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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 2

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

Ch. 2:1 4 . The subject continued: appeal for self-forgetful Unity

1 . therefore ] The connexion of thought with the previous sentences is close. He has pressed on them the duty and blessing of concord and cooperation, and now enforces it further, with a special appeal to them to minister happiness to himself, as to a Christian brother, by obedience.

consolation ] R.V. comfort , which is better. The Greek word, in its prevailing meaning, denotes rather encouragement, strengthening, than the tenderer “consolation”; and the word “comfort”, by its derivation ( con fort atio ), may fairly represent it. The thought of the mutual love and union of the Philippians would cheer and animate their Apostle and friend.

in Christ ] Getting its motive and virtue from the union in Christ of the Apostle and the Philippians.

comfort of love ] Better, consolation , &c. See last note but one. The word occurs here only in N.T. A closely similar form occurs in a kindred connexion, 1 Corinthians 14:3 . “ Of love: ” love’s result and expression.

fellowship of the Spirit ] Cp. 2 Corinthians 13:14 “the communion of the Holy Spirit.” In the Greek here the word pneuma (spirit) is without the article, and many scholars hold that in all such cases not the Divine Spirit as a Person, but His gift or gifts, is meant; and that thus here the meaning will be “if there is a participation, on your part and mine alike, in the same spiritual love, joy, peace, &c.” But the presence or absence of the article in these cases is a very precarious index of meaning, when the substantive is a great and familiar word. Context and parallels are necessary to the decision in each place. And in this place the parallel (2 Cor.) quoted, seems to us to point clearly to the highest reference to “the one and the selfsame Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:11 ), the promised Paraclete Himself, Whom all the saints “share” as their common Life-Giver, Strengthener, and Sanctifier. “ Fellowship of ” might grammatically mean “union of heart and interests, prompted by.” But usage is decisively for the meaning “ participation in .”

bowels and mercies ] Better, with R.V., tender mercies and compassions . No English version before 1582 has the word “ bowels .” On that word see note above on ver. 8. He appeals with pathetic directness and simplicity, last of all, to their human emotions as such.

2 . Fulfil ye my joy ] Lit. “ fill ” it. He already rejoices in them (1:4); but the manifestation in them of the unity of holy love would complete the reasons and the experience of that joy. “He felt small anxiety for himself, if but the Church of Christ might prosper” (Calvin).

that ye be ] The Greek construction (see on 1:9) denotes (in N.T.) sometimes the purpose (as in the phrase “we ask, to test your kindness”), sometimes the purport (as in the phrase “we ask, to be forgiven”). A modification of the latter meaning appears here. In the words “fulfil ye,” &c. the Apostle is practically asking them to be what he now describes.

likeminded ] R.V., of the same mind , for the sake of uniformity with the last clause of this verse. We have here the weak point of the Philippian Church plainly indicated.

the same love ] on both sides; i.e. practically, general love, holy charity in all towards all.

of one accord ] More literally, “ one-souled .” See on ver. 27 above.

of one mind ] A similar expression to that just above, “ of the same mind ”, but somewhat stronger. The word ( phroneîn ) represented by “mind” in these clauses obviously denotes not so much intellectual as moral action and attitude. See on 1:7.

3 . Let nothing be done] The briefer original, in which no verb appears, is very forcible, but would be exaggerated in a literal rendering. Observe the totality of the prohibition. It is a rule for all Christian lives at all times.

through ] Lit. “ according to ,” on the principles of.

strife ] The same word as above, 1:16; see note. And see p. 16 for Ignatius’ use of the word. R.V. “ faction .” Only, the word may denote not merely the combined self-seeking of partizanship, but also a solitary ambition, working by intrigue.

in lowliness of mind ] The Greek (dative) may be more precisely represented by in respect of lowliness , &c. Their lowliness was to be embodied in, and proved by, what he now describes.

Lowliness of mind: ” essentially a Christian grace. The word itself (one Greek word is represented by the three English words) is not found in Greek before the N.T. And kindred words in the classics are always used in a tone of blame, as of a defect of proper courage and self-assertion. This fact is deeply suggestive. In its essential principles the mighty positive morality of the Gospel is based on the profound negative of the surrender and dethronement of self before a Redeeming Lord who has had compassion on perfectly unworthy objects. The world’s “ poor spirited ,” and the Lord’s “ poor in spirit ,” are phrases used in very different tones.

let each esteem other ] Lit., “ mutually counting others superior to (your-) selves .” The precept is to be read in the light of the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the individual conscience. Even where one Christian might see another to be manifestly less gifted than himself, spiritually or otherwise, yet “if the endowments, and the obligations connected with them, were properly estimated, they would rather conduce to humble than to exalt” (Scott). And in any case, where the man habitually viewed himself in the contrasted light of the Divine holiness, with that insight which belongs to self-knowledge alone, he would respond instinctively to this precept.

4 . Look ] Better, with documentary evidence, looking . “ Look … on ” becomes in R.V. “ look … to ,” a change not greatly needed. The look is the look of sympathy, kindly interest, self-forgetful cooperation. This short verse is a noble and far-reaching lesson in Christian ethics.

every man … every man ] The Greek here, in the first case probably, in the second certainly, gives “each” in the plural; a phrase which may be paraphrased “each circle ,” “each set ,” or the like. If cliques or petty factions were the bane of the Philippian Church this language would have a special point.

5 11 . The appeal enforced by the supreme Example of the Saviour in His Incarnation, Obedience, and Exaltation

5 . Let this mind be ] R.V., Have this mind ; adopting a reading different in form but scarcely so in import from that taken for the A.V., which fairly represents either reading.

In the great passage which follows we have a suggestive example of Christian moral teaching. One of the simplest and most primary elements of duty is being enforced, and it is enforced by appealing to the inmost secrets of the truth of the Person and Work of Christ. The spiritual and eternal, in deep continuity, descends into the practical. At the present time a powerful drift of thought goes in the direction of separating Christian theology from practical Christianity; the mysteries of our Lord’s Person and Work from the greatness of His Example. It may at least check hasty speculations in this direction to remember that such a theory rends asunder the teaching of the New Testament as to its most characteristic and vital elements. The anti-doctrinal view of Christianity is a theory of it started strictly and properly de novo . See further Appendix E.

which was] The verb is not in the Greek, but is necessarily implied. Meanwhile the sacred character which came out in the mysterious past (“ was ”) of the Lord’s pre-temporal glory, still and for ever is His character, His “mind.”

in Christ Jesus ] It is observable that he calls the Lord not only “Christ” but “Jesus,” though referring to a time before Incarnation. Historically, He had yet to be “anointed” ( Christ ), and to be marked with His human Name ( Jesus ). But on the one hand the Person who willed to descend and save us is identically the Person who actually did so; and on the other hand what is already decreed in the Eternal Mind is to It already fact. Cp. the language of Revelation 13:8 .

6 . Who ] in His pre-existent glory. We have in this passage a N.T. counterpart to the O.T. revelation of Messiah’s “coming to do the will of His God” (Psalms 40:6-8 , interpreted Hebrews 10:5 ).

being ] The Greek word slightly indicates that He not only “ was ,” but “ already was ,” in a state antecedent to and independent of the action to be described. R.V. margin has “Gr. originally being ”; but the American Revisers dissent.

in the form of God ] The word rendered “ form ” is morphê . This word, unlike our “form” in its popular meaning, connotes reality along with appearance , or in other words denotes an appearance which is manifestation . It thus differs from the word ( schêma ) rendered “ fashion ” in ver. 8 below; where see note. See notes on Romans 12:2 in this Series for further remarks on the difference between the two words; and cp. for full discussions, Abp Trench’s Synonyms , under μορφή , and Bp Lightfoot’s Philippians , detached note to ch. 2.

Here then our Redeeming Lord is revealed as so subsisting “in the form of God” that He was what He seemed, and seemed what He was God. (See further, the next note below, and on ver. 7.) “Though [ morphê ] is not the same as [ ousia, essence ], yet the possession of the [ morphê ] involves participation in the [ ousia ] also, for [ morphê ] implies not the external accidents [only?] but the essential attributes” (Lightfoot).

thought ] The glorious Person is viewed as (speaking in the forms of human conception) engaged in an act of reflection and resolve.

robbery ] The Greek word occurs only here in the Greek Scriptures, and only once (in Plutarch, cent. 2) in secular Greek writers. Its form suggests the meaning of a process or act of grasp or seizure. But similar forms in actual usage are found to take readily the meaning of the result , or material , of an act or process. “An invader’s or plunderer’s prize ” would thus fairly represent the word here. This interpretation is adopted and justified by Bp Lightfoot here. R.V. reads “ a prize ,” and in the margin “Gr. a thing to be grasped .” Liddell and Scott render, “ a matter of robbery ,” which is substantially the same; Bp Ellicott, “ a thing to be seized on , or grasped at .” The context is the best interpreter of the practical bearing of the word. In that context it appears that the Lord’s view of His Equality (see below) was not such as to withstand His gracious and mysterious Humiliation for our sakes, while yet the conditions of His Equality were such as to enhance the wonder and merit of that Humiliation to the utmost. Accordingly the phrase before us, to suit the context, ( a ) must not imply that He deemed Equality an unlawful possession, a thing which it would be robbery to claim, as some expositors, ancient and modern, have in error explained the words (see Alford’s note here, and St Chrysostom on this passage at large); ( b ) must imply that His thought about the Equality was one of supremely exemplary kindness towards us. These conditions are satisfied by the paraphrase “He dealt with His true and rightful Equality not as a thing held anxiously, and only for Himself, as the gains of force or fraud are held, but as a thing in regard of which a most gracious sacrifice and surrender was possible, for us and our salvation.”

The A.V., along with many interpreters, appears to understand the Greek word as nearly equal to “ usurpation ”; as if to say, “He knew it was His just and rightful possession to be equal with God, and yet” &c. But the context and the Greek phraseology are unfavourable to this.

to be equal with God ] R.V., to be on an equality with God , a phrase which perhaps better conveys what the original words suggest, that the reference is to equality of attributes rather than person (Lightfoot). The glorious Personage in view is not another and independent God, of rival power and glory, but the Christ of God, as truly and fully Divine as the Father.

Let us remember that these words occur not in a polytheistic reverie, but in the Holy Scriptures, which everywhere are jealous for the prerogative of the Lord God, and that they come from the pen of a man whose Pharisaic monotheism sympathized with this jealousy to the utmost. May it not then be asked, how in any, way other than direct assertion, as in John 1:1 the true and proper Deity of Christ could be more plainly stated?

The word “God” on the other hand is here used manifestly with a certain distinctiveness of the Father. Christian orthodoxy, collecting the whole Scripture evidence, sees in this a testimony not to the view (e.g. of Arius, cent. 4) that the Son is God only in a secondary and inferior sense, but that the Father is the eternal, true, and necessary Fountain of the eternal, true, and necessary Godhead of the Son. For this use of the word God, see e.g. John 1:1 ; 2 Corinthians 13:14 ; Hebrews 1:9 ; Revelation 20:6 , Revelation 22:1 .

7 . But made himself of no reputation ] “ But ” here introduces the infinitely gracious action of the Saviour as the contrary to what it would have been had He “thought His Equality with God a prize.” We may paraphrase, “That He did not so think of it, He shewed by making Himself,” &c. See Bp Ellicott’s careful note here, in which this explanation is advocated against that which would paraphrase, “ Although He thought it no usurpation to be equal with God, yet He made, &c.”

Himself ” is slightly emphatic by position, laying a stress on the sacred free will of the Lord in His Humiliation.

Made himself of no reputation: ” lit., as R.V., emptied Himself . The (Romanist) Rhemish Version, 1582, verbally following the Vulgate ( semetipsum exinanivit ), has, “ exinanited Himself .” From the Greek the word kenôsis ( κένωσις ) has passed into theological language, appearing here and there in the Fathers, frequently in modern treatises. Of recent years much has been said upon this great mystery in the direction of proving or suggesting that during “the days of His Flesh” (Hebrews 5:7 ) the Lord ( practically ) parted with His Deity; becoming the (Incarnate) Son of God only in His glorification after death. Such a view seems to contravene many plain testimonies of the Gospels, and most of all the pervading tone of the Gospels, as they present to us in the Lord Jesus on earth a Figure “meek and lowly” indeed, but always infinitely and mysteriously majestic; significantly dependent indeed on the Father, and on the Spirit, but always speaking to man in the manner of One able to deal sovereignly with all man’s needs.

It is enough for us to know that His Humiliation, or to use the word here, Exinanition, Kenôsis , was profoundly real; that He was pleased, as to His holy Manhood, to live in dependence on the Spirit; while yet we are sure that the inalienable basis of His Personality was always, eternally, presently, Divine. The ultimate and reasoned analysis of the unique Phenomenon, God and Man, One Christ, is, as to its actual consciousness , if we may use the word, a matter more for His knowledge than our enquiry. Bp Lightfoot’s brief note here says nearly all that can be said with reverent certainty: “ ‘He divested Himself’ not of His Divine nature, for this was impossible, but of the glories, the prerogatives, of Deity. This He did by taking upon Him the form of a servant.”

and took upon him] Lit. and better, with R.V., taking . The thought is that the Exinanition was the “taking”; not a process previous to it. In the word “ taking ” the Lord’s free choice and action is again in view.

the form of a servant ] Lit. and better, of a bondservant, a slave . The word rendered “ form ” is the same as that in ver. 6, on which see note. Here, as there, the thing implied is not semblance but manifestation . He became in reality, and in consequent appearance, a bondservant.

With what special reference is the word “bondservant” here used? Does it point to His stooping to serve men in great humiliation? Or to His undertaking, in the act of becoming Man, that essential condition of man’s true life bondservice to God ? The order of words and thought is in favour of the latter. The Apostle goes on to say, in effect, that His taking the slave’s “form” was coincident with His coming “in the likeness of men ” generally, not of specially humiliated or oppressed men. As Man He was “bondservant”. And this points to a bondservice related directly to God, as Lord of man. In this as in other things He was the archetype of all His true followers.

True, our blessed Lord made Himself the servant of all, and on one occasion (John 13:0 ) took literally the place and work of a menial attendant; a fact to which much allusion is made by St Chrysostom here. But all the while He was far more Lord than servant, certainly than bondservant, in His relations with men, even in His most tender and gracious relations. Literal “slavery” to man He certainly did not enter upon; royally descended as He was, and toiling as a free artificer, and commanding and teaching always with authority.

and was made ] Lit., coming to be, becoming . The fact is stated as coincident with the last statement. See previous note.

in the likeness of men ] A double suggestion lies in the words; ( a ) that He was really like man, as He truly was man; accepting the conditions involved in a truly human exterior, with its liabilities to trial and suffering; and ( b ) that He was also more than man, other than man , without which fact there would be not resemblance but mere identity . Cp. a somewhat similar case, Romans 8:3 , where lit. “in the likeness of the flesh of sin.”

Of men ,” not “ of man: ” as if to make the statement as concrete as possible. He appeared not in the likeness of some transcendent and glorified Manhood, but like men as they are.

8 . found ] as one who presented Himself for inspection and test. See Appendix F.

fashion ] See third note on ver. 6 above. The Greek word schêma denotes appearance with or without underlying reality. It does not negative such reality any more than it asserts it; it emphasizes appearance . In the context, we have the reality of the Lord’s Manhood abundantly given; and in this word accordingly we read, as in the word “likeness” just above, an emphatic statement that ( a ) He was Man in guise, not in dis guise; presenting Himself to all the conditions of concrete life as Man with man; and that ( b ) all the while the schêma had more beneath it than its own corresponding reality: it was the veil of Deity.

as a man ] Better, perhaps, as man , though R.V. retains “ as a man .” As the Second Man, our Lord is rather Man, the Man of men, than a Man, one among men. Yet the assertion here is rather as to what He was pleased to be in relation to those who “found” Him, came into contact with Him, in His earthly walk; and to such He certainly was “a man.” And so, with wonderful condescension, He speaks of Himself as “ a man that hath told you the truth” (John 8:40 ).

he humbled himself ] in “the acts of condescension and humiliation in that human nature which He emptied Himself to assume” (Ellicott). More particularly the reference is to the specially submissive, bearing , life, under the afflictive will of His Father, which He undertook to lead for our sakes; see the next words. The Greek verb is in the aorist, and sums up the holy course of submission either into one idea, or into one initial crisis of will.

and became ] Lit. and better, becoming ; an aorist participle coincident in reference with the previous aorist verb.

obedient ] to the Father’s will that He should suffer. The utterance of Gethsemane was but the amazing summary and crown of His whole sacred course as the Man of Sorrows. His “Passion,” standing in some vital respects quite alone in His work, was in other respects only the apex of His “Patience.”

unto death ] R.V. rightly supplies even before these words. “Unto” means (by the Greek) “ to the length of .” He did not “obey” but “abolish” death (2 Timothy 1:10 ); He obeyed His Father , “even to the extent of” dying, as the sinner’s Sacrifice, at the demand of the holy Law, and “by the determinate foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23 ) of the Lawgiver.

of the cross ] “Far be the very name of a cross not only from the bodies of Roman citizens, but from their imagination, eyes, and ears” (Cicero, pro Rabirio , c. 5. Cp. Gibbon, Decline and Fall , ch. xx.). Every thought of pain and shame was in the word, and was realized in the terrific thing. Combining, as we should do in the case of our Redeemer’s Crucifixion, the significance to the Jew of any death by suspension, with the significance to the Roman of execution on the cross, we must think of this supreme “obedience” as expressing the holy Sufferer’s submission both to “become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13 , with Deuteronomy 21:23 ) as before God the Lawgiver, and meanwhile to be “despised and rejected of men ” (Isaiah 53:3 ) in the most extreme degree.

On the history of thought and usage in connexion with the Cross, and Crucifixion, see Zöckler’s Cross of Christ .

9 . Wherefore ] From the point of view of this passage, the glorification of the Crucified Lord was the Father’s recognition and reward of His infinitely kind and gracious “looking upon the things of others.” The argument is, of course, that similarly the Christian who humbles himself shall be exalted.

hath highly exalted ] Better, with R.V., highly exalted ; at Resurrection and Ascension. Cp. John 17:4 , John 17:5 ; Acts 2:23 , Acts 2:24 , Acts 2:32 , Acts 2:33 , Acts 2:36 , Acts 2:3 :13, Acts 2:5 :30, Acts 2:31 ; Romans 1:4 ; Ephesians 1:20-22 ; 1 Peter 1:21 , &c.

Highly exalted: ” one compound verb in the Greek. Compounds expressive of greatness or excess are a characteristic of St Paul’s style. Of about seventeen of them in the N.T. quite twelve are found in St Paul’s writings only, or very rarely elsewhere.

given him ] Better, as again R.V. (see last note), gave . The verb indicates a gift of love and approval .

a name ] Lit. and better, the name . What is this Name? Is it the sacred personal Name Jesus? (Alford, Ellicott). Or is it Name in the sense of revealed majesty and glory? (Lightfoot). The difficulty of the former explanation is that Jesus, the human Name of the Lord, was distinctively His before His glorification, so that the “giving” of it on His glorification is a paradox. The reply will be that its elevation for ever into the highest associations, in the love and worship of the saints, was as it were a new giving of it, a giving of it as new. Still the usage is unlikely. And it is to be noticed that in the Epistles and Revelation, compared with the narrative parts of the N.T., the holy Name Jesus is but sparingly used alone. (See, as examples of such use, Romans 10:9 ; 1 Corinthians 12:3 ; Hebrews 2:9 , Hebrews 2:4 :14; 1 John 5:5 ; Revelation 22:16 , Revelation 22:20 ; cp. Acts 7:55 , Acts 7:59 , Acts 7:8 :16.) Very much more frequent is Jesus Christ. And on the other hand there are clear cases for the use of the word “Name” in the N.T. to denote recognized dignity or glory; see especially Ephesians 1:21 . We believe that the true explanation lies in this direction. The “Name given” is the supreme Name, The Lord, Jehovah. In other words, the lowly and suffering Jesus is, as the abased and slain One, now to be found and worshipped on the eternal Throne; recognized there by all creation as He who for man’s sake, in preexistent glory and Godhead, willed to be humiliated even to the Cross. As in the study of the whole mystery of the Incarnation of the Eternal Son, so here, we trace throughout the wonderful progression a perfect Personal Identity, while the unique presence in the Incarnate One of two Natures, with each its will, under one Personality, allows a range of language which speaks of the eternally glorious Son of God as being de novo glorified and exalted after the Humiliation which in His Second Nature He underwent.

above every name ] Cp. Ephesians 1:21 just referred to. On St Paul’s view of the altogether unique exaltation of the Lord, in comparison with every created existence, see Liddon’s Bampton Lectures , Lect. v. § iv. 2.

10 . at the name of Jesus ] Lit., with R.V., in the name of Jesus , or as far as grammatical form goes, “ in the name Jesus .” “It is not ‘the name Jesus’ but ‘the name of Jesus’ ” (Lightfoot). This must mean that the context decides it thus; the grammar is ambiguous. But the previous argument (see last note but one), if valid, is decisive for the rendering of the R.V.

In the name … should bow , &c.” Does this mean, “all should worship Him,” or “all should worship through Him ”? Doubtless the latter is Divine truth. But the context is wholly in favour of an immediate reference to His enthronement; and particularly the very next verse speaks distinctly of the recognition of Him as “Lord.” So Lightfoot; and he gives proofs from the LXX. (e.g. Psalms 62:5 (Heb. 63:4); 1 Kings 8:44 ) that the phrase “ in the name of ” may imply, in proper contexts, the adoration of Him who bears the Name. We may thus paraphrase, “that before the revealed Majesty of the glorified Jesus all creation should adore.” The ancient custom of bowing at the mention of the Name Jesus (see Canon xviii. of the Church of England) derives no direct sanction from this passage.

every knee should bow ] An implicit citation of Isaiah 45:23 ; and as such a powerful testimony to St Paul’s view of the proper Deity of Jesus Christ. The context of the passage in the prophet contains the phrases “a just God and a Saviour” (ver. 21; cp. Romans 3:26 ); “in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (ver. 25; cp. Romans 8:30 ). May we not suppose that the Apostle of Justification was thus specially guided to the passage, and to its inner reference to the Son? The same passage is directly quoted Romans 14:11 (where in ver. 10 read, “ of Christ ”).

things in heaven … in earth … under the earth ] Created existence, in its heights and depths. Cp. Revelation 5:13 for close illustration; words whose whole context is a Divine commentary on this passage. In view of the language there, in a scene where angels have been already mentioned, it is better not to divide the reference here, e.g. between angels, living men, and buried men (Alford), or angels, men, and lost spirits (Chrysostom). Not only animate and conscious but inanimate existence is in view; Creation in its total; the impersonal and unconscious elements being said to “worship,” as owning, after their manner, the fiat of the exalted Jesus.

11 . every tongue should confess ] Again an implicit quotation of Isaiah 45:23 .

The verb rendered “ confess ,” as Lightfoot points out, has in Scriptural Greek almost resigned its literal meaning of open avowal, to take that of praise and thanksgiving. Our Lord Himself uses it, Matthew 11:25 ; Luke 10:21 ; (“I thank Thee, O Father, &c.”) Every tongue shall “give thanks to Him for His great glory.” It may be asked, how shall this be fulfilled in the case of the lost? We reply, either there is no explicit reference here to any but the subjects of final redemption, as in Ephesians 1:10 , where see note in this Series; or the mysterious state of the lost may admit, for all we know, such a recognition that even their hopeless woe is the ordinance of “supremest Wisdom and primeval Love 1 1 “Justice the Founder of my fabric moved,

To rear me was the task of power divine,

Supremest wisdom and primeval love.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

Dante, Inferno , canto iii (Cary). ,” manifested in Jesus Christ, as shall be tantamount to the adoration indicated here.

Jesus Christ is Lord ] Cp. 1 Corinthians 12:3 ; a passage which teaches us that the Lordship in question is such as to be known only by Divine revelation. It is supreme Lordship, a session on the eternal throne. (Cp. Revelation 3:21 , and see 22:3.) He “who being in the form of God took the form of a bondservant” of God, and “obeyed even unto the cross,” is now owned and adored as “God, whose throne is for ever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8 ), and as exercising His dominion as the Son of Man . The Person is eternally the same; but a new and wonderful condition of His action has come in, the result of His Exinanition and Passion.

It is observable that the Valentinian heretics (cent. 2), according to Irenæus (Bk. 1 Chronicles 1:0 § 3) ascribed to Jesus the title Saviour, but refused Him that of Lord.

For proof that in apostolic doctrine the supreme Name, Jehovah, was recognized as appropriate to the Person of the Christ, cp. John 12:4 with Isaiah 6:5 . In that passage, as here, we have presented to us the personal identity of the Preexistent and the Humiliated Christ.

to the glory of God the Father ] the ultimate Object of all adoration, inasmuch as He is the eternal Origin of the eternal Deity of the Son.

Cp. John 5:23 , John 5:13 :31, John 5:32 , John 5:17 :1; 1 Peter 1:21 ; for this profound relation between the glory of the Son and the glory of the Father. But no isolated references can properly represent a subject which is so deeply woven into the texture of the Gospel.

In the light of the Scriptural truth of His Nature, a truth summarized with luminous fulness in the “Nicene” Creed 1 1 And more elaborately in the “Definition” of the Council of Chalcedon, a.d. 451. , we see the Christ of God as at once properly, divinely, adorable, and the true Medium for our adoration of the Father.

St Chrysostom here in a noble passage shews how the attribution of full and eternal Godhead to the Christ enhances, not diminishes, the Father’s glory. “A mighty proof it is of the Father’s power, and goodness, and wisdom, that He hath begotten such a Son, a Son nowise inferior in goodness and in wisdom … When I say that the Son is not inferior in Essence to the Father, but equal, and of the same Essence, in this also I adore the Lord God, and His power, and goodness, and wisdom, that He has revealed to us Another, begotten of Himself, like to Him in all things, Fatherhood alone excepted” ( Hom. vii. in Ep. ad Philipp . c. 4).

Thus closes a passage in which, in the course of practical exhortation, the cardinal truth of the true Godhead and true Manhood of Christ, and that of His example, are presented all the more forcibly because incidentally. The duty of unselfish mutual love and self-sacrifice is enforced by considerations on the condescension of Christ which are quite meaningless if He is not preexistent and Divine, and if the reality of His Manhood is not in itself a sublime example of unforced self-abasement for the good of others. All merely humanitarian views of His Person and Work, however refined and subtilized, are totally at variance with this apostolic passage, written within fresh living memory of His life and death.

12 18 . Inferences from the foregoing passages: the Greatness of the methods of Salvation: the consequent Call to a Life reverent, self-forgetful, fruitful, joyful

12 . Wherefore ] The Apostle has now pressed on them the duty and blessing of self-forgetting sympathy and love, above all by this supreme Example. He here returns to the exhortation, in a measure, but now only subordinately; his mind is chiefly now possessed with the greatness of salvation, and it is through this , as it were, that he views the duty and joy of Christian humility and harmony.

my beloved ] So again 4:1. Cp. 1 Corinthians 10:14 , 1 Corinthians 10:15 :58; 2 Corinthians 7:1 , 2 Corinthians 7:12 :19; where this tender word similarly introduces earnest practical appeals. See too Hebrews 6:9 ; James 1:16 ; 1 Peter 2:11 , 1 Peter 2:4 :12; 2 Peter 3:1 , 2 Peter 3:8 , 2 Peter 3:14 , 2 Peter 3:17 ; 1 John 3:2 , 1 John 3:21 , 1 John 3:4 :1, 1 John 3:7 , 1 John 3:11 ; Jude 1:3 , Jude 1:17 , Jude 1:20 .

ye have always obeyed ] So too R.V. Lit., ye did always obey; the aorist. And so better here. The Apostle views as one past experience his personal intercourse with them of old at Philippi. See the next words, where such a retrospect is implied.

not as in my presence only &c.] The Greek shews that these words are to be joined with what follows; “work out your own salvation, now in my absence, not only in my presence.”

“As in my presence”: as ” suggests the thought, or point of view, of the agent; “ influenced by the fact of my presence.”

work out your own salvation ] “ Your own ” is strongly emphatic. The Apostle is in fact bidding them “learn to walk alone,” instead of leaning too much on his presence and personal influence. “Do not make me your proxy in spiritual duties which must be your own.” Hence the “ much more ” of the previous clause; his absence was to be the occasion for a far fuller realization of their own personal obligations and resources in the spiritual life.

“Salvation”: see above on 1:19. The main reference here is to final glory (see remarks just below). But as life eternal is continuous and one, here and hereafter, a side-reference may well be recognized to present preservation from falling and sinning. “In this way of diligence we receive daily more and more of ‘salvation’ itself, by liberty from sin, victory over it, peace and communion with God, and the earnests of heavenly felicity” (Scott).

“Work out”: the verb is that used also e.g. Romans 4:5 (“the law worketh wrath”); 2 Corinthians 4:17 , a close and instructive parallel. As there the saint’s “light affliction” “works out for him a weight of glory,” so here his watchful, loving, reverent consistency, for his Lord’s sake, “works out,” issues in the result of, his “salvation.” There is not the slightest contradiction here to the profound truth of Justification by Faith only, that is to say, only for the merit’s sake of the Redeemer, appropriated by submissive trust; that justification whose sure issue is “glorification” (Romans 8:30 ). It is an instance of independent lines of truth converging on one goal. From one point of view, that of justifying merit, man is glorified because of Christ’s work alone, applied to his case through faith alone. From another point, that of qualifying capacity, and of preparation for the Lord’s individual welcome (Matthew 25:21 ; Romans 2:7 ), man is glorified as the issue of a process of work and training, in which in a true sense he is himself operant, though grace lies below the whole operation.

with fear and trembling ] not of tormenting misgiving (cp. 1 John 4:18 ), but of profound reverence and wakeful conscience. So 1 Corinthians 2:3 ; 2 Corinthians 7:15 ; Ephesians 6:5 . Chrysostom quotes Psalms 2:11 , “Serve the Lord in fear, and exult unto Him in trembling.” The Douay (Romanist) Bible here has a note: “This is against the false faith and presumptuous confidence of modern sectaries”; a reference to the doctrine of a personal assurance of present Divine favour and coming glory. But this is both to mistake the meaning of St Paul’s phrase “fear and trembling,” and to forget such passages as e.g. Romans 5:1 , Romans 5:2 , Romans 5:9 , 8:28 39. It is the formulated tenet of the Church of Rome that “no man can know, with a certainty under which nothing false can lurk, that he has attained the grace of God” ( Canones Concil. Trident. , Sess. vi. cap. ix.). See further just below.

13 . For it is God &c.] Here is the reason for the “fear and trembling.” The process of “working out” is one which touches at every point the internal presence of Him before whom “the stars are not pure” (Job 25:5 ). Meanwhile the same fact, in its aspect of the presence of His power , is the deepest reason for strength and hope in the process; and this thought also, very possibly, is present here.

God which worketh in you ] The Immanence, Indwelling, of God in His saints, in deep and sacred speciality and reality, is a main doctrine of the Gospel. The Paraclete is not only “with” but “in” them (John 14:17 ; and see below, on 4:23). By the Paraclete’s work, in giving new birth and new life, “Christ, who is our life” (Colossians 3:3 ), “is in them” (cp. esp. Romans 8:9-11 , and see 2 Corinthians 4:10 , 2 Corinthians 4:11 , 2 Corinthians 4:13 :5; Colossians 1:27 ); and “in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead” (Colossians 2:9 ). See further on this all-important subject Ephesians 3:17 . In the light of a passage like this we arrive at the animating truth that the “grace” which is present in the Christian is not only a power, or influence, emitted as it were from above; it is the living and eternal God Himself, present and operating at “the first springs of thought and will.”

“Worketh”: the Greek word has a certain intensity about it, “worketh effectually .”

to will ] I.e. His working produces these effects, not merely tends towards them. Effecteth in you your willing would be a fair rendering. Here, though in passing, one of the deepest mysteries of grace is touched upon. On the one hand is the will of the Christian, real, personal, and in full exercise; appealed to powerfully as such in this very passage. On the other hand, beneath it, as cause beneath result, if the will is to work in God’s way, is seen God working, God “effecting.” A true theology will recognize with equal reverence and entireness of conviction both these great parallels of truth. It will realize human responsibility with “fear and trembling”; it will adore the depths of grace with deep submission, and attribute every link in the chain of actual salvation to God alone ultimately 1 1 On the philosophy of the subject see some excellent suggestions in M’Cosh’s Intuitions of the Mind , Bk. iv. ch. iii. .

and to do ] Or, as before, and your doing , or better, your working; the verb is the same as that just above. The “will” is such as to express itself in “effectual work.”

of his good pleasure ] Better, with R.V., for His good pleasure; for its sake, to carry it out. The saint, new created, enabled by grace to will and do, is all the while the implement of the purposes of God, and used for them. Cp. Ephesians 2:10 for a close and suggestive parallel in respect of this last point.

14 . Do &c.] The general principle of holiness of life in the power of the Divine Indweller is now carried into details, with a view to the special temptations and failings of the Philippians. See above, on 2:2.

all things] Observe the characteristic totality of the precept. Cp. Ephesians 4:15 , Ephesians 4:31 ; and see 2 Corinthians 9:8 .

without murmurings and disputings ] amongst and against one another. For the word “ murmuring ” in a similar connexion cp. Acts 6:1 ; 1 Peter 4:9 ; and for “ disputing ,” James 2:4 . This reference suits the context, and the indications of the whole Epistle as to the besetting sins of Philippi, better than the reference to murmurs and doubts as towards God . And such sins against one another would be prevented by nothing so much as by the felt presence of “God working in them.” See below, on 4:5.

“Disputings”: for example, about the duties of others and the rights of self. The older Latin versions render detractiones .

15 . be ] Better, with the true reading, become, prove; a gentle intimation that a change was needed.

blameless ] Secure against true charges of inconsistency of temper and conduct.

harmless ] So too R.V. But this can be only a derived rendering. The literal and ordinary meaning of the Greek is “ unmixed , unadulterated, pure.” The character denoted is simple as against double; single-hearted in truth and love. It occurs elsewhere, in N.T., only Matthew 10:16 ; Romans 16:19 ; but often in secular writers.

the sons of God ] More exactly, with R.V., children of God . The Greek word rendered “children” points more specially than the other to the nature and character of the family of God; the family- likeness . The precise phrase “ children of God,” occurs elsewhere (in the Greek) John 1:12 , John 1:11 :52; Romans 8:16 , Romans 8:17 , Romans 8:21 , Romans 8:9 :8; 1 John 3:1 , 1 John 3:2 , 1 John 3:10 , 1 John 3:5 :2. Here the evident meaning is, “that you may prove the fact of your spiritual sonship to God by your spiritual likeness to Him, which is its one true proof.” As a rule, Scripture tends to use the words “Father,” “son,” “child,” as between God and man, to indicate not the connexion of creation but that of new-creation, as here.

without rebuke ] One Greek adjective; the same word (in the best attested reading here) as that in Ephesians 1:4 , Ephesians 1:5 :27; Colossians 1:22 ; passages in this same Roman group of St Paul’s Epistles.

This word is closely connected with the preceding words; we may paraphrase, “children of God, blameless as such.” There is an implicit reference in the phrase to Deuteronomy 32:5 , where the LXX. reads, “ They sinned; they were not children to Him , but blameworthy children; a generation crooked and perverse .” The “true Israelites” of Philippi were to be the antithesis of the ancient rebels.

in the midst of &c.] A continued allusion to the words (see last note) of Moses; a beautiful inversion of them. “A crooked and distorted generation” is still in view, but it is now not the Lord’s Israel, but “they which are without” (Colossians 4:5 ), whose moral contrariety was both to bring out the power and beauty of grace in the saints, and at length to yield to its blessed charm.

“In the midst of”: not in selfish or timid isolation from the duties and difficulties of life. The Gospel has no real sanction for the monastic idea. Cp. John 17:15 ; and the tenor of the Epistles at large.

ye shine ] Better, ye appear, ye are seen (R.V.). The Greek verb is used of the rising and setting of the stars, the “ phœnomena ” of the heavens. Perhaps this is meant to be remembered here. The saints, in the beautiful light of holiness, were to rise star-like upon the dark sky of surrounding sin. See next note.

lights ] Better, light-bearers, luminaries ( luminaria , Latin Versions). The word appears in both secular and Biblical Greek as a designation of the heavenly bodies; see e.g. Genesis 1:14 , Genesis 1:16 . It occurs again, in N.T., only Revelation 21:11 , apparently in the very rare sense of “radiance.”

Cp. Isaiah 60:1 ; Matthew 5:14 , Matthew 5:16 ; Ephesians 5:8 .

16 . Holding forth ] as offering it for acceptance; presenting it to the notice, enquiry, and welcome, of others. The metaphor of the luminary is dropped. It is intimated that the faithful Christian will not be content without making direct efforts, however humble and unobtrusive, to win attention to the distinctive message of his Lord.

the word of life ] The Gospel, as the revelation of eternal life in Christ. Cp. John 6:68 ; 1 John 1:1 (where the reference of the phrase is not to the personal Logos; see Westcott there); and see also, in illustration of the meaning of “word” here, 1 John 5:11 , 1 John 5:12 ; and above, on 1:14.

that I may rejoice ] Lit., “ to (be a) rejoicing for me .” For the thought, cp. 1 Thessalonians 2:19 . He looks forward to a special recognition of his converts at Philippi, at the Lord’s Coming, and to a special “joy of harvest” over them.

in the day of Christ ] Lit., “ unto the day &c.”; in view of it, till I am in it. On the “ day ” see note on 1:6.

that I have not run ] Better, that I did not run . He speaks as if already looking back on life as on one collected past. “Run”: a favourite metaphor with St Paul, to represent the energy and progress of life, moving towards its goal. Cp. Acts 13:25 , Acts 20:24 (both Pauline passages); 1 Corinthians 9:24 , 1 Corinthians 9:26 ; Galatians 2:2 (a close parallel), 5:7; 2 Timothy 4:7 . See also Romans 9:16 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:1 ; Hebrews 12:1 .

laboured ] Better, did labour; see last note. Cp. 1 Thessalonians 3:5 for nearly the same words.

in vain ] Lit., “ to what is empty,” in vacuum . The phrase is peculiar to St Paul in N.T.

17 . Yea, and if &c.] He takes up the last word, characteristically. “ Laboured for you, did I say? Nay, if I have to say also died, poured out my heart’s blood , it is only joy to me.”

be offered upon ] Lit. and better, am being shed as a libation upon . The imagery is sacrificial. He views the Philippians as an altar-sacrifice, a burnt-offering, in their character of consecrated believers; and upon that sacrifice the drink-offering, the libation, the outpoured wine, is Paul’s life-blood, Paul as their missionary martyr. On the libations of the Mosaic ritual, cp. Numbers 15:3-10 , where the drink-offering appears as a conspicuous detail in the rite of the burnt-offering. Bp Lightfoot thinks that a reference to the pagan ritual of libation is more likely, in an Epistle to a Church of Gentile converts. But surely St Paul familiarized all his converts with O.T. symbolism; and his own mind was of course deeply impregnated with it. The same word, but without any detail of imagery, appears again 2 Timothy 4:6 , on the then actual eve of St Paul’s death by the sword. “The present tense [ ‘am being shed’ ] places the hypothesis vividly before the eyes: but it does not … refer to present dangers … comp. e.g. Matthew 12:26 ” (Lightfoot). Ignatius ( To the Romans , c. 2) speaks of being “libated to God”; probably an allusion to this phrase.

the sacrifice and service of your faith ] As we have just explained, their faith in Jesus Christ, resulting in their living self-sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1 ), constituted them as it were victims at a spiritual altar, and their lives a sacerdotal ritual or “service.” Cp. for an instructive parallel Romans 15:16 , with note in this Series. These are the only two passages in his whole writings where the Apostle applies the language of sacerdotalism to the work of the Christian ministry. (See Appendix C.) It is remarkable that in each place the language is obviously that of figure and, so to speak, poetry. In the Ep. to the Romans, “the Gentiles” are “the oblation,” and “the glad-tidings” is the matter on which his “priest-work” is exercised. In this passage the Philippians are both “sacrifice” and “altar-ministers,” while Paul is the “libation.”

I joy, and rejoice with you all ] Again the warm and significant words, “ you all .” His willing death for Christ, viewed as a last contribution to their spiritual good, a last aid in their life of believing self-consecration, would be a personal joy to him, and an occasion of united joy with them or (as Lightfoot explains the phrase here) congratulation of them. The Apostle assumes that they would rejoice, with the deep joy of men who shared the martyr spirit. Cp. Ephesians 3:13 for a somewhat similar thought.

Polycarp’s Epistle (see our Introduction, ch. 5) almost begins with a phrase which is a reminiscence of this sentence and 4:10.

18 . For the same cause] Better, with R.V., In the same manner . The same phrase occurs Matthew 27:44 .

do ye joy &c.] A loving imperative. He bids them be glad, and share their joy with him as he with them. It is an emphatic reiteration of what he has implied in the words just above, that his death would be their joy, as being, if the Lord so willed, their spiritual blessing.

19 30 . He proposes soon to send Timotheus: He sends without delay Epaphroditus

19 . But I trust &c.] Lit., But I hope &c. He refers back to the allusion to his absence from them, ver. 12. That trial, while it brings them its special calls and opportunities, is yet to be relieved .

in the Lord Jesus ] See last note on 1:8.

Timotheus ] See on 1:1.

I also ] as well as you. He affectionately assumes that they, in accordance with his entreaties above (ver. 12 &c.) will be “strong and of a good courage” in the Lord. He would share this, through the joy of hearing of it.

be of good comfort ] More lit., “ be of good (happy) soul .” A single word (verb) in the Greek.

20 . For ] He gives his reason for sending Timothy.

likeminded ] Lit., “ equal-souled; ” a slight echo, in form, of the verb just above. Timothy’s “soul,” his loving and willing self, was “equal,” level, to St Paul’s, in pure, cordial, interest in the Philippians. The Greek adjective occurs nowhere else in the N.T., and in the LXX. only Psal. 54:13 (Heb., 55:14), for the Hebrew “ after my scale , or standard ”: a good parallel. The A.V. margin, “ so dear unto me ,” is certainly mistaken.

naturally ] R.V. “ truly .” But the A.V. well conveys the meaning. The word is literally, genuinely ; so that heart corresponds to action.

care ] Better, take careful, anxious thought . The verb ( merimnân ) is traced by recent philologists into connexion with root-words giving the idea of mindfulness, earnestness of thought, not, as according to the once current etymology, division of thought. It is the same verb as that below, 4:6, where see note. The apparent contradiction of the two passages has a beautiful harmony beneath it. Timothy’s “anxiety” was in fact painstaking thought for others; the “anxiety” forbidden, 4:6, is the result of our failure, as each felt burthen comes, to pass it on to the love and care of the Lord. The verb (or its cognate noun) rendered “ care ” here occurs in the sense it bears here, 1 Corinthians 7:32 , 1 Corinthians 7:34 , 1 Corinthians 7:12 :25; 2 Corinthians 11:28 . In all other places its reference is to anxiety in an unfavourable sense of the word.

21 . all ] The Greek would be more exactly represented by they all , or all of them; all of a definite group in question. This is a severe censure on the persons really indicated. St Paul must have suffered grave disappointments where he had a special right to expect ready help. Demas (2 Timothy 4:10 ) had his precursors; indeed he may have been included in this censure, for he was at Rome about this time (Colossians 4:14 ; Philemon 1:24 ). But we must not assume that St Paul here (or even 2 Timothy 4:10 ) excommunicates, so to speak, those whom he refers to; the true disciple may have his weak, because faithless and selfish, hour. See Acts 13:13 , with 15:38, and contrast 2 Timothy 4:11 . And again common sense bids us interpret the “they all ” with a reserve. He must mean not “all the Christians around me,” but “all the possible Christian messengers around me.” “The saints of Cæsar’s household” (4:22), for example, could not be in question; nor was Epaphroditus (ver. 25, &c).

seek their own] things , literally; their own ease or safety; perhaps their own preferences in toil and duty. See 1 Corinthians 13:5 for the opposite choice as the choice of holy Charity.

the things which are Jesus Christ’s ] The interests of His disciples laid upon them by His Apostle.

22 . the proof of him ] The test of him; the practical evidence of what he is. This they “knew,” by eyewitness at Philippi.

as a son with the father ] Better, as child with father . The Greek word rendered “child” is a tender one. See above on ver. 15. For St Paul’s paternal love for Timothy cp. 2 Timothy 1:2 , and that whole Epistle.

he hath served with me ] More precisely, with me (slightly emphatic, suggesting the speciality of his devotion in Christ to Paul) he did bondservice . The reference is to the labours of Timothy (gathered up by the aorist into one recollection) at Philippi . See above, on 1:1, note 2. Grammatically, we might render, “with me he accepted bond-service ”; with a reference to Timothy’s first dedication to missionary work under St Paul, Acts 16:1-3 . But he evidently refers to their own observation of Timothy and so to a later period.

in the gospel ] Lit., “unto the Gospel”; well paraphrased by R.V., in furtherance of the Gospel . See note on 1:5 above. For “ the Gospel ” in the sense of “the work of the Gospel” cp. below, 4:3.

23 . presently ] Better, with R.V., forthwith , promptly, on ascertaining the issue of his trial.

so soon as I shall see ] He is sure, au fond , of the prospect of continued life (1:25 and note); but this leaves him as much as ever obliged to wait the development of the Roman legal process. And it needs no very subtle psychology to see the possibility of the presence, in the same person, of certainties and uncertainties about the same event. Observe that Divine inspiration is far from conveying universal prescience .

how it will go with me ] A good paraphrase for the lit., “ the things around me ,” my circumstances.

24 . I trust ] For the Greek and its force see on 1:25, with the reference there to 1:6.

in the Lord ] See last note on 1:8.

shortly ] The word is of course elastic; it may mean a few weeks, or many months, as relations of comparison vary. What he is confident of is that Timothy’s arrival would be followed at no great interval by his own. Bp Lightfoot compares 1 Corinthians 4:17 , 1 Corinthians 4:19 , for a curiously close parallel to the language of this passage, without any connexion of events.

25 . Yet I supposed ] Better, But I have counted , or, I count . “ Yet ” is too strong a word of contrast or exception.

“I have counted”: the Greek verb is an aorist, but an “epistolary’ aorist, in which the writer of a letter puts himself mentally at the time of its reception. And this we often express in English by the perfect or the present. Epaphroditus was probably the bearer of the Epistle.

necessary ] as against the less obligatory conditions of Timothy’s intended mission. That concerned St Paul’s comfort, this , the Philippians’; and in his view, on Christian principles, the latter was of course more urgent. For the phrase cp. 2 Corinthians 9:5 .

Epaphroditus ] We know him only from this Epistle, indeed only from this passage, for the mention 4:18 merely adds the fact that he was the conveyer to St Paul of the Philippians’ present. But the few lines now before us are enough to shew us a Christian full of spiritual love and practical devotion to Christ and the flock. Epaphroditus has been identified with Epaphras (Colossians 1:7 , Colossians 1:4 :12; Philemon 1:23 ). But this is improbable. The shorter name is indeed only an abbreviation of the longer; but “Epaphras” always denotes the convert and missionary of Colossæ, “Epaphroditus” the messenger from Philippi, two widely separated mission-stations. And the man in each case appears to be a native of, or resident in, the station. Both names were very common at the time. It is observable that this Christian’s name embodies the name of the goddess Aphrodité . No scruple appears to have been felt among the primitive Christians about the retention of such pre-baptismal names. See note on Romans 16:1 in this Series.

my brother , &c.] The loving commendation is most emphatic. Epaphroditus had evidently at some time toiled and striven “in the Gospel,” along with St Paul, in no common way. This may have been in past days at Philippi, or, as Lightfoot suggests, just recently at Rome, since his arrival from Philippi. “Fellow-soldier”: cp. Philemon 1:2 , and see 2 Corinthians 10:3 ; 1 Timothy 1:18 ; 2 Timothy 2:3 , 2 Timothy 2:4 . The Christian “worker” is a “ soldier ” as having to deal with “all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19 ) in his work.

your messenger ] In the Greek, “ your apostolos .” Some have explained this to mean “your chief pastor,” in fact “your bishop,” leader of the “ episcopi ” and “ diaconi ” of 1:1. But there is no real Scripture parallel for such a meaning; and meanwhile 2 Corinthians 8:23 gives a clear parallel for the meaning “ your delegated messenger (to me) .” The Greek wording of the clause fully confirms this; it may be paraphrased, “messenger, and minister of need, sent by you to me.” R.V. your messenger and minister to my need . Meanwhile the word apostolos seems to have had from the very first a certain sacredness and speciality about it. Even when not used of the Lord’s Apostles, it has borrowed something of greatness from His use of it (Luke 6:13 ) for them; it is not merely (as by derivation) “one sent,” a messenger; it is a sacred and authoritative messenger. We may perhaps reverently trace here a slight play upon the word, as if the Philippians were the superior party ana Paul the inferior. As if he said, “One whom you have sent as your missionary to me .”

he that ministered to my wants ] Lit. and better (see above) [your] minister of [to] my need . The Greek word is leitourgos , which again is a word of dignified and often sacred connexion, exactly represented by our “minister.” See Romans 13:6 for its use of magistrates; Hebrews 8:2 for its use of priests. We see here again a certain affectionate play upon the word: Epaphroditus bore an office and authority given by the Philippians’ love.

26 . For ] Here lay the “necessity,” in St Paul’s view, of his friend’s return to the Philippians; in Epaphroditus’ longing for them, and their love and anxiety in regard of him.

he longed ] The Greek is full and emphatic, he was (in a state of) longing , of home-sickness. See note on 1:8. Doubtless the feeling was a recent if not a present one; and in an English letter we should say accordingly, “ he has been in a home-sick condition.”

after you all ] A reading which has considerable support is “ to see you all .” The precise phrase thus formed occurs Romans 1:11 ; 1 Thessalonians 3:6 ; 2 Timothy 1:4 . Perhaps this is a reason for deciding against it here, as it might be a transcriber’s reminiscence.

Observe the still recurring “ you all .” Epaphroditus may have been in some way involved in those differences between sets and circles at Philippi (see above, on 1:27, &c.) which gave St Paul anxiety. So he emphasizes Epaphroditus’ impartial affection for them.

was full of heaviness ] Better, [has been] sore troubled . The word is used of our blessed Lord’s “sore trouble” in the Garden, Matthew 26:37 ; Mark 14:33 . By derivation (see Lightfoot here) it probably suggests the restlessness of profound dislike , shrinking from loathed pain or grief. We see a character of great sensitiveness and tenderness.

ye had heard , &c.] An English letter-writer would more naturally, say you have heard that he has been ill . The reference is to comparative recency, and present results. See Introduction, p. 16.

27 . For indeed , &c.] Epaphroditus would have made light of the illness; St Paul assures them that the report was seriously true, and that the illness had a generous origin.

he was ] He has been .

God had mercy on him ] Though for him also “to die” would have been “gain” (1:21), yet death in itself is a dark passage, even to the Christian (see John 21:18 ; and 2 Corinthians 5:4 ). And meanwhile great are the joys of service on the pilgrimage, and deep their connexion with the coming joys of the heavenly country. “Those who are departed this life,” says St Chrysostom here, “can no longer win souls. ” But perhaps the immediate thought is simply that death would have bereaved the Philippians of their friend, to whose loving heart it was thus “a mercy,” for their sakes, to recover.

on me also ] Here, as so often in St Paul, a heart glowing with holy and generous affection expresses itself in a recognition of the importance of his friends to him. See e.g. Romans 16:4 .

sorrow upon sorrow ] A sore bereavement would have been added to the grief caused him by the “brethren” of 1:15, 16, and to the pervading grief of his separation by imprisonment from so many beloved friends. Observe the perfect naturalness of his language. He abides in “the peace of God”; he “has strength for all things” (4:7, 13). But that peace is no frost, or torpor, of the heart; that strength is not hardness. He is released from embitterment and from murmurs, but every sensibility is refined by that very fact. It was so with his Lord before him; John 11:33 , John 11:35 , John 11:38 .

This passage among others (e.g. 2 Timothy 4:20 ) shews that the mysterious “gift of healing,” used by St Paul at Melita (Acts 28:8 ), was not at the absolute disposal of even the faith of its recipient.

28 . I sent ] In an English letter it would run, I have sent , or I am sending .

carefully ] Better, with R.V. diligently ; taking pains to arrange.

less sorrowful ] A beautiful touch of character. Among his sorrows, he intimates, was his being the unwilling cause of separating Epaphroditus from the Philippians, and bringing him into risks at Rome. To think of him as safely returned to Philippi would be a solace, though it would be a new separation for himself. Under the shadow of that last thought, perhaps, he says not “ happier ” but “ less sorrowful .”

29 . Receive him therefore ] “Therefore”: as the consequence of my sending him. The whole verse supports the suggestion that the internal friction among the Philippians had somehow made Epaphroditus unacceptable to some. See above on ver. 26.

in the Lord ] See above on 1:8.

with all gladness ] The cloud in his own sky interferes not in the least with this holy soul’s interest in the joy of others.

in reputation ] R.V., in honour . The word occurs Luke 7:2 , of the centurion’s “ highly-valued slave”; and 1 Peter 2:4 , 1 Peter 2:6 , of the “ precious stone.” There was a slight risk, we gather here (and see 3:17, and note), lest such unobtrusive and devoted holders of, and workers for, the Gospel should fall out of favour at Philippi. Cp. 1 Thessalonians 5:12 , 1 Thessalonians 5:13 .

30 . the work of Christ ] One most ancient MS. (C) omits “of Christ”; and some other evidence is for “ of the Lord ” instead. R.V. retains the reading of A.V., mentioning in the margin the reading “ of the Lord .” Alford and Lightfoot advocate the omission. For the phrase “ the work ,” used without further definition, cp. Acts 15:38 .

he was nigh unto death ] Lit., “ he drew near, up to death ,” a peculiar but unmistakable expression.

not regarding his life ] R.V., hazarding his life . The two renderings represent each a different reading, the difference lying in the presence or absence of a single letter in the Greek ( parabo(u)leusamenos ). On the whole that represented by R.V. has the better support. In the more ancient Latin Version this Greek word is almost transliterated: parabolatus de animâ suâ; words which might almost be rendered, “having played the desperado with his life.” The verb (found here only) is formed on a common Greek verb of which one meaning is “to wager in a game of chance,” and so to run a risk. Bp Light-foot renders here, “ having gambled with his life .” From the same root comes the ecclesiastical word (Greek and Latin) parabolanus , a member of a “minor order” devoted to nursing the infected, and similar hazardous duties. The order originated in Constantine’s time. Unhappily it soon degenerated into a notoriously turbulent sort of club.

“His life”: lit., “ his soul .” For the very frequent use of the Greek word psychê in the sense of bodily life cp. e.g. Matthew 2:20 .

to supply your lack &c.] More lit., “ that he might fill up your deficiency in the ministration designed for me .” “ Your ” is slightly emphatic. Obviously, the Apostle means no reproof to the Philippians, whose “ministration” of supplies he so warmly appreciates below (4:10 19). He means that they, as a community , were of course unable to aid him by a personal visit, without which however their “ministration” would have “lacked” a necessary condition of success. That condition Epaphroditus had supplied; he had undertaken the journey, and doubtless had thrown himself at Rome into the Apostle’s interests and efforts. And somehow, whether by accidents on the journey, or by risks run at Rome, or by both, he had incurred dangerous illness. See for a close parallel to the language here 1 Corinthians 16:17 ; and cp. the important phraseology of Colossians 1:24 , and notes there.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Philippians 2". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/philippians-2.html. 1896.
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