who profess to follow Christ. They mark the expression of the eye; the curl of the lip; the words that we speak - and if they perceive peevishness and irritability, they set it down to the credit of religion, They watch the conduct, the temper and disposition, the manner of doing business, the respect which a man has for truth, the way in which he keeps his promises, and set it all down to the credit of religion. If a professed Christian fails in anyone of these things, he dishonors religion and neutralizes all the good which he might otherwise do. It is not only the man in the church who is untrue, and dishonest, and unjust, and unlovely in his temper, that does evil; it is he who is either false, or dishonest, or unjust, or unlovely in his temper. One evil propensity will neutralize all that is good; and one member of the church who fails to lead a moral and upright life will do much to neutralize all the good that can be done by all the rest of the church; compare Ecclesiastes 10:1.
6. It is the duty of Christians to show kindness to the ministers of the gospel, especially in times and circumstances of want; Philippians 4:10, Philippians 4:14-50.4.17. Paul commended much what the Philippians had done for him. Yet they had done no more than they ought to do; see 1 Corinthians 9:11. He had established the gospel among them, carrying it to them by great persona, sacrifice and self-denial. What he had done for them had cost him much more than what they had done for him - and was of much more value. He had been in want. He was a prisoner; among strangers; incapable of exerting himself for his own support; not in a situation to minister to his own needs, as he had often done by tent-making, and in these circumstances he needed the sympathizing help of friends. He was not a man to be voluntarily dependent on others, or to be at any time a burden to them. But circumstances beyond his control had made it necessary for others to supply his needs.
The Philippians nobly responded to his claims on them, and did all that he could ask. Their conduct is a good example for other Christians to imitate in their treatment of the ministers of the gospel. Ministers now are often in want. They become old, and are unable to labor; they are sick, and cannot render the service which they have been accustomed to; their families are afflicted, and they do not have the means of providing for them comfortably in sickness. It is to be remembered also that such cases often happen where a minister has spent the best part of his life in the service of a people; where he has devoted his most vigorous days to their welfare; where he has been unable to lay up anything for sickness or old age; where he may have abandoned what would have been a lucrative calling in life, for the purpose of preaching the gospel. If there ever is a claim on the generosity of a people, his case is one, and there is no debt of gratitude which a people ought more cheerfully to pay than that of providing for the needs of an aged or an afflicted and disabled servant of Christ, who has spent his best years in endeavoring to train them and their children up for heaven.
Yet, it cannot be denied, that great injustice is often done in such cases. The poor beast that has served a man and his family in the days of his vigor, is often turned out in old age to die; and something like this sometimes occurs in the treatment of ministers of the gospel. The conduct of a people, generous in many other respects, is often unaccountable in their treatment of their pastors; and one of the lessons which ministers often have to learn, like their Master, by bitter experience, is the ingratitude of those for whose welfare they have toiled, and prayed, and wept.
7. Let us learn to be contented with our present condition; Philippians 4:11-50.4.12. Paul learned this lesson. It is not a native state of mind. It is a lesson to be acquired by experience. By nature we are all restless and impatient; we are reaching after things that we have not, and often after things that we cannot and ought not to have. We are envious of the condition of others, and suppose that if we had what they have we should be happy. Yet, if we have right feelings, we shall always find enough in our present condition to make us contented. We shall have such confidence in the arrangements of Providence as to feel that things are ordered for the best. If we are poor, and persecuted, and in want, or are prostrated by sickness, we shall feel that there is some good reason why this is so arranged - though the reason may not be known to us. If we are benevolent, as we ought to be, we shall be willing that others shall be made happy by what they possess, instead of coveting it for ourselves, and desiring to wrest it from them.
If we are disposed to estimate our mercies, and not to give up our minds to a spirit of complaining, we shall see enough around us to make us contented. Paul was a prisoner; he was poor; he was among strangers; he had neither wife nor children; he was about to be tried for his life, and probably put to death - yet he learned to be content. He had a good conscience; the hope of heaven; a sound intellect; a heart disposed to do good, and confidence in God, and why should a man in such circumstances complain? Says Jeremy Taylor, “Am I fallen into the hands of publicans and sequestrators, who have taken all from me? What now? Let me look about me. They have left me the sun and moon, fire and water, a loving wife, and many friends to pity me, and some to relieve me, and I can still discourse; and unless I list, they have not taken away my merry countenance, and a cheerful spirit, and a good conscience; they still have left me the providence of God, and all the promises of the gospel, and my religion, and my hopes of heaven, and my charity to them too; and still I sleep and digest; I eat and drink; I read and meditate; I can walk in my neighbor’s pleasant fields, and see the varieties of natural beauties, and delight in all in which God delights, that is, in virtue and wisdom, in the whole creation, and in God himself. And he who hath so many causes of joy, and so great, is very much in love with sorrow and peevishness. who loses all these pleasures, and chooses to sit down upon his little handful of thorns” - Holy Living, chapter ii. section vi. Let the whole of this section “on Contentedness” be read. It is one of the most beautiful arguments for contentment that ever proceeded from uninspired lips.
8. In all these things; in all the duties and the trials of life; in all our efforts to meet temptation, and to cultivate contentment with our present condition, let us put our trust in the Saviour; Philippians 4:13. Paul said that he could “do all things through Christ who strengthened him.” His strength was there; ours is there also. If we attempt these things, relying on out own strength, we shall certainly fail. The bad passions of our nature will get the ascendency, and we shall be left to discontent and complaining. The arm that is to uphold us is that of the Redeemer; and relying on that, we shall find no duty so arduous that we may not be able to perform it; no temptation so formidable that we may not be able to meet it; no trial so great that we may not be able to bear it; no situation in life through which we may be called to pass, where we may not find contentment and peace. And may God of his rich mercy give to each one who shalt read these notes on this beautiful Epistle to the Philippians, abundant grace thus to confide in the Saviour, and to practice all the duties so tenderly enjoined on the Philippian Christians and on us by this illustrious prisoner in the cause of Christ.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Philippians 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent