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Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
This salutation, typical of Paul, sets the tone for the entire letter: it is personal, affectionate, and full of joy and gratitude. It is immediately followed by a thanksgiving. The introduction to this letter is divided into three sections: salutation (verses 1-2); thanksgiving (verses 3-8); and petitionary prayer (verses 9-11).
This epistle is a personal letter from the Apostle Paul to the congregation at Philippi. The Philippians have often demonstrated their love for him in various ways. Paul identifies himself as the author of this letter but does not refer to himself as an apostle. Of the four epistles in which Paul does not introduce himself as an apostle, three are addressed to Macedonian churches. He does not mention his apostleship for there is no need. He is very close to the Philippians, and there is evidence of a warm relationship existing between them. He is writing this letter, not as an apostle to his churches, but as a friend to his dear friends.
Paul and Timotheus: Paul associates himself with Timothy in this salutation, as he does in 2 Corinthians, Colossians, and Philemon. In the openings of the Thessalonian letters, he names Timothy along with Silvanus. Timothy is mentioned probably because he has played an important role in the preaching of the gospel in Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 16-18). He has served Paul faithfully during Paul’s imprisonment, and the Philippians have a special attachment to him (2:20-22).
Timothy is a traveling companion who joined Paul during his second journey (Acts 16:1-3). Timothy, who had been converted to Christ chiefly through the preaching and influence of Paul, had a strong background in the knowledge of God and His Word through the teaching of his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). His mother was a Jew and his father a Greek. He was a young man, devoted to serving Paul, and Paul loved him as a son (2:19-22). He became a faithful evangelist and was the recipient of two epistles from Paul (1 and 2 Timothy).
Timothy is mentioned again in Philippians 2:19-23, where he is referred to in the third person. Apparently his name is inserted at the beginning of the letter because of his constant and intimate relationship with the church at Philippi (Acts 16:1; Acts 16:3; Acts 17:14; Acts 17:19; Acts 17:22) and also because of Paul’s desire to pave the way for his visit mentioned in chapter two.
the servants of Jesus Christ: Paul refers to both Timothy and himself as the "servants of Jesus Christ." This salutation is unique, for the plural douloi is used including Timothy along with Paul as a slave "of Jesus Christ." The word rendered "servants" is the ordinary Greek word for "slaves." When Paul identifies himself and Timothy as "servants," he means they are the absolute possession of Jesus Christ, their Lord, and owe complete obedience to Him. They are "subjects of humility, given to lowly service" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2 616). They render a cheerful and willing service that exemplifies true freedom (Romans 6:18; Romans 6:22) found in Christ.
In the Old Testament, the prophets are often referred to as "the servants of the Lord" (Amos 3:7; Jeremiah 7:25; Ezra 9:11; Daniel 9:6); and the same title is applied to Moses (Exodus 14:31), Joshua (Judges 2:8), and David (Psalms 78:70). Thus, "servant" in this context becomes a title of dignity since God’s "servant" is a chosen instrument entrusted with particular tasks. In the Old Testament, Israel was God’s holy people (Exodus 19:6), chosen by Him and appointed to His service. As the One who had brought them into covenant relationship was holy, Israel was to be a holy nation (Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2).
In the New Testament the word "servants" is applied, not to a select group of spiritual and moral elite but to the rank and file Christian who is set apart to God and dedicated to His service. As the people of His own possession, Christians are the elect, whose lives are to be characterized by godly behavior. Later, in chapter two, Paul presents Christ as the supreme example of humility and then refers to himself (2:17) and Timothy (2:19-24) as those involved in sacrificial service to the same Master. Such servitude should characterize all who wear the name Christian, whose lives are lived in service to the Lord and Master as well as to brothers and sisters in Christ.
to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi: The recipients are identified as "saints in Christ Jesus." The term "saint" is a common term by which all Christians are called in the New Testament. Literally, it means holy one (1 Peter 2:9). The idea behind the word is that of separation for the purpose of consecration. They are called saints "in Christ Jesus." The phrase "in Christ Jesus" is the most characteristic expression used by Paul to describe Christians who have intimate communion with Christ and are members of the church of which Christ is the Head. God’s peace will guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (4:7), and their every need will be met in accordance with God’s riches in glory in Him (4:19). The prize promised by God’s heavenly call is in Christ Jesus (3:14). Finally, the Philippians are to adopt the same attitude toward one another that is found in Christ Jesus (2:5). In other words, the whole of life is to be determined by the fact of being in Christ Jesus; it is in Him that we are set apart. Only by virtue of being in Him and having our sins forgiven by His blood can we be called saints (Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 5:9-10). By using the terms, "servants" and "saints," Paul both humbles himself and exalts those to whom he is writing, thereby practicing what he later preaches regarding humility (2:3).
with the bishops and deacons: The "bishops and deacons" are also addressed. "It is possible that these men are mentioned in the salutation because they were actually responsible for collecting and sending the gifts Paul had received" (4:10-13) (Loh and Nida 7). Here we see the organization of a local church as God intended: it is made up of saints (the members), overseen by bishops, and served by deacons. The bishops are men charged with guarding the flock and providing spiritual food. Theirs is a ministry of oversight, supervision, or protective care. They are also called elders, presbyters, pastors, or shepherds (Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2). According to the New Testament, they have to meet certain qualifications before they are appointed to serve as bishops (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). There is always a plurality of elders in a congregation (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17; Philippians 1:1).
The term "deacon" means servant or minister. Deacons also have to meet certain qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13). They serve the needs of the congregation under the oversight of the bishops.
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul sends greetings of "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (RSV, NEB, Mft, Bruce, NAB). "Grace," the common greeting of the Greeks, speaks of wishing unmerited favor and kindness upon them. "Grace and peace to you" is Paul’s most frequently used greeting. Early Christians were in the habit of placing one another under the grace of God as a form of farewell greeting (Acts 14:26; Acts 15:40; Acts 20:32).
"Peace," a common greeting of the Jews (Shalom), speaks of the result of receiving favor and kindness. The word "peace" occurs ninety-one times in the New Testament, fifty-four of which occur in Paul’s letters. Peace is mentioned regularly in the introductory benedictions by both Paul and other New Testament writers. His prayer is that they may comprehend more fully the nature of that relationship of peace that God has established with them. The grace and peace Paul desires the Philippians to receive are "from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." When one has received unmerited favor and kindness from God through His Son Jesus Christ, he truly receives peace: peace with God (Romans 5:1), peace with men (Proverbs 16:7), and peace with self (4:6-7). Paul tells the Philippians such peace passes all understanding (4:7). Such greetings should be restored in the church today for such blessings are sorely needed.
Thanksgiving and Joyful Intercession
1. Thanksgiving from a Full Heart (1:3-6)
Paul follows his greeting with an expression of thanksgiving to God for the recipients of the letter. He reveals his affectionate feelings for his Christian friends at Philippi and offers heartfelt thanks to God for those who have been loyal partners with him in the gospel from the very first. He assures them that his intercessions on their behalf are always made with joy (1:4). So great is his longing to be reunited with them that he yearns for them with the affection of Christ Himself (1:7-8). This is a deep, warmhearted statement of the apostle’s concern for the readers. Then he offers an intercessory prayer on their behalf (1:9-11), rejoicing over them and praying for their Christian growth.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
Gratitude to God is uppermost in Paul’s mind as he begins the letter. Paul’s thanksgiving paragraph of verses 3-11 reflects his warmth toward a congregation that over the years has remained close to him. "Thanksgiving and its cognates, occur forty-six times in Paul’s letters" (O’Brien 56). As thanksgivings abound, God is glorified (2 Corinthians 4:15). Paul’s thanksgiving here is similar to what we normally understand by "praise." The adverb "always" in verse 4 modifies the verb "thank" of verse 3 and indicates the frequency with which the apostle gives thanks. Paul means he does not forget them when he prays.
Three reasons are given as to why Paul thanks God for the Philippians. First, they have always provided him with fond memories. Second, they have a partnership in the gospel. Finally, he is convinced God who has begun a good work in them would complete it on the day of Christ Jesus. There is also an allusion to the recent gift they have sent him and their help on previous occasions. "Paul makes his petition ’with joy’ and the jubilant note struck here at the beginning rings throughout the whole letter" (1:18, 25; 2:2, 17-18, 28-29; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10) (O’Brien 58). The apostle’s joyful gratitude comes from an appreciation of his converts’ consistent support of his ministry and care for his needs, from the very beginning of their Christian walk to their most recent contribution, which is the occasion for this letter. Yet Paul interprets their gift, not merely as intended for his personal comfort but rather for the advance of the gospel.
"The New International Version is probably correct in translating, ’every time I remember you’" (Silva 43). The word translated "remembrance" occurs frequently in the opening verses of Paul’s letters (Romans 1:9; Ephesians 1:16; Philemon 1:4). In every instance it is closely associated with "thanksgiving" and is used in the sense of "mentioning in prayer."
Consequently, most translations render this clause as "every time I think of you," correctly suggesting that, whenever Paul thinks of his Christian friends at Philippi, he gives thanks to God (Loh and Nida 10).
The memories of their fellowship are a source of great joy to Paul; and every time he prays, he includes them. Here, there is found a glimpse into the prayer life of the Apostle Paul. It evidently includes frequent prayers for those with whom he has labored in the past (1 Corinthians 1:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2). These joyful memories are the result of sharing together in the work of the gospel "from the first day until now." The Philippians had been involved in "giving and receiving" when Paul first left Macedonia and when he was in Thessalonica (4:15-16); now once more they are providing a gift delivered to him by Epaphroditus while he is in Rome (4:18). Pleasant memories are a blessing in difficult times. Despite imprisonment, Paul could pray with joyful thanksgiving as he remembers the Philippians. Fellowship in the gospel of Christ means sharing together in spreading the Word, either directly by teaching or indirectly by supporting those who teach. May God’s people ever support the preaching of the gospel.
Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
The word translated "prayer" (a noun in Greek) is not the usual word for prayer. It means "supplication" (ASV "in every supplication of mine"). The supplication Paul continuously makes is "for you all." One cannot fail to be impressed by the repeated use of "all," "each," or "every" in this letter, especially when the Philippian church is referred to (1:4, 7-8, 25; 2:17; 4:21). The word seems to be related to Paul’s constant exhortations to unity (1:27; 2:1-4; 4:2-3, 5, 7, 9). The repeated reference to all the members of the Philippian church is intended to remind them of the danger of division, which is the one negative element in Paul’s letter to them.
Paul here announces one of the most obvious themes in the epistle, "chara" meaning joy in the midst of adversity. Quite clearly, the Philippians are troubled by Paul’s circumstances, and Paul wishes at the very opening of the letter to alleviate their concerns by assuring them of his deep, personal contentment. Paul’s joy in response to his adversity arises, not from a consideration of personal well-being, but from the recognition that his work is bearing fruit, as he makes clear in verse 12.
For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
Paul now gives the reasons for his joy (not for his "thanksgiving" in verse 3, as the RSV suggests). This Greek noun phrase is often translated "your partnership" (RSV), "your participation" (NASB), or "your fellowship" (KJV). The basic meaning of the word translated "partnership" is participation in something with someone. It likely refers to the activity of the Philippians in promoting the work of the gospel, in which they have been participating from the very beginning.
On his departure from Philippi they identified with him in the gospel by sending contributions to Thessalonica and to Corinth (4:15-16), and even to the present time when again they had sent material assistance to Rome by the hands of Epaphroditus (4:10) (O’Brien 63).
"Fellowship" (koinonia) can have a more restricted meaning, referring to contributions or gifts (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 9:13; "what you have contributed to the gospel"- Mft.). The term koinonia is included only here and in Philemon 1:6.
When speaking of the Macedonians’ contribution to the Jerusalem saints, Paul uses the same noun, koinonia, with the preposition is, though the construction is not exactly parallel to this verse (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13). Moreover, he uses the verbal form koinoneo with reference to financial contributions in Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:6; and Philippians 4:15 (Silva 47).
For this reason some commentators feel that Paul is here referring to the Philippians’ gift of money. This interpretation may be true, but the context seems to indicate Paul is using "partnership" in a wider sense than just the monetary assistance. It probably includes the idea of their actual proclamation of the gospel message, their suffering along with Paul for the gospel’s sake (1:30; 4:14-15), and their intercessory activity on his behalf (1:19), in which they are engaged at the time of his writing to them. The second reason, then, for Paul’s thanksgiving to God is the Philippians’ cooperation with him in his ministry of the gospel to the Gentiles.
The word "gospel" appears nine times in Philippians and is used in a variety of ways. It is the message about Jesus Christ that is proclaimed (1:5; 4:15), defended (1:7,16), promoted, spread, and advanced (4:3; 1:12; 2:22). It is also the standard of Christian living and the basis of faith (1:27) (Loh and Nida 12).
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Being confident of this very thing: The third and ultimate ground for Paul’s thanksgiving is his firm conviction, based on God’s faithfulness, that the One who had begun the good work of a new creation in the Philippians’ lives would bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ. The first two reasons for Paul’s thankfulness (1:3, 5) stress the work of the Philippians while the third emphasizes God’s work of creation, which will surely be brought to consummation. Paul’s language here is reminiscent of Genesis 1:2, in the Septuagint, and he cites God’s creation of light as analogous to spiritual enlightenment (2 Corinthians 4:6). Also, the correspondence between creation and redemption is a fundamental biblical doctrine (see Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12-13).
that he which hath begun a good work in you: The "good work" that God commenced is that work of grace in the readers’ lives that began with their reception of the gospel. One cannot read of the establishment of the Philippian church in Acts 16 without concluding it was the work of God. It was the Spirit that prevented Paul’s company from traveling where they otherwise would have gone on two occasions. It was God who sent Paul the vision of the Macedonian’s asking for help. From the conversions of Lydia and the jailer, God’s presence is everywhere. There is no doubt that God began this work. It would do us well not to speak so frequently of "our work" but to speak of "God’s work."
This verse refers to the new life God had begun in them. Philippians 2:13 states that "God is at work in them both to will and to do his good pleasure." The Philippians’ support of Paul’s ministry is not the "good work" itself, yet it is clear evidence of God’s work of salvation in them. The Philippians’ growth in the gospel is really God’s work, and He would not fail to bring it to perfection. Paul is thinking of the faithfulness of the Philippians, for he writes that they are willing to share in his chains (2:29-30) and to share in the defense and confirmation of the gospel (through their support of him). As such, they are sharing together in the grace of God.
Christians are not alone in their development and spiritual growth. God begins a good work when any sinner is converted to Christ. That God is at work is evident in many ways: He uses His providence to provide the opportunity to hear the gospel (Titus 2:11); He regenerates when the sinner responds to the commands of the gospel (Titus 3:4-7); and He gives the gift of the Holy Spirit when one is baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38). The Spirit is the life principle of the body of Christ into which one is baptized (1 Corinthians 12:13) and is brought from death to life (Romans 6:3-6). His Spirit is the down payment--guarantee or seal (Ephesians 1:12-13)--that God’s children will inherit a home in heaven. Therefore, by God’s grace Christians are sealed until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). As each one continues to work out his own salvation (2:12), God is with him. Certainly one must cooperate with Him (2:12), but He is truly at work within each of His children (2:13), providing whatever help they need (4:13).
will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: This phrase means "Will carry it on until it is finished." The verb, as used in this context, has the sense of continuance and consummation ("will go on completing" Mft; "will go on bringing it to completion" Bruce’s paraphrase). God will definitely finish His work. He is molding and making each Christian into the image of His dear Son (Galatians 4:13; Romans 8:29).
"Until the day of Jesus Christ" refers to the return of Christ. Only in three passages (all of which are in Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:16) is "Christ" associated with a statement about the parousia, His return. Normally Paul uses the word "Lord" in such contexts. The expression refers to a definite point of time when Christ will appear. Ultimately, the "spirits of just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23) will rejoin their bodies that will be raised and glorified, and the saved will be forever with the Lord.
1. The Apostle’s Affection (1:7-8)
Paul’s thanksgiving ends with verse 6. He now speaks directly to the church, assuring them of the warm affection he has for them and of his longing to be reunited with them. His longing is so great that he yearns for them with the love of Christ Himself. Rather than be ashamed of or intimidated by his imprisonment they help to alleviate his needs, thus cooperating with him in the defense and propagation of the gospel.
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all: In describing his attitude, the Apostle Paul uses the term phroneo, which in the immediate context means, to "think," "judge," and "give one’s mind to" (Goetzmann, II 616). Of the twenty-six occurrences of phroneo in the New Testament, all but three are used by Paul. The word is a favorite of Paul in this letter. He uses it on ten occasions (1:7; 2:2, 5; 3:15, 19; 4:2, 10). "The way one thinks is intimately related to the way one behaves. Phroneo expresses not merely an activity of the intellect, but also a movement of the will" (O’Brien 67).
because I have you in my heart: Paul has a deep personal affection for the Philippians. The word "heart" is employed in its customary Old Testament sense of the whole person to describe the seat of the physical, spiritual, and mental life (Behm, III 611-613). The "heart" denotes the center and source of both physical life (Psalms 101:5; Psalms 103:15; Acts 14:17) as well as the whole spiritual life with its thinking (2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:18), feelings or emotions (Romans 1:24; Romans 9:2; 2 Corinthians 2:4), and volition (2 Corinthians 9:7). Paul is simply conveying to them that he loves them earnestly (2 Corinthians 7:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:17).
inasmuch as both in my bonds: Paul is saying in essence, "You have supported me not only during those times when I have been able to set forth openly the defense that confirms the gospel but even during this period of confinement." The Philippians have shown their constancy and commitment to Paul’s ministry by supporting him even when, to the best of their knowledge, he is not "producing." Such an attitude among churches is commendable.
and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel: The word "defence," translated from apologia, is found in a number of New Testament passages (Acts 22:1; Acts 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:16; 2 Timothy 4:16; 1 Peter 3:15). The Greek word apologia, often translated "to defend," "carries a judicial sense, meaning to stand for a defense against a charge in court" (Acts 25:16; 2 Timothy 4:16) (Loh and Nida 14).
The term rendered "confirmation" occurs only here and in Hebrews 6:16. It can also be used in a technical, legal sense of "to defend or to guarantee legally" (Loh and Nida 14). The phrase can be taken as having to do with Paul’s imprisonment, in which case these two words are legal terms describing Paul’s trial before the imperial court or a provincial judge. Accordingly, the phrase can be translated "appear in court to vouch for the truth of the gospel" (NEB, Mft, NAB). On the other hand, the statement probably refers more generally to Paul’s defending the gospel of Christ through his preaching and lifestyle.
The word translated "confirmation" (bebaiosis) is a legal, technical term for guaranteeing or furnishing security (Hebrews 6:16).
J. F. Collange argues that because of the defense Paul will put forth before his judges and his probable acquittal, the gospel will be confirmed (47-48). But once again the meaning does not seem to be limited to the legal nuances, but it appears to point to Paul’s apostolic work in which he seeks to corroborate the truth of the gospel by proof, testimony, and forthright declaration (Hebrews 6:16; Romans 15:8). An instance of this kind of bebaiosis during the earliest period of the apostle’s captivity in Rome is recorded in Acts 28:23 (O’Brien 69).
ye all are partakers of my grace: Whether Paul is in prison and arraigned before his judges or engaged in some other defense and confirmation of the gospel, the Philippians are "partakers" with him in God’s grace. It is this closeness that is the ultimate ground of his confidence in them and indicates why he has them in his heart. The term "partakers" (sunkoinonos) denotes a "participant" or "partner" (Romans 11:17; 1 Corinthians 9:23; Philippians 1:7; Revelation 1:9). They are not ashamed or intimidated by the bonds of Paul; rather they are prompted to cooperate with him in defending and propagating the gospel as well as suffering for its sake.
At this point the verse encounters several translational problems, and many translations show disagreement as to the meaning of the text. A single Greek noun, "the grace" is found here. The absolute use of the word "grace" with a definite article points to its divine origin. Paul characteristically uses charis (grace) in reference to his apostolic ministry, and so it is here. A general reference ("sharers in divine grace") does not do justice to the parallel expression in verse 5, which also has in view Paul’s ministry. A clear parallel is 1 Corinthians 9:23, "And I do all things on account of the gospel, that I may become a partaker of it." The apostle has in view, therefore, not divine grace in general, but the Philippians’ specific identification with, and support of, his ministry of preaching the gospel of Christ.
For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
For God is my record: Paul introduces an oath (something not unusual for Paul--Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20; 1 Thessalonians 2:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:10) in which he calls God to witness the depth of his longing for the Philippians, a longing which is nothing less than the love of Christ Jesus Himself. In doing so, he demonstrates the great seriousness of what is being said. He calls upon God as a witness for He knows the hearts of all men.
how greatly I long after you all: Only here does Paul speak directly of longing for individuals. There are many words in the New Testament used for "desire." The term in this passage (epipotheo) is always employed to describe a desire that is praiseworthy: "it is likely that epipotheo should be understood here as meaning that the apostle longs above all to see the Philippians again" (1:25ff; 2:12, 23) (O’Brien 71).
in the bowels of Jesus Christ: Paul describes his feelings for them as the "affection of Jesus Christ." This is a Greek prepositional phrase that literally means, "with the entrails of Christ." He uses the most expressive term available ("entrails"--splanchna) to indicate the source of human emotion (2:1; 2 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 7:15; Colossians 3:12; Philemon 1:7; Philemon 1:12; Philemon 1:20) (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker 763).
The word is used figuratively to refer to the seat of the emotions, that is, the "heart." Indeed, like other anthropological terms the word is found used by Paul for the whole person, expressing the deepest level, in his or her capacity of loving (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, VII 555).
The entrails consist of the heart, liver, and lungs. In biblical times these were regarded as the seat of feelings and affections. It would be the equivalent of "heart" in modern usage. Paul identifies himself so closely with Christ that the deep feeling he has toward his Christian friends appears to be nothing other than the love of Christ Himself (JB "loving you as Christ Jesus loves you"). It is the same kind of love He has toward us. Jesus commands His disciples to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34).
1. Intercession for Love and Discernment (1:9-11)
As Paul writes of his affection for them, he moves to prayer on their behalf. He mentions in verse 4 his prayers for them, and now he elaborates on the things for which he prays concerning them. "Verses 9-11 are one sentence in Greek, but to make the thoughts of the sentence clear, it must be restructured" (Loh and Nida 16). The apostle sets three goals before his readers. The first goal for which he prays is that their love would abound. Secondly, he expresses at the beginning of verse 10, "so that you may test the things that matter." The final purpose is the believer’s perfection: "in order that you may be pure and blameless till the day of Christ." But there is another and higher purpose for which he prays, and that is for "the glory and praise of God" (verse 11).
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
The Philippians have excelled in their love toward Paul and others (4:15-16; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). It is critical for the Christian that love should never stop. In developing the graces of a Christ-like character, we should always be growing (2 Peter 1:5-8). Even if we have no need for someone to teach us how to love, we can always use the admonition to increase our love (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10). Thus, Paul prays that their love may abound still more and more.
The prayer interweaves knowledge and love (also Hebrews 5:14). Paul uses this same phrase in Romans 2:18 with reference to the knowledge of a Jew who has been instructed in the law yet whose life is inconsistent. Such people had knowledge without true love for God. The content of the petition is that the love of God might increase beyond all measure and penetrate more deeply into their personal relationship with God through Christ, as well as into all situations involving practical conduct. "Knowledge" (or "recognition"), translated from the Greek word epignosis, turns up fifteen times in Paul’s letters and is limited to "religious or moral things...consciousness of sin...knowledge of God and Christ" (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker 291). Epignosis (knowledge) appears in his intercessory prayers at the conclusion of his introductory thanksgiving paragraphs of the four prison letters (Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:9-10; Philemon 1:6, in addition to Philippians 1:9). It refers to knowing God through Christ in an intimate way.
To this intimate knowledge of God, Paul adds "all judgment" or "all insight." Here it might be translated "tact" or "the feeling for the actual situation at the time" since it is the capacity for practical concrete judgment and insight for all kinds of situations as they arise. "True knowledge" and "perfect judgment" are essential elements of love. Love should keep growing and develop into spiritual and moral insight. "All judgment," which is perhaps better translated, "all insight" or "all perception," appears only here in the New Testament. It refers to a person’s ability to make moral decisions (NEB, "insight of every kind").
It seems Paul is repeating the idea of 1 Thessalonians 3:12, where he prays for an increase in the love of his readers for one another. His earnest desire is that it will increase to overflowing, suggesting it is already present in their lives to some extent. But his treatment here goes far beyond that of 1 Thessalonians 3:12, for it deals with love’s influence in the intellectual and moral sphere. C. Spicq, in his definitive examination of love, comments:
...this passage is the New Testament’s most profound and precise treatment about the influence of agape from the intellectual and moral point of view, in this world or in the next. Eight words show the extent of its domain: knowledge, insight, judgment, uprightness, blamelessness, holiness, glory, and praise of God (II 277).
The prayer also focuses on moral perfection at Christ’s return. There are two basic interpretations: "fruit that results from our justified state" or "the fruit that consists in right conduct." 2 Corinthians 9:10 is a good parallel. Paul is probably alluding to Hosea 10:12, in the Septuagint, which clearly speaks of moral conduct. These factors, combined with the context of Philippians 1:11, make an ethical interpretation almost certain. The fruit mentioned here must be described along the lines of the list in Galatians 5:22-23. The object of Paul’s prayer is the total sanctification of the Philippians.
That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
That ye may approve things that are excellent: Paul defines the purpose of his prayer in verse 9. The same Greek expression translated "to approve the things that are excellent" appears in Romans 2:18, where Today’s English Version renders it as "to choose what is right." There are three possible translations here: to "test or approve the things that differ;" "test or approve the things that are excellent;" or "approve what is best." The latter is probably the correct idea here, as in Romans 2:18. The Greek term doximadzo had the meaning of "put to the test, examine" and came to mean to "accept as proved, approve" (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker 202). It is sometimes used in the sense of testing coins to determine whether they are genuine. Moffatt’s translation renders this phrase, "a sense of what is vital." This passage is reminiscent of Romans 12:2, where we learn that we are to "prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
that ye may be sincere and without offence: In praying that his friends, too, may judge what is excellent, he anticipates his later exhortations to them: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (2:5, NIV), and "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things" (4:8).
till the day of Christ: We have an important parallel within the context of this passage (1:6) that speaks of "the day of Jesus Christ" as the time of perfection. Consider also, 1 Corinthians 1:7, which contains a specific reference to Christ’s return. Particularly important, however, is the next verse (verse 8), which says, "who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (NAS). Paul has in view, both in 1 Corinthians and in Philippians, their sanctified state at the time of the Lord’s return.
The preparation of the churches for the judgment day of Christ was a characteristic petitionary and thanksgiving theme of the apostle (1 Corinthians 1:7-8; Colossians 1:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). Here Paul mentions the parousia for the second time (verse 6), and he prays that his Christian friends at Philippi might be "pure" or "sincere" as well as "blameless." The adjective rendered "free from all impurity" occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in 2 Peter 3:1. It means "unmixed," "genuine," or "unadulterated" (Loh and Nida 17).
The thought here is "in preparation for" or "against" (Vincent, Vol. III 418) the day of Christ. The idea of preparation for the judgment of that great day as well as the ability to stand its test are suggested by the words of this context. Paul’s prayer is relevant for our day, but "its aim was that the Philippians would not only reach the final day, but also that they might be pleasing to God on the occasion of the great assize" (O’Brien 79).
In the introductory sections, Paul often anticipates themes he will develop in the body of the letter. Philippians 3:12 addresses the issue of perfectionism, "Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on." Not surprisingly, therefore, twice in his introduction (1:6, 10), Paul reminds the Philippians of the partial character of their sanctification. They must be regarded as "pure and blameless" in this life, and thus Paul’s prayer is in effect a commandment that the Philippians give evidence of their sanctification. Paul is focusing on his desire that God will sanctify them "completely" and preserve them "without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Being filled: Finally, the apostle concludes this introductory paragraph in typical Jewish and Christian fashion, namely with a doxology. Perhaps the thought would be better understood by "filled with the fruit of righteousness that is produced through Jesus Christ." The apostle’s final request concerns the "fullness" of the Philippians. Paul desires not only that they be acquitted on the day of judgment; he also prays that through a right relationship with God they may be filled with the fruit of godly deeds.
with the fruits of righteousness: Commentators differ on the meaning of "the fruits of righteousness." Various translations render the phrase as follows: "harvest of righteousness which Jesus Christ produces" (Mft); "the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces" (JB); and "the truly good qualities of Christians" (TEV). The common alternatives to its meaning are (1) to understand righteousness itself as the fruit, that is, fruit that consists in being right with God; or (2) to regard fruit as referring to ethical characteristics. "Fruit" would then refer to moral qualities such as love, joy, peace, longsuffering (the fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22) that are "the result, outcome, or product of righteousness" (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker 404). The word "fruit" in this text is a singular noun used collectively as in Galatians 5:22. In other letters that Paul penned, "fruit" signifies the result, outcome, or profit of an action (Romans 6:21-22; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 4:17). Here in Philippians 1:11, it means the fruit that results from and is demonstrated by righteousness.
which are by Christ Jesus: These words anticipate the exhortation of chapter two, that they are to work out their own salvation, not with any sense of arrogance or self-achievement, but "with fear and trembling," realizing the outcome is not in their hands, "for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do his good pleasure" (2:13-14; 3:9, 11). Paul’s prayer is that they may be filled with these Christian graces.
unto the glory and praise of God: Paul concludes his prayer on a note of praise. God’s saving work among the Philippians eventually redounds to glorify God. A similar phrase, "to the glory of God the Father," is found in chapter two, verses 10 and 11. Paul also concludes the letter with the doxology, "To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen" (4:20).
This opening paragraph expresses thanksgiving, personal affection, pastoral concern, supplication, and praise. It sets the tone for the rest of the letter and anticipates some of the major themes that bind the whole letter together. For example, the note of joy that rings throughout the epistle has already been struck in the opening words (1:4). Next, the assurance or confidence he has is mentioned (1:6), which appears often in the body of the letter (1:14-15; 2:24; 3:3-4). The fellowship Paul has with his friends at Philippi is already evident in verses 4-6 and is emphasized in his statement about his earnest longing to be reunited with them (verses 7-8). A reference to the financial help the Philippians had given to Paul is made in Philippians 1:5, even if it has not already been alluded to in verse 3. The help he received is for the preaching of the gospel, a point the apostle develops more fully in chapter 4:10-20.
The Priority of the Gospel for Paul (1:12-26)
Paul now moves to the body of the letter. His Christian friends at Philippi have been deeply concerned about his welfare. They know he is in prison awaiting trial and his case will come up for a hearing soon. How is he doing? What will be the outcome of his trial? Are these events having an adverse effect on the progress of the gospel? Paul informs them of the surprising progress of the gospel because of the effects of his imprisonment upon those outside the Christian community (verse 13) and because others within the Christian fellowship have been given new courage for the work of evangelism (verse 14). His thoughts then move from his present joy over the preaching of Christ to his future joy, final vindication, and honoring Christ in all circumstances. He is tossed to and fro between the desire to labor for Christ here on earth and the desire to be united with Him in death. His personal preference is to depart and be with Christ, but he recognizes it is necessary for pastoral reasons to remain with the Philippians. He then addresses the matter of their progress in the faith, meaning they are to live in a manner consistent with the good news of Christ (Philippians 1:27 ff).
The Progress of the Gospel (1:12-14)
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
The saints in Philippi must have communicated to Paul their deep concern for his welfare (4:10), and the first item on his agenda is to put them at ease; not surprisingly, he returns to this topic at the very end of the letter (4:11, 13, 18). One must also view this passage specifically as a response to the Philippians’ gift. The Philippians are in effect supporting Paul, and they have a "right" to know about his affairs; thus the apostle assures them their effort is not wasted. Paul regards such gifts as an expression of his converts’ commitment to the gospel (4:18). The apostle, no less than modern missionaries, has to eat. A very important exegetical point is made when considering this passage as Paul’s missionary report.
Think how a congregation might feel after having supported an evangelist to preach the gospel, to learn he has been thrown in prison. No doubt the Philippians are deeply concerned for Paul’s welfare as well as the effect his incarceration is having on the work. He does not want them to be overly concerned, for things are much better than they might think. Here the adverb mallon does not mean "more, to a greater degree," but "rather" in the sense of "instead." His affairs have actually served to advance the gospel ("progress, advancement, furtherance" also 1:25; 1 Timothy 4:15). Paul is doing fine, and the gospel is still being spread. He could have been depressed about his situation: his own imprisonment; his restriction in travel; but Paul looks at life from the viewpoint of the gospel. If the gospel is spreading, it is good news; and his imprisonment is actually increasing the progress of the gospel.
Paul genuinely desires that his Philippian friends might "come to know" something they have not previously known regarding the progress of the gospel. The word translated "progress," which appears again in verse 25, is a military metaphor describing a scout who identifies and, if possible, removes obstacles before an advancing army. This word signifies advancement in spite of the dangers and obstacles that block the way of the traveler.
So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
Other translations render this passage, "so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known" (NASB), and "it has become clear...that I am in chains for Christ" (NIV).
How is his imprisonment helping in the progress of the gospel? Being under "house arrest" (Acts 28:30-31) constantly brings attention to the cause of Jesus Christ. He is not there for normal reasons as if he were a common criminal, so his situation naturally sparks interest and discussion. Paul’s bonds "in Christ" indicate his imprisonment is "for Christ’s sake" and, therefore, he is not a political or civil wrongdoer; rather, it is part of his sharing in Christ’s sufferings (3:10).
Paul does not merely say the gospel has continued to make progress in spite of adversity; rather, the adversity itself has turned out for the advancement of the gospel. Here Paul gives evidence in support of his claim that the gospel has progressed in spite of his imprisonment. The praetorian guard itself has been exposed to the faith. Other Christians have received encouragement to preach boldly. Though Paul may be in chains, "the word of God is not imprisoned" (2 Timothy 2:9). Paul’s circumstances during his next (and final) imprisonment are to prove comparable (2 Timothy 4:17). The report of his ministry no doubt brings joy to their hearts. These positive developments, in spite of the potential setbacks, imply God’s sovereign working in the affairs of men. There has been an ironic turn of events. While Paul’s enemies may have intended to curtail his ministry by imprisoning him, his imprisonment, in fact, has led both to the evangelizing of pagans and to the encouragement of believers, leading to even greater evangelism.
The words "in all the palace" is a Greek word borrowed from the Latin praetorium, which originally meant "the praetor’s tent in camp, with its surrounding," "the head-quarters in a camp" (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker 697). In the course of time, the word came to designate "the official residence of a governor or prince" (the meaning it has elsewhere in the New Testament: Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16; John 18:28; John 18:33; John 19:9; Acts 23:35) (Lightfoot 99). Praetorium signifies not a place but a body of men, those forming the praetorian guard. The term denotes either the emperor’s bodyguard or praetorian cohorts stationed in the metropolis that numbered approximately 9,000 praetoriani. This word (praetorium) most likely refers to the emperor’s own guards, who were put in charge of special prisoners awaiting their appeal before Caesar.
Though allowed some freedom, Paul is still under constant guard (Acts 28:16), but these guards are also under the constant influence of Paul and the gospel. No doubt they have overheard what Paul has taught others (Acts 28:30-31) and it has positively affected them. Paul probably took opportunity to try to teach his captive audience (those soldiers chained to him). It is possible that some of them have been converted for they would be included in those "who are Caesar’s household" (4:22). The message is also being spread "to all the rest," perhaps by word of mouth and by visitation. Paul could see good come out of ill circumstances, for even while in protective custody, opportunities are provided him to preach the gospel to his guards and visitors.
And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
The Greek word translated "many" (KJV) signifies "the greater number" or the "majority" (1 Corinthians 10:5; 1 Corinthians 15:6). In Greek the first clause is literally "most of the brothers having confidence in the Lord because of my bonds." Through Paul’s imprisonment, the brethren are having their confidence in the Lord strengthened. "The point is not that the majority had been unduly timid before this, but that their courage had risen to new heights, when they might have been intimidated" (Hawthorne 35). The exact expression "ton logon laleiv" (to speak the word) occurs nowhere else in Paul’s writings, though it turns up in Acts 4:29; Acts 4:31; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:25. Here in Philippians 1:14, it is equivalent to 1 Thessalonians 2:2.
The exact relation of the phrase "in the Lord" to the context is debated. In Greek it lies between "the brothers" and "having confidence," and it is therefore grammatically possible to connect it with either. The King James Version and American Standard Version connect it with "the brothers" (also NEB, Goodspeed and NAB). But this exegesis is questionable. In Philippians 2:24, Paul uses the same verb with "in the Lord." Besides, whenever he speaks of "brethren," he always means "Christians"; and so to add "in the Lord" is really redundant. Consequently, to connect "in the Lord" with "confidence," as Today’s English Version does, makes better sense (Mft; Phps "taking fresh heart in the Lord"). The Lord is the basis of confidence and hope" (Loh and Nida 21).
Preaching Christ from Different Motives (1:15-18a)
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
It is with some difficulty that the group mentioned in verses 15-18a is identified. That they are Jewish Christians who insist on going back to Jewish ways seems unlikely since Paul does not accuse them of any false teaching. They seem to be "pro-Christ" but "anti-Paul" preachers. These verses evidently provide the actions and motives of the "brethren" in verse 14 who make up two different groups of Christian preachers. Paul has just told his readers his imprisonment has stimulated the majority of the local Christians to greater courage in proclamation of the word of God. The implication is that such is not the case with a minority of believers. The evangelism referred to in verse 14 includes the preaching of Christ mentioned in verses 15a and 17. Also, the term adelphoi, "brothers," is applicable to Paul’s opponents. Yet it may also be true that the description in verse 14 refers only to those who preach from good will, and they are not terms the apostle would have chosen to describe his opponents.
The reference (verse 14) to renewed evangelistic activity among believers leads Paul to acknowledge a painful situation that has perhaps come to the Philippians’ attention. Though not all who are taking part in this activity have pure motives, both groups preach Christ. For Paul the subject of preaching is Christ (2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; Romans 10:14-15; 2 Corinthians 11:4), that is, Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:4; Galatians 5:11) and risen (1 Corinthians 15:11-12; 1 Corinthians 15:14), and now Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5). Certainly modern day preachers should rely on such Christ-centered preaching rather than what is often heard from the pulpit.
The motives of these two groups are very different. The first is moved by "jealousy and rivalry" and governed by "selfish ambition" while the second is motivated by their love for Paul and Christ.
There is no question of the genuineness of the preaching. The one is inspired by love, the other by a spirit of faction and intrigue. Both of these terms turn up in the lists of virtues and vices. The action of the two groups is sustained by what the ones "know" and the others "imagine." Those who "know" of Paul’s responsibility for advancing the gospel rightly interpret his imprisonment (Schutz 163).
Because he has been divinely appointed for the defense of the gospel, Paul’s captivity is entirely understandable. They are not embarrassed or put off by his bonds. Instead, they identify with him in proclaiming Christ, doing so out of true Christian love.
Those with evil motives are concerned more in depriving the other person of the desired thing than in gaining it themselves. The word translated "strife" occurs nine times in the New Testament and is one of the "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:21). It describes those whom God has given up to a "base mind" (Romans 1:29). It is also a characteristic in the life of an alien sinner before conversion (Titus 3:3)--a characteristic that is to be put away by those who "grow up to salvation" (1 Peter 2:1-2). It describes the evil motives of those who delivered Jesus to Pilate (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10; James 4:5).
The second group proclaims Christ from "good will" (Romans 10:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:11), and most modern commentators take the term in this way. H. A. W. Meyer, for example, argues that the second group entertains "a feeling of good will" towards Paul (37). But it is possible that in this context "good will" refers to God.
The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely: The King James Version follows the Received Text in reversing the order of verses 16 and 17. This change seems to have been made to conform the text to the order of the two classes of preachers mentioned in verse 15; but the change is not supported by the best textual witness, and it is not followed in most translations. The authentic text has a chiastic (crisscross) order; that is, verse 16 discusses what is mentioned in verse 15b, and verse 17 refers to the content of verse 15a (Loh and Nida 23-24).
Paul begins and ends this paragraph with what is uppermost in his mind: the brothers whose preaching arises from a heart of strife and impure motives. They merely pretend to be concerned about the gospel when their real desire is to aggravate Paul’s sufferings. "Not sincerely" is literally "not purely" in the sense of "from mixed motives." It can also mean "out of partisanship."
The word "partisanship" originally meant "working for pay." Since a man who works solely for pay works from a low motive, the term later acquired a bad sense, describing a person who serves in an official position for his own selfish purposes and to that end creates a "partisan spirit" (Phillip’s; Mft "for their own ends") (Loh and Nida 25).
supposing to add affliction to my bonds: The next phrase literally means, "supposing that they will add pressure to my chains." The second group "suppose" that through their preaching they will stir up trouble for Paul as a prisoner. The word here means "to think, suppose, or expect" (O’Brien 102). This purposely chosen word, which Paul uses nowhere else, implies that what they "imagine" fails to happen. What is not clear is why his opponents would think their preaching would create trouble for him. How this question is answered depends on one’s understanding of who these opponents are. "The amazing irony is that the efforts of this second group, which advance the gospel while motivated by antagonism towards Paul, actually further his interests!" (O’Brien 107).
Paul seems to be telling the Philippians that his opponents think "they will make more trouble for me."
The phrase "to raise up affliction" is unique in the New Testament, although a similar usage is found in the Septuagint at Proverbs 10:12; Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 17:11. The Christian necessarily undergoes this affliction as part of the eschatological sufferings (Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:3) and consists of afflictions of various kinds: from persecution (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:3), imprisonment (Acts 20:23; Ephesians 3:13; Revelation 2:10; 2 Corinthians 6:4), possibly chronic sickness (2 Corinthians 1:8) to inner distress and sorrow (2 Corinthians 2:4; James 1:27) as well as anxiety and fear (2 Corinthians 7:5), where it includes "fightings without and fears within." Here at Philippians 1:16 inner distress or pain is in view. The meaning is not that they deliberately set themselves to aggravate Paul’s sufferings or to cause him physical harm and injury, but rather to stir up some inward annoyance, some trouble of spirit, perhaps by bringing home to him the limitations and restraints of his condition (which they misunderstood) as contrasted with their own unfettered freedom (O’Brien 102).
"It is probably best to admit that we do not know precisely what prompted this personal rivalry" (Bruce 390).
Some issues of doctrinal significance must have been at stake. Without necessarily preaching heresy such as we read about in Galatians, these individuals opposed the more distinctive features of Paul’s gospel and sought to undermine his ministry to the Gentiles. Yes, men and women were being brought to a saving knowledge of Christ, and for that Paul rejoiced. But this evangelistic success was being used by some to subvert the apostle’s authority and to establish a form of Gentile Christianity that was friendlier to Judaizing influences. It is no wonder they believed their efforts would add misery to Paul’s sufferings (Silva 73).
But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
But the other of love: These are motivated by love for the apostle Paul; and they appreciate his ministry, even though he is a prisoner. These circumstances lead them to take up the task of proclaiming Christ. Moffat translates "the latter do it from love to me," while the New English Bible says, "moved by love for me," and Philips, "out of their love for me."
knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel: Here is found a single Greek verb that literally means "I recline" (Loh & Nida 24), or "I am set," and it is so translated in the King James Version. The term can also be used figuratively with the meaning of "to be appointed" or "to be chosen" (Luke 2:34). The appointment to defend the gospel came from God, and the great apostle had given the last several years of his life in doing so. See verse 7 for thoughts on "defence" of the gospel.
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached: What does it matter? The significant point is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is being preached (verses 16, 18). Since Paul’s enemies are preaching Christ, they ought not to be regarded as gnostics, heretical teachers, or Judaizers. Paul does not condemn the substance of their message. They are presenting Christ (verse 18). Paul is not suggesting here that the preachers do not really believe what they preach, but rather that they use the name of Christ as a cover or pretext for selfish ends; thus, they have wrong motives (JB "dishonest motives"; also Mark 12:40; Acts 27:30). Paul does not allow himself to be troubled by those preachers who proclaim Christ from impure motives and in open hostility toward him. Therefore, his response is "What difference does it make?"
"Pretense" (prophasis) means "a valid excuse" in John 15:22, and normally occurs in the New Testament for a "falsely alleged motive, pretext, excuse" (Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47; Acts 27:30; 1 Thessalonians 2:5).
Here it has reference to preaching Christ or using his name as a cover or mask for personal and selfish ends (1 Thessalonians 2:5, where the apostle rejects the notion that his ministry was carried out "with a pretext for satisfying greed"). Over against this there was a preaching without any unworthy personal motives whatever, and which was concerned only with the truth. The sole object of this activity of spreading the gospel was Christ and his glory (Muller 55).
Final Vindication and Glorifying Christ (1:18b-20)
and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice: Whatever Paul’s circumstances, the gospel is advancing and, thus, there is reason for rejoicing. "It does not matter!" serves as a summary of Paul’s reaction to what he has just said in verses 15-17 and as a transition to what comes after. His joyful response is not natural and easy; it would have been unexpected in view of his trials; and, therefore, it requires explanation. Herein lies the true way of peace, joy, and comfort in spite of hardships and trouble. Paul’s concern is not about his own personal well-being, rather it is that God’s will is being done. May all Christians seek Him first and let His will satisfy the deepest longings of the heart.
The verb translated "rejoice" ("happy" in the RSV) occurs twice. In some translations the two verbs are separated only by a comma ("and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice" KJV, ASV). Paul is saying, "I am happy about it," that is, about the fact that Christ is being proclaimed regardless of motives. What does matter for Paul is "Christ is preached in every way possible." Paul is assured the future will bring fresh reasons for happiness: "And I will continue to be happy."
Paul is encouraged that things will turn out all right in spite of his problems. It is also possible to understand that problems themselves assist the Christian in his experience, as in Romans 5:3-5. There, the apostle describes the process that leads from tribulation to a hope that does not make ashamed. The deliverance Paul speaks about is one that he will experience no matter what happens to him in prison: as in verse 20 "whether through life or through death."
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation: Verse 19 gives the reason for Paul’s optimism in the preceding verse. Many commentators recognize Paul is here alluding to Job 13:13-18 in the Septuagint, which deals with Job’s eternal destiny. The soteriological import is also present in the other occurrences of soteria ("salvation") in Philippians (1:28; 2:12). Paul seems sure the adversities he has experienced will result in his salvation: "for I know that this shall turn out for my salvation."
A common interpretation of this statement is that Paul is certain he will be released from prison (Hawthorne 39). No doubt, the word soteria can sometimes be translated "deliverance," as the New International Version and the New American Standard Bible do here; and it is certainly possible to see a reference to verses 25-26 where he refers to his expected release from prison and subsequent visit to Philippi. However, there seems to be more to the meaning of soteria here than simply his deliverance from prison.
Paul ties his adversity to his deliverance. It is not merely that he will be delivered but that his adversity will result in his deliverance. The concept is parallel with that of verse 12. The ground for the apostle’s rejoicing is he knows he will be vindicated by God in the heavenly court. He is sure of deliverance whether or not he is acquitted by Caesar’s tribunal and discharged from prison. In words that correspond exactly to the Septuagint of Job 13:16, the apostle says, "This will turn out for my salvation." He applies these words of Job to his own situation, not because they are vaguely or marginally parallel, but because he, like Job, is certain of his vindication. This point is brought out dramatically by Paul’s expressions in his last letter. In 2 Timothy 4, where Paul shows no expectation of physical deliverance (4:6), he utters a cry for salvation: "The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom" (4:18).
through your prayer: Paul recognizes in verse 19 that his perseverance does not take place automatically but rather through the prayers of the Philippians and the support provided by the Holy Spirit. Even Paul’s personal growth does not take place in isolation from the support of the church. It is indeed a sobering thought that one’s spiritual relationship with God is not a purely individualistic concern; individual Christians are dependent on the Spirit’s power in answer to the intercessory prayers of God’s people. And it may be added that the Spirit’s help is often manifested through the koinonia (fellowship) of the believers, as well as through their prayers. The supply of the Spirit is the answer to his friends’ prayers, the final result of which is Paul’s vindication.
and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ: Commentators generally agree Paul means "the help given by the Spirit" (NIV). "On the other hand, Galatians 3:5 offers striking support for the view that the Spirit Himself is here regarded as the divine provision" (Silva 79). The phrase is literally, "the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ."
There are two genitive constructions here, and their meaning may be explained in a variety of ways. The first genitive, "the supply of the Spirit," can be taken as an objective genitive, making "the Spirit" that which is given (Mft "as I am provided with the Spirit of Jesus Christ" and New English Bible "the Spirit of Jesus Christ is given me for support"). Another possibility, which appears to suit the context better, is to take the construction as a subjective genitive. In this case, "the Spirit" would be the giver, thus "the help which the Spirit of Jesus Christ gives," or, as Today’s English Version renders it, "the help which comes from the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Loh and Nida 28).
Jesus promised assistance brought by the Spirit to believers who bear witness when they appear before their accusers and judges (Mark 13:11; Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 12:12).
The Spirit is called here "the Spirit of Jesus Christ."
The second genitive construction, "the Spirit of Jesus Christ," occurs only here in the New Testament. Some take the phrase as in apposition, meaning "the Spirit, which is Jesus Christ." This interpretation does not seem to fit the context well. Others take it to mean "the Spirit that is promised or given by Jesus Christ" (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12; John 16:7). However, in the Pauline letters, the Spirit is usually said to be given by God the Father (l Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:17; Galatians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:8). We are left, then, with another possibility. Just as the Holy Spirit is referred to as "the Spirit of Christ" (Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11) and "the Spirit of his Son: (Galatians 4:6), it may well be that the expression is used in this context simply as another name for the Holy Spirit (Loh and Nida 29).
Paul makes an urgent appeal for their renewed support. Many times he asks his readers to intercede for him in his work (Romans 15:30-32; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Philemon 1:22). Here at Philippians 1:19 Paul’s entreaty corresponds to his earlier petition for the Philippians. J. Gnilka aptly remarks: "The ’petition’ or ’supplication’ of the church for the apostle is like an echo of the apostle’s for them" (66). "Supply" or "aid" appears only here and in Ephesians 4:16 in the New Testament, but the cognate verb (the root or original verb to which this one is related) is found five times (Galatians 3:5 "that ministereth"; 2 Corinthians 9:10 "that ministereth"; Colossians 2:19 "having nourishment ministered"; 2 Peter 1:5 "add", 11 "shall be ministered").
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
According to my eager expectation and hope: This is not a mere reference to Paul’s desire for physical freedom. The word apokaradokia translated "eager" is particularly emphatic; its only other occurrence is in reference to the eager desire of creation for the final redemption, a desire also described as a groaning (Romans 8:19; Romans 8:22).
Here at Philippians 1:20 the two terms "intense longing" and "hope" are used synonymously in the positive sense of "confident expectation and hope." They might be treated and translated, "my hope-filled eager expectation" (Hawthorne 41).
In other words, what is eagerly expected is the consummation of God’s purposes.
that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness: Paul expresses his hope in terms that turn the attention to matters of eternal import: "I will have nothing to be ashamed of, but with all boldness...Christ will be glorified in my body" (verse 20). This verse reminds one of Romans 5:4. The idea comes from such key passages as Isaiah 28:16, quoted in Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11. The shame of which this verse and many other Old Testament parallels speak is not really a subjective feeling of guilt (as in Romans 1:16) but rather the objective disgrace experienced by those on whom the judgment of God falls. "Being put to shame" is in effect the fate of the apostate, a concept reflected in 1 John 2:28.
Paul’s not being ashamed is based on his confidence in God’s power in and through the gospel. So then in Philippians 1:20, in a situation where Paul is awaiting trial, he knows that whatever happens he will not be put to shame. This shame has nothing to do with public opinion of Paul but relates to his standing before God. Paul as a servant of Christ Jesus would be ashamed if his Lord were not glorified through him.
as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death: In spite of the present condition that Paul finds himself in and the dim prospects of what possibly lies ahead, he asks the Philippians to pray for him that the Holy Spirit would strengthen him in his goal of magnifying the Lord Jesus Christ in all that he does. He has magnified his Lord in the past, and he earnestly hopes he can in this time of distress. It is often in times like this that Christians fail the Lord, and, therefore, they will be put to shame at judgment, whereas Paul is determined he would magnify Christ even now (in tribulation) and not find shame in the end.
In the weakness of Paul’s body the power of Jesus Christ is revealed (2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 4:3). In him Christ lives (Galatians 2:20), and Christ will clearly reveal His glory whether in the life or the death of His servant.
The apostle’s whole person has always been at his Lord’s disposal (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); he thus desires that Christ will be honored either by his life or death. The alternatives could not be more sharply put, and they suggest that Paul is uncertain as to the outcome of his trial (O’Brien 115-116).
Life or Death (1:21-24)
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Here is an intensely personal confession. The content of this confession is twofold: "to live is Christ" and "to die is gain." Hanhart’s quote is noteworthy:
With the words "for me to live is Christ" Paul "is not speaking...of his natural life, but of the life of the New Age received through the Spirit (v. 19)...With "life in the body" and "life in the flesh" he means the natural life. But "for me to live is Christ" refers to life eternal; it is of another sort" (Hanhart 183).
"To me" is emphatic in the Greek text. It carries with it the idea of "according to my own experience." The question, "What is life?" or more explicitly "What does it mean to live?" is answered here by Paul. The question is answered by "it is Christ." Life means Christ. Luther and Tyndale both translate, "Christ is my life." Life to Paul has no meaning apart from Christ. His life is not his own; it is totally devoted to Christ (Galatians 2:20). "For what is life?" is obviously a rhetorical question. Paul is not asking for information; he is only explaining the purpose of his own life. For him "it is Christ."
Since Paul’s life finds its total meaning in Christ, his dying, which results in being with Christ (verse 23), is viewed as an advantage.
"Death" translates a Greek aorist infinitive which denotes the event of dying, not the process. "Will bring more" translates a single word in Greek, literally "gain." "Death is gain" in two respects. First, it is the way to the immediate presence of Christ (verse 23). Second and more important, his death by martyrdom would produce the promotion and progress of the gospel. Hence, death would be gain for the proclamation of the gospel (Loh and Nida 32).
The apostle is also concerned with the interests of living. Paul asserts that living has no meaning apart from Christ; He is the object, motive, inspiration, and goal of all the apostle does (Galatians 2:20). It is for this reason that he can triumphantly claim he considers "everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (3:8). Galatians 2:20 is a parallel text. His very dilemma about living or dying arises because he values the significance of his life in service for Christ and His people.
But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: With the opening words of verse 22, "If I am to go on living in the body," Paul for the first time picks up the previously mentioned possibility of verse 20c: "either by life." "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me, Yet what shall I choose? I have nothing to declare" (NIV, RSV, NASB).
yet what I shall choose I wot not: At this point Paul’s language is somewhat obscure, and the grammar of the passage reflects the conflict in his mind. "He is tossed to and fro between the desire to labor for Christ here on earth and the desire to be united with him in death" (Lightfoot 92). The first verb is taken interrogatively, "And what shall I choose? I have nothing to declare about this matter." On the other hand, some have made it to be "I cannot announce what I shall choose." Paul is turning over in his mind the possibilities, struggling with the desire to depart and be with Christ and the need to remain here below for the sake of the Philippians (verse 24). Many writers argue that "I do not know what to choose" is the correct translation (NIV, RSV, NEB, TEV). E. Lohmeyer suggests God had not revealed His mind to Paul. In other words, he had nothing to declare "from the Lord" regarding the options of living or dying (61-62).
Several commentators think Paul assumes in this verse he will survive the ordeal of his trial. Paul asserts if he continues to live here below, it will mean fruitful work. "Fruit" (1:11) is applied in a variety of ways to the apostle’s missionary activity. "Fruit" is parallel to "gain" in verse 21. As death will be gain for Paul, so to remain alive will mean fruit. But what sort of fruit? It signifies the "fruit which follows toil and issues from it" (Vincent 27). It is the fruit that results from Paul’s apostolic labor. In Romans 1:13, it means winning new converts (also 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). "Work" in the letter to the Philippians denotes the "work of God" (1:6) or "work of Christ" for which Epaphroditus risked his life and almost died (2:30). "It is God’s work in which Paul and his coworkers are engaged (1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 16:10; 1 Corinthians 3:13-15; 1 Corinthians 15:58), and the fruit that results from this missionary activity is a divine gift" (Lohmeyer 60).
The apostle here is laying bare his soul and frankly admitting to having some conflicting feelings; he acknowledges perhaps an almost unbearable tension between personal desire and Christian duty.
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
For I am in a strait betwixt two: Paul says, "I am in straits." This phrase is the Greek verb synechomai meaning, "to press on every side." It is used of "a strait that forces a ship into a narrow channel" (Thayer 604). This is a vivid description of Paul’s psychological ordeal. The nature of Paul’s tension is described briefly and powerfully in verse 21. A choice between what is better for him personally and what is more necessary for the believers is the decision with which he is wrestling. Here in verses 23-24, he expresses more fully his predicament ("What shall I choose? I have nothing to declare"). The thought here "suggests the idea of total control, submission to claims which in this case are so evenly balanced in their competition that Paul is under equal pressure from two sides...and cannot break free" (Martin 77). It is a longing for that which he earnestly and continuously desires.
having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Paul’s personal preference is "to depart and be with Christ." The two ideas expressed in the phrase, departing and being with Christ, are closely related since the two infinitives are connected by the one definite article. The Greek verb translated "I am pulled" is a vivid word picturing a traveler on a narrow road with walls of rock on both sides, unable to turn either way. The same verb is translated in Luke 12:50 as "distressed" (Luke 19:43 "your enemies...close in on you from every side"). "I am hemmed in on both sides" (Knox). "I am torn in two directions" (Philips). "I am caught in this dilemma" (JB). "Desire" here is used in the sense of "strong desire" (Mft, Bruce), and it is given a verbal form, "I want very much."
Analuo translated "depart" means "to loose, untie" (Acts 16:26), "to depart" or "return" (Luke 12:36, 2 Timothy 4:6, and here). The verb translated "to leave this life" occurs elsewhere only in Luke 12:36. It has a military sense of breaking up an encampment and is often used as a euphemism for death. To have departed from this life is to have taken up residence in the presence of the Lord, and this is the reason Paul presents it as being eminently desirable that he should die. Death ushers him into an even deeper fellowship with Christ so that he can say the union beyond death is "far, far better" and is a consummation earnestly to be desired. It would be "much rather better" or "by far the best."
Apparently Paul is thinking of an immediate union with Christ directly after death (2 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Luke 23:43). The expression "to be with Christ" appears only here, and the closest parallels are "we shall be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and "we shall live together with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:10). Nine other similar expressions occur. The preposition "with" is used to express intimate personal union with: Christ; the Lord; Jesus; or Him, in various contexts ("crucified together with" Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20; "bury with" Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; "live together with" Romans 6:8; 2 Timothy 2:11; "suffer with" Romans 8:17; and "glorify with" Romans 8:17).
This idea immediately raises the question of the relationship between being with Christ at death and the second coming. In Philippians 1:23, "with Christ" is directly linked with Paul’s death, not with the parousia. Yet, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the similar expression "we shall be with the Lord" clearly points to fellowship with Christ at His second coming (5:10; 4:14). In one of the apostle’s earliest letters, being with Christ is believed to take place at the parousia, while here in Philippians 1:23 that fellowship is said to occur at the time of or after death. How are these two sets of true statements to be reconciled?
The passages that speak of those living on earth at the second coming of Christ refer to fellowship with Him commencing at His coming ("we shall be with the Lord," 1 Thessalonians 4:17). The dead in Christ are already with Him, for 1 Thessalonians 4:14 says that "even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." The "spirits of just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 6:9-10) are with Him, but they have not received their glorified bodies. The decayed bodies of all mankind will remain in the grave, apart from their spirits, until Jesus comes and the resurrection of all who are in the grave takes place. Only then will man be perfected and God’s work complete.
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
In this verse Paul states the other side of the dilemma. "But" ("nevertheless)" here has the force of "on the other hand" (Phillips, Bruce). His pastoral concern shines through as he considers the needs of these Christians (also 2 Corinthians 11:28). Later he calls on them to look out for what is best for others (2:4). Here he sets the example himself. Against his personal desires, Paul puts his concern for others first. It is not simply that Paul decides to remain in the body, because the decision had been made for him, "not by some kind of special enlightenment, but just by the simple fact that for the time being he is still there. To that fact he bows" (Barth 41).
An Anticipated Reunion? (1:25-26)
And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;
The apostle comforts the Philippians in verses 25 and 26, which form one sentence in the Greek text. In these verses Paul voices confidence regarding his future. This statement is rather surprising considering the uncertainty of what might happen to him. He seriously contemplates the prospect of surviving his ordeal and returning to Philippi. In the preceding verses, he discusses the options that confront him (1:21-23--life or death). He recognizes that as far as the congregation at Philippi is concerned his presence is necessary to their spiritual well-being.
And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all: Paul emphatically assures the Philippians he will be released and resume his ministry among them. Because he is convinced of the necessity of remaining for the sake of the Philippians, he proclaims, "I know," a verb used to indicate Paul’s strong conviction on this matter. "I will remain and continue" (NASV). The verb rendered "stay on" is a compound of the simple verb translated "stay." It means to stay or wait beside a person, so as to be ready to help and to serve.
for your furtherance: Perhaps his confidence is not so much in the fact that he will remain, but on his conviction that to remain is in the best interests of the Philippians. In Philippians 1:20; Philippians 2:17, Paul’s feelings of uncertainty in what the future holds may be detected. He may be saying, "Convinced of this (that my presence is more necessary), I know that for the sake of your progress...." The apostle is, therefore, not necessarily predicting the future. What he says will obviously be conditional, the condition being whether or not he will be released from prison. He is confident, then, not of his release as such, but that his presence will be a blessing to the Philippians if he is released. In effect, Paul’s conviction is related to verse 19 and signifies that whether in life or in death, the future is to be one of joy, with his salvation and glory assured. He does seem to feel, however, that because of their need, God will make a way for him to be released and continue his work.
Having discussed the purposes that would be served by his release--their progress in the faith, their joy in that faith, and their abounding glory in Christ through Paul--he focuses on their participation in that progress. In the same way that while he is in prison, his circumstances have served in the progress of God’s Word, so, too, his release will serve to bring greater spiritual progress to their faith. Perhaps there is an allusion here to some of the problems that are manifesting themselves among the Philippian believers. Yet Paul’s ministry of spiritual correction is intended to bring joy rather than sorrow or fear.
and joy of faith: Paul once again brings up the theme of joy. In verse 25 the common term for joy (chara) is employed, but in the next verse he shifts to the stronger word kauchema (pride, grounds for glorying) and assures them their confident joy can only increase. Were Paul to be released from prison, the Philippians would be filled with joy. But even more importantly, he is telling the brethren that his future work among them will serve to further reveal to them the joy of serving Christ--the joy in believing.
That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.
That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me: The Greek here is somewhat obscure (literally, "that your pride may abound in Christ Jesus in me"); and, therefore, translators differ as to whether Christ or Paul is the object of "pride." Some translators understand the object to be Christ: "so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus" (RSV); "and so you will have another reason to give praise to Christ Jesus on my account" (JB). Others have the immediate cause of pride as being Paul himself. This is the position taken by Today’s English Version: "you will have even more reason to be proud of me" (also NEB); or "your pride in me may be unbounded" (Phps, Gpd); and finally, the NASB renders this passage: "so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus." Another passage to consider is 2 Corinthians 1:14, which states, "we are your grounds for boasting, as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus."
If the latter translations are correct, and Paul is the one they boast in (this view is supported by Lightfoot, Vincent, and others), one may relate the thought to that found in Philippians 2:16, where Paul counts the Philippians’ sanctification as his reason for confidence (1:11). On the other hand, it should be pointed out that when Paul uses the verb kauchaomai (boast) with the preposition en, he consistently admonishes believers to boast in God, not man (1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17). Paul characterizes believers as those who "glory in Christ Jesus" (3:3). There is good reason then to take Philippians 1:26 as instrumental: "so that your boasting may abound in Christ Jesus through my ministry when I return to you" (Silva 86).
by my coming to you again: Paul is telling them that if he is released and has the opportunity of seeing them again, they will have even more reason for glorying and rejoicing in Christ Jesus on his own account. A "striking parallel is found in 3:3 (’we who glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh’) which suggests that the Philippians may have been tempted to other kinds of boasting" (Collange 70-71).
Conduct Worthy of the Gospel
Exhortations and an Example to the Community
Unity and Courage in the Face of Opposition
Paul now gives some practical exhortations. He urges his readers to stand firm with one common purpose and to fight together for the gospel. "Verses 27-30 constitute one sentence in Greek" (Loh and Nida 38).
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: The transition between Philippians 1:12-26 and the next paragraph of the epistle is marked by the word monon, "Only." "The main proposition of the entire letter is 1:27-30" (Watson 79). Philippians 1:27 to Philippians 2:18 is an injunction to holy living. Paul calls them to conduct themselves properly in light of the difficulties brought on by their opponents (1:28). Besides the attacks on their faith by outside opposition, there are problems from within their own ranks that call for unity and peace. Paul sets forth a single important demand in verse 27. He does not give a series of exhortations but only one ("Only"). It stands as a heading to the whole section (1: 27-2:18) so that all other admonitions and statements expand upon what is involved in living worthy of the gospel. Paul appeals to them for unity and courage in the face of opposition (1:27-30). He exhorts them to unity through humility (2:1-4) with Christ as the supreme example (2:5-11). Then he admonishes them to shine as stars in the universe (2:12-18). All of these things make up that worthy conduct to which he calls them.
Paul has given the Philippians the assurance that everything will work out well (verses 24-26). There is, however, something that concerns him. The Philippians are in danger of overlooking their Christian duty to maintain spiritual unity. They are being intimidated by their opponents and are slackening in their zeal for the conflict. The apostle’s injunction is a very important concern of this letter.
Whatever the future may bring, whether he sees them again or not, one thing the Philippians must do is to conduct their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. The theme of the gospel is significant. Just as Paul looks at his own situation in light of the gospel’s progress, he wants the Philippians’ behavior to be worthy of that same gospel.
The phrase "let your conversation be" is derived from the word "polis" (a city, city-state), the primary meaning being "to live as a citizen, or to discharge one’s obligations as a citizen" (O’Brien 146). The political overtones are great, as this congregation is a highly Romanized one in the colony of Philippi. The word politeuomai is a distinctive term; and by using it in the context of the history of Philippi, Paul draws attention to the mutual responsibilities the Philippians have as members of the local body of believers. The cognate politeuma "commonwealth, state" is used in Philippians 3:20, where it is followed by the same two verbs "contend and struggle." "Continue to discharge your obligations as citizens and residents of Philippi faithfully and as a Christian should" (Brewer 83).
The New American Standard Version renders "as it becometh the gospel" as "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." The adverb meaning "worthily, as a manner worthy of, suitably" comes to be used as a preposition with the genitive case (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker 78). They are to "walk, or live" (1 Thessalonians 2:12; Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1) worthily of the gospel of Christ. It is through this gospel, preached by the apostle, that God has been pleased to call them to Himself (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). "The gospel" establishes the norm of the Philippians’ conduct. As they are wholly committed to the advance of the gospel, they will walk worthily of it, by holding fast to it, preaching and confessing it in spite of opposition and temptation. Just as all of Paul’s own actions are determined with deference to the gospel, so it should be with them.
that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs: The New English Bible renders this phrase, "whether I come and see you for myself or hear about you from a distance." In the words "whether I come and see you, or else be absent," the issue is not whether Paul will be liberated or remain in prison; rather, assuming his release, he desires to continue his apostolic journey and to come again to the Philippians. He trusts he would come (2:24); yet he might be led elsewhere and be far away from them.
that ye stand fast: "To stand" is found in several places in the New Testament (Mark 3:31; Mark 11:25; John 1:26; Revelation 12:4). Paul uses a verb that stresses the importance of spiritual tenacity: stekete, "you are standing firm" (NASB). In the apostle’s writings, the term is used figuratively and signifies "to stand firm, be steadfast": to be steadfast "in the faith" (1 Corinthians 16:13), "in the Lord" (4:1), "in the freedom Christ has won" (Galatians 5:1), or, as here, "in one spirit" (1:27). The idea of standing fast or secure is clearly demanded from the context of verses 28-30. For them to live lives worthy of the gospel, it is necessary that they stand firm in the face of attacks made upon that gospel.
in one spirit, with one mind striving together: "In one spirit" speaks of the human spirit and might be rendered "with one common purpose" (O’Brien 150). Some take it as designating the Holy Spirit, based on Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 4:4, and 1 Corinthians 2:13, as well as to the immediate context of Philippians 2:1. It is true that such unity of purpose is effected by the Holy Spirit; however, the context seems to indicate it is the human spirit under consideration here. They are to all be in one accord, with one purpose, or goal. This phrase may be paraphrased by "contending as one person," literally "with one accord" (Bruce 16). Luke’s summary description of the original Jerusalem church uses the same expression: "All the believers were one in heart and mind" (Acts 4:32).
Remaining steadfast is explained by the words "striving" ("to contend, struggle along with" appears only here and at Philippians 4:3 in the New Testament [Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker 783]) and in no way intimidated. Most commentators follow Lightfoot and think that "struggle with" and "contest" are clear athletic images and also are taken from the gladiatorial arena. Paul is said to picture the Philippian Christians as wrestlers or gladiators in the arena of faith (verse 27). He later uses the same image (verse 30) for himself. The word synathlountes ("contending together") carries with it the idea of a joint venture with other Christians. All Christians are involved in this spiritual struggle together. Brethren need one another; and Paul is attempting to make this point with the Philippians, therefore encouraging them to unite in their struggle. Paul stresses the tenacity required of Christian believers by pointing out the need for unanimity.
Paul will develop this concern in Philippians 2:1-4 and return to it several times throughout the letter. At the very outset, he alerts his readers to the fundamental thesis that Christian sanctification cannot be reduced to an individualistic exercise. The struggles of the Christian citizen must be faced within the fellowship of the believing community.
for the faith of the gospel: The expression "the faith of the gospel" appears only here in the New Testament. It could refer to the faith that is the gospel, the faith in the gospel, the faith that is appropriate to the gospel, or the faith that is based on the gospel. The New English Bible says "the gospel faith." "It is important to note that Paul is urging his readers to fight for "the faith appropriate to, or based upon the gospel" (Loh and Nida 41).
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them, an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: In verse 28, Paul makes reference to the Philippians’ spiritual opponents. Having exhorted the Philippians positively to stand firm in their struggle for the faith of the gospel, the apostle now encourages them not to be intimidated by their opponents from outside the community. "Be opposed," or having opposition to someone (also Galatians 5:17; 1 Timothy 1:10), is here found in its participial form signifying "opponents" or "enemies" and has a wide range of uses (Luke 13:17; Luke 21:15; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 5:14).
Exactly who these enemies are Paul does not say. A number of commentators contend that Philippians 1:27-28 anticipates the warnings of Philippians 3:2 where Paul seems greatly concerned about Judaizing teachers. These are Christian preachers of Jewish nationality who seek to introduce a perfectionist teaching based on legalistic obedience to the law (3:2). Many feel it is reasonable to assume this is who he has in mind here as well.
But there are several factors against such a view. First, they are non-Christians, for they are said to be on the road to destruction (1 Corinthians 1:18 denotes the enemies are of the world). Secondly, Paul calls the Philippians to steadfastness in a section that speaks of a conflict (1:30) that they associated with him when he was with them and that he is presently enduring ("and now hear to be mine").
Such a description best fits an opposition coming from outside the Christian community rather than from within and probably has reference to the heathen inhabitants at Philippi who would use persecution, or the threat of it, to intimidate the believers. The term "adversaries" is likely to be a veiled reference to:
...mob violence, the hatred of the Philippian populace (2:15) against this infant company of believers, whose purity of life and consciousness of high calling in Christ Jesus (3:14) were a constant challenge and rebuke to their pagan neighbors (Martin 87).
A Jewish element may have aroused their hostility, as at Thessalonica (Acts 17:5). But the number of Jews at Philippi does not appear to have been large, for there is no evidence of a synagogue in Acts 16 or from history or archaeology dated from that time period.
The Philippian Christians are probably now facing the same kind of opposition that Paul himself experienced when he was with them, that is, from pagan neighbors, perhaps even from authorities (Bruce 33).
which is to them, an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation: The struggle they are experiencing is not only a sign of their opponents’ destruction but of their own salvation. The noun "evident token" occurs only four times in the New Testament (all by Paul: Romans 3:25-26; 2 Corinthians 8:24). The Revised Standard Version translates this phrase, "omen to them of their destruction." The New International Version says, "This is a sign to them." "This" refers to the preceding idea of courageousness. It signifies a proof based on factual evidence, so it is not simply a "foreshadow" (NAB) but a "sure sign" (NEB, JB, Gpd) or "clear omen" (Mft, RSV). The point is not that the adversaries themselves are necessarily aware of this impending doom, but that their doom is sealed as they are enemies of the gospel, and the eternal salvation of the faithful Christians who endure to the end is confirmed.
The two nouns "perdition" ("destruction" NIV) and "salvation" stand in contrast, rather than the pronouns. Thus, the sign that has reference to the persecutors is a twofold one—it concerns perdition and salvation. This teaching would have further encouraged the readers. It is to be understood here eschatologically (the study of last things--the end time) and eternally of future ruin and salvation respectively. "Destruction" is the final end of earthly existence. In the Septuagint "death," "hades," and "destruction" occurred together as synonyms and were personified as human’s worst enemy (Job 26:6; Job 28:22; Job 31:12; Psalm 87:12; Proverbs 15:11). In the New Testament, where it appears eighteen times, it is sometimes used to mean waste or squandering (Mark 14:4; Matthew 26:8). In most instances, however, it carries with it the meaning of ruin, or destruction, particularly in the sense of eternal perdition (Matthew 7:13; Romans 9:22 : Philippians 3:19; Acts 8:20; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Peter 2:1; 2 Peter 2:3; 2 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 3:16; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:11). In 2 Thessalonians 1:5, a close parallel is found: the Christian’s endurance of persecution is proof of God’s just judgment with its future relief for the believers and its punishment of their persecutors. Such a state of affairs is a sign of two facts: the perdition of the enemies of the gospel and the salvation of the Philippian Christians.
and that of God: "And that of God" probably does not refer exclusively to the word soteria, "salvation" but rather to all of the thoughts in this context (conflict, destruction, perseverance, and salvation). These words provide encouragement for Paul’s friends, for they are assured that the experience of antagonism to the gospel through which they are passing, the steadfastness they are to demonstrate, and the assurance of salvation that follows are all under the sovereign control and purpose of God. It is God who sends the persecutions they must undergo, the solid resistance with which they must confront them, and the assurance of salvation that follows.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
Verse 29 begins with the conjunction hoti, "for, because," and it is significant. Verse 29 is intended as the reason or explanation for the surprising statement in verse 28, particularly the clause at the end, "and this from God."
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ: Paul describes their suffering as a gift, hymin echaristhe, "to you it has been granted" (NASB). This is a unique phrase in the New Testament. It is also startling. The apostle challenges the Philippians’ theology and asks them to understand their afflictions not merely as inevitable but as a manifestation of God’s gracious dealings with them. Paul told the believers in Asia Minor that tribulations are necessary (dei) if we would enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). This "divine necessity" of suffering would become a major theme for the Macedonian believers during Paul’s second journey (keimetha, "we were destined") (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7). The present tense of the verb "suffer" suggests their suffering for Christ was continuous, even up to the time of Paul’s writing them.
not only to believe on him: Paul introduces the thought of believing in Christ. Such a gracious gift from God is clearly a magnificent blessing. Faith, considered as a gift from God, appears in Paul’s writings only in Romans 10:14, Galatians 2:16, and here. In the first two references the aorist tense draws attention to the moment of coming to faith in Christ. Here in Philippians 1:29 the present tense connotes an ongoing relationship of trust in Him. Both "believing" and "suffering" are present infinitives in Greek, thus indicating the privilege of believing in Christ and suffering for Him are not-once-for-all actions but are continuous. There is also the added thought that God is graciously giving to the Philippians the privilege of believing (or of continuing to believe) in His Son even while suffering and undergoing persecution. This is a blessing indeed!
but also to suffer for his sake: Paul presents suffering to the Christians at Rome as a condition of glorification and, therefore, as part of that which God works out for their good (Romans 8:17; Romans 8:28-30; 2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 4:13). Here he teaches the Philippians clearly that they are to view suffering in a positive light. When Paul (1:29) sets up affliction as an equivalent of faith (both as a necessity and a gift), he is vividly expressing a common biblical theme that is a fundamental truth of Christian citizenship. Already in verse 7, Paul has described his readers as co-participants with him of his "grace." The disciple is no greater than his master. He reminds his readers of his own experiences, both while he was in Philippi (Acts 16:19-40) and at the present time. As true disciples and partakers of the grace of God, they will suffer for the cause just as Paul. "God has graciously bestowed on you, along with faith in Christ, the privilege of suffering with him" (Vincent 35).
The believers at Philippi have been drawn mainly from a Gentile and pagan background, and for them the idea of suffering "for one’s god" is entirely new. This information explains Paul’s references to his own examples (1:12-26) and his reasons for warning the Philippians of the impending necessity of suffering. Perhaps, too, the prospect of suffering terrifies them. Certainly their trials are not due to some accident, nor are they a mark of divine punishment as though God is angry with them. It was quite the reverse. Their suffering has been freely bestowed on them as a gracious gift. Further, suffering must be viewed in light of Philippians 3:10, which has to do with being related to Christ’s death and resurrection as well as sharing in His destiny.
Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
Paul’s use of the word "conflict" or contest in Colossians 2:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:2 does not necessarily suggest athletic imagery, but 1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Timothy 4:7 certainly do. "Here in Philippians the presence of sunathleo in Philippians 1:27 and the more explicit imagery in 2:16 and 3:13-14 justify seeing an athletic allusion in 1:30" (Silva 99). This word appears a number of times in the New Testament (Colossians 2:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1 as well as here). It describes Paul’s conflict for the gospel or the faith. It involves toil and labor, intense wrestling and struggle for the spread, growth, and strengthening of the faith.
The struggle against opposition is brought close to home when Paul speaks of his "fight." Elsewhere in a catalogue of apostolic hardships, he mentions this experience of being "beaten with rods" at Philippi (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). He also refers to his struggle on behalf of the Colossians as well in Colossians 2:1. Paul’s entire apostolic mission is understood as one great "struggle" for the gospel. His experience during that first visit to Philippi and his present imprisonment with its trials are aspects of the same conflict. These two sets of circumstances, separated by time and distance, are part of the one apostolic "fight" for the gospel.
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Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Philippians 1". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany