Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Philippians 4

Verses 1-99

Ch. 4:1 7 . With such a prospect, and such a Saviour, let them be steadfast, united, joyful, self-forgetful, restful, prayerful, and the peace of god shall be theirs

1 . Therefore ] In view of such a hope, and such a Lord.

dearly beloved ] Omit “ dearly ,” which is not in the Greek; though assuredly in the tone of the passage. The word “beloved” is a favourite with all the apostolic writers; a characteristic word of the Gospel of holy love. St Paul uses it 27 times of his converts and friends.

longed for ] The word occurs here only in N.T., but the cognate verb occurs 1:6, 2:26, and cognate nouns Romans 15:23 ; 2 Corinthians 7:7 , 2 Corinthians 7:11 . The address here is full of deep personal tenderness, and of longing desire to revisit Philippi.

my joy and crown ] Cp. the like words to the sister Church in Macedonia, 1 Thessalonians 2:19 , 1 Thessalonians 2:20 , 1 Thessalonians 2:3 :9; and see 2 Corinthians 1:14 . The thought of the Day of glory brings up the thought of his recognition of his converts then, and rejoicing over them before the Lord. Manifestly he expects to know the Philippians, to remember Philippi.

so ] In such faith, and with such practice, as I have now again enjoined on you.

stand fast ] The same verb as that 1:27, where see note. And here cp. especially 1 Corinthians 16:13 ; Galatians 5:1 ; 1 Thessalonians 3:8 (a close parallel, in both word and tone). The Christian is never to stand still, as to growth and service; ever to stand fast, as to faith, hope, and love.

in the Lord ] In recollection and realization of your vital union with Him who is your peace, life, hope, and King. Cp. Ephesians 6:10 , and note in this Series.

my dearly beloved ] Lit., simply, beloved . His heart overflows, as he turns from the sad view of sin and misbelief to these faithful and loving followers of the holy truth. He can hardly say the last word of love.

2 . I beseech ] R.V., I exhort . But the tenderer English word well represents the general tone here, and the Greek fully admits it as a rendering. See e.g. 2 Corinthians 12:8 . Observe the repetition of the word.

Euodias … Syntyche ] Read certainly Euŏdia , a feminine name. In the versions of Tyndale and Cranmer the second name appears as “ Sintiches ,” intended (like Euodias) to be a masculine name. But such a name is nowhere found in Greek inscriptions, nor is Euodias, though this might be contracted from the known name Euodianus. Both Euŏdia and Syntychê are known feminine names, and the persons here are evidently referred to as women, ver. 3. Of these two Christians we know nothing but from this mention. They may have been “deaconesses,” like Phœbe (Romans 16:1 ); they were certainly (see ver. 3) active helpers of the Missionary in his days of labour at Philippi. Perhaps their activity, and the reputation it won, had occasioned a temptation to self-esteem and mutual jealousy; a phenomenon unhappily not rare in the modern Church. Bp Lightfoot (on this verse, and p. 55 of his edition) remarks on the prominence of women in the narrative of the evangelisation of Macedonia; Acts 16:13-44.16.15 , Acts 16:40 , Acts 16:17 :4, Acts 16:12 . He gives proof that the social position and influence of Macedonian women was higher than in most ancient communities. See above, Introduction, p. 13. The mention here of two women as important persons in the Philippian Church is certainly an interesting coincidence with the Acts. As a curiosity of interpretation, Ellicott (see also Lightfoot, p. 170) mentions the conjecture of Schwegler that Euodia and Syntyche are really designations of Church-parties , the names being devised and significant. This theory, of course, regards our Epistle as a fabrication of a later generation, intended as an eirenicon . “What will not men affirm?”

of the same mind in the Lord ] They must lay aside pique and prejudice, in the power and peace of their common union with Christ.

3 . And I entreat ] Better, Yea, I request , or beg (as in our polite use of that word).

also ] Paul was doing what he could to “help” his two converts; his friend at Philippi must “help” too.

true yokefellow ] This person can only be conjecturally identified. He may have been a leading episcopus (1:1) at Philippi. He may have been Epaphroditus, as Bp Lightfoot well suggests; charged with this commission by St Paul not only orally, but thus in writing, as a sort of credential. One curious conjecture, as old as St Clement of Alexandria (cent. 2) is that it was St Paul’s wife 1 1 Renan translates the words here ( Saint Paul , p. 148), ma chère êpouse . See Salmon, Introduction to N. T. , p. 465, note. ; and it is curious that the older Latin version has dilectissime conjux , “ dearest partner .” But the word conjux , like “partner,” is elastic and ambiguous, and the adjective is masculine. Both the form of the Greek adjective here, and the plain statement in 1 Corinthians 7:0 . of St Paul’s celibacy a few years before, not to speak of the unlikelihood, had he been married, of his wife’s residence at Philippi, are fatal to this explanation. Another guess is that the word rendered “yokefellow,” syzy̆gus , or synzygus is a proper name, and that we should render “ Syzygus, truly so called .” But this, though possible, is unlikely; no such name is found in inscriptions or elsewhere.

Wyclif’s rendering, “the german felowe,” looks strange to modern eyes; it means “thee, germane (genuine) comrade.”

help those women] Lit., help them (feminine). “ Them .” means Euodia and Syntyche. The help would come in the way of personal conference and exhortation, with prayer.

which ] The Greek is well represented in R.V., for they .

laboured with me ] Lit., “ strove along with me .” The verb is the same as that 1:27, where see note. Euodia and Syntyche had aided devotedly in the missionary work in their town, perhaps as sharers of special “gifts” (see Acts 21:9 ), or simply as exhorters and instructors of their female neighbours, probably also in loving labours of mercy for the temporal needs of poor converts. Like Phœbe of Cenchreæ (Romans 16:1 ) they were perhaps deaconesses. See Appendix C.

in the gospel ] Cp. 1:5, 2:22; and below, on ver. 15.

with Clement ] Does this mean, “Help them, and let Clement and others help also,” or, “They strove along with me in the gospel, and Clement and others strove also”? The grammar is neutral in the question. On the whole, the first explanation seems best to suit the context, for it keeps the subject of the difference between Euodia and Syntyche still in view, which the second explanation scarcely does; and that difference was evidently an important and anxious fact, not to be lightly dismissed.

Clement ,” Greek, Clêmês : we have no certain knowledge of his identity. The name was common. It is asserted by Origen (cent. 3) that he is the Clement who was at a later time bishop of Rome, and author of an Epistle to the Corinthians, probably the earliest of extant patristic writings. Eusebius (cent. 4) implies the same belief. There is nothing impossible in this, for a Philippian Christian, migrating to the all-receiving Capital, might very possibly become Chief Pastor there in course of time. But the chronology of the life and work of Clement of Rome is obscure in detail, and some evidence makes him survive till quite a.d. 120, more than half a century later than this: a length of labour likely to be noticed by church historians, if it were the fact. In his Epistle (c. 47) he makes special and reverent mention of St Paul; and this is perhaps the strongest point in favour of the identity; but certainly not decisive. See Lightfoot, Philippians , p. 168.

the book of life ] Cp. Revelation 3:5 , Revelation 3:13 :8, Revelation 3:17 :8, Revelation 3:20 :12, Revelation 3:15 , Revelation 3:21 :27; and Luke 10:20 . And see Exodus 32:32 , Exodus 32:33 ; Psalms 69:28 , 87:6; Isaiah 4:3 ; Ezekiel 13:9 ; Daniel 12:1 . The result of comparison of these passages with this seems to be that St Paul here refers to the Lord’s “knowledge of them that are His” (2 Timothy 2:19 ; cp. John 10:27 , John 10:28 ), for time and eternity. All the passages in the Revelation, save 3:5, are clearly in favour of a reference of the phrase to the certainty of the ultimate salvation of true saints; particularly 13:8, 17:8; and so too Daniel 12:1 , and Luke 10:20 . Revelation 3:5 appears to point in another direction (see Trench on that passage). But in view of the other mentions of the “Book” in the Revelation, the language of 3:5 may well be only a vivid assertion that the name in question shall be found in an indelible register. Exodus 32:0 . and Psalms 69:0 are of course definite witnesses for a possible blotting out from “a book written” by God. But it is at least uncertain whether the book there in view is not the register of life temporal, not eternal. Practically, the Apostle here speaks of Clement and the rest as having given illustrious proof of their part and lot in that “life eternal” which is “to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent” (John 17:3 ). The word “ names .” powerfully suggests the individuality and speciality of Divine love.

4 . Rejoice in the Lord .] Cp. 3:1, and note.

alway ] This word is a strong argument against the rendering “ Farewell ,” instead of “ Rejoice .” “ Always ” would read strange and unnatural in such a connexion. And cp. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 .

He leads them here above all uncertain and fluctuating reasons for joy, to Him Who is the supreme and unalterable gladness of the believing soul, beneath and above all changes of circumstances and sensation.

5 . moderation ] R.V., “ forbearance ”; margin, “ gentleness ”; Wyclif, “ patience ”; Tyndale and Cranmer, “ softenes ”; Geneva, “ patient mynde ”; Rheims, “ modestie ”; Lat. versions, modestia ; Beza, œquitas ; Luther, Lindigkeit . The word is full of interest and significance, and is very difficult of translation. Perhaps forbearance , though inadequate, is a fair rendering. It means in effect considerateness, the attitude of thought and will which in remembrance of others forgets self, and willingly yields up the purely personal claims of self. The “ self-less ” man is the “moderate” man of this passage; the man who is yielding as air in respect of personal feeling or interest, though firm as a rock in respect of moral principle. See an excellent discussion, Trench, Synonyms , § xliii. The editor may be allowed to refer to a small book of his own in further illustration, Thoughts on the Spiritual Life , ch. 3.

be known , &c.] Trench (quoted above) shews that the quality here commended is essentially, by usage as well as etymology, a thing having to do with life, action, intercourse. For its existence, so to speak, society is necessary. “ Men ” must be met and dealt with, and so must “know” it by its practical fruits.

The Lord is at hand ”: in the sense of presence , not of coming . Cp. Psalms 119:0 (LXX. 118):151, “ Thou art near, O Lord ”; where the Greek is the same. And for the spiritual principle, see Psalms 31:19 , Psalms 31:20 , 121:5. Not that the deeply calming expectation of the Lord’s approaching Return is excluded from thought here; but Psalms 119:0 . decides for the other as the leading truth.

6 . Be careful for nothing ] Better, in modern English, In nothing be anxious (R.V.). Wyclif, “be ye no thing bisie”; all the other older English versions are substantially as A.V.; Luther, Sorget nichts ; Latin versions, Nihil solliciti sitis (fueritis) . On the etymology of the Greek verb, and on the thought here, see note above, 2:20. There the mental action here blamed is commended; a discrepancy fully harmonized by a view of different conditions. Here, the saints are enjoined to deal with every trying circumstance of life as those who know, and act upon, the fact that “the Lord thinketh on me” (Psalms 40:17 ). Cp. Mark 4:19 ; Luke 8:14 , Luke 8:10 :41, Luke 8:21 :34; 1 Corinthians 7:32 ; 1 Peter 5:7 .

The English word “ care ” is akin to older Teutonic words meaning lamentation, murmur, sorrow, and is not connected with the Lat. cura (Skeat, Etym. Dict. ). English literature, from “Piers Plowman” (cent. 14) to Shakspeare and the A.V., abounds in illustrations of the meaning of the word here. E.g., Vision of Piers Plowman , v. 76: “carefullich mea culpa he comsed to shewe”; i.e. “he anxiously commenced to unfold” his sins in the confessional. So, in the same writer, a mournful song is “a careful note.”

in every thing] An all-inclusive positive, to justify the all-inclusive negative just before. Observe here, as so often, the tendency of Christian precepts to a holy universality of scope. Cp. Ephesians 4:29 , Ephesians 4:31 , Ephesians 4:5 :3, and notes in this Series.

by prayer and supplication ] We might almost paraphrase the Greek, where each noun has an article, “by your prayer &c.”; by the prayer which of course you offer.

“Prayer” is the larger word, often including all kinds and parts of “worship”; “supplication” is the more definite. Cp. Ephesians 6:18 , and note in this Series. The two words thus linked together are meant, however, less to be distinguished than to include and enforce the fullest and freest “speaking unto the Lord.”

with thanksgiving ] “The temper of the Christian should always be one of thanksgiving. Nearly every Psalm, however deep the sorrow and contrition, escapes into the happy atmosphere of praise and gratitude. The Psalms, in Hebrew, are the Praises . All prayer ought to include the element of thanksgiving, for mercies temporal and spiritual” (Note by the Dean of Peterborough). The privilege of prayer is in itself an abiding theme for grateful praise.

be made known ] Exactly as if He needed information. True faith will accept and act upon such a precept with very little questioning or discussion of its rationale . Scripture is full of illustrations of it in practice, from the prayers of Abraham (Genesis 15:17 , Genesis 15:18 ) and of Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24:0 ) onward. It is for the Eternal, not for us, to reconcile such humble but most real statements and requests on our part with His infinity.

This verse is a caution against the view of prayer taken by some Mystic Christian thinkers, in which all articulate petition is merged in the soul’s perpetual “ Thy will be done .” See Mme. Guyon, Moyen Court de faire Oraison , ch. 17. Such a doctrine has in it a sacred element of truth, but as a whole it is out of harmony with the divinely balanced precepts of Scripture.

7 . And ] An important link. The coming promise of the Peace of God is not isolated, but in deep connexion.

the peace of God ] The chastened but glad tranquillity, caused by knowledge of the God of peace, and given by His Spirit to our spirit. Cp. Colossians 3:15 (where read, “the peace of Christ ”); John 14:27 . The long and full previous context all leads up to this; the view of our acceptance in and for Christ alone (3:3 9); the deepening knowledge of the living Lord and His power (10); the expectation, in the path of spiritual obedience, of a blessed future (11 21); watchful care over communion with Christ, and over a temper befitting the Gospel, and over the practice of prayer (4:1 6).

Here is the true “Quietism” of the Scriptures.

all understanding ] “All mind ,” “all thinking power .” Our truest reason recognizes that this peace exists, because God exists; our articulate reasoning cannot overtake its experiences; they are always above, below, beyond. Cp. Ephesians 3:19 .

shall keep ] Observe the definite promise; not merely an aspiration, or even an invocation. Cp. Isaiah 26:3 . The Latin versions, mistakenly, read custodiat .

R.V., shall guard . This is better, except as it breaks in on the immemorial music of the Benediction. All the older English versions have “ keep ”, except the Genevan, which has “ defend. ” “Guard” (or “defend”) represents correctly the Greek verb, which is connected with nouns meaning “garrison,” “fort,” and the like, and also prevents the mistake of explaining the sentence “shall keep you in Christ, prevent you from going out of Christ.” What it means is that, “ in Christ Jesus,” who is the one true spiritual Region of blessing, the peace of God shall protect the soul against its foes. hearts ] The word in Scripture includes the whole “inner man”; understanding, affections, will.

minds ] Lit. and better, thoughts , acts of mind. The holy serenity of the believer’s spirit, in Christ Jesus, shall be the immediate means of shielding even the details of mental action from the tempter’s power. Cp. Ephesians 6:16 , where the “faith” which accepts and embraces the promise occupies nearly the place given here to the peace which is the substance of the promise.

through Christ Jesus ] Lit. and better, in . See last note but two.

8 9 . as a last spiritual entreaty, let their regenerate minds be true-thoughtful: let them remember Paul’s word and practice

8 . Finally ] A phrase introducing a precept, or precepts, more or less based on what has gone before. See above, on 3:1

He begs them to give to their minds, thus “safeguarded” by the peace of God, all possible pure and healthful material to work upon, of course with a view to practice. Let them reflect on, take account of, estimate aright, (see note below on “ think on these things ”), all that was true and good; perhaps specially in contrast to the subtle perversions of moral principle favoured by the persons described above (3:18, 19), who dreamed of making an impossible divorce between the spiritual and the moral.

true ] Both in the sense of truth- speaking and truth- being . Truthfulness of word, and sincerity of character, are absolutely indispensable to holiness. Nothing is more unsanctified than a double meaning, or a double purpose, however “pious” the “fraud”.

honest ] Margin, “ venerable ”; R.V., honourable . The adjective is rendered “ grave ,” 1 Timothy 3:8 , 1 Timothy 3:11 ; Titus 2:2 . It points to serious purposes, and to self-respect; no small matter in Christianity. In older English “ honest ” bore this meaning more than at present.

just ] Right, as between man and man; scrupulous attention to all relative duties.

pure ] Perhaps in the special respect of holy chastity of thought and act as regards the body. There may be more in the word: see 2 Corinthians 7:11 ; and cp. 1 John 3:3 . But most surely this is in it. See Trench, Synonyms , ii. § xxxviii.

lovely ] Pleasing, amiable. Cp. for the English in this meaning, 2 Samuel 1:23 . It is a meaning rare now, if not obsolete, but it was still common a century ago. The Christian is here reminded that his Master would have him attend to manner as well as matter in his life. Grace should make gracious. Cp. 1 Peter 3:8 . The Rhemish version has “ amiable ” here.

of good report ] Better, probably, sweet-spoken ; “loveliness” in the special respect of kindly and winning speech. So Lightfoot. Ellicott explains the word, however, in a different direction; “fair sounding,” “high-toned”; with a special reference to elevated truths and principles. R.V. retains the rendering of A.V., with margin “ gracious ”.

if there be any virtue ] “Whatever virtue there is.” To complete his meaning, he bids them exercise thought on whatever is rightly called “virtue,” even if not expressly described in the previous words.

The word rendered “virtue” (arětê) occurs here only in St Paul, and elsewhere in N.T. only 1 Peter 2:9 (of God, and in the sense of “praise,” as always in LXX.); 2 Peter 1:3 (of God, as rightly read), and 5 (twice), of an element in Christian character. It is remarkable that a favourite word of Greek ethics should be thus avoided; but the reason is not far to seek. By derivation and in usage it is connected with ideas of manhood, courage, and so self-reliance. The basis of goodness in the Gospel is self-renunciation, in order to the reception of grace, the undeserved gift of God.

Here however the Apostle concedes a place to the word, so to speak, as if to extend in every direction the view of what is right in action. In 2 Peter 1:5 it is used with the quite special meaning of vigour in the life of grace.

any praise ] “Whatever praise there is,” justly given by the general human conscience. Here again he is, as it were, conceding a place to an idea not quite of the highest, yet not at discord with the highest. It is not good to do right for the sake of the selfish pleasure of praise; but it is right to praise what is rightly done, and such praise has a moral beauty, and may give to its recipient a moral pleasure not spoiled by selfishness. St Paul appeals to the existence of such a desert of praise, to illustrate again what he means when he seeks to attract their thoughts towards things recognized as good, “There is such a thing as right praise; make it an index of the things on which you should think.”

think on ] Literally, “ reckon, calculate ”; see above, first note on this verse.

9 . Those things &c.] On the apparent egotism of this appeal, see on 3:17. R.V. renders, somewhat better, The things &c.

have doth learned &c.] Better, both learned &c. The verbs are aorists, and the reference is to his long-past residence at Philippi.

received ] Cp. 1 Corinthians 11:23 , 1 Corinthians 11:15 :1, 1 Corinthians 11:3 ; Galatians 1:9 ; Colossians 2:6 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:13 , 1 Thessalonians 4:1 . In all these cases the verb is used of learning a truth passed on by another.

seen ] Saw . See note 1 on this verse. in me ] As specimen and model. See note on 1:26. Strictly speaking, the “ in me ” refers only to the “ saw ”.

do ] Practise , as a holy habit.

and ] See first note on ver. 7.

the God of peace ] Author and giver of the peace of God. Cp. for the phrase Romans 15:33 , Romans 15:16 :20; 2 Corinthians 13:11 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ; Hebrews 13:20 . And see 2 Thessalonians 3:16 . In 1 Corinthians 14:33 we have, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace”; and there the “peace” is evidently Christian social peace, rather than that which resides in the spirit of the saint, or has to do with his personal relations with God (and cp. 2 Corinthians 13:11 ). But the two are closely connected; the Divine peace in the individual tends always, in its right development and action, to the peace of the community, for it means the dethronement of the spirit of self. St Paul may thus have had in view here the need of more harmony among the Philippians, and of a nobler moral and spiritual tone (ver. 8) as an aid towards it. But the whole context is so full of the highest aspects of Christian experience that we take the present phrase to refer primarily, at least, to God as at peace with His people, and making peace within their hearts; the “Lord of the sabbath” of the soul.

10 20 . He renders loving thanks for their Alms, brought him by Epaphroditus

10 . But ] The directly didactic message of the Epistle is now over, and he turns to the personal topic of the alms, for himself and his work, received through Epaphroditus from Philippi.

I rejoiced ] R.V., I rejoice ; taking the Greek aorist as “epistolary.” See on 2:25. The aorist may refer, however, to the joy felt when the gift arrived, the first thankful surprise; and if so, A.V. represents it rightly.

in the Lord ] See last note on 1:8. The whole circumstance, as well as the persons, was in deep connexion with Him.

at the last ] Better, with R.V., at length ; a phrase of milder emphasis. “ At the last ” (cp. Genesis 49:19 ) is “ at last ” in an older form. The Philippians had sent St Paul a subsidy, or subsidies, before; but for reasons beyond their control there had been a rather long interval before this last.

your care of me hath flourished ] Better, you have shot forth thought (as a branch or bud) for me ; or, less lit., you have burgeoned into thought for me . The verb, only intransitive in the classics, is also transitive in LXX. (see Ezekiel 17:24 ) and Apocrypha (see Ecclus. 1:14). The poetic boldness of the phrase is noticeable; our second alternative translation fairly represents it. Perhaps the courteous kindliness of the Apostle’s thought comes out in it; an almost pleasantry of expression.

wherein ] Or, whereon ; “with a view to which”; i.e., as the previous words imply, with a view to an effort to aid him.

ye were careful ] Ye took thought . The verb ( phroneîn ) is quite different from that in ver. 6. It bears here (and just above, where its infinitive is represented by the English noun “thought”) the unusual meaning of definite thinking , not, as usual, that of being in a mental state . See on 1:7.

The gracious, sympathetic recognition of good intentions is indeed Christian .

lacked opportunity ] Particularly, a suitable bearer had not been forthcoming.

11 . want ] Better, perhaps, need , as less extreme in meaning. The Greek word occurs elsewhere only Mark 12:44 ; of the great poverty of the Widow.

I ] Slightly emphatic. He implies an appeal to them to learn his secret for themselves.

have learned ] Lit., “ did learn ”; but probably the A.V. (and R.V.) rightly represent the Greek. It is possible, however, that he refers to the time of waiting for their aid as his learning time; “I learned, in that interval, a lesson of content.”

He implies in any case that the pause in their assistance had been a time of some privation, though not from the higher point of view.

content ] Lit., “ self-sufficient ”; in the sense of omnia mea mecum porto . He did not depend upon circumstances for satisfaction. Such “sufficiency,” but on very different principles, was a favourite Stoic virtue.

12 . to be abased ] “To be low ,” in resources and comforts. The word is used in classical Greek of a river running low.

to abound ] as now, in the plenty the Philippians had provided. This experience, as well as the opposite, called for the skill of grace.

every where and in all things ] Lit., in everything and in all things ; in the details and total of experience.

I am instructed ] I have been initiated ; “ I have learned the secret ” (R.V.). The Greek verb is akin to the words, mystês, mystêrion , and means to initiate a candidate into the hidden tenets and worship of the “Mysteries”; systems of religion in the Hellenic world derived perhaps from prehistoric times, and jealously guarded by their votaries. Admission to their arcana , as into Freemasonry now, was sought even by the most cultured; with the special hope, apparently, of a peculiar immunity from evil in this life and the next. See Smith’s Dict. of Greek and Roman Antiquities . It is evident that St Paul’s adoption of such a word for the discovery of the “open secrets” of the Gospel is beautifully suggestive. Lightfoot remarks that we have the same sort of adoption in his frequent use (and our Lord’s, Matthew 13:11 ; Mark 4:11 ; Luke 8:10 ; and see Revelation 1:20 , Revelation 1:10 :7, Revelation 1:17 :5, Revelation 1:7 ) of the word “ mystery ” for a revealed secret of doctrine or prophecy.

to be full ] R.V., to be filled . The Greek verb is the same as e.g. Matthew 5:6 , Matthew 14:20 . St Paul uses it only here. Its first meaning was “to give fodder to cattle,” but it lost this lower reference in later Greek (Lightfoot).

hungry ] No doubt often in stern reality. Cp. 1 Corinthians 4:11 .

13 . I can do all things ] More exactly, I have strength for all things ; whether to do or to bear. The Latin versions, beautifully, render, omnia possum . The “all things” are, of course, not all things absolutely; he is not the Omnipotent. They are “all things” with which he has to do, as the will of God brings them to him; not the boundless field of possibilities, but a straight line across it, the actual path of duty and suffering, chosen not by himself but by his Lord and Master. The reference is thus limited and practical; but within that reference it is, observe, not “ some ” but “ all ” things that he can meet in peace and strength. Cp. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ; Ephesians 2:12 .

through Christ which strengtheneth me ] With the best attested reading, and more exactly, in Him who enableth me . The verb occurs elsewhere in the active, 1 Timothy 1:12 ; 2 Timothy 4:17 . It occurs in the middle or passive, Acts 9:22 ; Romans 4:20 ; Ephesians 6:10 ; 2 Timothy 2:1 ; Hebrews 11:34 . It imports the supply on the one hand and reception and realization on the other of a supernatural ability ( dynǎmis ), coming out in action.

Observe the phrase, “ in Him.” It is in vital union with his Head that the “member” is thus able for “all things,” and in no other way (cp. John 15:4 , John 15:5 ; 2 Corinthians 9:8 , 2 Corinthians 9:12 :9, 2 Corinthians 9:10 ). But this way is open to the submissive faith of every true Christian, not of Apostles and Martyrs only.

The word “ Christ ” is not in the true text, but is manifestly a true “gloss.”

14 . Notwithstanding ] “Again the Apostle’s nervous anxiety to clear himself interposes” (Lightfoot). We would rather call it loving care than nervous anxiety. He is tender over their feelings, as he thinks how “their deep poverty has abounded to the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:1 , 2 Corinthians 8:2 ), in love to him and to the Lord; and not even his testimony to the power of Christ shall make him seem to slight their collection.

ye have well done ] Better, perhaps, ye did well ; when you gave and sent your alms.

communicate with ] Better, as more intelligible to modern readers, take a share in . For the thought, cp. on 1:7. Their sympathy, coming out in self-denial, blent their experience with that of the imprisoned and impoverished Apostle.

15 . Now ] Better, But . He suggests, with the same delicacy of love, that their previous gifts would have sufficed, without this gift, to witness and seal their hearts’ cooperation with him. “You have done well in such participation; but indeed you had assured its existence before.”

ye Philippians know also ] Better, ye yourselves too know, Philippians ; ye, as well as I. “Philippians”: the form used by St Paul is “ Philippesians ”, one of several forms of the civic adjective. The same appears in the ancient “Title” (see above) and in the “Subscription” below. See Lightfoot here.

the gospel ] I.e. his evangelization (of their region). For this meaning of “the Gospel” cp. 2 Corinthians 10:14 (and perhaps 8:18); Galatians 2:7 ; 1 Thessalonians 3:2 ; and above, 1:5, 7, 12, 4:3.

when I departed from Macedonia ] He refers to about the time of his advance into “Achaia,” Roman Southern Greece; just before and just after he actually crossed the border. For the narrative, cp. Acts 17:1-44.17.15 . This is a reminiscence after an interval of about ten years.

communicated with me ] Better, took its share with me . See last note on ver. 14.

as concerning ] Better, with R.V., in the matter of .

giving and receiving ] I.e., their giving a subsidy to him, and his receiving it from them. The Greek phrase is a recognized formula, like our “credit and debit.” See Lightfoot here. To bring in the thought of their “giving temporal things” and “receiving spiritual things” (1 Corinthians 9:11 ) is to complicate and confuse the passage.

ye only ] No blame of other Churches is necessarily implied. The thought is occupied with the fact of a sure and early proof of Philippian sympathy.

16 . even in Thessalonica ] “Even when I was there.” Thessalonica was just 100 Roman miles (about 92 English) from Philippi, on the Via Egnatia . Amphipolis and Apollonia were the two intermediate road-stations, about 30 miles from each other, and apparently Paul and Silas passed only a night at each, hastening to Thessalonica, where probably they spent some weeks, or even months (Acts 17:1-44.17.9 ; and cp. Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles &c., ch. 9; Lewin, L. and E . &c., vol. 1. chap. 11). Thus Thessalonica was practically the Apostle’s first pause after leaving Philippi; and it was in Macedonia.

once and again ] Within a short stay at the longest. In Acts 17:0 only “three sabbaths” are mentioned; but the Epistles to Thessalonica seem to imply that he stayed somewhat longer, by their allusions to the impression made at Thessalonica by his and his companions’ life and example. See 1 Thessalonians 2:1-52.2.12 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:7 , 2 Thessalonians 3:8 .

my necessity ] The profits of his hard manual labour at Thessalonica (see 1 and 2 Thess. just quoted) evidently left him still very poor. He would take nothing of the Thessalonians, while still actually introducing the Gospel to them.

17 . Not &c.] Here again see the sensitive delicacy of love. This allusion to the cherished past, begun with the wish to shew that he needed no present proof of sympathy, might after all be taken to be “thanks for future” liberality. It shall not be so.

desire ] Better, with R.V., seek . The verb occurs e.g. Matthew 12:39 ; Romans 11:7 . Both its form and usage suggest here the appropriate meaning of an active, restless search; a “hunting for” the object.

a gift ] Lit. and much better, the gift ; the mere money of the collection.

desire ] Again, seek : the same idea, with a beautiful change of reference.

fruit that may abound ] Lit. and better, the fruit &c. St Chrysostom’s comment here, in which he uses the Greek verb akin to the noun ( tokos ) meaning interest on money , seems to imply that he, a Greek, understood the phrase to be borrowed from the money-market. If so, we may translate, the interest that is accruing to your credit . The imagery, by its very paradox, would be appropriate in this passage of ingenious kindness. The only objection to the rendering is that the precise Greek words are not actually found in special pecuniary connexions, though they would easily fit into them.

“That may”: that does is certainly right, and in point. He regards it as as a present certainty that “God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16 ) with their gift of love, and that the blessed “profit” of His “well done, good and faithful” (Matthew 25:21 ) is secure for them.

18 . But ] He carries on the correction, begun in ver. 17, of a possible misunderstanding of his warm words. He must not be thought to “spell” for future gifts, least of all now, so amply supplied as he is.

I have all ] The Greek verb is one used in connexions of payment, to express a full receipt. We might almost paraphrase, “you have paid me in full in all respects.”

and abound ] It is enough, and more than enough; I “run over” with your bounty. See ver. 12, above.

Epaphroditus ] See on 2:25, 30. We learn definitely here that he was the bringer of the collection.

the things ] He seems to avoid the word “ money .” It was more than money; the coin was the symbol of priceless love.

an odour of a sweet smell ] See Ephesians 5:2 , for the same Greek phrase. It is common in LXX. as the translation of the Heb. rêach níchóach , a savour of rest; the fume of the altar, smelt by the Deity, (in the picture language of typical sacrifices), and recognized as a token of welcome allegiance or propitiation. See note in this Series on Ephesians 5:2 . Here the fragrance is that of either the “burnt-offering” of self-dedication (see Leviticus 1:9 ), or the “meal offering,” or “peace offering,” of thanksgiving (see Leviticus 2:2 , Leviticus 3:5 ), or of both combined, as they are combined in our Liturgy of the Holy Communion.

a sacrifice acceptable &c.] Cp. last note, and Hebrews 13:16 . See also Ephesians 6:8 , and note in this Series.

19 . But ] R.V., “ And .” But surely there is a slight contrast meant, to an implied wish that he could send back some material requital of his own to alleviate their “deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:2 ).

my God ] Words deeply characteristic of St Paul. See on 1:3 above. Bp Lightfoot well remarks that the phrase is specially in point here; the Apostle is thinking of what God on his behalf shall do for others.

shall supply ] Promise, not only aspiration. He is sure of His faithfulness. “Supply”: lit., “ fill ,” pouring His bounty into the void of the “need.”

all your need ] R.V., somewhat better, every need of yours . See again, 2 Corinthians 8:2 , where the exceptional poverty of the converts of Northern Greece is referred to. The prominent thought here is, surely, that of temporal poverty. Cp. particularly 2 Corinthians 9:8 , where the first reference seems to be to God’s ability to supply to His self-denying servants always more from which they may still spare and give. But neither here nor in 2 Cor. are we for a moment to shut out the widest and deepest applications of the truth stated.

his riches in glory ] His resources, consisting in, and so lodged in, His own “glory” of Divine power and love. Cp. Romans 6:4 , and note in this Series, for a similar use of the word “glory.” Bp Lightfoot prefers to connect “ shall supply, in glory, your need, according to His riches ,” and he explains the thought to be, “shall supply your need by placing you in glory .” But we venture to think this construction needlessly difficult. Anything in which God is “glorified” (see e. g. Galatians 1:24 ) is, as it were, a reflection of His holy glory, and a result of it. Tender providential goodness to the poor Philippians would be such a result.

On St Paul’s love of the word “riches” in Divine connexions, cp. Ephesians 1:7 , and note in this Series.

in Christ Jesus ] “in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead,” “in whom” the saints are “filled,” as regards all their needs (Colossians 2:9 , Colossians 2:10 ). The “glory” of both grace and providence is lodged, for His people, in Him.

20 . God and our Father ] Better, our God and Father ; the ultimate Source of all faith, love, and hope in the brethren and members of His Son. “Our”: “It is no longer [ ‘my’ ], for the reference is now not to himself as distinguished from the Philippians, but as united to them” (Lightfoot).

glory ] Lit. and better, the glory ; the adoring praise due in view of this their act of love, and of the certainty of a full supply of all their need.

for ever and ever ] Lit., “ to the ages of the ages .” The A.V. (and R.V.) are a true paraphrase. On the word aiôn (age) see notes in this Series, on Romans 16:25 ; Ephesians 1:21 . The idea conveyed by the phrase here is of circles of duration consisting of, embracing, other circles ad infinitum .

Amen ] Probably, but not quite certainly, to be retained in the text. The word is properly a Hebrew adverb (“ surely ”), repeatedly used as here in O. T. See e.g. Deuteronomy 27:15 ; Psalms 72:19 ; Jeremiah 11:5 (marg. A. V.).

21 23 . Salutations and Farewell

21 . Salute ] Cp. Romans 16:3-45.16.16 .

saint ] See on 1:1.

in Christ Jesus ] See on 1:1. The words may grammatically be connected with either “ salute ,” to which Lightfoot inclines, or “ saint .” In view of 1:1, we recommend the latter. See on the other side (with Lightfoot) Romans 16:22 ; 1 Corinthians 16:19 .

the brethren which are with me ] “Apparently the Apostle’s personal companions … as distinguished from the Christians resident in Rome, who are described in the following verse” (Lightfoot).

greet ] Better, with R.V., salute . The verb is the same as that just above.

22 . chiefly ] More exactly, but chiefly . There was something marked and emphatic about this message.

they of Cesar’s household ] “Probably slaves and freedmen attached to the palace” (Lightfoot). It has been sometimes assumed that these persons, on the other hand, were members of the imperial family, and this has been used either to prove the remarkable advance of the Gospel in the highest Roman society during St Paul’s first captivity, and incidentally to evidence a late date in that captivity for the Epistle, or to support a theory of the spuriousness of the Epistle. Bp Lightfoot, in an “additional note,” or rather essay ( Philippians , pp. 171 178), has shewn with great fulness of proof that the “household of Cæsar” was a term embracing a vast number of persons, not only in Rome but in the provinces, all of whom were either actual or former slaves of the Emperor, filling every possible description of office more or less domestic. The Bishop illustrates his statements from the very numerous burial inscriptions of members of the “Household” found within the last 170 years near Rome, most of them of the period of the Julian and Claudian Emperors. And the names of persons in these inscriptions afford a curiously large number of coincidences with the list in Romans 16:0 ; among them being Amplias, Urbanus, Apelles, Tryphæna, Tryphosa, Patrobas, Philologus. And it appears by the way to be very probable that both Aristobulus’ and Narcissus’ “households” (Romans 16:10 , Romans 16:11 ) were in fact the slave-establishments of the son of Herod the Great, and of the favourite of Claudius, respectively, transferred to the possession of the Emperor. Bp Lightfoot infers from this whole evidence the great probability that the “saints” greeted in Romans 16:0 were, on the whole, the same “saints” who send greeting here from Rome. Various as no doubt were their occupations, and their native lands, the members of the Household of Cæsar as such must have had an esprit de corps , and, for their rank in society, a prestige, which made it humanly speaking likely that a powerful influence, like that of the Gospel, if felt among them at all, would be felt widely, and that they would be in the way to make a distinctive expression of their faith and love, when occasion offered.

The view thus given of the saints here mentioned, their associations and functions, not only in the age of Nero but in the precincts of his court, and probably for many of them within the chambers of his palace, gives a noble view in passing of the power of grace to triumph over circumstances, and to transfigure life where it seems most impossible.

A certain parallel to the Household of Cæsar appears in the vast Maison du Roy of the later French monarchy. But the Maison was for the noblesse alone.

23. The grace ] So every Epistle of St Paul’s closes, or almost closes. In the Ep. to the Romans this benediction occurs twice; 16:20, 24. The exact form found here occurs also Galatians 6:18 ; Philemon 1:25 . Observe the deeply implied testimony to the Divine glory of the Saviour, who is mentioned here alone, and in conclusion, as the Fountain of grace.

with you all ] Read, with your spirit : the inmost basis of the life and will of man, and here of regenerate man. That “spirit” is not annulled, or absorbed, by the Divine power; the “grace” is to be “ with ” it (cp. 1 Corinthians 15:10 ). But it is also to be “ in ” it (see 2:12 above), possessing, assimilating, transforming, into the likeness of Him whose presence and power is grace.

Amen ] The word is probably to be omitted from the text. But though the Apostle did not write it, the reader can supply it as his own response.

The Subscription

It was written … by Epaphroditus ] “ Written by ” is, of course, “ sent by means of, by the hand of .” The words obviously give the facts of the case correctly. It is equally obvious that they were not in the original copies. Of the many varying “Subscriptions” in extant MSS., the shortest appears to be the oldest; To the Philippians (Philippesians; see on 4:15 above). Others are, It was written from Rome; It was written &c. by Epaphroditus, or, in one case, by Epaphroditus and Timotheus. In one MS. appears [The Epistle] to the Philippians is fulfilled, in another, is finished.

On the Subscriptions to St Paul’s Epistles, see Scrivener’s Introduction to the Criticism of the N.T. (Ed. 1883, p. 62). They are ascribed (in their longer form) to Euthalius, a bishop of the fifth century. See further, note in this Series on the Subscription to the Epistle to the Ephesians.


A. St Paul’s Residence at Rome (Introd. p. 20)

B. “Saints and faithful brethren” (Ch. 1:1)

C. Bishops and Deacons (Ch. 1:1)

D. Ebionite Christology (Ch. 1:15)

E. Christology and Christianity (Ch. 2:5)

F. Robert Hall on Philippians 2:5-50.2.8 . Baur’s theory (Ch. 2:6)

G. Ad. Monod on St Paul’s Tears (Ch. 3:18)

H. Family Affection of Christianity (Ch. 4:1)

I. Philippi and the Epistle (Ch. 4:18)

A. St Paul’s Residence At Rome

(Introduction, p. 20.)

“St Paul arrived in Rome, from Melita, in the spring of a.d. 61, probably early in March. There he spent ‘two full years’ (Acts 28:30 ), at the close of which, as we have good reason to believe, he was released.

“In the long delay before his trial 1 1 Due probably to procrastination in the prosecution and to the caprice of the Emperor. See Lewin, vol. 11. p. 236, for a parallel case. he was of course in custody; but this was comparatively lenient. He occupied lodgings of his own (Acts 28:16 , Acts 28:23 , Acts 28:30 ), probably a storey or flat in one of the lofty houses common in Rome. It is impossible to determine for certain where in the City this lodging was, but it is likely that it was either in or near the great Camp of the Prætorians, or Imperial Guard, outside the Colline Gate, just N.E. of the city 2 2 See Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , pp. 9 &c., 99 &c.; [and our note on Phil. 1:13]. . In this abode the Apostle was attached day and night by a light coupling-chain to a Prætorian sentinel, but was as free, apparently, to invite and maintain general intercourse as if he had been merely confined by illness.

“The company actually found in his rooms at different times was very various. His first visitors (indeed they must have been the providers of his lodging) would be the Roman Christians, including all, or many, of the saints named in a passage (Romans 16:0 ) written only a very few years before. Then came the representatives of the Jewish community (Acts 28:17 , Acts 28:23 ), but apparently never to return, as such, after the long day of discussion to which they were first invited. Then from time to time would come Christian brethren, envoys from distant Churches, or personal friends; Epaphroditus from Philippi, Aristarchus from Thessalonica, Tychicus from Ephesus, Epaphras from Colossæ, John Mark, Demas, Jesus Justus. Luke, the beloved physician, was present perhaps always, and Timotheus, the Apostle’s spiritual son, very frequently. One other memorable name occurs, Onesimus, the fugitive Colossian slave, whose story, indicated in the Epistle to Philemon, is at once a striking evidence of the perfect liberty of access to the prisoner granted to anyone and everyone, and a beautiful illustration both of the character of St Paul and the transfiguring power and righteous principles of the Gospel.

“No doubt the visitors to this obscure but holy lodging were far more miscellaneous than even this list suggests. Through the successive Prætorian sentinels some knowledge of the character and message of the prisoner would be always passing out. The right interpretation of Phil. 1:13 1 1 See Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , pp. 99 &c., [and our notes on Phil. 1:13] is, beyond reasonable doubt, that the true account of Paul’s imprisonment came to be ‘known in the Prætorian regiments, and generally among people around’; and Philippians 4:22 indicates that a body of earnest and affectionate converts had arisen among the population of slaves and freedmen attached to the Palace of Nero. And the wording of that passage suggests that such Christians found a welcome meeting place in the rooms of the Apostle; doubtless for frequent worship, doubtless also for direct instruction, and for the blessed enjoyments of the family affection of the Gospel. Meanwhile (Philippians 1:15 , Philippians 1:16 ) there was a section of the Roman Christian community, probably the disciples infected with the prejudices of the Pharisaic party (see Acts 15:0 , &c.), who, with very few exceptions (see Colossians 4:11 and notes), took sooner or later a position of trying antagonism to St Paul; a trial over which he triumphed in the deep peace of Christ.

“It is an interesting possibility, not to say probability, that from time to time the lodging was visited by inquirers of intellectual fame or distinguished rank. Ancient Christian tradition 2 2 The first hint appears in Tertullian, cent. 2 3. actually makes the renowned Stoic writer, L. Annæus Seneca, tutor and counsellor of Nero, a convert of St Paul’s; and one phase of the legend was the fabrication, within the first four centuries, of a correspondence between the two. It is quite certain that Seneca was never a Christian, though his language is full of startling superficial parallels to that of the N.T., and most full in his latest writings. But it is at least very likely that he heard, through his many channels of information, of St Paul’s existence and presence, and that he was intellectually interested in his teaching; and it is quite possible that he cared to visit him. It is not improbable, surely, that Seneca’s brother Gallio (Acts 18:12 ) may have described St Paul, however passingly, in a letter; for Gallio’s religious indifference may quite well have consisted with a strong personal impression made on him by St Paul’s bearing. Festus himself was little interested in the Gospel, or at least took care to seem so, and yet was deeply impressed by the personnel of the Apostle. And, again, the Prefect of the Imperial Guard, a.d. 61, was Afranius Burrus, Seneca’s intimate colleague as counsellor to Nero, and it is at least possible that he had received from Festus a more than commonplace description of the prisoner consigned to him 1 1 We cannot but think that Bp Lightfoot ( Philippians , p. 301) somewhat underrates the probability that Gallio and Burrus should have given Seneca an interest in St Paul. .

“Bp Lightfoot, in his Essay, ‘St Paul and Seneca’ ( Philippians , pp. 270, &c.), thinks it possible to trace in some of the Epistles of the Captivity a Christian adaptation of Stoic ideas. The Stoic, for example, made much of the individual’s membership in the great Body of the Universe, and citizenship in its great City. The connexion suggested is interesting, and it falls quite within the methods of Divine inspiration that materials of Scripture imagery should be collected from a secular region. But the language of St Paul about the Mystical Body, in the Ephesian Epistle particularly, reads far more like a direct revelation than like an adaptation; and it evidently deals with a truth which is already, in its substance, perfectly familiar to the readers 2 2 It appears in the First Ep. to the Corinthians, written a few years before the Ep. to the Ephesians. See 1 Cor. 12. .

“Other conspicuous personages of Roman society at the time have been reckoned by tradition among the chamber-converts of St Paul, among them the poet Lucan and the Stoic philosopher Epictetus 3 3 For the curiously Christian tone of Epictetus’ writings here and there, see Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , pp. 313 &c. The Manual of Epictetus is a book of gold in its own way, but still that way is not Christian. . But there is absolutely no evidence for these assertions. It is interesting and suggestive, on the other hand, to recall one almost certain case of conversion about this time within the highest Roman aristocracy. Pomponia Græcina, wife of Plautius the conqueror of Britain, was accused (a.d. 57, probably), of ‘foreign superstition,’ and tried by her husband as domestic judge. He acquitted her. But the deep and solemn seclusion of her life (a seclusion begun a.d. 44, when her friend the princess Julia was put to death, and continued unbroken till her own death, about a.d. 84), taken in connexion with the charge, as in all likelihood it was, of Christianity, ‘suggests that, shunning society, she sought consolation in the duties and hopes of the Gospel’ 4 4 Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , p. 21. , leaving for ever the splendour and temptations of the world of Rome. She was not a convert, obviously, of St Paul’s; but her case suggests the possibility of other similar cases.”

Commentary on the Epistle to Ephesians (in this Series), Introduction, pp. 16 19.

B. “Saints And Faithful Brethren.” (Ch. 1:1)

“It is universally admitted … that Scripture makes use of presumptive or hypothetical language.… It is generally allowed that when all Christians are addressed in the New Testament as ‘saints,’ ‘dead to sin,’ ‘alive unto God,’ ‘risen with Christ,’ ‘having their conversation in heaven,’ and in other like modes, they are addressed so hypothetically, and not to express the literal fact that all the individuals so addressed were of this character; which would not have been true.… Some divines have indeed preferred as a theological arrangement a secondary sense of [such terms] to the hypothetical application of it in its true sense. But what is this secondary sense when we examine it? It is itself no more than the true sense hypothetically applied.… Divines have … maintained a Scriptural secondary sense of the term ‘ saint ,’ as ‘saint by outward vocation and charitable presumption’ (Pearson on the Creed , Art. ix.); but this is in very terms only the real sense of the term applied hypothetically.”

J. B. Mozley: Review of Baptismal Controversy , p. 74 (ed. 1862).

C. Bishops And Deacons. (Ch. 1:1)

These words have suggested to Bp Lightfoot an Essay on the rise, development, and character, of the Christian Ministry, appended to his Commentary on the Epistle (pp. 189 269). The Essay is in fact a treatise, of the greatest value, calling for the careful and repeated study of every reader to whom it is accessible. Along with it may be usefully studied a paper on the Christian Ministry in The Expositor for July, 1887, by the Rev. G. Salmon, D.D., now Provost of Trinity College, Dublin.

All we do here is to discuss briefly the two official titles of the Philippian ministry, and to add a few words on the Christian Ministry in general.

Bishops, Episcopi , i.e. Overseers . The word occurs here, and Acts 20:28 ; 1 Timothy 3:2 ; Titus 1:7 ; besides 1 Peter 2:25 , where it is used of our Lord. The cognate noun, episcopê , occurs Acts 1:20 (in a quotation from the O.T.); 1 Timothy 3:1 ; and in three other places not in point. The cognate verb, episcopeîn , occurs Hebrews 12:15 (in a connexion not in point); 1 Peter 5:2 .

On examination of these passages it appears that within the lifetime of SS. Peter and Paul there existed, at least very widely, a normal order of Church-officers called Episcopi , Superintendents. They were charged no doubt with many varied duties, some probably semi-secular. But above all they had spiritual oversight of the flock. They were appointed not by mere popular vote, certainly not by self-designation, but in some special sense “by the Holy Ghost” (Acts 20:28 ). This phrase may perhaps be illustrated by the mode of appointment of the first “deacons” (Acts 6:3 ), who were presented by the Church to the Apostles, for confirmatory ordination, as men already (among other marks of fitness) “full of the Holy Ghost.”

The episcopus was evidently not an official comparatively rare; there were more episcopi than one in the not very large community of Philippi.

Meanwhile we find another designation of Church-officers who are evidently in the same way shepherds and leaders of the flock; Presbyteri, Elders . They are mentioned first, without comment, at the time of the martyrdom of James the Great. See Acts 11:30 , Acts 11:14 :23, Acts 11:15 :2, Acts 11:4 , Acts 11:6 , Acts 11:22 , Acts 11:23 , Acts 11:16 :4, Acts 11:20 :17, Acts 11:21 :18; 1 Timothy 5:1 , 1 Timothy 5:17 , 1 Timothy 5:19 ; Titus 1:5 ; James 5:14 ; 1 Peter 5:1 (and perhaps 5). See also 2 John 1:0 ; 3 John 1:0 . These elders appear Acts 14:23 ; Titus 1:5 ; as “constituted” in local congregations by an Apostle, or by his immediate delegate.

It is clear that the N.T. episcopus and presbyterus are in fact the same official under differing designations; episcopus , a term borrowed mainly from the Gentiles, with whom it signified a superintending commissioner; presbyterus , from the “Eldership” of the Jews. This appears from Acts 20:17 , Acts 20:28 , where St Paul, addressing the Ephesian “elders,” says that they have been appointed “bishops” of the flock. In the Pastoral Epistles it is similarly plain that the titles coincide. See also 1 Peter 5:1 , 1 Peter 5:2 , in the Greek.

Whether both titles were from the first in use everywhere we cannot be sure. But it is not improbable. In the very earliest post-apostolic writings we find “presbyters” at Corinth ( Clem. Rom . to the Corinthians, i. cc. 42, 44), and “bishops” ( with “deacons,” as in Philippians 1:1 ) in the further East ( Teaching of the Twelve Apostles , c. 15).

We trace the same spiritual officials under more general designations, 1 Thessalonians 5:12 , 1 Thessalonians 5:13 ; Hebrews 13:17 ; and perhaps 1 Corinthians 12:28 (“ governments ”), and Ephesians 4:11 (“ pastors and teachers ”).

Deacons, Diaconi , i.e., Workers . The title does not occur in the Acts, nor anywhere earlier than this Epistle, except Romans 16:1 , where Phœbe is called a diaconus of the church at Cenchreæ 1 1 There is evidence of the existence in apostolic times of an organized class of female helpers in sacred work (see 1 Tim. 5:3 16). A little later the famous letter of Pliny to Trajan shews that such helpers ( ministrœ ) were known in the Churches of Asia Minor. The order was abolished before cent. 12. . Here only and in 1 Timothy 3:8 , 1 Timothy 3:12 , is the word plainly used of a whole ministerial order. But in Acts 6:0 we find described the institution of an office which in all likelihood was the diaconate. The functions of the Seven are just those which have been ever since in history, even till now, assigned to deacons. And tradition, from cent. 2 onwards, is quite unanimous in calling the Seven by that title.

Deacons are very possibly indicated by the word “ helps ” in 1 Corinthians 12:28 .

The deacon thus appears to have been primarily the officer ordained to deal with the temporal needs of the congregation. But he was assumed to be a “spiritual man,” and he was capable of direct commissioned spiritual work.

It thus appears then that during the lifetime of SS. Peter and Paul the word episcopus did not yet designate a minister presiding over and ruling other ministers; a “bishop” in the later and present sense. The episcopus was an “overseer” of not the shepherds but simply the flock, and might be (as at Philippi) one of several such in the same place.

This fact, however, leaves quite open the question whether such a presiding ministry, however designated at first, did exist in apostolic times and under apostolic sanction. That it did so may be inferred from the following evidence, very briefly stated.

It is certain that by the close of cent. 2 a definite presidential “episcopacy” (to which the word episcopus was then already appropriated, seemingly without the knowledge that it had once been otherwise) appears everywhere in the Church. As early probably as a.d. 110 we find it, in the Epistles of St Ignatius, a prominent and important fact of Church life, at least in the large circle of Churches with which Ignatius corresponded 1 1 He does not mention the bishop in writing to the Roman Church. But there is other good evidence for the then presence of a bishop at Rome. . Later Church history presents us with the same constitution, though occasionally details of system vary 2 2 At Alexandria, till at least a.d. 260, the bishop was chosen and ordained by the presbyters. In the Church of Patrick (cent. 5) in Ireland and Columba (cent. 6) in Scotland, the bishop was an ordainer, but not a diocesan ruler. See Boultbee, Hist. of the Church of England , p. 25. , and the conceptions of function and power were highly developed, not always legitimately. Now between Ignatius and St John, and even St Paul, the interval is not great; 30 or 50 years at the most. It seems, to say the least, unlikely that so large a Church institution, over whose rise we have no clear trace of controversy or opposition , should have arisen quite out of connexion with apostolic precedent. Such precedent we find in the N.T., ( a ) in the presidency of Apostles during their lifetime, though strictly speaking their unique office had no “successors”; ( b ) in the presidency of their immediate delegates or commissioners (perhaps appointed only pro tempore ), as Timothy and Titus; ( c ) in the presidency of St James the Less in the mother-church of Christendom; a presidency more akin to later episcopacy than anything else in the N.T.

We find further that all early history points to Asia Minor as the scene of the fullest development of primitive episcopacy, and it consistently indicates St John, at Ephesus, as in a sense its fountain-head. It is at least possible that St John, when he finally took up his abode in Asia, originated or developed there the régime he had known so well at Jerusalem.

Meanwhile there is every reason to think that the episcopate, in this latter sense, rather grew out of the presbyterate than otherwise. The primeval bishop was primus inter pares . He was not so much one of another order as the first of his order, for special purposes of government and ministration. Such, even cent. 5, is St Jerome’s statement of the theory. And St Jerome regards the bishop as being what he is not by direct Divine institution, but by custom of the Church.

Not till late cent. 2 do we find the sacerdotal 1 1 It will be remembered that the word ἱερεὺς, sacerdos, is never in N.T. a designation of the Christian minister. idea familiarly attached to the Christian ministry, and not till cent. 3, the age of Cyprian, do we find the formidable theory developed that the bishop is the channel of grace to the lower clergy and to the people.

On the whole, the indications of the N. T. and of the next earliest records confirm the statement of the Preface to the English Ordinal that “from the Apostles’ time there have been these orders of ministers in Christ’s Church, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” On the other hand, having regard to the essentially and sublimely spiritual character of the Church in its true idea, and to the revealed immediate union of each member with the Head, by faith, we are not authorized to regard even apostolic organization as a matter of the first order in such a sense as that we should look on a duly ordained ministry as the indispensable channel of grace, or should venture to unchurch Christian communities, holding the apostolic faith concerning God in Christ, but differently organized from what we believe to be on the whole the apostolic model 2 2 This was fully owned by the great Anglican writers of cent 17. See Bp Andrewes writing to Du Moulin; Bp Cosin to Basire; and Bp Hall’s Peace Maker , § 6. Cp. J. J. 5. Perowne, D.D., Church, Ministry, and Sacraments , pp. 6, 7. . On the other hand, no thoughtful Christian will wish to forget the sacred obligations and benefits of external harmony and unity of organization, things meant to yield only to the yet greater claims of the highest spiritual truth.

D. Ebionite Christology. (Ch. 1:15)

The allusion in our note to “lowered and distorted views” of the Person of our Lord on the part of later Judaizers more or less Christian, has regard mainly to Ebionism , a heresy first named by Irenæus (cent. 2) but which seems to have been the direct descendant of the school which specially opposed St Paul. It lingered on till cent. 5.

It appears to have had two phases; the Pharisaic and the Essene. As regards the doctrine of Christ’s Person, the Pharisaic Ebionites held that Jesus was born in the ordinary course of nature, but that at His Baptism He was “anointed by election, and became Christ” (Justin Martyr, Dial. , c. xlix.); receiving power to fulfil His mission as Messiah, but still remaining man. He had neither pre-existence nor Divinity. The Essene Ebionites, who were in fact Gnostics, held (at least in many instances) that Christ was a super-angelic created Spirit, incarnate at many successive periods in various men (for instance, in Adam), and finally in Jesus. At what point in the existence of Jesus the Christ entered into union with Him was not defined.

See Smith’s Dict. of Christian Biography, &c. , art. Ebionism .

E. Christology And Christianity (Ch. 2:5)

“A Christianity without Christ is no Christianity; and a Christ not Divine is one other than the Christ on whom the souls of Christians have habitually fed. What virtue, what piety, have existed outside of Christianity, is a question totally distinct. But to hold that, since the great controversy of the early time was wound up at Chalcedon, the question of our Lord’s Divinity has generated all the storms of the Christian atmosphere, would be simply an historical untruth.

“Christianity … produced a type of character wholly new to the Roman world, and it fundamentally altered the laws and institutions, the tone, temper and tradition of that world. For example, it changed profoundly the relation of the poor to the rich … It abolished slavery, and a multitude of other horrors. It restored the position of woman in society. It made peace, instead of war, the normal and presumed relation between human societies. It exhibited life as a discipline … in all its parts, and changed essentially the place and function of suffering in human experience … All this has been done not by eclectic and arbitrary fancies, but by the creed of the Homoousion, in which the philosophy of modern times sometimes appears to find a favourite theme of ridicule. The whole fabric, social as well as personal, rests on the new type of character which the Gospel brought into life and action.”

W. E. Gladstone (‘ Nineteenth Century ,’ May 1888; pp. 780 784).

F. Robert Hall On Philippians 2:5-50.2.8; Philippians 2:5-50.2.8Philippians 2:5-50.2.8 . baur’s theory

The Rev. Robert Hall (1764 1831), one of the greatest of Christian preachers, was in early life much influenced by the Socinian theology. His later testimony to a true Christology is the more remarkable. The following extract is from a sermon “preached at the (Baptist) Chapel in Dean Street, Southwark, June 27, 1813” ( Works , ed. 1833; vol. vi., p. 112):

“He was found in fashion as a man: it was a wonderful discovery, an astonishing spectacle in the view of angels, that He who was in the form of God, and adored from eternity, should be made in fashion as a man. But why is it not said that He was a man? For the same reason that the Apostle wishes to dwell upon the appearance of our Saviour, not as excluding the reality, but as exemplifying His condescension. His being in the form of God did not prove that He was not God, but rather that He was God, and entitled to supreme honour. So, His assuming the form of a servant and being in the likeness of man, does not prove that He was not man, but, on the contrary, includes it; at the same time including a manifestation of Himself, agreeably to His design of purchasing the salvation of His people, and dying for the sins of the world, by sacrificing Himself upon the Cross.”

Baur ( Paulus , pp. 458 464) goes at length into the Christological passage, and actually contends for the view that it is written by one who had before him the developed Gnosticism of cent. 2, and was not uninfluenced by it. In the words of ver. 6, a consciousness of the Gnostic teaching about the Æon Sophia , striving for an absolute union with the absolute being of the Unknowable Supreme; and again about the Æons in general, striving similarly, to “grasp” the plerôma of Absolute Being and discovering only the more deeply in their effort this kenôma of their own relativity and dependence.

The best refutation of such expositions is the repeated perusal of the Epistle itself, with its noon-day practicality of precept and purity of affections, and not least its high language (ch. 3) about the sanctity of the body an idea wholly foreign to the Gnostic sphere of thought. It is true that Schrader, a critic earlier than Baur (see Alford, N. T . iii. p. 27), supposed the passage 3:1 4:9 to be an interpolation. But, not to speak of the total absence of any historical or documentary support for such a theory, the careful reader will find in that section just those minute touches of harmony with the rest of the Epistle, e.g. in the indicated need of internal union at Philippi, which are the surest signs of homogeneity.

G. Ad. Monod On St Paul’S Tears. (Ch. 3:18)

“What is the Gospel of St Paul? Is it but a refined deism, announcing as its whole doctrine the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, as its whole revelation the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, as its only mediator Jesus Christ living as prophet and dying as martyr? Or is this Gospel a religion unlike all others ( une religion tout à part ) … proclaiming a God unknown, promising an indescribable deliverance, demanding a radical change, compassionate and terrible at once, … high as heaven, deep as hell? You need not, for your answer, consult the writings of the Apostle; you have but to see him weeping at your feet.”

Saint Paul, Cinq Discours (ed. 1859), p. 62.

H. Family Affection Of Christianity. (Ch. 4:1)

“While the great motives of the Gospel reduce the multiplicity and confusion of the passions by their commanding force, they do, by the very same energy, expand all sensibilities; or, if we might so speak, send the pulse of life with vigour through the finer vessels of the moral system: there is far less apathy, and a far more equable consciousness in the mind, after it has admitted Christianity, than before; and, by necessary consequence, there is more individuality, because more life. Christians, therefore, while they understand each other better than other men do, possess a greater stock of sentiment to make the subject of converse, than others. The comparison of heart to heart knits heart to heart, and communicates to friendship very much that is sweet and intense.…

“So far as Christians truly exhibit the characteristics of their Lord, in spirit and conduct, a vivid emotion is enkindled in other Christian bosoms, as if the bright Original of all perfection stood dimly revealed.… The conclusion comes upon the mind … that this family resemblance … springs from a common centre, and that there exists, as its archetype, an invisible Personage, of whose glory all are, in a measure, partaking.”

Isaac Taylor, of Ongar; Saturday Evening , ch. 18.

I. Philippi And The Epistle. (Ch. 4:18)

From an essay by Prof. J. Agar Beet, in The Expositor (January, 1889), I extract the closing sentences:

“With this reply [the Epistle], a gift infinitely more precious than that he brought from Philippi, Epaphroditus starts on his homeward journey. The joy caused by his return, and the effect of this wonderful letter when first read in the Church at Philippi, are hidden from us. And we may almost say that with this letter the Church itself passes from our view. To-day, in silent meadows quiet cattle browse among the ruins which mark the site of what was once the flourishing Roman colony of Philippi, the home of the most attractive Church of the apostolic age. But the name and fame and spiritual influence of that Church will never pass. To myriads of men and women in every age and nation, the letter written in a dungeon at Rome and carried along the Egnatian Way by an obscure Christian messenger, has been a light Divine, and a cheerful guide along the most rugged paths in life. As I watch, and myself rejoice in, the brightness of that far-shining light, and glance at those silent ruins, I see fulfilled an ancient prophecy: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever .”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Philippians 4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.