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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 1

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-30

The Prisoner Apostle in Rome

§ 1. Address and Salutation (Philippians 1:1-2).

Philippians 1:1, Philippians 1:2. The form of greeting in Philippians 1:1-2 is that common to the Epistles of the third group.

1. To all the saints] holy persons—consecrated to God as all Christian believers are. This and similar emphatic expressions (in Philippians 1:3-4, Philippians 1:7-8, Philippians 1:25, chapter Philippians 4:2) show that the entire Church, despite differences between its members (Philippians 2:2-3; Philippians 4:2), has the Apostle’s confidence. Only in this Epistle are the Church officers singled out in the address; probably because they figured in the letter of the Church, to which St. Paul is replying: see Intro. Bishops and deacons] ’overseers’ and ’attendants’—associated here for the first time in NT.—are the superior and subordinate officers of the local Church. ’Bishops’ appear to be the same as the ’presidents’ (’those that are over you’) of 1 Thessalonians 5:12, the ’pastors’ of Ephesians 4:11; (cp. 1 Peter 2:25), and the more familiar ’elders’ of Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 5:17-19; Titus 1:5-9, etc.: see Acts 20:17, Acts 20:28; (RV), and 1 Peter 5:1-4, for the identity. The same persons might be called ’elders’ in respect of status, and ’overseers’ in respect of duty. At this early stage of development, there was no strict uniformity of title or function in the offices held in various Churches. Episkopos (bishop) was a name for persons charged with administrative or financial responsibility in Greek communities; and this title may have been adopted by the Hellenic Churches. ’Deacon’ (diakonos) represents the every-day word for ’servant,’ ’attendant,’ as in Matthew 20:26; Romans 13:4;etc. For farther elucidation, see notes on these words in the Pastoral Epistles.

2. Grace] is God’s forgiving and redeeming love to men: see Romans 4:24 to Romans 5:2, Romans 5:17-21; Ephesians 1:6-7; Ephesians 2:7-8, etc.

I. Act of Praise and Prayer (Philippians 1:3-11)

§ 2. Philippians 1:3-8. The characteristically Pauline Thanksgiving, Philippians 1:3-6, runs into a chain of participial sentences loaded with adverbial clauses, the connexion of which is not always certain. Philippians 1:5 accounts for the joy attending St. Paul’s supplications for his readers as due to their unbroken fellowship with him; and Philippians 1:6 declares the assurance of complete success that animates his prayers. The rendering of this very thing, in Philippians 1:6, is difficult to justify; say rather, ’being confident on this very account—viz. because of your steadfast fellowship with me—that God will consummate in you what He has so signally begun.’

7. The assurance above expressed is supported by the reflexion that it is right to cherish these thoughts—of thankfulness, joy, trust—about you all, since I hold you in my heart.. as being all of you fellow-partakers with me in grace: i.e. the Philippians are so entirely bound up with the Apostle in the cause of the gospel, that it would be wrong and an ill-requital of their devotion to entertain any other thoughts of them. He is conscious of their communion both in his bonds, which they share by sympathy and by the presence of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25, Philippians 2:30), and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel—the negative and positive sides of his ministry in Rome, where he both vindicates the cause of Christ and demonstrates its saving power: cp. Ephesians 6:19, Ephesians 6:20.

8. A solemn attestation of the heart-union just declared. To yearn over one in the heart of Christ Jesus is to love him with the depth and tenderness of His affection: cp. John 13:34, and on Philippians 4:1. Bowels] RV ’tender mercies.’

§3. Philippians 1:9-11. The Prayer of Philippians 1:9-11 recognises the love exhibited in the ’fellowship’ of the readers with St. Paul (Philippians 1:5), desiring that it may be enriched by intelligence and moral tact. The Gk. term here used for knowledge, characteristic of the letters of this group, signifies ’advanced, thorough knowledge’; the word rendered discernment (RV)—here only in NT.—containing the root of ’æsthetics,’ belongs to the region of taste, rather than judgment (AV). Strong in affection and zeal, the Philippians needed a more enlightened conscience (see on Philippians 4:8), in order to prove the things that differ (RM: cp. 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Hebrews 5:12).

Sincere] (= clear, translucent) implies purity of disposition; void of offence, faultlessness of conduct: for attaining such perfection, approved at the day of Christ, a fine moral intelligence, as well as a right intention, is needful. The emphasis of Philippians 1:11 rests on filled (made complete); and fruit of righteousness embraces all the moral issues of the righteousness of faith (see Philippians 3:9), abounding to the glory.. of God (cp. John 15:8).

II. About Paul’s Affairs (Philippians 1:12-26)

§ 4. Philippians 1:12-18. The supreme interest of writer and readers alike (cp. Philippians 1:5-7) lies in ’the progress of the gospel.’ The news from Rome about St. Paul troubled the Philippians on this account, and their alarm had been expressed in their recent letter: see Intro. He hastens to reassure them: the things that have befallen me have turned out rather to the progress of the gospel. 13. My bonds have become manifest in Christ] means that the writer, instead of being thrust out of sight, as the Philippians fear, is conspicuous at Rome as Christ’s messenger: cp. Ephesians 6:20, His prison-lodging has become a vantage-ground: see Acts 28:30-31 his trial is favourably advertising the gospel. The whole Prætorian guard] (’all the palace,’ wrongly, AV; RM ’the whole Prætorium’) the corps of troops attached to the imperial head-quarters—had heard of it, presumably through the men told off in turn to guard the prisoner, who was chained by the wrist to his keeper night and day; all the rest signifies the Roman public, who freely visited the distinguished prisoner.

Philippians 1:14-18 describe the effect of this turn of events on the Roman Church. Some of its members may have been discouraged; but most of the brethren in the Lord.. are more abundantly bold, etc. St. Paul’s cheerful confidence, at the same time the respect shown to him in his captivity and the likelihood of his acquittal, encouraged the majority; his trial, so far, went to clear Christianity of anything criminal in the eyes of the State, Hence the Roman Christians, beyond expectation, have gained confidence by his bonds.

St. Paul’s presence stimulates Christian work at Rome in two opposite ways,

15. Some in their bolder testimony are actuated by envy and strife; some by good will—he rejoices in the activity of both parties! (Philippians 1:18). Both, it is clear, are proclaiming a true gospel, and the Apostle’s ill wishers cannot have been preaching the ’other (Judaising) gospel’ condemned in Galatians 1:6. Personal dislike actuated the latter; they were jealous of St. Paul’s ascendency, and regarded him as an interloper—a disposition only too natural in a Church of which he was not the founder: cp. Romans 15:15-18. These rivals meanly think to add affliction to his bonds—supposing that he would be chagrined by their success! They proclaim Christ therefore not sincerely (not in a pure spirit), but in pretence (Philippians 1:16, Philippians 1:18); and St. Paul, though glad that their work is making Christ’s name more widely known, censures its motives. The better sort preach of love and in truth (with consistent motives), recognising in the prisoner-apostle the champion of the gospel. Observe the reversal in Philippians 1:16-17, according to RV, of the order of the two parties distinguished in Philippians 1:15.

§ 5. Philippians 1:18-26. With the last clause of Philippians 1:18 (before which it is better to place a full stop) St. Paul turns from the present to the future: Yes, and I will rejoice; for I know, etc. This (Philippians 1:19), like therein (Philippians 1:18), embraces the whole situation described in Philippians 1:12-18, which while furthering the gospel (Philippians 1:12) will turn to St. Paul’s final salvation: cp. 1 Corinthians 9:23; 2 Timothy 4:18. In his humility, the Apostle regards this issue as depending on your supplication and ministty of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (cp. Galatians 3:5), of whose influence his friends’ prayers bring him richer supplies: cp. 2 Thessalonians 3:11.

20. The above result accords with the writer’s eager expectation and hope, that in any event Christ will be magnified in his person as hitherto: he lives, and will die, for this alone. Whatever happens to my body, the essential interests are safe.

Philippians 1:21-26 weigh the alternatives of life or death (Philippians 1:20) depending on the verdict awaited at Cæsar’s bar.

21. To live] as distinguished from to live in the flesh (Philippians 1:22), means ’life essential’: cp. 1 Timothy 6:19. Colossians 3:1-4 is the true commentary on Philippians 1:21: ’Your life is hid with Christ in God’—’Christ, who is our life.’

For to me, to live is Christ] i.e. life consists of and is rooted in Him: see Romans 8:35-39; Galatians 2:20. Hence, to die is gain; for dying would bring the Apostle nearer to Christ: see Philippians 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. (How the expectation of being with Christ immediately after death agrees with the conception of an intermediate state, indicated in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, is not evident; our best notions of the other world are dim and confused: see 1 Corinthians 13:12.)

22. There is gain also on the opposite side: If to live in the flesh be my lot (RM; the Gk. is highly elliptical, as Paul’s language often becomes under excitement), this means for me fruit of work, i.e. continued labour and a richer reward. The writer knows not which he shall choose; advantages are balanced.

23, 24. His heart prompts the wish to go; his judgment, guided by his friends’ need, advises staying; that he will so abide in the flesh for their progress and joy in the faith, St. Paul is persuaded (Philippians 1:25-26). This outcome of the pending trial will bring exceeding joy, as well as spiritual benefit, to the Philippians. The peculiar Gk. word for depart (Philippians 1:23), also used in 2 Timothy 4:6, means ’loosing the tentpeg’: cp. the metaphor of 2 Corinthians 5:1. The glorying (AV’ rejoicing’) anticipated in Philippians 1:26 is the exultation of the Philippians in the Apostle’s escape and the resulting gain to the Christian cause.

III. How Paul’s Comrades may support Him (Philippians 1:27 to Philippians 2:18)

§ 6. Philippians 1:27-30. With Philippians 1:27 the Apostle turns upon his readers, as much as to say, ’I have told you how it fares with me; what about yourselves? My happiness depends on you,’ The transitional Only implies a possible qualification—a cloud that might darken the bright prospect of Philippians 1:25-26: cp. 1 Thessalonians 3:8.

The manner of life (AV ’conversation’) expected is defined by a Gk. term familiar to ’colonials’ (see Intro.), which recurs in Philippians 3:21: hold your citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ: cp. Ephesians 2:19. ’The gospel’ supplies in itself the motives for a worthy life; the Apostle’s presence or absence should not affect his fellow-believers’ loyalty. Steadfastness is the chief quality desired in them, that ye stand fast—a characteristic of the citizen-soldier. In one spirit signifies unity of religious principles and purpose; with one soul (RV), unity of feeling and effort. The faith of the gospel does not mean Christian doctrine, the contents of faith, but faith as a conscious power in the soul, ’striving like one man to maintain and carry into effect your faith in the gospel’: cp. Judges 1:3.

28. Steadfastness meant, especially for this Church, not to be daunted by persecution. They are Paul’s comrades in the conflict which he underwent at Philippi formerly, and now endures in Rome (Philippians 1:30). Let them understand that their courage is itself a token of their adversaries’ perdition (ruin) and their salvation—a sign that God is with them (cp. Philippians 1:19-20, in this connexion); for indeed (Philippians 1:29) their sufferings are a bounty of divine grace (cp. Matthew 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11-13) shared with their Apostle (cp. Philippians 1:7; also Colossians 1:24; Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 3:13)—a favour directly consequent on their believing in Christ. To suffer in His behalf, as representing Christ amid an evil world (cp. John 15:18-20), is indeed an honour.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Philippians 1". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/philippians-1.html. 1909.
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